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Griffin Inflation





Griffin Inflation



Vaelen pivoted to the left, easily avoiding the magic bolt of energy that streaked past him. He smirked. Not even close! His foe seemed like he needed to get his eyes checked. They had been at this for over an hour and the poor beast hadn’t been able to land a single blow. He shifted back into his fighting stance seamlessly after each dodge. His breathing was controlled and even. He literally hadn’t even broken a sweat.



He hadn’t expected anything less from his out of shape enemy. He knew he was more than a physical match for the obese dark wizard Noxiar. Griffins were strong creatures in general, but Vaelen had trained his body to near perfection. He had a lithe and lean physique. He rarely tired in battle. He was agile and flexible.



He wore armor that complimented his body type and his greatest strength: his agility. He wore close-fitting leather armor from head to toe, complete with bracers and a double-thick leather brigandine with flexible steel plates sewn inside. All his armor moved with him and didn’t weigh him down at all. His only concession to ornament was an elaborate leather headband emblazoned with the Proudclaw family crest.



Noxiar was the polar opposite of Vaelen. The black unicorn was obese, but he moved with ease and grace that seemed unnatural for a beast his size. He had managed to keep up with the agile griffin, albeit with some degree of difficulty.



Even Noxiar’s armor was shamed by the griffin. His purple robes were ill-fitting and tight. They were stained with food and grease. They looked as if they hadn’t been washed since he but them on. His steel plate pauldrons and matching breastplate were rusted and in a state of disrepair. Vaelen looked the part of a noble’s son, Noxiar like a homeless slob.



Vaelen let out a cry as he launched himself at the mage. He reversed the grip on his great-sword and gripped it loosely in one hand as he brought it behind his body. He leaped into the air over the unicorn’s head and pivoted his body by twisting his body at the hips, he aimed the brutal strike right at Noxiar’s face. Had the blow hit its mark, it would have sliced half of the mage’s face off, instead Vaelen grimaced as the unicorn bobbed out of the way as his sword hit nothing but air... again.  



Vaelen was beginning to get frustrated. He couldn’t get close enough to the mage to land a blow. He’d tried every trick he knew, every technique at his disposal, and he had never gotten close. Noxiar hadn’t been able to hit him with any magic either, but he knew that this game of dodging around couldn’t last forever.



Noxiar taunted Vaelen, “What’s the matter Proudclaw? Didn’t your daddy teach you how to use that big sword of yours? You know you have to actually hit something to do any kind of damage? Maybe you should practice a little more and come back! Maybe if you were in better shape like me, you’d be able to do something!” he laughed as he slapped his belly.



Vaelen felt his cheeks redden at the insult. This murderous unicorn had killed around twenty griffins from his father’s lands. Over fifty had been injured, and that was just what was known. There was no way of knowing the full extent of this villain’s deeds. He was evil and cruel. He delighted in mocking his victims. He excelled in torture and all areas of black magic. He had volunteered to hunt and kill the mage for the good of the realm and to prove to his father that he was a worthy heir to his father’s estate.



“Mock me all you want, you filth! You will never be a match for Vaelen Proudclaw! I’m the greatest swordsman and bounty hunter in this realm. Your life ended the moment I laid eyes on that fat face of yours!”



Noxiar chuckled. “I seem to remember killing a bunch of your kin that said similar things before they died. They all begged for their lives and wept like women when the end came. You won’t be any different.” He relished in the look of hurt and grief on Vaelen's’s face as he launched a volley of magic arrows at the stunned griffin.



Vaelen cursed as he sprang backwards from the underhanded attack. He had let his guard down. He was hard pressed to dodge all of the arrows, but at last, he had rolled into safety. His eyes scanned the area for Noxiar, but he had vanished.



“Go ahead and hide, you coward! I will find you! The last thing you will ever see with be my blade planted between your eyes!” he yelled. He nearly jumped out of his skin as he heard the mage’s voice behind him.



“Sorry,” he said as he noisily munched on a large turkey leg, “I was really hungry after all the fighting we’ve been doing. I thought I’d grab a snack while you were taking so long to dodge those arrows.” he wiped his hands on his robes and offered the leg of meat to Vaelen. “Want some? I took it from your uncle’s lifeless body. I’m beginning to love the taste of griffin.”



Vaelen felt his stomach roll right before he was violently ill. As he emptied the contents of his stomach he heard Noxiar laugh with glee as he continued to eat his lunch. Once Vaelen was steady enough to stand he locked eyes with the evil, red-eyed mage. “I’ll kill you, I swear it on the honor of my family and those innocents you murdered!”



Noxiar twisted his face into an expression of mock fear. “Oh no! My reign of terror is over! The mighty Vaelen Proudclaw has decided to smite me with his righteous fury!” He pretended to faint in terror. The fat unicorn crumpled on the ground and closed his eyes.



Vaelen’s face reddened in fury. He was tired of being mocked. He was tired of being toyed with. Most of all, he was tired of this villain’s easy confidence. It was time to show this beast why the name of Vaelen Proudclaw was only whispered by the black-hearted and the evil dregs of the world. He raised his great-sword high above his head and charged at the mage, who was still lying on the ground. He leaped into the air and brought the sword down with all the weight of his body. He felt a little dishonest about taking his enemy unaware, but he was past showing any mercy. Besides, he had moved so quickly in his fury, he doubted Noxiar could have dodged such a perfect attack. His massive blade cleaved through Noxiar’s body easily.



Finally, his job was complete. He raised his head towards the sky and let out a whoop of triumph. He had actually been a little worried. There for a second he felt like Noxiar was actually going to emerge the victor. As he pulled the sword out from his fallen enemy, he grimaced at the wet sucking sound as he freed the sword from the fresh corpse. Even in death, his enemy was truly disgusting. He wrinkled his brow in distaste. At least the griffins that lived in his father’s lands could finally stop living in fear.



“That was a fine blow.” an unknown voice said from behind Vaelen.



Vaelen was so immersed in his victory, he just nodded in response. He was used to spectators at his many battles. Some local had probably heard the commotion and cautiously watched the fight from somewhere safe.



The unknown voice continued. “It really is incredible! You hadn’t been able to land a single blow until now. Who knew that you could only hit a stationary target, bravo!”



Vaelen was annoyed now. Local or not, he would not be mocked by anyone. That seeing Noxiar eating a part of his Uncle had deeply disturbed him. He still felt sick from the sight of it. That plus the stress of the battle had frayed his nerves, he had no patience left. He spun around to glare at the unknown person and felt his beak gape open in horror. Noxiar was standing right in front of him with one hand on his hip and a smile on his face.



“Oh come on! Don’t act so surprised. Did you really think it would be that easy?” He shook his head in disbelief. “All of that bluster and arrogance you have, but no common sense whatsoever.”



Vaelen couldn’t make a sound. He was totally speechless. He knew he’d cleaved Noxiar in half. He felt his sword slicing through flesh. He glanced back at the body he had cut into and froze. He was right, he had completely cut the body in half. There was a large pool of blood spreading out from both halves of the body. He’d struck at the side of the stomach and gone right through the other side. He saw intestines spilling out onto the ground. He could smell the iron, metallic smell of blood and the pungent smell of fecal matter from the bowels of his victim. His eyes found their way to the head and lifeless eyes of his victim; his little brother Kaelen.



Noxiar hooted and slapped his belly. “That’s HILARIOUS. I was wondering how long it was going to take you to look at what you’ve done.”



Vaelen rushed to the lifeless body and hugged his brother’s head close to his chest. He was sobbing uncontrollably now. How was this possible? It had to be some kind of trick. An illusion, more psychological warfare. “It’s not real.” he managed to choke out.  



Noxiar laughed. “I assure you, it’s very real. I kidnapped your poor little brother while you were on the way out here to find me. You made it easy. You just couldn’t help yourself could you? You told everyone you could on your way here that you were going to come end my reign of terror. It was easy for me to put a glamour spell on your brother’s body to make him look like me. Then a couple of teleports later... I just let your rash nature take care of the rest.”



Vaelen let out a cry of anguish and rage. He was shaking. “I don’t believe you!”



Noxiar shrugged. “I couldn’t care less if you did. You aren’t ever going to make it home to see your family again anyway.” He focused his power and sent a stream of fast moving purple gas at his weeping foe. It was silent, and odorless, a brand new curse that he had only just invented. He’d tried it out on smaller animals like frogs and squirrels with spectacular results. He’d been waiting for the proper time to use it. It seemed almost poetic to use it on this arrogant griffin who loved to bluster about his accomplishments.



Vaelen was too wrapped up in his of grief and psychological torment to even notice the strange purple smoke. He coughed once of twice as he breathed it in.



Noxiar smiled and muttered to himself. Let’s see just how much fun I can have with this pitiful griffin before we run out of time.


   

Almost as soon as it was conjured, the purple smoke dissipated and dissolved into the air. Noxiar smiled, a smug look on his face. This posturing little peacock of a griffin was truly doomed now. “You know, holding your dead little brother isn’t going to bring him back? You kinda cut him in half, there’s no coming back from that. I shudder to think what a cut like that would have done to my poor body.” He said, laughing as he slapped his belly. “Maybe I’d have been alright, I’ve got a little more padding then that poor child you just murdered.”



Vaelen finally managed to compose himself. He knew the foul mage had been toying with him this whole time. He knew with certainty that his enemy could have killed him a thousand times over while he’d been grieving over his brother. He felt like a heavy stone had fallen into the pit of his stomach. For the first time in his life, he was truly afraid. Still, he knew he was more than a match for this horse-faced tub of lard. He was the son of Lord Proudclaw! He would not be defeated!



Vaelen tried to appear calm and collected as he slowly stood to face his enemy. “I swear by all the powers of good, and by all things holy in this world, I will-BBBUUUUURP.” Vaelen’s eyes widened in shock and embarrassment. That burp had came out of nowhere. The smell of it made him turn his beak away, it was positively rank! Come to think of it, his stomach was suddenly upset. Almost like indigestion. He tried to shrug it off. He’d been through a lot today. The fight had been stressful, and his uncle’s leg... He almost threw up again at the memory. He was just a little queasy, that was all. His heart started thumping faster in his chest, a cold sweat formed on his brow. If he couldn’t defeat Noxiar when he was healthy, what did he think he was going to do if he was sick?



Noxiar hooted, “What was that? Weren’t you saying something? You didn’t even say excuse me after that rude display. Did you sneak a little bit of your uncle’s leg while I wasn’t looking?” He said as he placed a hand on his hip. “I offered it to you earlier. It’s poor manners just to help yourself.”



Vaelen blustered. He tried to spit out some kind of witty retort, but when he opened his mouth another obscene burp erupted without warning from his open mouth. His stomach started cramping and he felt like the contents of his stomach were burping and percolating. This wasn’t good. It seemed like it was getting worse.

Rob: Griffin Inflation - chapter 1
Vaelen is a young, slender griffin warrior who must avenge his family. His nemesis, however, takes swift and deadly action against him, and soon Vaelen finds himself expanding...

Written by Rob.

Characters copyrighted to stonergriffon if FA.
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Foot Beauty Contest





Foot Beauty Contest




“Ladies, I would like to personally offer my congratulations on your success thus far in the competition.”



Aubry the fennec stood at center stage before a panel of judges hidden in the shadows off stage. She could hardly understand how she had been selected. She had joined this contest just for fun. It was a chance to dress up, to look pretty and show herself off, and that didn’t come around very often. But here she was, in the final round. It must have been her lucky day. She could feel her toes curling in her sandals, a sure sign of her nerves and excitement as she stared at the judges.



“Before the final round can commence, we would like to first ask you to dress yourselves up a bit.” Two stage hands approached with baskets of massage oils and lotions. “These are being provided to you, so please use them to your leisure. You will want to be looking presentable for your final judgement.”



“Well, this should be interesting.” The competitor said in a low purring voice as she lowered herself to the floor of the stage. Aubry followed suit, seating herself and picking a bottle at random and pouring scented oil into the palm of her hand. She went to move her foot into her lap, but was surprised when her competitor extended her own foot out to her adversary.



“What is this?” Aubry asked, timidly eying the appendage.



“Oh, come off it.” The dark haired raccoon replied, taking a hold of Aubry’s foot. “We’re meant to look nice, right? You’ll get a better distribution if you let someone else do the work for you.”



“But, I-” There was not much room or time to protest. Cupping her ankle in the palm of her paw, the raccoon trailed her claws up the fox’s legs, causing her fur to stand up. Aubry couldn’t help but feel slightly embarrassed. Then the raccoon’s fingers pinched the top of the sandal, and when she pulled it away, the other female felt as if her last piece of clothing had been lifted away, leaving her bare and exposed. When the sandal came off her watched as that security was removed, and she watched her toes fan out slightly as they were relieved from their confines.  Aubry gave a whine as her cheeks filled with color and her large ears pressed against her head. Someone was handling her feet. It was so strange, yet it felt oddly pleasant. Pursing her lips and hiding her face behind strands of blonde hair, Aubry gingerly took the other’s foot and slowly began to work the oil into her dark fur.



Though she strained long and hard to keep her focus on her own task of attending to the others paws, the fennec found herself more and more distracted with each passing moment. While her own fingers caressed the raccoon’s foot paw and ankle, her attention kept wandering to the touches that graced her own foot. The claws that moved through her moved sent chills through her body. Every stroke of the raccoon’s fingers as they rubbed her toes, as they pressed on her paw pads and glided over her fur sent wave upon wave of shivers into her loins where they pooled and grew warm between her legs. And with each passing moment Aubry was failing to hide her reactions.



“Well well, look who’s enjoying herself.” The silky voice of the dark haired female snapped Aubry out of her dazed stupor rather abruptly.



“Wha- I… I mean, no, that’s- ” So many thoughts and excuses surged through her mind that all that came out were muttered nonsense. In the lights that hovered above them, the dark haired female’s eyes and smirk looked positively impish.



“Oh, well isn’t this interesting,” she purred, taking her feet back and shifting to her knees. “Does the cute little fox enjoy getting her feet played with?”



“No, I don’t.” Aubry felt as if her cheeks were in flames.



“You don’t?” the raccoon mocked. “Shall we see then?” Little sounds that could have been words puttered out of the fox’s mouth but there were snuffed out fast like a candle in a storm when the claws of her competitor were pulled up the bottom of her foot.



What is happening? Why am I reacting this way to my feet being massaged?  she thought as the raccoon paused to pour lotion into her hands before continuing her assault.  This is so embarrassing. Her toes curled in shame while the attention was on her heel and arch, but when fingers slid between them, they opened with a sigh as if welcoming the other’s touch.



“Now look at this.” Setting down the already well-oiled paw, the dark haired woman picked up the other foot. “Still think you aren’t enjoying yourself?” Aubry’s mind begged her to pull away, but her body would not allow her to leave.



Think about the competition, Aubry, she thought to herself, fighting to keep her thoughts even as they were muddled by the heat in her face. You came this far. And you can still win this. Just focus. Through the fog of sensation that obscured her senses, the fennec could feel the gliding of digits in a ballet across her paw pads and fur, the rake of claws along the top of her foot. Her own fingers attempted to mimic this movement as she kept working on the other’s feet, shifting her attention to the work she was doing on her own. Aubry closed her eyes as she strove to keep her focus, feeling the fur of the other against the tips of her fingers.  



The suddenly the sensation shattered as a pair of large hands grabbed at her feet, and Aubry could feel something coarse being wrapped around her ankles. When she opened her eyes, she looked down at the stage hand that was binding her ankles securely together, just as another stage hand was doing to the other woman.



“Hey wait, what the hell is this?” the raccoon asked the question that had also floated into Aubry’s mind.



“Ladies, ladies, your performance has pleased the judges,” the voice of the lead judge rang out against the empty ceiling space of the stage. Aubry turned to see a dark lion looming over them, gold handled cane in one hand and a wicked grin stretched over his features. “And now you are ready.”



Suddenly behind them a motor starting whirling and Aubry gave a start when she was lifted off the stage and suspended above it by her paws. Beside her, the raccoon was struggling, pulling against her bonds, and Aubry watched as the other’s face fell, full of dread that mirrored her own.



“Your participation in this contest has reached its end,” said the lion and he approached the two contestants as large glass tanks were placed beneath them both and their hands were bound securely behind their backs.  “Thank you kindly.”



“What the fuck is this? What are you doing to us?” The raccoon shouted, struggling even harder. Perhaps it was the fear that kept her tongue still, or perhaps it was the twisting sensation in her gut that signalled her end. Whatever it was kept the fennec fox silent even as she flailed against her bindings. For just a moment their eyes fell on each other, and she knew what the other was thinking:



This woman will be the last thing in this life I’ll see.



With a gesture the mechanism was turned on and before Aubry could process what was happening, her torso was submerged in the water.



“Esteemed judges, let the final judgement commence.” The lion announced with a gesture to the drowning girls. A collected hum of approval rolled from the shadows and at the head of them all the lion watched on with approval. The faces in the water twisted in terror as they struggled to keep their breath. Light fur and dark fur swirled within the water, and the lion giggled to himself - delighted as a child upon seeing a new, shiny toy - as a pair of feet before him frantically twitched and twisted against their bindings until all life within them had faded.



THE END.

The Hostess: Foot Beauty Contest
Aubry has taken a chance on entering a beauty contest, and against her expectations is down to the last two! But then things take a sinister turn...

The commissioner asked to be kept anonymous.

Written by The Hostess of the Palantean Writer team.
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Chapter 6





Jai grunted quietly as he drifted up out of sleep. Even before he opened his eyes he noticed the raw feeling in this sinuses. He swallowed and felt a small injury in the back of his nose, but decided it was probably healed over. He smelled straw and slowly opened his eyes - the first thing he saw confirmed that yes, there was straw about.



He pulled himself up onto his forearms to look about. His eyes, having been closed, were used to the dark and he could see about. There were wooden slats lit by lantern light, although in his sleepy state they were still blurry. He looked down in front of him. On the straw and the concrete floor beneath it was a little blood. He dabbed at his chin and muzzle and realized that it had come from him, from his nose. It was dry now, though.



He stood up groggily, noticed that he felt very unencumbered - and looked down in shock. I'm naked! Suddenly self-conscious, he grabbed an armful of straw to cover his modesty and ran with hunched back and short steps along the wall to his left.



Jai was just piecing the facts together - This is that barn I saw! The farmer slapped me unconscious - where's Tong? And where are my clothes? When he felt a weight on his shoulder. He looked at it rather than losing his grip on the straw and felt a pinch under his chin. Do I have something around my neck? Then he saw that it was a chain on his shoulder.



He reached the end of the chain's length and came to an abrupt stop. He dropped most of the straw, quickly grabbed another armful and then thought about his situation. Reluctantly he turned towards the wall so that nobody would see... anything he didn't want them to, and felt around his neck. Something hard encircled it, just loose enough for him to breathe but too tight for him to pull over his head. He began to feel afraid, and edged his fingertips around it to try and find a lock of the place it hinged together. He found a lock of some kind and the first link of the chain holding him. He started to shake and felt his way down the chain. Where does it lead?



He followed it back to the wall and found the loop sticking out of the concrete that it was fixed to. The final link didn't seem to come loose any way and he slowly realized it was probably welded that way.



Still shaking but resigning himself at least to this initial situation, the raccoon let the chain drop and pulled his tail around to cover himself. He turned the other way and stepped forward. There had to be other possibilities, here.



He was in a small-ish cube but he could see that the barn was much bigger than that. He was walled off with those wooden boards to two sides, the other two sides being concrete walling. He peered through what seemed to be the front of his cubicle.



Opposite was another cubicle - and in it was a scruffy grey shape, dressed in rags. He looked more closely. It was a dog of some kind! Jai's relief that he wasn't alone here was quickly usurped by a new sense of dread. If others were about then they were just as helpless as him. He stretched to look down the central aisle. Next to the dog's cubicle was another, and another, and... he didn't know how many. But he could see a fur of some description in the dog's neighbouring one and he heard shufflings further down. The cube next to Jai had its own occupant, something dark but he couldn't tell the species.



//Hey!\\ he cried out, knocked on the panels between him and his neighbour and scurried to the front to talk to the dog. //What the hell's going on? What's happening? Please sir, I'm not supposed to be here, I just got lost, and-\\



The dog's eyes widened and he looked afraid. He leapt to the front of his own cubicle and gripped the boards holding him back, his long limbs angular and gawky. "Be quiet! He'll hear you!"



Jai had fallen quiet as the dog had spoken but shook his head in disbelief. It was like no language he'd ever heard - well, except for just before he'd been knocked unconscious. I'm somewhere where I don't speak the language? Crap!



"You need to calm down. We'll all get in trouble if you shout," said the mutt in a stage whisper.



Jai started to cry. //I don't know what you're saying.\\



He didn't think the mutt understood his words but his expression showed pity. For a moment he wondered if he should just be calm - the dog didn't seem comfortable with him shouting. Perhaps he should trust him. But then he looked around again and panic gripped him once more.



//HELP! SOMEBODY!\\ he shouted.



"Please! Please raccoon, for the love of heaven be quiet," spoke the mutt, his brow creased with fear.



//HEEELLLLP!\\



The dog's neighbour came to the front of her cube and shared a glance through the wall with the dog. They shared a shake of the head and worried look.



//PLEASE! TONG! TONG, ARE YOU OUT THERE? TONG?\\



"Hey!" whispered Jai's neighbour, eyes twinkling in a dark face as she peeked through the wall. "He's right, you must be quiet." She sighed and looked at the furs on the opposite side of the cube farm. "Do you think he even understands? What language is it he's speaking?"



Jai tried shouting some more because maybe Tong was asleep. He tried banging on the wooden walls, climbing up the panels as far as he could to project his voice further, but nothing changed save for a few extra fearful faces looking his way.



And then something did change. He heard a new sound. A door sliding open? He tried pressing his face against the front panels to look down the aisle, but couldn't see anything. But was the light a little brighter? Purer, perhaps, like outdoor light instead of these lanterns?



He heard footsteps rustling through the straw, coming his way.



It was another of those creatures. Impossibly tall, tail-less and apparently furless on most of its body (or as much of is body as he could see, anyway) it approached his cubicle with a sense of threat that made even Jai shut up for a few seconds. It had a belt slung about its waist with several objects hanging from it. The creature unclipped some kind of short item, pulled it long - a telescopic baton, Jai understood now - and reached for the gate of Jai's cell.



//I don't know who you are, but let me go!\\ he said, his voice wavering but determined to get his message across. In a moment of blind instinct he looked at the space between the gaoler's legs and the edge of the gateway. Could he escape that way?



Of course not. The chain around his neck would see to that.



It let itself in swiftly - perhaps too swiftly for Jai to push past and escape even if he hadn't been chained - and advanced on him. Too late Jai registered what was going t happen and his body instinctively cowered under the first strike, his brain sparking off ways to protect himself, all implausible, none able to stand up to reason. It hit diagonally across his back, the pain rippling out from where it made contact, making his skin flash with pain and his ribs seem to rattle. He tucked his limbs closer in and turned slightly to make that one spot harder to hit again, to protect it from further harm, only for another strike to catch the meat of his thigh.



That one only stung - hah, 'only' stung! It felt like his flesh split open, although when the raccoon opened his eyes to check, that wasn't true. The pain exploded, regathered and rang, evolving over the couple of seconds it took the creature to raise its arm again for another blow.



That blow came brutal and hard, but not downwards this time. This one swept around his front and caught his forearms where they were clasped against his chest, trying to protect his lungs and heart. He felt a fine, exquisite little focus of pain in one forearm and wondered if it meant his bones were broken but didn't have any more time to focus on that. The moment he pulled his arms away from his chest and sat up to try and squirm away the creature struck his back again. It pushed Jai forward so he landed nose-down in the straw, the tip of his nose pushed suddenly against his muzzle and making him want to cough and sneeze and check it for damagae all at the same time.



For some reason he wouldn't be able to rationalise even later, it was the indignity of this blow that upset him the most, the push to make him faceplant on the ground like a fool. He looked up, his face contorted with humiliation, and found his eyes meeting the mutt's.



Oh yes, the mutt was watching, dark brown eyes attentive and keen with... not quite pity. Perhaps this went beyhond that, perhaps the mutt had experienced this kind of beating too. Pity would have meant the mutt felt sorry for him. The look the canine gave him instead suggested... empathy. He knew what it was like because he'd experienced it too.



That was all the time Jai got to make sense of the mutt's look before he returned his attention to the next baton strike, coming down fast. In a fraction of a second Jai rolled over onto his back. Why? In that fraction of a second it made sense. Perhaps the mutt could protect him somehow. Perhaps submission would pacify the beast. Perhaps exposing a new part of his body  was better than letting the baton strike the same place twice and do even more damage.



In the next second Jai understood that his reasoning was ridiculous - and that there was a special agony in being hit in the belly. As the baton found its mark across his diaphragm he gave a gutteral scream, expelled air loud enough for everyfur in this evil place to hear. He might also have expelled vomit but Jai hadn't eaten enough lately for that.



He tried curling into foetal position on his side, the ultimate submission gesture - but that wasn't enough either. The creature struck his hip and the pain was harder, more solid against his hip bones. It wasn't as bad as the belly strike but he knew it couldn't be good.



Can bones bruise? he wondered, the question inexplicably interesting in the face of the beating.



His hand rose of its own volition, a wordless gesture of 'Please stop! I surrender!'



That, finally, appeared to work.



No more strikes came for a few seconds and Jai looked up, eyes opening cautiously from where they'd been squeezed shut.



The beast shouted at him in that same alien language. "Next time just shut up! People are trying to work!"



Jai had no idea what the words meant but the message was clear: Be still, be quiet, don't shout. Panting, he nodded his understanding.



The monster nodded curtly, its gaze hard and severe, and swept the baton around once more. It struck Jai's outstretched arm, spreading a feeling of fire across the back of his hand before the creature left, its boots heavy on the straw.



Jai listened to the footsteps disappear, saw the light darken to lantern light again, and curled up again. Jai couldn't bear to look at the mutt but he could feel his eyes on him. He just needed to let the pain do its thing and maybe fade away a little. Just for a while.



He didn't know how much time passed. Maybe around half an hour, maybe half a day. Eventually the combination of the pain fading from his injuries and getting too uncomfortable to stay on the floor made him sit, then stand up.



The mutt turned his way and took an interest in him again. Jai knew that he was naked and that the mutt could see his nakedness but he didn't particularly care any more. He could have done with being warmer, though.



The mutt came to the front of his pen and held the slats in gentle paws. "Do you speak English?" he asked slowly and clearly, his voice a little reedy, although it sounded like it had once been deep.



Jai assumed the mutt had asked him something but he couldn't guess what.



The mutt gave him a moment to think about what he'd said but as Jai didn't know what to say, he said nothing. In time the mutt tried again. He reached through the slats and pointed at Jai. "You."



Yoo. Did that mean Jai himself?



Then the dog angled his arm to point at a battered chest at the edge of Jai's pen. "Box."



Bocks. A funny word. Jai looked at it, then went to it and put his hand on it. Seeing the mutt's nod, he hooked his thumb under the lid and lifted it to find it full of garments.



He looked at the mutt again, who was holding up his shirt. "Clothes."



What an awkward word. Klow-thes. Jai picked out some of the rags and found enough to cover himself up: two pairs of pants, one of which he put on, and an ugly shirt much like the mutt's. He puzzled over how to put it on and figured that it had to be tied behind his back. He pulled his arms into the sleeves and reached behind his back to tie it, wincing as the position made his injuries flare up again. He resisted the urge to give in, grunted, strained, tied the strings into a double bow so they wouldn't come undone, and let his hands drop to his sides, the pain receding in a flood of relief.



He felt uncomfortable wearing pants with no underwear and was disappointed to find there was nothing to put on his feet: no socks nor shoes. Whatever happened here, did they do it barefoot? He wondered how much more miserable his life would be if he had to do everything with his feet unprotected.



But he couldn't see a way to deal with that right now, and just for the moment he felt pleased to have got dressed. He looked at the mutt and said, <<Thank you.>>



The mutt smiled and nodded. He looked tired. Then he pointed at himself. "Malvern." Then he pointed at Jai again. "You?"



There was that yoo word again. It seemed to be about the other self. Him. Jai patted his chest and said, <<Jai.>>



Malvern nodded again and then sat down to settle himself against the wall, but not before stacking up a little straw to make himself more comfortable.



Jai saw the bright reflections in Malvern's eyes as he wordlessly encouraged Jai to relax too. The raccoon wondered what he was being encouraged to relax for and decided to settle too. He was starting to gather that hard work of some kind was done here. However bad it got, after all, it could only be worse if he didn't rest.



He felt better huddling into the corner, where he felt there were fewer directions he could be attacked from and where he could hem himself in completely using his tail if he wanted. He couldn't quite bring himself to smile at Malvern but the last thing he did before he drifted to sleep was to look at the mutt's reassuring, kind outline against his background of wood and iron.




TO BE CONTINUED...

Commission: The Great Enslavement (chapter 6)
Jai and his friends live an untroubled life in the forest - except for the usual frictions of friendship. But it doesn't remain that way forever...

Most of the writing was by me except for the introductory scene which was completed by one of my subwriters.

For RexOrchid of FurAffinity.
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Chapter 5




The tree cover wasn't anywhere near thick enough for Jai and Tong to pick up parts of the machine and stash them anywhere dry. That was clearly and undeniably true but Jai looked around anyway, just in case he could see somewhere dry enough. Just in case somewhere here would be dry enough to save his plan to reassemble the machine. There was nowhere, and even if there had been there were too many parts to carry before something got clogged up with water. The raccoon gave up on the idea with something approaching despair.



But he refused to stay in that kind of mental state for more than a few seconds. Not with Tong around. If Jai himself got depressed, he couldn't imagine how bad the red panda would get. We will be fine, he assured himself. //Come on, let's find shelter,\\ he said, forcing optimism into his voice, and scampered back the way they'd come, Tong in tow.



Earlier in the night they'd passed by a rock formation, not quite a cave, more like a chunk of rock overhung by a lip. They could climb up and in easily. It would be cold but it would do.



They found it without too much searching around: the rock smelled distinctive and led them to it. They stood in the rain and looked up at its rough, pock-marked surfaces. //This way,\\ he told the red panda and led him up into the space under the lip. It was cramped and a few drops of water were seeping in from above, but it would have to do. He sat, hunching his back because it wasn't high enough for him to sit straight, and curled his tail around his feet. He tucked his legs close to him with his hands to stay out of the rain and to warm his hands in his tail. Tong did much the same.



Jai fumed as they sat nestled in the rock. Why did it have to rain now? We needed to put the machine together! How are we going to get home without it? He was angry with the weather, he was angry with Lotus' uncle for not keeping the secret room more secret, and he was angry with Tong for depending on him so much. He sat silently, determined to keep to himself, and Tong pretty much did the same thing. Although, Jai did notice that the red panda didn't look angry, only sad.



During their time of silence they sat side by side listening to the rain, mostly because it was too dark to watch it. Before too long Jai realized that this was going to be a very boring night unless they spoke, so he relented on his anger.



//So what's the deal with your family?\\ he asked.



Tong looked at him, surprised. Then he looked pained.



//I mean, you call Lotus and his family your family, but you're clearly not.\\ Jai continued doggedly. //They're snow leopards; you're a red panda. So what's the deal?\\



//I was adopted,\\ came the simple answer, quietly spoken over the rain.



//Oh.\\ They sat silently for a while longer, mainly because Jai didn't know what to say to that. Maybe Tong would say something. When it eventually became clear he wouldn't, Jai continued: //So what's that like?\\



Tong fidgeted with his tail for a moment. //I wish I'd known my real family. But I was given up as a newborn. I was put on the doorstep of the orphanage in my native country without any note, so nofur knows why my family gave me up, but it was probably because they were too poor. A lot of families are in that part of the world.//



In most other circumstances Jai might have made fun of a fur from a poor family, but who was there to make fun of Tong to? But he didn't know how to be supportive either, not with something like this. //I guess that kinda sucks,\\ was the best he could do.



The way Tong curled his tail back around himself, tight and high, spoke the volumes his voice didn't.



//I've always enjoyed my family,\\ said Jai into that silence. //Except for my sister. I mean, we're still family but we don't really get on. You know what I mean?\\



Tong looked at him sadly for a moment, but then seemed to make a decision and brightened a little - although given Tong's low-key personality, it didn't express itself as outright excitement or anything. //I always wondered what it was like to have real brothers and sisters. To actually share blood with another fur. I might have them somewhere in the world but I'll never know. It looks really fun when I see others with siblings, though. I wish I had that.\\



//I wouldn't really say fun,\\ countered Jai, still thinking of his sister. But then he relented. //Sure, I guess it can be fun. You're definitely close to your family. I am,\\ he corrected himself.



Tong smiled but then hugged himself again. //I've always known that I didn't belong in my new family, but now that they're divorcing-\\ He stopped talking abruptly as if something was stuck in his throat. Even in the vague moonlight Jai could see his eyes getting wet and glassy.



//Hey Tong - you know - don't do that,\\ bumbled Jai, uncertain of what to do if Tong started crying. //Everything that happens, it... you know, it happens for a reason. It'll be okay in the end. You know that, right?\\



Tong gave him another of those looks, the ones that seemed to mean, you don't understand. But then he smiled once more, sniffed and pinched the space between his eyes as if to dry them. //I think you're right. I'm sad about it and actually, kind of scared if I'm honest, but what's the worst that can happen?\\



//Yeah, that's the stuff!\\ answered the raccoon cheerily, feeling like he'd failed in some way but baffled as to what else to say to Tong. The way the red panda had rallied seemed strange to him, false, maybe. But he'd take that over a crying companion any day.



Tong fell silent and listened to the rain again, and Jai noticed that he had his hand on his chest, just under his throat. He seemed to have some kind of pendant there which he'd taken to touching. He held it securely in his fist through his tshirt for a moment as if deriving some kind of comfort from it.



Jai decided against asking about that.






xXx






He awoke to the scent of wet stone, sunlight turning his eyelids a dull glowing pink from the inside. He already knew something wasn't right but for the moment his mind was still too sleepy for him to figure out what it was. His tail was wrapped around him as if that was his only source of warmth and the ground beneath him felt cold and hard, and a little bit sharp. He rolled over to stretch and banish the ache in his muscles from laying on such an unforgiving bed. His limbs creaked despite his young age and he recognized that he'd roughed it last night.



As he reached the pinnacle of his stretch his feet came up against somefur else's warm fur. He forced open his eyes and looked. Tong. The red panda lay in a slowly-breathing ball, red and ivory and fluffy. The push from Jai's feet seemed to stir him to wakefulness and the red panda stretched too, rubbed his eyes, farted and looked around as if to remind himself of his surroundings.



Jai looked around too, the memory of the previous night finally coming back to him. The storm had passed and obviously left a clear sky in its wake because beyond the rock was a clearing dappled with sunlight and sparkling with dew. He'd never felt so glad to see daylight, never felt so happy to see the grass and trees look so green. It felt to him as if, whatever their challenge, they could do this. They could find their way home.



//Tong,\\ he mumbled, yawned, and spoke more loudly. //Tong, are you ready to get walking again?\\



//I guess,\\ said the young red panda. The two slid out from their shelter and planted their feet on the grass. //Do you think there'll be anything to eat around here?\\



//Maybe we can find some apples or something,\\ said Jai, rubbing his belly. He was hungry too. And thirsty. //Let's get walking. We'll find something.\\



With the light he found it easier to navigate. The forest cleared a little to one side and he led Tong, keeping the sun to his left. The grass was thicker there and left thick rainwater and dew on their calves which saturated their fur and soaked them in-between their toes, but they didn't care. All they wanted was a way home.



They gradually angled towards the open ground to their left, and it turned from open grassland to fields. They passed by one, they passed by two, and when they found the third one they saw a house at the far corner. The field itself was full of a strange, heavy-seeded grass, swaying in the breeze.



//What kind of crop is that?\\ asked Tong, quietly as if he was half-asking himself.



//I don't know,\\ the raccoon answered anyway. But he didn't care about the crop. //The house looks interesting.\\



Tong hmmed as if half-interested, half-cautious, but it was Jai who made the decision to cross the field and get closer. He set off, breaking away from the forest completely and traipsing through the crop grass, seed heads scratching the backs of his hands and batting against his lower belly.



//Uh - Jai? Do you think we should go around? I mean, it's disrespectful to trample a farmer's crops.\\



Jai looked over his shoulder at the red panda wading carefully though. //We're not trampling anything. I don't know about you, but I just want to get indoors, somewhere. I want a hot drink and I want to get dry. Why go around? We can get there faster in a straight line.\\



//I don't want to upset the farmer,\\ said Tong uncertainly. //And what if he doesn't want to take us in?\\



You don't want to upset me either, thought Jai, but he didn't say anything. All he wanted was those home comforts and he'd make sure he got them, sooner rather than later. And anyway, why would the farmer turn them down? They could always offer to do some kind of manual work in payment.



The house was... imposing. He paused at the edge of the field and looked up at it. Three storeys, tall windows and decorated on the outside like a mansion. Expensive-looking. //Must be some farmer,\\ he mumbled before making for the door.



He realized he was approaching it alone and turned back to Tong. //Come on! Don't you want to get warm and dry?\\



Tong was just standing there, nervously rubbing the back of one hand with the other. //I don't know about this, Jai. Something doesn't feel right.\\



Jai sighed and turned away from his companion. //Whatever,\\ he muttered, took the three steps up to the front door, and knocked. He waited for an answer but there was none. He tried again.



Nothing.



He looked around. Beside the house, half-obscured until they'd approached more closely, was a barn.



//Maybe he's already working,\\ he said and trotted down the mansion steps to check it out.



//Jai,\\ Tong repeated, his voice tremulous, //I really don't feel safe.\\



//Shut up Tong! It's fine.\\ The barn was well-made with solid walls. He was fairly close before he heard a sound. Quiet talking. Several sets of furs talking in fact, spaced out beyond the barn wall. Rustling all along, like many sets of feet on straw or dead leaves, constant activity of some kind or another. And further than that, he could hear clinking metal, like heavy chains moving. //What in the world?\\ His curiosity thoroughly inflamed he went around the side of the barn where he saw the double doors were opened.



No sooner did he see the inside of the barn than he saw dozens of pairs of eyes looking at him from the gloom. He'd been right about them standing on straw but he hadn't imagined that they could all be bound in chains, though. They looked haggard, every one of them, wide-eyed and unprepared to have seen him. A few had open mouths as if about to speak, just as soon as they'd thought of something to say.



//What-?\\ he began to ask right before he heard Tong cry out in terror. He looked around, his heart almost exploding out of his chest.



The panda was in the grip of a creature at least twice his height, maybe more. Mostly hairless except for the top and bottom of its head, with pale-ish skin. Swathed in clothing and stocky with muscle.



It spoke, examining the red panda despite Tong's desperate attempts to get out of its grip, but Jai didn't understand the language.



Somefur from the crowd in the barn shouted to him in that same guttural language. He didn't know the words but they were shouted with urgency.



Jai's legs tensed as if to prepare to run, but how could he? When Tong was in trouble, when he didn't know where to go? When there were monsters about like this hairless monstrosity?



//What do I do?\\ Jai blurted, panicking. All he got in return was a sea of tired and confused expressions, a few worried here and there. How was he going to fight the monster on his own?



Tong's panicked cries suddenly cut off and the fur on the back of Jai's neck stood on end.

</p>

What did it do to him?



The farmer approached fast on long legs, batted Jai upside the head with the back of one heavy paw, and Jai's world turned black.




TO BE CONTINUED...

Commission: The Great Enslavement (chapter 5)
Jai and his friends live an untroubled life in the forest - except for the usual frictions of friendship. But it doesn't remain that way forever...

Most of the writing was by me except for the introductory scene which was completed by one of my subwriters.
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Chapter 4




//...wake up... wake up... Jai...\\



Jai's perception resurfaced like a frog's eye emerging from the surface of a pond: with the comforting fluid of unconsciousness still clinging to it. Somebody was speaking to him but he couldn't place who it was. Shaking him too, with a hand gripping his shoulder fairly hard. He couldn't pick out all of the words yet. He tried to listen harder.



//...Jai. You need to wake up...\\



The raccoon got the first stirring of an idea of who it was. Tong? He numbly batted Tong's hand away, rolled over and felt himself wake up properly, rising up into consciousness and clarity faster than if he'd just woken from sleep. He could tell he hadn't been asleep for long.



No, not asleep, he thought as he noticed grass and moss under his hands. Unconscious. Did I faint? He'd never fainted before but in that moment he realized he knew what fainting was like. Pretty weird, and kind of unpleasant, but nothing he couldn't handle.



//Are you all right?\\ asked Tong. It seemed strange to hear the red panda speak so much and to raise his voice enough that Jai was able to hear him clearly, but that was what Tong was doing.



How come? he wondered, puzzled. What was so unique about this situation that he was prepared to speak up?



With a snap he remembered the portal. He sat up, suddenly alert.



Where am I?



The short answer was that he was in the forest, surrounded by pieces of broken equipment. How far from home are we? He looked at his companion. The red panda was looking around, his ivory-coloured eyebrow patches visibly tilted with worry, even in the night-time gloom. Jai couldn't see what he was so worried about. All that had happened was that they'd tripped off some weird technology and it had spat them back out into the forest. All of which was harmless.



And cool. A teleportation device! //That was awesome!\\ he exclaimed. And he meant it!



//I don't see the others,\\ said the red panda, and Jai realized that was what Tong was looking around for.



In fact, he had a point. The others had been taken through the portal-thingy too, so wouldn't they be here? Or wouldn't they have woken him up? He knew they weren't too happy with him right now but even if they'd wanted to steal away without waking him up, surely they'd let Tong know what they were doing.



Or did they want to dump Tong as well, for being so quiet? No, that didn't make sense. Lotus was too protective of Tong to do that. Jai stood up. //Lotus? Looo-tus! Where are you?\\



Tong seemed to look harder as Jai called out, but he didn't start calling out himself.



//Mitsy? Digby?\\ He turned a circle and swept his gaze as deep as he could into the tree trunks, which admittedly wasn't very far. Not a soul was there, only tree trunks and rocks and deep green foliage as far as he could see. //Where are they?\\ he asked, pretty much to himself.



To be honest, they've probably gone home. That made sense. And perhaps it accounted for why they'd left without waking he and Tong up. Didn't it..?<?p>

Of course it did. It had to. Damn, those guys could be a-holes - and they tried to pin all the bad behaviour on him!



Tong approached the raccoon and Jai glanced at him. The small fur looked like he was worried about him - personally. //Are you okay?\\ asked Tong, reaching out a hand as if to touch him.



Jai rewarded him with a sardonic grin. //Don't worry about me, I'm fine! Come on, we need to find the others, or something.\\



//I'd prefer that we stay here,\\ said Tong uncertainly.



//Why?\\



//Because the machine might pull us back to the store..?\\ he offered, even more uncertainly, almost as if he was asking Jai's permission to believe it.



Jai wasn't at all convinced. //Nah. These bits are all broken,\\ he said, picking up some kind of plastic box with wiring hanging out of it. The torn wires lung limply as if to prove his point, mangled copper threads tangled where the plastic coverings ended. //Whatever that machine was, it won't be taking us back.\\



//Well... What about if the others come back looking for us?\\ Tong suggested, switching his weight restlessly from one foot to another and twitching his tail. //If we move they'll never find us.\\



Jai rolled his eyes. //Tong, they left us because we're within reach of home. Come on, do you think Mitsy would do anything anywhere near that risky? If she didn't expect us to get home easily she'd have woken both of us up. Trust me, home's right around the corner. If not yours, then at least mine is.\\



That made Tong pause. //It... it is?\\ he asked and blinked at their surroundings.



//Of course! We probably don't recognize where we are because it's night and everything looks different at night. If we walk a while we'll see someone's tree house lights and then we'll know exactly where we are. Come on!\\



//I... I'd really prefer to stay here,\\ Tong argued weakly and sat on the ground, huddling against himself as if he meant to stay there for the night. And he was watching Jai for reassurance again.



Jai wasn't about to be told to stay put just to play into Mitsy's hands. He turned his back on Tong and thought about which way to go. Then something caught his attention.



//Can you smell that?\\ he asked over his shoulder.



Tong sniffed. //Kind of musky? Maybe nutty?\\ he offered.



And with a touch of adrenaline. Jai nodded. It was kind of a strange smell, one he wasn't familiar with. //Yeah. You can stay here if you want to but I want to go check it out.\\



Tong still looked unsure and huddled deeper and curled his tail protectively around himself as if to say, I'm staying here.



//Whatever,\\ Jai sighed, and followed his nose out of the littered clearing.



He didn't pay any further attention to Tong but seconds later, heard the red panda scamper after him.






xXx






Jai looked up and around, to the sides and behind him. He twitched his ears. None of the tree formations were familiar to him. In fact, one or two plant species were unfamiliar to him. Perhaps we teleported a few miles away from home? I've never been beyond the northern rock formations. Maybe we're on the other side of those. That lifted his spirits - he'd always liked exploring far from home!



//This is pretty cool, don't you think?\\ he asked Tong.



Tong looked unconvinced. Unconvinced and cowed, his fur lying flat and his ears and tail low as if he expected some kind of attack at any moment. But in Jai's opinion that was ridiculous: they were just a distance from home, that was all.



//Teleportation, I mean,</i> the raccoon continued. //Because that's what happened.\\



//Do you think so?\\ Tong asked, his tone suggesting that he didn't know if he believed it but wanted to be convinced of it.



//Sure it was. I mean, think about how the-\\



His words stopped in his throat as something small scurried through the undergrowth. He paused and looked more closely at it.



It was definitely a fur of some kind but tiny, only long enough to fit on the palm of his hand, lying out flat, not including its tail. But it wasn't an infant. Short limbs - very short, with tiny hands and feet. A fluffy tail curled up against its back. Its posture was the strangest thing, even stranger than its size: its back and limbs hunched and its face pointed forward as if it was made to run on four limbs instead of two.



In short it was very, very weird.



It saw Jai, twitched its tail a couple of times and then scampered up the side of the tree - and Jai saw that yes, it definitely used its hands and feet to walk. It was fast too: it startled him with its sudden burst of speed.



Jai and Tong stood side by side, speechless for a moment. //What was that?\\ Tong said breathlessly.



//I don't know.\\ The tiny monster had gone around the opposite side of the tree, out of sight. Jai watched for it a little longer in case it reappeared but it didn't.



//I... don't know,\\ he repeated, more eager to be skeptical about what he'd seen than spooked. He walked on: there wasn't anything else to see in this patch of the forest.



//It was really strange,\\ said Tong. The red panda stared after the animal a moment longer, shivered, and followed Jai onwards, his feet cracking sticks on the ground and kicking up a little forest-floor debris. They walked along in silence for a while before Tong spoke again. //Do you think there are more of them?\\



//Hopefully!\\ Jai looked at Tong and even in the gloom, he could see that that wasn't the answer Tong had wanted. He tried out-staring the panda but Tong looked back at him so vulnerable, almost pleading, that in the end he had to give up. He felt outright mean otherwise.



The undergrowth a dozen steps to their side rustled suddenly and something barrelled out, straight towards them. Something brown and big, long, full of straight lines and spindly limbs and big dark eyes twinkling in the moonlight. Oval ears and long necks. And again, running on four feet.



Tong squeaked and bounded out of the way. Jai was a little slower to move but began to run anyway.



They - the monsters - stopped dead in their tracks, faster than Jai would have expected them to be capable of.



That made Jai freeze as well. He took a closer look at them.



There were four. They might have been monstrous but he could see what they were supposed to be. //Deer,\\ he whispered quietly enough that only Tong should have been able to hear him.



The deers' ears and heads turned in his direction and then everybody froze again. The lead one stamped its front foot as if ready to spring back into action at any moment. For many seconds both groups remained in the stalemate until Tong shifted his weight slightly - and it was only slight - causing the deer to turn away and spring off in a different direction, thundering along the dirt track but also unbelievably light on their feet.



//Oh my-\\ Jai said on an exhale, and realized he'd been holding his breath.



//I-I want to find Lotus and go home,\\ murmured Tong, looking apologetically at Jai again. //Please Jai, we need to go back the way we came and find the others.\\



//We don't know that going back's the right way,\\ answered Jai a little more harshly than he'd expected. He decided to soften a little but didn't apologise. //Come on. They weren't dangerous.\\



//What if the next thing is?\\ asked Tong and added, //Sorry,\\ as Jai gave him a withering look. They walked on.



A group of tiny birds fluttered from one set of branches over head to the next, and the pair looked up as they walked. So small, and they could beat their wings so much faster than any normal bird Jai had ever met.



//Hey,\\ he called. //Can you guys talk?\\



They didn't answer. They didn't appear to have heard him.



//We're sorry if we woke you up,\\ called Tong after them, although Jai suspected they hadn't heard even if they'd been able to answer.



They didn't get much further before they saw another mammal. Grey-brown fur, banded like Jai's own, and a chunky body. Stripes on its tail and a dark mask to mirror the raccoon's own. A sensitive little nose and curious eyes.



Jai knew at once that he was looking at a member of his own species. Or an altered version of it, anyway.



He bent a little and braced his hands on his knees. //Hello. Can you talk?\\



The monster-raccoon twitched its nose at him a little but didn't speak. It showed no signs of having understood.



//I'm starting to think you guys can't talk at all,\\ he commented.



The monster lost its interest in him and grubbed around in the soil as if looking for something.



Jai stood up straight and looked uncertainly around at his surroundings, at the murky strangeness and the unfamiliar plant life mixed in with the familiar, and the silver dusting of moonlight on it all. //Did that... seem weird to you, at all?\\ he asked Tong.



Tong, being the gentle character he was, didn't answer immediately but when he did, seemed to be trying to be kind. //I think it did,// he answered, his narrow, sparsely-furred tail curling around his feet as if to warm them. He scratched at his sizeable belly and somehow looked more comfortable than Jai felt. \\I think it was a raccoon, like you.\\



//I think you're right.\\ Jai looked around again. It was so dark, and... It wasn't that the raccoon-monster in itself had scared him - although it had been freaky - it was more that Jai wondered where it had come from and what else might be in the darkness. Rationally he figured that some bigger and more dangerous monster might be lucking in the shadows, but for some reason his thoughts were caught up with the idea that the four-legged raccoon had once been normal, like him, and that something in this forest had turned it into a monster.



Jai didn't want to be turned into one of those monsters.



He took a few faltering steps forward but his heart wasn't in it any more. Behind him, Tong's feet brushed at the twigs and leaves and when Jai stopped walking, the twigs fell silent, indicating that the panda had stopped walking because he'd stopped walking.



//What's wrong, Jai?\\



Jai took a moment to answer, mainly because he wasn't sure how to answer any more. Eventually he decided on what to do. //I think we need to find a way to get home.\\



He turned to go back the way he'd come and saw Tong looking thoughtfully into the darkness ahead, as if he hadn't heard Jai. //We can keep walking if you like?\\ he offered.



//No! Don't you see it?\\ blurted Jai, and Tong looked startled at him. //We're not home! We're probably nowhere near home! If we're going to get back we need to fix the machine!\\ And with that, he stormed past Tong, annoyed that the red panda could be so dense and trying to ignore the discomfort he felt with his anger at his companion.



Tong followed him and Jai refused to look back, expecting the panda to be angry with him. Quiet furs could be explosive when they got angry in a way talkative furs couldn't, and he didn't want to deal with that kind of crap right now. If he was going to get into a fight at all, he'd have preferred to argue with Mitsy.



//I don't know if we have the know-how to fix the machine,\\ said Tong reasonably. The panda still didn't sound angry. That made Jai angry again. He didn't know why it made him angry but he didn't particularly care.



//We'll figure it out,\\ he said brusquely and walked faster. The sooner they got there, after all, the sooner they'd be able to put the machine together.



Tong said nothing else for the rest of the journey. Neither did Jai. He missed being able to chat but there was no way he was going to talk to Tong right now. The panda was pissing him off.






xXx






Finally they returned to the location of the machine parts. Jai immediately set to picking up pieces and trying to figure out how they fitted together. He'd figure out how, somehow. He sat abruptly down to try and fix what he had. Tong stood around, wasting time.



//Start looking at the stuff,\\ mumbled Jai, not taking his eyes off the mangled copper at the end of a cable and figuring out how to fit it into a busted plastic plug.



Tong took one step, paused as if to try and wind Jai up all the more, and then made a decision to find something to fix. He settled down a short distance away from Jai and examined whatever it was he'd picked up. Slowly.



They both said nothing for a while. Jai got nowhere with his and eventually he huffed and half-dropped, half-threw his wires to the ground. //You getting anywhere with that, Tong?\\



//No,\\ admitted the panda and put his down as if he'd given up. He watched Jai pensively for a few moments. //I think this is a long way beyond our scope, Jai.\\



Jai's temper finally burst. //When did you get so talkative, huh? I didn't hear you saying to keep away from the stuff when we were on the other side!\\



Tong looked a little taken aback - but nowhere near as much as Jai had expected. He'd expected Tong to start crying and to run away but he didn't. The panda didn't say anything, only smiled sadly to himself.



Jai didn't know how to deal with that and picked up another part. //It's still our only chance. I'm going to fix this.\\



Tong did the same as he'd done before: he stopped and thought (about what, Jai didn't know, nor did he care) and then picked up the same piece again to fix.



//You already put that bit down,\\ Jai mumbled, brushing powdered glass away from the edge of a lens and trying to see in the dark whether it was cracked all the way through. //Try something else.\\



Tong stood up and began hunting around for something else to try, and was still searching when Jai felt a spot of rain on his muzzle. And another. And another...



Within a minute it became a downpour. //Oh, great!\\ he grumbled, threw down the piece he was currently working on and hurried for the shelter of a tree. Tong met him there and the pair looked out at the clearing, watching the way the rain bounced off the ground, both shivering slightly.



//You know everything here's not going to work after this?\\ Jai grumbled, but in reality he was starting to feel panicked. If all the equipment got wet it might fail to work completely. If even one part didn't work they were stuck. If they got stuck...






TO BE CONTINUED...

Commission: The Great Enslavement (chapter 4)
Jai and his friends live an untroubled life in the forest - except for the usual frictions of friendship. But it doesn't remain that way forever...

Most of the writing was by me except for the introductory scene which was completed by one of my subwriters.

Commission for rexorchid of FA.
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I just went to see a generally unknown movie of the above title and I thought I'd do a shout out about it. Well, a semi-shout out, at least.

For those who haven't heard of it, The Company of Wolves is a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood with shades of a Disney telling but at the same time a very distinct, Brothers Grimm quality dark tone. For that alone it is worth a look, but I would suggest that if you're after a very satisfying story or aren't particularly into weirdness for its own sake you may leave the cinema unsatisfied.  

The Company of Wolves is well-crafted in some ways but not in others. On the plus side, the characters are very distinct and their personalities are well thought out. In particular, I liked the attention paid to the character of the boy who takes a shine to Riding Hood. He is a young lad, just growing into full adolescence, and eager to take Riding Hood on a walk in the woods. Given his age it's hard to tell just how adult his intentions will be out there. Hood - and I as the viewer - know there might be werewolves in the woods. I genuinely wasn't sure how much to trust the boy. Later, Hood's parents mention the boy and this trip into the woods and I genuinely found myself listening to the father for clues as to how pure the boy's intentions could be expected to be.

The dad seemed okay with it, in case you're wondering.

The movie also had a vintage feel which I usually like. There's no CGI in this, only puppetry, and that gives the uncanny happenings in the story a weight that CGI doesn't offer.

On the downside, there are quite a lot of animals in this movie and it is clear that not all of them are treated well, not least a peacock that gets knocked over by a pack of dogs and a goose that gets tethered to one spot to be used as bait.

On the subject of packs of dogs, there are many 'wolves' in the story. At times a whole pack of them appear. Except... they're clearly not wolves. Their fur was too long and their ears too round. I think they were Belgian Shepherds. I don't know why the makers didn't at least find huskies for the role.

My final main gripe with the movie was the story. It's a shame they didn't work on this as much as they did the characterisation. I won't ruin the plot for you but they try to have it both ways. At the beginning things are clearly one way with Riding Hood, and at the end they are very different, and it feels as if they do this just to create a plot twist.

Personally, a story can be made or broken by a few things. For me, a story can be made or broken by the characterisation and also by the presence or absence of a good story. I feel torn by this movie and overall feel it didn't live up to my hopes, but it's still worth a look if you like your fairytale retellings.
    

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Palantean

Artist | Professional | Literature
United Kingdom
I am a flexible, creative writer with 7 years of experience. I have a talent for accurate character-writing and development, and unusual, fascinating plot twists.

If you have a plot idea but no characters, I can create compelling characters to enact your plot for you, timed and embellished to perfection.

If you have characters that you want to see in action but aren't sure what you want them to do, I can write an exciting plot with your characters as the stars.
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Sobari Featured By Owner 5 days ago
Heya. :)
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thanks for the llama, I really like you're work!
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Thanks a lot for the :iconllama-plz:!!!
:iconpikaplz: Your gallery is AWESOOME!! :iconpikaplz:
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Ooh gosh, thank you!
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You're welcome!! :iconlainloveplz:
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Thanks for the fav.
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thanks for the fave
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thanks for the fave
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BTW, thanks for the fav :)
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