Saithsarda - Himmel
Cornelius mumbled to himself as he rode his mount through the last bit of shade he'd probably see for a long while. "Why oh why did I ever agree to such terms...There's no way I can write this by the end of the year." He'd been letting the horse direct them for the most part, while he scribbled down several notes in a bound stack of parchment. He was going to miss the forest animals...so beautiful and colorful. The forest itself was vibrant with life and song. Before him dwelt the dry and unforgiving desert... He had high prospects for the sights he would see through the sand, legends foretold of many mystical creatures that dwelt within the wastelands, on the fringes of known lands. He knew not what to expect, but was prepared to face many of the dangers that the desert was so very wrought with. He stroked his mount's neck and urged the poor creature forward into the desert.
After a full day's ride, the sun was finally setting. He knew that it would soon be far too cold to do anything other than sleep. He needed somewhere that they could hunker in for the night. He yawned and put his book away, rubbing his eyes. He dismounted and took the reigns, deciding to let the tired beast be free of his weight on their way to bed. He saw an oasis ahead, then steered them towards it. An oasis would be a nice and safe place, there'd be water...blessed water. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was until he saw the little sparkle of a pond.
The meager bushes around him shivered as a bunch of rugged men jumped out with swords glinting from the setting sun. "Oy, look what we got here!" The men surrounded him and began chuckling. No one noticed a distant dune shudder as something large shifted position under the hot shards of glass.
Nel nearly jumped out of his skin when the men appeared from the shadows. Poisonous insects and venomous snakes, he had antidotes for those. His sword and bow were even effective at scaring off lions...so long as they weren't terribly hungry. But men?? His eyes darted around fearfully. He had no hope of fighting his way out of this... "Ju-just a humble chronicler..." He admitted, keeping his head down. He didn't want any trouble, why oh why did trouble always have to find him???
"That's a nice looking horse you have there." One man grunted, "Why don't we take that off your hands!" He lunged for the reigns.
Nel moved aside, taking the reigns with him, leaving the man to fail at his lunge. "I-I'm afraid I can't let you take her, sir. She is all I have... I would be stranded out here." He admitted, knowing full well that's probably what they were intending to do to him.
"He's got some spunk." Their apparent leader admitted, taking out a crossbow and aiming it at Nel. "Looks like you're going to be stranded, 'chronicler', seeing as we need that horse... and any other provisions you might have." The leader walked closer to him till the bolt was inches from his face.
"I haven't got any other provisions..." He replied coolly. He tried his best to keep his calm. The water jug he'd packed was nearly empty, he'd hoped to refill it in the oasis pond. He'd run out of packed food during his trek through the forest, he'd been hunting as he traveled, only eating when necessary. All he had was his writing supplies, surely they would not find them to be useful... Bandits rarely could read, let alone write.
They pulled out some ropes to bind him, evil grins on their dirty faces. "You'll do just fine as a slave then, provisions of the flesh."
Seeing the ropes, and the way the men were looking at him, he had every need to be afraid. He shook his head and stuttering profusely said, "N-no, I'm af-afraid I would not..." He rolled up his sleeves, revealing rather spindly arms. "I can hardly lift myself up onto the horse. I-I'd be no good as a slave... Surely you wouldn't want such a.. such a worthless slave as me. Why.. I'm liable to break an arm or leg at the drop of a hat! It really is amazing that I've made it this far without injury."
"I'm sure you will do just fine." They all grabbed him and secured him with coarse rope, quickly leaving him tied up and searching through his saddlebags.
Nel struggled as they tied him up. He got in a few lucky punches, but he was kicked in return because of it. He collapsed onto his side, groaning as he watched them tear through his things. The distress surged from him, rolling outward from his mind, seeking help from someone, anyone. In all his travels, he had never actually been assaulted like this. They couldn't take his things... He needed his things! He could do nothing to stop them though.
The closest sand dune exploded. Shards of sand were flung into their air and before they landed blood spurted from a bandit, the man going down instantly. in the confusion a giant creature hovered in the air, it's long snakelike body twisted before it uncoiled in fury. The claws rent gashes in the men's bodies like they were paper, taking them down one by one. The last bandit sputtered as he stepped back and the beast watched it with anger in it's eyes, blood across the muzzle. It had taken out seven men effortlessly. The leader drew out a dagger, waving it in front of himself. "G-get back! Beast!"
It growled, the lip twitching revealing needle sharp teeth. In the blink of an eye it slapped him across the face, sending his head flying from his shoulders.
Nel watched in horror as the bandits were slaughtered. When the head went flying from the leader's shoulders, it landed right before him. His eyes bulged from his head and he backpedaled away from it as fast as he could. He struggled in his bindings and wanted to get far away. His heart was racing, panic causing him to struggle even more so.
The body dropped unceremoniously to the ground and the giant entity stepped over it, approaching him with long easy strides. It's ears had remained back in anger flicked forward, giving the creature a jackals appearance. The body was long and serpentine but it walked with it's body as far from the ground as it's legs would allow, each long toe tipped in a pink claw. A distant relative to dragons perhaps and a good seven feet to the shoulder, it was covered in fine hair that was the color of sand along it's back and a deep purple and fuchsia fur covering it's belly. The eyes were lilac, holding intelligence as it lowered it's neck so that it was level with the ground at which Nel was laying. Something about it seemed quite feminine and she flicked an ear, warding against a sand fly.
He couldn't take his eyes off of it. His heart was racing in terror, it just appeared and slaughtered all of the bandits. Was he next on the menu? He wanted to look for his horse, assuming it had run off the moment this creature appeared. He'd need his horse in order to get across the desert, but he dare not take his eyes off this thing. He feared if he did, it would kill him in a moment. He was entirely helpless, and that fact wasn't missed one bit by him. Tears rimmed on the edges of his eyes and he trembled as it approached. There was nothing he could do to stop it, it had appeared, killed the others, and he was next. He was sure of it.
The feelings were emanating from him and the animal scrunched up it's feline like nose in annoyance. She let her haunch hit the ground as she sat down and lifted her neck, bringing her head upwards and looking to the right. It sure did not appear like it had just killed eight men, if you ignored a little blood on her fur. She let out a very audible sigh, closing her eyes before turning back to him. It knew if it touched him he would likely fall unconscious from the shock, but she did not wish to speak, so instead she concentrated, the fur on her spine going stiff as she looked into his tearing eyes.
One word was spoken directly into his mind. Who?
The voice caused his fearful tremors to slow and he tilted his head to look at it curiously. He swallowed and chose to answer, what else did he have to lose? "I'm Cornelius..." He said, his voice a little bit shaky.
Help? The beast started a shake at her shoulders that traveled up her long neck until it reached her head, her large ears shaking from the remnants. She tried again. Need?
"Need help, yes. I need help." He replied, nodding his head furiously. He was still breathing hard, his heart still racing. The creature's appearance instilled much fear in him. It was asking if he needed help though, did it come only because he needed help? He didn't cry out for help, how did it know he needed it? Surely it hadn't seen anything from inside that sand dune, could it?
She could feel his disbelief. Well, she hadn't actually been in the dune, but rather on top under a layer of sand and she had been there since the bandits had arrived. Her kind wasn't specifically designed for the desert but, she made due. This all would be easier if she just came out and spoke. Though, it had not used it's voice in many years and was uncomfortable doing so. And this... thing was not a Himmel, even if it had used distance mindspeech. She sniffed at him delicately then scratched idly at her side, much like a dog. Finally she made up her mind, standing and moving away from Cornelius, motioning with her head for him to follow.
He struggled to get onto his knees, then had to struggle even more to get himself up onto two legs once more. "This...would be...much...easier..." He grunted between each sent of words as he struggled upright. "Without...the bindings." He stretched a bit, still confined, but relieved to be alive. He started following the creature, he didn't have much choice on the matter anyway.
One of her ears flicked back at him as she realized what he said. It turned quickly and extended a claw, watching him for a reaction before gently slicing through one layer of each of his bindings. It seemed to ponder something for a moment before dropping her torso to the ground, her hind legs still standing as she offered him her shoulder.
The sight of her extended claw sent chills down his spine and made his heart skip a beat. He winced fearfully as it moved close and then when it slid only through his bindings, he sighed and nearly collapsed with relief. The relief from all the stress must have been washing off of him just as the fear had earlier. He looked at the offered shoulder curiously. He tilted his head to the side, he'd never seen an animal act in such a way before. "Are you...offering me a ride?"
She looked at it with one eye, let out a slight huff and made a very human-like nod. Grabbing the fallen rope in her teeth, she wrapped it around her long neck and waited on the other side for him.
He stepped forward and took a hold of the other end of the rope. He climbed up onto the creature's shoulder, marveling at the soft texture of its fur. He situated himself carefully at the base of its neck, holding onto the rope with his left hand. He leaned down and took hold of the other end with his right and gave its neck a light squeeze with his knees. "Seeing as you seem to understand me...I think I must say thank you for all of this."
Dropping the rope once he had it, the beast balanced his weight on her shoulders as he was sitting right behind the small hump that marked the apex of her torso. You mindspeak like a Himmel, so I felt compelled to help. She snorted and began to waddle towards the setting sun.
"M-mindspeak like a Himmel?" He asked it softly and then registered what that meant. "You're a Himmel!" The elation of this discovery wafted from him. He instinctively reached behind his back to grab his book and noticed for the first time its absence. "Oh my! My things! Please, we must gather my things. It isn't much, I swear, but I do so need them...." He pleaded with the creature, truly hoping it didn't mind. He could not pass up the chance to document that he'd actually seen, felt, and conversed with a legendary Himmel!
The Himmel stopped in mid stride, one foot still in the air as she turned her neck to look at him out of the corner of her eye. You... know what I am. She suddenly had the urge to find his materials that he needed now, perhaps he knew more about her race, or where there were more. Hold on! Her giant body suddenly lifted into the air, bobbing like a bladder filled with air on a waters surface. She swirled much like swimming into the dusk sky, her sharp eyes looking for the beast he had had with him when he had been ambushed.
"Of course I know what you are... You're exactly what I've been searching for. A creature right out of legend..." He exclaimed in a soft voice. He was rather in awe as she twisted and swirled about to head back towards the oasis. He would've figured that his stomach would've headed for his throat, but the movement was so graceful, that he'd hardly felt it at all. "My gods... you're incredible..." He complimented it, reaching down and running his fingers through her fur.
Her skin twitched under his fingers as she was unaccustomed with being touched. The prey must have wandered off after those two legged predators attacked you. Your kind is not an apex predator, though, they like to think that they are. Their fear betrays them and they die just as easily. The Himmel could see in the growing darkness just fine and she began to descend, following the hoofed tracks.
"We are an arrogant species that do not truly know their place in this world..." He said quietly. He removed his hand from her fur, trying to memorize the texture in his mind. He would not forget this day, no matter how long a life he lived. He looked at the creature curiously, "Please, tell me what I may call you. Thinking of you merely as 'the creature' in my mind seems to me that it would be a grave insult to you. Surely, you must have a name."
My true name is Saithsarda. I am the last guardian of the South wind. Her hackles suddenly raised up along her neck and back as she spotted his horse. It was half inside a sand dune, the legs bent and sticking up from the sand. In the near darkness and growing cold Saithsarda stopped in mid air, assessing the situation. There is a predator here. I can feel its will to kill and feed. It appears it has taken your animal.
"Saith..sarda..." He spoke it slowly, making sure to sound it out properly. "Saithsarda." He smiled, feeling he'd gotten it correct. He saw his horse's legs sticking up and dread cascaded down through his heart. His hands trembled slightly upon her 'reigns' and looked at her. "If this predator is in need of my horse..." He sighed and slumped. "Then there is nothing I can do.. I do need those saddlebags though... Is there a way for us to retrieve them?"
This is a rare predator, I have only encountered them a couple of times in my life. She sniffed and landed a little ways away, the dying light giving way to the stars and moon and making the dunes look like they were covered in snow. The Himmel sniffed, extending her neck a little ways before turning slightly to Nel. I need you to get down. Understand that I cannot mindspeak to you like this unless we are in contact. She lowered her chest so he could slide down easier.
He slid down, keeping his hand pressed against her. "Do be careful, Saithsarda..." He cautioned her. He knew it was foolish to do so, but he could not help himself. He worried for her sake. She was about to face some sort of rare predator for the sake of his things... She had already jumped into the fray on his behalf once. He could not believe he had asked her to do it yet again.
Saithsarda did not respond and stepped away from him, the rope he had been using to hold onto her sliding to the ground. He did not know that he was the only connection she had to finding her species, or in securing the knowledge of her race. Nel burned with the curiosity of it. If the forgotten gods had placed him in her path, she knew it was for a reason and their futures were now bound. She took a moment to scan the memories of her mother for any ideas as to what the Sandswimmer could do to her. The Himmel knew to avoid its poisonous tail and that it was fast. Saithsarda knew for a fact she was faster.
She secretly hoped it was an adult... if it was a young Sandswimmer its venom could kill her.
Nel held onto the rope, coiling it about aimlessly as he watched her stalk towards the sand dune. He hoped he hadn't just sent her off to her deathbed. He had no idea what she was stalking, but if it had been able to take a whole horse beneath the sands... He swallowed nervously and watched. Whatever the creature was, he was going to preserve all he could of it to his memory. When he had his supplies back, he fully intended to document whatever it was. He'd leave extra space after he wrote about Himmels, enough so that he could include a full color spread... That is, if Saithsarda would oblige him by posing for a portrait. The thought of painting her seemed to calm him a bit and the loping of the rope between his hands slowed.
Much like a fox Saithsarda concentrated on the sand, her ears fully tilted forward, listening. The dune wasn't very large, most likely it had been raised up by the predator underneath and she began to circle it. Every few steps she slammed her thick tail to the sand. A loud rumble sounded below them and it reverberated into the air. A warning, thought Saithsarda. The sand moved slightly in a curled manner to where she was standing, facing her. Sand rippled in a large patch much like an alligator displaying its territorial dominance at the waters surface. This was nothing as simple as an alligator sadly.
Saithsarda tensed in the moonlight, the beams flickering across the stripe of fur along her back like a blade. From her throat echoed a hearty growl and her ears pressed back flat against her neck. In the blink of an eye an armored worm with the jaws of a shark and the tail of a scorpion lunged at her, the tail snapping forward and missing the Himmel. Both creatures were very nimble for their sizes and Saithsarda circled it again now that it was above the sand, her mouth open and snarling viciously.
Nel's eyes darted along the scene before him, soaking in the images, the movements. His ears listening to every sound, every scraping of a nail, every roll of a growl. He would not miss a single detail. He wished he had his parchment, afraid that second hand drawing might diminish the extent of the image. He wanted to capture every detail of these two legendary creatures as they clashed.
Both creatures used their tails as weapons, Saithsarda not wanting to get close and the worm wanting her to stay away. They circled against and the Himmel stepped on something that squished beneath her weight easily. The Sandswimmer froze and roared as she had killed one of its young. She pulled up her paw and hissed, pulling it to her side and supporting her weight with three legs. Glancing to the ground around her, the young worms were the size of small lizards, inching their way towards safer sands. In desperation Saithsarda grabbed the horse by the leg and dragged it away, narrowly avoiding the babies and taking his bags to safety. The horse was half gone but the saddle was intact. The Sandswimmer didn't follow, instead herded the young back together again and retreating.
Still on three legs Saithsarda's hackles lowered and she licked at her paw.
When Nel saw that his horse had been half eaten, he grew sick to his stomach. He'd seen a lot in his travels, but to see one's mount in such a manner... He turned away, covering his mouth. He'd almost lost the compulsive need to sketch because of the sight of the horse. He swallowed hard and turned back to Saithsarda, keeping his eyes away from his ruined mount. "Ar-are all my bags there?" He asked her curiously.
Saithsarda rubbed her paw mercilessly against the sand before kicking the carcass over, checking the bags before nodding.
He tried his best not to get sick as he approached the mess that used to be his horse. "She was a magnificent beast..." He whispered in manner of condolences. He knelt by the remainder and unbuckled his saddle. He wasn't sure if he'd need it, but the bags for sure, he'd need. "What happened to your paw?" He asked her, looking at the blood she'd smeared along the sands.
Stung. The dragon-like creature whined, shaking her head. She could already feel the venom working its way at her systems. Saithsarda had to make it back to her den or else she could die out here, exposed. The Himmel ducked it's shoulder to the human again, Hurry, She thought to him.
He lifted the saddle to her to see. He hated the idea of just putting the saddle on her... He grimaced a little as he tried to explain his intent. "I'd hate to lose anything of value, and it would be quicker if I did not have to untie all the bags..." He swallowed and hefted the saddle up towards her.
Saithsarda made a sound of annoyance before limping over to him, her tail laying against his heels for contact. Just hold it for now, I need to go. She did not want to admit she was beginning to worry but, the weakness of the poison had already taken a hold of her. At this point there was no telling if they made it back to her den in time.
He hefted the saddle onto her back, then climbed up, sitting himself where he had on the previous ride. He pulled the saddle over onto his lap, securing it to his own chest via the straps. He leaned over and took up the mock-reins and rubbed her neck affectionately. "Are you sure you should be moving? That limp doesn't look well..." The worry transmitted from him as he stroked her neck. He didn't have to tell her just how much he worried, though he couldn't understand how she seemed to know.
They lifted into the air and began to swim towards a distant point that only the Himmel knew of. Less than five minutes later Saithsarda was beginning to pant and went faster. They landed awkwardly in front of a rock outcropping and Saithsarda stumbled, throwing Nel from her back. Her body began to curl and stiffen at the same time and she struggled to move. She knew she needed to get into her den and through the mist of her mind she forced herself to stand, if shakily. If she fell unconscious out here... well, she wasn't safe.
Nel rolled when he was tossed off of her. He grunted and groaned as he collected himself, unstrapping the saddle from about his waist. He left it there upon the ground, unattended, and rushed to her side. "Saithsarda!" He shouted in panic. He lightly touched her side as she tried to stand. "Tell me how to help...please!"
The baby sandswimmer had stung her where her skin was nearly at its thinnest; her paw. If she had been stung anywhere else it wouldn't have bothered her that much because Himmel's had thick skin for that very purpose. Saithsarda's head hung nearly to the ground as she growled at the human, almost crawling into the shadows of her den. Keep... close. You might get lost... down here. She panted and in the pitch blackness she slowly began to follow a series of tunnels.
Nel felt a small tremor of fear ripple along his body in response to her growl. He swallowed and glanced over his shoulder at his things as he accompanied her into the den. "There must be something I can do... You only got injured because you were trying to help me." He reasoned, knowing fully that it was all his fault.
There's nothing you can do. Saithsarda muttered, even her mind's voice groggy. After what seemed ages of walking in the darkness, the sound of rushing water made her ears perk ever so slightly. Her nest was near the edge of an underwater river, under so much rock that the heat of the desert did not belong and there was a chill in the air. Saithsarda lapped at the water tiredly.
There had to be something... He would not let her suffer through pain that was his fault... He stayed by her side, keeping his hand rested against her. His heart was filled with worry for her, he'd made her retrieve his things and now... Now he left them sitting outside her den, completely unattended.
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