• Graded • [Foster's Bay] Interception

Maltruism

Rising from the stony plateau overlooking the rivers and plains of the western continent, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from this same rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence, eagerly spreading its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the different factions set aside their agendas long enough to see this through?

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• Graded • [Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Quio » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:53 pm

unknown date (OOC: 13th of Saun, 717)
morning

This day had just gone from bad to worse.

Bad, because he had not eaten today and he was hungry.

Bad, because the cold weather seemed to have returned. Bad, because the chill in the air meant Quio was no longer certain again that it was Saun. He didn't know what season it was. Bad, because he no longer had a shirt; he had torn it to bits thinking he wouldn't need it, that it would be hot out. Bad, because it was hard to keep himself warm and keeping himself warm meant burning more body heat, and that meant he needed food more than ever and he hadn't eaten since noon trial-last and he was cold and hungry.

Bad, because he did not know how much longer he could do this.

Worse, because he knew where he was now. Worse, because he'd been hoping hoping hoping for a reprieve he was not going to get.

Worse, because he had broken through cover on the shoreline and found himself looking upon a harbor city about two miles south, finally, but it turned out that wasn't good because it was a city he thought he recognized.

Foster's Landing.

Worse, no, abysmal because Foster's Landing was associated with pirates. It didn't have a navy. He didn't know what he'd been thinking when he'd thought he'd seen a navy ship before. It hadn't been a navy vessel that he'd seen escorting the men. It had been a pirate ship acting as a privateer.

Abysmal, because there in the harbor he saw the men's ship anchored along with the pirate ship that had led it south along the coast, and what was he going to do? He'd thought when he'd found a town he would be safe again. He'd thought he would be able to find food and shelter and clothing and help. But Quio was not safe here. Not with the men. Not with the pirates.

He could not go to Foster's Landing.

"Shit," he croaked out, a ghost of a word sounding sad, and frustrated, and very, very tired. His voice had healed some from the previous days' damage, but he still could not speak well. Quio rubbed at his face.

For long moments he stared out over towards the city, shaking his head slightly in plain disbelief, but he should have known. He should have known it would not be that easy. Only belatedly as he was standing there did he think, if I can see them, they can see me. He was roughly aware of Foster's Landing, what and where it was, and he knew it was near to Etzos, connected to its mother city by a shallow river heading north, but he did not know how far away from Etzos he was or even if he would be safe there.

Probably not.

And he was still standing too far out in the open. Where anyone with a lucky glance or good eyes or a spyglass might see.

Shit, he thought again, just as tiredly, and ducked down and made his way slowly inland. Trying to avoid any suspicious eyes.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Maltruism » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:27 pm

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Bells were a common enough sound to hear emanating from a harbor. It would be unlikely that anyone would take note of a pattern of harmonies rung from the vessels berthed there. Most would chalk up any surprisingly pleasant patterns to be merely coincidence.

Of course, someone with a high level of perception, and experience with the vessel that was ringing them, might second-guess the innocent nature of such a spontaneous-seeming melody. A repetitive wave from a man in the ship's 'crow's nest' might also draw curious attention, given that a berthed ship has little need for a man aloft. But most would shrug it off. An answering flash from a hooded lantern in the hills would surely go unnoticed since one would need a spyglass to see it from town.

But the man with the spyglass in town noted the response and called up a series of numbers to a man in a darkened attic. His lantern would be unseen by those in the street below, as it was set far enough into the room to be out of their line of sight. The use of tinted glass would designate what line of information these coded flashes were to be applied to; distance, direction, time of trial, initial heading and health of target.

The crew of the "Sea Wyrm" had already selected a squad to go ashore in the interest of the tale their recent target had spun of a shape-changer with a sizable bounty on his head. The tale was credible enough, given the verified existence of a set of magic shells said to have belonged to him, given up by the members of this target vessel. That they'd spoken the truth was the prime reason the victorious Captain had opted for setting them adrift in their ship's boats, rather than simply putting them all to the sword.

It was far easier to just kill 'em all. But this was Foster's Landing, and they had to show some semblance of restraint to justify the amnesty they'd been granted by Etzos. All they needed to do in exchange for a powerfully-backed safe harbor was to run off those ships the Harbormaster labelled as "Unwelcomed". This last ship had been one so; but now it rocked beside other like-claimed vessels, part of a steadily growing Etzori resource.

Etzos still had no military men with naval experience, so it could hardly be called an "Armada". But things were slowly changing in that regard. Many buccaneers were finding the lack of jurisdictional clarity quite lucratively exploitable. And the thought of genuine backing of a city's coffers went a long way to offset the obligation of military service. Most pirates were career sailors anyway. The older an old salt got, the more piracy an amnesty would negate; the more nooses his neck had eluded. Many a crusty old bastard was thinking of taking Etzos up on its offer.

But one crew was not. The Sea Wyrm was crewed by a younger bunch. And a good quarter of them were now comparing codes and agreeing on the heading they were to take to head off whoever it was that the signals had indicated. Arsen Meeks, the 'Whip-holder' of this squad whistled for silence. "Roll-ee up, boys! Trackers lookee live. Cargo's got four breaks on us, an-ee maybe trekkin' Nareast or west. But-ee hurtin' serious, an-ee got no steel was seen. That's only fer mentions cause we not ta hurt the lad...much...Cap wants him still ab-ee to bleed, says I. Bleeds bright gold they says. I got me a mind ta verify."

Grim laughter echoed the sentiment as the men packed their sparse belongings, the bulk of which were rations and weapons. The four trackers were given the starting point and they set out to find a spot to begin their pursuit.
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Interception

Postby Quio » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:15 pm

Distant bells rang from the harbor, almost like a song, and Quio thought nothing of them. He didn't notice the myriad small warnings that might otherwise have tipped him off; he had already turned and headed inland away from the shore, away from the bay, and in towards the wilds. Away from Foster's Landing. Just away.

He had followed what he'd thought was a path here, very faint, which he'd seen more in the grass itself than in marks on the ground. When he'd first seen it he hadn't known how close he was to the Landing. He'd thought it just another game trail, near-invisible, one of many he'd seen in these parts.

Now he looked at it again and knew that he had been noticing more of these trails not because this area was game-rich but because he had been nearing the city. He looked at it and thought, I am still not safe.

He wasn't safe, not here, not this close to Foster's Landing. A town full of buccaneers.

He didn't know if Etzos would be any better. It was a complete blank in his mind.

Etzos was one of only a few places connected to the sea that Quio had never been. A lot of biqaj hadn't been there because most ships could not sail there directly, the river being too shallow to pass on anything larger than a flatboat. He knew the city was wealthy, that it had something to do with gems. But gems wouldn't help him. And he didn't know if the city would either.

Could he trust that Etzos would not deal with men like the ones who had taken Quio, who had hurt him? If Etzos sanctioned the Landing, and the Landing dealt with pirates, and pirates were cutthroats and rapists and scoundrels, then what did it all mean?

It meant that Etzos would not be safe for him either. But what other option did he have?

Where else could he go?

Quio had spent a decade living as a biqaj, traveling from city to city on various ships. He was well-traveled and like any biqaj he had a map of the world in his head. Now that he knew where he was he could use that map to inform him.

The problem was that even with knowledge he didn't have options.

Rhakros was south of Foster's Landing, but Quio could not go there. Valaris was to the north, but it was much, much too far away. And he would never last in the cold. Hiladrith was inland but he thought Hiladrith might be aligned with Etzos. The risk was the same with both of those cities; he knew nothing of them, of the cities' temperaments or ideals. He hadn't been to either. If it came to a choice between them, Etzos was closer. Ne'haer--

To get to Ne'haer Quio would have to cross hundreds of miles of rough terrain. He would never make it that far. Besides. The thought of going back to Ne'haer made him feel sick. It was where the men had captured him. He couldn't go back there, not right now. Not in this condition. He just couldn't do it.

So. Nothing to the north or south would help him. He couldn't go east; from where he was, east was the sea. Foster's Landing was out; he knew for certain the men who had captured him had been there. Etzos was west. And it, at least, did not have that guarantee.

Etzos had the benefit of being further away than Foster's Landing. The men might be less likely to look for him there. And it was a big city. More people meant it would be easier to hide, if only he could get in.

Okay. Okay.

He really did only have one option.

Etzos it was, then.

---

Quio walked and as he walked, he foraged. From sight of Foster's Landing he had come inland, westward. Now that he knew where he was he stayed away from any established trails he saw, not knowing who or what had made them. That meant he stuck to rougher terrain. It slowed him down, but he thought he would be less likely to be spotted.

Spotted by who he wasn't sure. It was better not to be seen.

For a break or so he wandered where his legs took him. That was to the northwest. His only thought was to go away from Foster's Landing, from anyone who might see him, and as far as he knew there were no settlements to the north of the bay.

When he'd put enough distance between himself and the Landing he slowed and reconsidered. He did not know this land. He would need to follow the river to get to Etzos, otherwise he'd get lost. He wasn't exactly certain where the river was but he knew it connected to Foster's Landing from the west. He was now north of the city. If he wanted to find the river he'd best do it now.

So Quio turned slightly, using his crutch to save energy as he went, and began hiking west and just slightly south.

For perhaps thirty more bits he walked through speckled forests. Then for a while he headed more strictly south. More time passed, and his legs grew tired, and he came to a large field of tall grass which left the modest forests behind.

The grassland stretched far to the east and west; trees lined it to the north and south. Quio paused at the edge of the grasses, like a deer, and looked around. For a moment he thought he saw something and crouched low enough that his head barely crested the top of the grass. He waited, waited. A bird circled overhead. He saw no one.

Alright, he thought, warily, and waded his way out from the forest. Looking for a place to rest. Eventually he found a place and pushed down some of the grass around him in a circle like a deer bed.

When he was a boy he had run from a man who would have killed him for what he was, and he had survived by hiding himself in a coyote den. Now he sat still huddled into as small of a ball as he could make himself, and let the grass around hide him. The ground was cold and slightly damp where he sat and he huddled for warmth as well as for cover.

As he rested he picked what leaves and flowers and grass he could reach. He ate them, ruminating as much on the greens as he did on the vague thoughts and plans that floated through his head. The leaves were almost unbearable to eat, he was so sick of eating them, but at least the flowers were slightly sweet. Sweet meant calories, didn't it?

He wasn't sure. For now they were all he had.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Maltruism » Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:46 am

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Meeks was in no particular hurry, but still wanted to make some progress. He knew their quarry was injured, and there was good chance he knew less of these hills than Meeks' own party did. By the time they came to the spot the liaison in town had indicated, the Whip-holder estimated they'd lost another break. He'd hoped the trail would indicate some backtracking that they could head off to save time, but they did not appear to have gotten so lucky.

Still, there was now a clear trail to follow, so they'd make up time as they kept behind him. And for that matter, if they were to come at a cross angle, he might see them first. Meeks was confident they'd still catch him, but it would complicate things. And while usually he would simply be using such things as motivation for pain, he was under orders to bring his "cargo" back relatively undamaged. And the word was that he was already pretty badly damaged.

Their target's additional impact on the path made it easier to distinguish from any others. There were numerous marks that were clearly fresh - broken grass blades not yet dried or discolored from the day, footprints still showing newly scraped soil not yet dried to the same color as the surrounding dirt, occasional overturned roots and stripped berry bushes, foraged for the rudiments of sustenance - so they knew they were on the right track.

Meeks shook his head at the indications that their quarry had partaken of leaves and grass as well. It was so much at odds with human foraging tendencies that he almost took it to mean they'd been spotted, and were being led into an ambush by overly-clear signs. But it was only one man, so he could not quite believe that. Also, they knew their "cargo" was not in fact human, so perhaps normal eating habits were misleading.

Several breaks later they were certain they'd find their goal just beyond the next hill. Meeks slinked to the top of the hill to find that Quio was in fact resting at the far base below them. He ordered a trio of his men to quickly circle around the end of the hill, but then to sneak on past the spot where they'd seen him, so they could circle back to catch him from two sides, just in case he was armed more dangerously then they'd been informed.

They waited another half break for the advance squad to get in position. Then Meeks ordered the rest of his men to join him in cresting the hill to look down upon their "cargo". Meeks smiled, fondling the weapon which designated who held the squad title of Whip-holder.

"Greet-ee, fellow-me-lad! We be taskeed with bringin' back-ee yer backsee, boy! Fostee Landin' await-ee. Ere ye gonna make us makee messee ye arse?" His multiple-gap-toothed grin somehow made the promise of violence even more disturbing as he slowly stalked down the hill, his men quickly spreading out close off the sides.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Quio » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:54 am

There was nothing, nothing but the sound of the wind in the grass and the vague rustle of some animal, the screech of an eagle overhead, the chill breeze.

Quio had been nearly dozing where he sat. It was hard to keep his eyes open; he had meant to rest, not sleep, but with his surroundings this peaceful his head kept nodding. His whole body was exhausted. Near as much as his mind.

But, as the pirates would find, there was some fight in him yet.

The voice when it spoke was like a strike of lightning on a clear day. It slammed into him; suddenly he was awake. There was a moment of utter shock, of realization, of impending doom that could at any moment come screaming down. Where he sat Quio's body tensed up, bringing instant pain to his wounded shoulder which still hung useless in the makeshift sling.

His eyes were open. They darted, left, right, looking before him, and then finally glanced towards the source of the voice to see--

A man. More. Coming down the hill after him.

Quio was on his feet.

The man's manner, his speech, his way of dress grated upon the Yludih and he knew, pirate. What he didn't know was what that meant; had the men sent someone else after him? The lead man's smile promised pain, as did the weapon at his hand, and Quio didn't stop to think, to even consider that he should not resist. These men were pirates. They were bad. They would hurt him. He would not surrender. He was already moving.

He fled.

It was hard to run as fast as he wanted to --as fast as he knew he could-- but despite his shoulder and despite his tired body Quio ran. Slow at first, body protesting, and then fast, faster, the crutch and bow drill left behind in the grass. He ran in a straight line like a sprinter, directly away from the pirates, feet tearing up the ground. Knowing that if they had bows he was already done for so he might as well run fast while he could.

But then he saw the other men who had circled behind him. They crossed to cut him off and Quio, swearing, faltered to a stop.

Face grim, his hand went to the stone knife in his pocket. He fumbled for a moment as he took it out, had a flash of fear he might drop it in his panic, and then held it tightly in one fist. He faced whoever was closest to him.

He wouldn't let them take him back. He wouldn't. He couldn't do it. He could not live like that again.

Slowly and more surely than he truly felt, Quio advanced on whoever was nearest. As he crept closer he circled slightly to the side to try to bring the man between him and at least some of the others. Trying to isolate one enemy, trying not to let the others get at him like a pack of dogs. He knew how this worked. One attacked from the front, the rest from the side or behind. He tried to mitigate that tactic as much as he could, and kept circling away from anyone who got too close. His face was pallid, almost as pale as a wisp in his fear and desperation, in his determination to go down in the fight, and he said in a low, hoarse voice that warned as much as it pleaded, "Don't."

He spoke in Rakahi. He was in his biqaj form; his eyes flashed with silver fear. He was certain they would understand what he'd said.

He gave the man he'd spoken to a chance to turn aside. To let him go.

That didn't happen, and he turned and lunged at the man nearest to him.

The stone knife was sharp enough for things like cutting wood, and he had been maintaining its shape throughout his time in the wilds, making sure it retained its edge. It was still not near as sharp or cutting as a regular steel blade, and so he aimed to drive it hard into the man's guts to make up for its bluntness. He knew it was useless; he would have to get close, very close, in order to hurt this man, and that would be the end of him. It didn't matter. He was not getting out of this. He would hurt those he could before-- before whatever happened to him.

He only hoped that the man would not be expecting so foolhardy an attack, that Quio would be able to smash through his defenses using luck or surprise. If he hurt that one, he would scramble to get at the man's weapons before he could react, whatever those weapons were. If Quio had better weapons maybe-- maybe they would make some mistake, some small hesitation, and he could run.

If not--

If not he would fight as long and hard as he could. Until they subdued him. Or killed him.

Whichever came first.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Maltruism » Thu Nov 02, 2017 1:39 am

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Something was wrong. It was not the basic cornering of their target; that had still been achieved. But Meeks' focus was already divided between the target and the men he'd sent ahead to cut their 'cargo' off from fleeing. He was not distracted by concerns of an escape; he was sure there was no chance of that. But he did not feel like having to actually run the fool down.

And he could see that the odd development was distracting from his men's attention as well, judging by how their wounded prey had managed to take one of them almost completely by surprise. That would be handled though. Sure, the poor, desperate bastard would slice a few of them; maybe even kill one or two. But what really bothered him was that when the men had come out of hiding to close off his escape, there were only four of them. He'd sent six on ahead.

To make matters worse, those four gave him only shaken heads and shrugs as answers to where the other two had gone. They joined their fellows to overwhelm their target with numbers; approaching with shields and leather wraps on their arms, determined to take him alive. Meeks had made it clear that, despite his threats, his men were to do no significant additional damage to him.

The sky was already greying over with the oncoming night. Meeks ordered the yludih tied and dragged over to the treeline from which his advance crew had emerged to block his escape. A few bits later, one of the crew shouted with alarm. Meeks turned with trepidation at the tone of his man's cry. It had the sound of a man trying to dredge up enough anger in his voice to cover the fear in his heart.

When Meeks arrived on the scene, his first observation was his scout wiping blood not just from his face, but from the hair on the top of his head. With the instinctive impulse to look up, he first paused to note that all the rest of his men were already doing so. Apprehension sent a shiver up his spine as he let his eyes follow those of his men. He looked up and his eyes widened the same as his men; his arms hung with an uncertain slack the same as his men; his jaw dropped open the same as his men.

Wide eyes and a gaping mouth were also disturbing features of the disembodied head perched upon an overhead branch. The arms of the decapitated body hung completely limp; from the headless body impaled to the trunk of a neighboring tree. What Meeks had first taken to be a branch turned out to be the spear holding the body in place.

His mouth flapped silently in horror for a few ticks until his voice found its way there. He named a few of the crew to take that body, and the second similar display a few trunks further on, down, to be taken back for burial at sea. But first he had one of them dragged to their captive. Meeks had the body draped across Quio's legs, and dropped the head in his lap before he squatted beside him, gripping his jaw in his hand and twisting his head to stare him in the face.

Perhaps fear was the motivating factor; but for whatever reason, Meeks made a better effort to speak a less colorful common. "So, you wanee tell whatchee knows about this? He and anothee like him, dead inee woods, boy! You listee up! I can alwee tell Cap'n you die of wounds afore we gotchee! The ship we tookee from others is pay enough. You tell me whatchee know right now, boy. They got off just set eedrift. You no getee off so easy!"

He released Quio's jaw with just a bit off a departing slap. "Now I knowee you no do this. But who is helpee you, huh? You headee to friend's house, yes? Or maybe they done comee to you?" He pointed at the head, "Lookee that neck, boy! That is no cut through, boy. That was chewed! And chewed fast like. You can bet afore I let whatevee did this set you free, I cutee YOU head off too! You maybe wanna shout? Warn to someone out there? You do so now!"

Try as he might to hide it, Meeks could not keep the tone of fear from his voice.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Quio » Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:26 pm

The dagger slid into the man's gut and then they had him. He tried to get at the man's weapons but his hands were too slow and the others were much too fast. Something, he wasn't sure what, bashed him in the back and the legs and it was the legs that did it, already weak from running and trekking all day. Quio immediately fell.

After that, it was simple for them to wrangle him, force him on his stomach and tie his hands, and though he fought they didn't kill him. Merely dragged him over towards the trees.

For a moment Quio thought he'd be lynched there instead, strung up by his neck, and then they would discover that he could not die from hanging. But they simply left him. Some of them muttered and looked nervously at the trees.

Something was wrong.

Quio's hands were tied behind his back; his wounded shoulder felt as if it was bleeding, and he was having trouble focusing past the pain. But he could tell.

The men were scared.

He could see how their eyes shifted, as if trying to see past the forest to some terrible truth, and the lead man approached and--

and--

and dropped a head in his lap. And there was the body, still weeping blood, dragged across his legs.

Quio wanted to retch. He squirmed back against the rock he was propped up next to, and his hands were tied behind so he couldn't move the head or get it or the body off him. The lead man's hand was on his jaw, twisting the Yludih's head so he was forced to look at him, and at least then Quio did not have to look at the headless body that was, despite everything, still slightly warm.

He had another moment of wanting to throw up and instead gritted his teeth and gave his best glare. He was breathing hard and could not seem to hold still, not with the body on him. He tried to pay attention.

The ship we tookee from others is pay enough, the man said, and that was the first thing of import. There was a flicker of confusion on Quio's face, but then it was quickly gone. They'd taken the men's ship. Okay. Okay. So that meant--

They got off just set eedrift.

The pirates had sent the men adrift at sea. The grit of his teeth turned into a snarling grin.

When the man let go it was with a slap to the face, hard though not hard enough to stun, and at least those damned hands were off him. Quio struggled back and tried to make sense of everything that was happening.

These pirates were not with the men who had tortured him. They were with Foster's Landing. It was the Landing that wanted him for some reason; the lead man had said it twice. Fostee Landin' await-ee. And, I can alwee tell Cap'n you die of wounds afore we gotchee!

Captain. So this man wasn't the captain, and someone else wanted Quio. Wanted him for a reason he didn't know.

And there was a dead man in his lap, and Quio tried to ignore it, but he had to turn his attention to it when the man began to speak again. Lookee that neck, boy!

Now that he looked more closely --he let out a soft gagging noise-- the head had been chewed off of the rest of it, and there was fear in the man's voice. Fear.

He gagged again and when he was ready, he spoke.

"I'm not afraid to die," Quio rasped out. His voice was damaged; it came out like crushed glass.

"C-Cut my head from my body," he croaked. "It will be no great loss." A thrill of fear went through him as he said it, and he was bluffing, Mother's light help him, Qylios, U'frek.

"I don't know this beast." He said it as flatly as he could. There was just a bit of tremble, and he tried to control it. But terror was hard to control. "W-Whatever it is, it's killing you, your men, not me." He made himself go on.

"As soon as you took me, the killing began."

"So behead me if you must, but I think you all should perish very soon after."

"Let me go," Quio said. His voice tried to go out on him and he cleared his throat to get it back. "Let me go and I'll go out and-- and--" And what?

Die here or die there, and Quio would rather die upon the teeth of some beast than upon the blade of a pirate.

His face was as pale as the rising moons and his eyes as silver as mirrors, so bright they were nearly reflective.

"Let me go, and perhaps it won't kill you yet."
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Maltruism » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:34 am

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Meeks glared at his prisoner, his face silently quivering with the need to prove his words wrong. He crouched beside Quio, his knife sighing in the air, his voice a hiss, "You lissee to me, boy! Maybee you thinkee you not die the same as he and we..." He gestured absently at the two beheaded bodies, "But if not the beastee, I see you cut myself, so not so top heavy as you are now." He drew the flat spine of the blade across the Yludih's throat.

"You only live by tellee me whatchoo know." Some of the crew dragged the man Quio had stabbed to lie on a quickly assembled bed of branches. The man was delirious with pain. Meeks looked sourly on the moaning and tossing crewman. He snapped his fingers and made some quick gestures. The brutal nature of what the gestures commanded became all too clear.

The gut-slit crewman was grabbed roughly and carried to the outer treeline, screaming in agony the whole way. His babbled words suggested a state of mind cringing from the present, to find refuge in some careless childhood injury that was not laden with the threat of a savage death. Ropes tied his wrists together, and the far end was passed over a thick branch.

For a moment his gaze cleared as he asked his brothers-in-piracy what they were doing. But the agony of being hoisted in the air, with the strain on his slashed abdominal muscles tearing them torturously, to leak a new current of blood and piss down his pants. It was a mercy that he passed out from the pain. Meeks looked back at Quio with a sick smile.

"Maybee you thinkee we feel sorry atchoo. Well you lookee what we do at our own. Then you know what mercy we have atchoo!" he threw a thumb back at the hanging man, "He too noisee, anyway. beastee come to eat him, we get shot at beastee. We can't save him. Too far away doctor. He may as well be use for somee thingee." his pointer finger now sprang upwardly, where a foursome of pirate archers sat in wait for any movement from the flatland beyond the trees.

Meeks leaned in with the knife. "I know you Ludee kind. Cut throat no killee. Butchoo have place in chest. Ass-ter...somethingee. Maybee I no know where exact it is." he reversed his hold for a more direct stabbing hold and reared back as if he was going to stab Quio right then and there. "Maybee I just start stabee all over, eh? Maybe get luckee and hit first time, eh? Luckee for you, I mean, die fastee..."

His words were interrupted by the hissing whistle of an arrow, ending abruptly in the butcher-block sound of impact with flesh. The wounded man grunted once and went limp, an arrow now protruding slightly to the left of dead center in his chest. An ungodly howl sounded from behind their position. The entire party spun to look into the deeper woods behind them just before a second arrow bit flesh to bring one of the archers dropping to the ground to writhe slowly.

His moans were harshly drowned by sudden screams from the night-darkened woods into which they all now stared blindly. Words within the screams were discernible as curses against the three pirates that now burst upon the main camp, wide-eyed in fear. A ghastly silence now followed as these men saw the newly slain archer, his eyes blank and staring, the arrow no longer rising with the breath of the living. They did not notice that his basic knife had come clear of its sheath as he fell. It was mere feet from the prisoner.

Neither did Meeks, who shouted down their insistence upon making a dash back to the coast, leaving the prisoner behind; ordering them instead to alternate their facings to all four compass points, shout if they see anything, "And for fucks sake, keepee heads down!"
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Quio » Tue Nov 07, 2017 1:00 pm

Quio saw the lead man's face give a little twitch. That was it.

Just a twitch and the Yludih thought, he's going to kill me.

There was a knife in the man's hand and Quio's back was already to a rock. They would be able to hold him flat against it and begin cutting and sawing. He wondered faintly how long it might take to take off his head.

The fingers had come off easy, he thought, the fingers on his right hand which the men from Ne'haer had taken with shears, and he flinched when the man brought the knife to his neck. His body made an abortive move, as if to resist, but he couldn't do anything. There was nothing to do.

But the knife didn't cut.

Instead the lead man turned and snapped his fingers, and the man Quio had attacked with the stone knife was dragged out of the woods.

There was no resistance from the crew. The wounded screamed and cried, voice undulating: a grown man in agony, and then, no, he was a child. Then he screamed like a man dying once again.

Stop, Quio wanted to tell them. Though he had killed before, never, never like this. Stop. But he didn't speak. He looked, and saw them mercilessly string the wounded up. The man's cries abruptly ended as he passed out.

And the lead man was smiling.

Hate overwhelmed the Yludih as certain as fear. He gave another of those abortive moves; this time, as if he would have launched himself at the other.

Ludee, the lead man said, Yludih, and Quio showed his teeth. Cut throat no killee. The man reversed his grip on the knife as if to stab. Ass-ter... somethingee. He would stab and stab and stab until Quio was dead, and the man knew about the asterism, and fuck him for what he did and for what he knew.

Quio would have spat at him. Almost did, but before he could there came a whistling sound through the air.

The arrow hit its mark, thunk, and Quio recoiled as if he himself had been shot. He almost expected the pain; then his eyes looked down at his body, at the dead man lying over him who would have taken any such hit--

At the lead pirate next to him--

Then towards the others, and then--

The man they'd strung up. The arrow stuck from his chest. He was dead.

Thank Qylios.

Something was howling from the forest, and Quio couldn't tell if it was human or animal but it was coming from behind them. He was the only one who didn't turn to look. The others' eyes were off him and he slid down, taking whatever cover he could from the rock. The body he kicked off him, the head flopping to the ground, and Quio turned and rolled slightly on his back, bringing his bound hands down towards his feet to slide them around his legs and get them to the front.

His bad shoulder resisted, stretching, stretching, pain, and Quio strained harder against the hurt of it. He made a small choked noise when he thought he felt something in the wound give. He wasn't sure. Then his arms slipped down and around and he had his hands in the front.

Another arrow took one of the archers and whatever was in the forest --the beast-- started to curse and scream. The men were wailing now to run, and there, not all that far from him--

A knife on the ground. The archer was dead.

Quio rolled and grabbed the knife and started working at his bonds.

The pirate crew had split to the four corners of the compass on the lead man's command, all facing out. By the time they lined up the rope had frayed and he yanked his hands apart, once, harder, twice, and the rope snapped; Quio's hands were free.

He didn't want to go out there with, with-- with whatever it was that was out there. But if he stayed here he was as like to die as not.

He couldn't hesitate.

There was the urge to put the knife in the lead man, to end him here while he could, and upon that urge Quio slithered to his feet. He stood hunched over so as not to get shot. His eyes flickered from back to back and he spotted the man--

And then, grimacing, realized he couldn't take the time to kill him, not if he wanted to get away. And he did want to get away. Die here or die there, and Quio would rather die upon the teeth of some beast than upon the blade of a pirate. The lead man stood in the wrong place to kill him.

Instead the Yludih slunk to the side of the men's compass facing the grassland. He stepped up behind one of the pirates; the knife went into the man's throat from the side and ripped outwards. Blood sprayed. There was a gurgle as if the man had tried to speak and people turned to look.

Quio was already dashing through the hole he'd made in their ranks. Behind him a cry rang out and he zigzagged from side to side, trying not to get shot by either the pirates or by whatever-- whatever else might be shooting.

Quio ran through the night. His bad arm he held to his stomach and the other had the knife. He hoped the darkness would cover him at least from the pirates' eyes until he reached the grassland. He thought-- he thought he was running away from the beast but he didn't know. He ran as fast as he could on legs that felt like they wanted to give out from under him. That was the fear as much as the exhaustion, and he told himself just a bit further.

Just a bit futher. Just keep going.

It must have only been trills before he reached the tall grasses but he would have sworn it was much longer than that. He kept expecting to be shot; if he was, he would keep going for as long as he could.

As soon as he was out of the forest he dropped to his belly, letting the tall grass hide him once more, pressing as flat as he could to the ground, and began to crawl. Hoping that the grass would shield him from the men's as well as the beast's eyes. It hadn't worked before, the men had seen him, but it was dark now, and he had to keep moving, and he didn't know what else to do. He put the bloodied knife in his teeth and shifted forward using his good hand and legs. His heartstone was pounding so hard and fast he could see it in his eyes.

Please, he thought, please, and tried to calm his breathing. He couldn't, he could not stop each gasping breath, and instead he stopped breathing at all. It was a choice between being heard or losing almost all of his sense of smell; when he didn't breathe there was no air to bring scents in through his nose. He went with stealth over sense, continuing to crawl as quickly and quietly as he could, and prayed he had not made a life-ending mistake.
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[Foster's Bay] Interception

Postby Maltruism » Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:31 am

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It was a testament to Meeks' legitimate toughness and experience that the fear drained from his face as he noted the Yludih's frantic departure. He waved in the direction of the howls in the forest, "No thingee unnatural be. Beastee yes, but no monster be." His expression now became calculating and furious as he pulled one of his men back behind a tree, saving him from an arrow that whizzed through the space he'd just been standing.

"This just a man ambush, Mackie" he said to the man, who was even now staring at the forested darkness that had swallowed the arrow, upon which his name had surely been graven, with a heavy gulp. Meeks smacked the man on the back and pointed at the quivering grass where the prisoner was surely squirming his way to what he hoped would be safety.

Meeks' voice became a conspiratorial whisper as he spoke into his second's ear with a crooked grin, "He must be worthee much mores than I first thinkee. Somebud' came to he rescuee. You watch, Mackie. There be no more beastee ravagee tonights, I betcha. We hunkee down like we scared off. Tomorrow we trackee down. Givee word."

It was likewise a testament to Meeks' reputation for insight that Mackie accepted his 'Whipholder's assessment without question. In a voice intentionally loud enough to be heard by anyone listening, but not to appear that way, Mackie play-acted his role with admirable skill; telling the men to hold out until daylight, to pull in where they could support each other against any further attacks; and that they'd be getting the fuck out at first light.

The legitimate cheer of relief gave even more credibility to the theater act. After a break of staying put, Meeks reiterated that he'd predicted the attacks would stop. The men fluctuated between apprehension and anger at the thought that some trickery had convinced them they'd been under attack by some Emean nightmare come to flesh. Meeks let them know, once again, that superstitions are for those that never rise above swabbee. He assured his scouts that the Yludih had left vivid tracks in the grass field.

He now introduced the element of unguessed value that this prisoner must have to have been the beneficiary of such field craft. As well, the inevitable policy of the criminal party that a few dead members mean more for the rest. Slowly the party began to look eagerly for the renewal of the chase.

In the meantime, Quio had indeed denied himself the sense that might have warned him he was about to stumble upon the very beast that had savaged the pirates from behind. A pair of heavily furred, midnight black paws barred further progress. But the legs attached are not vertically positioned, since the animal is lying down, his eyes boring directly into those of the escapee. A human voice gives a soft command and the shadowhound stops growling. The intense ferocity of its eyes does not waver though.

A man seems to appear from some fold in the air, crouching beside his companion. "I suspect you'd like to get out of here, eh? I don't know how far I can take you, if you have somewhere you need to go. I'm assuming you're not planning to go back to Foster's Landing. I can assure you, that's where those boys hail from. But if you come all the way back with me, you may not be allowed to leave."

He looked up, across the grass towards the forest, and crouched again. "They're going to stay put for now, but I don't think they'll really be going back without their prize. Now I'm sure you have a lot of questions, but this is not the place for them. But it IS the place for Claytona Monticola."

He watched any reaction from the wounded man, to see if he realized he'd been identified as a Yludih by his rescuer. Many Yludih knew that it was a plant from which a healing sap could be obtained. A healing sap that only worked on Yludih. But it was entirely likely that equally many knew nothing of this.

"Depending on how determined these bastards are, I should be able to get you away from them without having to keep you hidden away with...me." He almost said 'us', and that would already be more information than he should ever be revealing about where he'd come from. So he tried to make it as if he was just leading up to introducing himself. "I go by Raiden Valance." Again, he stopped a bit too abruptly, before adding 'Hound Master'. That too would be 'privileged' information.

He pulled out a small, curiously squeezable vial, and started applying small smears of a curiously cool sap, making no mention of the light seeping from the wounds he tended. Without looking up he asked, "So, what's your name; or, what you would like me to call you?"
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