Flood-Plains of Bromthen
This time of year, in the flat lands of Bromthen, just a little rising of the water translates into a flooding of miles upon miles of wilderness. The sturdy cageroot trees stubbornly cling to the soil, catching flood-washed debris in their tangles, and making little "islands" that the land-bound animals seek refuge in. Here and there are more substantial islands of rock, sand and earth, fenced in by hedging overgrowth to keep it from sweeping away in the floods.
The night was somewhat uneventful after the hunters returned to camp. During the night a scavenger or two had crept into camp to try and make off with the Whispa's dinner, and a couple of small Squees and some fat water vermites had decided to try to get into the tainted meat, resulting in some snoozing scavengers that needed to be dealt with. Unfortunately though, no Whispa visited them during the night.
As the rays of first light creep over the camp, the hunters begin their new plan to trap the mythical beastie. the air is even cooler now, and the water has receded even more. Tonight might very well be the last chance for another year to catch the creature.
Skye sits at the campfire, already having a big kettle of water boiling as his companion wakes up. "Tea is ready, Laks'mi."
Lakshmi's movements are slow and determined. She's not going to let the cool, early morning sluggishness slow her down. "All right… no whispa in the night, not that I'm surprised. So… thank you, Skye, hot tea first… then we'll make up the baited food, and get everything ready for set up tonight, yes?"
Lakshmi is back in "working mode"… her usual embroidered city cloak has been replaced with her fur-lined and hooded one almost a blanket, in fact, wrapped around her and she pulls on well-used and -cared-for leather gloves as she plans out the day, "We need… to make up our fake stuffed whispa, yes? … then set the net-trap during the day, when the whispa's unlikely to be around… then we'll drug the food maybe the yiffle too? tonight, and head out to place it. Did I miss anything?"
Pouring out a nice hot cup, the Skreek pads over to where Lakshmi awaits. After he hands her the cup, he reaches up, to smooth out his long whiskers. He nods, quietly considering. "Got a couple of morning questions first, yes? Like t'e sleeping squees, and t'e vermites, an' well, t'e real important one… "
"Laks'mi, tonight, just 'ow badly do ye want to catch one of t'ese? I 'ad a c'ance last nite, to grab one. But yi are sounding, well, t'at caging t'em mite not be t'e rite t'ing to do."
Lakshmi sips her tea, closing her eyes and sighing softly as she feels the hot liquid warming up her insides… she opens her eyes and tilts her head at Skye, "I… really don't know, Skye. I would far prefer to find younglings, and raise them so they're used to us… I just don't know how to follow a female home, so to speak. If we catch this one, and if it's a lactating female, then we might be able to find kits by following her to her nest. As far as the squees and vermites, well… " She smiles wryly, "The predator-prey relationship holds out here as much as anywhere else."
Lakshmi adds dryly, "I am, as usual, quite open to suggestions?"
Lakshmi wrinkles her nose slightly and grins wryly, "Well… maybe not the vermites as prey… "
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Unless… whispas like them, perhaps? Hm… "
Skye glances over the sleeping critters. "Dinner. A meal yi never 'ad to put out a s'ekel for always tastes better. I'll take care of t'em, then." Pragmatically collecting the snoozing beasties, Skye collects them and walks a bit from camp. Perhaps a handful of heartbeats later there are two soft splashes deeper in the wood, and a few moments more before he returns. Sitting down on a tangle of roots, he begins to clean the squees. "Laks'mi, would a yiffle or a bromt'en 'og be better as our live bait?"
Lakshmi nods resignedly, "Definitely, we should use one of my yiffles… probably a bromthen hog would be better, but… " she grins over her teacup at Skye, the steam wafting around her head, "-I'm afraid I don't have one on my person currently."
Skye nods, "An we are going to be trapping it in a cageroot basket, yes? Just like t'e lowdy was trapped. T'ou, 'ow are we going to get it yapping an' attract a w'ispa's attention?"
Lakshmi grins wryly, "With a yiffle, I'd guess the problem is more… how to shut it UP!"
Skye dryly chitters, "Kind of like a Kavi wit' two 'ands and t'ree items to sell, yes? So once it's in t'e basket, t'en w'at? Do we 'ide a net in t'e basket too?"
Lakshmi shakes her head, "We'll just net the whole tree, with a spring net. If we had a bromthen hog I'd suggest putting it on the quicksand, and netting the whole pool… that sort of thing. The net's tripped manually, by us."
Watching the small pie of squee feathers grow at his feet, Skye considers. "Not a lot of meat on t'e birds. We set t'is trap, down by t'e quicksand bogs? Do we use t'e one we know, or pick a new one?"
Lakshmi thinks a bit, breathing the steam gratefully… then sighs softly, "Better, I think, to go with the site we know?"
Standing, Skye bags the cleaned birds, and loops the sack over a branch, off the sack. "T'en I suggest we set t'e net up early, so it 'as a c'ance to settle and get all natural like before nitefall? Is t'ere a way yi can drug t'e yiffle, put it to sleep all tay in t'e basket an' 'ave it awaken come nitefall?"
Lakshmi nods, "Yes, and yes… and I think I'm about ready to move comfortably again too."
Lakshmi shifts a little, then sighs, "There we go. I'll be glad to get back to the city… so. Drug the yiffle, set the net, see if there's any fresh bromthen tracks around, have the fresh meat and the yiffle ready for nightfall… hm. Skye, can you track?"
Skye shakes his head, ears flat. "Only if it's t'e second floor of a building, boss'Laks'mi. T'at or a very loud and clumsy R'ian on an empty city street at midday bells."
Lakshmi chuckles dryly, "Ah, no worries. I was just wondering if we might be able to track our elusive whispa this morning."
Skye shrugs his shoulders, as he starts gathering up their gear. "T'e big light net, yes? An t'e string an' rope? It would also be 'ard, since one of us 'as to watch t'e trap, an' shoo away any interested critters during t'e day. Laks'mi, one t'ing I noticed. T'e w'ispa, 'e was not worried t'at t'e lowdy was not dead yet. Mite t'ey only eat freshly kill't meat?"
Lakshmi nods, "I believe it is only fresh that they eat, yes… which is why I was not worried about having to shoo away interested creatures during the day. We'll bait our trap at twilight, yes?"
Skye nods, "An' leave t'e camp secure tonight?
Lakshmi smiles slowly, "Oh, indeed… very secure… "
Setting the trap gear in front of Lakshmi for inspection, Skye secures the rest of the camp. Bags packed, fire banked, a couple bags of hot stones set beside the coals to warm. Their food is collected, set in a sack, and hung from the trees. Finally, he folds his paws behind his neck. "That s'ould do. Unless a goos'urm comes by. So its set t'e trap,wait till twilight to bait it, an t'en wait an' 'ope?"
Lakshmi checks the equipment, then smiles, "Everything shipshape, as usual. So… Skye, after we set the net, why don't we try seeing if we can follow any whispa tracks? Worst that happens is we can't, and we come back here. And… we can keep an eye out for a likely hog wallow while we're looking, yes?"
Setting his hat firmly on his head, the Skreek nods. "Sounds like a plan, I think. So it's tot'e setting. T'ou if we do find a hog, it 'ad better be t'e size of ta yiffle, yes?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Bigger, I hope!" She pulls up the hood, gulps down the last of the hot tea in her cup and makes sure her flask of tea is on her belt… then grins cheerfully at Skye, "Well! The game's afoot, my dear Vatzhun let us away!"
Skye shakes his head, chuckling softly, "T'en we'd need to reset t'e net … "
Grunting and growfing noises echo through the tangles. Here, the ground is muddy, but there is solid purchase here and there, and Skye's trailblazing skills come in handy more than once in avoiding pitfalls along the way and getting past obstacles.
Some ripped-up vegetation and torn bark on some cageroot trees, along with unmistakable tracks in the mud, lead the two adventurers along … and their ears take care of the rest. As they near the mud pool, they can see a blackened lump wallowing about in a pit of sludge, bits of the goop dropping off now and then enough so that parts of the tell-tale tusks of a young Bromthen hog can be seen through the muck.
Lakshmi wonders idly, as she navigates to the shrubbery from another tiny but solid trail Skye's found for her… just how she got along before Skye. She studies the hog, then smiles. A bit more careful, silent maneuvering, and they're behind the hog, still hidden.
The Skreek's pace slows and grows more quiet, as the signs of their prey become more and more present. Sharp ears snapup, following the sound, until the first glints of the hog's tusks can be seen. "T'ere's yi 'og, boss'Laks'mi!"
The hog gleefully wallows and twists, grunting and making enough of a ruckus that Skye could probably shout and have a good chance of going ignored. (Not that this would be recommended, of course.)
Skye dryly chitters, "So now t'at we found it, 'ow do we convince it to become w'ispa bait?"
Lakshmi smiles again and murmurs quietly, "That's my job." Slowly and silently she pulls things from her pack, screwing together a long, slender, sturdy pole. She then strings strong rope into a noose that is affixed to one end, such that with a tug she can tighten the noose around the hog's neck.
Several annoying insects flitter about, some of them becoming interested in Skye's nose and ears.
Finally, slowly and with care, the pole is reached out towards the hog. The noose trails through the mud, so its color and scent is indistinguishable from the wallow itself, and finally is allowed to lay partly against the hog's neck, behind the head, and partly against the mud… Lakshmi is still and patient, waiting for the perfect thrash of the hog to slip the noose around its neck.
Taking a step back, Skye slips off his hat and bats lightly at the bothersome bugs.
The bugs are momentarily driven off … but the hog suddenly makes a grumph? Perhaps he somehow caught the motion of the feather on Skye's cap? It's hard to see just where the hog's eyes are, in that mass of mud, but the head is easily discernable as it juts up, and its large snout sniffs at the air.
Lakshmi lightly flips the noose to settle it around the hog's neck perfect!
The Skreek freezes, becoming suddenly stock still.
There's a noticeable pause before the hog's brain lets him know what has happened … but once it does, the hog lets out a loud SHREEEEE! and starts floundering about in a panic attempt to get free of the sludge!
Bits of foul-smelling, slightly greenish filth are thrown about, spatting against nearby trees and foliage.
Lakshmi tugs the rope tight and grins, "YESS!"
Lakshmi braces with a coil around a tree, and holds on tight.
The hog starts treading against the pull of the rope, squealing and protesting, but its hooves find little purchase in the sludge. If it were solid ground, and if it were Skye trying to hold onto the pig, it might be a totally different contest, but Lakshmi's size, strength and anchor (not to mention a bit more in the brains department) give her a clear advantage.
Several birds startle from nearby trees at the commotion, taking to the air and swiftly vanishing.
Lakshmi grins cheerfully, hanging on as the hog thrashes around. Over her shoulder she hisses, "He'll tire himself out in a bit then we can tie his little trotters and carry him back!"
Skye slowly takes up another length of rope, gathering it loosely in his paws. "I take it t'at's my job, yes?"
Lakshmi glances over her shoulder at Skye, "No, silly, it's both our jobs. I'll sit on it, and hold its trotters together, and you tie. Otherwise one of us might get cut by accident. Ready?"
Skye laughs and waits till the hog collapses. "T'at's a good thought. T'ou I 'ave to admit, t'e last time I was in such a position it was me as t'e hog an' a gang of youngDarkside Jupanis t'at were doing t'e sitting." Slowly he approaches the squooshed critter, lashing its feet. "T'ou ye were nae as smart as t'is Skreek, laddie. I got away… "
Back at the campsite, Skye and Lakshmi now have a larger and meatier present for the whispa, should it decide to come and grace them with an appearance.
It's now early afternoon, thanks to the time spent tracking the Bromthen Forest-Hog, and dealing with the messy matter of getting the slippery and large creature back to the camp. The hog is still firmly trussed up, and isn't going anywhere soon, despite its squeals and complaints.
Lakshmi looks muddy and pleased, "There we go! Nice and loud too. Now then… wait till twilight, then toss it in, yes?"
Skye dryly chitters, "A couple bells before twilight, since I don't t'ink 'e will be agreeable about gettin' in t'e root tangle."
Lakshmi grins ruefully, "True… and if our trap fails… we at least can make a nice hot dinner for the morrow."
Skye dryly chitters, "Are we going to 'ave to reset t'e net, at a bigger cageroot basket?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "No, we'll set the net for the quicksand pool instead, I think?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "A hog falling in there is more credible, I think."
Skye nods quietly, considering. "but 'ow do we keep 'im from drowning before 'is time?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "We'll put down some tough, springy branches now. By the time twilight's come around they'll have sunk down, giving the hog some purchase… so he won't drown instantly." She looks a little regretfully at the hog, "Poor thing… either drowning or eaten alive… I wish I could drug him so he didn't feel anything." She thinks a moment, then sighs and shakes her head, "If I did, he wouldn't act normally… I'd guess the whispa can tell that."
Skye dryly chitters, "Then we need to go get this set now. To set up t'e branc'es in t'e quicksand, and make sure it is all proper an' safe an set so we can let 'im loose upon sign of w'ispa?
Twilight draws near, and the flickertails come out in full force, flitting about with their glowing tails, finding either companionship with their own kind … or being snatched out of the air by nocturnal airborne predators.
The platform of branches and bamboo has been carefully laid out and painstakingly covered with muck. Although it's tempting to fear that the unseen net has somehow vanished, the distributed weight isn't likely to sink as quickly as, say, a Bromthen Forest-Hog. A rope makes sure that Skye doesn't add to the organic material collected at the bottom of the quicksand pool.
Lakshmi looks up as dusk softens the sky, then smiles ruefully at Skye, "Can we get rid of this incredibly loud and obnoxious animal now? I am very much looking forward to throwing it into the pool by this point!"
Punctuating Lakshmi's point, the Forest-Hog squeals and bellows, and makes rude noises in its exertions. From time to time, it quiets a bit when it tires itself out … but that doesn't last as long as one might hope.
Wringing the muck from the tails of his tunic, Skye nods, his dark eyes tainted with a touch of light vengeance. "Yes. But not throw 'im in. T'at would smash w'at we just built. 'Old 'im, as I wrap a slipknot about 'is hooves and 'ead, so we can place 'im careful, and t'en yank t'e rope free, wit'out sending 'im to t'e bottom."
Lakshmi nods, "That we can do." She straightens, hefting the wriggly hog under one arm with a faint grimace, "Phew!" and heads for the pool. "You've got the rope, right?"
Skye hefts the rope's heavy coils. "Let's bait t'is trap."
The hog struggles and squeals, but it doesn't fare any better against Lakshmi's grip than before especially since it's had all day to weaken itself.
Lakshmi slithers down to the poolside, and holds the hog for Skye to re-noose. Then she wraps a precautionary coil around a tree before carefully sliding out across the soft, mucky, watery sand, to set the pig exactly where they want it. Not until she's withdrawn from the pool will she wave to indicate to Skye that he should pull the rope free of the pig.
Skye waits patiently at the edge of the pool, at the edge of the brush, carefully paying out the line.
It's a messy endeavor, and there are enough slips to make it less than perfect … but what ultimately matters is that, with a bit of effort and quite a bit of rough handling, Lakshmi manages to place the squirming beast in the center of the unseen net. Bits of the bamboo and branches that are revealed momentarily are easily enough covered over again.
Lakshmi hisses softly under her breath, wiping muddy leaves off her hands, then grins down at Skye, "I almost hope the whispa doesn't come now… I'm going to enjoy eating the darned pig if it doesn't!"
The Bromthen Forest-Hog seems to regain new energy as it realizes its new predicament, squirming and screaming, so that anyone within quite some distance would know that a hog has gotten into some trouble.
Lakshmi winces at the racket, then hisses at Skye, "Time to withdraw, eh?"
Sweeping away the signs of their passage with a damp branch as they retreat to the brushline and hide, Skye simply laps his long muzzle with his tongue. "Bromt'en steaks for breakfast. Not a bad way to begin t'e day."
Lakshmi simply chuckles as she slithers ahead of Skye, so he can cover her tracks.
Pausing at the brushline, Skye crouches, considering. Then he smiles and changes tact. Leaving the trap's trigger rope with Lakshmi, he scrambles up a cageroot tree, settling into the branches to oversee the trap. Hopefully he can find a set of branches somewhat overhanging the sandpit, to watch and wait, a patient Skreek.
Twilight gives way to night, and the night creeps on, turning cold quickly with the retreat of the sun. It's a cloudy night, though starlight glimmers through now and then through patches. Fortunately, the one doing the watching over the quicksand pool can see in such disagreeable conditions.
The Forest-Hog lapses now and then, tiring itself out … then, without warning, it starts shrieking again. Now is one of those times, and it has to be awfully close to midnight, or maybe even a little bit after that.
Lakshmi is silently coiled up by the fire, muffled in blankets. She doesn't stir much till the hog starts shrieking again… even then she only raises her head slightly, not wishing to lose any heat. She knows Skye will yell if he succeeds, and she's got the requisite cage to hand.
His ears snapping up, Skye holds his breath, listening, his gaze darting, searching for perhaps a telltale flash of magical light.
At first, it looks like a trick of the light … but, no, there's a faint, faint reflection, a faintly glowing form gliding over the quicksand with delicate steps. The glow is faint enough that any eyes less alert than Skye's would not pick it up. This isn't the overt glow of a whispa leading its prey to a trap. But the long, lithe form is unmistakable. It carefully winds its way toward the hog, occasionally pausing, then rearing up and sniffing cutely as it wiggles its whiskers … then it drops back down and almost seems to corkscrew as it takes anything but the straightest path between two points, working toward the hog and keeping clear of its tusked maw.
His breath still held, Skye watches, quiet, sure, his pawtightening ever so slightly on the trap-rope.
It seems like the whispa can't make up its mind. It jogs in over the pool … then back out again. It half-circles the pool and the hog this way and that, occasionally darting forward, teasing the hog it seems, then darting back.
The hog thrashes about, as ever, but is helpless to do anything about the predator nearby. Helpless to do anything but shriek for all its lungs are worth, and wiggle until its muscles give out.
Lakshmi lies silently next to the small campfire, and listens, feeling a little sorry for the poor hog… eat it soon, darnit, and put the poor thing out of its misery! she thinks.
Skye watches carefully, for if the little beastie won't go for the hog, perhaps he will cross the netline.
At last, the whispa seems to be satisfied of the limits of the Bromthen's movement … and, with a winding path … it dashes over and lightly leaps up onto the hog's back, then quickly moves up to the back of its neck. It pauses there, as if carefully judging the situation, but the Bromthen's thrashing isn't enough to knock it from its perch. The whispa remains there, braced, sniffing the air for a moment.
As the critterling reaches the hog, Skye's hand jerks hard, fast and quick, springing the trap, attempting to snare both hog and whispa. He calls out once, a sharp and decisive chitter, "Laks'mi!"
Lakshmi lurches up, grabbing the little cage in one hand and pulling her cloak close with the other. She slithers as swiftly as she can for the night-hidden pool.
The stick pulls out … the net whips up and over, closing in like the jaws of a Xenean Man-Eater …
The whispa displays amazing agility as it leaps from the back of the Bromthen Forest-Hog … but the fast-moving net catches it, knocking it out of the air, and it lands in the mud pool with an audible SPLUT!
The Forest-Hog lets out a pathetic croak, but it's so exhausted that it can hardly find the energy to protest at this new development.
Lakshmi hears the noise, and hisses, "Did you catch it, Skye?!" as she heads quickly towards the quicksand pool.
Reacting, not thinking, Skye scrambles and leaps for the whispa, for the net, hoping to hold it so it doesn't escape, or worse, so it doesn't accidentally drown. "Over 'ere… "
Lakshmi half slithers, half slides down the hillside, "Coming! Careful, don't hurt it please!"
Overhanging branches bow down under Skye's weight, and spring back up as he leaps off and into the net and the muck.
The Skreek lands on the net, right between the Forest-Hog and where the whispa should be … somewhere down here…
Lakshmi slides up and looks around anxiously, "Where is it, Skye? Ouch… that looked painful you okay?"
The whispa is totally out of sight, having gone into the semi-soupy mud.
Lakshmi uh-ohs… and reaches out to grab Skye out of the mud, "Help me look, Skye we don't want it to drown!"
Skye scrambles in the net, his first thought to just hold on and breath again, shaking his head, trying to point where he saw the whispa splash. And when h can, one breath, ears up, listening for the whispa, seeking the fast and elusive beast. And not drown himself.
With a sucking sound, the rat is pulled out of the mud, bits of the net clinging to him then pulling free as the large snake bodily hauls him out of the pool.
Lakshmi realizes Skye is gesturing with reason, and hastily looks at where the Skreek is pointing. She gently runs her fingers back and forth along the muddy net, feeling for struggling or fur.
If not for the net of branches and bamboo underneath the quicksand, there's no telling how far down the whispa could have gotten. However, a tell-tale lump pokes out of the mire … and then a little whispa head. It looks up at Lakshmi, then at the gently probing fingers.
Lakshmi whews, "Sorry, little one… we didn't mean to squish you. Careful now… " She tries to carefully close a hand around the small creature's scruff of the neck, but she'll grab the body and risk being bitten rather than let it drown.
The whispa extracts itself from the mire fairly quickly as Lakshmi reaches for it … and it opens its mouth, looking quite capable of taking off a finger … but Lakshmi has the jump on the little creature, and Nagai reflexes as well. Her hand darts in, grabbing the whispa right behind the neck, protecting her from its ferocious bite.
Lakshmi croons softly and reassuringly to it, holding the netted whispa up out of the muck. She grins at Skye, on the edge of the pool, "I think we got it, Skye! Can you fold the net back carefully, and I'll change hands?"
Meanwhile, the whispa proves that it has more than just fangs … as retractile claws pop out of its delicate little paws.
Lakshmi watches in fascination, whispering, "Skye, look! It has retractile claws!" She gently rubs one small ear, and continues to make low, reassuring noises to the whispa.
Picking himself up from the muck, Skye rests on all four paws, his words far dryer than he is. "Next time yi wait in t'e tree, yes?" Then he shakes, hard. "Did yi get it? Is it well?"
The whispa then whips its body around and applies these retractile claws to Lakshmi's hide, though its neck remains quite firmly held in place.
Lakshmi gives Skye a guilty glance, "Um… I'm terribly sorry, Skye… I thought you were drowning?" At his next questions she beams, "Oh, yes, it's fi-OW! Grr… " Through gritted teeth she finishes, "Quite fine… "
The whispa whips around, becoming something like a little whirlwind of razorblades. Lakshmi's arm bleeds freely.
Lakshmi hisses sharply, but doesn't let go… she tries hard not to let her hand tighten on the small creature's neck in automatic reflex to the pain. Instead she grabs at the base of its tail with her free hand, to stretch it out so it can't reach her.
At the smell of blood, the Bromthen Forest-Hog chokes out a shriek, but it's too weak to thrash any further.
The snake's reflexes pay off again, and the tail, once grabbed, is pulled … and the whispa, despite its best efforts, can only reach so far, and can't match the strength of the Naga or even close to it.
The little monster froths and makes hissing noises at Lakshmi … but it appears that this last little "surprise" is the best it can muster in its current position.
Lakshmi sighs as she gazes at the little whispa, "Great Serpent… you really work hard to make people hate you, don't you. Poor little thing."
Skye blinks and quickly steps forward, as he does, he slips off his long black zolk belt, shaking it out … then he folds it, he reaches out and wraps it carefully about Lakshmi's torn arm. He keeps a very wary eye peeled out at the stretched critterling.
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Thank you, Skye… stings something fierce."
Lakshmi gets a funny expression, "Oh my… Skye, get the cage, now… I think I better clean up those slashes soon."
Several insects come at the smell of blood, and start pestering Lakshmi's wounded arm.
Skye looks at the little critter … and then at Lakshmi's words he scrambles fast to get the cage, the bromthen ignored, the cage and the beast his focus. Following her instructions he opens it for her, holding it ready.
For the time being, though, the whispa is still held ramrod straight, and it can do no more than hiss threateningly and flail about its limbs in vain.
Lakshmi sighs again, "Silly beast. We could have all been much gentler with each other… ah well, we'll try again later." She neatly tucks the whispa, netting and all, into the cage they can work the netting out later. "Thanks, Skye… I think I um… should go sit down by the fire and… uh… ow, clean up my arm… "
Skye looks back, "You got tha critter safe, Laks'mi?"
Trapped in the cage, the whispa puts on a show of trying to tear its way out … but the netting and cage hold the creature firm. It's not going anywhere … other than where its captors take it.
Lakshmi nods slowly to Skye, "Yes, I think so… can you bring it and the net back to the camp, please? I… don't feel so good… "
Lakshmi will wipe mud off her arm as best she can as she heads slowly and carefully for camp.
The Skreek then runs, on all fours, through the brambles, heading back to the camp far faster than his friend. So that when Lakshmi does get to the camp, water's been put on the fire to warm, and their medicines and bandages are already set out.
Back at camp, the caged Whispa proves to be a very ill-behaved captive, snapping at anything that comes too close to its cage and madly rushing about the small cage as it tries to find some hidden means of escape.
Skye settles down next to Lakshmi, keeping one eye on the cage. "Somet'ing in his claws? Like a drug, to put 'is prey to rest?"
Lakshmi pays no attention to it for a while, merely cleans up her arm with slow, thorough care, asks Skye to bring in the bromthen hog, and neatly folds up the net again. She's careful to stay by the fire, and to take a few things to help against any potential poisons or infections. At Skye's question she smiles ruefully at him, "It could be just mud… or a naturally occurring bacteria, like some of the huge desert lizards… but I don't want to take any chances."
The campfire proves to be a good deterrent for the majority of the forest predators and scavengers. Curious eyes do peer out from the treetops and cageroot baskets now and again though, drawn by the light perhaps.
Skye nods quietly as he looks at the little one. "I don't t'ink 'e'd going to make a very good pet … "
Lakshmi shakes her head slowly, "No… I'm afraid not." She coils up neatly, her head on her arms, with the cage in front of her, and watches the little creature silently… almost wistfully.
Lakshmi sighs, a faint smile on her face, "Look, Skye… it's a little male. I wonder if it would like some water to clean up with… " Her voice sounds a little dreamy.
A moment later she adds, "Skye… we can't give this to the secretary-general, can we."
Skye leans back, quiet like. He eyes the beastie, black eyesmatching the critterling's stare. "Yi 'ave caught 'im. Felt 'is fur. Mayhaps t'at's enough?"
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Did I? I don't remember… was it soft?"
Skye shrugs quietly. "Maybe, between me and yi, all Dors'all caught was a strange species of wizzel. Maybe t'ere's no such t'ing as a w'ispa, yes?"
The whispa shrinks back in its cage until his rump bumps the rear bars. It whirls around and attacks the wooden slats for all it's worth before creeping back around to glare at the Naga and the Skreek.
Lakshmi watches the little creature a while longer, then sighs and closes her eyes. Her low whisper is pained, "You're… probably right, Skye." She opens her eyes again… then resolutely reaches out to the little cage and slips the latch, flips the tiny door open.
Skye tilts his head, looking back to his companion. "Yi scritch't 'is ears, just before 'e slashed yi, Laks'mi. Don't yi remember?"
For a moment nothing happens, the Whispa shrinks down as Lakshmi's hand draws near. But as her hand pulls away it makes a feeble leap to attack and bumps the door, popping it open partway.
Skye quietly walks back to the fire, to grab up a sack of rocks and sets them down next to Lakshmi. His only pause is when he watches the latch slip open, nodding quietly.
Reaching out with a single finger, Skye pops the cage's door open. He then sits next to Lakshmi.
Lakshmi watches the whispa, her eyes bright and unhappy. She tilts her head down, rubbing her eyes, and murmurs, "I… yes, I remember… very well. The softest fur I've ever touched… I would so have liked… ah well… " She falls silent, tucking her head tightly up against her coils… she's never going to see a whispa again. She doesn't want to miss a moment of this one's presence.
However short that time will be.
The whispa shrinks back again, but the opening is not obvious and it slowly starts to slink out through the door. Sniffing at the air it sits perched atop the wooden cage. The firefly glow dances across the whispa's pelt in that almost teasing manner it has, the cool glow seems to almost compliment the warm light of the cinders from the fire twirling up towards the procession.
Quietly Skye speaks, shrugging his shoulders. "Out across t'e desert, in t'e bazaars of Rep'idim, t'ey will sing of w'ispas. It'uns will sleep wit soft w'ispas of cot' an' buttons. Minstrels will sing o' songs of brides an grooms, t'eir first night blessed by a w'ispa's soft glow. Late at night, old furr will talk of t'e glittering t'ey saw one night w'en t'ey were young … "
Skye looks up to his boss. "I don't t'ink you are losing t'e whispa, Laks'mi."
Then it sneezes suddenly, and dashes through the empty side of the camp. It ducks under a cageroot tree, through a bush… and then vanishes amidst the reeds.
Skye shrugs again. "Maybe yi are savin' t'em. All o' t'em."
Lakshmi watches the marvelous little mythological creature vanish… then sniffs once and rubs her eyes again. Her voice is weary, "I guess… good night, Skye." She tucks her head under her coils, tightening up into as small a bundle as she can.
Letting his words slip off into the night, Skye moves forward, to gently lift up the cage, moving to shut it once again. "T'at's not a bad way to end a trip, boss." He takes a moment, a heartbeat, to take a final close look at the cage and its lonely interior.
Blinking twice, Skye fiddles with the gate latch, careful, sure, and in a manner, cleaning it. He then pads, half a step. "Laks'mi … look up, for a moment … please?"
Lakshmi is still for a moment… then her bulk shifts slightly, and her upper body slowly unwinds from her coils. She rubs her eyes tiredly again, "Mm?"
He holds his hand up, palm open, careful and still, as if he little black Skreek was holding something precious. In his palm pad, a splash of fur. It softly glows. "For yi."
Smiling, Skye shrugs. With the shifting warmth of his fingers, so shimmers the small memory of a fierce and proud legend.
Lakshmi looks down at the fur for a moment… then slowly shakes her head, "You should keep it, Skye. If I keep it I'll feel honor-bound to give it to the Secretary-General, and he'll know whispas are real and will just send someone else hunting them… and… I'll want to come back and try again, to see if somehow I can make friends with them… somehow… and that would be bad, for the whispas and for me."
Lakshmi smiles tiredly at Skye, then slowly coils back up again, careful not to touch it.
Skye slowly folds his paw over the beautiful fur. "I'll keep it for yi, t'en … safe and sound."