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 Post subject: Debts
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:03 pm 
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Note: This story was begun some time ago. I stopped posting it because, as I worked on it, I discovered that I needed to change little bits of things that I had already posted, because they no longer fit. I have now completed the story, and it no longer is a short story. It became a novella. 15K words. No kidding. I'm going to edit the first posts, and repair what I had posted before, so that it all fits. Please feel free to start at the beginning. You might notice the changes, you might not. Some are rather subtle. But I guarantee you'd notice if I didn't make them. There would be at least one glaring continuity error.

Thanks for your attention. And thanks to Kaeev for proofing himself, and making sure I didn't mess him up.




Debts

It wasn’t fast enough. Dying. Lying there, forced by her body to struggle for the next breath, unable to just let go. She was growing weaker - losing blood. But it was taking too long.

Surely something would come to finish her soon, to put an end to her pain. It was a jungle, after all. It wasn’t like she was alone in a vast, empty place.

She had plenty of time, it seemed, to reflect on her life. She was the last of her tribe; the Green Hill line of the People ended here. She had so hoped, so dreamed it would be different. She would have been the clutch-mother to the tribe reborn.

The Blue Water tribe had taken her in. It was good of them - she was the wrong colour, the wrong smell. But they tried. She was raised with their children, taught by their elders.

And Tries-to-Fly had chosen her as his mate. She was so low in status, that she had assumed she would never mate, but Tries had loved her. Her, the odd one, the strange one. He was so handsome, and the leaps which had given him his name had enabled him to bring down prey no-one else could catch.

It had been joy, that short time they had had together. But all his grace and speed were not enough to save him from the Newcomer’s weapon. His dying cries urged her to flee, to protect the eggs she carried within her.

The Blue Water females blamed her for his death. As if she could have done anything against the powerful Newcomers, with their weapons that made thunder, and their claws and hides of metal.

They had driven her away. The Blue Waters females would have broken her eggs themselves, if she had stayed. But that meant that she had had to guard her nest alone... and the People were not the only hunters in the jungle.

She could smell them, the remnants of the bodies of her children, spilled from their shells too soon. If she had been able to protect them, she might have saved one, maybe two; they were so close to hatching that they had cried to her. But she had been so long without food, staying by the nest, that she was weak.

She had killed the six-leg invader that had sought to dine on her eggs. But the damage it did to her was enough. She could not stand, could not fight off anything else that came. She had heard the small scavengers come, and heard the last cries of her children silenced.

They had left her alone so far. But she was finished, she knew.

It was taking too long, though.

Sunlight-Dances-on-the-Water of the Green Hill clan closed her eyes, and wished with all her heart to join her mate.

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more to follow

(edited 4 Dec, 2010.)


Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:42 pm 
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Bushes rustled behind her, and she was oddly grateful. Just a few more moments of pain, and it would be over.

She listened for the footsteps, heard the faint sounds circle the trampled clearing. It moved on two legs. She forced her eyes open, expecting to see one of the Blue Water clan come to mock her.

It was a Newcomer.

She sighed, and closed her eyes. At least death would be swift, as she had wished.

She listened to it move around her nest, and pause from time to time, then come back to her. The footsteps stopped. What was it doing?

She opened her eyes again. It was crouched, just out of her reach, if she were to stretch to touch it, looking at her. She looked back at it. She had never been so close to one of them before, for all that she had watched them at a distance. There were several kinds. This one had an oddly shaped face. Its eyes - as yellow as her own - studied her, and what she could see of it had a fine coat of hair, with longer hair around its head. It wore pieces of metal attached to leather, and it had almost no smell. She wondered how it did that.

It didn’t matter. It was going to kill her. It’s what Newcomers did. Kill things. Kill People.

But the People killed them, too, when they came. So it was fair. She wished it would get it over with. She was tired of hurting.

It was making noises, now. It was still watching her, and it made strange noises with its mouth. It lifted its eyes from her, and whistled like a bird. How odd, to make so many different noises. She couldn’t whistle.

Another thing came out of the bushes. This was an animal. She didn’t recognise it, but the Newcomer did. It touched the animal, patting it, and rubbing it like one pats a hatchling looking for attention. The Newcomer made more mouth noises at it. It must be speaking in its language.

When the Newcomer got up and left, the animal stayed. She waited for it to kill her, but it didn’t. It just watched her, and watched the bushes around her. How many things were going to come to watch her die? She was too tired to be angry.

She closed her eyes again.



Something had her head in a grip, and it was forcing her mouth open. She fought feebly to free herself, then stopped resisting. She wanted to die, remember? Let it kill her. There was no dignity in death, anyway.

A liquid poured into her mouth. It had a strange taste, bittersweet and blood-warm, and she swallowed it without meaning to.

It burned going down, and made a pool of warmth in her belly. The warmth spread outwards, and she floated away on it. This wasn’t so bad. At least it didn’t hurt anymore.


________________________
more to follow


Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:59 pm 
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***
*****
***

It really was the most unusual-looking raptor Karoa had ever seen. It was a soft brown colour, marked with wavy stripes of sky blue. It looked like the ripples of light on the river, the huntress thought idly. Very striking. Normally, even that wouldn’t be a good enough reason to bring it back to her camp alive. Its skin probably would have brought her good coin from the orcs.

But something about the story she had read in the tracks in that little grassy clearing touched her. Maybe she was going soft. This raptor had been alone, fighting for the life of its children, without aid from others of its kind. Was it some kind of rogue? Karoa shrugged. It seemed to be fairly young. A cursory examination showed it to be female. Almost certainly the owner of the nest, then.

The raptors were strange creatures. The orcs insisted they were animals, and hunted them for food and leather. The trolls held them in some huge esteem, and captured young ones to train for various things - but still considered them animals.

Her own people had little to do with them other than acknowledging them as other hunters on the vast plains of the Barrens.

She had her own ideas, though. As a hunter herself, it behoved her to learn about all of the creatures she came into contact with, including the other predators. She had spent some time watching the raptors. They were fascinating.

They weren’t animals. They didn’t behave like animals. They helped each other, communicated with each other and used tools. Raptors were sapient. They were people.

They wore clothing of a sort, and ornaments. This one had a necklace on, of coloured beads in various tints of ochre and some kind of blue clay. A single bedraggled feather was bound to one armband.

The raptors in the vicinity of Grom’gol wore very similar beads, though not exactly the same. They did wear these particular feathers, though. This one had been some distance from the areas claimed by the other raptor types. She wondered if there were more like it, hidden in the jungle.

Karoa knelt down beside it, and cleaned, stitched, and bound its injuries with care. Not for the first time, she wished she had some of her druidic sister’s magical healing ability. Or even some of her friend Kaeev’s. The shaman would be able to fix this with a touch.

A touch and a half-hour long chant, admittedly, but still...

At least she had the needed skills to do it the hard way. She had years of practice at caring for her own injuries, and those of her wolf. The healing potion she had force-fed the creature had helped, as did the wound-salve of her sister’s making, but its wounds were impressive. The worst was the poor thing’s left leg. It had obviously been badly bitten by the basilisk it had fought. She was surprised that it still had the leg at all. Basilisks were well known to tear the limbs off their prey. It had been lucky.

Or not. It probably would have died before long, of blood loss, but it would have been an agonising wait.

Preypacer didn’t know what to make of the creature. The wolf sat close by, watching intently as she made the raptor as comfortable as she could.

“We’ll see what happens when she wakes up, hmm, boy?” she asked him, and rubbed his ears fondly. His tail thumped in response. “In the meantime, I have some chores to do. Like clean myself off. I’m covered in blood.” She stood up.

“Guard!” she ordered, firmly, scooped up her rifle, and left the camp to the wolf and her guest.


***
*****
***

____________________
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Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 12:42 pm 
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Sunlight-Dances didn’t expect to wake again. The warm haze had finally left her, and she found herself beside the river.

This was a worry in and of itself; this was water-six-leg territory, and one always had to be on one’s guard here. But the rest of her surroundings made that pale by comparison.

There had been a fire here. The smoke wasn’t fresh, but its sharp tang still overpowered most of the rest of the scents in the area. She could see where it had been - not two steps from where she was lying. Beside it lay the animal. That, she could smell. She raised her head to see it better, and found herself able to. Something shifted as she did, and she looked down at herself, to see that she was covered by something grey. It was soft and slightly fuzzy.

She touched it with curiosity, and felt its texture. There was another one underneath her, softening the place she lay.

The animal got to its feet as she moved, and she froze as it approached her. It sniffed her, then backed away as she hissed at it. For a moment it stared at her, then it turned its head and let out a single loud bark. It sat down at a safe distance, and watched her.

The Newcomer appeared shortly after.

The Newcomer was naked, save for another piece of the grey fuzzy material that it had thrown over its shoulder. It was wet. Had it been swimming in the river? She noticed that the Newcomer was shaped like the blue-skinned Drummers who shared the jungle with the People, but unlike them, had horns on top of its head, and the overall coat of fine hair she had noticed before. Its feet were strange, too. It had no toes.

The animal went to greet it, and it put its hands into the animal’s fur, scratching and patting it as it had when it found her.

Sunlight-Dances looked away from the Newcomer and its animal, and swept the nest-place - for so must this be - with her eyes. There was no sign of anyone else. No young. Just some bundled belongings gathered together beside what must be a sleeping-place.

Not much of a nest.

Why, she wondered suddenly, was she alive? Why had the Newcomer brought her back here? She was feeling stronger. Could she get away?

She pushed the grey cover away, and tried to right herself. She hissed in pain as she tried to get her leg beneath her.

The Newcomer was making mouth sounds again, although it didn’t try to stop her. She stopped herself after a few moments of futile struggling. She lay there, and looked at her captor.

It was crouching, watching her again, its arm around the animal, who was watching her as well. She was suddenly angry, and she hissed at them.

The anger drained away again, as they did nothing. What did it matter? She lay her head back down. Let them do whatever they wanted. She had nothing to fight for, no life to return to.

The Newcomer’s movement drew her attention, and she watched it dully, as it reached into the bundle and pulled out some leaves. It rubbed the leaves all over itself, then called the animal, and rubbed them on it as well.

Sunlight-Dances blinked, as she realised that the scent of the animal was muted. So the leaves were the secret? She didn’t recognise the plant, but it might prove useful if she...

She sighed. It didn’t matter.

But she watched as the Newcomer rubbed every piece of its clothing with the leaves before putting it on, and she couldn’t help but wonder... if she had rubbed her eggs with those, would the six-leg have found them?

She turned her face away.

______________
more to follow


Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:53 am 
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The touch was tentative. She didn’t react, and held herself still, as if she were sleeping. She had been sleeping, actually, but the sound of the return of the Newcomer had woken her again.

Earlier, not long after it had put on its clothing, the Newcomer had taken up its metal claws, and one of its bundles, and left. It had made sounds to the animal, which remained behind.

The animal had walked in a circle around her, sniffed her, and lay down beside her. She finally decided it was there to guard her. Whether to protect her, or to protect the Newcomer’s things from her, Sunlight-Dances didn’t know. Or care.

At least it was warm. She had been shivering, despite the day being nice. She allowed it to stretch out beside her on the soft thing she lay on, and tugged the other one back to cover herself again. She had dozed off like that, cuddled up to the strange furred animal that was like nothing in the jungle she had ever seen. It was as if she were in a dream, or a tale from the ancient legends of the People.

But the Newcomer had come back, smelling of blood and sweat. It had been hunting, she guessed.

The animal was still beside her, but it whined deep in its throat, and its tail smacked against the ground. The Newcomer spoke to it again, its voice quiet this time. She heard the sounds of its hand running through the fur on the animal, and then it touched her, too.

It wasn’t the same. It didn’t stroke her as one touches a hatchling, as it touched the animal. Instead, it drew the cover back, and touched her leg. It hurt, but, with a sense of wonder, she realised it was being gentle, and she opened her eyes to see what it was doing.

It was caring for her wound, adjusting a bandage she had partially dislodged in her earlier thrashing.

It was so close, she could have killed it. Her claws were sharp, and her good leg bent, and if she had wanted to, she could have struck it, and killed it where it knelt beside her. Or at least hurt it badly. It still wore some of its metal and leather protections. But it was intent on its work, and she was in its nest, and the animal was still warm against her side, and she was confused.

Sunlight-Dances wished she understood. Why would it help her?

It looked up, then, and their eyes met. For a long moment, it looked at her as she watched it, then it looked back down at what it was doing.

It knew that she could have hurt it, but didn’t.

When it was finished, it covered her again, then went and thrust its hands in the river, and scrubbed them in the sand.

The animal beside her got up, then, and joined it there, drinking from the water.

It made her aware of how thirsty she was herself. She thrust the cover off again, and propped herself up to look at her leg, and the bandage on it. She knew she couldn’t stand alone. Not yet.

The Newcomer crouched down beside her again. She looked at it. Could she make it understand? Would it help her get a drink?

Slowly, she extended a single claw, and pointed at the river. She stuck out her tongue, lowered her head, and slurped, once. She looked up at the Newcomer, seeing its face changing expressions. She wondered what they meant.

The Newcomer made sounds at her again, but then it got up. It went to one of its bundles, then to the river. She waited, to see what it was doing. It came back with a bowl of water.

It offered her the bowl, and she took it gratefully. It wasn’t shaped right for her to drink from, but she did as best as she could, lapping the water like the animal. She drank slowly, feeling the water soaking into her parched mouth. When she had finished, she lay down again, and turned the bowl over in her claws, being careful not to scratch it. It was wooden, and very finely made - smooth and regular in shape. None of the People had anything like it. They had bowls, but they were crude, and heavy, and rare treasures of the tribes. Was this one of the Newcomer’s treasures? She looked at the Newcomer again, and extended the bowl.

As it took the bowl away, she started shaking, suddenly. She had communicated with one of the Newcomers. They had understood each other.
________________
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Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:58 am 
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((It's a rare and wonderful thing to get to read genuinely good, unique writing centered around this universe. This story is a incredible breath of fresh air and one of the most engaging pieces I've read in ages. Thank you, thank you, and thousand times thank you.

Plains' Player))

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EDIT: this post, and any other posts I make, are to be taken as my perception, and my opinion, only, not to be taken as fact, or me speaking for anyone. If such is the case, the fault is entirely mine, and I apologize.


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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 9:41 am 
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((I agree with Plains. I read your previous entries on this story chain and I'm very glad you are continuing. I love that you are telling the story from Sunlight-Dances' perspective.
I didn't comment before because I saw that people don't really comment on people's stories very often, but screw it. I love this story thus far.))


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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:37 pm 
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It brought her food, after that. The same bowl, filled with raw meat, was offered to her, and she took it with as much gratitude as she had the water. She knew she should have been hungry, but she had thrust aside the hunger for so long that it was second nature now.

She ate the meat one piece at a time, picked up delicately with her claws. She didn’t want to damage the beautiful bowl. The animal whined beside her, but she didn’t have to share her food with it. The Newcomer heard the whine, and called it sharply. It went to sit at the Newcomer’s feet, and waited.

It was another realisation. The animal had a name. The Newcomer had called it, and it had answered. The Newcomer must have a name too. They were a kind of people, after all, not monsters. She wondered what its name was. Would it care what her name was?

Sunlight-Dances thought about the sounds of the words she had heard so far. She would never be able to replicate them, even if she tried. She suspected the Newcomer would have a similar problem with her own language. Her words were half word, and half movement. Would it even see her language? There was little movement when it spoke. It must speak with all sounds.

The Newcomer fed the animal by the simple method of tossing chunks of meat to it, as it chopped more of whatever its prey had been with one of its metal claws. It stuck its own meat on a stick, and built a fire in the place where one had been before.

The smell as the Newcomer burnt its meat over the fire - on purpose - was not as revolting as Sunlight-Dances expected it to be. It didn’t take the Newcomer long to do it, either, and they all ate quietly together.

At least, they did until the animal raised its head, and growled.

Its sense of smell must be keener than hers, she thought, as she cast her head about to find the scent that had alerted it. She could smell nothing beyond the smoke of the fire, and the bloody meat in front of her. Her eyes were keen, though her view was restricted by the position she was in. The bushes she could see from where she was seemed empty. She doubted they were.

The Newcomer reacted to the animal’s warning, and reached out quickly. It picked up a long metal object that it had kept nearby, and settled into a crouch, pointing one end of the object in the direction the animal was looking.

The sound of a grunt followed by a hiss gave Sunlight-Dances the answer - a six-leg. Had it followed the Newcomer when it returned from hunting, or had the blood-scent from the meat drawn it? It appeared suddenly through the underbrush behind the camp. She was the closest to it, and she held herself still. She couldn’t stand. She had no chance at all if it came for her.

The Newcomer made a sudden movement, and the six-leg turned towards it. It moved again, slowly now, and the six-leg followed. A few more steps, and the raptor was no longer in the six-leg’s line of sight.

Sunlight-Dances flicked her eyes from the six-leg to the Newcomer. It was protecting her again, she realised.

The Newcomer crouched again, and the six-leg grunted, preparing to rush - then the animal attacked it.

The animal was quick - it darted in, then danced back, and spun around the six-leg, making an awful noise. The six-leg turned to face this adversary, and the Newcomer’s weapon spoke with thunder.

The six-leg jerked, and a spot of red blossomed just behind its head. It twisted around to find what bit it, and the thunder rolled again. The six-leg thrashed for a moment, then lay still. The animal stalked around it, stiff-legged and growling.

Sunlight-Dances shivered. What a terrible weapon! The noise, and the acrid smell afterwards made it all the more fearsome. She closed her eyes. The last time she had heard that sound, it had taken Tries-to-Fly from her. She shivered again.

She jerked at the touch, letting out a startled squawk before she could rein herself in. The Newcomer squatted beside her, still holding the weapon, looking off towards the dead six-leg and the animal. It made more mouth-noises, and gave her another gentle pat on her shoulder, then got up to walk over to the six-leg. She watched as it slung the weapon behind it, and dragged the beast away and out of sight by its tail and hind leg. The animal followed, but returned quickly to sit in the camp again.

It whined, obviously it wanted to be with the Newcomer, not here with her.

She wanted to be anywhere else. She curled up, and covered her face again.

Anywhere at all.

***
*****
***


_______________
more to follow


Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:03 pm 
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***
*****
***
Karoa squatted beside the water, and rinsed her knife. She’d dragged the dead crocolisk far enough away from her camp that the scavengers wouldn’t be bothering her, and made sure she took a good chunk of the meat for herself. What with having the extra mouth to feed, she was going to need it.

The raptor was still huddled in as tight a ball as it could make itself into. It hadn’t touched any more of its food, either.

She decided to deal with the meat, first. It needed to be cooked if she were going to keep it for any time. In the warmth of the jungle, it would begin to spoil quickly. But at least they’d have it for tomorrow. She wondered if the raptor would eat it, or if she would have to hunt for it specifically. If it refused the cooked meat, it would be harder for her to help it.

If it would accept her help, she added to herself, as she looked over at it again.

Preypacer had noticed the half-full bowl.

“No!” she said sharply, and the wolf jumped guiltily. “Yeah, you. Get your tail back over here,” she growled. “You’ve already had yours.” She glared at him as he slunk over to the other side of the fire, and lay down on her bedroll with a long-suffering sigh.

She ignored him, and continued her preparation of the fire and the meat. Before long, she had a large portion roasting, filling the air with its scent.

Karoa’s stomach growled, and she remembered her own unfinished meal. Her food was where she had left it; the wolf had known better than to steal it.

She ate quickly, and wiped her hands off in the grass.

The raptor was still curled in a ball when she approached it. One eye was open a slit, watching her. She picked up the bowl of meat, and waved her hand to disperse the flies that had found it.

“You’re not stupid. You know you need this as much as I know it.” Karoa tapped the bowl with a finger, and pointed to the raptor. She knew it wouldn’t understand her, but she talked to it anyway. The charades, now... It had started those, and the idea was a good one. You could get across a lot by hand signals. Even the wolf understood some of those.

The raptor didn’t move, but its eye did, travelling to the bowl, then back to her.

She grunted. “Fine. It’ll be there when you change your mind.” She put the bowl back down beside the blanket. She’d have to find something to cover it, to keep the flies off.

An old shirt did the trick. She soaked it in the river, and wrung it out. It would do to keep the flies off the meat, and keep the bowl cool, as well. She shooed the flies away again, and draped it over the bowl. The raptor was still peeking at her. Good.

She didn’t think it would starve or will itself to death. That was always a possibility when you worked with wild things. But most people didn’t think that way. It would probably be more interested in escape.

Or maybe not. She frowned, as the thought occurred to her. It had lost its nest - its children. If nothing more, it would certainly be grieving.

She tucked the blanket back around it. It would be getting dark soon, and the air would cool down enough that it might make a difference to the creature. It was quite warm enough for her own liking, but it had had a severe shock. It moved beneath her hand. She frowned, feeling it tremble. This was fear, not grief or cold. It was terrified. She sighed, and retreated back to the fire.

There was little she could do about fear. Was it the croc that set it off? They were very like the basilisk that it had been fighting.

She grunted again. She’d almost forgotten. The raptor had so nicely mixed up her routine that she’d almost left her gun uncleaned, and unloaded.

She picked it up, noticing the twitch of the raptor as she did. So that was it - the big, noisy gun. Well, it had taken Preypacer a bit to get used to it, when she switched over from her bow. He’d yelped and ran the first time she’d fired it. It had taken her hours to get him to sit put while she practised with it on targets.

She broke the weapon apart, and cleaned it carefully. It really was the nicest gun she’d found. It was a breech-loader, and she could fire it as fast as she could work the lever and drop a new round in the chamber. It was almost as fast as she could nock and fire her bow. The Darkspear who’d made it was rightly proud of his craft. It was far better than the muzzle-loaders she was used to from her youth in Mulgore.

She glanced over at her guest. The raptor had both eyes squeezed shut, and was shivering again.

The shadows were long when she finished. She portioned the cooling roast, and packed it away. It would keep for a day or two at least.

The short tropical twilight passed swiftly into night, and Karoa let the fire die down to coals. She settled herself on her own pallet, after evicting the wolf. He groaned, then lay back down beside her, his head on her knee. She patted him, and stretched out.

She sat up again a moment later, frowning, as the distant sound began. She listened intently.

Drums in the night. The trolls were restless. She turned her head slowly, judging direction. It seemed to be coming from the northwest.

Bloodscalps.

She listened to the rhythm, wondering what they were doing. Hopefully nothing so stupid as a raid on the orc outpost. Grom’gol was well garrisoned, and had stood off attacks by the Bloodscalps before. Bored orcs made for unpleasant adversaries. They took too much pleasure in the fighting.

She lay back down, still listening to the drumbeat. She would have to be careful - she wasn’t far from the Bloodscalp hunting grounds, and trolls weren’t picky about their prey.

***
*****
***

______________
more to follow


Last edited by Amaura on Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:55 pm 
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Hehe, nothing worssse than a ressstlessssss troll-thing, yesss. Great ssstory, yesss!

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The fate of all isss to be consssumed by my maggotsss, yesss...


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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:35 pm 
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Fear, Sunlight-Dances discovered, is only paralysing for so long. Then normal, mundane things begin intruding, and distracting.

Things like exhaustion, hunger, and thirst.

The first one won out. She fell asleep curled into the little ball, and awoke later, to find it full night.

She could hear the sounds of the Newcomer’s breathing, deep and slow in sleep. She propped herself up, and moved her leg experimentally. No. She was still stuck here.

Her stomach growled so loudly that she flinched, and darted a glance across the nest space to where the Newcomer lay. The little she had eaten had reawakened her hunger, and she could smell the meat beside her, in the bowl, under whatever it was that the Newcomer had covered it with.

Without thinking, she reached for it, then stopped, when she realised what she was doing.

Why eat? Why fight the heaviness that sat inside her? Did it matter? Did anything matter.

She sighed, and lay back down. What was left? The Blue Water females were right. She should have stayed with Tries-to-Fly. He had loved her. They would have been together...

But he had told her to flee. He had loved her so much that he..

She swallowed hard, and stared upwards at the edge of the jungle canopy. There, where the wide river had cut through the forest was a slash of sky, where the trees did not reach across the water. The lights there shone brightly, and moved slowly in their strange dance. The Past-tellers had stories about them. They were the hearts of the People who had died. Did Tries-to-Fly watch her from the sky?

If he did, he wouldn’t be happy to see her giving up. He had wanted her to live.

If she had to suffer a little with the Newcomer, then so be it. She would live, and heal, and escape when she could.

She reached for the bowl again, and ate the meat. She would have to be strong to escape. Who knew what the Newcomer would do?

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 11:55 am 
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The next time she woke, it was after sunrise. The Newcomer was up, and moving around the nest-place. She watched it narrowly for a time, but its attention was not on her. The animal was nowhere to be seen. There was a fire burning, and some objects beside it.

Sunlight-Dances propped herself up, and tested her leg. She winced as it stabbed pain, but moved it a little to ease the stiffness in her knee and ankle.

She jerked her head in startlement, as the Newcomer appeared abruptly beside her. It stood there a moment, out of her reach, then stepped forward, and crouched. She closed her eyes, and waited.

For a long moment nothing happened. Sunlight-Dances swallowed, then remembered her resolve. She could bear this. Slowly she opened her eyes, and looked up at it.

It held the bowl in one hand, and a small bundle in the other. As she watched, it set the bowl down beside her, and lowered itself still further, to its knees. The position looked uncomfortable, but it settled down as if it were used to such a strange way to sit. It set the bundle down, also, then displayed its hands open and empty. She noticed for the first time that it had not claws, but short, stubby nails. No wonder it used metal claws. It could never fight with its own.

She glanced at the bowl. It held meat cut into small chunks. The meat smelled odd, but not unpleasant. There was no blood-scent. She looked back at the Newcomer. It pointed at her leg, and reached slowly forward.

Sunlight-Dances pulled away unthinkingly as it touched her. It stopped immediately, and withdrew its hands.

It sat there for a moment, making quiet noise-words, again displaying open hands. Was it trying to reassure her? It removed and unfolded a thin narrow cloth from the small bundle. It held it up to show her and pointed at her leg again. The Newcomer reached forward slowly, not taking its eyes from hers, and this time she forced herself to stay still. If it was helping her, for whatever its reasons were, she would heal faster, and be able to get away.

She broke the eye contact, and instead concentrated on its hands, trembling with the effort to not pull away from its touch. Once it had its hands on her, it worked quickly, unwrapping the cloth bandage from her leg.

The bandage had several layers, she saw, and the Newcomer removed them all, revealing the damaged leg.

Sunlight-Dances swallowed again, a new and different fear rising inside her. Such a huge tear! She could see the shape of the jaws of the six-leg in the flesh of her thigh. Would she ever heal from this to walk again? If not, would the Newcomer give her the quick, clean ending that The People would?

She darted a glance at the Newcomer, but it was absorbed in its work. Why would it waste its time - and its cloth - if it didn’t think she would get well? She forced herself to look back at the tear.

It wasn’t hanging open. She tilted her head to get a good look at it. It was held together with little ties! Many, many little, tiny ties, all along the length of the tear held the two sides together. It wasn’t bleeding, but a little fluid seeped from several places. The Newcomer cleaned this away, before smearing the whole thing with a line of pale-coloured goo, right over top of the ties. It folded pieces of cloth to lay over this, then slowly rebound the leg with still more cloth. So much of it! So much work for someone to make it, just so that it could be used to bind her leg. The old bandage was set aside. The layer that had been up against the wound itself was thrown into the fire. Why did it do that? What a waste!

She didn’t understand the Newcomer. How strange it was. And yet...

The People probably wouldn’t have even tried to heal such a terrible injury. Why was it doing this? What could it hope to gain?

She relaxed, finally, when the Newcomer packed away the small bundle that held the cloth and the goo - and other things she couldn’t identify - and got back to its feet. It bent down to reach for the old bandage, but she picked it up herself, and held it. The Newcomer snorted, made several odd gestures and noise-words, and turned away, leaving her with the outermost strip of cloth that had bound her leg.

Her stomach growled, reminding her that the Newcomer had brought food, as well. She drew the bowl closer, and sniffed the meat. It still smelled odd, but it did smell like meat. She picked one piece up, and ate it.

It tasted like six-leg. And yet, it didn’t taste like six-leg. She ate another piece, trying to figure it out. A look in the direction of the Newcomer, who was bent over the fire, gave her the knowledge.

The meat had been in the fire. This was meat that the Newcomer had burned. Well, perhaps not burned. But it had been changed by the fire in some way. She wasn’t sure if she liked it or not, but it still was edible. She had had worse - the remains of kills so old that they should have been buried. That was what happened when one was the lowest in status.

Status! The thought reminded her, and she propped herself up again, to reach for her arm wrap. She unwrapped it carefully, set the feather to one side, and laid the bark-cloth out beside the Newcomer’s cloth to compare them.

Sunlight-Dances soon discerned the woven nature of the bandage, and she wondered where they had found fibres so fine and how they managed to weave them. She had only seen vines woven in such a fashion. The People made their cloth from the inner bark of some of the great trees. They pounded it with smooth stones until the bark was thin, and fine, and clung to itself in mats. It was a position of high status in the tribe, the maker-of-cloth. Cloth took a lot of time, and was precious. It was never wasted. Torn arm wraps were returned to the cloth maker, to be incorporated into new mats of bark cloth. The very best cloth makers could make patterns in the bark cloth with different colours of bark. Tribemothers and Elders wore such cloth. This piece of the Newcomer’s cloth was of finer make than even that, and it had been torn from something else. She touched the ravelling edge.

Anything she could learn from the Newcomer, to take back to the tribe was useful.

Take back?

Anger rose up inside her. She would never crawl back to the Blue Waters! They had driven her away! They deserved nothing she learned! She snatched up the feather and flung it as far away as she could. It didn’t go far. Just out of her reach. One feather. One tattered feather for her status. The lowest ranked in the tribe. If it weren’t for them, she wouldn’t be here, in this predicament.

The shadow of the Newcomer fell across her again, and she flinched. It was right there! How did it move so quietly?

It crouched for a moment beside her, then tapped the bowl with one finger. She held herself still. She didn’t need to be told to eat.

The Newcomer picked up the feather, and turned it slowly between its fingers. It grunted - was it a word? - and offered the feather back to her. She turned her face from it. A ‘no’ it should understand.

The Newcomer grunted again, stood, and left her, taking the feather with it.


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Last edited by Amaura on Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:12 pm 
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Karoa whistled again, then growled an oath under her breath. Where was the blasted wolf? He’d wandered off sometime during the night, and while she didn’t begrudge him some time to himself now and again, he’d picked the worst time and place.

Most likely he was hunting. She could understand that. He’d been stuck guarding the camp a little more than he usually would be, what with the raptor there as their guest. She knew Preypacer wasn’t stupid. He had quite a bit of cunning and what she considered common sense for an animal. Except when it came to chewing on older leather items. He had some weird love for those. Gloves, especially.

Still, he was well trained. He’d come back to her eventually. Unless he were hurt, somewhere. There were nasty things in the jungle - things a wolf without a pack would have trouble with.

She sighed. She was starting to worry. The huntress had already finished most of the camp chores, and had only some preparation work on the furs she was collecting to sell. She couldn’t go off looking for him, and leave the raptor alone. It couldn’t defend itself from anything that found the camp.

Karoa got up, and paced back and forth. “Blasted mutt!” she exclaimed finally. “Why pick now to do this?”

She hated waiting; hated sitting still. She’d been in this one camp far longer than she’d planned, already.

After a while, she managed to settle down, and poured herself some sun-tea. She’d let the fire go out. No sense in wasting wood. She might as well do the leather-prep work so that it would be done, and she could just drop the lot with the buyer in Grom’gol when she got there, and be out again all the quicker.

Her eye was caught by the feather, tucked into the buckle of her backpack. She reached out and picked it up again, twirling it idly in her fingers. Unbidden, she found herself looking over at the raptor.

It was asleep. Or feigning sleep. It had eaten well, drunk about half the bowl of water (she’d refilled it, and left it there for it) and settled down again.

At least it didn’t turn up its nose at cooked meat. Today, that was all she had on hand.

She wondered again about its circumstances, thinking back to her time spent watching them.

Feathers meant rank, she was pretty sure. There was a definite pecking order. If it threw the feather away...

Was it renouncing rank? One feather wasn’t much. Most raptors had at least two, many four. She’d seen one, once, with eight. It must have been important.

It was interesting, she mused, the raptors were one of the few races that had spread between continents. There were raptors here in the Stranglethorn, raptors up north - the Highlands were full of them - raptors in the Barrens, in the big crater in the south of Kalimdor called Un’Goro... they were everywhere. Did they communicate between groups? Share a language? They had some customs in common - the feathers for instance. Would one raptor recognise the rank of another, from a different area? There were several different types, together, in the Un’Goro crater, and they seemed to get along, for the most part. She’d never seen them fight amongst themselves. Of course, she hadn’t been looking for indications of it. She’d been more interested in avoiding their attention.

Then, too, there was enough prey down there for everyone. No need to fight over territory.

Karoa rubbed her chin. The beads, now. Every bunch of raptors had its own colours of beads. They never seemed to trade them with each other. When territories overlapped, the beads were more similar. Beads to show affiliation? Family group? A prescribed set of them, replaced when necessary?

Because replacement would be necessary. The beads were unfired clay. They’d break constantly.

Unfired. She’d never seen a raptor with fire. Perhaps they just didn’t need it. Was that why no one considered them people? Because they didn’t use fire? This raptor seemed at least somewhat aware of what fire was. It didn’t react to the fire being there.

She snorted. Of course it knew what fire was. The trolls used fire. They lived close enough to each other. Come to think of it...

The trolls were the only other race that had spread as the raptors had. Was there a connection? The trolls did revere the raptor. Did the one follow the other? This was an interesting question. She’d have to find an elder to ask, one day.

So. This raptor had thrown away... its place in its family? It still had its beads. She shook her head. She wished she could ask it questions. One feather. For all she knew, she could be harbouring a criminal. She snorted again in self-derision. If she was, it at least made it a lot less likely that other raptors were going to show up with a rescue party. That would be all she needed.

With a final snort, she tucked the feather back away into the flap of her backpack, and got to work on the furs.


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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:05 pm 
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Sunlight-Dances watched the Newcomer with apprehension. It was pacing again. The shadows were getting longer, and as it got later, the Newcomer got more and more agitated. Was it frightened? It left the nest area, and moved upriver. It wasn’t being very quiet now, and she heard its movements for some time before they faded away.

She didn’t think it was leaving. It had left its things here, still. The only thing it carried away was its weapon.

The sound of a piercing whistle floated back to her, and she figured it out. Worried. It was worried about the animal. The animal was still not here. It was looking for it, calling it. Why didn’t it just go look for the animal? Surely it wanted to.

Did it consider the animal part of its tribe? It must. It certainly treated it like one. Treated it like a slightly stupid hatchling, in fact.

Every mother worried about her hatchlings. She had worried about her eggs...

She closed her eyes, feeling the loss again. She would never know the joy of watching her children grow, of seeing their first triumphs, of watching them learn.

The Newcomer came back. Its whole demeanor was different. Sadder, somehow. It stood, for a time, looking at her, and she realised why it wouldn’t go to search for the animal. Because she was here, helpless.

The Newcomer wouldn’t leave her unprotected.

The idea of it filled her with wonder. What was she to this Newcomer? Why would it protect her? There was no love lost between their kinds, nor any way that it could owe a debt that would require it to care for one of The People.

Why, then?

The answer came to her, as she watched the Newcomer sit down, and lean its head in its hands.

Honour. Having chosen the responsibility of helping her - for whatever its reason had been - it could not now honourably abandon her.

The Newcomers knew obligation, and honour.

For the first time, she understood it, if only a little. It was stuck, wanting to find the animal, and held by honour. It could do nothing but wait.

So she waited with it.


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 Post subject: Re: Debts
PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:11 pm 
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Sunlight-Dances jerked her head up. Her hearing was good, but she wasn’t sure of what she heard. She turned her head, and held her breath, holding as still as she could.

There it was again. She looked at the Newcomer.

It hadn’t heard. She grunted at it, and snapped her jaws, to get its attention. It responded quickly, turning towards her, a metal claw in one hand.

She pointed one claw, and jerked it in the direction of the sound. The sound of a faint whine. She jerked her hand again, pointing, when the Newcomer just looked at her. She made a pushing motion, and pointed again. Why wouldn’t it go?

The Newcomer took up its weapon, and quietly moved towards the edge of its nest, then slipped into the bushes, and moved away.

Sunlight-Dances listened hard. It didn’t take long for the whine to sound again, a little closer, and this time the Newcomer obviously heard it. The barely-audible footsteps turned into a crashing run, punctuated by words cried out at volume.

One of them was the animal’s name. She recognised it by now. She’d heard it enough.

It wasn’t long before the Newcomer was back in the nest-place. It was carrying the animal. The animal had blood on it, and one of its legs hung wrongly.

The Newcomer laid the animal down on its own sleeping place, and Sunlight-Dances watched with interest as the it tended its strange friend. It must have tended her similarly when it brought her back.

The animal allowed the Newcomer to touch it in ways that amazed Sunlight-Dances. It whimpered as the Newcomer worked on it, but it didn’t snap, or try to get away.

When the Newcomer poured some strong-smelling liquid down the animal’s throat, she recognised the scent of it as the liquid she had been forced to drink - it seemed so long ago, now. Was it even a hand of days? She didn’t think it was.

The animal perked up a lot after it drank the liquid. It stood up, and moved around the nest-place slowly, limping. It sniffed everything in the clearing, even her. She held still as it sniffed her, and stiffened as she caught a scent from it.

She leaned forward, her nostrils practically touching the animal, and sniffed deeply.

It smelled of Drummer. Drummer hands. Drummer blood.

What a smart creature, to be able to escape Drummers when caught! The Newcomer was lucky to get the animal back. Most things the Drummers caught, they ate. Sometimes even the People fell to them. Not often, though. The Drummers mostly left them alone.

The animal moved away from her, back to the Newcomer, and the Newcomer sat down flat on the ground, and opened its arms.

The animal put its paws on the Newcomer’s shoulders, and licked its face. The Newcomer didn’t seem to mind, and wrapped its arms around the animal, and buried its face in the thick hair of its neck. Its words were muffled, but it spoke quietly the whole time.

She watched the two together, and wondered what the animal felt when it was held like that. It obviously liked it. It wriggled its whole body with pleasure, and the tone of the Newcomer’s voice changed as it spoke. Sunlight-Dances noted the expression on the Newcomer’s face. So this was what they looked like when they were happy. It was good to know.

The animal turned suddenly, to nibble at an itch above its tail. It turned farther as the tail moved out of its reach, and it slowly spun in a circle, trying to scratch itself.

It was the strangest, funniest thing she had ever seen an animal - any animal, anywhere - do, and she couldn’t help herself. She laughed.

The Newcomer was making an odd noise of its own. It lifted its head, turning towards her, and their eyes met, sharing laughter.

The Newcomers knew laughter. They knew honour. They knew obligation.

They were not so different, Sunlight-Dances thought to herself, as she curled up on the soft sleeping place, head tilted to watch the pair together. Not so different after all.

Which led to an entirely new and more worrisome path for her mind to follow.

If all this was true, and she had come to believe it was...

Sunlight-Dances studied the Newcomer again, measuringly. If they were an honourable people...

Then she owed a life-debt. And she had no idea how to pay it back.


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