She came right at me with her teeth and her dress

and they both fell off

POSTED: Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:11 am

benjamin francis leftwich - snowship

"No, it's—" Conrad paused to croak a sound that came from his throat, deep and guttural, and he added, "Not this." Another croak imitated from him, and Kennedy just stared at his friend, deadpan.

"They sound like the same exact thing."

Conrad snorted and yapped, "But it ain't! Yer gonna embarrass yourself—look, they're laughin' at you right now." Kennedy looked above them and saw that two of the ravens were whispering between themselves in their tongue; Eliseo and Eloisa made pointed glances at the coymutt and when he caught their beady eyes, they broke into a series of caws that he could only guess was laughter.

"I can't help it if some dumb word that some animals," he emphasized, throwing a glare at the two ravens chortling above them, "can't take seriously sounds just like what I'm trying to say!" A brown leaf floated down from above and tickled his nose, and he turned to look right above him to see Snow peering down. Kennedy did not know if his partner was enjoying this—he seemed as stoic as ever. But the brief interruption allowed some distraction and the Fisher grumbled nonsense before saying audibly, "Can you say it again, Conrad?"

The two coyotes had sparred earlier that day—Conrad allowed Kennedy to call it that for the sake of his pride, even though the Bellum was doing more teaching the Sciens how to fight than fighting each other. Despite the Nielssen handing the Fisher's tail to him in front of the clan after their first spar, the coymutt would always approach the coyote man, and either out of quiet amusement or a sense of duty as a Bellum (Conrad was as stoic as Snow, but because he was one of few words), they continued to meet up regularly.

Kennedy had mentioned in passing while they were training that Snow had took it upon himself to act unruly and spoke about his suspicions that it might be because he did not know high speech. That was what the coymutt wanted to believe—he knew his raven partner was too smart to not understand their language, but he needed an excuse so that he could complain about the bird bullying him without seeming like he was helpless. Conrad quietly offered to teach him a few words in low speech, and remembering the two, well-behaved ravens that were usually in his company, the bronze-brown hybrid took up his suggestion.

And they were there in Ravenswrest, with him having the pleasure of another two ravens making fun of him.

Conrad began to croak again and Kennedy listened to him, though his large ears were fanned out on either side in dismay and he hunched where he sat. Perhaps the older coyote would have remarked about his posture, but he was too busy crowing and chirping, and the coymutt really tried to pay attention. It was hard not to take his own difficulties at learning the speech to heart, and he gave a dejected sniff.

Kennedy's brows furrowed. Eliseo and Eloisa made their racket and Conrad carried on, and the copse was silent. But yet...

"Do you smell that?" the Fisher interrupted, refocusing his olive-green eyes on the Bellum. His own burnt-orange eyes blinked in surprise at being cut off, and his brows drew together in confusion as he sniffed the air. "What're you talkin' about? I smell nothin'."

The coymutt sighed in exasperation and got onto his paws while he implored, "What do you smell?"

"Ravens, trees, me, you, 'n coyotes. Is your nose broken or somethin'?"

"Okay, smartass, but one of the coyote scents—do you know them?" Conrad shrugged. "I don't know one of 'em," he admitted, and added, "You sure it ain't that Abigaël you met the other day? I heard that she—"

Not in the mood for whatever rumor was making its way around the clan (it seemed that not even the newcomers were spared), Kennedy stopped him. "I don't forget scents, Conrad. Do you know anyone else besides her that joined the clan recently?"

The Nielssen narrowed his eyes as he was cut off again, but he seemed thoughtful for a moment as if he was finally taking this seriously, and he answered slowly, "No. I ain't heard nothin'."

Kennedy clicked his tongue and swung his head around to where the wind was blowing. "Tell the ravens to fly above, but not to make any sounds." Conrad was higher in rank and a senior to the Sciens, but he merely nodded and warbled something quietly, and all three ravens took off into the sky. Worst come to worst, he thought, they could go get help without tipping off the intruder and the entire clan. From the smell of things, it was only one coyote, and there were two of them. But he played it safe.

The Fisher flagged with his tail for the Nielssen to follow, and the smaller coyote fell into step behind him as they ventured north. Everything was silent—the usual chorus of ravens sounded from a different part of the woods, away from where the scent came from. They must have thought the coyote was an Infernian and did not fetch anyone, and Kennedy refrained from growling.

Was it the Courtiers? He did not smell Cour des Miracles, but anger towards the kingdom in the south churned in his stomach. Would they employ such tactics, sending in one of their own kind to infiltrate the clan? Were they that bull-headed and desperate to believe that they still had the prince? Filthy bunch of—

"Kennedy!"

Conrad's warning came too late and the Fisher was lunged at by the intruder. Distracted by his thoughts, Kennedy did not smell that the scent had become stronger. His heart leaped to his throat as rough hands grabbed him by the flesh of his shoulders, as well as a leg, and he thrashed his body and tried to kick them. He heard Conrad yap and snarl nearby, but louder than him was the trespasser.

"Feed me!"

She yowled the same words again, and Kennedy felt a sharp pinch on his ear. Was she trying to eat him?

"You mangy bitch!"

The female stopped her words to howl in pain, but she did not let go off Kennedy's ear as she was tackled by Conrad after he snarled at her. The cluster of coyotes all went down, and the Fisher squeezed his eyes shut, preparing for the pain of his ear being ripped to shreds by the intruder's teeth. But she slipped right off, his skin crawling at the smooth, gummy texture, and left behind an access of saliva.

Her hands were still upon him, though, and she gripped him tighter with dull claws when a caw broke from above the din.

"No bite! No! Stop!"

* * *

The old coyote grumbled, licking her lips of prey blood. A raven stood protectively on her shoulder, nervously twiddling a piece of red ribbon between her talons.

Kennedy and Conrad sat before her, the Fisher rubbing at his ear and trying to get her spit cleaned off while the Nielssen nursed the tiny cut the raven—Wiress was her name, as they had learned—had given him when she arrived to stop the fight. She was a brave bird, Kennedy had to admit, the way she threw herself at Conrad to get him off of her companion. He recalled the Bellum's shock and the coymutt wondered if he thought it was one of Inferni's own ravens that had gone mad.

The confusion was what broke up the fight, and Wiress had explained it all to them. "Birdie tells Wiress and Mags of clan. Mags don't like berries. Mags tires of berries. Wiress tries hard, but Mags don't like berries. Mags is hungry." As it had turned out, it seemed that one of Inferni's flock had told the outsider about the clan and perhaps invited them to join, but things did not go as smoothly as predicted. Snow, Eliseo, and Eloisa, who were now perched on a high branch, observing the scene below them, had flown into Wiress as Kennedy and Conrad hunted for the coyote. But the fight had broken out before the four birds could stop them. "Mags is hungry. No bite."

The woman yowled for them to feed her, unconsolable, and that was when Kennedy realized she did not have teeth. All that was in her maw were gums and nothing else.

The two Infernians managed to catch a rabbit before Mags could announce to the entire Nova Scotian land that she wanted to be fed, and Kennedy was the one to cut up the food as Conrad kept his distance. The old coyote had watched the Sciens hungrily, but stayed still until he handed her the prepared rabbit. She gobbled down the meat, not bothering to chew it.

"Mags no eats Ken," Wiress explained with a nervous, but giggly little chirp as the Fisher asked about her biting him. She twirled the ribbon she had with her. "Mags is hungry, Mags wants Ken to know. Ken feels Mags' no-teeth." He certainly had felt it, and his skin gave another shiver as he recalled the slimy grip she had on his ear.

After the broken-worded explanation from the raven, the company sat in silence as Mags ate. Kennedy watched her, and as she began to eat the last morsels of the meal, he announced, "I'll accept you into the clan."

"Really? After she took a bite of you?" Conrad snorted and looked at the Sciens with a disbelieving glance.

Kennedy gave a roll of his shoulders and said slowly, "She's safer here. She's been in Inferni, and if a Courtier finds her, they'll think she's one of us. They might try something, or kill her." He frowned at the thought.

Conrad snorted again, but he said nothing else.

Kennedy looked back to the old coyote woman, and she was staring at him. She had a rabbit bone between her knobby fingers, letting her gums chew and savor the taste of meat that had once been there. Despite her wild hair and her wide eyes, there was a semblance of intelligence, like she was aware of what was going on. Her ribs poked out horribly, and he wondered if it was her hunger that drove her to trespass in desperation for food.

It reminded him of Ephraim. When they had spent the winter together, a strangeness overcame his adoptive father. It made difficult for him to hunt, and Kennedy was the one that fed the both of them despite his young age at the time. The woman before him appeared even older than his father. Or maybe she wasn't—it had been a long time since he had passed away. It had been a long time since he had to take care of someone older than him.

Some remnants of her saliva was still on his ear, but he did not feel bothered enough to wipe it away.

It’s easy to explain 'cause this world’s not tame

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