Troubles want to find me - stand-alone

Everywhere else in the South that has yet to be staked out by someone. Many creatures both familiar and strange live in the dense forests and high grasses and mountains of these untamed lands. Watch your back when you dare to explore the wilds.
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Ainokesshou
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Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 5:38 pm
Age: 39

Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:12 pm

She should have spent more time learning how to track in the wilderness. As in, more than none. She had learned quite a bit about how to find people in a city. She could eavesdrop, coax out gossip, predict which stores a person would frequent based on apparent income and social status. She could find people in Walled Hold. And she had proved that by finding the people who were out here in the wilderness tracking her sister.

But she had no skill at following people in the wilds. She was fortunate that they were not making any effort to hide their tracks. Apparently it had never occurred to them that someone might be following them. At least Siriva....if it was her....it had to be her....was trying to conceal her path, thought she must not be fantastic at it, if these men were managing anyway.

Aeriva marveled for a moment at the audacity of stealing large fancy flitt eggs. How was the other woman even keeping her new pets fed? Or had she re-sold them to buy supplies? But the men had not been able to find anyone who sold her anything, or at least who was willing to admit to it.

At the moment, the group of three men were leaving an easy trail to follow in the mud, and Aeriva was more concerned about staying hidden from them than with losing track of them. Of course, she wasn't wasting any time covering her own trail either, but surely anyone except an expert tracker would just assume that hers blended into theirs? And she probably wasn't being followed. Which was what those men in front of her thought as well.

She was soaking wet, and more tired than she had ever been in her life. Aeriva had slept outside the walls of the city for the first time the night before, and every odd noise had startled her awake, convinced the men were checking the trail behind them. At first she had climbed up and tried to sleep in a tree, looking out over the men's camp, and planning to get down before it was light enough for them to notice her, but even her own occasional movements had kept her sleeping lightly afraid that she would fall. The branch was low enough that she would avoid serious injury, but surely the noise she would make would draw attention? So she settled in some underbrush for the night, hoping it kept her well hidden.

She just needed to stay near enough the men to be able to intervene when they found their own target, as they surely would.

And somehow she needed to get enough sleep each night until then.

Was it terrible to hope that they found Siriva quickly. If they ran into her today, she might have a chance of helping the other woman fight them off. Tomorrow, it was unlikely, with the poor rest she was getting. The day after?

Obviously it would be better if Siriva somehow completely escaped the men. But that certainly couldn't happen.
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Ainokesshou
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Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:30 pm

Aeriva had actually rested pretty well the second night. It made sense. There were only two men for her to follow now, after all, and she slept easily with less worries about her targets noticing her. They had been traveling near a cliff, and the second man to go on watch was the least intelligent one.

She waited until he was relieving himself, apparently finding it humorous to watch the stream fall and fall and fall in the moonlight. She had slit his throat and shoved him off the cliff in one motion, and the only sound he made was when he hit the rocks at the bottom. Even the blood spray had gone over the cliff, and when his two companions woke up in the morning, they saw his corpse on the rocks, but couldn't spare the time to climb down and try to figure out how he died.

The leader of the remaining two was less intelligent than he should have been, shaking his head and insisting that the man probably fell over when he was on watch. The other had become nervous, talking about giant cats, and wild whers, but never about someone from Walled Hold following them closely enough to kill them. Aeriva had been nervous THEN, since they had this conversation near the tree she had climbed that night, arguing just 30 feet away about the possibility that a giant cat took out their companion.

The leader ended the discussion, pointing out that a cat would have dragged the body off to eat, not shoved it off the cliff, so the idiot must have been stupid enough to fall off on his own. Neither of them looked up once, even the one who suspected giant cats, though based on his fantastical description of these felines, she supposed that they couldn't have been able to climb trees anyway, without their weight destroying them.

She was feeling much less hopeless that day, watching the two of them, both admittedly nervous, track Siriva across the wilds. She could handle two, even though she knew that it would be harder for her to pick off the second one, since he was at least a little more suspicious of his surroundings than he would have been the night before.

These men who kidnapped her sister were going to pay before they had a chance to do it again.
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Ainokesshou
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Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:01 pm

The two remaining men were a little more cautious than their friend. Aeriva wasn't sure if they had been from the beginning, or if they were being careful because he was gone. She wasn't particularly inclined to feel guilty, though. The smarter one kept complaining that they should be back in Walled, because young children were easier to grab than adult women who were expecting to get chased. They apparently made something of a career of stealing children for the slave trade, and she was fuming. With this many victims, surely the Legion knew. They just didn't care. Or worse, they were taking bribes to ignore the kidnappings.

Serendipity had already been a big help, waking Aeriva before the two men found her hiding spot the night before. It had been a noisy enough night, that she had been unable to hear their approach, but the gold flitt had noticed, and Aeriva had moved.

The men had been talking about their suspicions about felines, or whers, and the nervous one had convinced the other of the danger. Aeriva wasn't as convinced, she was pretty sure whers had never killed and eaten humans as the one man claimed, and felines might, but they couldn't be as large as he insisted.

The two men had lost Siriva's trail today, and spent several candlemarks backtracking before they found it again. At this rate, Aeriva really hoped her sister had completely escaped, since the trail must surely be going cold. Finally, she was starting to worry about herself, especially since the two men were convinced that they needed to return to the Hold, or spend a Threadfall outside. Would they find her trail when they backtracked? When she stayed behind them to avoid detection, would she be too late getting back into the Hold herself?

Did she even want to go back to the Hold, knowing as she now did how active the illicit slave trade must be, and that the Legion must be intentionally ignoring it?

The men were on the move again, and had decided not to rest for long at night, so Aeriva assumed that they were really worried about being caught out by Thread. At least, they had finally given up on catching Siriva, as far as she could tell, and traveling at night they were less likely to notice that another person had been following them. But she would keep following them, even if she wasn't certain she could bring herself to go home. She needed to make sure she was there if they found Siriva anyway.

So she was there when they heard crashing through the undergrowth, and a large feline (though not as large as the one in the nervous man's stories) crashed into and past the two men, putting out their torches, and bleeding from several wounds. And she was there when a larger form charged after it, trampling at least one of the men in a truly horrible and definitely fatal fashion. Without the torches, she only got a hint of shape, and size, as it ran right past her, finishing off the feline before turning around, and Aeriva couldn't help but think,

Felines. And whers. The nervous one was right, even if he was also wrong.
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Ainokesshou
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Sun Oct 07, 2018 7:50 pm

She still couldn't see the color of the wher, and frankly she had never been close enough to one before to guess based on size. All she could tell about size was... large. Large relative to her and the remaining surviving slaver. Noticeably larger than the feline.

So then why had the feline been fighting it instead of running and hiding?

She heard another yowl then, from the same direction as the fighting pair had come through, and made herself smaller, clinging to the branch under her while she stared off in that direction. But human eyes weren't made for seeing in the dark, and Serendipity was still too small to be much help. Still, the feline - no, felines, two quite small and one the size of the dead one - didn't pay much attention to her, charging forward to fight the wher.

The slaver, acting fairly intelligent, took the opportunity to run from the new skirmish, leaving his partner's body behind. The felled man was not dead yet, but Aeriva was sure it was only a matter of minutes. If the felines won the fight, they would surely finish him off quickly. It might actually be the most merciful possibility. Not that she thought he deserved mercy, of course.

And she did not want the felines to win. Maybe the wher was dangerous to her, too, but she wasn't going to watch those vicious creatures take it down. And of course, it should be intelligent enough to recognize that she was trying to help.

As soon as she was sure the one slaver who had run was completely out of sight, Aeriva slid down the tree, drawing her daggers as she reached the bottom. The wher was focusing on the adult feline, and the cubs were getting their attacks through. She could see where the hide was darker with ichor, and she pulled a cub off away from the scuffle. It turned on her immediately, but she expected that, and flung it against a tree, before following the path its flying body had taken. The cub was stunned by the impact, and was slow enough to attack her that she dealt it a severe wound before she felt claws scrape sharply down her leg.

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Ainokesshou
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Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:05 am

The wher returned the favor, pulling the last cub off Aeriva's leg, and she could see the dead adult beyond him. Now she could see his hide, the metallic glint in the moonlight, and she froze, staring at the bronze wher as he stared back at her.

The cubs were no longer a threat, the slaver run off in terror and hopefully smart enough not to return. The other one was dead or dying of his wounds and she really didn't care which. Though she supposed she should check soon. The wher sniffed at her leg, and licked at the blood, before his eyes changed color, shifting into a more rainbow hue.

Aeriva felt an odd pressure in her mind, then Aesk's rumbled in her mind. Come with Aesk now, and Aeriva followed him numbly, uncertain how she was going to deal with this change. She had already decided she wasn't returning to her parents. Let them think her dead.

Summer 2048

A turn later, the woman who approached the Weyr was somewhat recognizable as the girl who had left Walled Hold. At least, she would be in the daylight. But of course they had waited to approach until well after sunset, in deference to Aesk's needs.

Aeriva's clothes were now much rougher, the result of trading materials she collected in the wilderness with the occasional settlements or caravans she encountered. She had never managed to have much luck finding word of her sister, but perhaps Siriva had survived in the wilderness just as well as she had.

Probably she had died in the first Threadfall after escaping. It was a harsh thought, but if so at least she had died free of the slavers. Aeriva would probably always give a second look to each pale blonde woman she saw for the rest of her life. But she had to look after Aesk now, even if he looked after her just as much.

She was met by guards, of course she was. And if she hadn't been, then she would have been disappointed in their security. But at her directions, Aesk was compliant, and certainly Aeriva was polite and respectful as she explained that she hoped to live here now. The turn in the wild had settled her, eased her fury about her sister, though her anger still simmered at the knowledge she was the only one who had ever cared. Maybe if someone else had helped....

She knew that she was on a kind of probation, but Aeriva wasn't worried. She and Aesk weren't here to make trouble, they were here to live somewhere that considered slavery as abhorrent as she did. Somewhere that she believed would have been willing to accept her sister if she had survived.
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