Fable - Ask That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Punching Bag

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Maranae

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She pounded through the forest, moving with a surprising turn of speed and as nimble as could be. It was an impressive feat, especially when there was an arrow sticking out of her back, high and to the right of her spine. It was not the only injury she had suffered this day; cuts and scrapes and bruises marred her body from head to toe.

Saplings whipped at her as she blurred past, her breathing labored and becoming moreso every step she took. Blood half-filled one of her lungs where the arrow pierced it, and she drooled blood down her chin as she made her escape. Behind her, two more of her pursuers yet chased her. There had been four of them at the beginning of this encounter, but now there were only two. At least one of the others would not harry her ever again; she had torn her throat out with her bare hands after they got her on the ground, trying to bind her. Again.

Always, and always, did they come. She had no concept of money, no concept of a bounty...but she had a concept for a bounty hunter, for the people that came to try and capture her. She did not understand entirely why they did what they did, only that every attempt ended in agony for her. For the hunters, well...it ended in her slipping away or their deaths, though the latter was far more rare than the former.

She leapt another log, and stumbled on landing; the ground was soft and slick and she ended up rolling in the mud before coming up. The haft of the arrow snapped, and there was pain. That she felt it at all was not a good sign; to say that the chimera was hardy was like saying the snow was cold. She narrowly avoided growing a new feathered shaft as she got to her feet.

With a snarl and a muffled curse, one of the two leapt the fallen log but, unlike her, kept his feet on landing. He had a sword out, a light, delicately bladed weapon more rapier than anything. He immediately moved in to strike at her, an overhand slash that would cut her in two.

...or should have. With a muffled squeak, the chimera - long red hair, narrow and delicate face with eyes the color of jade and pale, freckled skin - lifted a hand and caught his sword on the down stroke. Blood pattered into the soft ground she stood on, and smirched her muddy smock that was already more rags than actual clothing. She yelped, but did not release the blade, fingers reflexively closing on it. The fact that she had fingers still was amazing. The blade had stopped as surely as if it had struck stone when it hit the bone of her hand, slicing through her flesh with more effort than would have been expected.

The look on his face was priceless. She let go of the weapon, and despite the shock on his face, he still reacted quickly, and ran the blade through her belly. She clutched at it with both hands, but it still slid in and out through her back, blood pattering from lacerated palms, fingers, and weeping out where she had been pierced. She let the blade go, and struck the man in the face with all her strength.

A crunch of bone, and the fellow went flying half a dozen feet to land in a boneless heap, his face misshapen where she had hit him. He twitched sporadically, but did not rise.

More cursing from further away...but no other assailant came. No more arrows came, either.

Panting, her breath gurgling in her chest, the young chimera finished withdrawing the blade from her guts. The pain had increased ten fold already, and it took every bit of effort for her to turn and make a limping run in the opposite direction. Each step jarred her insides and made her want to vomit, but she couldn't stop. She had to keep going, to escape. Even though they would come again, and she would have to run. Again.

The scent of water, the sound of it rushing. Soothing, it drew her on. She was growing rather tired, and the exhaustion creeping into her limbs made her forget about the pursuers behind her. Her movements were becoming more labored, her breathing harder, and the pain more intense...

The blood-soaked chimera, a girl for all outward appearances, stumbled to the edge of the forest. The trees cleared away, here, near a place where the land had fallen a dozen feet suddenly. A stream cascaded over the stones, moss and lichen clinging to the rock face, the water running in a dozen different rivulets until it all gathered itself and continued on into the forest over rounded stones. Somewhere not far to the east a trade road ran, and on the opposite bank the remnants of an oft-used camp stood, empty.

Mara saw none of this. She managed to get to the edge of the stream, and plunge her head into the shockingly cold water, and drink her fill. And then, without any preamble, she collapsed on the far bank, her blood threading through the stones to stain the waters for a short way before being diluted to nothing by the sweet waters.
 

Elliot Aldmar

Dornoch's Most Wanted Man
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Elliot could feel them looming behind him, and he knew that there was going to be an incident.

He had been spending a few days in a small town in Falwood. Graniteholme, southwest of Point Pneria, which was in turn west of Strathford, and it in turn southwest of Daithe's Hovel. Elliot had been drifting in such a generally western and southern direction outbound from Alliria. Drifting as he usually did while in-between employments within a company of mercenaries. There was a natural satisfaction he gained from traversing the world, in capturing with his own eyes the vast expanse of Arethil and all of its diverse features. Knowing oneself was of the highest import, but knowing the world that one inhabited was a close second.

Graniteholme's name, then, came as little surprise. The town had sprung up around the quarry in a massive outcropping of high quality stone. A few elves populated the town, but mostly it consisted of humans despite it being within the reaches of Falwood. The local Lord was not of "noble" blood or any such bullshit but had worked his way into the position through the sweat of hard work in the quarry, both as a laborer and then an overseer and further up as a broker of sorts for the stone for clients as far as Vel Anir. A quaint feel in Graniteholme. Quiet.

Which made the two men standing behind Elliot, one shadow looming over each of his shoulders, all the more telling. He was in Graniteholme's market, purchasing a selection of different fruits and vegetables for the day, when they came upon him.

"A dark elf," said the one over his left shoulder. Cheerful, genial tone. Artificial. "I wasn't even sure your kind existed."

"Thought you all lived underground. Can't see or something in the sun," said the one over his right shoulder. Same put on tone of friendliness.

"Most do," Elliot said. Not looking back at them. Resuming his browsing even though the woman vendor at the stall was looking behind him at the men with a poorly concealed concern.

"Name's Hardy," said Left.

"Ommar," said Right.

Elliot said nothing. Kept browsing. Touching this apple or that potato and inspecting them and slowly working his way down to items that were closer to his waist, his belt, the sheathed weapons thereupon.

"How about we show you some Graniteholme hospitality," Hardy said. "Buy you a drink, and you can tell us what life is like on the other side of the world. So what's your name there, stranger?"

No sense in hiding it, in delaying the inevitable, if his intuition was right. And often enough it was. "Elliot."

"Elliot?" said Ommar. "Odd name for a dark elf. Wouldn't have guessed. Shouldn't you have one with more apostrophes in it?"

Elliot glanced back over his shoulder. Both human men were taller than he was. Most of these types were. But it didn't make much of a difference.

"Do me a favor."

"What's that?" said Hardy.

"Tell the Dynast I said 'Hello.'"

* * * * *​

"What. Happened."

Gloria Stannis asked the question of the man with her, her right-hand man Robert Venoche, pointedly. He had been quite confident again that they had Elliot this time, and once again he had gotten away. This was becoming irritating. BEYOND...irritating. She had a job to do and while she was performing her part diligently, she seemed to be surrounded by incompetency no matter where she went.

Gloria despised the rest of the world. Despised it, yes. Barbarians all. Savages who had things woefully backwards at worst or terribly misguided at best. Dornoch, to Gloria, was the light of the world. An enlightened city which stood apart and indeed above all others. If she could snap her fingers and cause the utter destruction of places like Oban--the hated Oban--then she would do it. Why? Because she believed. She believed wholeheartedly in the superior order of things that uniquely permeated Dornoch.

An order which men like Elliot Aldmar trampled upon.

She had no official title. If it was anything, it would be something like "investigator." That was closest. When Dornoch had problems, she was a problem-solver. And here had been a problem that had been plaguing Dornoch and the Erdeniin Dynasty for years. Years before she had taken on the problem to solve. The murder of a Dynasty member had gone for far too long without being answered. Someone needed to be brought to justice for it. Someone needed to hang. That superior order needed to be preserved. And she had a noose that she simply could not wait to fasten around that outlaw Elliot's neck. She would see him rightly executed in Dornoch if it was her final act upon Arethil.

And men like Robert, like his informants Hardy and Ommar of this squalid little town called Graniteholme, were making that more difficult at every turn. This was why Dornoch was the city to which all others should aspire. Because men were by and large unsophisticated brutes who could barely keep the bludgeon of their own most prominent emotions, anger and pride, from cracking their own skulls. Incompetents. Utter incompetents. How did they even manage to fail at the one job they were supposed to be good at? Like all the others, all they had to do was subdue Elliot. How hard could that possibly be? He was ONE. MAN.

Robert, in a brief mirror of Gloria herself, pinched the bridge of his nose. They were both in the market of Graniteholme, by the produce vendor stall, looking from behind the gathered crowd of locals at the downed bodies of Hardy and Ommar. Neither was dead, but each had been bloodied grievously enough.

"I told them not to approach until we were ready."

"And they did it anyway," Gloria said.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Ridiculous. Where do you find these people?"

Robert sighed. "They at least provided good enough information to track Elliot here."

"And now he's gone."

"He is gone. But close, ma'am."

"How many others can you assemble?" A dismissive flick of her hand. "Even these two might have some shred of usefulness in them, if they can be mended in time."

"I can probe for adventurer types looking for work."

"Do it. I have the funds to spare," said Gloria, folding her arms and standing primly and glowering at the oafs who'd ruined this opportunity in Graniteholme. "This problem will be solved, Robert. Long May She Reign."

"Long May She Reign," he echoed dutifully.

* * * * *​

Elliot was a couple of days out from Graniteholme. Gone off of the well-trodden trail. He had been walking all the way, no horse or mount of any description. Sometimes he did prefer it that way, even if he could not then carry as many supplies. It was a force of one's will, a small but direct enactment of agency, to move--to roam--with merely the power of one's own feet and the drive of one's own purpose across the span of the world.

Morning meditation. Walking, journeying, roaming, a man as he was meant to be without the enfeebling trappings of civilization that made soft his body and weak his resilience. Nightly self-reflection. And again this cycle repeated and on he went.

To this chagrin, he had come through the thick woods only to find another trade road. Across a bank of water a camp. Abandoned, it seemed, and that was well enough for him. After the most recent encounter with Dornites, or perhaps men who were simply employed by the Dornites who were pursuing him, it was best to be away from populations.

He heard the telltale sound of a waterfall. Not a particularly large one, but one resulting where a stream of water was plummeting from a relatively small upward cleft in the land--an outcropping that was like a tiny version of the one that was the namesake of Graniteholme.

Elliot went to the lower portion of the stream, close to the white foam of the waterfall's base, and knelt. He felt the soft spray of the water on his skin, cooling off the heat of the day. Still, he armed a bit of sweat from his brow and unshouldered his pack and took out his secondary waterskin. Unstoppered it. Dipped it into the water and let it fill and then drank and then let it fill again.

Not long after he stoppered the waterskin again, he saw...a thin line of red in the water. Thought it might just be his imagination. But saw a little more. Blood, maybe.

Elliot glanced up toward the top of the waterfall. Decided he might as well have a look. If it was nothing, it was nothing. The climb was short. A few handholds and footholds on the damp and lichen-strewn rockface got him up onto the edge of the small cliff. A thin area where the growth of trees ceased and rocks and smaller bushes and weeds dominated.

And there he saw a red-haired girl. Collapsed on the rocks close enough to the water to be the source of that blood. She looked well enough the part too. Almost too well, appearing dead.

Elliot approached. The thumps of his boots on the rocks muted by the sound of the rushing and falling water, as was the rattling of his pack. He stood beside the downed girl, or the corpse of one. He took out an arrow from his quiver, intending to find out.

He spun the arrow around in his hand and squatted and poked at the girl with the feathery fletching end. Her head, her cheek, her shoulder.

Maranae
 
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Nahlah

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Sharp ears caught footfalls in the water below her form. Her red brown fur and feathers billowed slightly in the faint breeze. She lifted her head slowly from her scaled forefeet as she looked down towards the water that she had systematically opted to rest not far from. Hunting would be good around the water and she could rest easily up in the trees without being noticed. Her tawny pelt would hide her well in the shadowed trees and with her natural eyesight she would be able to pick up any movement.

She tilted her head slightly as she watched a bloody human girl stumbling towards the water. She drug her tongue slowly over her beak as she watched the girl closely as she stumbled to the water and dunked her head into the icy depths. Nahlah blinked dark grey eyes as she watched the blood creature drink before stumbling forward to not move again. Lazily Nahlah stood, stretching slowly and dragging her sharp talons along the branch she was laying on. Muscles rippled beneath her pelt as she opened her wings to head down to the blood human, her free meal it appeared. She took her time, giving the human time to die if it were not already dead, before jumping down, her 13 foot wingspan gliding her to the ground and letting her land lightly, still upwind of the human.

As she started lazily walking down towards where she’d seen the human go down she lifted her head to the sky, nares filling with the scent of blood, lovely warm blood. As she walked, muscles stretching and rippling in the sun, she noticed another scent and she slowed in response. Her sharp eyes scanned the lands in front of her, the scent filling her olfactory glands was not that of a human, though it was too diluted for her to tell exactly what species it was. She tensed and a hiss pressed forth from deep in her breath, up through her vocal cords as it hit her that something else maybe eating her free meal.

She snarled a little, opening her wings fully before slamming them downwards as they rested horizontal with the ground. The force of air downwards forced her body up and she easily took off and with a few more strong beats of her wings she was air born. She headed in her meals direction quickly, making up the distance within moments. As she came close she saw another human form, though it most definitely was not a human, leaning over her meal. Her eyes narrowed as the feathers aligning her upper body puffed up annoyedly as she watched him pull an arrow and prod her meal with it. She screeched, defense of the meal she did not have to catch and quickly folded her wings against her body, throwing herself towards the ground.

She landed not far at the other side of the water with a massive splash, having landed in such away to hopefully startle the man. Her wings remained open to make herself look all the larger as she sidestepped a little with her hind end, snapping her beak shut threateningly before speaking.

“I do not need my meal tenderized thank you very much” She hissed, stepping forward towards him slightly. He had a bow and arrows, this much she knew, he did not seem only dangerous other than for that weapon. Her rounded ears remained perked forward, her tail lashing like an angry cats as she stepped towards him again, threateningly. She puffed out her chest as she inhaled deeply, keeping her eyes on the man only, as the downed female was no concern of hers since she could not tell what she actually was by her scent, blood was all she could really smell the closer she got.

Elliot Aldmar
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Maranae

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...me here L... ...'s time for sup...

Open eyes, staring into a clear, cloudless sky. Unblinking, eyes filming over as though in death. Completely unaware of her surroundings as the magic that bound her flesh together stirred, slithering out of the place of hiding it resided in within. The Seed round which all the varied essences that comprised her flesh was waking up. It was slow, this time; it had been long since she properly fed.

Sightless eyes, staring into the blue skies.

...e careful, dear. There are mons... ...out there... Flashes of images, broken, disjointed. No frame of reference, only colors faded to blurs. Maybe a tree, maybe a house with indistinct features. A woman, wearing a dress but with no face. Iron bars, cold mage light. Pain. The yowls of animals kept in cages. The scent of a fresh baked pie, wafting through the air. Pain. The sense of...of some emotion, some feeling that she did not understand. She had understood it once, but she knew it no more. Loss. Pain.

Maranae drew a sobbing breath that gurgled in her chest, arching her back as the Seed did its work, sending tendrils of magic reaching through her body. Unseeing eyes widened, a wild and feral light gleaming in them. Without any further preamble, she shrieked, expelling blood from her lungs in a fine mist. Muscles roiled and crawled in her guts, and knit themselves together. It was slow, though, far slower than it normally would be. The pain was the same, though; it felt like acid washed through her veins, like fire burned in her chest. Like her insides were being ripped apart and put together again.

As soon as she had expelled every last breath in her, she heaved a sobbing breath that gurgled far less, and as soon as her lung filled, she cried out again. Curled up on herself, into a ball of quivering pain. Hands that wept blood (the wounds were beginning to stitch themselves shut) scrabbled at her chest, at the ruin of her clothing that did practically nothing to hide the stained flesh beneath; fingers caught on the barbed arrowhead sticking just through her flesh, and she clutched it and ripped it free, sending more blood flying.

And just like that, her scream cut off, and she fell silent, limp on the ground. Breathing, though; regular, rhythmic breaths that rattled less and less with every passing moment.

The Seed continued its grim work, completely oblivious of the pain it caused, only concerned with fixing what was broken.

***

Serras stumbled through the woods at a dead run, much like her quarry had done before collapsing at the side of the stream. Unlike her quarry, though, she was unscathed. At least, physically untouched. Her breath came in great, sobbing gasps as she made her way. She still had not thrown her weapon aside, just in case, but it was tempting. It was tempting.

They had tracked the beast for weeks, only to have another pair of bounty hunters swoop in and steal their prize right out from under their gaze. In her line of work, which tended towards cutthroat pragmatism, she had not had to deal with the like often. It was not uncommon for multiple people to work on a single mark at the same time. She had fought with others before...but never had she simply been upstaged in that manner before.

In the end, it hadn't mattered, though. Life came at you fast, as her mother had once said long ago. The pair that had captured her mark had been met in turn by a combination of greed and karma. And now, well...

Someone else joined her, pelting along with an odd gait. One of her companions, and a recent one at that. The pale-skinned woman seldom said much, and it was no surprise; her brother had been slain in the process of trying to capture not only the mark they now both sought together, but another. Greed, she had thought to herself, was the undoing of many.

"Got away?" Alyse asked, bow bouncing on her back. She did not look to the side for her companion, dark eyes focused on the path ahead of her, where her feet would go. Wouldn't have mattered had she looked, anyway; Alyse eyes were as lifeless as a cadaver. No joy, no light, not life within them; only a fire that burned deep in the pupils, an anger and a rage completely out of proportion to the source.

Serras thought this woman dangerous. There was no concern, for her at least, in sharing the bounty...but Alyse was a wild woman, driven by something other than professional pride. Not for the first time, she thought of doing the woman - and herself - a favor. A quick thrust of her spear, and that problem would be over. Alas, it could not be. Though she was a hunter, the truth of the matter what she actually worked for that chimera's owner directly. The dead ones, well, they had been outside contractors, hired because of the desperate need to fill certain niches. Too bad they had all lied about their qualifications.

"Yes," Serras said in a rasping voice. "Won't go far, though. Must regroup."

Alyse said nothing, at least nothing audible. The woman muttered something as she ran, a constant stream of syllables and meaningless words. They were not magic, at least Serras did not believe so. Her companion worried her more than she liked to admit.

"We will return to Graniteholme, see if we can find additional help. It will not get away," she said grimly.

The dead meant nothing to her. The only thing that meant anything was returning to her owner and bringing with her the chimera, in one piece of many. The cost of lives mattered little to her at all.
 

Elliot Aldmar

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A loud WHOOSH, similarly loud splash, and all the pattering commotion of the massive rain of uplifted water splashing back down onto the rocks of the other bank and into the stream itself again. Elliot stopped his prodding of the girl (or the corpse). Turned his head some and his eyes further to look.

A griffin. One that could talk, so not an actual griffin. Much like someone he had met before in Alliria.

Elliot stood up from his squat at a languid pace. Kept his eyes and his focus on the griffin as he spun the arrow around in his hand once more and slid it back into his quiver. Wouldn't do him much good to have it out, not without his Bow unstrapped from his pack and in his hand ready to be nocked and drawn. He wouldn't have time to get his Bow in hand in any case if this griffin-talker decided that she wanted another, bigger portion to add to her meal. Poisoned daggers were his only line of defense in this scenario.

But there was no need for it. Yet. Sometimes a fight found you, as it had with Hardy and Ommar, and sometimes a fight could be avoided, because it wasn't yours. Keeping one's proverbial sword sheathed until it was necessary to draw it was an art, one touched upon by the Dreng'toth.

"Then come and get it," Elliot said, taking a few measured steps back, a hand on the hilt of one his belted daggers and his eyes still on the griffin-talker as she splashed forward in a territorial manner through the waters of the stream. If this griffin-talker was like Ceridwen--could be considered a person by dint of their sapience--then her actions were unseemly. As animalistic as she looked now and shed of dignity, in that they were driven by indulgence over principle. It reminded him of the man he once was, similar in nature, before being tempered by the Dreng'toth.

He heard--or thought he heard--the girl breathing, an agonized gurgling breath whose dissonant sound stood distinctly separate from the din of the rushing and falling water. A quick glance down when the girl shrieked. Not quite dead. She even managed to rip out the arrow that was embedded in her flesh. A noble effort to live, but, Elliot recognized, ultimately in vain. The girl had her agency in fighting for her life, but the griffin-talker's agency in securing a meal would overpower hers. And that was an immutable law of the world. You had the freedom to choose and to act, but when this choosing and this action came in conflict with another's, might and willpower were the judges.

"Before it runs away," Elliot added. A dry comment eyeing the border of being a joke. The girl wasn't going anywhere fast, and this was apparently the end of the path.

Elliot kept stepping backward, granting space to the griffin-talker and the girl that would be her meal.

Wasn't his fight.

Maranae Nahlah
 
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Nahlah

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Nahlah narrowed the gap between her and the man relatively quickly as the man stood, slowly. He kept his gaze on her wearily, cautiously as she stepped closer to him and her meal. Her eyes snapped to the arrow as he settled it back into its quiver as he stepped back, his hand moving to his belt. She did not worry much about his hand being on his belt, on whatever weapon he likely had there, she respected that he was taking measures to try to protect himself, but he was obviously not intending on fighting her over the creature on the ground. She folded her long wings slowly as she walked forward, her scaled feet splashing in the water, sharp talons digging into the muck beneath her weight.

"Then come and get it," he said absently as he continued to back slowly away. Nahlah turned her charcoal eyes towards the downed creature as it took in a breath, stuttery and wet. She tilted her head as the being arched its back, wide white eyes to the sky. Nahlah felt the signature tingle of magic ripple through the air and she chortled slightly, herself taking a step back as she watched the creature on the ground. Another sobbing breath, the wetness of the sound seeming to lessen slightly as the being’s chest rose before it cried out, curled up and shuddered pitifully. She frowned a little at the beast, she would not be eating it as whatever was wreaking such havok on the being, be it poison or magic, would not be something Nahlah wanted in her body.

She sidestepped around the body, coming to the side the male was on, looking to the front of the girl creature as it grabbed at its chest frantically. It caught a hold of the arrow and yanked it free from it’s home, buried in her flesh, more blood splattering through the air as the arrow was freed. The creature fell silent, Nahlah lowered her head to smell her slightly. It was still breathing and its breathing seemed to get less noisy as each passed.

"Before it runs away," the man spoke with the slightest hint of humor in his words as this creature was most definitely not going anywhere in the next short amount of time. Nahlah lifted her head and tossed it from side to side in slight disgust as the man kept backing. Whatever this beast was, it’s will to fight was immeasurable, and Nahlah respected that. She hooked her beak into the creature’s shirt and drug her just slightly out of the water before stepping backwards away from her.

She turned her eyes to the man for a moment, before looking back to the being on the ground. “Whatever it is, it is not human. Too much fight in it for that.” she chuckled absently, her grey eyes sizing up the man, who also did not smell nor look to be human. She turned her eyes back to the creature on the ground quietly wondering what the hell to do with it. It appeared very young, a human child in appearances but appearances meant little in the real world. Hell, she appeared to be a griffin, but there was far more to her than the bird brained halfing beast she appeared to be.

“I assume she is not with you?” She asked softly, lifting her head to look around again quietly, checking for possible threats in the area, other animals following the scent of blood, seeking out a free meal as she had been doing minutes before. She saw nothing so stole a glance back at the man, then to the downed female.

Elliot Aldmar
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Maranae

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Knitting. Binding. Weaving flesh together like a fine tapestry, putting severed muscles back where they belonged, fixing holes. The immortal Seed within her flesh pulsed with power. The scent of magic was quite strong, easily strong enough now to be sensed by one sensitive to it who was nearby. As had the gryphon on her approach.

A sharply drawn breath, and the eyes of the one on the ground suddenly opened. Pale jade, opened as wide as they would go for that moment - pain writ large in them, on her face, in her suddenly quivering, tense body. She opened her mouth and issued a silent scream, hands clenched so hard that the bones popped and ground, muscles standing taught in her arms and shaking. When it passed, she gave a mewl of pain, relaxing into a sweating, shivering heap. Panting, pained.

And then she sat up, tremors running through her like aftershocks from some great quake. Her willowy frame quivered like its namesake in a high wind, her pale skin even more pale than it should be, so that the freckles stood out harshly. She blinked, and looked around in confusion. The wound in her chest wept blood, but her hands had healed entirely. The thrust through her guts still bled, too, but the wound was rapidly closing, almost before their very eyes.

She suddenly seemed to become aware of the two that were nearby; her head darted one way, and then the next. Confusion and alarm flashed in her eyes, and she tried to get to her feet. It was an unsuccessful attempt.

".....?" she said, but no words came. The Seed continued its work, the aura of magic at work coming off of the little chimera in waves. Apparently, though, it had not yet got to the part about fixing the damage in her head, and so she sat mute and unable to move in any coordinated way.
 

Elliot Aldmar

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An odd turn.

Elliot stopped some ten or fifteen meters distant from the griffin-talker and the almost dead girl she'd pulled from the stream, his hand still on the hilt of his dagger and possessed of a healthy caution. Precisely why the griffin had not yet delved into her meal Elliot could not say. He could only make the assumption that, given what she said, she had a preference for the taste of human flesh and not the flesh of whatever she had deduced the girl to be. Which to Elliot was repugnant for all of the commonly held reasons, not the least of which being that his own flesh happened to half human. The half he respected. The implied slight about humans not having much fight in them he did not concern himself with. Truth stood irrespective of the speakers and listeners of opinion.

I assume she is not with you?

"No, she's not. Don't know where she's from or who she's with if anyone, but none of that will matter for much longer." The griffin-talker might not have a taste for the girl's unique flesh, but that didn't mean she wouldn't eat her still. Elliot assumed it to be so.

Then the girl gave one hell of a jolt. Somehow found a way to sit up. Elliot couldn't see it with perfect clarity from the distance and angle, but it appeared as though a wound in her abdomen was sealing itself shut, very much in the regenerative manner of a troll. There were, by Elliot's lights, a concerning number of things on Arethil whose resemblance to a human or elf or orc was uncanny and yet they were anything but. Must be nice to be a dwarf, like that bastard Onager. Nothing masqueraded as a dwarf, so far as Elliot could tell. The thought was amusing but he didn't let it show in a grin or lightening of his gaze. Couldn't afford to.

Might as well let the griffin-talker get to it. And drift away while she was.

"Enjoy your meal," he said. Took another couple of steps back.

Then started to turn. Listening intently.

Nahlah Maranae
 
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Nahlah

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"No, she's not. Don't know where she's from or who she's with if anyone, but none of that will matter for much longer."

She laughed lightly as she lowered her head slightly to sniff the girl again. The girl jolted up, sitting and Nahlah chirped, startled before skittering backwards as she watched the girl appear to take in her surroundings and attempt to talk. Nahlah looked towards the man quietly as he backed away still.

"Enjoy your meal," he said as he turned and started creeping away slowly. She rose a feathered brow as she turned her head 180 degrees to look behind her as he snuck away

“I am not eating her… I have no idea what she is, or what diseases she has if any. Not worth the risk, she definitely smells like nope in regards to eating. Plus… would be a shame to waste such a fighting spirit.” She remarked softly as she lowered her head slowly towards the injured creature again, tilted her head to sniff her.

“Can you speak” She asked the creature softly, curiously, wondering what she was. She had tried to speak it seemed, but was that mimicking or actual ability to speak, to understand and form words. Nahlah opened her wings slowly again as she looked to the girl, not looking back to the man. If he opted to leave, that was his choice, she for one was far too curious about what this girl was, to have so much blood everywhere and yet now be lucid and awake. Curiosity, killed the cat they said, a truth that was not far off from the outcome some of her kind saw. Too curious for their own good at times.
Elliot Aldmar
Maranae
 

Maranae

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Tremors still rippled through her, and she did not answer immediately. It was not pain that stilled her tongue, or at least not only that; being on death's doorstep was an experience that was draining in a way that few would ever know.

A minute spent breathing, feeling the thing bound in her flesh work. She had stopped looking to the other, the one that was fleeing the scene and now only watched with beaked thing with wide eyes, There was more...clarity in them now, a clear recognition that what she was looking at was other than animal.

"...ngh," she said faintly. She shook her head, tangled red hair flying. "Ngh...can...," she began, and stopped. The cobwebs were clearing, even if all of the most recent events were not entirely clear. Only one memory stood out, though; another fight with another set of people seeking her out. The words in her head were not as complex as that, mere instinctive impressions.

Her head snapped towards the one trying to slip away, and the motion was near enough to make her fall again. "H....hunter?" She said, finally. Jade eyes regarded Elliot from afar, and she tried to get to her feet again, also without success. "N...no more...chasing? You....go?" The bird-creature seemed to slip out of her limited attention span. The questions that had been asked before had been heard, but right that moment Maranae was having troubles thinking clearly.

But not, as it was, about potential threats. Trembling occasionally, wounds finishing up their healing - and imparting upon her a voracious hunger that already began to gnaw at her insides - she stared after the half-human.
 
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Elliot Aldmar

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Not eating her. That hardly boded well for Elliot, did it. Still it sounded like she was staying by the bank of the stream and not swooping after him. All the better. If he could get far enough away to get his Bow into his hands, he would be more secure in defending himself. Bone Arrows were very good at punching through the bulk of larger creatures like this griffin-talker. If it came to it. With animals and even with people, showing a lack of fear--whether or not this lack was true--could stay an otherwise aggressive claw or hand. In Hardy and Ommar's case, some level of foolhardiness propelled them forward beyond this staying. Coin could do that.

Elliot completed his turn. Started walking toward that treeline--

When he heard the near dead girl (hardly a girl, but there was no better and more appropriate term he could ascribe to her) speaking over that constant flow of water. He stopped. Narrowed his brow in consideration. Then decided that if these were the girl's last moments, if the regeneration proved to not be enough--even trolls perished, after all--then he could give her some small amount of closure.

He pivoted in a half-turn to regard the griffin and the girl, saying to the latter, "No. I'm not a hunter. You won't have to worry about being chased soon. All is well, girl."

Death was a transition. As seamless as that from wakefulness to sleep, and much the same.

Maranae Nahlah
 
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Nahlah

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Nahlah watched the girl call after the man that was leaving, struggling to get some words together to form some semblance of a sentence. He turned, his eyes falling on her and she nodded her head slightly in his direction. A sort of, truce at least for the moment. She would not promise that she would not attempt to eat him at some point, but for now she would not. She tore her eyes from him and looked to the girl again, she herself, stepping slightly back from the pair, not out of pure caution, but letting them talk as the girl seemed more comfortable with him. Which was to be more expected.

"No. I'm not a hunter. You won't have to worry about being chased soon. All is well, girl."

Nahlah watched them interact quietly, her stomach growling slightly as she watched curiously. She lowered herself to lay out on her stomach, obviously somewhat more relaxed, not too worried about them trying to hurt her to be honest. She lifted her forefeet to her face, cleaning her sharp talons idly as the male spoke with the female and she watched them now and again. The female… a mere child seemed to be rapidly healing. She was unsure how that was possible, but little surprised her. She herself was a weird, unexplainable creature so she could not expect everything else to be normal.

After she cleaned her talons she moved to the feathers of her chest, dragging them through her beak idly, one feather at a time. A long process, boring but needed to be done regularly and she had gotten herself all wet when she landed in the water, so she needed to clean them and reoil them with the oil the corners of her beak naturally made for this process. Her tail lashed slowly as she lay in the sun, her tawny pelt soaking up the warmth happily. As she sat there she looked to Elliot again, wondering why anyone would hunt a child.
Elliot Aldmar
Maranae
 

Maranae

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Clearer and clearer. She cocked her head to one side, wobbling a little...and then, finally, managed to gain her feet. It hurt, hurt abominably, but she managed to rise on shaking legs. She looked like she had been rolled in mud, blood, and viscera, so that the entire amalgamation of filth had blended into something unspeakable. She looked like what Elliot though she was: dying.

But even as she gained her feet, her eyes cleared further. Her fists released themselves as the pain finally started to ebb (and the hunger began to rise at an alarming rate). Each digit was tipped by a claw...but not always. The effect was eye-watering; sometimes there were claws there, sometimes nails. The same with her bare feet, and her mouth - sometimes fangs, poking from up underneath her upper lip, sometimes not.

"No worry," she said by way of response to Elliot. She cocked her head to the other side, almost losing her precarious balance. Her words, at least, had finally firmed into well-spoken common. Well, maybe not well spoken, but they no longer stuttered and struggled to form. "But always hunters come. Why not now?" She paused, caught a scent in the air that had been there all along but she had been unable to process it.

She turned, and looked at the gryphon, and then back to the apparent human and once more back again. She deliberately leaned in towards the catbird and took a delicate sniff, as if by scent alone she could discern intention. She probably could, were she trained; as it was, it was purely instinctive. "Where is Mara?" She asked, suddenly. "Did...catbird and grey-man hurt me? Mara hurts bad....and I am hungry," she said. The last was tacked on absently, but her stomach also rumbled ominously. Healing of this magnitude always required a great deal of sustenance to recover from, but they would not know that.
 
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Elliot Aldmar

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It appeared as though he might have been too quick to count the girl as dead. The girl who wasn't a girl--at least not one that Elliot had ever seen before. As she rose to her feet, he could see that the griffin-talker had most certainly been right about that--her not being human. However much she might look the part, if it were so, then she would have probably been dead before Elliot had even climbed up the short cliff, let alone being able to rise up to her feet. The resilience, the wound closing, those (from what he had more acutely noticed now despite the distance) asymmetrical claws--like some manner of imperfect replica of the girl she appeared to be at first glance.

No worry.

He wasn't quite sure how she specifically meant that.

But always hunters come. Why not now?

Elliot turned his sideways gaze from Mara and Nahlah to the treeline. Looked but saw nothing. Well someone put that arrow in her. And recently enough, that blood on her wasn't dried. Elliot couldn't yet determine if the arrow loosed by said hunters--and their pursuit in general--was warranted or not. He didn't know enough about the girl or the hunters to trust either. But the girl was here and the hunters weren't, so that was what he had at hand.

He answered her question by way a simple shrug.

Where is Mara?

No idea who Mara could be.

Did...catbird and grey-man hurt me? Mara hurts bad...and I am hungry.

Elliot wasn't entirely sure about "Mara" still. It seemed like she might be referring to herself by name, given the last bit about being hungry and that being connected to what came prior. Stick with what you do know.

"No. I didn't hurt you." Said every merc who had done just that and somehow was in a situation like this, Elliot noted with a wry mental chuckle. "I only just found you. You were collapsed along the bank of the stream, close to the waterfall." She might not be able to answer, but he asked anyway, "Do you have any idea how long you were out?"

Elliot, despite the potential risk, started to unshoulder his traveling pack. Girl fought that damn hard to stay alive, Elliot figured he could spare some of his rations. Sometimes it wasn't nature that rewarded intense effort, but fate.

Nahlah Maranae
 
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Nahlah

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"No worry," the girl said in Elliot's direction. She tilted her head a little as she watched the female creature through glistening grey eyes, noting the subtle changes from claws to nails, fangs to teeth with no notable attempt at shifting from the humanesk girl, none that Nahlah could see anyway

"But always hunters come. Why not now?" Nahlah chuckled lightly "girl is right about that" she said... hunters always did come. Then the girl looked to her, leaning towards her and sniffing her. She rose a brow and stretched out her neck a little towards the girl as well, not only getting closer to her so she could smell her, but also taking in her scent while at it.

"Where is Mara? Did...catbird and grey-man hurt me? Mara hurts bad....and I am hungry,"

"No. I didn't hurt you." The male said..."I only just found you. You were collapsed along the bank of the stream, close to the waterfall. Do you have any idea how long you were out?"

"He speaks the truth.... " she added softly.. "I did not hurt you, I would have eaten you, yes, but you were alive and fighting so I didn't " she chortled slightly, finding the idea quite amusing. She drug her tongue idly over her beak as she soaked up the rays of the sun, watching the male unshoulder his bag slowly. She lifted her head to the sky, taking a deep breath through her nares as she looked skyward.

Her short rounded ears twisted slightly as she heard something some ways off. She stretched her forelimbs, sinking her talons into the ground and tensing her muscles as she pushed up with her hind limbs, pulling herself to her feet slowly. She shook slightly, tossing herself a s bit from side to side, shaking out the dust as she looked around quietly, scanning the horizon for threats.
 
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Maranae

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She trembled occasionally like a rush in the wind, at the mercy of the growing hunger within. Here, there were only talkers; Mara did not consume the flesh of those that were capable of speech, either as a matter of principle or because of some deeply ingrained taboo against the act. Either concept was beyond her limited scope of understanding, though. One did not need to understand why when the thing in question carried with it the force of commandment.

Still, she needed to eat. Weakness clutched her limbs, and dulled her thoughts. The immortal seed would not permit her to perish, but it would take all of her strength if it required it to enact the miracles of rebirth whenever she took such mortal wounds.

"Out?" said the girl, clearly struggling to stay upright. Not a wound remained on her that was visible, now; the scratches were gone, the sword through her stomach having left naught but smooth, unblemished skin. The arrow wound was gone, too. "What...does out mean?" Confusion danced in those jade eyes, darting between the apparent human, his shoulder bag, and the griffin. Large, confused, but ultimately fearless eyes.

And who could blame her for that? What was there to fear when death appeared unable to hold you?

"Cannot....cannot remember," she said in a tremulous voice, clutching at the side of her head as though it pained her. "Was bow-lady and man with metal...metal knife? They hit me in head a lot. Then lot of blood, screaming...men in metal on back of horse-things-" the mentioning of which made her stomach rumble louder "-and then Mara run. But bow-lady come again, with more..." She shook her head.

"She is tired," said the redhead chimera, and sounded it. "Tired, hungry. Must eat, pain takes hunger," she added seemingly nonsensically. "Want people to leave her alone. No more fighting..."
 

Elliot Aldmar

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Hell of a thing to admit from the griffin-talker. But the girl took it in stride. That, or she didn't hear it, or simply outright ignored it for reasons that were her own.

Elliot had his pack in one hand by the straps as the girl was puzzling out what he had meant by "out." And she didn't know, the expression lost on her. Still, she inadvertently answered the question. Couldn't remember for how long she'd been unconscious, but she remembered something of the people who'd coaxed her there. Two of them. No--more than two. Elliot couldn't say what he was in the middle of between this girl and those hunters, but it wasn't his concern. That was a transaction of pain and death that was between them, and he'd just as well stay out of it for now. Despite his lack of knowing, he had still decided to part with a portion of his rations for the benefit of the girl. He wasn't on either side, but if this small act of charity put him on one, then it was a choice made in error on the part of the chooser. Whatever came of it--if anything--he'd react accordingly.

Elliot started to walk back toward the girl and the griffin-talker. Not quite clear on who Mara was yet, and the girl's manner of speaking wasn't helping. It seemed increasingly likely that it was her, the girl, and not some other--a friend of the girl's--who had not yet shown.

"I'll leave you alone in a moment," Elliot said, coming down to a crouch a few paces from the girl and the bank of the stream. He set his pack down and opened it and reached in and took a wrapped ration, a variety of food within the cloth, and held it out. Gestured it upward invitingly. "Here. For the trouble you went through."

No more fighting, she had said. And such was a terrible expectation to hold of the world and vain hope to hold out for oneself. Elliot waited until she grabbed the ration--or, if she did not, until a moment had passed.

Then he said, "Bad news, girl. So long as you live, you will fight. Against all the elements of Arethil, against yourself, against other people. It's part of the deal."

Maranae Nahlah
 
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Nahlah

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"Out? What...does out mean?"

Nahlah raised a brow as she tore her eyes from the horizon, turning her head back to the girl who seemed confused by the word out. She noticed the girls bright jade eyes, riddled with confusion as she looked between her and Elliot.

"Cannot....cannot remember, was bow-lady and man with metal...metal knife? They hit me in head a lot. Then lot of blood, screaming...men in metal on back of horse-things and then Mara run. But bow-lady come again, with more..." The young female shook her head at remembering the situation but she quickly continued talking. “She is tired, tired, hungry. Must eat, pain takes hunger. Want people to leave her alone. No more fighting..."

Nahlah turned back towards them, watching Elliot crouch slightly before the girl. "I'll leave you alone in a moment," he stated as he was going through his bag, taking out something that was wrapped in cloth. She lifted her head slightly, sniffing the air curiously. She held the thing out to the girl, notably offering it to her. "Here. For the trouble you went through."

"Bad news, girl. So long as you live, you will fight. Against the all elements of Arethil, against yourself, against other people. It's part of the deal."

Nahlah chortled lightly at the truth in those words. She lowered her haunches to the ground slowly, sitting with her wings partially open as she watched the two interact. She did not understand why this child was such a target. Amongst her kind there was a rule that you did not torment and torture young of any species. Even though they were the easiest to hunt, and hurting young hurt the species so it was a good tactic against their enemies… it was not something they did.

Children were defenseless, there was no honor in killing the defenseless. But, then again this child was not normal, that much was obvious simply by the fact that she was nearly dead not long ago and now she was lucid, talking though not very well spoken but she had just healed herself completely, it was no doubt she may not have the energy to make perfect sentences.

“Why are you so hunted young one?” She asked softly, she did not tend to sugar coat her statements or questions. It popped into her mind, she said it. She didn’t find the need to dance around the obvious truths of the world.
Maranae
Elliot Aldmar
 

Maranae

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"....," Maranae said, or rather, said nothing. She looked between the two with a guileless, open expression clouded by hunger pains and the exhaustion that always followed such black periods in her memories. Her brow wrinkled as she tried to think on the griffins' words. "People...people made Mara?" She tripped over her words, few as they were. She was at home with the wilderness, with hunting and swimming and all the things it took to stay alive in the wild lands...

...but of people, of civilization and all it entailed, she was clueless. The place at the beginning of all of this was one of mysteries to her. "Much...magic...in making her - me, she means," she said, shaking her head. The horse lady from long ago had told her she needed to learn to speak of herself as I, me, and mine; the old habit of referring to herself as she had been named persisted, though. "Bad place," she whispered, and her face grew dark recalling it. Fangs, claws, and a certain feral wildness seemed to slip over her as she mentioned it.

She eyed the thing in Elliot's hand, and moved closer on unsteady feet. The claws and fangs vanished as if they had never been there in the first place, and the faint whiff of magic that always hung about her went with them. The cloth concealed what it was, but her sense of smell was impressive. Something dry and yeasty smelling...

Without preamble, the girl snatched the thing from Elliot's hand in a blur, dancing maladroitly back a couple of steps. This earned her a trip, and a fall on her bony rump. With every bit of grace she'd had in taking the snack from the half-elf, she bit into the thing, cloth and all. The crunch of the hardtack contained within was accompanied, a moment later, by the spray of the bread and the cloth out of her mouth and a series of indignant sounds from the chimera.

"This...is not food!" she exclaimed, and tossed the remainder on the ground in disgust, looking at it as if it had someone personally offended her. All the offense did was make her more hungry, and she looked to Elliot as though he might be hiding a rabbit or, amusingly, a deer somewhere about his person. The quantity she could consume in a single sitting was....impressive, to say the least.

Right now, she needed it.

"Hungry," she mumbled, and then looked to Elliot with surprisingly clear eyes. "Mara runs, she does, but always more hunters. No more hurting," she said in a sulky tone.
 

Elliot Aldmar

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The manner of the girl's speech was consistently difficult to follow. People made Mara. Was she telling them or asking them. Elliot didn't have a surplus of patience for those who were not as direct as he preferred. Fitting story, he'd made the mistake of going to some festival in a city he had not been to. Had some juggler who also partook in flamboyant riddles take something of a liking to him, enough to shadow him around for an hour and steadfastly refuse to answer anything Elliot asked of him in a straightforward way--couldn't hold a conversation worth a damn either. Elliot ended up punching him in the mouth. Got a shattered tooth of the juggler's lodged into his glove. Local guards, for once, just looked the other way.

At least the girl--the apparent girl--had a better excuse for it on offer.

And, unlike the juggler, she clarified. Mara (her name part of said clarification) had been made. Implication being that the people who made her were after her, or hired people like Elliot to do it for them.

Mara just about took Elliot's hand along with the ration. Bit into it as if she'd but a couple of seconds to live and biting into that hardtack was the only thing that would grant her a reprieve. And then the bread and cloth came flying out of her mouth as fast as it had gone in.

Not food.

Elliot glanced to the griffin-talker, gauging her take on it in that second, then back to Mara. Returning a stony stare for whatever came back his way. "Hard for a beggar to be a chooser."

Tough. Elliot had bought what little salted meat had been available at Graniteholme's market days ago (they'd been cleared out by some traveling group heading east), and had since eaten it all. He would have had some fruits or vegetables with him in the ration bundles, but Hardy and Ommar had interrupted him before he could make that purchase.

He looked to the griffin-talker again. Said, "You don't owe me anything. But would you be opposed to catching something for the girl?"

Exploring options. Elliot had thought it would be a simple matter, an offering of hardtack--hardly a meal anyone dreamed about, but better than the alternative--and done. Wasn't so, and his resolve to see his decision through hardened a bit more. The griffin-talker might say no. Frankly he expected it, she had been hunting for herself moments ago. Then Elliot would just have to move on to the next option.

Maranae Nahlah
 

Nahlah

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"People...people made Mara?" the girl replied to her inquiry. Nahlah tilted her head in confusion as to what that mattered, but supposed if people made her, and she escaped, it made sense that they would be attempting to catch her again. "Much...magic...in making her - me, she means," Bad place,"

Nahlah watched as the girl snatched the package from Elliot as if she hadn’t eaten in months. Nahlah tilted her head slightly as she watched the situation evolve and the girl take a bite, just to spit it out with a unamused cry of "This...is not food!" Nahlah chuckled softly at the look on her face. Quite adorably offended by the meal that Elliot had offered her, she looked back at Elliot, seeking something else.

Elliot quite coldy said "Hard for a beggar to be a chooser." making Nahlah chortle with laughter as she nodded slightly. You don't owe me anything. But would you be opposed to catching something for the girl?"

“I can” Nahlah said as she stood, she did not think it right to let a child starve. Had this been an adult, she would have said no, but a child was something different. She nodded and lifted her haunches from the ground, opening her large wings and stretching just slightly before slamming them downwards, lifting off the ground to go look for food.

She heard the child say "Hungry, Mara runs, she does, but always more hunters. No more hurting," as she flew off slowly. Long, strong strokes of her wings lifted her above the treeline as she scanned the ground beneath with sharp eyesight, watching closely for any sign of movement. She would not waste time or energy on anything as small as a rabbit, she sought out a deer, swine or sheep. Something decent that would appease all three maybe.

After roughly half an hour she saw the movement of a wild pig beneath her. She hovered for a moment as her eyes wandered around and she gauged if she’d be able to carry the animal back to where they were, and also if there was anything else that would be a threat to her. She saw nothing, and estimated the beast to be a few hundred pounds, she’d have no issue carrying it. She arched her back, tilting her body so she was chest down. Slamming her wings shut she skyrocketed towards the pig, sharp scaled forelimbs with strong talons outstretched. She hit the beast hard, talons sinking into the beasts flesh hard. The muscles aligning her forelimbs clenched, causing the talons to close, ripping through skin and muscle. The impact of her hitting the animal snapped its back instantly as she landed on it, a squeal broke the silence of the forest but then the beast was silent. She stood there quietly for a moment, wings held wide, protective of her prey for a moment before she took back off with her talons still buried in the swine.

She headed back to the little group and dropped the beast between the two before landing lightly slightly to the side. She lowered her haunches to the ground slowly, lifting her forelimbs to her beak, dragging her tongue slowly over her bloody talons, cleaning them slowly.
Elliot Aldmar
Maranae
 

Maranae

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Difficulty in following their words. Always it was this way, after an event left her bled dry, her life slipping away only to be hammered back into her by the merciless creation her creators had planted in her core. The Core, as it was.

Mara dropped onto her rump and sat staring dully at the ground. There were no real thoughts moving that red head of hers, only an unceasing demand for food, for something. It was nearly strong enough to make the man in front of her part of the menu, or the griffin...but something held her back from that sacrilege. She had no words left in her, and so the tableau remained after the winged one had taken off.

The sound of running water tumbling over stones, and the incessant rumble of her stomach were all that could be heard. The wind through the trees, sighing softly through the trees as the sun crept onward across its track through the heavens. The quality of the light changed a little, becoming more red-orange; there were perhaps only a couple more hours of daylight left.

The sound of wingbeats made Mara look up with dull eyes...and then a scent crossed her path. She was suddenly very alert, looking in the direction that the griffin had gone. So acute, that sense; it was a few minutes before Nahlah arrived. The scent was clearer now, coppery and bright to her senses, and the girl growled low in the back of her throat even before the griffin dropped the carcass to the forest floor.

It had barely landed before the chimera had leapt, and the moment it struck the ground, Maranae was on it. Claws and fangs were very much in evidence now, and though she was weaker now than she would be later, she still managed to tear a ham free, the sound of bone snapping and muscle tearing a sickening cacophony in the otherwise silent woodlands.

Maranae ripped pieces of raw flesh free, and swallowed them seemingly without chewing. Everything on her hands was consumed; flesh, sinew, bone, it seemed to matter little to her. The crunch of bone being chewed up and actually swallowed was a touch sickening, as was the strange burning-tin scent lingering in the air. The Core was converting much of what she ate to magic, and that magic went to finish what had not been regenerated before that time.

The girl made quite a mess, but after that first ham, she slowed down. Blood dripped from her chin and from her hands, and as she casually tore other bits of meat from the dead thing, popping them into her mouth, she turned her eyes back to the other two. They were far clearer than they had been before, almost as if some inner light had been switched on.

"Maranae thanks you for this," she said suddenly, oblivious to the gore smeared on her face. "The hunter-people caught her this time. No time to run, no time to hide," she said by way of explanation. She looked between the two of them, cocking her head. "But...why did you help her?" The tone was curious, her face scarcely less so.
 

Elliot Aldmar

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The griffin-talker agreed. Unexpected, that. It had been the most convenient option--the griffin certainly was the fastest of all of them and gifted with flight--but there were occasions when "convenient" did not always mean easy as well. He had been prepared set out himself, searching for sign of game in the surrounding area, however slim a prospect it might have been. But no need.

Or maybe no need.

Elliot collected what was left of the hardtack and the cloth. Drew one of his daggers and shaved off the portions that had been bitten into and rewrapped the remains and went back to his pack and deposited the bundle. Absolutely it would be the last ration of choice to eat, but if in the event it was all he had, then his own words he'd said to Mara would hold true for him. The nature of universal truths and natural laws. They did not care who you were, and all were bound by them whether it was to one's liking or not. They had power. The laws of Dornoch and other cities were weak and worthless by comparison. What was only enforced by men was easily broken by them as well.

"We'll see if she returns," he said, sitting down with one leg stretched out and the other bent. The griffin-talker might not. Might take what she found and keep it for herself. Like he had said, there was nothing owed to him or Mara by her.

But she did return. Dropped a fresh kill of a wild pig. And the girl had almost caught it before it had hit the rocks beside the bank of the stream, such was her haste in leaping at it. She tore into it with a rabid frenzy. Elliot watched with a restrained disgust, the slight inward furrowing of his brow the only indication of this. The girl had the capability of speech and the holding of self-identity like a person, but in every other way thus far she was an animal. It tickled Elliot's sense of humor a bit that the actual griffin (perhaps a shifter like Ceridwen, but that remained to be seen) was more of a person than the girl in that moment. She lacked the dignity that separated Man from Beast. He was not blind to her sore condition, but she had made not even the slightest attempt at it.

Much like he had been, once free from the oppressive confines of the city of Dornoch. He had shed many of the trappings of civilization and lived off the land as the animals do and not as a man should: subservient to it, instead of master over it. Elliot saw a similarity to himself in the girl, a similarity to the newly liberated man who was in desperate need of the Dreng'toth to truly better himself and who did not yet know it.

Mara looked at him. Face filthy. Smeared red.

Elliot came up from his seat and back into a squat beside his pack. Said to her, "You were in a rough way, and you didn't just lay down and die. You fought back. Impressed me enough with that so I say you earned the help." He added, "Elliot. My name is Elliot."

He waited for the griffin-talker to answer. Or perhaps not answer. A moment would pass regardless.

And Elliot asked of Mara, "Those hunters. The ones chasing you this time. Did you kill them?"

Maranae Nahlah
 
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Nahlah

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She was glad she had opted to land a bit out of the way. The girl was upon the carcass before she had a moment to land. She tore the ham from the beast and ate it, quickly, ravishingly. She cleaned her talons quietly, turning her eyes to the man for a moment before chuckling at the disgust on his face.

"Maranae thanks you for this, the hunter-people caught her this time. No time to run, no time to hide,"

Nahlah tilted her head, as the girl tilted her head as well. She noticed the animal like motions of the girl, recognizing it much like her own.

"But...why did you help her?" She chuckled lightly and continued cleaning her talons, letting the man answer as he moved back to his pack, putting the ration away.

"You were in a rough way, and you didn't just lay down and die. You fought back. Impressed me enough with that so I say you earned the help. Elliot. My name is Elliot."

“Same” she answered shortly before thinking of what to say to continue. “There is no honor in killing a child either… even one most obviously not a plain human child.”

"Those hunters. The ones chasing you this time. Did you kill them?"

That was a good question. She herself wasn’t too worried about hunters being much danger to her. She had years upon years of experience hunting and fighting… but if she needed to take this child under her literal wing, she would.

Maranae
Elliot Aldmar
 

Maranae

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Eyes darting between the two of them, she wiped the blood ineffectually from her cheeks and chin. She could feel the strength flowing out from her core, a pleasant warmth like what others would expect from drinking hard alcohol. With it, her mental acuity increased as well.

Even so, she was not very well learned when it came to communicating with others. Her grasp of common was as basic as could be had, and there were many things she could not communicate effectively, lacking the words and, perhaps, the understanding to convey. She tilted her head the other direction, dirty hair falling the other way as she did.

"Some," she said. She sounded uneasy, a little sick at the memory of it. The memories were clear, now that she had restored a little of what had been lost. "She...she hit them, and they broke," she said in an uncomfortable voice.

She had no qualms about hunting for her own food. They considered her a child and, perhaps, she was; concepts likes years meant little to her, as she had never been taught anything about the idea. The real difficulty, though, was that there was some piece of her that was human, and fragmentary memories of that human - a child, probably - still resided in her head, alongside the base instincts of the beasts that had been blended into her. To say that she had suffered evil at the hands of morally deficient people was an understatement.

"Some did not continue, ran from Maranae," she said finally. There was some confusion, there; she ran from others, and avoided conflict where possible. Others running from her was something uncommon and baffling to her. "They will come back," she said with a certainty that the others could probably understand.
 
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