Spring: Chapter 3- Disguises

Loki wagged his tail with rabbit laying limp in his jaws, and I pet his head. I suppose I had grown used to violence since I became who I am, and it helped me learn to hunt and allow Loki to do what he had been bred for. I held out my hand, and he let out a low growl. I raised my brow and urged, “Loki… Give.” He begrudgingly dropped the saliva drenched rabbit into my hand, and I held it up by the ears. It was relatively large, and I pet Loki once more. “Good boy.” I pulled off my knapsack and hooked the rabbit on by the legs before pulling it back on. I hummed as Loki nuzzled my hand. “I got some berries too.” I told him, stepping over a fallen log. “I know they’re good because of some codes I learned from a book I had read.” I paused as I tried to remember them. I nearly tripped over a rock, but I managed to catch myself. Loki trailed behind as we walked back to Cullfield. We had spent all morning in the woods, scavenging for food. Aabraham had been getting onto me for not eating enough, and since I don’t want anyone buying anything for me, nor buying anything for myself too often, I decided to pick up some food from the wilderness. It had taken us about an hour to get back to the edge of town. “I better pick up another bounty at the tavern…” I thought, looking up at the clouds. “or maybe go to the river…” My mind then began to race. “I haven’t been at the house in forever, so maybe the creature Lucia was talking about had gotten used to me not being there.”

I looked down at the ground and watched my feet as I thought. “What was it she called it? I can’t remember, but I seriously hope it’s there. It’s been really shy, and I’ve gotten better at archery. Maybe with Aabraham’s help, I can–” I shook my head and thought, “No, I need to learn to be independent… Besides, you were wanting to leave this place soon.” I walked into the tavern, which was relatively empty at the time, and stepped up to the wench that was working at the time. “Cook this.” I said, plopping the still bloody rabbit onto the counter. Before I could grab my money, the woman smiled and said, “Of course, sir~!” She left, and I frowned. Lately, there’s been a group of women that swarm a lot when I happen to come by with Aabraham. They ask us more risque things, like asking if we have beaus or things about the creature’s we’ve fought. Sofia is probably the worst offender, trailing behind me and talking way too much. I grabbed the cooked rabbit, and the woman insisted I not pay, but I still put down some money. It almost scares me how I’ve gotten as much attention as I have in comparison to how I was as a girl. Granted, men have made said things, but in a more demanding way. Now, it’s in an admirable, almost pushy way. As I stepped up the stairs, I nearly puked as I noticed Sofia in my room, looking in my drawers. I glanced at Loki, who appeared just as annoyed. I cleared my throat, and she whipped around, pressing my dresser drawer shut with her bottom. “Oh!” She cried out. “I was waiting for you!” I frowned and asked why she was in here. “I was waiting for you, and I overheard that Lucia wench talking about how you live up here.” She smiled and asked if I got a new bounty. “Not yet. I haven’t even eaten yet. Now if you could–” “Oh! Perfect timing then!” She then set down her purse and pulled out a Lörtsy. I stared at the crescent shaped pastry as she claimed that “it’s apple, like you love!” “Ok, I’m happy about that, but it’s being outweighed by literally everything right–” She shoved the pastry into my face, trapping me between her and the fencing around the stairs. “Don’t worry! It’s not poisoned or anything!” She joked, and I could feel her pressing against me. Loki was growling at her, and she glanced down at him. “Stupid dog.” I heard her mumble under her breath.

She then moved her face close to mine and asked, “Have you eaten them so much, you taste like them?” I finally snapped for her to get out. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t move until I shoved her. “GET OUT.” I seethed, trying not to shout. She set the pastry down and left, looking as though she were about to cry. I sighed and ran my fingers through my dark hair while Loki poked his nose against my leg. I looked down at him and asked what I was supposed to do. I sat the food onto my bed and went through my drawers to see if she took anything. Nothing was missing, so I plopped down onto the bed and began eating, including the pastry. I looked down at Loki and tossed him a bit of meat from the rabbit. He gobbled it up, licking his lips, and I kept eating until I was done. I then brought the plate back downstairs and asked if there was any work for me. “No, sir~.” The woman responded. “The king’s men will be here tomorrow, though, so you can get work then.” I nodded and thanked her before leaving.

The trip back up the mountain was much more tiring than I remembered. In fact, by the time I found the brooke, it was dark out. I then noticed movement under the water, so I took cover in the bushes. I readied my bow and watched as it crawled up on top of one of the rocks. Algae, weeds, roots, and seaweed trailed behind the creature as it sat on the rock. It dripped heavily as it looked up at the moon. As my fingers loosened on the bow, I noticed it start to move oddly. I watched as it began to remove it’s skin, and the disgusting slurping sound from the adornments made me want to throw up. It peeled off the seaweed and algae that stuck to its skin, and I started to see more and more of a human. I gagged at the smell of mildew as the creature kept removing things, soon including barnacles that stuck directly onto its pale skin. All that was left was a ghostly white figure with black hair that dangled past its calves. I loosened my grip on the bow as I inspected what was sitting on the rock. It seemed to glow lightly as it bathed its feet in the water. It had extensive, pale, webbed fingers that arched towards the water. It darted it’s hand into the water, popping back out again with a pike in hand. It flailed violently as it struggled to get away from it. With it’s thumbs on it’s tail and throat, the creature bit down onto it’s stomach, crimson liquid dripping down its arms that contrasted with it’s pale, glowing skin. The fish continued to flop about, but it gradually began to slow down. With one final burst of energy used to flail some more, the fish finally went limp. I could hear the slurping from the creature as it ate the fish. The sound seemed to rip me out of my thoughts as I stood up and tightened my grip on the bow. I aimed at it, but before I could let go, a low crunching came from behind me. The creature whipped around to face me, and I froze in my spot. I wasn’t sure if I should try to kill the creature first or whatever was behind me. It sounded huge, whatever it was, and after a short moment, I could hear a loud growling noise.

I whipped around to see a furry creature in the tree behind me. I stumbled back as it hissed ferociously. It climbed down from the tree, and as it came closer to me, the moonlight revealed it as a large wolverine. I kicked at the creature, and as it was shoved away, it hissed again, its fur poking straight up. I glanced over and saw that the creature was gone. I scowled and shouted, “YOU STUPID–!” It hissed again and tried to bite at me. I kicked it away again, and as it was now several feet away, it chittered and ran off with it’s tail between it’s legs. I wanted to chase after it, but I knew it wasn’t worth it. I stared at the water for the briefest of moments before exclaiming to myself, “…You know what?!” I then threw my bow to the ground, then began to tear off my over armor. I tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear and dove into the water.

The cold, murky water swarmed around me as I dove in. It was deep green all around me, and even though it looked shallow on the surface, it looked to be more than ten feet deep. All I could see was a disgusting green color and lily pads that blocked the moonlight. I began to swim through the water as I felt scratchy roots brushing up against my arms and legs. My lungs began to ask for air, so I popped up above the surface to catch my breath and dove back down. My eyes burned with sand and dirt as I noticed a large boulder about five feet below me. I popped back up briefly to wipe my eyes, and I felt something wet and slimy press against the bottom of my foot. I didn’t panic, since I knew it was a fish as I bobbed back down and swam towards the boulder.

As I grew closer, I heard the sound of a violin start to become more apparent. I eventually stopped and listened to the music that was as sweet as honey. I began to bring my hand up to the boulder when the music stopped. My hand was then grabbed by the creature, and it opened it’s mouth wide, hissing while baring it’s sharp, jagged teeth. I wanted to shriek, but instead, I reached down to my thigh and pulled my knife out of it’s sheathe. I slashed at the creature, cutting it’s wrist, and it let go, releasing a high pitched squeal. I began to swim away, my arms flailing in my panic, but it grabbed my ankle, yanking me back. It clasped a hand over my throat and opened it’s mouth. If we weren’t underwater, I would have heard the sound of it’s jaw unhinging as it revealed it’s shark-like teeth. I slashed at it again, but this time, it managed to dodge and bite into my arm. I winced as the water started to become darker. I used my other hand to shove my fingers in it’s eyes. My lungs now begged for air as I dug my nails into it’s eyes. It finally let go of me, and I swam straight up until my head popped onto the surface. I gasped for air as I scaled one of the rocks. The creature grabbed my ankle again, but I kicked it in the face with my other foot, forcing it to release me. I tucked my legs to my chest as I looked down at the water that moved about furiously.

When it soon became silent, I could see the outline of the creature just underneath the surface, staring up at me. I could see it start to glow dimly, allowing for it to stand out more in the dark abyss of the water. I panted lightly, still frazzled as it popped it’s head up so only it’s eyes were showing. A deep teal color trickled down it’s cheekbones as it stared up at me with plain black eyes. I felt a shiver run up my spine as it stared at me. “W-wha…?” I panted as it blinked at me curiously. “What are you?” It stared at me as well before it revealed it’s mouth above the surface and asked, “What are you?” My heart pounded heavily as I stared at the creature, finally registering it’s features.

Ignoring all of the monstrous characteristics, it looked relatively human with a sharp face and high cheekbones. I was more tempted to call it a “He” rather than an “it”. I cleared my throat and asked, “Y-You can speak?!” The creature stared at me before softly nodding, “Yes. Fluently.” “W-Why would you always run away then?” “You are not the first to attempt killing me.” It responded. “In fact, with the new wooded barrier, they are still trying to kill me.” I then looked to my left, up the hill, where the dam was faintly visible in the moonlight. “The dam?” I asked, and it nodded again. “I no longer can leave, nor do I have clean water.” It stated as I glanced back at it. “But you still did not answer my question.” I raised a brow as it questioned, “What are you? A male? Female? Child? Adult?” “I-I’m an adult male.” I lied.

“No, you’re not.” It stated, barely waiting for me to finish my sentence. “You were the winter woman.” I paused as I slowly began to remember what he was talking about. “Winter woman?” I asked. It gave a nod and asked, “If you remember, why are you trying to kill me?” It stared up at me intensely, and I could feel myself starting to freeze under his gaze. “Well, I…” I felt myself start to feel ashamed. “I don’t know… I guess I was just…scared.” It only stared at me before saying that fear is a powerful thing. I nodded and asked it if it went by any name. “I have many names.” It said, crossing its arms over it’s chest. “None of which are kind.” “Well, what would you like to go by?” It paused before uncrossing it’s arms and saying it never thought of it. It brought it’s hands up onto the rock as I suggested names. It shook it’s head at almost every one of them. “Jari?” I asked, exasperated, and it shook it’s head again. “Kai?!” I questioned, and it paused. “Kai…” It repeated a couple of times before nodding. I was relieved that I finally had a name to call the creature. Rather, it made me feel as though I should no longer call him an “it”.

Suddenly, I noticed a ray of light stretch across Kai’s back, and he quickly retreated underwater, as though he were afraid of the light. I peeked over the rock, where he was now floating. I could see the light he radiated starting to fade. As soon as he seem to dissolve into the water, I felt just how tired I was. My eyelids felt like they were weighed down by cinderblocks. I jumped the gap between the rock I stood on and the grass, where my armor was laying. I picked my stuff up and ran back to Cullfield, pulling my armor back on as I stumbled. The moment I stumbled inside the tavern, Aabraham wrapped an arm around me and stated that he had another job. I tried not to whimper in exhaustion as he pulled me back outside to wherever the bounty commanded.

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