Window to the soul... with FiliaFlammae

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Tsimmu, Sep 27, 2014.

  1. Among the drying leaves long dead and the fresh sprouts of grass lay a woman, skin white like an albino. Only the pointed ears and the queer dark green markings said this was no woman after all. A demon? A spirit? She lay utterly naked and prone on the cool Earth, dirty but mostly unharmed. Alive and breathing, unconscious. No part of her, unquestionably due to her nudity, was left untouched by the tattoo-like green markings snaking around her. Her nails and lips were dark, perhaps black.

    The cool night wind picked up to brush through her long silvery-gray hair - as was the same with any hair on her body, gray and thin and soft and almost translucent - moved it to cover her shoulder and part of her face. She looked as though she'd been just dumped there, dropped from some uncaring hand and left the way she landed. Only cruelty would have twisted such a thing as this.

    The woman-like creature had dropped from exhaustion. The light shifted through the brush, the figure there pushed itself upright and looked about, the pointed ears back. Soon she was able to see again, as her vision had gone blurry just before she had fallen. Propped up from behind by her hands in the slightly muddy dirt, she stared with her head back limply at the canopy, very little sky showing through, very little to see in the black.
    She heard something coming from a distance and turned her aching head slowly to see. She was still dazed, still blurry eyed, still unaware. The noise revealed itself - just a deer, which quickly dashed away at the sight of her, as though it knew what she really was even in this form. She lifted her arm from the mud and thought about it for a moment, her mind clearing in a bout of realization, she remembered what had happened to her. Her hand flexed like it never had before. There was nothing normal about this movement, that she could lift her arm enough for her to see it easily. See the mud dripping off the white skin. Eventually she made her way to looking down at her body. No fur. She touched along her stomach and sides with her fingertips and gave herself chills. She remembered now. She remembered...

    The creature had run for hours and hours, trying to escape her cage, her captor, the ones that had been afraid and then terrifying in their rebellion to her presence. She had not meant to harm them, she had given them all the indications she knew of to show them she was not a threat. But they had thrown stones at her, chased her with fire until she had disappeared into the trees. But she hadn't stopped running. Some part of her knew deep down that she couldn't stop running, or something terrible would happen to her. More memories of the past twenty-four hours berated her mind, making her shake in remembrance. Realizing she was panicking she hugged her knees awkwardly to her chest, and breathed until the shaking of her body stopped. After sitting in silence for a few moments, she wobbled up onto her long legs, still unsteady when she was only standing on them, as though unable to keep proper balance. The creature began to walk then, carefully, as though every step was brand new, like a newborn child.

    She did not feel the forest floor, her feet had gone numb to the roughness of it. She was not used to such delicate, unprotected skin. For the first time in her life she felt like something was missing, but she did not know what. She was so hungry, that it was hard to think clearly. It had been days since she had eaten well. Days she had waited in that cage, only to awaken as something... she knew not what. She had not been able to smell her pack since being taken, and had given up hope long ago of finding them. Instead, she wandered the forest, searching for anything that she might recognize as help, or familiar. She did not trust her body enough to try and catch prey, but she didn't know what else there was to eat.

    The sun was beginning to rise in the Eastern sky when she came to the edge of the treeline yet again, but in a completely new area. She realized it was not the same, it did not smell the same, but upon seeing the similarity of the buildings and houses before her in the distance, she hesitated. Would she be greeted with the same kind of fear and reproach as the last time she had come to one of these places? Yet, this was the only place she knew to go to. It was the only place she had ever seen creatures walking on two legs as she did, using their hands as she did. Hesitant, but resolved, she came closer to the village before her, her distress growing as she approached. Her decision to do this wavered as she saw her first villager, and her instincts took over. She turned and ran to the nearest tree, hiding behind it as much as she could, warily peeking around it. She did not know if she had been noticed, but she hoped she hadn't. Perhaps she didn't need to interact, perhaps she could just sneak in and take some food, then leave like a guilty pup breaking the pecking order.
  2. Rivershire wasn't all that large of a town, but it hosted its fair share of the human race, neatly portioned away into houses and occupations. In a certain house, there lived a family by the name of Redson, and at the moment, Mrs. Agatha Redson had just dished up a breakfast for five: herself, her husband, her husband's apprentice, and her two children. That was the most technical way to put it, at least. If telling this as a story to someone, she would have said that she dished up breakfast for herself, her husband, and her three children. The eldest of the three youths had only come into their lives three years ago, but despite the youth's strangeness, Agatha's heart had grown as fond of him as it was of her own brood. In fact, it could have been pity for his strangeness that had opened the door to such affection.

    Regardless, there were five plates on the table, and as the other four members of the household took their seats, Agatha stepped outside to draw a fresh bucket of water from the nearest well. It wasn't too long of a walk through the neighborhood, and given a few minutes, she had retrieved a pail of clean water and turned back the way she'd come. The sun had only just risen, gently gilding the rooftops while the windflowers at the side of the road kept their cool morning dew. The air was brisk and invigorating. It was just another day in the life of her and her family, but that did not make it unpleasant by any means.

    That was the moment when she saw a flash of white movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned to the source in surprise. Her eyes scanned the area, but they found nothing unusual, at least not immediately. It took another moment before the glimpse of white made itself known again. Agatha squinted into the distance to identify it. It seemed to be a pale human face, female by her reckoning, that peeked out from behind a tree at the edge of the woods. She shifted her grip on the pail of water, not willing to admit the sight of that white face made her at least a little uneasy. Now that she knew she was looking at something, though, she couldn't bring herself to ignore it. "Hello?" she called towards the figure. "Who's there?"
  3. The young woman was hopeful she had been ignored until she heard the human call out to her. She knew she could just run if she really wanted to. She knew that there was still time to escape if she really felt threatened by this creature as she had the last time. However, she did not get that feeling of danger she had gotten last time. There was no instinct screaming at her to run as it had been before. Hesitantly, she stepped out from behind the tree she had been hiding behind.

    A young woman, looking to be in her early twenties, slowly walked towards the older woman on unsteady legs. She moved like a creature very wary of her situation, inching slowly closer. The woman walking towards her was not covered in a single scrap of clothing, but that was not the strangest thing about her by far. The creature approaching her had skin as white as snow, and light silver hair that flowed well past her shoulders, so fine it could have been translucent. The white skin was marred only by green markings; crescents, circles, spots, and lines hugged every contour of her body. Her height only reached to about 5'4", but her figure showed she perhaps looked a little emaciated, and with proper food would perhaps fill out into quite the feminine body. The tips of pointed ears poked out from her hair, but we're not completely visible.

    Besides all of her oddities, she was simply a dirty, terrified looking girl, with a haunted look in her golden eyes that spoke of terrible experiences. She looked down, avoiding eye contact with the human, frightened of getting a reaction similar to the last time. Humans had always been unpredictable creatures, often leading to violent encounters even before her transformation. She approached until she was only a few feet away, then she knelt, her head to the ground to avoid eye contact, showing her submission.
  4. It took a few seconds, but at last the strange being stepped out from behind the tree. It was indeed a young woman, but there was a much more to her than that. Her skin was white, her lips black, her hair silver, and her eyes golden, as if she'd been colored in as the wrong creature, and that was to say nothing of the peculiar green patterns that danced across her body, which was as exposed as if she'd just been born. She seemed not to care at all that she was not decent, and in all honesty, Agatha could not blame her. The poor thing looked more hungry and desperate than anything else. She knelt and lowered her head to show shyness, submission, and no intent to harm.

    Another townsperson might have raised the alarm. This young woman was clearly not normal. But what caused Agatha's eyes to widen in shock was not that this girl was frightening, but that she was familiar. How could Agatha not make the connection to that day three years ago? Her mind's eye flickered back to the scene. The pathetic sight of that young man huddled in an alley, looking like he was trying to steel himself to come deeper into the town under cover of dusk. His large eyes, light brown skin, unnatural blue patterns all over his unclothed body, his ears that were just a touch too long. His face that begged in silence, not for anything in particular, simply for anything that could be spared. Food. Shelter. Care. Understanding.

    "Neirin's kin..." she muttered to herself. It took her a second after that to move again, but eventually she did, and the gestures she made were of compassion: she slipped her shawl from her shoulders and crouched down to the girl's level with the garment outstretched to drape it over her her own exposed back. No doubt she was cold. The older woman's eyes were soft and kind, if still a little nervous. "It's all right, darling," she said. "Let's get you inside. Quickly." Her gaze flickered around, hoping no one else was out in the streets yet. If this girl was seen by anyone else, there was bound to be a scene.
  5. The creature flinched when she saw the movement of the older woman, unsure what to expect when she came towards her. However, after not feeling a strike or hearing harsh sounds, she looked up, her eyes pleading. She did not understand the words the woman spoke, nor did she know what to do with the cloth. But she had noticed the cloth had been over the woman before, and assumed that meant she was to do the same with it. She reached out slowly, her gaze never leaving the woman before her, then took the cloth quickly, like a scared animal might take food from someone's outstretched hand. It felt strange to hold cloth, something she had not encountered before. She looked at it warily, then draped it over her shoulders the way she had seen the human have it before. After having it draped over her for a few moments, she suddenly realized that she had been cold, and that the still warm cloth was a comfort to ease that. She pulled the cloth around her to cover her front.

    A tremor ran through the girl's body. She no longer feared this woman, but the sun was going down and she did not know what to do next. Rather, she was considering running, thinking maybe she had gotten all the aid she was supposed to from this human. Rather, it took some coaxing on the part of the older woman before she would follow her into the village and house, wary with every step, her eyes flicking around searching for anything that might be a threat.
  6. Agatha put one hand below the strange woman's elbow and the other across her back to hold her opposite shoulder. With sure but gentle movements, she lifted her to her feet, and once she was sure the girl had her weight on her own two legs, she released her elbow and picked the water pail back up, though she left the other hand behind the girl's back as she guided her through the streets. Minutes passed as they traveled cautiously, Agatha looking around nervously every few seconds, and at last they reached the Redson home without any trouble. The woman took a deep breath before opening the door. She did not yet know what to say to her family about their guest, not had she any idea what they would do about her in the long term. She only knew that she was glad she had found the girl before anyone else and taken her off the streets. The door opened, and the two women crossed the threshold.


    "I'm thirsty, Pa."

    "Now now, your mother's coming," Geoffrey Redson told his daughter with a smile. "You'll have water soon. Water's good for you, you see."

    "Yes, Pa."

    Neirin had looked between his adoptive father and little sister when they spoke, momentarily losing interest in his plate of food. His plate was the only one with neither meat nor eggs present; he had never found either one at all appetizing, and by this point, it was standard to offer him cheese or cooked mushrooms instead to round out his diet. He looked towards the front door next. "Is late," he muttered. "Hope is all right."

    "Oh, I'm sure she's all right," the woodcutter said, but he too glanced to the door, his smile faltering. "Probably got caught up in conversation. You know her."

    Neirin frowned. "You are her wife. You know her more I know her."

    There came a giggle from across the table.

    Geoffrey's gaze hardened as he looked back to his daughter. "Edith, what have we told you about laughing at Neirin's speech? You know it's hard for him."

    The girl tucked her head down. "Sorry, Pa."

    "Don't say sorry to me, say sorry to him."

    "...Sorry, Neirin."

    Neirin himself dipped his head slightly in response, but his face was puzzled. "Is fine. My words are not good... I should be sorry."

    "Sorry, sorry...everyone's sorry!" came the miffed voice of the older of the two Redson children, an adolescent male. "How about everyone just chill and we call it a day?"

    "Oswin, don't talk like that to your sister—"

    The door clicked open. Immediately all four present dropped the conversation and looked toward the sound. The headmistress of the household had returned, but what none of the family expected was that she had another woman with her, her body bare beneath the shawl she held around herself and sporting unnatural coloration. Everyone's eyes flickered between Agatha, the woman, and Neirin's face, because all present knew the marks that covered Neirin's own body, just as well as they knew that the state in which he'd come to them was all too similar to this one. Everyone did this with their eyes except for Neirin himself, of course. His gaze was fixed on the strange girl, and all he saw there were the fierce eyes, the dark lips, an imagined set of deadly teeth. His heart started thumping. He half-twisted in his seat and flung an arm backwards to double-check the position of the wall behind him. He wanted to run from this stranger. Every instinct screamed at him to do it.


    "Ma?" It was Edith that finally broke the silence. "Why is there a naked lady-Neirin in our house?"

    "Hush, Edith." Agatha closed the door behind her and looked pointedly at her husband. "Before you say anything, dear, let me say I'm not asking for anything yet. I'm not asking for you to take in another child. I just...want to give her a place for the night. And ask some questions." Her gaze strayed to the apprentice next, the message told with her eyes clear.

    Geoffrey bit his tongue until his wife was finished. He too looked firmly at Neirin when she trailed off. "Questions, hm?" he began. "I think we all have a few of those in our heads now... Neirin, do you know anything about this woman?"

    He knew one thing about her, and that was that he didn't want to be anywhere near her. He did not know how to say it in the humans' words, but his face was clear enough without him needing to put any conscious effort into it. He did not want to be in the room right now.
    #6 FiliaFlammae, Sep 28, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
  7. Again she had flinched at the touch of the woman, but she had allowed herself to be gently led, sensing that she too was feeling insecure in her movement through the town. Perhaps she knew how to avoid the others, the ones that would hurt her. She felt she had made the right decision to come out of hiding then after all...

    It wasn't until they came to the house that she hesitated again, looking at the door like it brought back terrible memories. The only time she had ever gone through one of these strange portals, she had come out changed into something she was not. She took a step back from the threshold until the door opened, and she was carefully led inside. Sensitive ears had heard the noises from within before entering, but she was completely unclear of what these words may mean. The only thing her senses honed in on was the smell of prey, which had nothing to do with any of the normal humans in the house. Her hunger briefly overwhelmed her common senses as she walked in, causing her eyes to dilate dangerously. She could smell his panic before she saw him and a low, inhuman growl escaped from her throat. But it didn't last, ending in a strangled sound as she realized she did not have the energy to pursue prey anyway. It was only a deer as before, but a healthy young buck, and his fear was palpable, but she was tired, and had no pack to aid her. As an afterthought, she realized he did not look like prey, anyway. He looked... familiar. She could tell he wanted to run from her and it caused her mannerisms to change completely. She would not attack him, but the adrenaline he had caused her to pump out had brought her back to life, if only for the moment. For the first time since her change her stance held the confidence of a top predator, and her eyes did not leave the man-deer for several tense seconds, muscles bunched as though she was still trying to decide if she would jump.

    After several agonizingly slow seconds, she looked away with a huff, and focused instead on the floor, pulling the cloak more tightly around herself as though it was a shield. She'd had the sudden realization she was now surrounded by the human creatures, all staring straight at her, and she did not think that attacking something that looked vaguely like one of them was going to go over very well. Were they part of his herd, she would be severely outnumbered. Besides, the elder one had helped her, and she owed her that. Once her mind had calmed and she had started to ignore the frightened deer as she had earlier that day, she could smell the cooked food in the room. The adrenaline was fading and her mannerisms from earlier were quickly returning. She did not want to make eye contact with any human in the room, and she worried that if she stared at the deer too long she would change her mind about trying to eat him. Her hunger had significantly intensified since the last time she had seen one. Her stomach growled of its own accord.
  8. The attention of the human family faltered when the strange girl growled deep in her throat, and even after the growl tapered off, she straightened up confidently and eyed Neirin with a voracious light in her eyes for several seconds. The moment eventually passed, though, after which she shrank in place, once again looking submissive and weary. The father and then the mother eventually looked back at Neirin, but now their faces were doubtful. It was Geoffrey who spoke first, and his voice was quieter than it had been. " this woman your enemy?"

    Neirin chewed on his lower lip for a moment as he struggled to form sentences that would accurately convey all the panicked thoughts running through his head. Even though the wolf-girl had seemed to calm down, her stomach audibly growled at that moment, telling quite clearly that even though she had given up for now, presumably because she was tired and outnumbered, she was still just as desperate. He did not doubt that she would make her move if the two of them ever ended up alone together. That's right. Do not panic and run off on your own. Stay with the group.

    He settled back into his seat and forced himself to take a deep, steady breath to soothe his nerves. "Yes," he informed his caretakers, though his face and voice were still strained. "She hunts, kills us. Eats meat. Sharp teeth. I do not want to be around her alone. Please. She is...danger. See her face, hear her belly, she is hungry!"

    The faces of both human adults were troubled, but Agatha stiffened after a moment. "Then we'll have to make sure she's not hungry, now won't we?" She spun on her heel and made for the kitchen.

    Geoffrey caught her by the arm, his brow knit and his voice a whisper. "Aggie, can we talk?"

    She scowled at him. "Yes, you may speak. No one's stopping you."


    "Not until I get this poor soul some food. She's starving."

    "And who are you to be charitable to someone who looks for all the world to be his kind's sworn enemy?" he growled. "We have no business endangering him."

    "I know! I want to keep him safe too! But that doesn't change that whatever she is, she's in the same boat he was, and I can't just—"

    "Just get her the food," Oswin groaned from the other side of the table. "You feed her, you've been nice, she calms down and Neirin's safe for a while, everyone's happy. Or am I missing something?"

    "Oswin, did we teach you manners like that?"

    "I'm just trying to add an opinion to the conversation!"

    Geoffrey sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. "Aggie...I'm sorry. He's right. No need for us to get huffy at each other. We both want the same things. Dish her up a plate."

    She dipped her head, her face gentle again. "The same." She returned to her task and disappeared into the kitchen area.

    Neirin's eyes had been on Wolf Girl the whole time. His ears had been open, though as usual he could only understand about every other word his human family spoke, so he only picked up bits and pieces of ideas. It was the strange woman that was the centerpiece of his thoughts. He knew she had looked hungrily at him A minute ago. He knew she wanted to taste his flesh and would do it if she had the strength. But she did not have that strength now, and perhaps if she were to sate her appetite on other meat, she would leave him be, all too eager to rest and sleep now that she had a shelter. He could tell from her weakened state and desperate eyes that she needed rest. He could tell from the strange green marks all over her body, something none of the humans bore, that she had come from the same place he had come from. She was something not human, imperfectly forced to look human. She had been through his hell.

    A tiny flicker of warmth made itself known in his heart. It was weak, but it was there, and had he lived among humans a few years longer, he might have known that the feeling was called empathy. Even though this girl was a huntress with no care for his life, a being he could not trust, he still had something in common with her. It was a past he wouldn't wish on anyone.

    "Neirin, did you hear me?"

    He flinched and whipped his head around to the source of Geoffrey's voice. "What?"

    "I asked if that's fine with you. Do you mind if our guest stays for a while, as long as we keep a careful eye on her?"

    He faltered for half a second, but he answered. ", I do not mind. Is fine. Feed her, please, feed her much. Is best for everyone."

    Agatha returned to the dining room with a sixth plate, its contents skewed heavily towards meat. She eyed the table, but the only space where there would have been room to seat a sixth person was on Neirin's side opposite the door, so she crouched and set the plate on the floor instead. "Here you go, darling," she muttered to the stranger. "Nice and warm. I'll get you some water in a minute." She straightened up and resumed the job of pouring a cup of water for each diner, forgotten until now, and when that was done, she stepped back into the kitchen to retrieve a bowl for the feral girl's water. Within a minute their guest had a bowl of cool, clean liquid to complement her meal.
  9. Carefully, as though not sure what to do with such long appendages, she let herself slide to the floor, ending up with her legs splayed awkwardly to either side of her body. Her legs were shaky from hours of running, and the adrenaline from before had thoroughly worn off. The humans around her spoke, and she picked up on the emotions in the tones, but not the meanings. Wolves were keen in their ability to sense tonal differences, as these held great significance in their own communication within the pack. The difference between growls, whines, and barks were subtle, and her mind had to be keen in order to pick up on those differences.

    In this regard, she could tell that the eldest male of the house was upset, probably due to her presence. But the older woman held firm, and it was clear that she usually had the last word in such matters. when the youngest male of the house spoke up, even the wolf girl looked up at him. His voice held a note of impatience she old heard from pups still waiting for their first hunt. She let out a slow breath, trying to understand the communication that was going on around her, and looked back down.

    The wolf-girl felt perhaps as uncomfortable as the deer did now that the one who had brought her here had left, even if it was only for a moment. When she returned with food, however, her eyes lit up briefly on the plate, then up to the woman. The golden depths held a thankfulness one might see in the eyes of a starving dog, for all the world like she was a savior. Has she still possessed a tail it might have beat the floor briefly in thanks. Still, as she looked back down at the plate she was hesitant. She leaned her face down towards it and sniffed carefully. Anything smelled good right now, because she was starving, but the food here was not her normal fare. She tried to grab food delicately with her mouth, but merely ended up with egg yolk on her nose and lips, which she licked off carefully, unwilling to waste a drop. She found that her nose was in the way, and her face too flat to grab food properly. She brought a hand to her face as though realizing this fact for the first time, which she probably was. The simple action reminded her too that she had hands, something with which to grasp. She tried again, this time grabbing food awkwardly, then bringing it to her mouth. She found this was more effective, though her watchers probably did not appreciate the mess she was making. This was her first attempt at food since the change, and she was not particularly enjoying these challenges herself. Regardless of figuring out how to eat her food with her hands, she lapped from the water bowl with her tongue, but found that she could not scoop water properly either anymore. Her tongue was too thick and short. As a result, eating and drinking was proving quite the task. Fortunately, a wolf pays little heed to emotions such as embarrassment, though she was beginning to get frustrated by her own lack of coordination.

    After a short while of getting some food into her body, though, she risked a glance back at the deer creature. She had since managed to fold her legs a little more gracefully underneath her body, but the cloak was almost totally forgotten in the excitement of finally getting something to eat. The wolf-girl looked him over carefully from her seat on the ground, but it was a significantly less predatory look, and she mostly only snuck glances. Under normal circumstances, she would likely never hunt a deer like him anyway. He was in prime physical condition, and her pack usually went for the very old, weak, sick, or very young. It was only practical. Now that she looked at him with a clearer head, she remembered why he looked familiar. Only once briefly had she encountered water since the transformation, and upon seeing herself in the water she had been both panicked and mesmerized. What she saw on him now was similar to her own strange markings, but different, and not the same color. Hers had been a deep, dark green, almost black in their coloration, contrasting sharply against her pale skin. His were a lighter color, similar to the sky on clear days. She knew they were somehow connected, the markings on both of them, but didn't know how.
  10. Once his human "mother" was finally in her seat, Neirin swallowed his nerves and returned to his breakfast. He had to keep reminding himself that the wolf girl wouldn't make any moves in human company, particularly now that she had a plate of food to keep herself busy. He could eat in peace. If only he could internalize that thought and stop feeling on edge...

    He heard movement nearby, more specifically the sound of a chair scooting across the wood floor. He looked up to see young Edith slipping out of her seat, and peculiarly, she left her emptied plate on the table, only taking her fork with her. "Not like that, Lady-Neirin!" she laughed as she kneeled on the floor next to the stranger. "Here. This is a fork. You use it like this." She cut a bite-sized piece out of the fried egg using the edge of the fork, stabbed it carefully, and lifted it towards her own mouth. She stopped once she finished miming the gesture and handed the fork to the nude girl. "Can you do that?"

    Neirin had leaned to the side so he could peer under the table and watch the proceedings. Memories of his first evening with this human family came back to him, for though he had not been starving, neither had he any idea how to eat off a plate with utensils either. He recognized the girl's struggle. The flicker of care in his heart flared a little warmer, a little brighter. He abandoned the last few bites of his food and crawled under the table, ready to assist Edith's lesson in any way that might be necessary.
  11. The wolf was a little shy when the small girl came towards her, not sure if she should be worried that the creature was coming down here. She was looking at her warily, but not dangerously. She was the one that felt confused here. When the girl started speaking to her, she recognized the tone as innocent enough. It seemed she wanted to help her. Warily, the girl let her show her what she wanted to do, her eyes following every movement carefully. She watched the mimicking, then carefully taking the fork. It felt awkward in her hand, and she held it clenched in her fist, pointed the wrong way. She was not sure how to do this, but she managed to get the small piece of egg into her mouth none-too-delicately. She winced visibly as her teeth came down on metal, but ate her piece of egg gratefully anyway.

    She noticed as she chewed this piece of food that the deer was coming nearer, and he almost looked... curious. It was very strange, and she didn't know what to make of it. What interest would cause something she normally hunted to venture closer to her. Human emotions such as these were still lost to her. A very strange feeling came over her, and she looked away. Instead, she tried to focus on the action of eating with a fork. It was hard. she couldn't seem to figure out how to hold the fork the way the small human had shown her just before.
  12. Neirin visibly flinched when the girl bit down on the metal fork. He remembered that painful sensation all too well. After the first mouthful, she set about attacking the food herself, and he watched her for several seconds. He wouldn't have voiced the thought to anyone, but the sight was almost pitiful. She was a fish out of water, just like the Neirin of three years ago. Heck, he still felt like that. He kept looking towards the girl and her food, but his eyes lost focus as he became lost in thought. He had no business helping a wolf. He didn't even have any business being this close to one. He shifted in place on his knees as he fought with his own brain over what to do. His insides screamed at him not to get an inch closer to the apex predator. He couldn't risk touching her. She was danger incarnate. And yet he couldn't watch her hold the fork like that. He had to correct her. She was embarrassing herself.

    "Edith, take your plate to kitchen," he told the girl. "I continue."

    Edith shot him a puzzled look. "I thought you were scared of her?"

    He furrowed his brow and ignored her. He did fear the wolf, yet even now he carefully scooted forward. Clearly he was crazy, or maybe he'd just lived in a human body for too long. Every inch he drew closer to the stranger, the more queasy he felt, and when he finally was next to her, swallowed, and reached for her hand, he could have sworn her skin burned his wherever they touched. But he gritted his teeth and held her hand in both of his own. Though he avoided eye contact, his touch was gentle. Wordlessly, for he knew the human code meant nothing to her, he adjusted her grip on the fork until it was what the humans had taught him to do. He guided her hand back to the plate and pressed her hand so that the edge of the fork would cut a clean piece of egg, hoping that having her go through the motions and having them work would be the best way for her to learn. He then guided her to turn the fork in her hand, lift it, and raise it towards her mouth. He trusted she'd get the idea and open her mouth to receive the food, but he would stop the motion of the fork once everything was in place so that she hopefully would not clamp down on metal again.

    He was tense the entire time, as he didn't fully understand why he was subjugating himself to this, but he did his best to keep the motions slow and as fluid as he could manage. Hopefully the deliberateness of his actions would tell her that he was neither a threat nor a mere meal.
  13. She had a little bit of food in her system now, so it made the smell of the deer in the room have a little bit less of an effect on the wolf's senses and instincts. However, it did not mean that she was unaware of his approach. With every scoot forward, she was watching him in her peripheral vision. It made her skin itch slightly to know that he was coming closer, and she felt vaguely like she was being stalked. It wasn't the first time, as a mountain cougar had once stalked her as a pup, and the same feeling had crawled across her skin. However she did not acknowledge him until she felt him touch her hand, at which point her head shot towards him, staring at him. But the wolf girl did not jerk her hand away. There was a hint of confusion deep in those eyes, though he would not meet them. About halfway through his 'lesson' she looked down at her hand as he moved it, unsure what to expect. She did remember what the girl had shown her, and it seemed familiar. She could smell the apprehension on him and could not fathom why he would be coming so close to her, as frightened as he was. Yet, he was acting like a human... perhaps she was wrong about her assessment. Perhaps he wasn't so much of a deer anymore.

    When the fork came to her mouth again, she opened her mouth and hesitated, thinking about what had happened the last time. She closed her mouth more slowly, and managed to only gently scrape her teeth on the metal. It was still uncomfortable, but she was getting better, slowly.His positioning of the fork in her hand made a little more sense now than when she had just watched the girl do it herself. She stared at her hand, then back to him. Her eyes stayed on him, then looked down as she tried again for herself to cut a piece of food, causing the fork to slide on the plate as she applied a bit too much pressure. She managed to get the food on her fork this time without as much trouble.

    By the next time she tried, she managed to only use her lips to take the food off of the fork, avoiding her teeth entirely. It was a very strange concept for a carnivore, to not use her teeth, and it would take some practice. As she chewed her food, she watched him, so close their legs were almost touching, and for the first time in a while she blinked at him a couple of times. It made her seem a little more human, and a tad less predatory. Her stare was not one of calculating predation, but perhaps... curiosity.
  14. Edith had left at some point, but Neirin hardly noticed. He released his pupil and let her try another bite by herself. The fork slid on the plate with a sudden clatter that made him jump, but the moment was over quickly, and this time Wolf Girl grasped the concept of only using her lips to take the bite off the fork. Success! He wouldn't have realized it unless someone pointed it out to him, but the corners of his mouth turned upwards just a little in something the humans called a smile. He was satisfied.

    The next thing to teach her was how to sip a drink. He'd seen her attempt to lap up water with her tongue earlier, and he imagined Agatha had meant well by giving her a bowl rather than a glass, but it just wasn't working. Once he had Wolf Girl's attention again, he scooped up the bowl of water between both his hands, lifted it slowly, and took what he hoped was a sip that she could see clearly from the side. He swallowed the mouthful of water and set the bowl back down, daring to meet her eyes again. She didn't look fierce anymore. In fact, the way she eyed him seemed to indicate tht she was more puzzled by him than anything else. When he thought about it, that wasn't very surprising. He could tell that she knew both what he really was and that he wasn't acting much like it. If only he could communicate to her that he understood, that he'd been in her shoes, that as long as she didn't attack him, he was willing to support her...

    If there was one thing about being human that still astonished him whenever he realized it was in play in his own mind, it was the ability to conceive of such precise ideas and desires and communicate those to others. What he wanted right now was to plant a concept in Wolf Girl's head, something he could never have dreamed of in his previous life. it was astonishing, really. He could only ever remember feeling basic desires when he was a deer. He sought food, water, and comfort. He liked the safety of traveling in a herd, and generally speaking, he trusted his herdmates. When fall came around, a fire bloomed within him that urged him to compete for a mate. That was more or less it. But what was in his head now was I feel sympathy for a wolf in a human body, and I really wish I could tell that wolf in a human body that I'm on her side for the time being. No deer would think that. No deer could ever come close.

    "Are you two getting along down there?"

    Neirin twitched and turned at the sound of Geoffrey's voice. He hadn't expected it after so long without words. Wolf Girl was momentarily forgotten as he pushed himself to his feet, ready to respond to the humans. He wanted no trouble.

    "I'm...surprised, actually," Agatha said next. "Here we were worried they would be hostile."

    "Now don't you go thinking this makes me perfectly happy to take her in. Who knows what'll happen if we leave them alone together."

    "Of course, of course! I imagined I would keep her here with me and Edith, keep an eye on her, see what we can teach her..."

    "Teach her? How long do you expect to keep her here?"

    "Look, I don't know, all right?" Her tone made Neirin flinch. "I just know she's in need, and I don't want to kick her out until she's self-sufficient again! And we may not figure out what she needs to be self-sufficient until she learns enough words to tell us what she needs. And yes, that could be months. I'm sorry." She sounded more exasperated than sorry.

    Geoffrey visibly struggled with what to say next, and after a few seconds, he just huffed as he stood up. "I'll think on it. Come, Neirin."

    The sentence was the type that would have made Neirin's ears spring to attention if they were still mobile. They weren't, but he stiffened at the command and took a step forward. He belatedly remembered that he hadn't finished his food yet, however, so he spun around and hurried back around the table to fetch his plate. He crammed the remaining few bites of toast into his mouth and left for the kitchen at a trot. The plate and utensils were left unceremoniously by the sink a moment after Geoffrey did the same. The two men returned to the main room and headed for the front door, but Neirin's gait slowed to a stop before he reached it. His eyes were on Wolf Girl. He couldn't have said why he hesitated, but maybe it was a feeling that he wasn't supposed to leave her. A feeling that even though they were enemies, they were somehow the same.
  15. The wolf girl was looking at him strangely as he smiled at her, not sure what the expression meant. It would take her a while to pick up on human signals, but at least body language was something she was used to interpreting in her old world. She swallowed her bite, and watched the way he tilted the bowl to his mouth for water. Once it was back on the ground, she picked it up as he had. It took less dexterity than holding and using a fork, so she figured out the motions of drinking from the bowl more quickly than she had eating with a fork. She blinked a couple of times at him again, not sure how to express what she was feeling, which was actually thankfulness. She had no tail or ears to express herself with, and it was frustrating. She knew to a certain extent she could show submissiveness to him still, but it went against her instincts to submit to something she would normally consider prey. Being somewhere between simply 'not a threat' and 'not a higher ranking pack member' she was confused as to what signals she was supposed to give.

    While she watched him her mind worked on how to figure out this problem, but his quick movement to stand at the sound of the human speaking made her flinch a bit. She still hadn't quite adjusted to the deer coming near her when he'd moved, even though she knew now that he probably meant her no harm. He seemed like he wanted to help her, and he had. It went against everything she knew - in her world, a deer of his age and strength would gladly try to kill a young wolf given the chance.

    She did not understand the words of the humans in the room, but the emotions had quickly gone from amiable to heated again, she could tell by the tones of the voices going back and forth across the room. Again, the woman that had brought her here stood firm and seemed to win whatever argument had been going on. It reminded her of pack dynamics. It was moments like this where she missed the security of her pack, the sense of protection that came with being near her alpha and surrounded by her siblings. Against her will she felt a constriction in her chest and an unfamiliar burning in her eyes as she thought about her pack and watched the deer move away from her. She blinked, and noiseless tears fell from her eyes, surprising her with their presence. The wolf girl had never cried before.

    She watched him pause at the door, eyes still wet with tears, she made no noise as they slipped from her golden eyes. Though she cried for the loss of her pack members, she too felt a strange kinship with this deer, and seeing him leave made her feel a hint of panic that she didn't understand. Perhaps she just didn't feel comfortable with the humans yet, and she knew that once he left she would be the only one there that was... like them.
  16. Neirin did not expect to see what he saw on the young woman's face. Tears. Her eyes were red and puffy, and the sight caused a wrenching sensation to take his chest unbidden. He couldn't know if he'd learned human facial cues so well by now that they were second nature or if his new body granted an instinctive sensitivity to them, but that didn't matter. Wolf Girl was in distress, and for whatever reason, he didn't like that. He didn't like that at all.

    Agatha had just finished her own food and stood up from the table with plate in hand, but she faltered when she saw the girl's face. "Oh, the poor dear, is she all right?" she asked quietly, half to herself, since she and the two not-quite-humans were the only three people left in the room.

    Neirin looked to his adoptive mother, worry written on his face. "I think that she is sad, but I do not know why. Maybe scared. Um..." He scowled and idly tapped his thigh with a finger as he struggled to remember the big word he'd learned for the concept that was in his head. "Ov-over...whelmed? Overwhelmed. Is new to her."

    "I wouldn't be at all surprised," she said. She set her plate back on the table for the time being before making a few careful strides towards their visitor and crouching down to her level. "I'd like to at least get her comfortable upstairs and find her something to wear."

    "Ah, right. Clothes...clothes good..." Clothes good? Who was he to care about garments? He could have argued with himself that he only said that because he knew the humans liked to cover themselves and wanted to blend in ideologically, but there was another force at work here that he was less willing to admit to himself: he had never seen an unclothed female human before, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized the sight of her and all her details made him feel strange. Strange and really confused.

    "Neirin, are you coming?" The shout came from outside, and it was pretty obviously from an impatient Geoffrey.

    Neirin yanked his eyes away from Wolf Girl. "Yes, coming!" he yelped as he hurried outside. He and his father figure had a full day of work ahead of them, as usual.
  17. The wolf girl was getting absolutely frustrated by the liquid falling from her eyes, and blinked the rest of it away quickly when she saw the look on the deer's face. She too saw no particular need for clothing, not that she knew what the term meant as they spoke of it. She would probably understand the concepts going through his head at the thought of her even less than he did at the moment. Staring after him in confusion at the look he gave her, she only looked away when the older woman from before touched her arm gently to get her attention, long after he was called and ran off. Her tears had dried on her cheeks, an she let the human woman help her stand again. She was led upstairs, where she was able to wash the dirt off of her skin, showing how truly pure white it was. She was given a very plain dress that was a little bit too big on her, but it covered everything important and it was not uncomfortable, in theory. To her it was very oppressive.

    The first few days with this human family were the hardest for her. Though she had no human words to use, there was one that continuously came to her mind, and finally one day when asked what her name was she told them 'Tala'.

    The family would quickly learn that she had her quirks. Tala picked up speech more quickly than they might have expected. The wolf girl would often just sit and listen to the humans speaking, watching their faces for emotional cues and signals. Many she did not understand, but she was learning. Once she mastered walking, she was graceful, but she refused to wear shoes, no matter how hard they tried to make her wear them. She preferred to sit outside when she could, staring at the woods. If she saw something move that disturbed her, she would occasionally emit a low growl in defense. Otherwise, her voice was generally soft and melodic. This came out very clearly one evening when the family was awoken to her howling mournfully. It had been a haunting and beautiful sound, but had not elicited any responses from the dark woods, telling her that her pack was no where near her now. She did not try again.

    Her experience as a wolf meant she could tell someone was upset or angry before they even said a word, just by reading their body language. It also meant that once she had gotten more accustomed to her body, she quickly learned to hunt. She had returned one day covered in blood, but with a very large goose in tow. Her original plan had been to get a deer, but some strange part of her mind had decided at the last minute she shouldn't do that.

    She tended to hover nearest to the older woman that had taken her in, and somewhere deep down Tala had accepted her as her as alpha. Yet, as she began to think of the humans almost like pack, she still did not know where to place the deer, Neirin, in that ranking.
  18. Neirin had attempted to tell his family what he was a few times before. He wasn't sure if they had understood. It was possible that they only thought him a human with mad delusions of ever being anything else. But the girl who came to call herself Tala shook those doubts away. At last Neirin had a fellow, and each little nuance of hers cemented her nature further in the family members' minds. At the sound of her haunting howl on that one lonely night, all was made clear: somehow, though they still weren't sure how, Tala was a wolf, and Neirin was her prey.

    That wasn't to say the two of them didn't get along. Though Neirin never quite stopped being wary around her, especially for the week after she'd dragged home a bloody catch, having another person around who knew how it felt not to belong in this human world was definitely a comfort. Despite being close in apparent age, he and Oswin had never been on the best of terms; he had difficulty relating to Edith; and although he felt gratitude and fondness toward both Agatha and Geoffrey for their care, they were not his peers. He did not share with any them the kind of bond he could feel growing between himself and Tala, even if neither of them spoke of it. Perhaps it only went one way, a figment of his imagination, but he didn't care. He felt it. Sometimes when he found her sitting outside with her eyes trained on the forest, he would join her in silence for several minutes at a time and allow the melancholy to take him. He missed the green woods, missed his hooved companions, missed having a life that was so simple he hardly had to think. He was sure she felt similar things, and thinking that she thought similar things always caused a strange sensation to take hold in his heart. Maybe so long as they were both human, they didn't have to be enemies. They could commiserate in silence like this.

    That said, Tala proved to be much better with the humans' vocal code than Neirin was. That much was apparent as early as the day when she chose her own name, and from then on out, she learned impressively quickly. Neirin kept the sting of jealousy he felt at her successes hidden as best he could. But at least with time, Geoffrey's attitude towards her seemed to soften. He did not stop being vocal about how to get her out of the house before the town rumor mill took a turn for the worse, but whenever he met her gaze, his face took on the same hint of softness it did when it looked upon Neirin.

    He broached the subject one evening at dinner. "I've been thinking," he began, "if it's in Tala's nature to hunt, perhaps she could spend her time over with Frederick and his family and learn how to hunt properly. Without, ah, making a mess."

    Agatha finished her mouthful of potatoes before she answered. "Learn to use a bow and arrows, you mean?"

    "Exactly. I have yet to bring up the topic with him, but if there's anyone I trust around here, it's him. To keep Tala hush-hush, I mean. He's a good fellow."

    Agatha frowned. "Are you trying to slip her off on another family or outfit her to become a forest savage?"

    Geoffrey's face darkened, and it took him a moment to answer. "Those are two potential outcomes, yes. And in brutal honesty, either of them might be for the better for everyone."

    "Except for Frederick's family, having this forced on them, and maybe even herself! Have you yet wrapped your head around the idea that she might be lonely on her own? There's more to life than surviving."

    Geoffrey's fingers tightened around his fork. "Aggie...with all due respect. I merely meant to make a harmless suggestion."

    Agatha bristled for a few seconds before she resumed her meal without saying another word.

    Neirin knew what a bow and arrows were: the tools of a human hunter, and the notio of them put him on edge on principle. But he knew by now that it was in Tala's nature to be a hunter, and if he gleaned correctly from this conversation that his "parents" we're suggesting something that suited Tala, he couldn't see any good reason to oppose it. "I think that Tala chooses," he said to the table after a second. He met the lupine woman's eyes next. "Tala, do you want to hunt with a bow? You know, like..." He realized he had no good ideas how to explain what the weapons were, so he mimed the action of drawing a bowstring and firing an arrow instead. "You would learn from other family. May be, uh...useful."
  19. Tala had been eating quietly, now able to sit at the table like a normal person instead of sprawled awkwardly on the floor. In an opposite aversion to Neirin, she avoided most all greenery that was offered to her at dinner, but she accepted some starchy root foods such as potatoes. She knew when the humans were speaking about her because she could hear her name, and the elder male, Geoffrey, frequently took on a particular tone when speaking about her. Though Tala was picking up language more quickly than Neirin had, she did not speak much. Usually she only said something when she was addressed, or in need of something. In the one month that Tala had spent with this strange human family, she had not encountered many hunters in her time in the woods. A few here and there had been present, and she had watched the way they hunted, but she did not ever make her presence known, mostly out of habit. The words 'bow' and 'arrow' were foreign to her, but she knew what the word hunt meant quite well. Her normally passive listening became focused in on the conversation when she realized they were talking about her and hunting in the same words, and she became interested. She had been chewing on her food and listening carefully as the words turned heated, and went from conversation to argument as they frequently did when she was mentioned. It made her wonder how welcome she truly was in this family..

    Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard Neirin address her directly, asking a question. She stopped chewing her food to listen to him, staring intensely. It took her a moment to realize he was referring to the conversation before, even though he hadn't been a direct part of it. While she didn't know the words, she saw Neirin's motions and recognized them from a hunter that had been in the woods once. She could visualize the weapons he had used to kill, which had seemed odd to her at the time, but after attempting to kill something with her lame human nails and teeth, she had realized their benefit. Tala had to think for a moment. On the one hand yes, she wanted to learn out to hunt, how to feel useful again. On the other, she had learned that whenever Geoffrey and Agatha argued about her, it was in regards to getting rid of her. And she knew which side each of the couple stood on that matter. The thought of being able to hunt properly thrilled her, but it was quickly followed by a sense of dread at the thought of dealing with humans different from the ones she considered her own. And though the relationship between them was almost entirely wordless, and the tension often high, Tala felt particularly nervous about being separately from Neirin. She did not know if she would be able to handle being isolated from the only other creature like her.

    Sometimes she wondered if Neirin held the same opinion as Geoffrey, and would prefer her gone due to her nature as his natural enemy. But ever since that first day he had helped her, he had slowly shown signs that he wanted to be around her, rather than away. He frequently sat with her in silence and watched the forest, and while she hardly ever acknowledged his presence, she never once tried to chase him away. She knew she easily could if she wanted to, because his natural aversion was palpable. But he would come to her anyway.

    She swallowed her food before trying to speak. Speaking made her nervous, because she was never sure what the correct inflections of voice were, what nuances they meant, which is why she listened so intensely when others were speaking. "Hunt, yes." She said slowly, careful with every word. "Leave? No." She shook her head to emphasize her discomfort at the thought, looking between Agatha and Geoffrey as she spoke. Tala did not know if her situation had ever been intended to be a permanent one with this family, but there were a few things she knew for certain. She knew she could never return to her pack, let alone be able to find them again. She knew she was not welcome in villages, or by other humans. And she knew, instinctively, that as of now Neirin was the only one here or perhaps anywhere that she could call her own kind. She was terrified of losing that feeling.

    Tala glanced at Neirin very briefly before looking to Agatha again. "I hunt for family? Be... useful." She used her hand to motion towards those seated at the table, trying to make it clear she meant this family, and no one else's. She knew that everyone here except Neirin ate meat at nearly every meal, and their family did not hunt, which meant they must get it from the village. She had not been into the village herself, carefully kept away from prying eyes. Tala appreciated it, but she also could feel herself becoming stir crazed as she spent almost all of her time in the day indoors, and what little time she could sitting outside or slipping off into the forest, which she knew Agatha disapproved of. Were she to be seen by a hunter it could cause problems, and Tala could be in danger out there, now that she had only a human body to protect herself with.

    Once she had finished speaking she placed her hands in her lap and waited patiently to hear the responses. If she could learn to provide for the family, to become something useful to them instead of a burden, she gladly would. Though she had never provided the pack with pups, she had always aided in hunting, and provided food for the alpha pair and their pups. She saw this situation as no different, and still felt the pull to provide for them if she could. Until now, she hadn't really thought that possible.
  20. It was plain to see that Tala was thinking hard about her answer. When she reached it, she spoke deliberately. Her pointed echo of the word "useful" caused Neirin to think. He'd meant to say that learning archery could be useful to Tala as an individual, but she cast it in a different light: by learning archery, she wanted to be useful for the family. It was telling of her pack mentality, not to mention strangely reassuring of her ability to care for others. Neirin's mouth twitched into the beginnings of a smile for a moment. He liked that, for some reason.

    Agatha pursed her lips in thought for a few seconds. "Well...if she wishes it," she said, "that may be our best compromise. She continues to live with us, but she learns to...hunt during the day and can eventually save us some of our food costs." The word 'hunt' seemed to taste bad in her mouth. "What say you?"

    "Seems reasonable to me."

    "That was addressed to your father, Oswin."

    "You didn't say that. I was just—"

    "Hush," Geoffrey said. "I believe your mother's right. Having fresh game fairly frequently would make it more affordable to keep housing her. And it may be dangerous to have her walking back and forth through town while she learns, but as long as she spends some time out of the house, I think that would be good. For her and us."

    "...The way you tacked 'and us' on there is telling, Geoffrey."

    "Look, I'm agreeing with you. You said you were up for a compromise, so how about we just accept this plan for now and I'll talk to Frederick tomorrow?"

    "I don't know why you thought I was arguing with you! Let's do that!"

    He put his hands up. "Fine! We'll do that." He returned to his meal, but a grumbled "For goodness' sake..." could be heard before his mouth was filled with a fresh forkful of potatoes.

    Being around the two adults when they got angry at each other always made Neirin uncomfortable, as he was usually the type to want to flee from conflict. The atmosphere in the room now felt stifling, and he could only find it in him to get down another bite of his meal in that brittle silence before he gave up. He stood and picked up his plate. "I will take a walk for a while," he muttered. Quietly and with his head bowed, he carried his things to the kitchen, left them there, and returned, aiming for the front door. Before he left, though, he lifted his gaze to meet Tala's, wondering she felt the same way he did. He wasn't about to voice the thought out loud, but he wouldn't have minded if she came with him.