[hmofa, mHumanxfAnthro, fox, different world, violence, slow burn]
It was a silent drive through the night. A car raced along the highway, the young man coming back from visiting his friend. The young man had a couple or more drinks with his friend, something that could cost him his license. He had agreed to sleep the night but once the clock turned 2 AM he slipped out of the mattress, silently gathering his belongings and leaving the house.
And now he was on the road. A sign came up ahead.
Waterford – 4km
Tramore beach – 1km
The man studied the street sign, pain evident on his face. He exited the highway earlier than he intended. As his VW Sharan drove along the roads of the cliffside, he remained deep in thought. Suddenly he came to the end of the cliffside and killed the engine. As he exited the vehicle, he inhaled the fresh sea air and grabbed a cigarette from his pocket. Lighting it up his eyes wandered the horizon, from the distant city lights to the endlessly stretching sea and the stars above. His vision swam as memories not a week old finally caught up with him. A large fight, a house burning and being held back by many arms as he registered the stench of burnt flesh. The tears came as soon as he dropped to the ground, cigarette falling to the side. The man desperately clutched the sand beneath him as his voice cried to the above.
„God! Oh God, please, give them back!“
Silence followed. The cries queited down until he could stand the silence no longer, roaring to the heavens, his voice strained and cracking. He breathed heavily as he stood up again, entering his car while he tried to hold back his emotions. Igniting the engine, the young man steered backwards to face the cliffs better. His foot connected with the gaspedal, sending him over the cliffs. He closed his eyes as an explosion of white light surrounded him.
The first thing he noticed was the pain. Eamon groggily opened his eyes, taking in the surroundings. He was still in his car…not submerged underwater. Turning his head to the right, he could make out what seemed like trees in the dark. Trees. Waterdrops running down his window.
"I guess it worked.." he murmured.
A dark chuckle escaped his lips, causing him to wince. „Fuck. I guess you can still feel pain in the afterlife. But where the fuck am I?“
He noticed the car was still running and turned on the headlights. They illuminated trees, off trodden paths and thick brushes. What startled him was yellow eyes staring at him belonging to two figures, vaguely humanoid, vanishing into the forest. „What the fuck!“ he screamed, scrabmbling back into his seat. His ears strained to hear something besides the engines, there was nothing. Slowly calming his breath, Eamon tried to gather his thoughts.
'I am dead, right? Fuck, I have to be! But this isnt like Heaven or whatever fucking bullcrap. This feels like Earth, and then what? I know I crushed into the sea! Where did I land up! Fuck! Keep your wits, E.'
He reached to his pockets and fished out a cigarette with shaking hands, hoping that it would calm him somewhat. As he lit it up, Eamon watched into the forest again. No signs of the creatures, to his relief.
„Okay, okay. I gotta keep my head. No clue where I am.. I have to stay in the car. Drive until im out,“ he muttered. Stepping onto the gaspedal, Eamon followed the large roadway through the woods.
The drive was surreal. Eamon could not form coherent thoughts. Outside of his car alien flowers bloomed, and the trees themselves were completely unfamiliar to him. He simply stared dumbfounded, driving his car along the makeshift road in a mix of awe and numbness. His heart nearly stopped after passing through another clearing.
Headlights illuminated beings that his brain had trouble accepting. They looked at him in equal shook. To him it seemed like he had stumbled upon a scene he was not supposed to see. Infront of him were wolves...or humans looking like wolves. One stood upon a motionless creature that reminded him of a mix between a monkey and chipmunk. Only larger, and an open stomach, blood covering its fur… and clothes? His eyes shifted, spotting two other wolves standing above another of the species, holding some sort of clothing in their hands that was partially torn. Looking at the creature below that looked as if it had tried to desperately get away comfirmed who it belonged to. Casting his eyes upward revealed more eyes in the darkness, humanoid chipmunks sitting in the trees.
His eyes turned forward again, landing on the wolf infront of him. Seconds passed as intruder and everyone else held their breath. Eamon could feel his heartbeat rising, sweat forming on his forehead.
„This cannot be real,“ he finally laughed hysterically.
The wolf howled, his pack advancing on the new prey.
He jumped back into his seat as the first wolfman reached his car, nails screeching along the window. Eamon panicked. He looked around, desperately trying to find something, anything, to defend himself. His sudden movement shot him back into the seat.
'The fucking seatbelt. Fuck, keep it together!'
As he fumbled with the seatbelt, another wolf reached his car. It tried to punch it and howled in pain as paws not meant for a fistfight met metal. Finally out of the restrictive seatbelt, Eamon tried to think of any good way to handle this. Multiple wolves were now around his car, screaming at him in a weird language, the very sound of it inhuman and unnerving.
The absurdity of it all filled him with fear and anger. His hands reached for his carkey.
"Fuck you, you fucking monsters!"
Foot slamming down on the gaspedal, the car surged forward and trapped two of the wolves beneath the wheels. The sickening sounds of flesh ripping and bones breaking nearly caused Eamon to vomit. His vision was blurry because of the adrenaline and when he saw the tree it was too late. The car crashed into it, jolting his body forward. "Ugh, fuck!" he screamed. Eamon tried to ignore the pain and turned the carkey. No reaction. He groaned as he opened the cardoor and stumbled outside to the ground. The stupidity of it catched up with him not a second later. Now he was outside. His vision swam and his thoughtd were unfocused. The rearlights did not illuminate as good as thr headlights but it was sufficient. A couple meters back lay two of the wolves, their bodies disjointed.
'The car coming to life must have scared a lot of them. And the dead bodies.' Eamon thought half-consciously.
He kept an eye on the remaining three as he slowly moved to the back of his car.
'The crowbar. The fucking crowbar should still be in there.'
Eyes peeled on the remaining wolves, Eamon pressed the button on the trunk. The hood opened and his fingers searched blindly before getting a good grasp around a familiar metal object.
Taking a deep breath, Eamon looked at them. They seemed a lot more careful after the car action, trying to circle him. Eamon was not able to keep them all in vision and snapped.
"Listen up you furry fucks, I did not try to kill myself just so I could be eaten by fucking Star Fox design rejects!"
Growls answered him. The first wolf ran, launching himself at him. Caught completely offguard, they both crashed into the ground. Eamon gasped as his upper body registered the pain. The wolf opened his hideous mouth, the humanoid face around it sending chills down his spine and kicking his already overworked body into overdrive. With flight-or-fight instincts kicking in, Eamon jerked his head forward and delivering the maneater a nasty headbutt. The wolf recoiled in pain and held his bleeding muzzle, giving Eamon the few seconds needed to get back up. Another wolf moved towards him in the vision of his eye and this time Eamon reacted in time. Swinging the crowbar as if he was Joey Votto, the crooked end connected perfectly with the creature's chest. Eamon felt the bones breaking through his grip on the crowbar. The wolf slumped to the ground, right next to the other.
He was sweating and his back hurt strongly from the earlier tussle. Eamon was close to passing out, he could feel it. But adrenaline kept him going, sending him into autopilot.
"You wanna eat me, you fuckers? Well, watch this!"
He slammed the crowbar down onto the wolfs head. His ears heard the nauseating sound but his eyes were fixated upon the remaining wolves. Eamon was no expert on humanoid wolfes and their facial expressions, but if he guessed right what he saw now was not bloodlust but anxiety. The crowbar slammed down once more, the other wolf sending a last yip before going silent.
Shaking fingers gripping the crowbar, Eamon took one step towards the last three wolves. They retreated just the same.
"Fuck outta here!" Eamon screamed.
The wolves turned tail, running into the bushes. One stumbled and shot an alarmed look around his shoulder. A second later he was gone too.
Silence finally filled the clearing, the sound of his rapidly beating heart the only thing Eamon could hear.
Slumping against the side of his car all he could think of was nothing. Now that his body was calming down ge felt himself unable to move a single muscle. The crowbar slipped from his fingers as he tried to stand up.
"Fuck - cant pass out here!" he hissed, trying to get back up. Standing on shaking legs, he turned around and examined his car. It had certainly seen better days. He groaned when he noticed the state of the passengers door. It was trashed.
"No use sleeping in this car...just perfect," Eamon murmured. He walked back to the trunk. The backpack was still there, containing some extra clothes he had intended for the next morning after sleeping over at his friends house. Slinging it over his shoulder, Eamon also sighed in relief when he noticed the emergency flashlight next to the emergency vest. Giving it a testclick, Eamon hummed in appreciation as its light came to life. Grabbing up the crowbar with his free hand, Eamon turned and faced the forest.
Dark and foreboding, it gave off nothing besides the sounds of leaves whistling. But he knew he was the one living being completely unwelcome here.
Trying to ignore the strong urge to just rest, Eamon disappeared into the forest.
"We have to move quicker, Dama is bleeding pretty badly!" Soomin shouted, carrying the body of his brother while they hurried through the trees.
Kalani fought against the urge to look at her father's body. All she wanted to do was to reach the makeshift village. Waking up and know that her mum was there, Dad who would make some bad jokes while her younger sister laughed.
Tears started forming in her eyes and she shook her head, focusing on the road ahead instead.
They carried on silently but it became clear that they would not reach their destination before sunrise.
Setting Dama gently next to the tree, Soomin tapped Tani's shoulders.
"Sis, I know it is hard. But I need your help..looking at his wounds."
Kalani watched her mother cry silently before nodding. She couldnt remember if her mother had said a single thing since the ambush. Her eyes wandered to her father.
'They ripped into his stomach-'
Her breath quickened and tears formed in her eyes. Looking away, Kalani saw her sister, fright evident on her face.
"Is Daddy going to be okay, Kali?"
Wrapping her arms around her, Kalani whispered "Yes. Dad will be fine."
She closed her eyes, falling into sleep. Nightmares wrecked her mind.
Burning treetops. People tearing at her clothes. Her body shifted around violently until she felt familiar arms wrap around her, the strained voice of her mother soothing her back into sleep.
The rays of sunlight woke Kalani. She groaned as she moved her body upwards. She was not used to sleeping bare forest ground, even after everything happened. Her movement caused Manita to cling even more to her body. Looking around she saw her mother and uncle packing up their meager belongings. She relaxed back onto the ground, trying to organize her thoughts as she noticed her uncle Soomin speak.
"...Lost a lot of blood. I did my best but we will need to move soon. Sanctuary is our only hope. If not for that...creature turning up with that weird vehicle, well. Let us consider us lucky."
Her eyes met her father's body. The torso was wrapped in the scraps of Soomin's clothingy but they were stained red. Kalani's eyes filled with tears and her chest tightened.
She tried to ignore the memory but her brain did not care.
The burning treetown. The botched evacuation. The ambush in the woods. Her father getting struck down. The male Dagin catching and disrobing her. The loud sound of splashing water, accompanied by white light blinding her sights. The object illuminating the forest. The Dagin rushing at it, unable to do a thing. Thunder in her ears as it moved forward, crushing two of the barbarians.
The strange creature stepping out. The unfamiliar language. The fight that started.
Kalani and her family took that chance and escaped, but she risked a last glance. The creature had a weapon in hand and a Dagin lay dead next to him. Then it screamed, a sound of rage mixed with fear.
'He. It was a man.' she realized.
That was the last thing she saw.
Soomin broke her out of her daydream.
"Kali, we need to go."
She got up, waking her sister. Shooting one last glance at her father, she said "Come on sis, we need to go."
The trek towards their destination was an uneventful one. Kalani was left to her own thoughts, everyone and even her sister being silent. The smell of her father's blood or the unreadable expression on her mother's face brought Kalani to the edge. She needed to talk and walked up to Soomin.
"Hey uncle...uhm. What do you think that thing was?"
Her uncle shot her a look as he huffed, carrying the legs of her father while her mother carried the front.
"I don't know. Just glad it showed up when it did. Don't wanna imagine-" he replied, quickly catching himself.
"Do you think...Dad is going to make it?"
Her uncle shot her an alarmed look.
"Of course he will. My brother is stronger than he looks. Dont worry, we will reach the village."
They carried on in silence.
The silence was killing Kalani inside but there was nothing she could say. It seemed as if everyone was in shock, only intent on reaching a safe haven. Her eyes darted back to her mum. The same pained expression painted her face, only staring forward.
Her eyes trailed downward, nearly meeting her father's face before shooting up again.
It took her everything to simply cling to her sister's hand and not cry.
Finally the sanctuary was in sight. It was a village situated on the ground, long abandoned by its previous inhabitants but now used by her people. Guards spotted them and shouted orders. The gates opened and healers accompanied by healers rushed forward.
"Quickly, get him inside!" one of them shouted. Kalina followed them alongside her family. They arrived infront of a house.
"From here you on you cannot follow. But, we will do our best to heal him."
Her mother slumped to the ground, her body shaking as she cried.
"Thank you..thank you.."
Kalani felt herself pulled into a hug alongside her sister. They exchanged no words but the feeling of finally feeling her mother again lifted a weight of her shoulders.
They stayed like that for a while.
"Im so sorry girls... I should have comforted you more.." Tani sobbed.
Kalani felt tears forming in her eyes.
"Mum, you and Uncle Soo d-did what you had to to keep us alive." she whispered between sobs. "And I know you still took care of us while we were asleep..."
Soomin wrapped his arms around them too.
Kalina's tears of relief turned to tears of joy.
Finally safety. Mum alive. Manita alive. Uncle alive. And her dad would survive, she was sure!
"Guards to the gate!"
A simple sentence echoing throughout the surroundings brought Kalani out of her bliss.
People were moving around her. They broke out of their hug and her mother turned to a guard.
"Whats going on? Did they find us?"
He stopped for a second as more people rushed towards the entrance.
"No, no Dagin or else it would have been an an alarm."
She was not sure what compelled her in that moment.
Simple curiousity? She heard her mother calling for her, still clutching her sister. Following the crowd she heard her uncle curse and rush after her.
They arrived at the gate just in time for it open.
Two guards carried a body inside.
A gasp ran througg the crowd as they stared at the the large creature being dragged inside.
But Kalani did not hear them.
All she heard was her heartbeat as she saw them bring in the stranger from the woods.
The world is dark and gray as you move through a decaying forest, snow gently falling from the sky. Faint voices echo around you, too low to make out.
He woke up with a gasp. An unfamiliar ceiling greeted Eamon as his eyes adjusted to the sunlight. He hissed through his teeth as his body registered the pain. Slowly moving his head around he noticed he was on a bed inside a wooden hut of some sorts, straps on his arms and legs limiting his mobility.
"How did I end up here?" he wondered tiredly.
The last thing he can remember is...yeah, boosting his car over the cliffs.
Again he tried in vain to move his legs. Resigning himself to fate, he tried his hardest to remember what could have led him here.
And with that, it all came back in a flash. Appearing in a wood all of a sudden, driving through it while feeling the eerie atmosphere, coming upon these weird humanoid creatures, the subsequent fight, the ungodly sound of flesh tearing and skull cracking as he drove his crowbar through the forehead of one of those wolves, the flight through the woods and then...nothing.
His heart was hammering in his chest as he wildly tried to get out of his restraints.
"Oh god, they have caught me! I have to get outta here!" he gasped, fear coursing like ice through his body.
The sound of a door creaking alerted him and his head snapped upward. A couple of those other creatures entered the hut, the ones he had seen in a fight with those wolves. Two of them came forward, spears raised and leveled at his chest. Eamon's eyes went wide as saucers as his brain saw them with more clarity and in full daylight. His brain tried to deny what he was seeing, last vain attempt to keep his wit intact, but his eyes fed it the visual information nonetheless. They stood at maybe five feet or a bit shorter and were clad in leather armor. Their features bore some semblance between either foxes, or squirrels. He wasnt sure which. They had muzzles, which were far shorter than either animal he knew but they were noticable. The fur they wore was either red or brown, and their eyes
were brown or golden with one vertical black iris which reminded him somewhat of cats. Thick fluffy tails flicked about nervously as they approached him. One went up to his bed while the other creature kept a slightly shaking spearhead aimed at his chest.
"Who are you people and why did you capture me? What do you want of me?!" Eamon yelled shakily, fear and anger and exhaustion apparent in his voice. The one with the spear yipped and nearly stumbled backwards while the other halted near his bed, frozen in place.
It broke out of its stupor and unloosened the strap on his right arm and leg, quickly walking towards the other side of his bed and repeating the process. Eamon blinked and cracked his knuckles and made to sit up, his legs cranky from immobility. Now sitting up he noticed that these creatures had digigrade legs.
"Well...thanks for that," he mumbled and stood up.
The eyes of the two widened as he stood at full height, towering over them. Eamon looked down at them, his heartbeat calming now that he didnt feared for his life.
"What now?" he asked the one next to him.
It blinked again and then said something in an unknown language, pointing its spear at the door. Eamon cautiously nodded back and walked towards it, turning the handle with his right hand.
What he saw once he was outside of the hut caught his breath.
Around him were huts of all sizes, and more of these creatures wearing cotton clothes walked among paved streets. Some of the foxes near him stood still upon seeing him, whispering among each other. The guard behind him nudged his back, and the other started walking infront of him.
They strode forward, guards and unwilling guest, while Eamon tried to struggle with his emotions. He felt like he was experiencing a fever dream as his head turned to and fro. "Where are you taking me," he whispered lowly. If the guards heard him they did not show.
A small time passed as they walked and Eamon realized that they had be inside a large village, or town even. Judging by the amount of houses he had seen there had to be a population of easily more than a few tousand in it.
They finally arrived infront of a large structure made of stone, one of the few he had seen so far. More leather clad guards guarded the entrance and eyed him wearily, ears flicking as they approached the large door. The guard infront of him said something to them and they opened the door.
Inside candles lit the interior and a fire cracked in the back, offering slight protection from the elements. A congregration of these foxes sat at a large table, their sing song voices growing silent as Eamon approached, guards in tow.
Eamon tried in vain to calm himself, hands repeatedly forming fists as they approached the entrance.
One of his guards strode forward and bowed before addressing them. Sentences flowed back and forward until one of them stood up and walked towards Eamon. Its arms were linked behind its back and he noticed that this one was likely female, his gaze noticing the features of the other sex. It circled around him and he tried to keep it, or rather her, in his peripheral vision.
"Ka bo seera mei?" she seemed to ask once she stood infront of him. Eamon shook his head in confusion and replied "I'm sorry, I cant understand you.."
Upon hearing his voice the other fell silent again before adressing the guards once more. While they talked Eamon tried to collect his thoughts.
'So...this is real and its happening. Im god knows where and I'm talking with foxpeople who caught me.' he thought bitterly.
He heard the door opening behind him, and saw a couple of more foxes entering. The three walked forward and ended up sideways from him.
It took Eamon a second but then he realized that they seemed familiar.
"Hey, I think I remember you guys! Arent you the ones that I saw in the woods?" he asked.
All eyes on him Eamon gulped and fell silent again. The larger one turned his glance from him to the fox that had circled him earlier and then pointed at him, speaking in that strange language again. While they conversed Eamon took in the three foxes. They were indeed the ones he saw during the night, his carlights illuminating the scene locked deep inside his mind. The smallest one, a female he guessed, had her eyes locked on him.
She wore a simple dress that flowed down her body to the knees. Her fur was red and she had her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. Eamon guessed she barely reached his chest. His eyes met her golden ones.
Eamon realized that he had been staring at her. He quickly turned away and looked forward again.
It seemed that these, he guessed, leaders, had come upon a conclusion and adressed his guards again. They nodded and one turned to him, pointing at the door. Eamon turned to the leaders and asked "Wait, what will happen to me? Cant you let me go?"
The leader adressed him in her language and eyed him up while stroking her chin. It spoke softly to him before turning back and he was forced to leave with the guards.
They walked back through the streets and soon arrived at his hut. One of the guards followed Eamon inside while the other left them.
Walking towards his bed Eamon sat upon the matress.
"Uh, you will not tie me up again, right?" he warily asked the guard while pointing at the straps.
The guard seemed to understand him and shook his head before exiting. He didnt hear further footsteps, so Eamon guessed that he was guarding the entrance. 'Probably to prevent me from leaving.' Eamon mused.
The door opened a while later and the other guard came inside, in his hands a steaming bowl. He placed it upon a drawer and pointed at Eamon then at the bowl.
Eamon blinked in surprise before realizing what he wanted from him.
"For me? Wow, uh, thanks," he said, taken aback. He stood up and grabbed the bowl, bowing slightly.
The guard nodded in response before leaving. Eamon took a sip from what he assumed to be soup. Warmth flooded his body as he quickly gulped it down. Laying back down on the bed, Eamon allowed his thoughts to freely wander but one question always eclipsed the others.
'What will happen now?'
„So, what do we make of this… creature?” Rashan asked once the guards had left with the ‘guest’. A soft voice replied from the table, belonging to the oldest among them. Maranee was the religious Aspect of the Tribunal and Rashan valued his opinions wise and reflective…most of the time.
“I believe it is no mere creature. You heard aswell as I did, it spoke an unknown language so with time we could learn its origins and intents,” Maranee replied, “But so far I can feel no malice from him, and if he came with wrath, I would have been warned by the gods just like we were when the Dagin came from the East.”
“Besides, he did save our people when he appeared,” Kalim, Captain of the Guard replied.
Rashan nodded slowly before turning to the young family again. “I am most sorry for taking you from your wounded family member, but you could please tell us the event again? Just incase we overlooked something.”
Tani, the young mother, shook her head fervently.
“Please, do not worry. Without your help, my husband would have not made it. All the help we can give we will.”
The male beside her took up. “Indeed. Well, we were on our way to the sanctuary, fleeing the spreading Dagin like everyone else… A lone band of them caught us during nightfall. Bandits, not part of their army I think. My brother and I tried to fight them off, but they were too many. He was wounded during the fight and just before we were about to be overwhelmed, the stranger appeared. First I thought it a beast. I saw only this large vehicle, an elongated carriage made of materials I had never seen and without a beast to carry it, like those Dagin use. It illuminated the clearing we were in with lights pointing ahead of it and its rear. The devils approached it and one was dumb enough to strike hit with its paw. Whatever it is made off must be hard material as it caused him immense pain. All of a sudden the carriage roared and drove ahead, trapping a Dagin beneath it..”
Soomin stopped when he remembered the grisly scene before continuing.
“Well, it crashed into a tree and all of us were too stunned, even those damned bastards. I was more shocked when I saw part of it opening and then that stranger stepped outside. It was like I was in a dream. It moved towards the back and all of a sudden another part opened, and he reached inside, grabbing that strange weapon.”
Kalim grabbed the metal trinket from the table. He had never seen anything like it.
“This one, right?” he asked. The young man nodded.
“Hm, I do not think it’s a weapon. It has no handle, and it is crooked at the end, intentionally desgined that way I gather. I think it is a tool, and a perfectly one designed aswell.” Kalim mused before placing it back onto the table with the rest of the items the strange man person had carried when they found him. “Continue, please” he added.
“Right, of course. Well, his expression changed suddenly, he seemed overcome by rage and roared in that strange language at the Dagin. One charged him and brought him low but was knocked out by the stranger with a strike of his forehead against the muzzle. He stood up and used that we- tool to strike at the other attacking Dagin, hitting his chest with one end and knocking that one out aswell. It happened so fast I barely had time to see it happen. He then challenged the Dagin, I think, and used that tool to…end the lives of the two Dagin bandits. The others turned tail and that’s when we decided to leave aswell. That is all I saw.”
A silence fell upon the room. Rashan cleared her throat.
“Thank you for telling us. You may leave us now and go back to your loved ones. Maren,” she said while raising her left paw, keeping it infront of her chest. The three repeated the gesture and left. The youngest young paused in her steps, coming back with quick steps.
“Uhm… may I speak?”
Rashan nodded amused. The young womand breathed deeply in return.
“I..I. I don’t think he means us bad, Tribunal. He, he seemed lost when he appeared, and frightened. Angry later, but only at the Dagin. He saved our lives..” she ended with a whisper.
“Hah! Well spoken, we already were to take into consideration of course, young lady,” Kalim laughed, “Now go, follow your family.”
Kalani bowed deeply before hurrying after her family. Rashan looked at her before turning to her fellow leaders.
“Her words ring true. This…person, his eyes reveal a lot and his face is expressive. He seemed lost,” Maranee mused while stroking his chin. “I vote we keep him with us for now, if not as gratefulness for saving our own, atleast then to sate my curiosity. We could learn his language in time…or he might be receptive to the Gift.”
Rashan urgently shook our head. “Impossible. It would not go well either with the citizenry. We will need to address them later, but they will not take kindly to an outsider-“
“Bah,” Kalim scoffed, “Who cares. Im wary as well of that creature, because of his size and what Soomin told me, but he did save our lives. Had the Dagin managed to torture them and get information about this place, it would have troubled us greatly. Besides, it would alleviate some of my fears if I could talk to him,” he said.
“Him?” Maranee asked.
“He seems to be a male. Broad shoulders, deep voice. Hah, deeper than my own, I gather. If he were a she, I’d be morbidly afraid of their actual males.”
Maranee nodded slowly. “True enough, I guess. We can tell them what he did for us, that should tell enough to at least acknowledge him.”
Rashan sighed and returned to the table. “I agree. We will send out a search party to locate this metal …carriage of his. And I acknowledge the benefits of giving him the gifts, I am most curious to hear his tales. But, it is up to you Maranee, you decide."
The old man nodded sagely.
Kalmin cleared his throat. "We also have to talk about the Dagin threat. The fact that they managed to ambush one of our own so close to the sanctuary is an ill omen, even if they were only bandits. If their main forces finds us, we have no place left to flee to."
Rashan sighed and nodded.
"..Yes, true. Let's settle the matter of the stranger and move on. Are we agreed in letting him stay?”
“Agreed,” two voices spoke in unison.
The guard left him alone as soon as he entered the hut. With nothing else to do, Eamon lied down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. He pondered his course of action for the future. If he was to be a prisoner for the foreseeable future he would have no other option besides accepting that. He knew nothing about this world and he had a better chance of survival in here than out there. Sooner or later he would have to learn their language. That was his biggest worry. Could they make do till then with sign language?
He was interrupted in his thoughts by a knock on the door.
“Yes?” he said loudly.
A female fox stepped inside, and he recognized her as the same girl he had seen earlier, one of the few he had seen first on this weird world. She looked around nervously before stepping forward, in her hand a plate with what seemed to grilled meat and bread.
‘I just ate earlier, do they think I need to eat so much because Im bigger than them?’ he mused to himself. He motioned for both of them to sit on the ground. She seemed hesitant at first, then relented and sat herself down on her knees.
“Thanks, but I am still a bit full. Do you want to share?” Eamon said, pointing at the plate then himself and her. She understood a second later, then nodded with a shy smile. He used a large knife to cut the meat in two and they silently ate for a while before Eamon decided to try a bit of conversation.
“What is your name?” he asked. She looked up, a startled expression on her face.
“Yeah, you” he laughed.
He pointed at himself and said “I’m Eamon," pointing the finger at himself, "and you?” turning the finger at her. She clapped her fingers together with a smile, then pointed at herself. “Kalani,” she said. Her catlike eyes stared intensly at him.
He nodded with a grin. “Kalani. That’s a nice name.”
“Eamon,” she said, pointing at him with a small smile. He smiled and nodded back at her and they ate the rest in silence. She picked up the plate and stood up. She raised one arm and held her hand infront of her chest.
“Maren, Eamon.” She said before opening the door and leaving. Eamon sat back down on the bed and smiled despite the situation he was in.
If he could make friends like this without understanding of their language, the future might not be so bad.
The town was a bustle of activity as its inhabitants congregated near the center.
Kalani followed her mother and uncle, still lost in thoughts about the man called Eamon.
"Are you okay, dear?" her mother asked, snapping her out of her thoughts.
"Huh? Oh yes, I was just thinking about-"
"The stranger, right? You and half of the village, though I guess by the look on your face its not out of fear," her uncle grinned.
She was thankful for her fur because she felt her cheeks flush slightly.
"His name is Eamon, and he is-"
Before she could speak further their leaders strode into the midst of the people.
"Dear citizens, the last few months have been demanding of us all. The Dagin managed to claim our cities, many of our people as slaves and destroyed our capital. We do not know how many of our kin are still lost. In the coming weeks we will send out search parties into the surrounding woods, both to scout for possible enemies and to secure any stragglers. Our walls here are thick and the entrance is hidden, so we deem the sanctuary safe for the foreseeable future.
Which brings us to our next issue. The stranger."
Rashan stopped and cleared her throat.
"A few days ago a few of our own were attacked by Dagin raiders. Before they could be killed or taken however, the stranger appeared out of nowhere in a strange carriage, and killed a few of the raiders before they could. We spoke with him, and though he does not our language, seems to mean us no harm. In light of his actions, and the fact that we cannot understand another, the Tribunal has decided to give him the Gift."
Shocked murmurs ran through the crowd. Kalani felt her eyes widen.
"Not a light decision, but necessary for communication. Maranee will take him to the grove before nightfall and in the morning we will talk more with him to come to a finale conclusion about his fate. This is all. Maren."
The rest of the day passed quickly for Eamon and the only interesting happened a few hours ago. He had heard a commotion outside, coming from the direction of the town center. It died down a few minutes ago. He was startled by a knock on the door, a familiar face of one of the guards coming in.
“Er, hi?” Eamon asked, confused. The guard motioned for him to follow. With a shrug Eamon stepped outside after him. Just like earlier he was greeted by curious gazes, which he returned. It was so surreal. Eamon briefly wondered if he had actually died, granting him his wish. Pushing that grim thought aside, he shook his head slightly before hurrying after the guard. Instead of turning right and into the direction of the large house, the guard kept walking straight ahead, towards the large hill he had seen earlier.
“Where are we going?” he asked. The guard said something in reply but kept walking ahead.
Soon they arrived at a large stone entrance. The guard opened it and started walking down a path that led underground. Eamon followed him, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. They came into a round room, the scent of herbs filling the room. Eamon noticed one of the leaders he had spoken to sitting on the ground, his legs crossed and his back slightly hunched. He had a cane in one hand and tapped the ground infront of him. Taking the hint Eamon lowered himself onto the ground, crossing his legs similiarly to the fox infront of him. He noticed the elder fox had a bowl infront of him, and what appeared to be a cup. Grabbing the cup in one hand the fox dipped it into the bowl, filling it and then handing it to Eamon.
Raising one eyebrow, Eamon carefully grabbed it and brought it to his nose and sniffed it.
It smelled weird, he had never smelled anything like it.
“You want me to drink this?” he asked. The fox nodded with the barest hint of a smile.
He considered if the drink was poisonous, but ignored that voice of caution. If they wanted him dead, they could have done so much, much earlier. Taking a deep breath, he brought cup to his lips and gulped it down in one go. He immediately coughed, the drink leaving a very bitter after taste in his throat.
“F-fuck, that tastes terrible!” he rasped.
“Terrible indeed, yes” a voice replied.
Eamon looked around in shock, then noticed to his shock the fox being the source.
“How?...” he asked.
“Through the Gift. That is what I gave you. It has many advantages, though I am surprised to see you take to it so well.”
“What, that drink allows me to speak with you?” Eamon asked, question after question popping up in his head. He was completely sidelined. All day he had thought about how this shaky relationship with the foxes could be maintained and he knew that learning the language was a must. It was also the one requirement that would prove hardest to overcome.
“That was no mere ‘drink’. It is a refined technique, a gift given to our ancestors by the Gods. It allows us the ability to understand eachothers minds, and though we hardly understand the process behind it, we can easily learn languages of others. I am pleased it works the same for you. You should consider yourself honoured, never before did we give it to one outside our kin.” The elderly fox said.
“Well, you have my thanks. My name is-"
“Eamon. The young Kalani has already told us you were able to exchange your names.” Eamon scratched his neck and the fox grinned back at him. “My name is Maranee, the religious Aspect of our leadership. But I fear I must cut our time short, even though you have questions, and my kin here probably twice as many. You will need rest, the Gift is demanding of the body, even more so of mind. The next week can be hard for you.” Eamon laughed at that.
“I dont sleep much anyways, Maranee.”
“The Gift ‘is' taxing. Do not underestimate it,” the old fox said. The human nodded in response and they both headed to the exit.
“Thank you again, means a great deal to me that you trust me this much despite barely knowing anything about me. I'll try not to dissappoint,” Eamon said. Its been a while that someone trusted him so much right from the start.
“You have got it wrong. You earned that trust with your actions.”
As Eamon bid the sage farewell and followed the guard back he could not the last sentence out of his head.
‘Earned that trust, huh? I fought those wolves to save myself, not them..’
It took him a while until he realized the guard was talking to him. He forced a smile.
“Sorry, was in thoughts. Whats up?”
The guard stared at him in confusion. “What? Is that a trickster question? Obviously the sky.”
Eamon's smile turned to a genuine one and he laughed.
“Ah, no. Its just a way of asking another person what they want.”
“Oh. Well, you were not responding. Anyway, we are at your lodgings. Have a good night, you will need it.”
“Thanks- wait, what?”
“You are not under watch anymore, big stranger. Which means I can return to my regular duties,” the guard smirked.
“Sorry for keeping you from them. My name is Eamon, by the way.”
“Not your fault, big stranger. My name is Vakod, have a good night.”
The guard turned around and disappeared into the street. Eamon shook his head in response and went inside.
‘What a day,’ he thought as he got out of his clothes and laid down upon his bed, ‘I.. try to... and end up here. This cant be real. I will go along with it, sure, but it just cant be real. Gotta be a hallucination I am having, I an probably still in the process of drowning right now.’
The sun was still up, barely, but exhaustion crept through Eamon's body. He tred to force it away, to continue thinking, he had to or he would go insane, but sleep claimed him not five minutes later.