Elli

Elli moved silently through the shadows of the Banewood, the elusive scent of Theo pulling her onward. Damn this huntress and her wandering, the druid growled in her head.  The huntress’s tracks criss-crossed the entire area, stopping, restarting doubling back.  Adding to the difficultly were the other unfamiliar scents blanketing the ground and air.  Too many things with similarities to her world but just far enough off to have her questioning her guesses.  Damn this place.  Her mind wandered for a moment to Ardenweald and that familiar need, that longing filled her, clouding her judgement just long enough to realize she’d made a mistake.  That subtle “click” had her rolling, trying to avoid the trap she’d sprung but, even as she moved, she knew it was too late.  Metal jaws clamped around her front paw, eliciting a loud yowl of pain and internal cursing.

Theo

Being in the Banewood is… soothing, to her. The great tall proud pines and the semi gloom, the blue-green needles and the reddish coating of fallen leaves, grey trunks, and the faint sound of water somewhere all made Theo inhale, smile, and exhale. She had things to do, but this was important, and the Master had been pleased enough to grant her more anima -so generous!- as well as reimbursing her for the lost supplies. She still needed to go get more of course, but first she needed food. Not for herself, there was something probably at the cabin, but for Fang. Everything in her bag was taken after all. Hmph. She was alone for now; Fang and Seeker were sleeping, a well-earned rest. I think a bear would work. Or maybe a thirstlurker-

A yowl split the forest. Theo blinked.

That wasn’t a bear, or a thirstlurker, or anything else she knew here…

After a hesitation, she turned toward the noise and began to move in that direction.

Elli

Fluid curses filled the Kaldorei druid’s head as she surveyed the metal jaws clamped around her front paw.  Simply shape-shifting wouldn’t enable her to escape this particular trap.  It had an … odd feel to it.  Pain throbbed up and down her leg and paw as she drew a deep breath and forced her mind to calm.

Now is not the time for swearing or screaming.  You’re little more than meat for any creature not weaker than you that comes along.  Center yourself.

Closing her eyes, she reached inside of herself to the place where her soul touched the powers of nature.

Steady.  Breathe.  Calm.

The Fury threatened to rise but even it knew that a wolf would be just as vulnerable as the cat form was nor would it be any more able to escape.

Breathe. Feel.  Touch.

It was slight but it was there.  Even in the lands of Death, Nature had a place.  Her silver eyes opened as tiny bits of energy flowed into her, keeping her calm and steady.  Looking more closely at the trap, she searched for a release mechanism.

Theo

Theo heard rustling and snarling, almost a grumble, as she approached- then paused, eyes wide, at the edge of the clearing. After a moment, she stowed her bow, slinging it across her chest.

There was a huge, strange, magnificent cat stuck in a fearstalker trap in the forest clearing.

The hunter edged forward a little, showing herself and pushing her hood back. The red eyes were filled with curiosity not wrath, this time, and the black hair was mussed from the hood. She wore the same gear as usual, hunter’s leather and chain garb, excellent quality but understated and almost plain. Whipcord lean and wiry, she moved with the grace of a cat herself and just as quiet as she slowly came a little closer.

“Hey there,” she said, soft, calm, the voice of someone used to dealing with large dangerous creatures. “What are you doing here? Got stuck, huh?”

Great silver eyes snapped from the trap to the huntress.  Damn. Her ears pinned back and she snarled, maneuvering her body so that she faced the woman.  Tail lashing, she flexed her free paw, unsheathing her dagger-like claws and swatted the air between them in a threatening gesture.  It only took a moment for the Kaldorei in the feline’s body to recognize what the huntress was doing.  She thinks I’m just a cat.  The thought startled her enough that her cat body lost a bit of its tenseness.

“Whoa, whoa, easy, easy,” Theo said, making sure her posture wasn’t threatening as the cat bared fangs the size of her dirk and lunged a little, swiping air in a clear warning. “Look at those claws on you! You are definitely very scary. You’ll take my face off if I come closer, huh? That’s fair,” she said, talking calmly as she put down her bag, bow, and quiver at the edge of what she estimated was the cat’s reach plus ten feet. The way she moved to do it never took her eyes off the cat but also never showed her back, and her smooth movements were very deliberate.

“There we go, okay, now, let’s see… how bad does that have you? Mmm, pretty bad, there, pretty bad. Cut to the bone, looks like. You’re not native- where did you come from…?” Theo wondered, out loud, errand forgotten for now. She walked slowly back toward the front of the cat, staying out of reach for the moment.  “Are you someone’s companion? Did they just leave you here?” Anger flashed across her face at the idea, and Theo scowled, briefly menacing. “Mortals. Figures. Crawling all over everything like roaches… who would leave you behind? Well, if I find them I’ll gut them and you can have the body, hmm? Easy, kitty, easy…”

She edged a little closer. Not quite in reach, definitely gauging reactions with the professionalism of a lifetime forester or ranger.

Elli forced her body to relax a bit more, the posture still alert but not as actively threatening.  Someone’s companion, huh?  To be fair it wasn’t too far from the mark.  She had been Ace’s bodyguard and companion for a couple of decades after all and now she intended to be a bodyguard for the Justicar.  Keeping her silver eyes on the huntress, she lowered her head to lick at the wound, scraping her fangs against flesh and metal like she was going to start chewing her own paw off to escape.

“No, no, no- here, okay, okay,” Theo said, soft and calm still, and very carefully moved within slashing range of those massive paws and the sickle-claws attached to them. “Easy… easy… you’re pretty smart huh? I think you were someone’s companion and they didn’t deserve you, leaving you here… I’m here to help… easy…”

Briefly, she was glad for anima in her bag. If the cat mauled her, she could heal probably before it killed her.

…Probably.

She knows what she’s doing.  Wonder if she was a hunter on whatever world she came from in her life before.

She lifted her lips, showing her fangs but not exactly snarling since there was no noise.  Her claws retracted until just the tips remained exposed.  The sparkling fur covering her body relaxed enough to lay mostly flat while her ears no longer stayed plastered against her skull.

So, do we lure her in and try to kill her?  Or do we wait and see what she does?

She paused the bit of healing magic she was putting into the damage caused by the trap and instead began licking the wound.  Her tongue scraped along the bleeding edge, cleaning it even if it couldn’t stop the bleeding with the metal embedded to the bone.

“There you go… I’m here to help… you are very beautiful, goodness,” Theo murmured as she came closer, very careful and deliberate in every move. One slip with a cat like this and she was in for a world of hurt. “Those silver eyes are really something… are you from Ardenweald? No… but you smell a little like it… hmm… okay, hey, here I am, nice and easy, pretty lady, nice and easy…..”  Theo kept her breathing calm. It was a precarious situation, but there was no fear in her, not in her face or her scent.  She didn’t move to touch the paw yet, stopping in front of the cat for a moment, letting her get used to her presence.

“Hi there. You’re even prettier up close,” she said softly. “I love my Fangy but he’s all rugged blocky toughness, not near as pretty as you. You gonna be good for me? I wanna help, but I gotta touch to do it.” She slowly raised an arm and extended a hand, flat, palm out, a risky move. “Do you like touch, or no?”

A hiss.  Then a guilty look like she knew she wasn’t supposed to hiss at someone trying to help her.  Then a look like she never hissed at all and you just thought she did because you’re just a human and couldn’t possibly understand something as magnificent as her.

Sometimes letting the cat body do its own thing is kind of fun.  Elli chuckled internally.

The tip of her tail flicked and her silver eyes watched the huntress warily.  Slowly, ever so slowly, the great feline body lowered itself to the ground in that cat posture that said plainly “I’m going to pretend you’re not a threat but I’m watching you anyway”.  Flick-tap.  Flick-tap.  Unblinking stare.  Flick-tap.

Theo smiled a little. “Of course, of course, pardon me your ladyship,” she said. “I’m Theo. What’s your name, I wonder? You are so pretty, I bet you are super soft, super terrifying when you leap and rip and tear, but not me, I hope…” The hunter continued to talk, a running, soothing rhythm of words, moving with the same deliberate body language. She moved to the side, nothing sudden, everything nice and easy, almost confident, as if she could not possibly be hurt.

Tricky part time.

“I sure hope whoever had you before this taught you some basics, or I’m about to lose something I’ll miss,” she muttered. Then she crouched on her haunches, close to the injured paw.

Flick-tap.  Flick-tap.

Taught me some basics, huh?  I don’t think Ace would agree I was trained very well.

Ears swiveled around, first forward to the huntress, then in other directions, tracking the noises of the various creatures in the area.  Though her ears moved, her eyes never left the huntress.  They did, however, do one slow blink.

Emboldened by the good sign, Theo put her hands on the trap holding the paw, searching for the release mechanism. “Just a little more… you’re being so good, so very good, your ladyship, just let me-“

There was a clicking catching sound and the trap released suddenly enough to make Theo jump back quickly to give the cat space in case she bolted, though the hunter never looked away or turned around.

Kill or wait for another better opportunity?

The massive feline did one of those straight up and back springs, placing some distance between herself and the hunter as soon as her paw was free.  Holding the injured paw off the ground, she tracked the huntress for a moment before lowering her head to begin licking the wound again.

Let’s see what she does since she thinks I’m someone’s trained companion.  Maybe she’ll want to add me to her group of companions and take me home with her and I can find out some of her weaknesses.

Her silver eyes glowed in the semi-dusk of the area, continually watching the woman as she cleaned the blood from the wound.

After a moment of no aggression, Theo unwound a little, though she was by no means less wary.  “Isn’t that better? Much better. You didn’t run… hmmm… are you hungry? I don’t have much, but I’ve got a mite I killed earlier,” she said, moving to her bag. Strapped to it was a dead animite, blue and spider like. She held it up. “I‘ve got something at the cabin, and some anima… do you want this? And while you’re eating, I could look at that paw?”

Pausing in the licking at the offering of food, the feline lifted its muzzle to the air and sniffed.  Then came a sneeze and a reproachful look directed at Theo.  That carcass was obviously not satisfactory.  Still watching, she limped towards the closest body of water and lowered her head to drink.

“Well,” Theo said, startled into laughter. It was a little rusty, like she didn’t get to do that very often, and husky. “Fine then, more for me and Fang, your ladyship. Go on, drink up. That’s a good stream, nice and cold. You haven’t run off…”

She picked up her bag and her gear, moving a little closer.

The cat’s ears swiveled forward at the sound of the laugh, curving to catch it.  Her body relaxed further as she settled by the stream, half an eye on the huntress while the other surveyed the water’s surface.  There was a sudden stillness, just a flick of the tail, then a lightning flash move of her good paw and a fish flopped on the bank in front of her.  She turned her head back towards the huntress with a look that clearly said that this was an acceptable offering to her.

“Oh, fish? Well. That’s not bad.”

Theo moved to the bank… and strung her bow as she did, the great black monster longbow with the long dark arrows. She waited for a moment, and then, fired three times in succession.  Sprays of water hit her face, and then, three fish floated to the surface, each twitching and impaled. “Not as good as Ardenweald, perhaps, but still nice,” she said, and waded into the cold water to collect them.

The cat did her best to pretend she wasn’t interested in the fish.  She casually cleaned at her injured paw, still watching the hunter and covertly eyeing the fish as the hunter’s feet.

Theo removed her arrows, examining them critically for a moment, and just so happening to leave the fish on the shore as she walked away a few steps….

The huge feline continued licking the paw for a minute before casually getting up and wandering over to the fish.  Settling back down where the fish are deposited, she glanced at the huntress and gave her a ‘your offering is accepted look’ before chowing down

Theo smiled, a little softer now, and reached into her bag’s pockets before pulling out a roll of cloth that smelled oddly and faintly of Vindicator Zaanthe.  “I’m glad you approve my tithe, your ladyship. Now, you eat, and let me just see that paw…” With exquisite care, and no small amount of courage, she moved toward the cat again.  “No stitches for you, we don’t know one another well enough yet, but that could get infected here… Would you like to be friends? I’d be honored to be friends with you, your ladyship. I don’t have many, mostly just Fang and Seeker and N- … Fang and Seeker, but I promise I’d never leave you… easy, beautiful one, just let me see that….”

I wonder if that’s one of the possessions Zaanthe wanted.  Too bad she’s already torn it into strips.

The cat’s head lifted from the remnants of the fish, nostrils flaring.  Her silver eyes fixated on the roll of cloth as her lips pulled back to expose her fangs in a snarling hiss.  The silver eyes left the cloth to look coldly into the huntress’s.

Should I risk healing myself some?  Would she recognize Nature derived magic?

A slight feeling in the air, barely noticeable.  Where the feline lay watching her, the plants directly touching her body seemed to … enliven.  Not much.  Just like if someone had fertilized or watered withered leaves.  The wound in her paw still bled but the bleeding slowed a bit and, upon closer inspection, would show some minor amounts of healing.  Her cold silver eyes returned to the cloth as her fur lifted and another hissing snarl escaped between her fangs.

Theo’s focus was on the cat and the the cat alone, and at the hiss, she backed up. The hunter maintained eye contact while giving the cat space.  “Okay. Okay. That’s fine. We will try again later,” she said, calm and soothing. “I’m not going to make you do anything, your ladyship, it’s okay. Go back to the nice fish. You’ve got one left.”

The cat rose, eyes still fixed on the roll of cloth.  She limp/padded towards the huntress and, still out of reach of both of them, made a swatting motion with her good paw at the roll.  Her nostrils flared again as her lips curled, exposed teeth showing her displeasure at the scent coming from the cloth.

Hopefully this works.  She needs to think the scent disturbs me.  Okay, honestly it does but not for the reason I hope she thinks so maybe the reactions aren’t as much of a show as I’m making them to be.

Theo frowned.  “You do not like that at all. I wonder why. Very odd,” she said to herself, but put the roll away. “Maybe you like that lesser eredar- no, what did he say he was- the draenei as much as I do, hmm? His sin is definitely pride, leaving me that letter…. There, is that better? No more roll. See?” She opened her hands, showing them to be empty.

She chuffed and majestically stalked/limped back to her unfinished fish, flopping down to eat.  Though most of her attention was on her meal, Theo could see the cat’s ears constantly swivel towards the huntress.

“I wonder… are you trained? You are far too calm for something purely wild,” Theo speculated out loud. “Good condition, too….” She moved a little closer. Theo sat on the ground herself, watching the cat with a tilted head. “Can you come here? Come?”

Seriously?  How often does a cat just come when called?

Giving the huntress a bit of a reproachful look, the great cat picked up the last of her dinner and moved closer – not within touching range but enough to indicate she’d heard and (sort of) acknowledged the request.

“You are smart. And trained a little. Not like Fang, but then, he is a hound and you are a cat.” Theo watched with interest, and no small amount of professional appraisal. “Maybe you left your mortal? Can’t say I blame you, really, you would need someone who can keep up with you hunting-“

Theo turned by instinct half a second before the twig snap heralded the arrival of another venthyr, dressed in much fancier hunting gear, armed with a stubby, spiked crossbow. Theo’s face closed off immediately, neutrality sliding over it.

“Theodora,” he said, smirking. “I thought the Master had you on some special assignment, yet here I find you in our Banewood…. apparently stealing our hunts! Tsk tsk tsk. My trap catches something interesting and you just go and free it? Rude.”

“It’s Lady Evergreen to you, Drendal. We are not friends. Neither is it your Banewood, you or the other Fearstalkers,” Theo said flatly.

Just what I need right now.  Another ones of these … people.

Like Theo, the cat’s eyes had flicked to the area right before the sound of the twig snapping reached them.  On her feet in advance of the Venthyr appearing, her ears pinned back against her skull and her fur lifted, sending out tiny green and silver sparks that disappeared before they touched the ground.

Stupid hunters laying out traps just to see what they can catch.  Apparently some things don’t change even in death.

Tail lashing, the cat gave no indication of any injury to her front paw as she moved around, flanking Theo, to place herself in a position where she could attack the stranger or protect the huntress.  Subtle, warning sounds vibrated in the feline’s chest, sending ripples down her fur and more sparks cascading from her.

Drendal watched the cat with a wary, if somewhat mocking, eye: once on her feet, the full length of the beast was in full force. Theo kept her eyes on the other venthyr, her posture relaxed, loose, and entirely ready to strike.

“Oh, my,” he murmured. “…On second thought, I see why you freed it.”

“Don’t you have a job to do?” Theo asked, pointedly. “The Fearstalkers have souls to help find atonement, do they not? It is an important mission. You should go back to it.”

Despite the dagger point to her tone, she didn’t seem to be lying about the mission. In fact, that’s the least cutting part of her statement.

“Of course, of course, redeeming the irredeemable, yes yes yes,” he said, waving her off, still eyeballing the cat. “But all work and no play makes for a dull boy… does it do that naturally?”

Do what naturally?  React badly to assholes?

The cat flicked a glance at Theo, then back to the other venthyr.  From the glance it was hard to tell if she was disgusted or annoyed at the venthyr.  Her body moved slightly, sinking into a pre-pounce crouch, tensing as if waiting for a command.

“She is trained, somewhat, and I intend on working with her further. She doesn’t seem to like you much at all.” Theo smiled, and it was a sharp, thin thing, not entirely right, and coupled with that little head tilt, it was… unnerving.

“We have that in common.”

Drendal blinked, and switched his eyes to Theo from the cat, and then blinked agian, as he seemed to realize he might be outnumbered.

“…Ah. Well. I can see polite small talk is something the traitor didn’t teach you-“

“She did. I just don’t care right now. Leave, before I decide to see who is faster to reach you, me or the cat. I am not in the mood for playing politics.”

“Never are,” he sneered, and took a step back. He eyed the cat again. “Watch your back out here. Never know what happens in the Banewood, Lady Evergreen.”

Is he threatening her?  Why would one of them threaten her? Elli considered the situation.  Right now the other venthyr was the bigger threat.  Besides, he was an asshole hunter who indiscriminately set out traps for unsuspecting animals.  Maybe just a little scare to instill some respect.

Silver eyes flicked to Theo again and … was that a smile(?) on the cat’s lips.  The green sparkling body shifted and crouched a bit more then … disappeared.  Not vanished like a rogue but just … melted into the environment.  There was almost no sound.  The huntress could tell the faint bit she could barely hear was because of the injury.  Reappearing behind the venthyr, the cat playfully swatted at the back of his legs before leaping to land near Theo.  The landing was graceful with just a hint of stiffness on the injured front paw.  The huntress knew if the cat had unsheathed claws when it swatted, Drendal would be hamstrung … at the least.

Theo laughed, that odd rusty noise, as Drendal jumped about five feet up and backpedaled so fast he nearly tripped.

“You don’t want to play with her?” Theo asked, maliciously, and actually reaching out to put her hand protectively -just in case- on the cat’s head.

“…Next time, Lady Evergreen,” he snarled, and turned to beat a fast retreat that underlied most of his threat.

Theo watched him go, and only when he left did she say, almost casually, “I hate them.”  She turned to the cat, watching the faint sparks curiously.  “That was well done, your ladyship.”

She doesn’t smile or laugh often.  It bothered Elli just how much that thought bothered her.  Why should she be concerned about someone who’d done so much harm to the Templars?

The feline gave the huntress a friendly headbutt before moving a short distance away, the limping more pronounced.  Settling down, she began licking the wound again.

“You really are something special,” Theo said, watching the little sparkles. Some creatures were on the magical side of things; was this one? “Do you want to travel with me for a while?” She asked, after a moment. “No bandages, but I have some salve at my cabin that will help keep that clean. You can rest, there, for a time. It’s not the tower, Castle Nathria is too far, and it’s very simple but it’s warm and safe.”

The cat’s ears swiveled towards her followed by her eyes.  Their silver depths held .. something.  What exactly was hard to say but at least there was enough intelligence there for Theo to get that the feline probably understood at least part of what she was saying.  This animal was definitely not simply a dumb, well-trained beast.

Her head shifted to gaze back at the stream then turned to Theo again.

“Oh. Still hungry?” Theo rose again. “I can help with that.”

And so she could. Her unerring aim brought four more large fish in quick succession. Theo waded in past the knee to get them out, cold and dripping but heedless of the fact as she did.

“The Fearstalkers shouldn’t be too much of a threat to you, but you should avoid them regardless. They need to mind their own tasks under the Master and spend less time indulging their own frivolities.” She snorted. “Hmph. They should be tending to the souls in thier care… but there is nothing I can do about it except my own best. Here you are, your ladyship.”

The cat looked at her for a moment, picked up one of the fish in its jaws, and set it in front of her before settling back down to eat the remaining three.  While she ate, she nonchalantly set out her injured paw to the side closest to Theo.

Theo perked up. A jar of something vaguely medicinal-smelling came out of her bag, and Theo sat carefully next to the big cat, gently and slowly moving toward the paw and taking it in her hands, eye on the cat for displeasure. “There we go. Let me see this. Looks a bit better already- bleeding stopping always does that. Nice clean edges. As long as it’s clean, you’ll be alright. I’ve got stronger stuff at the cabin, but this will work too….”

She fell quiet as she tended the paw, concentrating.

Pausing in her eating, the great feline shifted her head to sniff at whatever Theo was putting on her paw.  A snort.  A headshake.  A sneeze.  Then a look that clearly displayed her displeasure at the smell.

“I know. It’s astringent. But it will help. I use this on me too, when time is short,” Theo said absently. “It is better to heal naturally if I can; uses less anima than the quick healing. A vial will fix a lot, but you have to be frugal in the time of drought. I can walk as easily as float, after all, and I can heal the usual way as well. I don’t suppose anima would help you, would it? I have some… but no, you’re not that kind, are you? Ah well. Salve for the rest… almost done, your ladyship.”

Ladyship.  Wouldn’t that make Ace laugh and Lena grin.  I do hope she comes up with something else to call me.

The cat turned to finish her fish, once again pausing mid meal.  This time though she put her uninjured paw on Theo’s leg and pricked the huntress slightly with her claws and waved her head towards the fish she’d set down in front of the huntress.

“Eh?”

Theo blinked, as if noticing the fish for the first time; her focus had been on the paw. She looked at the fish, then the cat, then tilted her head like a rather confused, overgrown owl.

“…Do- wait. Is that one mine?” Theo asked, slowly.

Another paw flex to prick her skin before the huge appendage was removed and she resumed eating.

“Oh.”

Still a little confused, Theo took the fish, because one did not argue too hard with claws the size of fingers. “This is the first time an animal has tried to feed me,” she said to herself. Still, she began to dress the fish with a keen thin knife.

The great cat snorted, giving her obvious opinion of the less than stellar behavior of whatever animal companions the huntress had in the past.  Silver eyes watched as she removed the scales and entrails from the fish with mild curiosity before slowly half-closing her eyes and resting her head on her non-medicine covered paw.

“Tired?” Theo asked, as she finished dressing the fish and- with a careful look around, to ensure their privacy; her wariness seemed to be a part of her bones at times- started to make a small, efficient fire. “Maybe Lady. For a name, I mean. Your ladyship is a little wordy. What do you think?”

Lady?  Elune help me here.

A rumble and a face.  Apparently “Lady” wasn’t exactly the best name.  She yawned and stretched, making sure to show all of her fangs and claws in the process before settling again to look at Theo.

I can’t spell out my name for her for any number of reasons.  So, what can I give her to call me?

Giving herself a good shake, she made the fur along her body to ripple, causing it to sparkle and shine more.

Theo tilted her head, considering. “No? No. Hmm. You can’t be Fang. Fang is my hound. ….Sparkle? You do not seem like a Sparkle type…. but you do that interesting shimmer….” She affixed filets of fish to green sticks and stuck them in the ground by the fire to roast as she sat back on her haunches, thinking.

“….Claw?”

Sigh

The huge feline sighed and shrugged her shoulders, causing a sparkling, shimmering ripple.

Theo narrowed her eyes in thought. “…I see that you have some unusual capabilities, but I don’t see how that helps me pick a name….”

“Maybe Silver? For your eyes?”

Hmm.  That would work I suppose.

The silver eyes looked at her a moment before she gave a quick nod of approval.

Theo smiled again, the softer one, less teeth and more genuine. “Silver,” she repeated. The smell of cooking fish began to fill the air around them. “It is a good name. I am glad you like it. I think we will be good friends, you and I. Fang is my partner from the beginning but it will be good to add another. Seeker is far too small to risk on combat, and you are built to rend and destroy, with those teeth and claws of yours. It will be our job to keep the forests clear of Thirstlurkers and other invaders, and hunt down the enemies of Revendreth. Our mission is very important- the most important thing, redeeming the souls of the nearly irredeemable. It can’t be compromised. Fang and Seeker and I work very hard to do this, and we enjoy our work. We don’t have to be stuck in the stuffy castle. We get to travel and hunt, and we answer to few but the Master. Do you want some cooked fish? There’s quite a bit,” she said, as the crispness of the fish skin on one filet was just starting to curl. Theo pulled it, and rotated the other to cook a bit more on the one side.

“Silver” looked at the fish, looked at Theo.  Then she poked the huntress with a paw and tried to nudge her towards the fish before laying down again.

“All me? Well, if you’re sure then,” Theo said, and began to eat. She scooted a bit closer to the cat, testing, just to see. “Silver” didn’t seem to notice.  Though appearing fairly indolent, Theo could tell she still maintained a watchful eye on their surroundings.  Theo ate quietly, for a moment, before she tossed the bones back into the stream; the other fish would take care of the rest. “We should probably move. The Fearstalkers frequent this area. I can take is farther into the forest, away from them, if you want to follow.”

Rising, “Silver” tested the injured paw.  There was a disgruntled noise when the paw wouldn’t hold her weight for very long but she simply looked at Theo as if waiting.

“If you’d let me bandage that, it would help- just saying,” Theo said as she rose too. “I won’t force you- I never force my animals to do anything. But it would help. Let me see… north is- so this way.” She turned, and started to lead the cat deeper into the woods. Theo set a medium pace, and moved with the quiet grace of the hunter she was, pulling her hood up as she went to blend in a little better with the shadowy forest.

The cat padded along next to her, another silent form moving through the forest.  Her normal, loping gait was marred by the hesitation/limp due to her injury.  While she didn’t do like she’d done to the other venthyr, her form blended so well with the surrounding trees and undergrowth, it was difficult to tell precisely where she was.  As a reassurance (?) she periodically bumped lightly against Theo’s leg so the huntress would know precisely where she was.

Theo led her deeper, into the tallest, oldest pines, where the widowbloom was the size of her head and occasionally whispery dark noises echoed, but the sound of water could also be heard. She found a burbling creek that turned down a steep ravine, almost a sheer cliff, down a hillock. The water turned into a waterfall, and just inside the treeline of the clearing below was a small hunting lodge- honestly a cabin, less a lodge, with one window, a sturdy door, made of stone. “There. Sometimes I stay here, if it’s unoccupied. Fang!” she yelled, and a sudden cacophony of happy barking greeted her.

At the sound of the barking, “Silver” paused and gave Theo a look that clearly said “Really? A dog?”

Theo… wasn’t listening. Theo was actually sliding down the steep wall of the little cliff-waterfall, and running to greet the darkhound who bolted for her. The two met in the middle, with the darkhound tackling her and licking furiously. Theo rolled with him, laughing a moment, then shoved him off, and the two tussled joyfully for a good thirty seconds before Theo seemed to remember the cat.  “My Fang! My best boy, good boy, hello hello hello! Yeah! I’m back! Look. I brought a new friend. Her name is Silver,” Theo said, and turned to point toward the cat. Fang pricked his ears in interest and fell in step next to Theo with perfect training as she walked back to the cat.

At least she likes animals.

“Silver” eyed the large canine with a bit of trepidation.  She stood, tail flicking occasionally as the two approached.

Fang trotted forward with Theo, who now had a stick in her hair and didn’t seem to notice or mind overly much. He stretched forward to sniff the air in front of the cat. Theo beckoned. “Come on, Silver. It’s all this way. I’ll set you up a good bed your size inside, I can move the table and chairs to make room.”

Elune, please don’t let Fang react to me …

Like any good cat, “Silver” tried to steer clear of the slobbery animal to follow Theo.  But, to her chagrin, Fang apparently took an immediate liking to her.  As aloof as she tried to stay, he kept wanting to get close to her but equally didn’t want to leave his mistress’s side.  Her silver eyes looked at Theo a bit balefully before giving an exasperated sigh and, relenting, moved closer so Fang could rub against her and remain by Theo.  Fang promptly set about investigating his new friends with liberal sniffs in interesting places, as Theo led them to the cabin. The interior was small, a little cluttered with hunting paraphernalia, a cast iron stove/fireplace, one little table with a single stool, a small cot shoved into one corner. The rest of the space was laid out with a large dog bed and an odd tree-like thing made from a branch, where a small, sleeping bag hung. Fang barked as they entered. Theo immediately set about taking the best fur rug and the blankets from her bed and a few spare cloaks from the closet, creating a plush, second pile of bedding for the cat.  Fang followed the cat with interest. Lots of interest. She must smell very different, Theo thought.

“Give me just a minute… be polite, Fang, she’s new, but she’s bigger than you.”

“Silver” watched as Theo gathered all of the nice, comfy materials.  When the huntress turned to get something else, the cat rose and padded over, sniffed all of the piled materials, grabbed a single thin blanket between her teeth, and dragged it over to her claimed spot – right in front of the fireplace.  She promptly plopped down, blanket under her, and curled up.

“…You don’t even want the rug? It’s bear,” Theo said, a little confused, standing there with her arms full of bedding. “Nice and soft. That one’s all ratty.”

“Silver” deliberately sniffed the blanket then closed her eyes.

“Oh. Well. Okay.” A little bemused, Theo puts the things back, and sets about…

…Being domestic?

Her cloak goes on a peg, bag by the door. Wood goes in the cast iron stove, as night begins to fall. Theo briefly stepped out to get two carcasses and set about chopping them into bits for Fang. The bat woke and stretched sleepily, chittering. For herself, Theo took out what looks like rations, and set a pot on the stove as the air around the windows cooled. Nights in Revendreth are dark and cold, it seems. When she’d finished butchering the animite, she put it in a bowl for the hound. The bat flew over and moved to sit on her shoulder, half hidden by hair.  “Hello, Seeker. Meet Silver. She’s our new friend.”

Seeker, hmm?  Wonder if that’s what she uses to scout for her.

“Silver” opened one eye to look at the bat before closing it again.

The bat squeaked- a hello, it seems.  Theo busied herself with tea as Fang chowed down. His great blocky head and massive jaws crunched and ate the bones as well as the flesh. “Chew those!” Theo admonished, as she poured her tea. “You had an upset tummy last time, you great dummy.”

…Thunder rolled, outside causing Theo to turn to the windows.

“Storm coming. Well. We are safe and warm in here. Move over, Fang,” she said, and sat with him on the floor (not at the table) to eat.

“Silver” casually edged over, positioning herself behind Theo to act as a furry, warm back support.  And the cat was definitely warm after laying by the fire.

“Oh,” Theo said, surprised, then very pleased. She leaned back. Fang sniffed the furry side curiously, then curled next to Theo. “Well. Thank you, Silver. You are very soft, and warm. Pretty kitty.” She began to carefully pet the parts of the cat in reach. A stiff wind shook the windows, and another peal of thunder rattled the slate tiles on the hut. “I’m glad I found you. You don’t have to be out in that mess.”

“Silver” nodded.  She really wouldn’t want to be out in that mess.  Laying her head on her paws, she closed her eyes again.

Theo continued to pet her, sipping her tea and eating her ration. Fang moved to lay his head on her lap, and she leaned forward to hug him briefly, booping his nose when he tried for the tea. “Not for you, you giant lug. You already ate. Let me have mine. This is my favorite, after all. …I wonder if that Vindicator has the same tastes. Surely three is enough…”

Sighing, “Silver” twitched her tail in front of Fang, in an obvious attempt to distract him so Theo could drink her tea in peace.  Oi, dogs ….

Fang’s ears perked. He watched the tail for a moment, head tilted, much like Theo ded- like master like hound, apparently. He stretched out his neck to sniff, then tried a lick.

Okay, pouncing or chasing is one thing.   Dog slobber is another.  “Silver” whipped her tail back next to her body.  Dogs are too gross to let them drool on you.

“Fang, honey, please.” Theo leaned on him, and instead of the cat tail, it’s her face that gets licked. “Yes yes. I love you too. Do not tell anyone.”

Rain began- falling hard, in sheets, pounding the roof. Theo put another log in the cast iron stove, and seemed to relax completely, laying back against the cat like a giant pillow, putting her cup aside for the moment, and closing her eyes.  Being a large cat, “Silver” couldn’t exactly purr but she did make a comforting rumbling noise.

 

….

 

When Elli was sure Theo was good and asleep and curled up with Fang, she stealthed out of the cabin and went hunting.   It was the least she could do, right?  Bringing food to Theo was a fair trade for the help with the trap, wasn’t it?  Putting all conflicting thoughts out of her mind, she focused on the hunt.

There wasn’t much she really considered edible in this miserable land.  Then again, most of the creatures here didn’t need to eat she supposed.  Probably just drank that anima stuff.  But in Ardenweald there were grazers and hunters just like the living world.  Bastion had them too.  Maldraxxus did as well … of a sort.  There were horses in Revendreth but she wasn’t sure if Theo would react to horsemeat like many humans did.  Maybe bear?  She had a bear fur rug.  Bear would probably be a safer bet.

Some wet, muddy time later a bear carcass neatly skinned and dressed rested on Theo’s doorstep.  The cuts in the bear were obviously made with long sharp claws as was the removal of the skin.  Not as neat of a job as Theo could’ve done with one of her skinning knives, but good enough so that the skin and fur weren’t ruined.  Along side the carcass firmly embedded in the mud was a single, large feline paw print.

Theo awoke, on the floor.

“…Mmph. Wait- eh? Silver?” At her stirring, Fang woke as well, whuffling curiously. Theo sat up, looking around.

No cat.

Her heart sank.

“Silver? Sil-!” Moving to the door, she threw it open, and stopped. A bear lay there, and a massive cat’s paw print in the mud.

“….Oh,” Theo said, quietly, trying to keep her face neutral, as Fang came up from behind her and leaned against her leg. “I… I guess she did not want to be friends after all. I hope she stays safe. It’s- it’s fine. I have you, right Fang? You and Seeker. I’ll be alright. And she left this nice bear for us. It’s probably just as well, huh? I don’t have time to train a new companion anyways. Yes. Just as well that it’s you Seeker and me.”

With a heavy heart, she started to move the carcass inside.

“…Just as well,” Theo said softly, and went back inside, and closed the door.

Author Elli
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