FOLKLORE


[ PM ] Long Way Down
#1

hold strong,
i'm battle tested.
It never seemed to fail. The man always seemed to come back to the forest, a reminder of times past. Pine needles poked between his toes, a slight pain that he admittedly had come to miss. The man had a love-hate relationship with the embrace of the forest. At times, it brought back sweet memories, and memories that the man relished in. At other times, the very shadows seemed to have teeth that flashed towards him, and snarls rested upon the wind. Anything to remind him of the violence that he recognized had inevitably taken its toll on him. A man could only see so much before teeth lunging towards his face and throat with the intent to kill made him paranoid and jumpy.

It had been the way of his pack though, and for all that, it had done to him in his time alone… he missed it.

Krinnag paused, raising his nose into the air. He sniffed, considering the things that he smelled. The soft scent of young rabbits drew his attention. He followed his nose to it and stared curiously at the hole in the ground that he was presented with. He could hear the soft rustling of dried grass as bedding and smelled the sweet scent of milk drifting from the warren. The man ran his tongue over his lips, before walking forward and sticking his nose into the hole.

All noise inside silenced at his snuffing. The man pulled away, and dug for a few moments, before shoving his head in up to his shoulders. He twisted his body slightly, front legs halfway clawing for purchase on the ground, his hindquarters still in the air. A tiny paw slashed at his nose, and the squeal of the mother rang out, muffled by his body. Fur tickled his nose, and his teeth snapped shut, ripping a small chunk out. He heard one rabbit scuttle away, perhaps darting for the emergency exit he knew was somewhere in the area. They couldn’t move the babies though, they’d placed them in a bubble, and the only true option was to go past his snapping jaws to get to the exit that the other rabbit had fled from. Fear began to sting in his nose as the mother rabbit realized the error she’d made and the ultimate fate of both her and her babies.

The man was no monster. He would be fine with just the kits, but he would not leave them orphaned if he managed to get the doe snared between his teeth. His front paws came up, and he struggled to claw at the ground without removing his head – and therefore the only thing that kept the mother from fleeing – from the warren’s entrance.

“Gods damn y’, y’ cheeky bitch,” the man muttered quietly to the mother, even though he knew she wouldn’t understand the words of a wolf.



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#2
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It had been weeks since he had slept well, but at least he was sleeping. For what seemed like months the endless cycle of day and night marched on, leaving him behind.
This particular nap, fueled primarily by the venison that now filled his belly found him in a small glade. The light filtered through the canopy overhead, dancing across his pelt like tiny sprites, working through his fur. The dreams that came as of late were often more comforting than reality. There he was whole. He was young. And he was sane.

But not here.

Yet again, he found himself ripped from the sanity of sleep too soon to the waking nightmare that had become his life.
The growling and snapping of the stranger brought him sharply back to reality, hair bristling and muscles tense, bracing for the eminent attack. He scanned frantically for the source of the disturbance. When he saw the stranger, head buried in a hole pursuing prey, it gave him a moment of relief followed by one of alarm. The stranger was quite large and battle forged. It was highly likely they had met before. But in what capacity?
With his face still hidden by earth and grass it was hard to tell. Fandal could see the tendons strain and release on his neck, as he thrashed about, failing to find purchase on the bone of rabbit or squirrel whose den he found.

But Fandal waited for the stranger to notice him. He wanted to see his eyes. To see if it registered enmity or amity. Fandal slowly stood, and gently shook the sleep from his fur to delicately announce his presence.


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#3

hold strong,
i'm battle tested.
His claws tore at the soil beneath him, and finally, there was enough space for the man to push his head deeper into the warren. Teeth snapped shut on the leg of the mother as she kicked out at him. She squealed, scrabbling madly as she was pulled from the den. Silence ensued the quiet crunch once he’d managed to get his jaws around her head.

He admittedly paid little attention as he started to eat, the scent of blood filling his nose. Krinnag’s ear twitched at the sound of movement, his gaze following a second later. The man froze, looking at the other with a small slightly stunned look crossing his features. How long had the other been there? His brow pinched together slightly, as he thought. The mouthful he had was swallowed, and the simple fact was that he didn’t know. This disturbed Krinnag slightly.

“Hello.”

He said nothing else as he went back to his rabbit, his eyes staying on the other, looking him over. The man looked like he’d seen a time in his life and looked to be older. Personally, Krinnag found that a little odd. It wasn’t often that he met another that he could distinctly sense was older than he was. He often found himself floating as the oldest, which while that was never a bad thing, it did offer a strange feeling. Perhaps this man knew that feeling? Looking him over more, Krinnag wondered if he could relate to other feelings as well.

The rabbit vanished down his throat, and despite the presence of the stranger, his head went back into the hole. A few moments later, he came out with several small, squirming bodies clamped between his jaws. There hadn’t been many, only three of the kits stowed away in the warren. He wondered slightly if he had been the first predator to shove his nose close to this bunch.

“Who are you?”

The question was posed around the crunching of bones. It wasn’t long before the only remnants were the fur and blood of the mother rabbit. The kits were gone, taken as bites all in their own. The man licked his lips and finally turned his attention fully to the other.



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#4
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The eyes of the stranger registered no recognition. That was good. Having just woken up, Fandal was groggy, and the stranger was primed, senses working overtime having just brought down his prey. It was far too easy for the bloodlust to carry over, oh yes. Especially for a veteran warrior such as this.

The question the stranger posed still hung in the air. He had almost forgotten it was asked. “I’m still trying to figure that out,” Fandal replied sincerely. It was an odd sensation, looking at the man. The blood on his lips was beginning to congeal as he turned his full attention to Fandal.

His eyes seemed to hint at an understanding. Perhaps they had a mutual respect. Two soldiers, regardless of allegiance, silently aware each other had seen and done things they had to do to survive. Or perhaps he was already thinking of how he would take Fandal down, layering his blood on top of the family of rabbits. Though it had been nearly a year since he lost half his vision, he did not think he would ever be truly as comfortable in battle as he had prior. Even though he knew little else. “These woods are foreign to me,” he conceded. Hoping that if he had stumbled upon this stranger’s territory, the trespass would be forgiven. “I am merely passing through.” To where and from where he did not know. And hoped the stranger would not ask.





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#5

hold strong,
i'm battle tested.
Krinnag kept looking the other man over. There was no sign of aggression – no bristling fur, no intense eye contact. The man seemed… worried? About what, Krinnag could only guess. His best was that it was because of the fact that he himself was there. He hadn’t noticed the man originally – he’d been far too focused on satiating his stomach, a mistake on his own part – and it seemed to him that he had woken the man up. ’Come the fuck on, y’ fuckin’ idiot,’ Krinnag fussed to himself internally. 'Don’t lose your surroundings, dumbfuck. That’s how you get hurt.’

“I’m still trying to figure that out.”

Krinnag blinked and tilted his head to the side. The answer was one that oddly… resonated with him. He gave a small nod. “Do y’ have a name?” It would be interesting, and certainly a first, to meet a nameless man. ‘Offer yer fuckin’ own, maybe?’ He spoke a second after the thought flickered across his mind, “My own is Krinnag.”

“These woods are foreign to me.”

As they were to Krinnag as well. Although, they weren’t much different from any other forest. Trees, moss, birds, food. But, then again. Each forest had its own feel, its own nature. It was like every other forest the man had been in, but yet different as well. “Me too.”

“I am merely passing through.”

As the conversation moved forward, Krinnag again nodded to this. “Me too.” But was he really? Krinnag had reached a point where he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. It seemed he’d met someone else with the same… aimlessness. “They’re not claimed.” Maybe it soothed a fear that the man had, but ultimately, Krinnag couldn’t know. At least, the parts that he had walked through weren’t claimed. He couldn’t speak for the entirety of the forest.



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#6
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“Fandal,” he replied. Keeping his answer as short as possible. As the two spoke, twin sprouts of calm and fear wove through his mind. Krinnag posed no immediate threat, but surely would be capable of quite the battle should one ensue.

But that wasn’t it. Fandal allowed his vision to sweep the entire vignette before him. On the surface nothing seemed out of place. A hungry stranger had found a rabbit’s lair and ate, leaving small bits of fur and blood among the now mostly churned up grass and wet soil. He was startled by Fandal’s arrival, but was forthcoming when spoken to.

But below the surface.

Something was wrong. Fandal felt guilty. Angry. But why? And as the stranger replied that the woods were not claimed, his mind seized on it.

Laying several yards from the carnage, at the base of an oak, lay the hind leg of a rabbit. Streaks of blood, drying on the few yellow flowers just beginning to bloom in between the hock and the mayhem. It had been slung there as the stranger tore into the den to feast. So?

Below the surface.

It was the leg of a kit. Surely not more than a month old. Perhaps not even sure of its place in the world before it ended so abruptly. A child lost. Cornered. Beneath the soil in its safe haven, yet its life was taken before it really began.

Below the surface.

It surely wasn’t the only one. Fandal was unsure of what emotions were bubbling to the forefront of his mind. “Took the lot of the kits too, I see,” he spoke, unsure of why he was even saying it. It felt wrong. As did uttering it. Surely the doe would have been a meal enough for the stranger. As Fandal kept his eye transfixed on the hock, with the same tiny sprites of light dancing across its lifeless form, he waited for the strangers reply.



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#7

hold strong,
i'm battle tested.
“Fandal,” the man replied. Krinnag nodded. Names had been exchanged, that was good. Though the longer he watched the stranger, the more he began to feel slightly like something wasn’t quite right. He pushed the feeling away though, but not too far. He kept it close, at an arm’s reach, something to keep his senses sharp in the presence of the other man. ‘What is wrong? Something is wrong,’ the thought began to pulse. He shifted in something that could have been viewed as discomfort. It wouldn’t have been an entirely wrong assumption.

The stranger cast his eye around, and Krinnag followed his gaze for a moment. He seemed to focus on a small morsel left over from his meal; the man’s first assumption was that the other was hungry, that he had been sleeping so close to the warren to later take advantage of it himself. Perhaps he thought that Krinnag had stolen his meal? ‘Survival,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t wait. Take what the fuck is needed; don’t wait or y’ fuckin’ lose.’ He figured that if the man had a problem, he would have said something earlier.

“Took the lot of the kits too, I see.”

His brow furrowed ever so slightly, a small tick of motion that made his ears slant forward ever so subtly. His tail raised slightly, the end curling up as it stiffened slightly, a small, mostly unprovoked hint of annoyance began to show on the man’s body. “Yes,” he said. “I don’t fuckin’ make orphans. I’m not a fuckin’ monster.” There was the usual gruffness that the man presented, appearing as his sentences began to grow longer, his usual bought of grouchiness starting to form as a ball in the pit of his belly.



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#8
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"I don’t fuckin' make orphan’s. I'm not a fuckin' monster."

It was like a slash across Fandal’s skin.

His heart.

His soul.

The words stated so bluntly were full of venom. Burning his ears, he felt physically ill, having to concentrate not to expel the venison out of either end. After glancing away to steady his bowels, Fandal’s eye met Krinnag’s. Paranoia engulfed him. He knows, thought Fandal. By the gods, he knows I’m a monster.

In some dormant part of his mind, the shards of recollection pierced the thinly held sliver remaining of his sanity. Images and sounds pulsated through his mind rapidly, with nothing remaining long enough to grasp. It was like seeing something floating in the corner of his eye that would playfully escape his gaze should he try to concentrate and look at it. Always there, but just outside of recognition.

He saw the fire. Felt it. Smelled the ash and soot mixed with the fear coming off the pup. The orphan. Oh gods, the orphan. Crying. Screaming for her life. He saw the edge of the pit she lay in. The smoke wafting over the top, seeming to dance into spirals from the slight updraft of the cooler air below. But his mind tells him it’s the fear. The terrified howling from below making it writhe and twist.

From beneath the surface.

And as a shard plunges into his mind's eye with the vision of him running away from the chaos, it drives him into madness. This wolf in front of him is no longer his concern. Nor the kit Nor the orphan. He turns and sprints as fast as his legs carry him. Unaware of any of his five senses. Only aware of the pain he wishes to escape as he descends into the caves of the outer world and the inner.

FANDAL EXITS


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#9

hold strong,
i'm battle tested.
As the moments passed, Krinnag realized that his words seem to have struck some chord with the man. Krinnag’s head tilted slightly to the side as he watched, his tail raising to the height of his spine. His ears perked up, beginning to strain forward. Something in his eyes hardened, and he began to creep towards the edge of aggression. His brow furrowed as he studied the other.

While he knew he couldn’t know fully what was filtering through the other’s mind, he knew that there was something was there. Whatever it was, Krinnag didn’t like it. He himself began to feel the prod of discomfort that made him want to go after anything that caused that discomfort. Regardless though, the other never made an aggressive move towards him, and rather began to look sick.

What happened in the man’s past that caused him such discomfort at the things that Krinnag had said? He thought for a few moments as he watched, muscles tense and ready to spring. Perhaps there resided something regarding a pup? Krinnag felt a small twitch in his mind, and a quiet growl rumbled in his chest.

A moment later though, before the situation could escalate too far, the man turned and ran. His legs worked as hard as they could, and within a moment he was gone. Krinnag’s body relaxed, and a look of confusion fluttered across his features. “What the fuck?” He mumbled quietly to himself. He snorted, shaking his head. “Whatever. Fuck off with ya.” He himself turned the opposite direction and began to pad off at a slow, steady pace. So be it.

fin


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