[Story] Story a Week 45

[[ Prompt: A story about a near-death experience.

So, Tuesday night?

Picking up the story of Tamazi and Harvian again. I guess it’s kind of two near-death experiences in one… ]]

Harvian found himself in a strange place. He could not remember how he had come to be there, only that he had last been in the swamp with the drehl pahlokk. But he could not remember how long ago, nor what had happened, and more importantly, where Tamazi had gone. He saw no sign of her here, but it was dark and difficult to see. Harvian moved forward, further into the dense fog that clung to the ground. He moved on all fours, like a lesser beast, and he had somehow lost his robes. That irritated him. Those robes had been one of his favorite, spun from the finest northern cloth; warm yet light, and durable enough for traveling. And it had been enchanted with minor wards against injury, as well as invisibility and color-changing, should one wish it. Probably stolen, though he doubted anyone here could even use it. To them it would simply be a fancy rag. Harvian saw no sign of the kiraal, not a glimpse of her pale coat in the darkness, nor a print in the mud. Oddly enough, he could not smell her either. Though his nose was not as keen as some, he could at least tell now when she was near him or not; he had become accustomed to her sun-warmed scent in their travels. Harvian called out, but heard no reply but his own echo. Not even any night birds nor small animals seemed to stir here.

He saw ahead of him a great gate, forged of black iron, twisted into thorned vines. It was at once beautiful and unsettling. Harvian had never seen it before, but he felt he should investigate. Maybe Tamazi was there, or at the very least, a way out of this strange place. He was growing cold here, perhaps because he had no robe, but there was no wind that he could feel. Only the dark and the clinging mist that draped the ground. The gate was warm to the touch, and it was not locked, though it was heavy. Harvian braced his shoulders and pushed against it, and finally he heard the metal began to creak against itself as it opened.

The other side of the gate was bright and warm, so much so that Harvian had to blink his eyes to adjust. Was it a magical gate? He could not understand how it could have changed so quickly. The grass beneath his paws was soft as velvet, and he heard the bubbling of a gentle creek nearby. Though Tamazi was still missing, he felt sure that she was here in this comfortable place. He would find her soon — maybe after he rested. The warm sunshine and soft grass made him desire nothing so much as a nice nap.

Harvian awoke again, this time in a bed, inside a house he’d never seen before. This time, he was keenly aware of the pain that burned at every part of him.

“You’re awake,” said a voice. Harvian did not recognize the uftiri beside the bed, but it seems that he recognized Harvian. “Don’t try to move. You’re badly injured. I did what I could, but…” he spread his black paws in a shrug. “I’ll send for the healer. She’ll be so pleased you’re awake.”

“Where am I?” Harvian asked. His voice felt hoarse and sounded strange to his own ears. He was in a small humble house, with ordinary furnishings. He could have been anywhere. Something was cooking over the fire, soup perhaps, and Harvian felt his belly rumble in protest. “How did I get here?”

“Strangest thing,” the uftiri said, moving over to the fire and fetching a bowl from the mantle. Had he heard Harvian’s stomach? He ladled soup into the bowl and brought it back to him. “Fetched you out of the jaws of a wild beast. Never seen such a thing in my life.”

Harvian’s brow furrowed. What wild beast did he mean? He couldn’t remember anything like that happening. Unless he meant the drehl pahlokk, but — Tamazi!

“Wild beast? What kind of wild beast? Where is she?”

“It sure was! Refused to even let go of you until I hit it with my hoe. What kind? A kiraal, a big one. Don’t know how it got here though.” The uftiri scratched his chin thoughtfully. “They took it to the mayor, I think. See what he wants to do with it.”

Harvian kicked back the sheets, sending a jolt of pain through him, but he ignored it. His robes were still missing, but he was wrapped in bandages. It would have to do for now.

“Hey!” the uftiri gasped, as Harvian dashed out the door.

It was a small village, and Harvian’s appearance caused them all to look up from their work to stare at him. Where was the mayor? Probably the biggest house. Harvian dashed along the muddy road on all fours, ignoring the protests of his wounds. He hadn’t even looked at them, but he was keenly aware of them now as he ran. His side had a deep, persistent ache, and it felt as if some bones might have been broken in other places. He was fortunate they’d had a healer, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to move now at all. She was sure to scold him, but he had to find Tamazi.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long. She was chained by the neck to a wooden stock, and her bright pelt was stained and streaked with blood. They had hurt her, believed she was the one who had attacked him, when she had really been trying to bring him to safety. Her head hung low, defeated. “Tamazi!” he barked, trying to loose the chain from the wood, but it held fast. She opened her eyes, wide with disbelief. “I’m going to get you out of here, I promise –”

The curious villagers had followed him here, now gathered around the yard where Tamazi was held. “What are you doing?” they shouted. “Get away from that wild thing!”

Tamazi lowered her head again, her ears pressed back. “She’s not — where is the mayor? I need to speak with him.”

The commotion had already brought the mayor to his doorstep. A portly relfgurr, the stripes on his head lent him a severe expression. He stared at Harvian, demanding an explanation for disturbing his afternoon tea.

“She’s not dangerous,” Harvian said, resting a hand on Tamazi’s broad head. “See? We’re traveling together.”

“Then why would she attack you?” the mayor demanded. “She’s unpredictable. Dangerous. She will have a trial and be executed.”

“What?” Harvian barked. “No! Surely there’s a way we can work this out. We won’t bother your town again.”

The mayor snorted, looking Tamazi over from a safe distance. “Can’t just go without a trial. It’s not right.”

“Please,” Harvian pleaded. “I’m — I could help your village.”

The villagers looked at him expectantly. He was an asenji, they could all see that. They surely had fanciful ideas about what he was capable of. Harvian just hoped they would not ask for anything he was unable to deliver. “Tomorrow,” the mayor grumbled. “We’ll decide then.”

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