[m] tergiversation

POSTED: Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:26 pm

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Takes place over an unspecified amount of time, summer-ish.

She kept going north, always north.

At first, Adina hadn’t been sure why she’d struck out in this particular direction after fleeing the farmstead, only that it was insistent, instinctual urge at first. The first few days were marked by slow progress and painful ribs — painful everything, really, if she thought about it too long — but she knew by now that the only thing for bruised bones was rest.

And that was something she could ill-afford, having to constantly look over her shoulder for pursuers. As unlikely as it was, given the circumstances, she couldn’t ward off the feeling that she wasn’t done running from something either real or imagined.

When she stopped, it always briefly, to poke and prod her injuries and maybe take a wink or two of sleep. The latter was more difficult, because persecution wasn’t the only thing plaguing her. In the fullness of the day or late at night, it didn’t matter, nightmares found her regardless.

Sometimes they found her waking, too.

That happened more than once, but most vividly when she stopped by a river’s edge to rinse her face and relieve herself, raising one arm to shield against the sun’s dizzying glare.

Footsteps clattered against the closed barn door behind her, loud and quarrelsome. Turning just as it burst open, she turned her face into his insults, spat with the commingling grief and fury she knew too well from personal experience.

You stupid, sniveling coward, He hurled each individual word with the force of a stone, advancing like a whirling storm. you fucking cunt, he’s dead — dead — and you’re running off like a thief in the night?!

Raising her arms as if anticipating a blow that did not fall, he grabbed them like an offering and shook her.

He’s dead because of you, Brown eyes, luminous like his mother, but with less spaniel in them, full of hatred. you and your God!

Even now, she wasn't sure who was truly to blame — God, or herself — and she wasn't sure whether the distinction mattered.

Lowering her arm from her face, her fingers trailed in the river's tepid water, and after waiting a moment she picked her way along the slippery rocks to its edge so she could continue on her way. Always moving, always headed north, she held her destination at the forefront of her mind, for it was a memory now that existed for some few, a burnt husk for the rest.

Even after her wounds had healed, other, more common threats were a constant concern. Taking a slight detour in search of various plants – an abortifacient, some wild ginseng, and burdock in particular – with her hunt for the latter taking longer than she might’ve otherwise liked. With no one around to question about local varieties and their appearances or uses, this was an arduous task of finding what was somewhat familiar and waiting to see if local fauna ate it without issue.

When she could, she hunted; on four legs or two, it often didn’t matter. As summer turned cooler, these attempts became less successful. Smaller animals were quick to find their burrows, and the larger ones were often too large to take down on her own. Desperation drove her to steal from crows and ravens.

She lost the well-fed sheen that’d been carefully built up over months spent in the south, tending now toward gaunt and hollow once more.

It was familiar, like the sun on her back or the feeling of dust on her hands. She had known hunger in Inferni, and for a while afterward.

When a house — a hut — appeared just on the outskirts of dense woodland, she thought it was a mirage at first, a trick of the full moon. Having traversed uncharted territory up until this point, any sign of civilization, or even just another with whom to converse, seemed a luxury she could not afford.

More or less delirious with hunger, she plunged headlong into the field that surrounded it, eyes blazing, arms swinging to clear a path in front of her. Everything seemed more difficult than it ought to, and the walk proved further than she’d estimated even over flat ground.

Here and there, an animal smaller than herself protested her swaying gait, until they all seemed to take up the quarrelsome call. She was near, so near, when a shadow loomed, and she lurched out of the way.

Hey! Yelled a man — or, she it was based on his timbre — and then again in a language she didn’t understand.

Je zit mijn schapen lastig!

Looking him full in the face, she had only a moment to register confusion before crumpling into a dead faint.

Everything her father had ever taught her failed her, those few fighting skills she’d managed to absorb not through any natural talent, but sheer determination and will.

Snarling and snapping her jaws, she punched, kicked and bit any part of Miklas she could find, and took the same in turn – one particular punch to the face made her see stars, and she staggered before falling – and more, more than she cared to remember, though she did. On her stomach, she glared a fury at her horse tied off some ten feet away, head bent to a makeshift trough.

A bucket, really, she thought.

Throwing an elbow up, she’d hoped to at least bruise a rib, but he rebuffed this with a forearm and bent her wrist at an awkward angle. It hurt — enough to make her scream — but not as badly as the rest. The louder she protested, the harder he pushed her face into floor.

Don’t look at me, He warned, and she couldn’t fathom why. don’t you dare look at me.

Unceremoniously she was awoken from her dream by loud voices.

I don't care what she looks like, A contentious voice woke her. you can't just go around plucking girls from pastures!

It's my pasture, my sheep, The same man's voice from before?

Irmin take your sheep! She was probably trying to eat one! A woman's voice.

Well, why don't you ask her, A man with friendly gold eyes was smiling from where he sat on a chair across the room. since she's awake now.

The woman — his sister, Adina guessed, seeing an immediate resemblance — whirled, hands still on her hips. She was frowning faintly, perhaps embarrassed at being caught out quarreling with her brother.

Schapen? Schaap stelen? She asked in the same unfamiliar language from before.

I don't — The coyote's voice cracked unbecomingly, and she coughed. — I don't understand. Schapen? Schaap?

At least she speaks English, eh Ingrid? Said the man, who seemed to think that this, certainly, was point towards redemption.

The woman, Ingrid, shot him a glare but otherwise ignored this remark.

What were you doing in the pasture? She demanded, nose wrinkling. were you stealing?

Stealing?

Our sheep!

I didn't see your sheep.

How can you not see sheep?

I wasn't looking — I saw your house — I just —

You must really think we're daft if you think we'd believe —

Ingrid, enough.

Something in her brother's voice caught her attention, something unspoken between them. Painfully, Adina remembered that sort of wordless communication with her own brothers, the way only those who'd been raised together could understand.

What passed between them, the coywolf couldn't tell, but it made the woman throw up her arms with a huff.

Fine, She relented, shooting the stranger in her home one last glance. they're your sheep, after all.

As it turned out, they were siblings, Ingrid and Rhett Meijer, sheep herders and wool-spinners both.

Ingrid was the more enterprising of the two, trading with other homesteaders scattered throughout the foothills here for dye and tanned leather with which she, along with her brother, endeavored to make rather nice garments of middling value. They did a brisk trade with the local trappers who spoke the strange language she’d heard from them before, and lived in a modest three room cabin.

Rhett was a lackadaisical sort of fellow, content to take his sheep far and wide in search of green pastures and — if the need should arise — defend them from predators and thieves.

All of this Adina learned while convalescing and trying to make herself useful in their home. Mostly, she tried her hand at cooking, having watched her mother putter around Inferni’s kitchens some as a pup. These attempts were no great success, but the siblings enjoyed laughing about it, and slowly, she learned to laugh with them.

Her strength returned for what felt like the umpteenth time, having gained and lost it so many times in a few short years.

And slowly, she told her story to the siblings. Not all of it, she couldn't bear it, but the old wounds like the loss of her elder brother, the burning of Inferni, losing her parents, and separating from her siblings… they were more manageable now than they'd been a year ago. For them, it seemed like a tall tale, to think that someone could experience and live through so much, and that drove home for the coyote how different their lives had been up until this point.

Here, in these picturesque hills, nothing bad ever happened.

When Rhett asked her to stay — here with him, but also his sister — it was for that reason she considered it. She could spend the rest of her life learning to care for sheep, spread her word here, and convert some of these pagan dansk to Christianity. It would be a good, simple life.

She told him no, and he understood.

Where will you go? Asked Rhett for the thousandth time.

Portland, I guess.

You overshot it by a bit.

I know that now.

Do you have everything you need?

It was Ingrid who'd asked the last question, who liked her even though she hadn't want to. In the way of women around the world, she'd read between the lines and filled in the gaps of Adina's tale with some version of the truth; the coyote thought it must be close to the truth, anyway, because she'd been a little nicer lately.

Well, double-check anyway, and if you don't we'll… we'll see what we can do about it.

Thank you, She said sincerely, swallowing hard. I'm grateful.


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