Had she thought about it, it might have felt like the tree was purposely trying to stop her. Had this happened back when she was still feeling as she had as she stood before the halfbreed and the porch, it might have been enough to send her scrambling back down and abandoning it to it’s fate. At the moment though, all she felt was annoyance at the sap, grateful that it did not appear to have any numbing or other effects besides the stickiness, and a vague amusement at the desperation of the halfbreed caught in front of her. It too was covered in sap, its wings held close to its sides and somehow still clean despite its matted fur.
She kept her tone calm as she spoke to it this time, then, with a small yet not entirely insincere apology to the tree, she bent and pulled and pushed on some of the branched the halfbreed had gotten stuck on. 15
Only one of the branches broke, most of the weaker ones already weeded out by the crossbreeds struggles. The halfbreed began to squirm free, always careful not to come so close as to touch Haix’s claws or face as she helped it work it’s way free, talking to it gently the whole time. Then she promptly rammed the sack over the creature’s head.
Its beak poked free from the other hole almost instantly, an annoyed squawk-like sound accompanying a click as it tried to push it’s way free of the tree, Haix, and the bag. It did get free of Haix, but the sack clung to it, the previously loose portion of it having been tied into a sloppy knot as the halfbreed pushed its way free. It was lucky then that it did not completely break free of the tree, not slamming down to the ground with might have been a single bone shattering impact, but instead facing many jarring, bruising, and no less painful though much less damaging impacts as it bounced between branches. 16
Haix’s method of descent was a bit slower, but the tree failed to hinder her as it had while climbing up it. She was on the ground as the halfbreed was still struggling to get its legs under itself, the bag wrapped around its middle bulging and distorting as it tried to open its wings. It had recovered enough of its senses to swing its pointed horn at her as she reached to grab it, the halfbreed clicking twice as it tried to fend her off.
Something caught her eye as the halfbreed continued waggling its head, and she left it to continue swinging as phantoms to take a few steps to inspect it. A bowl filled with water, with sculptures spitting out a sluggish trickle of the liquid back into the bowl. Stones like the teeth of soft-skins jutted from the ground like they had been planted there and grown to a massive size. 17
The stones came in many sizes and shapes, some of the ones nearest to her having words and numbers carved into them, some with images of strange creatures or floral designs, and some as plain as they teeth they reminded her of. Some of the stones themselves were shaped into sculptures themselves, one amusingly enough in the shape of a lowercase t of the Common tongue.
Her hands picked at the rope as she looked over the stones, pulling the knot loose before pulling out a length of it and tying a newer knot. She had kept an eye on the halfbreed as she looked over the stones, watching as it stopped swinging at nothing, the way it shook and limped a little bit as it looked around it. The way it shook reminded Haix of the way the tree shook in the breeze, and she wondered how treelike she now looked herself. 18
She really was glad to see that the halfbreed was still capable of walking on its own, though it was keeping its , mouth open as it panted lightly. She could not see the condition of the wings, nor could she see it the creature had any obvious wounds as covered as it was in sap, twigs, and darkness.
That, she might have reflected later, should have been a warning sign of what was going to happen. At the time, she was not used to of all the skills her new hunting pet had come with, and had nothing more planned for the current venture than slipping the noose over its head and dragging it back home so she could fix it up. So she took the rope and stepped over to the creature while avoiding the stones and the strange mounds some of them had alongside them, and slid the noose over the dazed creature’s head. 19
The rope did not get caught on the horn, as she worried it might have. It was not too loose, so the creature had not simply stepped through it. It did not catch the rope in its mouth, nor did id dodge or pull back quick enough to free itself. There had been no problems with the rope itself, fairly new and supposedly able to handle weights much greater than even her own. All of which is to say that, once the noose tightened, it should have been easy enough to drag the creature off of the property.
The halfbreed, apparently just as fed up as Haix had been, instead melted away into nothing, leaving Haix stupidly tugging on a length of rope, staring at the place the creature had been seconds before. It was a testament to how long she had been in the city that she did not immediately run at full speed away from the stone teeth and their mounds back to the street. ((Haix level counted.)) 20
She stood there for much longer than she would have done upon first coming to the soft-skin hive. She stood there longer than she even wanted to having been there for so long, staring at where the creature vanished with a horrified fascination. The shadows themselves had appeared to flow onto the halfbreed, snuffing out first color, then form as they raced across its body, the shadowy lump that remained sinking into the ground. The rope was held up into the air to be inspected, the bits of twigs and sap that had been left behind were also looked over. Neither showed signs of shadows clinging to them, nothing trying to consume them, so she looked around the stone teeth from where she stood.
The stones continued far into the distance, to more trees that had pairs of lights that randomly flared to life before vanishing. She was wondering what sort of bugs would move like that, a small part of her wondering if they were eyes, as she looked around the stone field. 21
The crossbreed hid well, but the light of the moon betrayed it. As she looked, unwilling to go deeper amongst the stones and risk whatever silliness the soft-skins had created this place for, she saw a flash of gold amongst the monochrome landscape. It darted back behind the fountain as she watched, not coming back into the open though she stared as she picked up the useless fabric that had once been a sack. There were two options. One, this was some manner of trick, and she was about to die horribly if she went to see if it was her pet that was darting behind the stones and carved fountain. Two, her pet had some sort of ability to meld with shadows, something that would be very useful in the darker than night mines.
Deciding both possibilities were good, she made her way back to the fountain, grateful for the lack of leaves to crunch underfoot. She still avoided the mounds of dirt though, not willing to trust that they were not pits of some kind. 22
Sneaking around the opposite edge of the fountain, she found the crossbreed had climbed up onto the lip of the stone bowl, staring at the water but not drinking it nor doing much of anything else with it. She was beginning to feel her body’s protests, the dull pains from the whipping branches of the tree, the general tiredness from the climb and chase and the waiting without any food or water of her own. With that in mind, she slowly coiled the rope around her arm, waiting for a click and a flurry of motion from the sagging halfbreed in front of her.
When it did nothing, she instead loosened the tie around the mouth of the treat pouch, pulling out a few pieces of meat. The waxy texture of the treats was just enough that the stickiness of the sap remaining on her hands did not glue them to her. 23
She called out to the creature, using the species name she had been told first. The ear on her side of its head twitched, but it failed to acknowledge her beyond that. It was far too interested in the green-tinted water rippling inches from its face. She called to it again, this time with the name she intended to train it to live up to, along with a few words regarding the treats she waved as enticingly as she could in its direction. When it ignored that, she gave up and threw a treat at it. The other two meat cubes quickly followed, the creature already twisting away with a threatening click as it turned to face her. Now it was her turn to ignore it, instead choosing to take a quick sniff of the water, then to plunge her hands into the algae-infested water and attempt to scrub away the sap and plant matter that clung to her. 24
The halfbreed stared at the green lizard that kept following it, kept trying to put things on it or, in the case of the branches, take things off of it. It still does not like the lizard at all, even less so now that it resembles the thing that had held it and tried to kill it. Yet the lizard now is ignoring it, and it is so tired, covered in dull, aching pains, and filled with a gnawing void that it was not sure it would ever be able to find enough food to fill.
It was much to the halfbreed’s delight when the scent of the treat it had been pelted with finally reached its nose, and it snapped up the cube of meat without a second thought. Then it found the other two, and ate them with the same lack of reservation, huffing as it pressed its snout to the ground in hopes of finding more. ((Pet levels counted.)) 25
One could feel a thrumming coming from somewhere close by... However, that takes second seat to the stranger 'juggling act' being performed by a skeletal monster! As soon as the creature detects that someone is present, it drops all of the things it was juggling with it's abilties. A few wax leaves, a... syrup monster and a spleen? A goul and a little wolf thing all hit the ground dazed, but the stick and the orb are the last to be dropped. It stares at the individual, as if daring them to act in any way other than terrified. It appeared that there were a pair of watchers that saw the skeletal beast's juggling act at one point or another. How odd.
Of the many strange things she might have expected to see on a soft-skin's property, a blackened hatchling's skeleton juggling was not even remotely close.
Honestly, she is actually terrified of the creature, but she keeps her body loose and relaxed, frills hanging limply down the sides of her head as if her tiredness had not evaporated at the sight of the skeletal puppet. There would be no time to look around for the priest that would be pulling the strings of the bloodless abomination, the puppetmaster likely having darted into hiding as the puppet distracted her with its dropping of items, so ripping out their heart to end their spell would not be an option. The dead hatchling would drain her of her blood before she had a chance to peer behind the stupid rocks scattered around the grounds.
The halfbreed at least was not so stupid as to directly approach the skeleton, but it eyed the slithering spleen with narrowed eyes and a click of its beak. It looked back up to the skeleton, then at the spleen, then at the skeleton, not wanting to risk the weird thing touching it. Instead, it clicked at the skeleton, tilting its head to the side.
She wracked her memory for what to do when such a creature appeared, in tales and stories she had heard were usually lies, and came up with the most reasonable solution. If it did not work, her only hope would be that the heretical priest would be satisfied with the blood of the halfbreed. "[Greetings, dead puppet.]" she said in her native tongue, slowly pulling free the pouch of meat treats. Not bloody, but hopefully the puppet would be sated with them regardless. "[ I offer you a gift of dead meat to spare living blood.]" She pulled free a few of the meat cubes and tossed them at it's skeletal feet, by where the odd looking leaves had come to rest. 26
The thing wasn't sure what to do. It had been practicing, and was not indeed ready to have an audience after all. It watched the somewhat familiar-looking being stand there ahead of them. It was not aware of what the noises it was making were all about, and trying to figure out body language was practically useless. At the very least, it wasn't trying to attack them. That was enough for now. It was more curious than frightened of course. It threw things at it. The creature looked down at these meat cubes, and then tilted i's head at them distractedly. Was this some sort of an offering perhaps? Was the being frightened of it? It looked directly up at them, unable to be certain at this moment what was meant by this.
In the stories, the puppet would either fall upon the meat offered to it without a a moment's hesitation, or it would leap at the fool to tear out their throat with needle-like teeth, the last sensation the living being feeling is that of their ribs being cracked open and their heart consumed. None of the tales had ever mentioned that the thing would instead stare at the meat, then look up without leaping.
Haix has no idea what to do now. Was this a warning of some kind, a demand for more meat? Or perhaps the priest has made a mistake when crafting the puppet? She could not see any trails of blood running across it's blackened form, nor trapped in any carved runes in the unmarked bones, the only red the soft light from its eyes. Perhaps the juggling was the key? She lifted her hands slowly, palms up in a motion hoping to encourage the thing to take the gift. "[You did well little one. Take the dead meat.]" She keeps the tone of command from entering her voice, hoping the damned hatchling will not be insulted by being spoken to like a pet or living youngling getting a treat and praise. Really, the dead thing had done very well throwing and catching a variety of living things in the air. If it spared her, she might even have take the time to rip apart the priest on principle for that.
The halfbreed dropped its gaze bak towards the spleen, front legs lowering into a crouch as it watched the slimy thing slither around. As hungry as it was,there was something unappetizing about the moving meat. 27
Kristofor: Puffball bird, dragon or even owlphoenix?
May 18, 2021 4:40:41 GMT -6
Kristofor: With the sort of jibiji we've seen lately, who knows what'll come of that.
May 18, 2021 4:40:23 GMT -6
Riku: One such mercenary - the first ever - is set to take the stage alongside the market-creator, Alma, in an upcoming fight. Curiously, the choice of boss and animal companions Noa brings is up to them. We’ll see if they end up bringing three jibiji...
May 17, 2021 17:33:04 GMT -6
Riku: Thanks, Alma. That was something I hadn’t really thought about before but think we can all agree about. In other news, there’s been a new market created for mercenaries as the fighting pit has opened its doors for the new ‘boss’ fights.
May 17, 2021 17:29:46 GMT -6
Alma: This vital news was brought to you by Alma. I do not know how you'll be able to deal with this knowledge, but I hope you can bear it.
May 17, 2021 16:54:12 GMT -6
Alma: Salaves are pudgy lil' sneks. <3
May 17, 2021 16:44:14 GMT -6
Fiera Ferella: They count as items in that case, yeah. :3
May 17, 2021 16:35:57 GMT -6
Èdan: Do CAD/PADs count as creatures or more like items, in terms of property space?
May 17, 2021 11:15:29 GMT -6
Renathan: Thanks, that's kind of you to say!
May 16, 2021 11:41:28 GMT -6