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First Impressions

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Sarith proved to be as silent as any hunter he had known. Her steps barely made any noise while the underbrush seemed to just move out of her way. Ray, however, was slowed by the dense foliage grabbing at his coat and boots. The heavy rain didn’t help matters as the leaf litter was slick and yet she seemed unimpeded. By the time they reached the road he had been aiming for Ray was muddy and exhausted and she seemed unimpressed with him. Mud splattered all over their boots and coats, rain soaking into every stitch they wore, and yet she stood there staring at him with that infuriating expression. 

“Need a rest?” The way she said that with a hand on her hip made Ray question why he thought this was a good idea for the thousandth time. Looking closer at her though he saw her hand was on her side instead of her hip. A flash of lightning lit the area up giving him enough light so that he noticed her skin was pale again.

“You’re in pain. Why didn’t you say anything?” Concerned now that she may have bled through the bandages and re-opened the wound Ray nodded toward a clearing across the road. “Over there. There’s a small lean-to built for travellers. We can camp there for tonight.”

It took them a bit to get their camp set up and a little fire going to heat up the minimal shelter before Ray was able to look at her injury. Sure enough, she had re-opened it and been bleeding profusely for a good while. “You should have told me.” Helping her sit up so that he could wrap the bandages around her, Ray shook his head a bit. “We’re in this together, you know.”

“Shut up. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t care.” Laying back down after the bandages were tied off she yawned wide. “Not the first time I’ve been shot. Not going to be the last either.” Scooting to lay on her side opposite the bullet wound, she propped her head up on her arm and watched him.

Cleaning the med kit tools he had used and checking over the number of bandages left, he glanced at her and waited. It was clear she wanted to ask something, the question on her lips but unspoken. Shrugging as if in answer to whatever she wanted to ask, he pulled out the wax coated bag with the bread and cheese to give her half. That got her to sit up at least and he tried really hard not to smile as she enjoyed the sharp cheese. Maybe this won’t be so bad. She’s just not comfortable with me but I’m willing to bet we’ll make a good team.  

Sari had been asleep for an hour, her breathing steady though Ray was a little concerned the rain and hike may have done more damage. Either way, his foolish self was still awake and watching her sleep seemed a bit … unusual. Moving so he sat with his back to her and looking out to the woods beyond the shelter he thought again on just why he chose such a traveling companion. 

She’s cruel, that’s easy to see. Her entire -race- is cruel. Clearly a pirate as well, with how they heartlessly emptied a fishing village of everything like that. Glancing over his shoulder at her sleeping form he wondered how she could look so at peace. Does she even know what that village has lost? Or care?

Rubbing a hand over his face tired but not sure how well he’d sleep. So why bring her with me. Because she’s alone, too, now? Or because I want to civilize her? That’s a laugh. She’s beautiful and deadly and going to be so much trouble…  Taking his place on the floor of the shelter, head pillowed on his crossed arms, he stared at the wood ceiling. Maybe it is because she’s alone. She managed to survive and escape on her own, so what if fate decided we should be partners? I’ve never really believed in that. But after everything I’ve seen, having someone like her will be useful. Someone cruel and capable should make my job easier even if I do have to find a way to hide what she is. 

A shrug and he closed his eyes trying to will himself to sleep. The rain outside had died down to nothing than a mere misting and the forest was quiet. Peaceful. As he drifted off he missed seeing Sari’s eyes snap open and a grin touch her lips.

Shit. He’s finally going to sleep. This asshole at least let me nap. Watching his breathing she grinned wider as his breaths slowed down into a deep sleep. She didn’t move until she was sure he was out and even then it was little motions. Could she sit up? Yes, he’s still sleeping. A little longer of a wait and she stood and made her way out of the shelter. Her coat was left behind but the noise of putting that on would likely wake him.

Alright… So, life debt. Why the fuck did I. Making her way into the woods to piss she grumbled a little to herself. Stranded on the mainland.. I’ve heard stories of Sisters that tried to live on the mainland. Tried to leave the fleet. None of it ended well. I’ll be without any Witches for the rituals, without an Eldest, no captain, no ship … no purpose.    

Her business finished, she stood outside the lean-to and scowled at the person she had just tied herself to. You better not be like all the tales. I’m stuck in this fucking land-o-shit with no options and you’re my best chance of surviving. Climbing back into her coat/blanket without waking him worked pretty well with the man still sleeping heavily. Trusting sort. If I didn’t need him I could just kill him now. But then what? Huh? Well Sarith then you’re fucked because there’s nowhere else to go and no one is going to come find you. Successful mutiny and all that. If they do decide to find you it’s going to be to kill you so that there’s no one left to avenge the last captain. This human asshole is your best chance of survival. Get used to him and this landlocked existence.

Sleep did not come easy or restful to either of them and by the time dawn arrived they were ready to finish walking toward the next village. After some arguing Ray finally convinced Sarith to wait outside the village in the woods while he went in to buy the supplies they needes. It was clear she didn’t trust him as she climbed up a tree to sit and wait for his return with her pistol near at hand. He felt her dark eyes on him the whole way into the town and swore he heard the click of a hammer being pulled back. She can’t… right? Not from this distance at least… I hope not at least.

Rather than test the patience of the angry woman Ray purchased his supplies quickly. Rations that would travel well were packed into his bag and then … there it was. The perfect thing to win her over. He made the spontaneous purchase with glee and carefully pocketed the folded wax paper bag with a grin. No one can resist these. Should placate her and keep her from aiming that pistol at my back for a bit. Maybe even make up for the extra time it took to get through the market.. 

Meanwhile about a mile outside the city Sarith napped a little nestled into the branches of a  tree with legs draped on either side of a thick branch. Not quite the same as sleeping in the rigging of the ship like she was used to but it was close enough and meant she could keep watch on travellers going into and out of the city. Assuming he actually came back she would see him leave the gates before he reached her perch. The rest would do her good as well. Healing was always exhausting and having to heal as bad a wound as hers was the worst. 

Still … I wouldn’t be here without him. Fucking mutiny. I’ve lost everything and gained -him-. Goody. A breeze ruffled through the leaves and she inhaled the smell of life and growing things. Not so bad though. I mean… I always did want to see more of the mainland. Drifting off to nap again in the sunlight Sarith missed seeing Ray leave the city gates.

Making it back to the tree he left her in Ray looked up and couldn’t help but admire her profile. The sun filtered through the leaves accenting the thin gold chains in her hair while a breeze ruffled a few of the curls against her cheek and for just that moment she was peaceful and lovely. Clearing his throat to announce his presence he had to grin when those dark eyes opened with a snap and for once he was greeted with a less-violent look. That’s dangerous. Focus Ray on the unknown factor for now. Not so much on how pretty she is. That sultry look will be your death if you let down your guard.

“I brought food. And a hat. Keep this on and maybe we can check out the town?” He held up the straw hat he had found though not necessarily one he had purchased and watched as she climbed her way down the tree. When she reached the ground and turned around the scowl on that lovely face was aimed at the head cover he held out for her.

“I’m not wearing that. It looks like a birds nest made by a drunk bird.” Wrinkling her nose at the monstrosity he held she poked it with a nail. “Ya, not putting that on my head.” 

Rolling his eyes and wanting to prove her wrong he set the hat on his own head and regretted the action immediately. Straw bits stabbed through his hair illiciting a muttered curse out of him. “Alright. It’s a bad hat. But these you’ll like!” As if to make up for his blunder he produced the bag of treats he had found in the market. Opening the container and reaching in he made a dramatic fanfare as he produced a strawberry. 

Looking between the berry and Ray she was obviously confused and definitely unimpressed. “Shit’s that?” 

It took him a moment to realize she was serious. “It’s a strawberry. Fruit. Try it! They’re really good.” He held the berry out and watched as she took it to inspect with the level of paranoia expected from someone that doesn’t trusttheir gift. With a fatalistic shrug she bit into into the soft red fruit and Ray couldn’t help but smile at the shocked expression she made. “You like it? Don’t eat the leaves now but I bought you more as a sort of a… Peace treaty, I guess.” He held the paper bag out for her and almost chuckled as she reverently took the treat.

She ate each berry with the sort of attention one paid to a fine meal, savoring every last bit of juice as they walked down the road. Ray watched her from the corner of his eyes and wondered just what sort of rations they had on ships. If the strawberry was new, what about other fruit? Vegetables? Cheese was a treat but bread was not new. I imagine lots of fish and pickled things that would survive long trips or be easily caught during the trip.

Their trek was quiet with Sari only asking about a few things now and then. She looked around them with the wary attention of someone who was hunted, her hand resting on the hilt of her pistol at any unrecognized sound. Bird calls made her jump prompting Ray to start naming off of bird. At least for the ones he recognized. That started to make her less nervous and inspired a few more questions from her. It was clear that she wanted to see more, learn more, then she had let on and Ray was starting to think that maybe this was fate after all. Why else would two people so curious about the world end up together?

It took a few days of travel, dodging others on the road and long hours of increasingly aggressive discussion on how best to hide her horn stubs. They finally settled on covering them with a large hat and headscarf until they could find a way to grind them down. Just mentioning that, though, made Sari growl and she promised Ray that he’d be in as much pain as she was. He accepted that knowing that this was going to be extremely unpleasant for the Satyxis.

Leaving her again outside the city of Five Fingers, he went through and found a hat and scarf that would look as natural as possible for her. Something to match her overcoat without looking too new. He settled on a tricorn hat with gold-colored trim and large enough that it wouldn’t dwarf her head but cover the horns. The headscarf was going to be added coverage just in case and he found one that was a nice blue color. On his way out, he grabbed her an apple from a vendor since she liked the berries so much. Keeping her happy was going to be what kept him alive for the next few days…

This time returning to her, or at least where he left her, Ray found nothing but a few footprints of where she had been standing. Panic started to set in as he worried a guard patrol had found her. The yank on his short ponytail caught him off guard and he whipped around just to see Sarith’s mischievous grin. “Don’t do that!”

“Poor mainlander. What did you bring me.” Remorseless, she reached for the slightly dented box that had the hat in it. 

Handing it over while shaking his head, he watched as she pulled out the hat with a wide grin. “Better than my last idea?” 

Nodding as she wrapped the bandana around her forehead and the horn stubs, the hat went on and fit almost perfectly. She could easily pass as a suntanned human woman, uncommonly attractive and short, without drawing too many suspicions. The odd tint to her skin was hard to see with how sun-darkened her skin was and likely people would be too distracted by her figure to notice if she had hints of purple. 

During their travel to Five Fingers Ray learned she had been to the docks here previously when she was first beginning her ‘career’. Walking through the city with her now, he was suddenly reminded of his first encounter with Satyxis. Pulling her to the side, his eyes looking over her face, he asked her about any jobs her crew took on from Five Fingers. He was beginning to suspect she was from the crew he had worked with so many years ago. Now that he truly looked at her, not just to admire how pretty she was, he saw it. “You were the one that took out the muggers…” He hadn’t meant the statement to be outloud but the recognition crossed her face and she laughed.

“You’re the skinny guy!” Laughing even harder, she leaned in closer to him and locked eyes. “You’re the same one… It’s all your fault, you know.” Smiling wide, she turned away to look over the city square. “We helped you search those islands and all those ruins and I got bit. I wanted to see more. The captain was curious, too, but not nearly as much as I was. I studied maps and star charts to try and find places we could explore that wouldn’t be too out of the way.”

The way she spoke, the body language, Ray realized she was more comfortable with him. When she looked back those dark eyes sparkled with what he would come to know as an insatiable curiosity. “So … Then why don’t we get that nasty business out of the way and explore? I can take a few jobs and see what my employer wants us to find.” 

Nodding, she started leading him toward the blacksmith they had decided on. Tuluk, the ogrun that ran the smithy, worked with Satyxis often enough on the sly that she would be a semi-welcome customer. Hearing her request though, he scowled and shook his head. “You’re serious… I’ve seen your kind in pain. Let me find my apprentice. If he dies I’m not out as much.”

The two of them agreed and the ogrun showed them into his basement workroom. Space was a premium on the island so most buildings went up or down. His went down and connected with some of the tunnels and sewers that ran beneath the city. Ray settled down on a bench and watched as Sari paced around the room, inspecting the tools. It was hard to tell she was anxious but when she inspected the wheel grinder he noticed she paled a little. Though, by pale it was more that her purple coloring became more evident. 

“Maybe a few drinks will help? I can get a bottle for you.” He stood and she turned to look at him, some unrecognized emotion crossing her face.

“Three, probably. You’d be surprised how hard it is for me to get drunk.” she smirked at that, trying to play down her nerves.

“Right. The stronger the better I take it?”

“No accounting for taste. Just so I can feel it.” Her chuckle was definitely forced but she turned away from him and went back to re-arranging the tools hanging on the wall.