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Fenris
DOOM HAS-Ohlookit Shinies!
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Title: Sleepy Zenith
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The Wolf and the Panther - Part 4

08 Dec 2007, 12:13

Fernis awoke on her back with a dull ache somewhere behind her eyes. The pale gloom in the forest above her told her that daylight hours had returned. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the brightness of a campfire and winced. She shut her eyes and sat up, instantly regretting it when sharp lancelets of pain shot up her thighs. Her legs felt like lead and her arms felt no better.

“Finally awake, are we?” said a woman’s voice from across the fire. The voice was relaxed but rough, almost like a purr. Fenris groaned and nodded. The fire crackled as a stick poked it and the young woman opened her eyes a crack, slowly getting used to the brightness and the headache. As her vision cleared, she noticed the woman’s eyes, green as the most vibrant leaves in the canopy above. Then she saw the tousled hair, as black as pitch and kept short, following along the curves of the base of the woman’s neck where it ended. The woman tilted her head to one side as she asked, “You feeling okay?”

“My head hurts,” Fenris replied and rubbed her temple, her eyes following the other woman as she gracefully stood in one smooth motion. She wore a brown leather vest over a ruffled white overshirt. A pair of forest green leggings clothed her long, muscular legs, which ended in a pair of well-worn boots. The raven-haired woman squatted down when she came to treeskimmer’s side. She started to say something but stopped short when the woman in the vest tipped Fenris’ chin upwards with a tanned thumb and index finger.

Fenris felt her cheeks begin to redden at the sudden contact when the taller woman took a step back with a satisfied nod. “The bruises are healing nicely. The marks should be gone by tomorrow,” the green-eyed woman said with a kind smile that Fenris could not help but return. “My name’s Vala. You got a name? Or will I have to call you ‘girlie’ or ‘you there’ or something?”

Fenris furrowed her brow slightly, but she hid it by staring at the bleached tree bark that made up the ground. The woman’s rude address surprised her. “My name is Fenris…of clan Val’Cera,” she said, feeling fresh pangs of heartbreak in her chest.

“Val’Cera eh?” came the reply. Though Vala’s speech was coarse, her tone was kind and carried a touch of sympathy, “I’ve heard of it. You got a good name.”

“They’re gone,” Fenris whispered, more quickly than was proper. It sounded more like a quiet realization than anything else. “The soul-drinker killed everyone…because of me.” Her fingers balled into fists on her lap and a lump settled in her throat, but she shed no tears. It would not do to weep in front of others. She heard the rustle of cloth as Vala shifted her weight.

“I looked for survivors but there wasn’t much left,” Vala said and looked away at something a ways from the camp. The pause drew the treeskimmer’s attention and she looked up then followed the taller woman’s gaze to Hakon’s body on a small funeral pyre. The sight weakened her resolve but she held fast against humiliating herself further. Vala stood and dusted herself off, “Found him nearby. Looked like somebody worked on him, but it didn’t take. Figured you’d be a better person to give him a send off than me though, so I left him alone after I set things up.”

The memory of his body disintegrating before her eyes sprang up in her mind. She shook her head. “I thought he…,” she started to say then paused as though searching for the right words.

“The one choking you last night was a fake. An illusion,” Vala said simply as she offered the young woman a hand, which Fenris took. Her rescuer’s hand held hers with a steely grip and she managed to stand. Painful tingles ran up and down her legs and it took a few moments for the feeling to subside. Her legs still felt like logs but she managed to stand without help after that.

“An illusion,” Fenris repeated and rubbed her neck gingerly. It hurt. “It did not feel like an illusion,” she said as she traced the bruises, the coolness of her fingers soothed the ache somewhat.

“Fae glamour,” Vala explained offhandedly and removed a stick from the campfire. When the only response from Fenris was a look of confusion, she hummed thoughtfully a moment as the makeshift torch crackled softly, “Faeries, they prefer Raksha but who wants to give them any respect I say. Anyway, Faeries can work these things called glamour. It’s like an illusion, but it’s real enough so that if you believe it, it’ll work on you. Like what happened with you.”

“So the soul-drinker was a Faerie?” Fenris wondered how this woman knew so much about them when the glint of metal caught her eye. The light was reflected by Vala’s spear, which leaned against a small bundle not far from the fire. The shaft was almost six feet tall and made of bright silver with leather straps wrapped tightly around the bottom two thirds with a blunt spike crowning the end. At the top was a single edged blade with a tapered point three feet long and as wide as Fenris’ hand was long.

Vala raised an eyebrow then made a sound of understanding, “That’s your name for them I take. The name fits. It’s actually what they do more or less.” She glanced at the young woman with a measuring look, “Your clan ever find people that got ravished before?”

Fenris shook her head, “We only have our legends and stories from the other clans. They speak of people found that were both alive and dead, like shells that continued to breathe.” She suddenly felt cold and shivered, remembering Prince’s insane laughter. She hugged herself to ward off the chill and followed Vala to the pyre.

Hakon’s body was laid on a bed of sticks and smaller branches. An outer ring of sticks gave the bed a sense of evenness. Under the pyre was a thick layer of bright moss. The moss was extremely fire resistant and would keep the flames from spreading to the dry bark underneath. “You certainly know our customs,” Fenris softly noted and accepted the torch when the taller woman offered it to her.

“Comes with the territory…so to speak,” Vala replied in the same offhanded manner as before and shrugged. She saw that the younger woman’s knuckles around the torch had gone white, her body tense. The dark-haired woman suppressed the urged to shuffle on her feet, suddenly feeling awkward. Instead, she rested a hand on Fenris’ shoulder. She felt the blond woman’s muscles tighten up at her touch and let the hand drop. “I’ll give you your time. He was important to you,” she said as gently as she could manage and started back towards the camp.

“We were cousins,” Fenris said abruptly. She did not turn away from the pyre when she spoke and her voice was steady but barely above a whisper. If Vala’s ears could twitch they would have, instead she stopped and looked back towards the clanswoman, who looked very small in the torchlight. “He taught me how to climb and how to hunt. He showed me that something existed beyond the trees,” she went on as she lowered the torch onto the outer ring of the pyre.

The flames quickly spread and engulfed the body while the moss kept the tree from harm. From Vala’s point of view, it looked as though Fenris was wreathed in fire, her hair fluttering in the gusts the flames created. Thick tongues of flame roared skyward and for a long time Vala watched Fenris, just as Fenris watched Hakon’s body disappear one final time. The younger woman did not speak again until the fire began to wane, “He treated me like a friend, and not an obligation or an object placed upon a pedestal like everyone else.”

She turned around towards Vala then, and the warrior woman saw the wet sheen in the other’s eyes. “You did not know him,” Fenris said solemnly, “Yet you honored him. I do not know your reasons, but…thank you. I…I do not know how I can repay you for this favor.”

Vala rubbed the back of her neck and looked away. “It’s nothing really,” she half-said, half-mumbled. “I had time to kill while you were out is all. Not really something to be grateful over.”

Fenris shook her head, her brows furrowed in disagreement, “Whatever your motives, you have my thanks. Without you, I would be dead along with everyone else and my clan would have remained unavenged,” she said almost enthusiastically. Then in a more somber tone, “Though it shames me to have been unable to have done so on my own.”

“Hey, taking help wherever you can find it is never something to be ashamed of,” Vala chided with a wag of her finger. “Trust me, coming from me, that’s saying a lot. People who rant and rave that getting help is a sign of weakness have no friends. Or got egos big enough to build a warstrider. Allies pull your ass out of the fire and more importantly give you someone to celebrate with afterwards,” she explained with an easy grin and a tone that spoke of experience.

“A war…strider?”

“Erm…nevermind. Sufficed to say there is nothing wrong with getting a helping hand. We all hit bottom at some point,” Vala waved away any immediate response and returned to the camp where she hunkered down besides her bundled pack and glaive. She took a leather sheathe from the pack and inspected it for damage. It was made of two sheets of rugged leather as long as the blade of her polearm and held together by a pair of adjustable straps. Her calloused fingers found a few new nicks that marred the surface, but was satisfied with the damage being only superficial and temporary and cradled her weapon across her lap to securely fit the sheathe. The straps were designed to loosen quickly and easily with a quick tug during times of haste, while keeping the blade snugly bound at all other times. Chores finished, Vala fed the last of the twigs she had collected earlier to the fire and leaned back, intent on enjoying a quick cat nap. The campfire burned with its usual cheerfulness as the Sun moved unseen across the sky.

Fenris looked thoughtful when she at last made her way back to the camp and saw that the fire had died down to glowing embers. The sound of her steps woke Vala, who cracked an eye to watch the clanswoman’s approach. “Done here?” the warrior woman asked and stretched lazily.

“Yes…,” Fenris replied softly, then more firmly, “Yes, there is nothing left for me here.”

“What are you planning on doing now?” Vala asked her, both eyes now open and watching the younger woman intently. One of the embers cracked, sending sparks into the air. It gave Fenris something to look at while she weighed her answer.

“Another clan may accept me into their lodge if I present myself to them,” she reasoned, “My clan has done so on occasion in the past. But I...do not think my place is here anymore. I want to leave this place.” She looked to Vala who was rummaging through her pack. Fenris did not like being ignored and opened her mouth to speak when a bundle of cloth sailed over the fire towards her from Vala’s direction. She caught the bundle, which turned out to be a cloak, oiled to protect its wearer from getting wet. It made her wonder if Vala had expected to swim with it.

“We’ll get you some real clothes later,” Vala said as she stood and secured the pack next to her hip. She then put out the campfire with a few stomps of her boot and a patch of moss before she picked up her glaive with one hand and rested it comfortably over a shoulder. She glanced back to look at Fenris with a welcoming smile. “Come on then, I don’t like camping out in the same place two nights in a row,” she said and started towards the clearing’s edge.

Fenris could find no words and took a few tentative steps behind the raven-haired woman, the cloak still in a bundle in her hands. She saw Vala wave lazily without slowing or turning, “Better hurry or I’m gonna leave you behind,” she called teasingly and Fenris felt a glimmer of a smile on her lips. She threw the cloak over her slender shoulders and fastened the laces. Because of their height difference, the edges dragged on the ground somewhat. After taking one last look at the pyre, now a smoldering mound of ash, she followed Vala out of the clearing and to whatever destiny awaited them.
Zhao Yi, "Venus! Will you look at the size of this closet?"
Midnight Rose, "Sifu, we're looking for booze here."

Current story is Sun and Stars which can be found in my notebook.

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