Zenith Part 3.5: Then Clap Your Hands

Oct 1st, 2012
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  1. Part 3½: Then Clap Your Hands
  3. An absolutely filthy, blue haired, orange coated, and if she wasn’t mistaken, -talking- unicorn was quite possibly the last thing Astrid would have expected when she opened the door to that storming night, yet here it was, lying in a dripping heap across her door frame.
  5. She hadn’t really expected something that would actually warrant the use of the hunting rifle, now hanging limply from her hand, but one too many spooky stories of psycho murderers in the mountains had made her a bit paranoid. I mean, honestly, a young woman, alone in a mountain cabin, on a dark and stormy night, she hears a knock on her door, and what? Thinks it’s the pizza delivery guy?
  7. It may not have been a murderer, but now she had to wonder if she was the one going psycho. It’s still lying there face down, wet hair dripping on the wooden floor, just as orange, and blue, and unicorn...y as ever.
  9. *nudge*
  11. *nudge* *nudge*
  13. A couple prods from the boot confirm that it is indeed solid, and quite unconscious. It’s poor head rolls pathetically to the side, revealing a collar secured around its neck. Not yet far enough inside to completely escape the rain, rivulets of water run from it’s coat, and the harsh wind alone makes Astrid shiver.
  15. “Okay, seriously, what the hell?”
  17. Astrid’s head pokes out of the door, looking left, then right. Seeing nothing besides thick storm clouds rolling low over the high mountain pass she looks down at the pitifully dripping form at her feet once again. This has to be the weirdest animal rescue she’d ever heard of, but (possibly imaginary) mythological creature or not, she couldn’t just leave it there. It didn’t look dangerous, and if it was then, well... she just hoped it wasn’t dangerous, hefting the weight of the rifle back onto its wall rack near the door.
  19. “Can’t even take a vacation without an animal needing rescuing. Though admittedly this is much more ‘hands-on’ than most... Omph, you’re heavy!”
  21. Scooping the sopping wet creature up into her arms was tricky; it was heavier than it looked, and as anyone who handles sleeping children can attest, about as unwieldy as a misshapen back of rocks, if presumably more delicate. It seems about the size of a big dog, like a great dane or irish wolfhound, but built a bit more softly.
  23. The presence of the blue collar was also puzzling, as in Astrid’s experience collars had always implied human interaction of some sort, a color-matched one doubly so.
  25. She wound up half-carrying half-dragging it across the floor to the thick rug in front of the wood-burning stove, its limp posture and wet fur making her grip difficult. The collar proved useful in this regard, though she had to take care not to add asphyxiation to the creatures assumably lengthy list of woes for today.
  27. Its coat feels smooth where it isn’t splattered with mud, and the muscles beneath certainly aren’t chiseled, but they are firm; built for using. Hopefully the warm fire would help dry the poor thing off, because even with the fur, it is -freezing-! She sure hoped it doesn’t have hypothermia after being out in a storm like that. Putting a hand to the long neck she felt for a pulse, hoping its biology was similar enough. After some prodding she got one, a bit faint, but not too bad, considering.
  29. With the door finally able to be shut some amount warmth starts to return to the small room, and she fetches a few towels from a closet, both to dry off her guest, the muddy water all over the floor, and herself. A few pieces of cloth tossed over the puddles later and Astrid is crouching back over the — and she still couldn’t quite believe it to be real — unicorn. She takes a dry towel and sets about rubbing down it’s back and sides.
  31. What are these odd marks under all this mud on its flanks? Mountains? Is it a stencil, or tattoo, or... what? Nevermind; worry about the weirdness of the tiny colorful unicorn later, like when it doesn’t need medical care. It isn’t even shivering, and that’s a bad sign when you’re this cold. Assuming it’s warm blooded. And has a shiver response to cold. And any number of other things that she could name. Assumptions for the moment, however, would have to do.
  33. Getting the core warm was the most important, she remembered (glad all those -advanced- university classes were coming in handy), so onto the chest. Oh, um, well, guess that makes ‘it’ a ‘he’ then, doesn’t it? She respected his privacy as much as she could while she continued drying his legs, tail, and mane, the latter two proving difficult thanks to the myriad of plant debris tangled into them. Not that she was particularly squeamish with the idea of treating animals in their... ‘entirety’, but his whole existence was uncertain territory for sure, and since it- er, he, had seemed sentient she figured it was best to play it safe. What if he woke up to her drying him, he might think she was... Nope, nope, not gonna think about it! Blushing slightly, she worked her way up his neck, stopping to inspect the collar in greater detail for a moment.
  35. It was strong looking, a rich cobalt blue, and the only thing on him that didn’t need drying. A hydrophobic coating perhaps? The flexible material had a steely sheen to it that gave it a pretty shimmering appearance at the slight angles where it hugged the sides of his neck — not entirely unlike a fish’s scales or an insect's carapace, she noted. It hung fairly snugly, and looked loose enough to be comfortable, but not much more. As she turned it over in her hands she noticed two rather unusual aspects to add to the bundle of mysteries currently passed out on her rug.
  37. First was a silvered pattern in the tight filament weave — most visible head-on — a narrow stripe ran along the top and bottom edges, and between them letters almost as tall as room would allow.
  39. “Z-ē-n-i-t-h... ‘Zēnith’? That’ll be your name then, I assume.” She turned it all the way round, and that’s all there was, but in doing so she discovered the second oddity: that’s -all- there was.
  41. “There’s no clasp... Who makes a collar with no clasp? How’d you even get this thing on?”
  43. A low moan from her patient reminded Astrid of her task at hand, and she about drying the rest of him with one hand while she continued to inspect the collar with the other.
  45. It was a uniform band of the oddly slick metallic weave about 5mm thick. No tags, no markings aside from the silvery pattern, and she could feel no disruptions along on the inside surface. Trying to stretch it wider proved fruitless as it had no give whatsoever — though it did flex easily enough — and with a huff she gave up, relinquishing the mystery to be worked on later.
  47. Her attention fell to the next tantalizing item on the list: his horn. So weird...
  49. It was about sixteen cm long, the same orange as his coat, with a gentle corkscrewing groove running up its length. Odd, weren’t unicorns supposed to have white horns? Well, they were also supposed to have white coats... and for that matter, they were -also- supposed to be mythological!
  51. She slowly reached out towards the horn and lightly ran her fingers along it, allowing curiosity to overcome respect for personal space in regards to -this- feature of his anatomy. It was an odd texture; extremely smooth, almost silky, but felt very tough and solid. She tapped it experimentally with a fingertip, which to her surprise drew another low moan from its owner.
  53. “Hey, are you okay? I’m really sorry about the gun thing, the storm just had me spooked and- Well, how are you feeling, you want some hot water, or...?”
  54. Her jumble of words faded off as she saw he still wasn’t conscious. Well alright: Horn is sensitive. Got it.
  56. Well, he may not be clean, but he was dry, and mud caked fur wouldn’t kill him. She went and got some thicker woolen blankets and made a large makeshift bed lying before the fire, wrapping him in its folds, belly towards the radiating flames.
  58. Still feels like he’s freezing though... some hot packs would do him good, hmm... Ah! She put a pot of water on the stove and went and got some water bottles. When the water was just hotter than she was comfortable putting her hand in she took the pot off and filled the bottles, capping them tightly. She nestled the toasty bottles against his torso, trying to get them to heat his core as best she could.
  60. Shifting his limbs to position the bottles roused another groan from him, his eyes still shut, but a slight frown across his features. Uncanny how human he was... like the Cheshire cat smiling. Apparently his hypothalamus had also just checked in, only to find that housekeeping had turned the AC on full blast, and that icicles were rapidly forming on the ceiling fan.
  62. The shivering that started as little more than small muscle twitches worked its way up his flanks, and ended in what could almost be mistaken for a mild seizure in its ferocity.
  64. Oh, come on... She bundled him back up, and added a few more logs to the fire. He still shivered away, teeth chattering audibly. *Sigh*, alright, fine. Astrid extinguished the lamps, leaving the fire the only remaining light source, and got the comforter and pillows from her bed. She curled up behind the pint sized unicorn on the pad of blankets, wrapping them together under the comforter and pulling him close so her body heat would transfer.
  66. “Better not regret saving you...” She grumbled as she lay there. Small and fuzzy you may be, but even kittens can scratch pretty good. She reached out and felt one of his hooves. Although you’d probably deal more bludgeoning damage than slashing damage huh? Chuckling slightly at herself, she relaxed somewhat. It felt like his shivers were subsiding a bit, and she was tired; sleep was a welcome prospect.
  68. The two of them slept soundly for the time being, dreams in their heads while the storm blew itself out trying to get the mountain to bow, the night relinquished its rule of the sky to the morning sun, and the great cogs of the cosmos turned just as they had for aeons past.
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