Kahi 2012/03/29 (Thu) 23:01 No. 42514 ▼
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"Well, uh... I'm afraid I'll have to say no, here. I mean, all I have is some orange juice, and I don't think you're interested in that, so unless you're willing to wait, there's nothing really. Even if you wanted just a meal, all I could bring is-"
"Entrails an' organs." Lee speaks up, interrupting your rambling.
You're kind of grateful. The stare was oddly... intense, and you get the feeling you could have easily ended up being pressured into something you didn't intend to give.
The wolf's attention is caught by Lee's offer, though. And despite that she seems annoyed at the interjection, she's also considering it, as far as you can tell.
"Whatever as we'll be shootin', we gut on the spot, an th' entrails an' organs'll go to yerself. 'Tis all I'm willin' to offer." Lee repeats, acting as though he's doing the wolf an enormous favor by allowing it to eat the parts that you probably didn't want and would throw away anyway.
"... Bargain struck, Hunter." the wolf says, accepting the deal after a moment of thought. Then its voice becomes amused as it focuses on you once more. "And as for you, I will offer a further, small favor still. Should you find yourself come again into my territory, with hunger setting upon my belly, and no bargains to strike? I will not eat you... until last."
".... Thank you?" You say, uncertainly, and spark an amused barking noise.
".... Grotto's thick. Can get through, but it'll be slow goin'. An' summat comes 'pon us there, won't be able to run proper, like, nor fend't off. Bone fields... nah, ain't brought 'nough whiskey t' go 'round t' damp cloth and keep th' pollen out. No help for't. Has t'be th' mound." Lee says, musing aloud. Then he sets off quickly, and you stumble to follow.
"Take care, tainted meat and corpse-keeper..." The wolf says, slinking through the brush. "That you do not fall behind."
"Oh believe me, stuck out here alone is exactly where I want to be." You grumble.
It's some distance before Lee stops, and you're grateful for it, pausing to catch your breath.
"Boy." He says, seriously, drawing something out of his sack. It's a short bow, with a few arrows. You guess he's serious about not making any noise that he doesn't need to. "Don't fire at nothin'. We might be able t' get through fore as they notice, but if'n we don't, noise'll just let th' rest know as we're here. Don't go out off th' footpath for naught, n'matter what ye see nor hear. Step on their grass, all's'll know 'bout ye right off. More 'portant, don't ye dare invite naught to us. Ignorin' an' rejectin' shan't last long, but t'is a better defense while does'n bullets."
"An' I'll not be sayin' a word through heres. Ye keep that in mind too. Off."
.... No time for the question and answering game, you guess. You allow yourself a soft groan as you start again... your shoulder is starting to ache from the extended use.
..... You hear a quiet sniffling a bit in. It only takes a glance to the side to see a dirty child, blook staining her knee.
".... Oh! W-wait, mister!" She calls. "h-have you seen mommy?"
"Poor tyke." Lee's voice sounds.
... Wait, that's odd, he's not even glanced in her direction. Or stopped walking. Come to think of it, neither have you, and yet you don't seem to be moving away from the girl.
"Mommy... mommy said we should have a picnic. But then Emily turned around, and mommy... mommy was gone..."
"Must have been abandoned, the poor thing." Lee's voice sounds again... definitely odd. Now that you listen, while it sounds like his voice, it doesn't sound like the way he talks at all. He's just grunted and nocked an arrow, too.
"... Chen doesn't smell any other humans nearby..." Chen warns, solidifying your unease with the situation.
"Well, it won't hurt to bring her along, until we can get her somewhere safe. Go ahead and call h-rk."
Lee's loosed the arrow, and a small form tumbles out of the trees, clawing at the fletchings sticking out of its throat, blood pooling through its dirty fingers. The girl-child draws in breath to scream, only to be cut off by the wolf falling upon it and savaging with its jaws.
.... Both fade away into nothingness, as though they had never been, and Lee silently urges you on.
You pass by a tall, willowy woman bathing in a stream next. She looks... more than happy to see you, and reaches out with her arms to invite you into their grasp, to be drawn to her breast.
"Come, weary hunters... lie with me for a time, and forget your troubles..."
The offer is somehow incredibly tempting, even though Lee sort-of explained that it would be a really stupid thing to do, and you can feel your feet starting to turn to head off the path.
... Lee doesn't even hesitate, second arrow in flight before the first has struck home, in the chest she's invited you towards. Her face twists, more with fury than pain, and she manages to let loose part of a shrill outcry before the wolf is upon her.
Lee is running, now.
You consider this more than enough incentive to follow suit, as you're suddenly hearing small rustlings from the branches and brush all around you, and something like the flapping of dozens of wings.
There's a slight whizzing, and a tiny, barbed dart grazes your neck, drawing a thin line of pain across it, but thankfully not nicking anything. Ancelin moves herself behind you, and you hear a few more soft 'thwip'ing noises, you would guess of more such darts hitting solidly home in her.
"Damn damn damn. Tarnation and hellfire." Lee snarls, not slowing down for a bit to curse. "Caught on to us bein' there a damn sight faster than I'd expected. Keep runnin', boy, not far..."
He slides to a stop, and you almost bump into him. Not far... you guess. But there's a line of small, mud-spattered and otherwise naked women floating between you and escape.
One of them is wearing a human skull as a helmet.
"Tee-hee... nasty old man, you nearly got away with our new toy~" She says, in a sing-song voice.
"... Damn. Don't ye dare die here, lad." He grumbles out of the corner of his mouth. "Ye do, an it'd really be my fault this time."
"There's noooo escape~" She says, clapping her hands happily. "Ah, and you got away and won so many times before, too. Too bad~ We win, again~"
"Fool boy charged off th' path second he caught a flash o' thigh. Wouldn't be braggin' 'bout that, girl."
"Ye've no shame. You're wearin' him."
"... Ah! That's right~ But it's not so bad. I promised him unending bliss for the rest of his life... and he was so eager to agree~ And really, after such a night, anything after would have been such a big disappointment. So you see? It's really for the best, that he was first bedded, then breakfast~"
"I'm sure he'd say elsewise."
".... Well I guess you'll find out~"
The skulled, you guess leader, of the group raises a hand, and you can hear a lot of motion behind you as the ones in front raise tiny, crude bows of their own.
Plans for the assault are interrupted, however, with the paired pounce of the wolf, and Ancelin lobbing a boulder bigger than you are into them, crashing the line apart.
Lee doesn't hesitate at the chance, but moves into a sprint. You're shortly behind him, though your muscles feel... sluggish, and unresponsive, somehow. Ancelin is in your shadow, and gets in the way of a couple more darts, though the wolf remains behind to put a little more chaos in the dirty little women.
You don't slow for a few minutes, then start to lag into a jog, the noises behind you having ceased. A little after that, the forest starts to thin, and the wolf appears again. She bears a satisfied, pleased look, and her muzzle and teeth are stained with mud and blood alike.
"Might be getting too old fer this." Lee admits, groaning as he slows to a walk. "Though I'll not be headin' past the mound again, I think. Too close, this time."
... Your entire body feels hot, and your breath is coming raggedly. Your vision swims a little, and you fall.
"... Boy? Boy, this is no time for...?"
The wolf sniffs lightly at you, and nudges you over. You don't seem able to move on your own right now. After another sniff, there's the feel of a large tongue sliding gently across the small nick at your throat and oh god, your entire body is tingling and it just won't stop, why is this happening...
"Poisoned. The little wretches are learning." The wolf says, conversationally. "Mostly harmless, on its own. Paralyzes, numbs the body so prey can't escape. But they don't want their toys broken right away. It also has... other effects, as you can see."
Her voice sounds amused at the last, and god damn it you don't need to prod that with your nose, it's blatantly obvious and just the slight nudge leaves you feeling like you're about to leave a huge mess. Because of poison and a talking wolf.
You hadn't ever imagined you could be this humiliated.
"Can't stand at all?"
"He'll be useless until its run its course." The wolf replies.
They don't have to talk about you like you're not here. Chen jumped free at the last minute, she's rubbing thoughtfully against your face now. Which would be fine, except that every slight touch is an unusual, fresh torment with this poison, and you don't even seem able to speak, now.
Lee hefts you into a standing position, limp as you are, and starts to hobble you along for a pace or two before Ancelin claims you and lifts you easily into a bridal carry. Chen plunks down in your lap, which again is a very poor choice of positioning, but is convenient enough for her to ignore the inconvenience it brings you.
"Few minutes more on. Hit the edge of the forest proper, then make camp. Meant t'be in the Tundra proper, but as things are..."
You seem to be fading in and out of consciousness, a little. The next thing you know is that you're at the border of the Tundra, and Lee is building a campfire. It's bizarre to look at, a sharply drawn line between pleasant-seeming forest region and 'bitterly cold expanse of ice and frost', with no warning or easing into things.
You continue to blink in and out of awareness, but manage to see him getting the campfire going as the sun sets, and see some kind of argument with the wolf, though you can't make out any of the words. Then Ancelin arranges herself, seated against a rock, and settles you down to use her as a pillow, Chen still in your lap and more or less completely ignoring your personal problems. You blink, and it's dark, the world lit only by moonlight and a crackling fire.
You give up and release your hold on consciousness, drifting off into slumber.
Day 12, 3:45 AM
You're being shaken rudely awake. It takes a few minutes for you to register that you aren't in your bed, it's still dark out, and your lap is a lot heavier than you recall it being.
[ ] What do you do?