In the morning, I got to give Tell-tail his scare. It was pretty scary! He woke up before me, but didn’t manage to disentangle himself before I woke up. I wrapped all eight of my arms and legs around him, and started licking his head. “Good morning!”
“Rydia?” he asked, in a squeaky voice.
“Guess again!” I said, “No, wait, I never actually told you my name, did I?”
“Kijji?” he asked, “the fox?” Apparently, I had told him my name. “Oh my god, it’s just like in my dream!”
“I haven’t killed the rest of your village yet,” I reassured him. He wasn’t reassured. “And I’m not planning to eat you right away. You’re too much fun to eat that quickly!” This was where the horror and shame and guilt set in. Oh, and the struggling.
He wriggled around worse than ten eels, but I had eight arms to hold him. He tried to sort of fold up his knees and kick me in the crotch, but I wrapped my tail around his legs. He bit my shoulder, and I bit his ear. He started casting nasty spells on me to cut my flesh and poke me in the eyes, and I flared up my wings, setting the tent on fire and burning him mildly. He cast a spell that set his waterskin spurting gallons and gallons of water all over the place, and I turned into a small, harmless otter clinging to his back.
That kind of changed the momentum of the fight a bit. After he had me hogtied and suspended from the end of his spear, with a sort of reversed ‘duck cloak’ spell to keep me from drying off enough to change back, he sat down, shaking, with his head in his hands.
“Rydia’s dead,” he said, in a flat tone of voice.
“I saw her spirit fly off with my own eyes,” I said, “she doesn’t live here anymore.”
“A different spirit. The same mind?”
“No, not really,” I said. Somehow, this gave him hope.
“Not *really*. So there’s some sense in which it is the same mind. There’s some part of her still in there.”
“Well…” I said, glancing around my magerium. I’m a really messy eater. There were still a few bits of Bright-Eyes and Jepa… so, yes, there was still some part of Rydia. Uneaten scraps and inedible parts – bones and skin, metaphorically – that hadn’t rotted away to nothing yet. “There’s *something*,” I said, “but not in the way you mean.”
“Heal the Awful Wound,” he said, “if I had a mentador version…”
I had to laugh at that. “I don’t think there *is* a mentador version.”
“Isp and Osp can make one,” he said, a plan forming in his mind. Isp and Osp were his norren friends, who’d been run out of the village years ago. He had a vague idea that they’d headed downriver. He could find them, they could heal Rydia’s mind, and then since her body was alive, all he’d need to do was locate her spirit. How hard could it be?
“You want to bring her back?” I asked, surprised, “I mean, of course you *want* to. You’re stupidly in love. But you understand what happened to her, and you think you actually *can*?”
“I can,” he said, standing up. “I will!”
“Are you willing to bet your life on it?” I asked him, smiling, “I might be willing to make that bet. You *are* a lot of fun, after all – I could wait to eat you until you realize how stupid you’re being and give up.”
“I don’t see why I need to,” he said, “you’re my prisoner, so you’ll help me – by not getting Rydia’s body killed – whether you want to or not.”
“Mmm,” I said, “you’re forgetting something.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
Ha ha ha! You should have seen the look on his face! Especially when I told the bees to go burn down his village again, instead of killing him. We worked out the details of our game while we were healing the villagers back to life – I know spirit reunion, and orren villagers *will* kiss a monster if it means saving the life of their village-mates. Who knew?
Anyway, that’s how I started travelling with Tell-tail. We’ve been heading downriver ever since, but we haven’t found any sign of Isp or Osp yet. I would have given up days ago, but Tell-tail hasn’t, not even for a second.
I’d know if he did. And I’d eat him. >:)