#lumber axe spoilers
Finally meeting Grace Chasity after almost three years:
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so who else did NOT have "Lumber-Axe is a secret supernatural love child" on their bingo card for the episode Abstinence Camp?
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Have too much art homework, so the fan art has become the homework!
Abstinence Camp was probably my favorite episode with Honey Queen, so I just had to draw the true MVP of the episode, a giant puppet
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can we talk about Boy Jerry's weird little phrases in Abstinence Camp? 'I oughtta cover you in syrup' what 'I oughtta put you in a canoe' hello? there was a third one too that I can't quite remember, but, like, why did he keep making such weird threats?
is the implication that doing these things makes the person he's threatening an 'offering' to lumberaxe maybe? is it just his own sexual frustration coming out in a weird manner? is he just kind of a weird guy? we may never know
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So we know that Shadow!Paul is buds with Chumby, and that he avoids the other shadow people. But what about the OTHER cryptids in the Witch Wood? Has he ever met Willabella Muckwab or Lumber-Axe? Can he talk to the Tree People like Hannah can?
he probably doesn’t know Willabella or Lumber-Axe by name, but if he has seen either of them they’d probably terrify him. no need to actively meet those folks, no thanks, he’s good! Willabella mainly, should he come across her, she gives off similar vibes to the other shadow beasts (and could very well have some dominion over them) because of her connection to the lords in black so she makes him real nervous. she’s definitely bad news
as for the tree people, I don’t think he could talk to them but I think he could feel their souls. knows there were people there once. feels a bit of a connection. he can’t communicate with them but maybe sometimes when he sings, it’s for them
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Thoughts about the Witchwood and the Tree People
This gets pretty long and honestly I don’t know where exactly I’m going with this. I’ll keep NMT s2 spoilers under the cut
gonna tag @hatchetfieldtheories just cuz
The Tree People were consistently described as people "who had a touch of "the Gift"" and were cut down and planted by the Hatchet Men
In The Witch in the Web, they were rather friendly to Hannah, they warn her of danger. Also, Hannah knew most of them well enough that she knew their names and when they were planted. Except, the older they are, the more they forget who they are.
It’s never actually said who “the Gift” is from, at least not yet. Though Bob Metzger’s tone implies it’s from someone bad. So I hope we’ll find out in future Hatchetfield stuff. But I’m inclined to believe it’s not from the Lords in Black or Webby, because they’re not necessarily evil so far.
It seems that it’s the Hatchet Men who view “those with the Gift” as evil. But why? Yes, they needed to be planted to form the web protecting Hatchetfield from the Witches who work for the LiB, but they weren’t all evil. Did they think “the Gift” itself was evil because if any more people had it, they’d be duty-bound to kill them?
The planting of the trees to form the web was for a good cause, sure. But who could have convinced them “the Gift” was so terrible that they viewed it as a plague? Was it so that they won’t feel guilty for killing people who may have been innocent? Was Webby the one to convince them “the Gift” was bad?
I did my best to transcribe Bob Metzger’s speech: “The Witchwood strips them of their tainted flesh and gives them a new body, with bark and leaf. Their roots and canopies make a net to catch all that bad magic so that it may not seep into the precious skin of any more beautiful babies... When you cut down those trees, you opened the floodgates. Now every teeny-bopper in town is susceptible to this malady. You took all the power built up in that soil and you smoked it!”
If the magic infused into Emma’s weed, could turn the Nighthawks sentient, telepathic, and telekinetic, then what about the actual humans who have consumed the weed too? What will this mean for the Smoke Club? Does this mean Peanuts is sentient because she ate enough of Emma’s weed?
So from what I understand, the web isn’t just to keep the witches trapped, it’s also supposed to keep the “bad magic” trapped. It seems like it acts as a barrier to keep things in, and as a result, the magic flows within the trees and into the soil. But not only that, it seems that any product from the trees or its soil, seems to be contaminated with magic.
Like this probably?
Apparently, it isn’t just the weed that has other properties. When Girl Jeri recalls the Lumber-Axe’s origins, she says “I taught him to survive on berries and tree sap. But there’s something about Witchwood Forest. Things grow here... They grow fast... and big... and different.” So in a way, it proves Bob’s statement about how the magic affects the newer generations in Hatchetfield. And it might be why the Ape-Man exists.
But then... weren’t Lex and Hannah also... raised in the Witchwood?
So what is it really that makes the magic of the Witchwood so unpredictable? It seems like everything comes down to the Witchwood and how exactly the trickling down of “the Gift” of the tree people affects everything in Hatchetfield.
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// lost gold event spoilers-ish
it amuses me, the whole resource collection game mechanic in this event. like it's similar to resource requisition game mechanic at the nxx hq but in that the one the ingame logic is rationalized as like, mc is sending out emails/requests asking for resources. in this event DAVIS says "ur friends can collect stuff for you!!" and each of the boys has a specific resource that they bring mc.
we're sending these men out to get the groceries basically. but everybody's items are pax products (packed food, medicine, bottled water) which i assume can be easily be found at pax basecamps.
everybody but LUKE. who is collecting LUMBER. the image for this item is WHOLEASS WOOD not sticks. that has been cut from TREES IN THE FOREST OF NOSTA.
so luke pearce is chopping wood out in the forest. is he goin out there with an axe? is he goin out there with his strong strong physical build chopping wood??? is he being hot while doing this????????
i have very important questions, as you can see
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The Birth of LumberAxe
Have this thing I wrote in about 20 minutes because the idea of this scene got completely stuck in my head. Contains some spoilers for Abstinence Camp, so I'm putting in a break here.
June 30, 2004
The summer nights spent around the campfire were starting to get to Ted Spankoffski. He knew he was by no means a popular guy, but being surrounded by this many people who were so happy about not getting laid was starting to get to his head.
He turned to his friend from school, throwing a hand up to gesture at all the groups of campers talking and making room for Jesus, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take Paul.”
Paul seemed to startle at being addressed so suddenly and tore his eyes away from a pair of girls from Hatchetfield High. “I mean… this camp is kinda lame… but it’s not like we’d be out somewhere getting laid if we weren’t here.”
Ted scoffed at Paul’s response. “Geez man you didn’t have to say it! Besides, my parents are such hypocrites for sending me to this camp. I'm going to college in two months! And they have five kids! Five. Maybe they should come to Abstinence Camp.”
Paul laughed at that and shrugged in response before he leaned back against the log behind where he and Ted were sitting. “I’m just saying.”
Ted leaned in conspiratorially. “Anyway. We may not have anyone that wants to sleep with either of us, but I snuck in some reading material for a little… self love. I can loan you one if you want.”
Before Paul could respond to Ted’s offer they were startled by the sudden appearance of Boy Jerry, one of the Junior counselors, looming above them.
“What the… fudge do you think you’re pulling Spankoffski? You can’t be looking at that stuff or offering it to other campers. This is ABSTINENCE CAMP,” he scolded. His eyes wide and wild in a way that unnerved Ted.
Determined not to let Jerry throw him off, Ted pushed himself to his feet, adjusting his Virginity Rocks tee shirt as he did. “How is a whack off not abstinence? There’s literally no one else involved.”
Jerry shook his head vehemently. “No. Touching yourself leads to touching a girl. And then to Girl Jer… I mean a girl touching you. And if a girl touches you, you’ll want to have sex. And if you have sex, she’ll get pregnant the first time you do it. And then you’ll have to hide a…”
Jerry trailed off at the look of bewilderment on the other boys’ faces. “Anyway. If you have sex, someone will get pregnant. And then you’ll… die.”
Paul burst into an awkward laugh from where he was still leaning against the log. “I guess you’ve seen Mean Girls then?”
Jerry turned his attention to Paul with a glare. “What’s Mean Girls? All the girls I know are nice and would never be mean. Some of them are very nice. With beautiful long red hair and a talent for singing and dancing. And a determination to always be abstinent.”
For the second time, Jerry paused at the growing looks of horror on the other boys’ faces. “If you touch yourself… you’ll make… him angry.”
Ted scoffed, “Who, God?”
Jerry took a step closer to Ted and spoke in an exaggerated whisper. “No. L… Lumber J… Axe! LumberAxe the Mad Woodsman.”
Paul and Ted exchanged glances as Paul also stood to his feet. “I’ve never heard of any LumberAxe,” Paul started tentatively.
Jerry turned on Paul then. “Well he’s very real. And he can hear everything. Even touching. From wherever. And he’ll come for you. Just you wait.” Then he turned on his heel toward a gathering of girls, muttering about telling Girl Jeri about LumberAxe. Who was definitely real.
Later that night in his dark cabin, Ted pulled a flashlight out from under his mattress and shone it on the pages of the dirty magazine he stole from his dad’s office. He was determined to ignore the words of Jerry, who was so prudish he didn’t want to let anyone have fun. However, as he made to lower his boxer shorts Ted could have swore he heard stomping outside his cabin and his fear got the better of him.
Slipping from his bed, he made the way to a loose board in the wall of the cabin. Shoving the magazine inside, he listened for the sound again… nothing. Tentatively tiptoeing back to his bed he muttered to himself, “Better safe than sorry.” In a voice much more shaky and broken than he would ever admit.”
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After the events of Heaven Can Wait Groot must tell Bucky and Steve about Rocket....
*Contains Spoilers for Heaven Can Wait We’re Only Watching the Sky and other GRSB Scenes from a Life series*
…...In another hundred years this technology could be utilized in every country on earth. Bucky let out a small belch and took his gaze off the documentary and down to the empty ice cream container propped against his belly. Damn, all gone. He shrugged, turning back to the TV. There were many things in this century he was still getting used to, many things he didn’t like. But Netflix. Netflix was fantastic. He smiled to himself and licked the spook free of chocolate ice cream.
“Groot?” Bucky thought he heard Steve question from the other room.
“Steve is that…?”
“Yes, yes of course come on in,” Bucky knew that tone without seeing his face. He groaned, heaving himself to a sitting position on the couch as Groot lumbered in. He was taller, brown twigs stuck out of his limbs where leaves should have been. His eyes sunken and forlorn. Groot’s eyes slid to Bucky, then to the TV, narrowing. In a single motion the long wooden arm swiped up the remote and the screen clicked to black.
“Hey man, what gives?” Groot turned on his large feet and looked down at him with some unreadable look between remorse and a scowl.
“He said he had something to tell us,” Steve inferred, coming and standing beside him. Groot lifted his lithe fingers gesturing shortly with his hands in the ASL Steve had taught him.
“R….Rocket?” Bucky pieced out. “Where is the little fucker?” Groot signed again, this time slow deliberate.
“....d...dead?” Steve guessed with quite trepidation. The flora colossus nodded curtly.
“Yeah right,” Bucky scoffed, standing up and looking between the two of them. “I’m not buying it. He’s tried this before it’s not going to work.”
“Tried what?” Steve’s confusion redirected to him. Bucky only waved his good arm dismissively. “I’m not giving him anymore money”
“He faked his own death to get money off you?”
“Oh don’t worry I’ve done the same thing to him.” Bucky grinned impishly. “Only he falls for it every time!” Steve only raised a brow, folding his arms. “Ive been emotionally blackmailing Rocket to extort him for money and weapons for years!” He forced a laugh, “That’s like the basis of our friendship.”
“Dare I ask how many times the two of you have done that to each other?”
“What!? I have to channel my impulsive violence somehow!” Steve cracked a smile that quickly diminished by Groot’s furious words,
“I am GROOT.” Bucky huffed,
“Your not...you're not serious.” But the flora colossus only blinked, looking at him incredulously. It couldn’t be. He saw Rocket just a few months ago and the raccoonoid had been as scrappy as ever. Maybe a little worse for wear, some white fur encroaching on otherwise silky brown grey fur but that was to be expected. He was getting older, they were all gradually getting older.
“When?” Steve murmured, but Bucky hardly heard him. The severity of Groot’s words closing in on him. Rocket couldn’t be gone...that brash heat packing reckless thief had broken out of who knew how many prisons, (98 the last time Rocket bragged about it), he’d faced down a celestial, he helped defeat Thanos, he’d taken on baddies ten times his size! Hell he’d survived much the same torture Bucky himself had gone through. He couldn’t be...dead. Yet somehow looking at Groot, Bucky knew. No wonder the tree like creature looked miserable. His bark was flaking off in sloughs, his eyes not just sunken but exhausted and hollow. Bucky ran a hand over his face,
“Was he alone?” Bucky murmured, staring anywhere but those large dark eyes. Groot shook his head. “Was....was he in pain?” The flora’s frown deepened, large shoulders shrugging.
“You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?!” Bucky accused, stepping dangerously close. He shook with indignation, jaw clenched. So that was how it was going to be? Had Rocket had died in pain...trying to claw the metal out of his flesh? Was that to be his fate then too? A sharp throbbing at the stump of his shoulder where his own skin met metal was the only answer.
“I...a...am Groot,” Groot breathed, holding his arms out helplessly.
“How?” Bucky suppressed the growl in his voice. He watched Groot’s now trembling hands, slowly bending and forming the words.
“Age?” Steve guessed before Bucky could. No that isn’t right. If Rocket is going go down it should be fighting the biggest scariest space demon, going down in a blaze of gunfire pulling the largest heist the galaxy has ever scenes or tail deep in Asgardian whiskey in his room full of gold coins and units...anything but age. Age was too typical to calm for the thievish ringtail. Too mundane.
“I want to see him,” Bucky managed, still trying to grasp the news.
“I am Groot?” Groot signed with guarded rigidity.
“I don’t care,” Bucky bit his tongue before he could shout. “I want to see him.” Steve’s warm hand gripped his shoulder, steadying him.
“Buck...now might not be the best time to….”
“He was my friend too,” He measured Groot’s look of shielded sorrow with his own. Dark and challenging and righteous. The flora said nothing, but nodded, motioning for the two of them to follow.
Bucky marveled up at the Benatar’s arching iron ribs, so huge and yet graceful? Or at least it would be if there wasn’t trash thrown about, wires and exposed pipes in bad need of repair. Had Rocket really been gone that long? The sharp scent of too much axe mixed with the ichor of engine grease and weaponry and candy of all things. Groot guided them through the echoing halls to the main bridge.
“I am Groot,” he announced as Gamora, Quill, the bug lady, Nebula and the tattooed guy, turned to face them. Steve’s smile was almost as strained as his voice,
“Groot was kind enough to let us aboard...he told us...about Rocket. We were hoping to see him...to say goodbye.” Most of the time Steve’s running mouth got the two of them into a host of troubles but it was times like this Bucky was grateful for it. Quill planted his hands on his hips,
“Well, seeing as this is my ship. He really should have asked me first.But I’m feeling generous today so,”
Bucky tossed his hair from his face, instinctively reaching for his pistol. The man’s arrogance was unending.
“Cut the bullshit,” he hissed. “we’re here for Rocket. Not you. Get this ship the air and take us to him and we’ll be on our way. It’s thanks to Rocket this thing is even flying at all” Quill’s mouth gaped like a fish, blinking mutely.
“We cannot take you to Rocket,” the tattooed man who’s name Bucky could not and did not really care to remember intoned, “There is nothing left of him. Besides his cybernetics. Fur and flesh will have rotted away by now.” Nothing left of him besides his cybernetics. Sour churning bile rose within Bucky at the thought, he fought the urge to gag and redirected his murderous glare to the muscular alien.
“Planet X2 four systems away,” Gamora intervened before Quill could come up with some lame comeback. “It won’t take long. But you’ll want to find something to hold on to when we announce the jumps.”
“Thank you,” Steve answered for the two of them. Groot slid around the tattooed man and Mantis, taking a seat in the pilot’s chair and punching in the codes.
Bucky fiddled with the odd package in his hands, is this supposed to be food? It was impossible to tell what time it was from the endless void of space. The ship drifted forward with the similar movement of the naval ships he’d been aboard during the war. Smooth, with the occasional pitch and throw. Steve had sought out Nebula, the two of them not having seen each other since the battle with Thanos. Bucky thought he heard Steve mention Tony, thus he and cyborg woman had fell into a somber but good natured enough conversation. He found himself wandering the ship alone until coming upon the kitchen area. He gazed at the symbols on the metallic wrapped package and shrugged, sliding into the diner style booth against the wall.
Footsteps alerted him to someone’s presence a few moments later. He craned his neck and watched the green woman stride in. She instantly looked at him with a passing curiosity and finally walked over to the table, sitting down on the opposite side.
“What happened?” Bucky broached the inevitable subject with what he hopped was sensitive respect. It was the elephant in the room and his morbid curiosity would not abate. Gamora kneaded her hands together. “Please, I can’t ask Groot,”
“Nor should you,” she quipped sharply, her eyes meeting his with a fierce protectiveness he knew too well. She held him there in that gaze for a moment before looking away, shoulders dropping. “There’s not much to tell. He just got old. It’s not like he took good care of himself. With the biology of a terran animal that only lives a few years...combined with the injuries he suffered and the untold volumes of alcohol...a history of insomnia…..it caught up with him.” Bucky bit his tongue, he could only imagine the aches and pains that were going to get his goat one day. Too many fights in too many narrow stairwells. Too many falls from too many heights.
“He...died….in pain…?” He repeated, clearing his throat.
“Yes.” Gamora answered, clinically. “Won’t we all?” She scrutinized him, the silver metal webbing etched into her flesh gleamed in the passing stars. Bucky looked at his own vibranium arm, rubbing it unconsciously with his good hand.
“Guess so,” he forced through the sudden lump in his throat. The confirmation of Rocket’s suffering riled in his stomach. “Why didn’t you take him to a medic?” He challenged, anger was easier than grief. “Your the Guardians of the fucking Galaxy, one of you must have known someone, someplace that could have fxed him!” His fists clenched, leaning forward against the table. “You could’ve taken him to Wakanda!” His voice rose in rage and helplessness.
“We did everything we could,” Gamora answered calmly. “And nothing that he didn’t want us to do.” Her eyes landed on Bucky’s arm. “He didn’t want to go to Wakanda,” she finished with a breath. Bucky watched her facade momentarily betray her. Like an expert, she hid it instantly, clearing her throat and looking down to fiddle with her rings.
“Who cares what he wants! It’s not like he had a choice at that point….” the words died in his throat and he covered his face with his good hand, forcing himself to breathe. You know what sentience means Barnes?! Choices! I could make my own dast choices! The memory of Rocket’s words rang loudly in his ears.
“I’m sorry,” he finally managed, the fight gone from him. It was a stale sorry, forced and awkward and both of them knew it. But that was what you said didn’t you? When someone died and you didn’t know what else to say? It was sircumcript. Gamora’s frown only deepened. Her observation of him uncomfortably impeccable, scrutinizing him further with the eyes of a trained killer. Looking for any signs of hostility, identifying the places where he concealed his knives and the one gun he’d brought along just in case. Old habits die hard.
“Don’t let Groot bother you,” she continued as if she weren’t sizing him up. “He hasn’t been the same since…”
“Ahh,” Bucky leaned back, stretching his arms above his head. “I’m used to people treating me with contemptuous resentment. It’s better than the alternative.”
“What’s the alternative?”
“Murderous unadulterated loathing.” He smirked, “I have that effect on people. It’s a gift.” Gamora flashed a smile with a satisfied huff to boot. Bucky returned the grin, sharing the levity for a moment. She had a nice smile, rare but genuine.
“We don’t have much extra space,” she stood after a moment, back into her distant severity. “But you and Captain Rogers can settle down wherever.”
“Thanks,” Bucky nodded to her as she turned to go, halting in the doorway
“We’ll be on X2 in 10 hours terran time.”
Maybe it was because he was sleeping in a new place, surrounded by new people. Maybe it was because it had been a long time since he’d last had night terrors this bad and the universe just liked to fuck with him. Or maybe it was because the only other person to have nightmares like these was no longer dreaming at all. Whatever the reason, Bucky jolted awake in a sweaty daze, chest heaving, trying to shake away the feeling of prying gloved hands poking into his flesh.
“Buck,” Steve’s quiet voice beckoned him from the terrors, one arm sliding up his back, rubbing between his shoulders in small smooth circles.
“He didn’t deserve it Steve,” Bucky’s voice trembled. His fingers curled around the metal bench on which they’d squeezed themselves. “R...Rocket he didn’t deserve what they did to him.” He tried to suck air between words as if he was drowning. “he shouldn’t have died Steve, not like he did. Not...not with metal festering in his insides.” Bucky’s breath came in ragged gasps no matter how hard he tried to settle himself.
“Bucky...shhh….” Steve tried, but the man continued.
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him...but...I, I did.” Bucky shut his eyes against it, trying to concentrate on Steve’s steady touch.
“What are you talking about?” Steve asked softly, Bucky lifted his head from his hands, meeting Steve’s steady gaze with his own.
“I killed those people Steve,” he choked.
“That wasn’t you James, Hydra made you do those things,” the fervor in Steve’s face spoke for itself but Bucky only let out a shuddering sigh.
“Not Hydra,” Bucky cut him off with more vitriol then he intended. “Before that,” he ran a clammy hand over his brow, silently praying none of the Guardians were awake. “I killed those men in the war...and when Hydra took me,” he leaned against Steve’s chest. “It wasn’t just brainwashing. They took that violence and just...enhanced it.” Bucky turned over his shoulder to look at Steve’s determined face. Still seeing the best in him, even after all he’d done. After everything the two of them had done. “Rocket was a little animal before they...c..created him...he was innocent. But...me...I…” he swallowed. “I was already a killer.” Steve opened his mouth to continue but Bucky leaned forward, kissing him roughly.
“I’ve killed more men than you,” Steve breathed, hoarse. “What does that make me?”
“I have killed more men than either of you. And women too. I am not sexist. I hold enormous respect for women.” Steve and Bucky leapt up from their cot to see the large tattooed man emerge from the shadows.
“D...Drax!” Steve stepped between the Destroyer and Bucky. “That’s not what sexism….wait...how long have you been standing there?!” The muscled man only looked between the two of them.
“Groot sent me to get you. We are approaching X2.” Without further assurance Drax turned on his heel, motioning for them to follow.
Out the window of the cockpit, still trying to calm his racing heart, Bucky gapped at the teeming planet before them. Enormous alone in the galaxy but for the stars and colored in a thousand shades of green.
“Hold onto your butts,” Quill smirked, slamming on the controls sending the ship speeding forward.
Steve hissed in shock, slamming his hand on a fake break,
“Fuck!” Bucky let out a small laugh, catching Steve around the waist as they plummeted closer to the surface.
Bucky did not know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it. Trees of every shape and size covered the planet in a rainforest like density. Streams of clear water gilded around trunks and through spindly roots. He arched his neck to look upward at one of the four suns circling the planet, their rays of light streaming in gilded brilliance through the canopy. Flowers bloomed fragrant and bright along their path, giving of sweet scents the likes of which he had never smelled. Bucky looked over his shoulder to where Steve was gazing in wonderment, he knew the man well enough by now to know when he was suppressing the urge to whip out a sketchbook or notebook. Steve’s unfettered curiosity made Bucky grin despite their somber destination.
“Too bad you left your khaki shorts at home,” he couldn’t resist teasing, brushing a large fanned leaf out of the way. Steve smirked, stepping over a large low lying root. Bucky looked forward again, making out the top of Groot’s head through the dense foliage. Gamora followed him, then Drax and Mantis, who remained close to Nebula, clinging on the bionic woman’s arm. Pointedly, Peter had refused to go no matter how much Gamora had pressed him. The last place Bucky had seen the man before they set off was the main corridor, down which Quill lumbered, headphones on, going to brood no doubt. Bucky knew it was wrong to hate him for it, but something about the cowardice, set him smoldering.
Bucky ducked his head under a low hanging branch, stooping over and then stood.
“We’re here,” Gamora gestured to the clearing before them. A sloping hill arched upward to the edge of a drop off overlooking the vast vista of forest and pools beyond. On the crest of the hill a noble sprawling tree grew strong and taunt, its large crown wide and full. The thick roots bore deep into the earth and spilling off the edge of the cliff.
“I am Groot,” Groot pointed towards the tree stoically. His face un-readable. He looked to Gamora who only nodded in confirmation, turning on her heel and walking towards the large tree. Bucky swallowed, mouth dry and turned to Steve.
“You still want to do this? No one will judge you if you don’t.” Bucky could feel Groot’s narrow gaze on him.
“Oh I know someone who will,” he smirked sarcastically and followed Gamora up the hill.
“There,” Gamora breathed now that they stood before the large tree. Something about the place made Bucky feel small and quiet, a hallowed ground of its own kind. The tree itself was no distinct species as far as Bucky could tell. He followed her eyes to a notch in the tree dark and perfect size for a small creature to curl up inside. He stood there a moment, frozen in what to do. Not dissimilar to after he’d gone on a spree, after he’d murdered someone, taken someone out. Head in a fog, on the verge of running in a panic, fueled by nightmares and whatever else Hydra had pumped into his veins. This time however, he did not run away. Bucky reached out, fingers brushing the rough bark of the tree with the same hesitant tenderness he had used to touch Rocket’s fur. In their years of friendship Bucky had stroked Rocket’s fur a total of three times. (Besides the handful of occasions on which he’d grabbed hold of that ringed tail to yank Rocket out a jam in the heat of some drunken brawl or the target of some enemy five times his size). Once shortly after they met and it was revealed how alike the two of them were. The second time when he’d had to save the raccoon’s life by re-assembling his cybernetics, using the howling voices in his head to guide him and lastly when he had told Rocket the true nature of his creation. A prototype made by Hydra as a test run for making howlies.
Bucky willed himself to take a deep breath, resting his palm flat against the tree. What had Rocket done after this violent discovery? He’d curled up in the man’s lap, and fallen asleep. It was a trust Bucky had not earned, had done nothing to deserve and yet, Rocket snored and slept content and Bucky hadn’t shut his eyes a wink that night in the dimly lit apartment. Instead he ran his hand over the raccoonoid’s side rhythmically, letting the warm soft fur calm his mind and ease his fears.Watching as with each little breath of the sleeping creature, skin pulled tight across metal. Yet Rocket curled in his lap, not unlike an abused dog who finally came to rest content by your feet.
Bucky looked up, into the leafy crown of the tree, squinting his eyes against the sunlight. He swallowed, hand still resting against the tree. Stop being such a sap Barnes, Rocket’s husky voice mocked in his mind, laced with irritation. If only the raccoonoid would reprimand him now. A hundred different sarcastic cutting remarks ran through the man’s imagination. How Rocket would tease him if he could see the tears pressing against the back of Bucky’s eyes. He waited for it...for any grating laughter or flick of the tail. But no, he’d never hear that sarcastic voice again. Rocket would never make fun of him. They’d never spend another night at some dive bar getting increasingly drunk and daring each other into dumber and dumber acts of brazen stupidity. They’d never exchange weapons or old tales of battle. Rocket would never perch up on Groot’s shoulders or scream over a hail of gunfire in blood thirsty joy. They’d never look warily at each other, knowing the other had spent the night in a terrorizing nightmare. They’d never steal a sympathetic glance when they thought the other wasn’t looking especially during the drizzly days when the metal in their skin ached particularly bad, or during the sweltering heat and frigid cold. They would never share the shame of the things they’d become, the things they’d done. Guess I’m the only monster left. But if the little abomination could drift off peacefully...surrounded by a family he’d found in the arms of the person he loved most in all the world, then well, maybe there was some hope for Bucky after all. He could only hope for as much.
The spell broke after a moment, his hand slipped away and he stepped back gazing at the lush grass. Gamora, Drax, Mantis and Nebula stood some distance away lost in their own thoughts. Steve gave him a sad smile, squeezing his shoulder before stepping up to say his own goodbye. Bucky looked out across the immense forest, his gaze gliding in a haze over it’s beauty until he saw Groot. Back turned to the tree, form rigid and away from the others.
“I’m sorry I shoved you earlier,” he tried approaching the flora slowly. “If there’s anything you need or want….just...let me know.”
There’s nothing I need or want that you can give.
Bucky nodded, “I know...I just mean...well...if you ever want to…” his heart tried to find the words, muddling through the thick black tar of grief. “He was my friend too and….I know it’s obvious but...he really loved you.”
He loved you too.
“Ha, I don’t think….wait,” Bucky turned to the flora in slow comprehension. “Groot, I think I….I think I understood you. Wait say something again!” Groot turned to him, face still drawn but no longer contemptuous.
It’s about time,
“Ha! No shit! I’ve been trying to understand you for years!” A laugh broke through Bucky’s melancholy. How many hours had Rocket tried and subsequently failed to teach him?
Only when you truly listen do you begin to understand.
“Is that some zen buddhist saying or what? Shit,” he shook his head in disbelief. “I guess you're right!”
What is zen?
“Ask Quill later,” Bucky waved a dismissive hand and the two of them resumed their silence, gradually turning around to face the large tree where Rocket lay.
I guess he was right about one thing
He promised not to go until someone else could understand. I thought he meant them, Groot gestured to the other Guardians. It seems I was wrong. But Rocket was right after all. Those large eyes looked at Bucky with renewed appreciation. Bucky felt something inside him inflate, joy or sorrow or something in between he couldn’t quite tell. Maybe it was one in the same. He rubbed his eyes, watching the suns set against the magnificent tree casting a glowing golden light upon them all.
“Guess he was.”
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I can finally share the fic I wrote for the Octopath Exchange! It's a canon divergent AU featuring H'aanit and Redeye, and I'm actually really proud of how this turned out! Contains spoilers for H’aanit’s Chapter 4 and beyond.
H’aanit had resolved to kill the monstrous Redeye as soon as she saw what it had done to her master. Throughout her whole journey across Orsterra, she had been eager for the moment to come when she would drive her axe into its neck, ridding the world of its terror and freeing those that it had petrified in its path of destruction. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have swayed her from her chosen path.
So why, when the moment she had been waiting for has finally come, was she hesitating?
Panting heavily, H’aanit stood over the grotesque, severely injured form of Redeye. It was lying on its side, too weak to stand, with many bleeding wounds scattered over its body. Ragged breaths were being pulled in and out of its gaping maw, and its ghastly crimson eyes bore into her, waiting for that final axe blow to fall and end its life.
Gritting her teeth, H’aanit lifted her axe above her head, right over Redeye’s neck, but when she wanted to bring it down, she found that her arms would not respond. Why couldn’t she do it? After all of the pain it had caused her? After all of the death and destruction it left in its wake? It should have been the easiest thing in the world.
H’aanit’s arms began to shake as she continued to hold her axe above her head. Her gaze locked with Redeye’s. In those deep red eyes, she saw many things: regret, pain, suffering, a death wish. A feeling welled up inside of H’aanit, something that she would have never thought that she would feel for this abomination, this...monster: pity.
Linde suddenly started purring at H’aanit’s side. The huntress glanced down at her stalwart partner, who was staring at Redeye, her head tilted curiously. Linde then moved to stand in front of the monster’s head.
“Linde, what ist thou doing?” H’aanit asked, fear evident in her voice as it cracked. Her grip tightened on her axe. If Redeye made even one move to harm her feline companion, not even the gods themselves could keep her from slaying it.
Linde ignored H’aanit and moved closer to Redeye’s face. The beast recoiled slightly, letting out a weak wail that made H’aanit shiver involuntarily. That sound was so...unnerving. Very obviously inhuman, but still, it was dangerously close to resembling something human. H’aanit didn’t know what to think of that.
To H’aanit’s surprise, Linde began purring loudly and she pressed her face against Redeye’s, nuzzling it like she would H’aanit or another friendly person or animal. Redeye flinched and whined as it leaned away, but Linde persisted and continued rubbing herself against the beast. Redeye soon stopped its whining and just stared at Linde, its eyes locked onto the snow leopard.
H’aanit hesitated for a moment, but she let out the breath she had been holding and slowly lowered her axe, her eyes not leaving Redeye, just in case it decided to try and attack. Linde meowed and stopped her rubbing, and she sat back on her haunches, her tail swishing back and forth behind her.
“Thou...wanteth me to sparen it, Linde?” H’aanit asked, her eyes widening with surprise when Linde meowed happily and licked at her paw. H’aanit was amazed that Linde was so calm, especially after she had assisted H’aanit in defeating the beast just minutes earlier. H’aanit chewed at her bottom lip, still unsure if this would be a wise course of action, but she ultimately decided that it was worth a shot.
H’aanit took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, before moving to stand in front of Redeye, and next to Linde. Redeye’s gaze shifted to her, and something new appeared deep within those deep crimson eyes: hope. Her mouth almost twitched into a smile, but she succeeded in keeping her facial expression as neutral as possible.
“It seemeth that thou hast earned a second chance from my partner here.” H’aanit said, and Redeye watched her silently, bar the ragged breaths coming from its gaping maw. “Thou hast hurten many people. Killed many people. Most woulde not hath given a second thought to slaying thee.” She had once thought that she would have been one of those people. Redeye let out a guttural grumble as it averted its gaze, looking surprisingly guilty.
“If thou ist to repent, then thou must release all of the victims of petrification.” H’aanit said, glancing behind her at the Marsalim soldiers that were still trapped in their stone prisons. “And thou must comen with me. Thou ist too dangerous to be left to thine own devices.” H’aanit watched silently as Redeye hummed as it stared at her, and she could feel the vibrations through the ground with her feet. After a few moments, Redeye’s eyes closed and it lowered its head submissively. H’aanit hesitated a moment, before she slowly reached out and placed her hand on Redeye’s head. It hummed again, deeper this time, and the sound almost resembled Linde’s purring. How...weird.
“Redeye,” H’aanit said, “Release those that thou hast petrified.” Redeye grunted as it looked over at the Marsalim guards that were still trapped in their stone prisons. A red glow suddenly appeared over Redeye’s body, and the guards were returned to their normal, flesh and blood selves. H’aanit left her companions to deal with them, and she kept her attention on Redeye.
“Thanke thee. I am glad that thou ist being agreeable.” H’aanit said, and Redeye whined and its head suddenly fell to the ground, its eyes squeezing shut as a pained look crossed its face. Ah, right, H’aanit had forgotten about Redeye’s wounds. She pulled out a jar of healing salve that Alfyn had passed out to the group before the fight. H’aanit didn’t think she would have ended up using it on the very beast that she had come to slay. Linde kept Redeye distracted by rubbing against it and licking its face, while H’aanit patched up its wounds.
“Theren, that shoulde do it.” H’aanit said when she wrapped up the last wound. Redeye let out a deep sigh and pushed itself awkwardly to its feet, its gangly limbs seemingly too long for its body. H’aanit tensed, her hand quickly moving to grip the handle of her axe, but Redeye just looked at her, its eyes shining brightly. It already looked like it was feeling better. H’aanit made a mental note to ask Alfyn for more of that miracle salve.
“Can thee walke?” H’aanit asked, and Redeye took a few shaky steps towards her, but its gait soon evened out. Redeye stared at H’aanit with wide eyes, almost as if it was seeking her...praise?
“Err, thou ist doing well?” H’aanit said, and Redeye let out a pleased growl deep in its throat. This was going to take a lot of getting used to…
“Well, letten us be rid of this dank cave.” H’aanit said as she turned to return to her companions. Linde walked at her side, while Redeye rumbled along behind her, each of its steps causing the ground to shake. H’aanit sighed and started to mentally formulate a plan to explain all of this to her traveling friends. She had a feeling that training Redeye was going to prove to be an interesting endeavor.
“...Aren you absolutely sure about this, my prentice?”
“Foren the fifth time, yes.”
H’aanit sighed and rolled her eyes as Z’aanta raised an unconvinced eyebrow at her. She had managed to make it back to Stoneguard, with her newly acquired eldritch abomination in tow, luckily without causing much of a fuss. That is, until she finally reunited with her master.
After running up to save an unfortunate couple from a giant tiger, she ended up watching Z’aanta do the saving instead. As soon as he took one look at the lumbering black and red mass that followed his apprentice, he trained his bow onto Redeye with a murderous snarl. Redeye’s immediate reaction to this hostile action was to petrify Z’aanta...again. H’aanit had made a mental note to work on breaking that knee-jerk reaction first thing when she started Redeye’s actual training.
After receiving a heated scolding from H’aanit, Redeye quickly reversed the petrification, and H’aanit managed to explain the situation to her master before he could try and kill it again. Z’aanta wasn’t exactly keen on the idea, but H’aanit had expected that. Surprisingly, Hagen had not put up much of a fuss, though that was probably due to the fact that Linde immediately approached him, calm and purring, letting him know that Redeye posed no threat to anyone anymore. Well, at least when it wasn’t being threatened with an arrow to the face.
“H’aanit, thou ist a great hunter and tamer of beasts, but aren thou sure that this particular beast is redeemable?” Z’aanta asked, his wary eyes darting back and forth between H’aanit and Redeye. Redeye was currently cowering behind H’aanit, its face pressed against its crossed arms, hidden from view. Linde moved from Hagen’s side and approached Redeye. She purred and rubbed up against its side, until it finally lifted its head back up. Linde meowed happily and licked Redeye’s face, causing it to blink slowly and tilt its head curiously. It then reached out with a shaky hand and lightly brushed the top of Linde’s head with its long black fingers. H’aanit smiled at the sight, and turned to find Z’aanta’s eyes wide and jaw hanging open.
“Gods above. H’aanit, ist thou certain that I am not still petrified? Or hath fallen into a deep slumber? This ist just too bizarreth to be real.”
“I knowen ‘tis hard to believe,” H’aanit said as she reached over and placed her hand on Redeye’s head. “But I saw many things in its eyes when I almost brought my axe down to endeth its life. Regret, pain, suffering. I thinke it wanted me to killen it. But...I coulde not. Linde also wanted me to sparen it. I think I am ready for the challenge.” Linde meowed at the mention of her name, and Z’aanta just sighed and shook his head.
“My prentice...thou hast always been a stubborn one.” he said, and he barked out a hearty laugh when H’aanit glowered at him. “But, thou ist also the most talented hunter to ever come out of S’warkii. If thou ist truly serious about this, then you haven my blessing.”
“Thanke thee, master.” H’aanit said. She looked at Redeye and she gently scratched its head. Redeye let out a pleased hum, and before H’aanit could react, Redeye stuck out its jet black tongue and raked it over H’aanit’s entire face.
“Ack!” H’aanit exclaimed, her hands flying to her face once Redeye pulled away. Z’aanta’s laughter hit her ears as she frantically wiped the slobber away. She turned to glare at Redeye, but her gaze softened when she saw the delighted glint in its eyes. Its jaw hung open, and its lips were curved slightly upwards, as if it was trying to smile. How odd.
“My girl! It seemeth that thou hast thine work cut out for thee.” Z’aanta said, laughing again as he reached out and ruffled H’aanit’s hair. She rolled her eyes and leaned away from him.
“I wilst makest thee eaten those words, master. I wilst traineth this beast.”
“Ah, I doest not doubeth that. I wilst enjoy watching thee struggle with it, though.”
“Watchen it.” H’aanit said, a smile on her face as master and prentice fell into familiar banter. It would take a lot of time and hard work, but H’aanit was confident that she would be able to turn Redeye into a tame creature that could live peacefully among humans. It would be the perfect test of her skills as a tamer of beasts.
“...Whaten in Draefendi’s name is that?”
“I swearen, those hunters’ll tame anything that breathes. No matter how monstrous it looks.”
“Er, but doesn’t thou thinken that this ist a bit...extreme?”
“‘Tis their problem, leaven it be.”
The residents of S’warkii continued to talk among themselves, mostly about the lumbering black mass that was Redeye. H’aanit ignored the background chatter, and continued on her way through the semi-crowded streets, as Linde and Redeye followed close behind. The huntress was not worried about Redeye causing much of a stir in her home. The people of the Woodlands were accustomed to seeing many a beast being led through the towns after being tamed by a skilled hunter. Although, none of the beasts that they had seen were quite as ghastly as Redeye. H’aanit wasn’t surprised that many people were stopping to gawk at it as they passed.
H’aanit had also managed to work in some obedience training during the trip back home from Stoneguard. Z’aanta had helped out a little, but left the brunt of the work to her. Redeye seemed to understand ‘no’ and ‘good job’ now. H’aanit found herself telling it ‘no’ far too often, but this was still a work in progress. She knew that it would take time for Redeye to be fully trained.
“Hmm, I thinke I wilst haven to build a small barn or something in the backyard foren Redeye to sleep in…” H’aanit mumbled to herself, but she was pulled away from her planning when Linde grabbed her arm with her mouth and yanked on it hard.
“Linde, what-” an irritated H’aanit started, but the words caught in her throat when a shout hit her ears, and she looked over to see what had caused it.
“Beast! Whaten ist thee doing?!” an angry meat merchant exclaimed. Redeye had wandered over to his stall, where he had various cuts of meat, and even some full animal carcasses, on display. Redeye ignored the man’s shouting and its tongue shot out, wrapping around one of the carcasses and pulling it into its glowing maw. H’aanit’s eyes widened as she ran over to Redeye’s side.
“Redeye, no!” she said, cursing as she stepped between Redeye and the merchant, who looked ready to try and lob off Redeye’s head with a meat cleaver. Redeye turned its head to look at H’aanit, half of the carcass sticking out of its mouth. It whined as H’aanit glared at it, and its jaw dropped, the carcass falling to the ground with a wet ‘plop’. H’aanit’s face scrunched up with disgust and she sighed, fishing her money bag out of her pocket.
“I apologize foren its behavior. Wilst this coveren the carcass?” H’aanit asked, dropping a generous amount of leaves into the merchant’s hand.
“Aye. Keepen a better eye on this one. ‘Tis a natural trouble maker, it seems.” the man said as he pocketed the money. H’aanit nodded and turned back to Redeye, whose head was hung dejectedly, but its eyes kept darting back to the carcass on the ground.
“Thou can eaten it, but muste not stealen from others again.” H’aanit said, crossing her arms over her chest. Redeye immediately perked up and hummed happily as it gobbled up the carcass in one bite. Gods, it was like looking after a puppy. A huge, demonic, eldritch horror of a puppy.
“Stayeth close to me from nowen on.” H’aanit said as she turned away from the merchant’s stall, and Redeye obediently followed, with Linde bringing up the rear this time. H’aanit would have to keep a closer eye on her beastly charge. She certainly didn’t want to make enemies of the entire godsdamn town.
“Oh wow, whaten ist that?!”
Suddenly, a child ran up to Redeye, her eyes shining with excitement and curiosity. Redeye shied away at first, seeming to not know what to think of the small human bouncing excitedly in front of it. It exhaled through its nostrils, the force of the air making a mess of the girl’s hair, and she giggled.
“Be careful, child. This beast ist not quite tame yet.” H’aanit said warily as she stepped closer to Redeye, ready to intervene if this encounter took a turn for the worst. The girl nodded, standing on the tips of her toes as she reached up to pet Redeye’s head. Humming contently, Redeye leaned forward to nuzzle the girl, but it used too much force and ended up knocking the child to the ground. The girl blinked a few times, before she sniffed and started quietly crying.
“Redeye! Be gentle!” H’aanit said, moving to go and help the child up. She paused, however, when Redeye immediately lowered its head to the ground and whined. The girl sniffed and looked up at it, tears still flowing down her face. Very slowly, Redeye lifted a hesitant finger up to the girls face, and gently started wiping away her tears. The girl stared at Redeye with wide eyes, and her crying stopped as suddenly as it had started. Redeye lowered its hand once the girl’s tears were gone, and it leaned its face in as close to her as it could without touching her. She giggled and wrapped her arms around Redeye’s head, and it slowly lifted her back up onto her feet.
“Hehe! You’ren a nice beasty! I liken you!” the girl said, giggling as she hugged Redeye. A guttural rumbling came from the back of Redeye’s throat, and it reached up slowly and wrapped it’s gangly hands around the girl. H’aanit was stunned into silence, and she noted that Redeye was being incredibly gentle with this girl. It was...surprising, to say the least. Redeye was very quick to adapt and fix its mistakes, and H’aanit was grateful for that.
“‘Tis time to go, Redeye.” H’aanit finally said. The girl pouted when Redeye obediently released its hold on her. H’aanit chuckled at that. “I wilst be training Redeye to be comfortable with crowds. You wilst surely see it again.” The girl’s face immediately brightened up and she nodded.
“Yay! I can’t wait! Seeth you later!” she said, and she ran off, disappearing down the crowded street. H’aanit turned to see that Redeye was watching the girl run off, its eyes bright and wide, and the ground was shaking slightly from the pleased hum that Redeye was producing.
“T’was most impressive, Redeye. Good job.” H’aanit said. Redeye turned to look at her and it let out a pleased whine. It then slammed its face into H’aanit to nuzzle her, and she grunted as the wind was knocked out of her.
“We...We wilst haven to worken on the gentleness a bit…” H’aanit mumbled as she tried to catch her breath. Linde purred happily next to them, and she joined the session of affection as she rubbed against H’aanit’s legs and then Redeye’s head. H’aanit chuckled as they headed home, and she couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride at the progress that Redeye was already making. Maybe domesticating Redeye wasn’t as impossible as she first realized. The thought made her happy, and she would keep working hard, for Redeye’s sake.
The Woodlands rarely saw a thunderstorm, and unlike her fellow villagers, H’aanit was glad when the rumbling thunder and beautiful lightning graced her with their presence. She always seemed to sleep more soundly those nights, with the pouring rain hitting her roof in a steady rhythm. Tonight was no different.
However, what was different was the moment when she was jolted awake as something wet and scratchy scraped across her face. H’aanit shot up into a sitting position, blinking rapidly until her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She turned to see Linde standing next to her bed, her golden eyes seeming to shine in the dark room.
“Whaten is it, Linde?” H’aanit asked, a frown crossing her face. If Linde was interrupting her sleep, then something serious must be going on. Linde growled and grabbed H’aanit by the arm, tugging on it until she got out of bed. The snow leopard then turned and walked towards the door, looking back when she paused in the threshold.
“I wilst comen. Letten me get a cloak on…” H’aanit said, and when she was dressed to repel the rain, she followed Linde out of her bedroom and to the back door of her house. H’aanit stepped out into the storm after her feline partner, and she quickly followed her to the large barn across the backyard, where Redeye was supposed to be sleeping. It had been a large task, building that structure, but with Z’aanta’s help, it was up in no time, and Redeye had seemed pleased to have a place of its own to sleep in.
“Redeye?” H’aanit said when she pushed open the barn door. She was slightly worried; Linde had never woken her up at night like this since they had acquired their new beastly companion, so something was obviously wrong. H’aanit grabbed the lantern by the door and lit it, illuminating the large form of Redeye.
Redeye whined, a piercing, high-pitched sound, and H’aanit noticed that its head was pressed into the back corner of the room, and its arms were wrapped around itself. She approached slowly and saw that it was shaking quite violently.
“Redeye?” H’aanit said again when she was closer to its front. Redeye flinched as it slowly uncovered its head, turning to meet her gaze. It had a look of absolute panic on its face, and H’aanit was rendered speechless. She also noticed trails of moisture running down its cheeks. Was it...crying? She didn’t know that Redeye could even do that.
“Easy.” H’aanit said, and she slowly reached out and placed her hand on its head. Redeye whined again, its shaking lessening slightly, until a loud crack of thunder shattered through the pleasant sounds of the rain. Redeye let out a screech as it jumped a foot into the air, and it wailed as it shoved its face into the corner again, its fingers digging into the floorboards.
“Ist thou...scared of the storm?” H’aanit asked, placing her hand on Redeye’s head again as she crouched down next to it. It just whined in response, turning slightly to glance at H’aanit out of the corner of its eye. She stared at it for a moment, before sighing and shaking her head.
“Thou ist an unholy abomination, but ist frightened of a bit of thunder? Nothing can surpriseth me anymore.” H’aanit mumbled to herself. She slowly pet Redeye’s head until it turned around to face her again.
“The storm wilst not hurten thee. Goeth to sleep.” H’aanit said, and she turned to go back to the door and head to bed herself. A loud whine filled the room, and she sighed and turned back around, finding Redeye’s chin pressed to the floor, its eyes wide and pleading as fresh tears fell down its face.
“No.” H’aanit said, and Redeye’s whines only got louder. Linde purred and walked over to Redeye, licking the tears from its face before she curled up on the floor next to it. Linde then looked at H’aanit, her head tilted and eyes soft, and H’aanit knew that she was fighting a losing battle.
“...Fine, but just foren tonight. Thou better not getten used to this.” H’aanit grumbled as she walked back over to Redeye. It perked up immediately and let out a pleased growl as it settled down on the huge, soft bed that H’aanit had made for it. She sat down and propped up against Redeye’s side, using her cloak as a blanket. Redeye hummed contently as it curled around H’aanit, its face pressed against her side, and its gangly arms wrapped around her.
H’aanit never in a million years thought that she’d be spending the night consoling a terrified Redeye during a measly thunderstorm, but she was doing just that. Every now and then, thunder would rumble through the air, and H’aanit had to pet a whimpering Redeye to calm it down. She didn’t get nearly enough sleep that night, but she hardly cared. There was never a dull moment with this abomination that she had adopted, and H’aanit wouldn’t change a damn thing.
A few months had flown by after H’aanit had brought Redeye back to S’warkii, and H’aanit was thoroughly impressed with its training progress. She could now take Redeye through the village without having to worry about it causing trouble by stealing from merchants or bothering her fellow villagers. H’aanit was proud of Redeye, and herself as well.
When she had been approached with a hunting job that would require a bit of traveling, she decided to take Redeye along on the journey. It had always seemed sad to see her go on her shorter trips, so H’aanit decided that this time she wouldn’t leave it behind. Besides, even if he didn’t say it, she knew that Z’aanta was getting tired of having to babysit her pet abomination every time she left home. They had set off for the Highlands, and it should have proven to be an uneventful sojourn.
However, H’aanit had not anticipated coming down with a terrible sickness on this journey.
A groan of discomfort escaped from between H’aanit’s quivering lips, and she shivered violently as she squeezed her eyes shut. She had woken up in her Riverlands camp this morning in a cold sweat and with a terrible fever. She rarely got sick in the first place, so coming down with something while on the road was a particularly terrible stroke of bad luck.
H’aanit took a few deep breaths and lifted a shaky hand up to her forehead; she was still burning up. Her hand dropped back to her side, and she tried to open her eyes. Her eyelids felt heavy, as if they were made of lead, so she could only open them a smidge, and everything was very blurry. She felt around with her hand, and was relieved when her fingers found the soft fur of Linde. H’aanit heard the snow leopard mewl sadly and felt her scratchy tongue scrape against her hand.
“L-Linde…” H’aanit said weakly, another shiver coursing through her body. Gods, this was not good. She could hardly move, let alone search for any plants or herbs that would help drive away her sickness. She desperately needed to find a way to get better, and fast.
H’aanit also had no idea where Redeye was. She had fallen in and out of consciousness a few times now, and she hadn’t heard a thing from it any of the times that she was awake, including now.
“Linde...wheren is...Redeye?” H’aanit whispered, and Linde just purred and H’aanit felt the snow leopard’s head come to rest on her stomach. Well, if Linde wasn’t worried, then H’aanit did not feel the need to be either. She let out a shaky sigh as a wave of dizziness clouded her head, and she slipped out of consciousness once more.
Some time later, H’aanit drifted awake, grunting as she tried to open her eyes again, but to no avail. She certainly did not feel any better. Damn it all.
A scraping noise hit her ears, and she stiffened, the urge to fight or run away welling up inside of her, but her current state of health prevented her from doing much about it. H’aanit felt Linde shift against her stomach, and she purred soothingly, causing H’aanit to calm back down. What was making that noise?
A familiar guttural growl hit H’aanit’s ears, and she felt a cold and wet cloth fall onto her forehead. H’aanit sighed with relief; it felt nice on her overheating head.
“R-Redeye?” H’aanit said weakly. She heard it growl in response, and she felt something poke her cheek. She shifted uncomfortably, and her mouth hung open as whatever was touching her did not let up. She then felt something being pushed into her mouth. H’aanit froze and moved to turn away, but she felt Linde lick her other cheek, and H’aanit relaxed and gave in. Whatever was in her mouth tasted like a bitter paste, and she cringed, but managed to swallow it all. Was this...medicine? Something else was held up to her lips, and H’aanit ended up chasing the medicine with cold water, which tasted like heaven to the sickly huntress.
Redeye’s pleased humming filled the air, and H’aanit felt herself being tucked back into her blankets securely. She sighed and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, lulled back to sleep by the feeling of Redeye’s fingers brushing through her hair.
H’aanit didn’t know how long she had been out, but when she woke up this time, she could finally open her eyes fully, much to her relief. She felt much, much better, and luckily her fever seemed to have finally passed. H’aanit sat up and stretched her sore arms as she took a look around.
Linde was curled up right next to H’aanit, her body rising and falling with each breath she took as she slept peacefully. Redeye was pacing around the clearing that they were camped in, and it did not seem to notice that she had awakened.
A few odd things caught H’aanit’s eye. First, a few animal carcasses were strewn about the clearing, probably meals for Linde and Redeye while she had been waylaid and couldn’t hunt. But among those carcasses, there were a few beastly looking monsters that had been turned to stone, obviously by Redeye’s petrifying gaze. H’aanit’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Did those beasts try to attack her in her incapacitated state? If so, then Redeye had protected her valiantly. H’aanit cracked a smile at that.
Second, a large rock sat in the middle of the clearing, and H’aanit was sure that it wasn’t there before. A smaller one sat next to it, along with a pile of various plants and flowers. The rocks had splotches on them that were the same colors as the plants. H’aanit blinked, confused. What a curious site. It reminded her of something, but of what she could not recall…
A loud bellow hit her ears; it seemed that Redeye had finally noticed that H’aanit had awoken. It barreled across the clearing to her side, whining as it poked her forehead with a long finger. The ruckus had woken Linde up, and she purred happily as she licked H’aanit’s face.
“Good morning, you two.” H’aanit said, petting both of their heads. “I apologize foren being incapacitated for so long. Thou art loyal companions, both of thee.” Linde purred and nuzzled H’aanit, while Redeye hummed and lumbered off in the direction of the two rocks. H’aanit tilted her head curiously as she watched it. It came back with one of the bowls from her pack, and it held it out to her. Inside, there was a green paste, and H’aanit, took the bowl, lifting it to her face so that she could smell the contents.
“Did...Did thou feeden me this, Redeye?” H’aanit asked, her eyes wide as it nodded. The green goop smelled just like the bitter paste that she faintly remembered consuming. She had thought that it might have been a dream, but that was apparently not the case. H’aanit looked at the bowl, and then back at the two rocks, and a sudden realization hit her.
H’aanit recalled a time back when she was journeying to find her master after he had disappeared to hunt Redeye. H’aanit had woken up early one morning, to find Alfyn already up and making medicine, using a mortar and pestle to smash up the flowers and herbs to make healing salves and other useful tinctures.
“Redeye...did thou maken me medicine?” H’aanit asked, turning to stare at Redeye, her jaw dropping with shock. Redeye hummed and leaned over to nuzzle its face against hers. How was this possible? Redeye was just a beast. It shouldn’t know anything about making medicine. This was...perplexing to say the least. Nevertheless, Redeye did manage to cure her of her sickness, and for that she was very grateful.
“I thanke thee, Redeye. ‘Tis a remarkable thing thou did.” H’aanit said, wrapping her arms around its head in a gentle hug. Redeye growled and wrapped its long arms around her in return. H’aanit pulled away after a moment, and she was able to lift her arms up in time to shield her face from being licked by Redeye’s large, slobbery tongue.
“Ugh, I hath toldeth thee beforen to not aimen for my face.” H’aanit said, sighing as she wiped her arms on her shirt. Redeye blinked at her, tilting its head, and H’aanit chuckled and shook her head.
“Anyway, letten us pack up and be rid of this place. We hath lost enough time.” H’aanit said, and soon the camp was packed up and the odd trio was back on the road. H’aanit pushed the curious behavior of Redeye to the back of her mind for now, as she needed to focus on the hunt.
After traversing through the sweltering Sunlands, H’aanit had finally made it to the Highlands. She was relieved, for she certainly preferred the cooler weather on the high mountains, as opposed to the unbearable heat of the sands.
“Come Linde, Redeye. We’ren almost there.” H’aanit said, looking back to check on her companions. Linde meowed as she trotted up to H’aanit’s side, while Redeye hummed and suddenly sat down in the middle of the road.
“Whaten is it?” H’aanit asked, raising an eyebrow at the beast. Suddenly, a low rumbling sound filled the air, and H’aanit chuckled.
“Thou ist hungry?”
H’aanit laughed when Redeye nodded enthusiastically, and she looked around at her surroundings. She spotted a small cave not too far from the road, so she headed there, and set up a small camp.
“Stayeth here, I wilst go foren a quick hunt.” H’aanit said, and Linde curled up on the ground, and Redeye followed suit. Grabbing her bow, H’aanit left the cave and headed to the other side of the road, where a group of trees signified the entrance to a forest. She disappeared from the site of the cave, but she wasn’t worried. Linde and Redeye could take care of themselves.
H’aanit was in the middle of surveying the surrounding trees, when the sound of a twig snapping echoed throughout the forest. H’aanit whipped out her bow just in time to witness a dozen men emerge from the trees, all of them armed to the teeth. Bandits. Damn.
“Oi, look what we have here, lads. Are you lost, woman?” one of them sneered as he stepped forward, brandishing a large battle axe. H’aanit assumed he was the leader, and she clenched her jaw as she tightened the grip on her bow.
“I wouldn’t get any funny ideas in your head, lass. You are very, very outnumbered.” the leader said, chuckling darkly. A few of the other men laughed as well, and they moved closer to H’aanit, tightening the circle around her. Sweat beaded on her forehead; this was not a good situation to be in.
“We’ll get straight to the point. You hand over all of your valuables, and we'll make sure you walk away from this little meeting unharmed.” the leader said, holding his hand out towards her. H’aanit scoffed at him and whipped her bow up, pointing an arrow straight at the man’s face. The rest of the men tensed and readied their weapons.
“Thou wilst haven to taketh them from me.” H’aanit growled, her eyes narrowed into a death glare. The leader laughed and shook his head, tightening the grip on his axe.
“Wrong answer, lass. Men, get her-” the man started, but he was interrupted by a terrifying, guttural roar. The group of men all turned towards the sound, but H’aanit knew better, and she instead covered her eyes with her hands. She heard the rumbling footsteps of something large running in her direction, and the men screamed in horror, before suddenly being cut off. Silence followed, and H’aanit slowly lowered her hands from her face.
Redeye stood before her, its eyes blazing with fury. The men surrounding H’aanit were frozen where they stood, turned to stone by its petrifying gaze. Linde was standing next to Redeye, and she meowed and bound up to H’aanit, rubbing against her legs. H’aanit breathed a sigh of relief as she pet Linde’s head, before walking up to Redeye, who hummed and lowered its head as she approached.
“Thou hast saved me again. Thanke thee, Redeye.” H’aanit said, petting its head. Redeye hummed contently, before glancing back at the frozen group of men and growling angrily.
“Methinks they hath learned their lesson. Releaseth them.” H’aanit said. Redeye whined and looked from H’aanit to the men a few times, seeming conflicted.
“Thou can petrify them again if they decide not to playeth nice.” she said. Redeye hummed and did nothing for a few moments, before it started glowing red and the men suddenly returned to their normal selves.
“W-What in the hells?” the leader of the bandits said, stumbling as he recovered from his stone state. He glared at H’aanit, but then took one look at Redeye, who hissed angrily, and he let out a terrified shriek. He dropped his weapon and ran off into the forest, and the rest of his men did the same.
“Thou best given up thine thieving ways, or we whilst findeth thee!” H’aanit yelled after them, and Redeye let out a loud roar to further drive the point home. She chuckled and hugged Redeye, who happily reciprocated.
“Good job, Redeye. Thou hast proven thyself to be a stalwart companion. I am grateful that Linde convinced me to sparen thee on that fateful day in Marsalim.” H’aanit said. Redeye hummed happily and nuzzled H’aanit, while Linde meowed and nuzzled Redeye.
“We maken quite the odd team, don’t we?” H’aanit mused, an amused laugh slipping out at the ridiculousness of it all. A huntress, a snow leopard, and an unholy abomination. What a wild site they must be.
“Letten us moven on. I doest not wanten to stayeth around if those cretins return.” H’aanit said. Redeye growled and suddenly grabbed H’aanit with both hands.
“Redeye! What-” H’aanit exclaimed, yelping as Redeye lifted her off of the ground and placed her onto its back. H’aanit quickly gripped its neck when it released her, and Redeye turned its head to look at her, something resembling adoration shimmering in its eyes.
“...Thou wilst never cease to surpriseth me, Redeye.” H’aanit said, chuckling as Redeye hummed and turned to head back to the road. Linde meowed and walked along beside them. The trio ventured on, ready to face whatever new challenges awaited them, and H’aanit really was eternally grateful that she gave Redeye a second chance at life.
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oh my GOD the new ep!!!! like!!!!!!!!! SO MUCH happened but then also the preview for the next ep looks SO GOOD
**spoilers for first kisses and last words**
Hoo boy this was, as I predicted, a BIG one. Not that I needed to be an oracle to figure that out since there’s only a few eps left but man did it deliver.
I still think that Cool Kids, Cold Case had the most off the wall nonsense happening in the shortest period of time but this ep I think was overall the most consistently wild ep.
So let’s take it from the top.
I think I forgot to mention it before but Adaine’s, “I go into a rage,” hardcore cracked me up.
“I have hold person.”/”I stuff a sock in her mouth.” Insult to injury Adaine.
The entire group dunking on Aelwen, forgetting that Riz is literally bleeding out, half dead.
Adaine really was dead serious about her snitching threat huh?
Ally miming a boom mic.
I love how everyone including Siobhan mess up Aelwen’s name or mix it up with Adaine’s half the time.
And speaking of, wow. What a rise and fall for her in 3 eps (and about an hour in game time). She’s queen of the nerds. She’s not even cool at her own school. And terrified of whoever she made whatever shady deal with. I know she literally tried to kill the whole party last ep and that she’s the worst but I almost feel for her.
“This is not on you. This is on the world within which you inhabit.”
I love Adaine’s semi-indigent, “We’re not going to kill you,” because Alwen was 100% ready to murder them which, side note, imagine how much on an international incident that would have been.
Lol at the group tag team bullying Aelwen about going to Mumple and Adaine using her magic jacket for super petty BS.
“Hey mom!”/”GodDAMMIT honey.”
The parent/kid relationships are so good in this show.
Everyone but Kristen parkouring off the roof when Sklonda specifically set up a ladder.
“The put a girl in a palimpsest,” followed immediately by, “She went to a party,” as if those are on the same level.
Sklonda Gukgak DUNKING Aelwen into the squad car with a technical assist from Adaine. I knew she was gonna be my fave parent from her intro scene and I love her even more than I thought.
“With all due respect, (A/N: Which is none), suck my dick, fuck you.”
“She tried to murder me.”/”BE THAT AS IT IS.”
“Eh, you carry a gun.”
“No one who’s detecting maidens is a maiden.”
I feel like I’m quoting a lot today but there were so many money lines this episode.
Everyone always loses it when Brennan starts doing the Identify spell voice and I love it.
Adaine’s dad is T R A S H
Adaine’s mom on the other hand…I’ve been wondering about her for a little while because usually the outright emotional abuse has been from her dad while her mom is either not there or not saying anything. So I’ve been wondering was her deal is and we finally got the start of an answer. I know we only have a few eps left but I hope we go a little deeper into what exactly is going on there. It seems like Adaine’s parents are gonna be a big factor in whatever endgame is planned so fingers crossed,
Everyone cracking up as Emily backs Fig into a corner talking to Penelope.
I love Gorgug so freaking much. Just his good natured, lumbering self. EVery time Zac opens his mouth gold falls out.
Emily MAXED out her deception huh?
I think Siobhan must have forgotten that she took the crystal with Ostentasia away from Aelwen at the end of last ep. Either that or they willingly gave it to the cops and I forgot (but I think it’s the former because she said in this ep that it was in Aelwen’s pocket when at the end of the last ep she def took it).
My autocorrect keeps wanting me to type Ellen for Aelwen. I WISH.
I knew it! He’s a PIRATE. Suck it Fabian. (lol at Adaine stirring the pot. That was like Adaine being sincerely polite and Siobhan trying to cause problems and I love mixed motive player/character decisions).
I wonder if the banker is named after John Hughes.
I can’t believe the dumb bank is actually a huge plot point.
Yikes, re: Bill and Fabian. That got tense. Though I’ve kinda been waiting for some kind of blowout for a while. His dad runs very hot and cold and I figured it would only be a matter of time before we saw some of the cold.
Also, Lou breaking character in the middle of that very intense moment to clarify a plot point.
Sidenote: For a hot sec after reading the title of the ep and remembering how Sklonda is competent to the point of (probably) breaking the original plot, I was so concerned she was gonna eat it this ep. So glad she didn’t.
Anyway, the idea of swinging sadly on a rope is so freaking funny.
Fig: Can I offer you a sad song in this trying time?
Huge portrait of Bill Seacaster in Fabian’s room.
Adaine is gonna bring up him kissing her sister very time she needs to get out of something w/ Fabian for the rest of her immortal life.
Another sidenote: This is a little thing but I always think it’s interesting when fantasy worlds have the same months and days as us when they’re named after like Norse Gods and Roman statesmen that wouldn’t exist in their world. Same with Roman numerals and Irish coffee.
“Am I allowed to smoke in here?”/”Of course.”
I really like the character detail that Adaine is always really polite to everyone, including/especially people like Fabian’s maid and Basrar. People that she wouldn’t necessarily “have to” be polite to, you know? It’s like she’s trying to make up for the fact that her family is a bag of dicks.
The whole bit with Fabian’s porn stash was so good. This group is so good w/ yes-adning each other.
“Privateer me a new one.” Emily is so good.
“Special investment” Suspicious
I was thinking “I can’t believe looking at a bank’s FAQs is part of this game,” right as Brennan said it.
So I went back and watched Siobhan’s face from when Emily first mentioned Kal Vaxis to when she got the connection to KVX and it took her 22 seconds. I also missed the quick cut to Brennan when Gorgug asks, “What is Kal Vaxis,” and you can tell he knows they’re so close to breaking it with the little grin on his face. I wish we had gotten a reaction shot right after she got it. Anyway, great team solve w/ the MVP trophy to Siobhan/Adaine.
I loved when Zac, Emily, and Siobhan all whipped out their laminated maps in tandem to figure out what was happening.
The hard mood change from Adaine dropping the bomb about Riz’s dad and to forming a committee to help Gorgug flirt with Zelda was wild.
Kristen telling anyone to be suave is hysterical.
What a DISASTER of a committee Gorgug’s friends are. Well meaning but so trash
Fig: Tell her you got a SICK tattoo
Adaine: Bring her to see art in the middle of the night
Fabian: You cannot date this person (Kristen: You absolutely have to)
Kristen: Actually not garbage advice but she is in no position to be giving dating advice to anyone
Riz: Having a literal existential crisis
“Who else is he gonna date?” WOW, savage Adaine.
I meant to say this before but I love how Adaine’s go-to is immediately ice cream and she’s always on board to go to Basrar’s. Like how when she texted everyone 2 eps ago she was like, “Let’s get ice cream now.”
Mmm, don’t love that Gorthalax isn’t answering his phone. I have been waiting for a significant adult to die for a while now.
OK, look, the whole thing about Penelope and Dayne being eternal prom king/queen. Is it wild? Yes. Is it implausible? No. No it’s not. Even Murph, most veteran player, was kind of like, “Wait, does that make sense?” Because, in this setting, it kind of would? I’m not sure it fits within the story so far and I’d have to go back and listen to the more lore-y stuff again but the conceit itself is like the exact right amount of crazy to fit in this setting? And they never cut to Brennan like I wanted so I could judge his face for any kind of tell. But anyway, you guys know I’ve been predicting a prom finale and this would fit right into a prom finale.
The girls giving Gorgug a pep talk before his date was ADORABLE.
Gorgug having to check his phone to remember three words, “You look nice.”
“Your friends are popular and loud” True
Zelda’s a BARBARIAN! She’s a MEGA BARBARIAN!
I know they mean ecstasy like intense emotion but I kept thinking, like, molly.
Hmm, so Penelope wanted to know if Zelda had hooked up w/ Gorgug, ie: if she was a maiden. Can they only palimpsest maidens? Or (as we will get to later) does nice guy Biz only want virginal maidens for his creepy reverse Weird Science arcade setup?
Zelda listing off every type of metal and then Gorgug’s, “Same stuff,” was perfect comic timing on Zac’s part.
Imagine the Hangman screaming down the road on fire, Zelda completely terrified.
I love the Hangman so freaking much.
“DO NOT GIVE TREATS TO MY MOTORCYCLE.”
I can’t believe everyone is living at the freaking crappy apartments. I knew they were all gonna end up hanging at one persons’ house but I kinda figured it would be Fabian’s house or Gorgug’s house.
I”m also concerned about Bill. I feel like we keep getting reminded that he’s mortal a LOT.
Did Gorgug’s parents have indoor fireworks on tap for Gorgug’s first date?
Oh my God the whole docking conversation. Never play chicken with Brennan because the dude will not blink.
“We didn’t do that.” That’s his other best comic timing moment of the ep.
“Polishing my axe”
Kristen this episode
I really wish they’d made the roll to find Ragh later in the ep. Fig is so ride or die for Gilear now and I love it.
“I fall asleep.”
Adaine almost making her parents dunk on Gilear but then pulling back.
But also, Adaine and Gilear going off the the oracle together.
“Fig pack it in.”
Affirmations with Fig and Gilear.
Fig, do you really think platonically cuddling with Kristen is the move?
Riz setting himself up for a dramatic entrance is so fantastic.
Hmm, so Biz and Zayne were attacked at the same time. That’s why that cold pill detail was in there way back. I’ve been trying to figure out what was always planned and what was quick re-working but Brennan is so good I can never really tell.
Are multiple unrelated groups just getting into palimpsests at the same time? Or mostly unrelated groups tied to one person?
“We are not gonna get our security deposit back.”
RIZ’S DAD IS JAMES BOND! YES! I didn’t know I wanted that to be the case until it happened and now that’s the only acceptable option.
Riz didn’t get the 20′s he needed when fighting Aelwen but man he got it at the best story moment this week.
Oh man that home movie
The pearl is grey. Interesting.
“Mom our family is so awesome Mom we’re all so badass, I thought it was just us but Dad is awesome too, why didn’t you tell me Mom?”
Sklonda: Internally screaming.
Man he went full Inigo Montoya.
“I’ve got nimble escape so…”
“I guess we have a two bedroom,” I think was a really underrated funny line.
Did Riz ever tell his mom about the time of death thing.
Everyone inundating Gilear with overlapping chatter.
lol the Hangman likes Zelda’s family
Ally’s panicked, “FUCK” is always hilarious.
Why are all the adults in Gorgug’s life trying to get him laid?
OK so the elementals were conjured by Aelwn’s magic Brennan said. He said by Aelwen’s magic, not by Aelwen. I wonder if that turn of phrase was specific or arbitrary. Like, we were told where Aelwen is but we don’t know. Was she forced to do it (either by threat or by magic)? Clearly someone (Biz?) is pulling her strings to at least some degree.
“It’s probably about marriage.” “WAR HAS BEEN DECLARED.”
That happened fast
Fun fact from my International Law class: When a government kidnaps someone, it’s called rendition.
“There’s a war, fuck school.”
Yeah it is wild that Adaine’s parents didn’t call her.
OK so did the Elves get Aelwen back but also go, “But you still need to go to jail.” Because they cut Brennan off before the end of that sentence which might have had more clues in it.
“I text my mom k”
I also wanna know who gave Kristen a slushy marg (It’s war times. I bet things are looser now)
Murph’s face when Brennan said, “Lucky Stones” was so good. That was so Riz.
S/O to Ally for pre-casting Guardian of Faith. Good instinct.
As I said in an earlier conversation s/o to Adaine for DUNKING on him at every opportunity because he DESERVED IT. Also, her instincts for who sucks in this game have been spot on.
Another s/o to Riz for having the presence of mind to not pull a Star Lord and to pretend to be on the bad dude’s side for long enough to gain some kind of upper hand.
OK, wow was not expecting that twist. I feel like I need to go back and rewatch some stuff to get a better handle of the timeline and stuff. Like, when exactly did the girls start going missing again? And what year is Biz? Has he been masterminding this whole thing? I feel like no but I feel like he’s masterminding his own thing which happens to a puzzle piece in something bigger? BUT IT’S A PRETTY DAMN BIG PIECE. Who opened the new arcade? Is it connected to the bank? How did Biz get involved? Who’s his supplier? Did someone hook up Biz, Daybreak, Penelope, and Aelwen with Palimpsests to do their own separate things, hoping that at least one of them would succeed which would somehow be good for the mystery person? I am so excited to find out and I really hope Brennan and the cast do a Q+A sesh after S1 is over to hash some stuff out.
Siobhan’s face when Biz said he was going after Adaine.
ALSO, you’re just gonna TELL RIZ and you wanna PUT ONE OF HIS BEST FRIENDS into a MAGIC CRYSTAL???? AND YOU THOUGHT HE’D BE ON BOARD? Like, even if he was, what about the 4 other people who are there?????
(sidenote, wild Gorgug’s parents just left them alone, no questions asked)
Theme-wise, this is the fight ep I’m most excited for. It seems rad as hell.
All that yelling in the promo for next week. Either the raddest thing possible happened or there was a TPK. There is no other option.
Wow, that was a stellar ep and this is a really long post. I really can’t wait for next week’s!
Edit: I meant to say before, is Penelope’s FB album like…a hit list? Like does whoever’s doing the actual dirty work (Biz? S/o else?) know that whoever she takes a picture with is who they should target?
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Wraith in the Ruins: A Fallout 4 Story Part II
Redemption in You
Trigger warnings: canon language/drug use. PTSD/angst/self-harm.
MacCready had just returned from long patrol and in spite of being exhausted, he had insisted on being included in Wraith’s meeting with Hancock and Preston. Touting himself as the foremost expert on the Gunners, he had argued that his input would be “invaluable”. And yet, the young man was sprawled, fast asleep, the full length of Wraith’s office couch, covered by a furry Dogmeat blanket, contributing nothing but the occasional loud snore.
“I don’t think we can wait much longer!” Wraith was in a fury over the latest settlement attack. “They gain in numbers almost daily and I feel like I’m helping them. Every raider boss the Minutemen cut down just adds to the Gunners’ recruitment options.” She had stood up from her desk and was pacing and gesticulating as if she was conducting an orchestra, “If we don’t do something soon they will have every ex-raider in the Commonwealth, rank and file against us!”
“General, we simply don’t have the people.”
Preston’s repeated protest wore thin on Wraith’s nerves. Mostly because she knew that he was right. “They are growing much faster than we are.” She leaned forward across her desk and focused her laser gaze on the ghoul, “Hancock, if we were to attempt a direct assault, how many Neighborhood Watch could we count on from you?”
“Can’t believe I’d be the one to preach caution but, Preston is right.” Cocking his head to the side he returned her stare unflinchingly, “You know I hate to tell ya ‘no’ but, there is no way I’m gonna send my people to the grinder. That’s what it’d end up being sister, a huge, fucking bloody mess. The risk ain’t worth the reward, you feel me? Fahrenheit has been on my ass about learnin’ some patience…” He trailed off, shaking his head.
“Then I’ll go myself! I have some power armor…” Loud, howling protests from Preston, Hancock and Dogmeat cut her off and she plopped heavily into her chair.
“Now wait a minute, we’ve been through this one-woman-army bullshit! MacCready! Wake the fuck up and back us up here!”
“Mmmmugh… You can’t go and kill yourself. Don’t be stupid.” MacCready had turned his head and was attempting to glare at her past Dogmeat’s panting muzzle, “What’s the point of havin’ a inner circle if you won’t listen to us?”
Wraith stood back up, waved her hands toward the ceiling and turned her back to them in a flurry of impotent anger. Spinning back around, mouth open for rebuttal, she was cut off by a knock on the door.
“Excusez-moi, madam.” Curie opened the door and stuck her head in, “Ze sun is setting and Monsieur Danse did not return with the rest of the work crew.”
“Danse was assigned to the morning shift. Are you sure he didn’t return earlier and he isn’t just in his room?”
“Non madame, a crew member just informed me that he’s been out all day.”
“Shit.” Wraith quickly skirted her desk, shooting what she hoped was an authoritative look at the three men as she headed to the door, “This discussion is tabled, not over.”
“You want me along sister?” Hancock had started to follow her out.
“No, you stay and babysit.”
MacCready flipped her off, “Ha! Up yours!”
Wraith had Curie run back to her clinic to grab a field med pack as she speed walked to one of Sanctuary’s warehouses. As she reached for the lantern she was after, Deacon’s face flashed in her mind.
No! No time for you. Go away! You weren’t my friend; just using me to defeat your enemies for you. Not my friend!
Waiting outside, Curie handed Wraith a ballistic weave Minutemen trench. She had, once again, been about to run off to possible danger while wearing nothing but a flannel and jeans. Smiling her thanks and shrugging into the coat, she reached out for the med pack. When it wasn’t immediately surrendered she waved her hand up and down with impatience.
“I should go with you madame.” Curie’s notoriously cheerful tone had been replaced with something bordering on scolding, “I should go to make sure you are both…”
“No, Baby Bird; this is a solo mission.” Taking the pack she turned back and forced a cheerful smile as she walked away, “We’ll be just fine.”
This should have been handled a while ago you fucking coward. You told yourself that you were giving him time apart to think, to come to terms with his new reality, when really you were just too scared to face him.
Jogging across the small bridge and up the hill toward the vault, she was once again confronted by a mental image of an unmistakably sad Deacon.
Why did he make that face? Because, you dummy, he’s a liar and a very good actor! He was never your friend and there was never any chance of being more… Stop obsessing; you have Danse to worry about right now.
Cresting the hill, she could hear the unmistakable sound of an ax chopping wood. As she navigated the broken ground and brush the sound continued almost unceasingly. There was a rhythm to the “thunk” sound and it wore on her already frayed nerves.
Danse was a visually impressive individual: tall, traditionally handsome with an impeccable physique. When she finally spotted him, her first thoughts were in line with admiring his form while swinging the ax. He looked pretty damn fine. However, as she moved closer she could see flecks of blood all over his white t-shirt and it was dripping freely down his arms. Swinging an ax all day had ripped the palms of his hands open and yet he continued as if oblivious to the injury.
His mental state decidedly questionable, Wraith decided to pop Buffout, just in case the situation became physical. “Danse? Hey, stop for a sec.” He continued on as if she wasn’t there. “DANSE, STOP!” Nothing. It wasn’t that he was ignoring her, more like he couldn’t hear her. She stepped behind him and deftly disarmed him, sweeping the ax behind her back.
The response was savage: whipping around while snarling, he raised his bloody hands and flexed his fingers like claws. His face a twisted mask of rage, he bore a striking resemblance to a yao guai.
Despite the threat, Wraith took a step toward him while yelling up at his face, “What the fuck are you doing?! Look at your hands! Danse?!”
“M7-97.” In an instant all emotions fled from his face and his eyes became dispassionate and empty.
“M7-97. ‘Danse’ does not exist.” His shoulders sagged somewhat and he wouldn’t look into her eyes. “I was instructed to process this fallen tree for lumber. I am completing my assigned task.”
Taking a deep breath, Wraith tried again, “Danse, look at your hands. Don’t they hurt?”
“It is inconsequential data. A damage prevention signal…”
“THAT’S WHAT PAIN IS, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” In her anger, Wraith threw the ax, rather artfully, into a nearby tree. The Buffout, combined with her own considerable strength, resulted in the tool being completely embedded in the trunk.
Well… shit. Stupid. Violent and stupid.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she counted to 10 and tried again, “You are an organic being, not a Mr. Gutsy. You need to eat and drink and rest. Danse, you’re bleeding and sweating, how many robots that you know of do those things?” Hoping to elicit some sort of emotion, even if it was anger, Wraith was intentionally crass, “I know for a fact that you take dumps! How many protectrons are there who shit?”
“DANSE DOES NOT EXIST!” His face was florid in his anger. He took a menacing step toward her but then suddenly swayed on his feet and would have fallen had Wraith not caught him.
Gently lowering him to a stump, she steadied him with one hand while removing a canteen from her pack. “Tilt your head back.” For a moment she thought that she would have to somehow fight the water into him but thankfully he complied. As he drank involuntary tears filled his eyes. “That’s it, nice and slow.”
When the canteen was empty, Wraith kicked a split log next to Danse’s stump and plopped down. “I’m going to field dress your hands now. When I’m done I want you to drink some more water and eat something.”
His eyes were empty again and he didn’t fight or acknowledge her as she worked. Cleaning and wrapping his large hands she was overcome by self-deprecation as her mind ground her down. She couldn’t stop thinking about how sad Deacon had looked, or that when she returned from Goodneighbor, Curie had barely spoken to her and seemed to be slightly scared of her.
Did Deacon talk to her before he left? Did something happen? Did he… would he have hurt himself? No. That doesn’t make sense. And now… poor Danse... I scare and ruin and I’m so LOUD and mean!
Despite her best efforts she started to cry. “I’m so sorry Danse! This is all my fault. I should have been there for you but instead I avoided you like a fucking coward!”
Her eyes were on his in a flash. He looked away but she could tell he had returned. “Yes Danse, I completely destroyed your life. I literally burned it to the ground!” She was sobbing now, her face in her hands, “I killed all your friends!”
“My friends?! You mean all those people who immediately turned their backs on me? Who wanted me dead?! Who… who thought that I was… was a spy? Who thought that I knew?! And that everything I had ever done for them was a lie to further some Institute agenda?!” Danse had stood up but wobbled on his last few words and he sat down rather heavily.
“Not all of them. Haylen didn’t. She pleaded with me to spare you.”
“She… she did?” Surprised, he leaned toward her.
“Yes, which is one of the reasons I didn’t kill her.” Wraith stood up to pace, “I scared the shit out of her, I’m sure, but I didn’t kill her. When Hancock and I boarded the Prydwen, I grabbed her and told her she needed to round-up all of the squires and as many of the fucking cats she could find and get off the ship. I told her to pack them into a vertibird and go back to the Capital Wasteland. God knows I have enough on my conscience…” She trailed off once she realized Danse was crying. Not an involuntary watering of the eyes but a real emotive response.
“Thank God!” He had brought his wrapped hands to his face and was openly sobbing into them.
Wraith didn’t know what to do. She wanted to hug him but felt she didn’t have the right. Sitting back down, she reached out and rather awkwardly patted his shoulder. To her surprise, he grabbed her and pulled her into a crushing embrace.
“I don’t know who or what I am! What am I supposed to do now?!” He cried into her shoulder as Wraith patted his back. After a few moments he released her, Wraith passed him another canteen and the two sat sniffling as he drank. “Ugh. I’ve been so rude to your ghoul.”
Wraith cocked an eyebrow, “You’re going to have to be more specific, Danse. My friends are quite lovely people and a lot like potato crisps; you can’t have just one.”
“I’m sorry. I’m still being rude… the mayor… Hancock.”
“Well… just lose a couple of hands of Poker to him and I’m sure all will be forgiven.” Although she was joking Wraith figured an honestly repentant Danse would get considerable traction with the ghoul.
“Oh, of course, he gambles.”
Wraith rolled her eyes at his tone, “With our group we normally bet chores rather than caps; Mac hates doing dishes.”
“Why… why did you join the Brotherhood? You declined in Cambridge. What made you change your mind?” He had been looking at the canteen in his hands but now moved his eyes to Wraith, “Did the Railroad send you… did you just…”
“That’s actually pretty complicated.” Wraith frowned at her feet while trying to decide how much to tell him. How much would he even believe? “I did it to save you.”
When Danse’s face clouded over with doubt and confusion, Wraith’s explanation tumbled out of her in a hurried rush of words, “In Sanctuary there is a woman. She knows things… things that she should have no way of knowing. She told me that there was a ‘soul lost in steel’ and only I could ‘lead them home’.” Wraith returned her eyes to his, “At first I thought that she meant Maxson. That’s why I tried so hard with him. It took me a while to see that there was no saving him.”
“He is dead then? Arthur?” His tone was resigned.
“Yes.” Wraith didn’t flinch or look away, “He was dead before the charges went.”
“You…” He swallowed, “It was you then?” There was pain in his tawny eyes.
“No. I had intended to but lost control. Hancock killed Maxson.” There was no regret in her voice. As far as she was concerned he was a fanatical monster and completely irredeemable.
Monster. How many would say the same about me?
They sat quietly, lost in their heads, as Danse finished off the second canteen. It was fully dark now and for a time they listened to the eerie sounds of a Commonwealth spring night.
Wraith stood up and lit the lantern and began rummaging through the med pack, “There should be jerky and sweet leather in here…”
“Yeah, it’s mashed up mutfruit, corn and carrots, boiled down, dried and then cut into strips. It’s really tasty. In fact, we have to keep an eye on MacCready while we’re making it cause batches have a way of ‘disappearing’. Here we go!” Wraith handed him the sweet leather first and watched in amusement as Danse made an involuntary “BOS-new-thing-scary” face.
After the first hesitant bite he smiled, “It’s softer than I thought.”
Wraith returned to her log and passed him some jerky, “Danse, I think we can help each other a great deal, if you feel that you can trust me.”
“I trust you.” He said it softly and gave her a sad smile.
“I would like to move you to the clinic.”
“What! Why?!” He noted her more formal tone and was immediately on guard.
“I thought you said you trusted me.” She gave him a smile that she hoped was gentle, “There are plenty of available rooms and Curie is almost always there. She isn’t a psychologist as far as I know but she is a capable doctor. She is also kind and sweet and soothing to be around. She’s like a balm.”
Danse had stopped eating so Wraith pantomimed the action to remind him: taking an imaginary bite and nodding when he mirrored her. It was a very motherly thing to do and it touched him. Chewing and smiling he had an odd thought about how much Wraith reminded him of Haylen.
“I’ll be close too; my office and house are right next door. As to who you are and what you’re supposed to do… well… I have some ideas but that can wait. Moving forward from this will be hard. You are going to fall. You’re going to have days when even getting out of bed will seem the greatest of challenges. Curie and I will be there for you but you’re going to have to steady yourself as well. Taking responsibility for your past and facing the consequences of your actions will require massive fortitude but I believe you’re up to the task.”
Wraith offered him a huge encouraging smile, “Starting tomorrow you’ll be with me. I have a huge walk-in freezer project that I’d like to get done before summer. There will be lots of physical work for you. I also would like to get at least a small unit set up for Curie before her next semester starts.”
“I have Curie training field medics for the Minutemen. She also insists on my core group being trained. That includes you FYI.” Wraith began tallying items up on her hands as she spoke, “The lumber project, the mill, Mac wants more sand bags behind the practice targets before his spring semester starts, he’s been bugging me about watchtowers too. Oh, and I want a better road cut out…” She made a vague circle gesture with her hand, “here.”
“Yes. I have Mac teaching sniper school and basic gun skills to… well pretty much everyone.” Wraith sighed: 101 projects and only one her.
“MacCready teaches… people?”
Danse’s incredulity made Wraith chuckle, “Believe it or not, that kid has a vast amount of skill and knowledge. Folks get used to his… brusqueness. Oh, please don’t tell him I called him ‘kid’ again; for some reason it really pisses him off.”
“You can’t be that much older than him.” He hurried on when her eyebrows popped up, “I mean besides the two hundred years spent frozen.”
“Danse, I was thirty-eight when I became a meat popsicle.”
Shocked, Danse looked at her as if for the first time. He had never seen her with long hair as she had worn it buzzed but there didn’t seem to be any trace of grey. Her light green eyes, although frequently sad and tired weren’t framed by crow’s feet either, “Well, you are remarkably well preserved.”
She snorted in amusement, “Flash freezing is the way to go.”
Waving his bandaged, mitten hands, he looked mortified, “No! No, that isn’t what I meant!”
Standing and stretching, she gave a regretful glance to the ax before repacking the med kit. “I know what you meant and that’s kind of you. You ready to go home?” She held her hands out to him and to his surprise he needed her help to stand up.
The next couple of weeks were filled with highs and lows for Danse. In one moment he looked to the future with hope and in the next he dwelt on his past with despair. Curie was God-send: her gentle positivity a perfect counterbalance to Wraith’s sometimes harsh, “accountability=reality” take on life.
Then after having several good days in a row, an emergency broadcast from Radio Freedom threw a wrench into his recovery. There had been an accident at the Castle and Preston was critically injured.
“He just got back for fuck’s sake!” Wraith was in a flurry of motion and within 20 minutes, she, MacCready, Curie and Dogmeat were jogging out of Sanctuary. “Danse, you’ll be okay.” She had stopped to give him a reassuring hug, “Sofie has all the task lists and Hancock will be back in a week or so to pick up a load of freezer parts. Sturges has everything labeled and set aside in warehouse B.” She took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze, “We will be back as soon… Soon.”
MacCready’s helpful advice was less conciliatory, “Try not to burn the place down, tin can.”
Then they were gone.
Sofie, a tiny ghoulette, was the village head whenever Wraith was away. Standing next to Danse she barely reached past his waist. “Don’t worry honey; they’ll be back before you know it.”
He tried to keep busy. He focused on the big watch tower (Wraith had already named it “Big Mac’s Nest” and although MacCready had scoffed at the name, his huge smile told on him). Mostly, Danse hated going back to the clinic at night. All alone in the large house, his mind would start cranking out little nightmares to torture him. After 3 days of trying to work himself to unthinking exhaustion, he reverted back to robot mode. Speaking only when asked a direct question, if at all, he went about his duties with as much life and enthusiasm as a plastic toy.
Sofie had been warned to make sure that he ate and she took it seriously. She would sit with him after bringing him food but neither spoke and she wasn’t even sure that he knew she was there.
When Hancock and his provisioner Bossy arrived in Sanctuary the ghoul made a bee-line for Wraith’s office. After speaking briefly with Sofie he headed over to the watchtower looking for Danse.
“He’s not here.” The foreman seemed irritated, “He hit himself with a hammer and was just staring at it. He was freaking me out, so I told him to go and take a break. Check down by the river.”
“I just fucking walked across the goddamn Commonwealth…” The ghoul continued to mumble irritably as he made his way back through town. When Hancock spotted him, Danse was standing under the big bridge and staring at a tire as it bobbed through the water. “Hey crew-cut, I have a present for ya.”
Danse turned from the river, his eyes dispassionate, “Hancock.”
“Uh, yeah, that’d be me. Whatcha lookin’ at?”
“Well, that’s fascinating. Here, check this out.” Hancock maintained a rather forced smile as he handed the large man a book on medieval armor and weapons. Although the cover was worn, the tome was in remarkable condition, all things considered. “There’s some cool knives and swords in there too.”
Looking down at the book then looking back at Hancock, Danse seemed to thaw, “Why?”
“Well, shit kid, I figured you’d like it.”
“No. That’s not what I meant. Why would you give me anything but your scorn?” His eyes narrowed in mistrust, Danse took a step backward while holding the book at arm’s length. “I have never been anything but rude to you! Why would you even speak to me, let alone give me a gift?”
Hancock lifted his arms, palms up, to appear as non-threating as possible, “Never thought giving someone something thoughtful would be met with this level of resistance. I have another copy, for one. And two, Wraith trusts and likes you a whole lot. For me, that carries a ton of weight.” Hancock’s tone became softer, almost gentle, “She handed you the strand of thread and it’ll be interesting to see what you do with it.”
“I’m sorry… Strand of thread?”
“She gave you a piece that you never had before and as you pull it, all that bullshit that you’ve been told, all the lies and hate, it’ll unravel. That small reality you’re left with? That’s something you can build on. Something true.” Hancock’s gentle smile was genuine now, “I know one or two things ‘bout turnin’ over a new leaf and trying to find redemption. It takes time son, so give yourself a break.” Hancock watched the rippling emotions cross Danse’s face then turned and walked away. “I’m going to help Bossy load up all that junk. You should come help us.”
Danse was reading in his room a week later when someone knocked on his door. Answering, he was so shocked to see Wraith he stood frozen, speechless and blinking.
“Um… hi Danse. You okay?”
“Yeah. Yes! Hi!”
Laughing a little, she pointed to the book, “I see Hancock decided to give it to you after all.”
“Yes. Yes he did. He and I talked as well. I think… we might be friends now?”
Wraith’s warm smile spoke volumes, “I’m happy for you both. Would you like to go for a walk with me?”
Wraith filled Danse in on Preston as they headed toward the Sanctuary warehouses. Soon after returning to the Castle, he had been crushed between two brahmin. “I’m so glad we had some of Curie’s students there. He would have died had they not started treatment right away.”
Stopping in front of warehouse C, Wraith undid the padlock, then adopting her formal “General” voice she turned to Danse, “I’m fortunate to have friends like MacCready and Curie who are able to teach the Minutemen and anyone willing, these important survival skills. I’m hoping, Danse, that you might also help the Commonwealth in much the same way.” She opened the door and made an “after you” gesture before following him inside and flipping the light switch.
Danse had never been inside C. From the outside it was clearly the biggest of the three and had two huge generators hooked up outside. As the lights flashed on he could see why: the entire space was filled with power armor.
“Sturges and I have been working on my little… collection, but we don’t have the expertise that you possess.” Smiling sadly, Wraith crossed her arms like she was hugging herself, “Nate would have loved this. I think he would have liked you a lot too. You remind me of him sometimes.”
Danse ripped his eyes from the treasure trove in front of him. Blushing, he cleared his throat, “You… you want me to teach the Minutemen to use power armor?”
“Yes. I realize it’ll take some time. We are short on people and some of these units are in pretty bad shape. With you helping us with acquisition and training, in maintenance and tactics, we can avoid a lot of trial-and-error.”
Danse had been wandering the room like a kid in a candy store when he came to a dead stop in front of a familiar set of T-60d armor. “This… this is mine?!” He placed his hands on the breastplate, “How did you get this?”
“Maxson gave it to me.” Her mouth twisted in disgust, “It was a reward for my loyalty. Danse, I kept it for you. Regardless of what you decide it’s still your armor.” She followed him as he explored. “You wouldn’t have to actually join the Minutemen; Mac didn’t. Your knowledge can help us as a consultant. If you do decide to join I will appoint you a suitable rank as an officer of the Minutemen Cavalry.”
Danse couldn’t help but smile, “Cavalry?”
“I haven’t nailed down a name yet but I want to incorporate ‘Dragoon’ into it. I have to keep with the revolutionary theme after all.”
Continuing his exploration, Danse gave a low whistle when the Quantum X-01 suit came into view.
Wraith leaned against his arm, “Nice, huh? That one is for you too, once again, regardless of your choice. I want you to know that whatever you decide, I’m your friend and you will have a home here in Sanctuary.”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Danse put his arms around her, his voice cracking with emotion, “I will follow you and help you with whatever you need, my friend… my General.”
Thank you so much for reading! Like what you read? Looking for more? Please see my master link located under my bio. I will be updating and re-posting the master as well. Please consider reblogging, I could us the signal boost. As always my ask is open (anon too) if you have any questions/concerns/comments. =^..^=
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// lost gold event spoilers-ish
im getting nerfed by my lack of resources to unlock more locations, mostly fuckin...WOOD. so i changed marius' resource collection to wood bc hes second best at it after luke who is a wood chopping machine. why is marius second best at it tho? is it out of sheer determination?? i dont know anything about marius' physical strength, like he likes extreme sports like skydiving but does he do other stuff? hes a CEO, artist, and grad student. i hope hes not taking time out of his day to exercise too much, because what he needs is SLEEP, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
anyway im currently amused thinking about luke and marius bickering (and bonding, im soft about these two...) while chopping for lumber
luke: youre holding the axe wrong, youre going to get a wrist ache---
marius: i know what im doing
luke: just let me fix---
marius: i can do this
later back at basecamp marius wrists hurt so much. luke gets him a hot compress. marius accepts it silently.
luke: just let me fix it, next time. i know your hands are important for your art
marius, touched but not going to show it outwardly, duh: ...fine
the intricate rituals men do to slowly achieve closeness...
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