Part 04: Dark Choices

Time actually seemed to slow down for a moment as Filia watched the feathered monstrosity fling itself at Staun. The blind man had turned to face it, alerted by its screech. Filia flipped the spear up to shoulder height for a throw, knowing she would never make it in time. The raptor spread its arms and legs into a cross, talons outstretched, covering the maximum possible area in case its prey ducked or dodged. Staun did neither. Faster than Filia could follow, he snapped his walking staff up and around, sweeping aside the predator’s raking claws. Simultaneously he pivoted, avoiding the brunt of the blow from the raptor’s leg. Foiled, the creature tried to swing its other limbs around, only to have them parried also. Missing its attacks on all four limbs, it tumbled to the ground in a table of arms, legs, and feathers. It immediately sprang to its feet, only to catch Filia’s spear right in the chest.

“Stay down!” Filia shouted, springing to Staun’s side. She picked up burning stick from the fire and pointed it at the creature, which was staggering about, clutching at the spear in its chest and hissing loudly at them both. She was still working out in her mind exactly how she would use the stick when a nearby tree reached down and grabbed the raptor. Or at least it seemed to — it wasn’t until the tree branch started coiling around the stricken raptor that Filia realized it wasn’t a tree branch at all, but a very large snake. As she watched the snake retreated back into the canopy, dragging the unhappy raptor with it, spear and all.

“What’s happening?” Staun asked, his head cocked, his staff held ready.

“A big snake ate it!” Filia yelled, scanning the canopy for more threats. “We gotta get out of here!”

“What was it?” asked Staun as Filia rushed about gathering their meager supplies. “What was that thing?”

“How did you do that?” Filia demanded as she snatched up their gear and seized Staun’s hand. “You are blind, right?”

“Where is the other one? ” Staun asked. “There were two of them, right?” He was stumbling along behind her as fast as he could, his walking stick probing the ground ahead of him. “I heard two of them! Where is the other one?”

“At the bottom of a cliff, I hope!” Filia replied. As she pulled him along she scanned the canopy overhead, looking for movement. They hustled along as best they could, and soon the campsite was out of sight.

“Wait – stop …” Staun said, suddenly tugging on her hand.

“Rest later!” Filia shouted. “We have to …”

“No!” Staun tugged hard this time, drawing her short. “Something’s up ahead.”

She stopped too, peering hard into the trees ahead. “What? What is it?”

“What are they, I think. I don’t know, but we need to go …” he paused, then pointed to the side, “… around that way.”

“How do I know I can trust you?” Filia asked, her voice strained, but level.

“I told you to be careful, earlier. I said there was danger out there. You were the one that insisted on going back to look at those berries.”

“Why didn’t you tell me what the danger was?” she hissed, still looking ahead. “All I got was “there is danger out there”! Next time — this time — tell me what the danger is!”

“I didn’t know,” he replied. “I can t’see some things, not everything.”

“Well – Aah!” Filia flapped a hand across her forearm. A large spider, which had just landed there, flew off. Staun recoiled, his head flipping from side to side in agitation.

“Those are poisonous,” he said, his voice strained. “Very. And they get bigger. That way.” He pointed in the direction of their travel.

Filia grabbed his hand again and led him aside, as he had indicated. Still, she continued her surveillance. The undergrowth scratched and scraped them both as they went. Their shoes were still strong enough to protect their feet, but the shirt she had discarded during her flight from the raptor had been her last shred of clothing, unless you counted her utility belt. Staun still had a shirt for his back, but it had gaping holes and tears in it. It would not last long. Filia avoided looking below his belly, as best she could. The makeshift pack that carried their few goods chafed Filia’s bare skin as it rubbed against the cuts and bruises on her shoulders. One cut in particular on her hip itched badly. Both her hands were occupied, so as she walked she tried to rub it with her elbow.

“You’re going to need to clean that,” Staun said. Filia threw him a glance. His blank gaze was aimed off to one side, again, and his head was held in what she considered an unnaturally high, craned posture.

“What?” She tried to not let too much of her irritation and frustration come through in her voice.

“That cut on … on your hip. You’re going to need to wash it, in some clean water. It’s getting infected. It’s going to hurt you if you don’t.”

“In case you didn’t notice,” she said, “there are things out here that are also going to hurt us if we slow down to take a bath.” She continued tugging him along, leading him in what she hoped was a wide birth around what she thought was the area he had indicated.

“I’m just saying.”

“So you said it.”

Filia could see the land starting to slope down into a shallow ravine. Unhappily, the slope of the ravine would pull them down into the very area they were trying to avoid. She led them higher, against the grade. It was very hard to judge the angle of the sun down under the trees, but she felt she was keeping a fairly steady heading. Here and there among the trees she could see spider webs, some huge. She did not see many spiders, but she knew they were there, in wait. She tried her best to avoid the webs, and knocked down any that were unavoidable.

A thought entered Filia’s mind. “Are you able to talk to other … Whind people? With your mind?”

“Yes, I have been trained in w’hispering.”

“Oh, good,” she responded dryly, “you even have a new word for that.” Part of her hoped she didn’t sound too sarcastic, and part of her wanted her scorn to just drip from her words. “So have you tried just calling for help?”

“Yes, I am trying,” he replied evenly. She immediately felt her skin warm in a blush as he continued. “I do w’hisp a few small things, here and there, like voices from far off, but nothing definite. I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK. Keep trying. How are your burns?”

“They aren’t hurting me, except for the one by the cut on my back.”

She stopped. “Let me see it,” she said, suddenly concerned. She put her hand on his side, turning him gently. She examined the long wound in the small of his back, trying to keep her gaze from straying too low, lest she see his naked buttocks. The cut was shallow, thankfully, and was completely scabbed over. She could see that the skin it passed through was red and inflamed, though. She felt a wave of helplessness come over her; there was nothing she could do.

“How does it look?”

“Painful,” she replied,” but it’s basically covered.” She examined the cut on her own hip. It was not covered. It was not nearly as big as his cut, but she could see that it was weeping. She mentally inventoried the contents of the pack, hoping that there would be some strap or strip of cloth that she could use to bind the wound. Nothing came to mind. For at least the hundredth time she wished she had taken more time to cut off some of the balloon’s cloth before abandoning the wreck, but that was a fruitless effort, and she abandoned it.

“So how much farther until we’re past this … these things?”

He straightened and craned his neck, almost as if he were sniffing the air. After a moment he spoke. “I’m … I’m not sure. I can t’see no immediate danger, but then I didn’t t’see the wreck coming either. I don’t know.”

“Yeah, why was that?” she asked, unable to keep the irritation from coming into her voice. “If this t’sight is so great, why didn’t you see that coming?”

One Response “Part 04: Dark Choices”

  1. Claudia says:

    Yea! She got the monster! Sorry for second guessing you. I will have confidence in you both and wait for the story to resolve itself.

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