It was largely unchanged, the same threads of metal woven between the bars, the same dirt floor that had been cleaned of any remaining plant matter or waste. The door was a new one, with newer hinges and extra locks, and with a promise that it would be more than capable of standing up to most beasts that might throw themselves against it. The water trough was as dry as the buckets surrounding the cage were full, the last of them sloshing and adding to the puddles scattered across the floor as Haix dropped it into place. There had been a moment of temptation to soak the dirt within the cage as well to see the reaction of the beast still sedated within it, discarded almost as quickly as she had thought of it. It would be too much effort just to see it prance briefly around the cage. 1
This creature was still somewhat familiar to her, as were the reasons she had traded it off to the horned soft-skin in the first place. Reasons that might have been the same as the ones that led the soft-skin to trade the beast back to her for some vulticus cross she had been trying to trade for a while. Haix would not fault the soft-skin for that. Nor would she fault them for deciding the cross was a female, something that Haix found amusing when the only scent she could catch from the beast was dust and the sense of heat. Female it had been called, a living flame trapped inside scaled armor, so female it would remain. It was not as if any of the crafted beasts could breed on their own anyways.
Still, the reasons she had traded the halfbreed away likely remained, and she intended to see to them as quickly as possible. 2
Trading out the creature again did not appeal to her, though it would be near useless to her in almost anything. A hunt in the mines would see it forewarning all foes with it’s burning flames of a body and at worst burning away her air as the books claimed could happen in the enclosed spaces beneath the earth. Or it would burn her, the tight corridors of the mines allowing it to do little else if something worth killing appeared. It was also a bit too large to comfortably travel in the tunnels beneath the mines, and she did not intend to lose her investment in the beast by watching the flames within it smothered if the ceiling should collapse upon it. And in the wide open places of plants and ponds, where what was considered nature grew and died freely, the flames would quickly consume what was dry and dry what was not, creating a world of flames for her to burn alive in. 3
The so called gardens would likely see the same fate, though perhaps with some training the risk would be lowered to the chance that she might only come out slightly singed. And as for the heretical palace that twisted and fed off of those too greedy to care, who knew how it would respond to something that might burn its walls? She was not even sure that a hunt could safely be held within its walls in the first place, for the living building might not take well to its offspring’s slaughter within it.
Even taking the cross to the pits or the halls would be a pointless endeavor. It would never be able to stand up against the carefully crafted beasts the soft-skins there favored and so enjoyed to watch die and return as if it was only a minor ailment. No, this one would not find a use there. 4
There was always the chance the cross could be trained to avoid too many accidental fires though, and then perhaps it would be of some use in the greener places. It would serve well as a cooking fire if all else failed, the image of herself holding a stick-impaled piece of meat above the crosses body like soft-skins at one of their campfires enough to draw a chuckle. Then a look at where the cross lay, its three forelimbs splayed out in front of it.
There was no response from the beast beyond the sound of a crackle of flame from within its shell of armor, the cross not particularly burning brightly as it slept.
Yes, a moving source of flame if nothing else, assuming it could be trusted to leave the kennel without accidentally burning everything down. She did not know what ‘infamous chelcauda’ parent the information she had found meant, though it certainly was related to the burning issue. 5
Well, enough hesitation. She could ponder over the details from inside the cage after confirming the soft-skin had not damaged the cross in some way. The locks and latches were fiddled with and quickly opened, though only the latter slid back into place after she closed the door behind her, a single bucket for company. This one had never been much of an ambusher back in the days she had originally owned it, and had it learned to do so under the most recent owner, it still lacked the appendages to open the door.
Not that she intended for it to wake up before she finished her business in the cage. Being burned alive would be even more pathetic and horrible than had her head been crushed by a falling cage. With that in mind, she made her way to the halfbreed, the overly full bucket sloshing with every exaggeratedly careful step. 6
The bucket was deposited a foot away from the beasts body, displacing a puff of very dry dirt. It wafted through the air towards the crossbreeds head. There was a huff, another sound like a snort, and the crossbreed sneezed from its vents a coating of flame across its body. Haix was sent skipping back from the heat, failing to reach for the bucket as she watched the flames dance across the plates of its body, the legs giving a brief kick. The writhing flames lasted for only a few seconds, their light making the crossbreeds plates appear to ripple with intended motion beneath them. Then they faded, appearing to be pulled back under its plated body as if they had never left.
Her drugs might have deadened the senses even as it slept, but the labs had seen fit to provide sedation that would keep it under a great deal longer and with less risk of messing up the dosage. And with a creature that ate flame and meat, having none of the latter on its own, drugging it would have been difficult. 7
With the flames mostly hidden once more, and a minute spared to watch for any sudden resurgence, Haix supposed it was time to begin the inspection. She knew she had sent the beast off without any lingering injuries back when she had sold it off, for she certainly had not been willing to risk damaging a good to be sold. Back then there had been no permanent grooves torn through plated armor, nothing torn or cracked as far as she had seen. She doubted the soft-skin had damaged the beast purposely, and she had not seen it in any of the few pit fights or the less official yet more entertaining maulings though the former would see it healed without so much as a scar. With that thought, she snatched away her hand that had been unconsciously reached up to run over her eyes and face, where the proof lay of just how thorough said ‘healers’ were. A good thing then that they had enough blood to leave her heart alone. 8
Returning her mind back to the task at hand, she moved as quickly as she dared. The first step was simply looking over the beast on its exposed side, from its beak-like mouth filled with sharp teeth, to the strip that ran from its chest and belly, to to its plated legs and nearly solid tail. While the cross had been said to be able to recover from broken bones with ease and therefore there was no way to know if a leg had snapped or its back had been broken, she inspected it for grooves or cracks in the plates, for places where an errant flame might leak from a deformed or holed plate. Upon the sight-only inspection failing to find any obvious damages, only slightly disappointed that the soft-skin had left no signs that it had used the beast in combat, Haix returned to the bucket of water, looking between the placid surface of the water and the slumbering beast before her. 9
She dipped one scaled hand into the water as she watched the beast, knowing full well what it would mean if the lab sedative wore off too soon or if it was not strong enough to keep the crossbreed under for what was to come. With a deep breath, she lifted out her hand, fingers held tightly together to form a bowl for the water within them. Water dripped slowly from the improper seal, her fingers pressed tighter as she sought to stop the flow. Then she simply opened her hand, the water splashing back harmlessly into the bucket without so much as a twitch from the cross.
She then flapped her hand in the direction of the crossbreed, droplets of water flying through the air to land on its plates, no reaction from the cross until a drop slid between them. The crossbreed reacted instantly with a flailing of its limbs, the flames venting from its body to add the hiss of boiling water to its own. 10
The flames did not die down so quickly this time, nor did the beast limit itself to a single kick. Its legs drummed and spasming a few more times as if it was trying to kick away the unnatural sleep. She let it kick out and burn freely, ready to sprint for the gate if its eyes should open and the flailing become a concentrated effort to stand. But, as before, the creature returned to its former stillness, not even panting for all its panicked struggle when the water had found its way through its armor.
Haix dried her hand, making sure not a single errant drop remained, and crouched down next to the crossbreed. The last of the flames, a little bursting up and away from its flaming hooves, another from roughly behind the same plate the water had found its way through, were watched without much patience, though Haix restrained herself until there had been no more flares for a minute. 11
Now she grabbed at the creature. The tail was the first to be checked, it’s own thrashing helping to coat its body with dirt. Lifted, handled not too roughly but with as much care as the quick movements would allow, she ran her hands along it for any signs of damage.
It was funny in a way that a beast of fire could be touched directly. She could feel the heat of its body as she manipulated the limbs without touching the gaps from where the naked flame could be seen, but it did not feel like metal heated on a stove like she might have expected. Then again, the clue of the water droplets, they way they had failed to sizzle as they clung to the plates until the crossbreed reacted, would have been enough evidence had one not already known it was safe to touch. At least, it was safe as it slept. 12
The texture of the plates reminded her of the hard scales of her stone skin armor, though they were nearly unpleasantly warm. She poked and prodded and shoved the creature across the ground to the best of her ability, nearly burning herself as she tried to pry its mouth open a little wider. There was another near burn as she manipulated its split legs to get a better look at its flaming hooves, fingertips slipping dangerously close to where the open flame ran. The crossbreed voiced no complaint, and though she could hear the hiss of flame and almost sore the parts she moved too roughly increased in temperature, there was no sign of the beast waking up.
When she was satisfied that the soft-skin had not damaged the beast in any obvious way, though that would only be important if she ended up trading it again, she returned to the bucket of water. 13
After some consideration, her eyes flicking between the bucket, the trough, and the sleeper, she hoisted the bucket with both hands and staggered her way out. She was not nearly so careful this time, the contents sloshing out to create muddy patches as she made her way to the gate. Opening the gate from the inside proved only slightly more difficult than from the outside, and soon it was shut behind her.
The water bucket was left with the others, and two sacks were dragged into the room, shapes squirming and clawing across their skins. From within one of the bags came squeaks, some of pain no doubt as one trod on another or bit one that had. The other chittered and puffed out at random points, the rounds of ripping as whatever remained tore at the inside of the sack. With a look at the still sleeping beast, she opened the door once more. 14
Both bags were dragged in a short distance after the door snapped shut. The first sack, the one that bulged and squeaked even more furiously form having been dragged through a muddy patch, was laid on its side and had its mouth loosened, the first of the small and fat vermin within rolling out without the sack to contain them. The grubbles swarmed from the sack in all directions except that of Haix and the second sack, a few making their way over to the sleeping crossbreed as another clawed at the muddy water.
The second sack was loosened as Haix backed up to the door, one hand cinching it shut as she slid the latch free. The sack was swung once, twice, and on the third time it sailed several feet away as its chittering inhabitant screeched. At the sound, the crossbreed began to move, its limbs twitching and stretching out, and Haix slammed the gate shut as the lerrel crawled free of the bag. 15
Twilight-Claw: I really, really love all the updates that have come~! <3
May 24, 2020 2:12:37 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: np!!! I hope y'all like it!
May 23, 2020 13:45:06 GMT -6
Riku: What an awesome update, staff! Thanks for that! <3
May 23, 2020 12:06:52 GMT -6
Jack: All have been found!
May 23, 2020 9:53:27 GMT -6
Jack: Might want to be on the lookout for anything... odd
May 22, 2020 23:51:22 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Yeah it’s definitely a coincidence but wow did it work out well for us! XD
May 22, 2020 6:43:27 GMT -6
Silver: I'm pretty sure that was just a coincidence, but it sure feels lucky!
May 22, 2020 2:07:09 GMT -6
Riku: So did you guys make this hosting switch perfectly RIGHT before pb broke? >.< Thaz crazy. It’s a huge relief and I’m very glad we’ve come to this. <3
May 22, 2020 1:41:01 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: It’s free up to a certain number of GB, which we haven’t hit yet.
May 21, 2020 6:46:33 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Is the site that is going to be used to host all those images also the type you'd need to pay for? (definitely noticed the broken images yeah. Photobucket feels like it is standing on its last legs. X3 )
May 21, 2020 0:13:57 GMT -6
Morgan: I'm just kinda nervous about them going down before things get moved over completely. It's prolly nothing to be worried about though. :3
May 20, 2020 22:13:15 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: Thank goodness we're moving out of there? XD
May 20, 2020 21:59:22 GMT -6
Renathan: Ugh, photobucket has the images broke again. x3
May 20, 2020 21:18:53 GMT -6