Grave Awakening

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Jumping the Gun

It was a good thing the species harvested so many remobras. By the time Nick’s belly was satiated, he must have eaten four of the nets on his own, to the point that the people arriving late to eat had nothing but scraps from that day’s cooking. He would feel bad for them, but, considering that he’d never seen these paler ones until now, they were probably the lowest class of lower class. They were probably used to such dregs, so why was he getting so many angry looks- more angry looks. Besides,there were plenty of snake steaks and the poison vegetables left. They didn’t need the fish sticks. He did, though He needed them, and he would risk a porn logo in a heartbeat if it came to it.

Alas, it did not come to it. They were the last to eat, after all, and the red sun was quickly disappearing over the horizon. They rushed to eat before the sun completely set on that hilltop, the fires already cooled for the night, and Rylo nudged Nick, having him rise and follow him back to the room. He did, but he walked sideways most of it, watching those that also followed, until they reached the door. Rylo tapped his shoulder, ushered him in, and completely blocked his sight as he shut it behind. His best buddy betrayed him, of all people! What has this world come to... Rylo yawned. Darkness was still a bit a ways away from the room, but Nick could see he had dark circles under his eyes. Fishing, apparently, was exhausting work... or maybe it was the babysitting? That can be taxing, even as someone laid-back and lackadaisical as himself.

Even as exhausted as he seemed, though, he had a sort of gleam in his eyes, a want to talk, but they both knew it would only wear him out more if he tried. Not Nick; he was still wide awake. In fact, it was starting to worry him. Humans needed rest. It was essentially a way for the body to soft-boot itself, to alleviate issues it might have, yet, here he was, more alert than a- nope! He would not go down that train of thought, for he could already see the smoldering trolley that went down it before.

So, he stayed up all night again. This night, he decided he would try out actually using a spear. He might have thrust it through what’s-her-name’s head, but even a kid can pull a trigger. Most of the time when looking down the barrel. What caught him off-guard was how flexible it was. For being made of solid bone, it had a bit of bend whenever he thrust, which added to something else that surprised him: weight. It didn’t seem that heavy, but when he did thrust, it took a good bit to make it stop and keep it on target. It was a wonder he had hit that girl straight in the head with it in the first place, but, after a few dozen stabs, he managed to get the hang of it.

A spear wasn’t only thrusting, though. It was pretty much a staff as well. The entirety can be used as a weapon, which he had a bit of bo training back when he took karate. He never made it past blue belt, but it gave him what he needed at the time. It offered him the tools to focus his anger... and pain... Unlike the bo, though, the spear’s tip threw off his rhythm when used in closer-quarters. It was slight, but it was enough that he cracked the side of the room with it as he released. His intention was to simply whiff passed it, but the tip made a nasty sound as it tore into the clay, leaving a long, clean cut along it.

It was the tip, though, that truly suffered.

Even in the pale light, he could see that it had snapped off in the wall, a dot of pure jet, glistening with such color. The rest of the head was a jagged, splintered mess, no longer the clean, polished edge but a hellish rake looking to maim. He tried a few more thrusts, practiced a bit more, but after hitting the wall again and leaving a trail of black rock in the clay, he decided to simply return what was left of it to Rylo in his basket. Just as the white sun’s flash filled the room.

Rylo groaned, stretching, arm passing over the jagged tip- and winced, gasped as he woke up instantly from its touch. Blue blood rained from its kiss, and Nick could see that four slivers had embedded into the flesh, tearing at it more until Rylo plucked them out. His best buddy looked from those slivers, to the rakish tip, to Nick and the wall behind him. No words needed to be said for what he believed Nick was trying to do; his accusation was clear in his eyes... but then logic caught up to him. Why would he return the spear if he was trying to get out? Why wouldn’t he continue to keep trying? It wasn’t as if he wasn’t going to notice the spear come morning -case and point- so, if he wasn’t trying to get out, then... why?

“Bored,” Nick answered, though he could have literally said anything at that moment so long as he kept a meek, remorseful tone. He could have said, for example, “Nip slippy titty fuck and suck,” and it would have sounded like the most heartfelt apology... In fact, why didn’t he think of that from the start? He could have had so much fun. It seemed, though, that Rylo was waiting for more, so Nick obliged, holding his arms up as if he was holding the spear and thrust them forward a few times. “Practice.”

It took him repeating the gestures and words a few more times before Rylo seemed to understand, but he only furrowed his brow as he came to the conclusion. He rolled his wrist to Nick, which he simply repeated his first word again as well as feigned a few yawns and tapped his foot. At last, it clicked for Rylo, who awed at this revelation.

“Dojou sa?” He said... shaking his head. “Bored? Dojou sa?”

“Dojou sa, indeed,” Nick replied, but that only made Rylo shake his head again, gesturing to himself.

“Dojou.” He motioned to Nick. “Dojou sa.”

He shook his head a third time, and frowned at his spear. Before another gleam flashed across his eyes. He smiled, and started for the door, making Nick worry about what he had planned now. Yesterday didn’t exactly leave the best impression on how well Rylo thinks these things out, and, apparently, he wasn’t the only one worried. His fan club shrunk to only a handful, and they weren’t exactly as enthused as the day before to be following after. Well, Rylo wasn’t exactly completely at fault for that; not many people liked to watch cooking shows.

They climbed the stairs to the mouth of the mound, and Rylo headed across it, in between the trading stalls and kitchen... This was the third day in a row Nick had been there. Three days... and not once had he seen anyone manning those stalls. They were set up, sure, ready and well-kept for business, but he never saw a single person actually standing behind them, ready for commerce... Then again, living up on that mound, he could deduce that they could see travelers from miles away and have plenty of time to get to them. Which, given how their species were, how did traveling fair? They were worse than sitting ducks at night- which would explain the cats’ wariness to act when he encountered them. They were most likely used to prey that couldn’t fight back or were fatigued, so seeing something like him must have put a right fear in them.

And that’s when it struck him.

He stopped on the path, which made the four behind him gasp and prick him in the back. It was obvious where they were going; the path lead straight down through that part of the grassland to a glorified hole in the ground. It had a bony sheltering over it, but it was obviously where they got their stone. It was their mine... On top of his reason for stopping, he had no desire to go into that pit. If they didn’t use torches at home, there was no way those tunnels were lit proper, and he could just smell the cave-in all the way from here.

No. His reason for stopping was more selfish as it dawned upon him why they were most likely keeping him around. He could stay up at night; he didn’t have their weakness. He was their world’s vampire, a nightwalker, and were probably wanting to... “educate” him on the ways of their people to give them an advantage over the others of their species, to reign supreme among the snake people. All glory to Rylo, keeper of the nightwalker... yeah, no.

One of them behind got a bit too zealous and decided to prod him again, but he had enough of playing nice. It was about time to remind them of who he was. His knuckles popped, straightening his back, and, with the sudden shift, it made that unlucky fellow try to prick him again. They all cried out as he gurgled, clasping at his throat, but the damage was done. The way he twisted the tip before pulling out made sure that no amount of pressure would keep the blood from squirting out, and doing so would only make him drown in it.

Rylo cried out, but in the time it took him to return up the path he had skewered the other three through the head, adding to the soaking heap before Nick. He tried to reach for Nick’s shoulder, calling out his name, but jumped back as Nick spun about, brandishing the spear at him. The tip still dripped blue with their blood, reeked of their funk... but Nick lowered it, sneering at Rylo.

“You’re so lucky you are my ‘best buddy’,” Nick said, tossing the spear aside. He gestured behind, to the mound of bodies, then to his back, turning so Rylo could see the blot of red blood welling up and oozing down and out of sight, under what was left of his shirt. “Really, I just did that because they annoyed me, but it felt good to release some steam. You all think you have the wool pulled over my eyes, but nobody uses me. Not without a price... and I am saying all this while you expect it to be some heartfelt apology for my lashing out. Instead, this is my promise: the moment I get what I need from you, I will stick you like a pig and watch the life drain from your eyes.”

Nick righted himself before Rylo, who took exactly what Nick wanted from his message. Others raced down, spears and bows in-hand, quieted as Rylo explained to them how... remorseful Nick was, that he didn’t mean to do it. It was still early in the morning, and, after yesterday, his reaction to the meal, Shoula and the snake, and how he was tossed over the bridge... He had plenty of reason to be agitated. All it took was the wrong prick to send him over the edge –which, admittedly, was right, but it wasn’t the physical, contacting one that did it. It was the one pleading his case, wearing a sad smile, trying his best to defend his newly-found meal ticket to them all.

The crowd, though, was even less pleased than his original argument when he first arrived, but they relented and most returned to their tasks. A couple stayed to be his new fan club, though, and once more they were on the road to the mine. Nick was finding himself a lot more amicable about the idea after he let loose some of his fury; if there was a cave-in now, it would be karmic retribution. What he couldn’t stand, though, was how Rylo kept glancing back, as if he expected him to simply lash out again. It seemed they were both on thin ice, so he wondered if Rylo would really have the guts if push came to shove.

He glanced back one last time, with such an annoying look to accompany. Nothing pissed Nick off more than pity, but he had to continue to look morose, somber, even as Rylo conked his head on one of the bones as he descended. The others chuckled behind, making it even harder, but he kept composure. He was the next to descend into that dark, dank, desolate- incredibly bright cave. There was a moment of darkness as they descended, at least twenty steps worth of pitch blackness, shattered as they reached a landing and turned a corner. It was almost brighter than the sun above, but it was coming from the walls. Rather, from the mushrooms that sprouted from the clay. The air was heavy, with a heavy drone, broken by the clack of stone on stone, rising as they walked further down the straightaway.

As they came to its end, the drone was lost to the chorus of picking, rising in the wide amphitheater that was the hive mine. There was a small path that went up, carved out along the side, coiling up to a higher peak, but the majority of the mine was far, far, far lower. Just looking down from the edge gave Nick vertigo, but the most interesting part was every single corner, nook, and cranny was lit, taken by the glowing mushrooms. There were bone wagons lined up along each row, easily over sixty levels, and each one was laden with that deep obsidian rock. The way the mushrooms caught them, though, they would be mistaken for a trove of gems, glittering and glistening against the stone and clay around.

Rylo lead him to the bottom, which that and the trip back up top took most of the day, but there was plenty of time for him to greet him to one of the master masons, whose name was far too coincidental. Crayu. He was one of the pale faces; though they were far lighter than their surface-dwelling counterparts, Nick could see that they had far more muscle. One of Crayu’s biceps was as large as Rylo’s middle, yet his hands, as he chiseled one of the obsidian rocks down, were very delicate, showing way too much finesse for someone so bulky.

Rylo and Crayu were talking, which Nick noted how... familiar Rylo’s tone was with Crayu, almost soft, childlike. Meanwhile, Crayu’s tone was incredibly stern but with an edge of tenderness, of fondness. Rylo handed his broken spear to Crayu, whom shook his head at the busted tip, untying it and tossing it aside before fitting and sealing down the new one. He pulled the twine as hard as he could, muttered something that Nick interpreted as, “Don’t bust this one up, ya dolt,” and Rylo gave his father his thanks and lead Nick out of the hole, returning just in time for the dinner chime.

This would be the routine for the next few days, weeks, for Nick, moved from job to job, given more and more to do with each passing day until Rylo inevitably left him wherever he was dumped to go tend to his tasks while the one or two fans he still had kept a close, yet bored, eye on him. It wasn’t very long before they, too, simply left him to his business, which is exactly how he wanted it. Now he really could put his all into the task before him; he always hated being watched. Make no mistake, though; he was simply biding time. He waited years before; what’s a few weeks, if not a few months?

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