Grave Awakening

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Let Down

As the second welcome party arrived, Nick realized he had been so foolish. Of course they would run away; his hair was a wreck. He hadn’t touched it or done anything with it or his beard in weeks. Not by choice, mind. He couldn’t find the time to trim up, what with Ralai filled with light sleepers. There was also the matter of how he was dressed, in that his tunic was in complete shambles. If it wasn’t for his boxers, it would have been an even grander sight to see him charging down the path, bloody spear in hand, and screaming at them.

It was all just one, big misunderstanding... Sadly, they didn’t seem to agree. The welcoming party bore down upon him with bows, giving him a huge case of deja vu –becoming quite common nowadays apparently. However, unlike those lovely people of yesteryear, they did not circle but simply flank him, covering side-to-side of the archway. The one in front, talking to him, might be in trouble, but there was no way he could yank them close in time to cover all angles so he played nice. Besides, this was his first time seeing an actual difference in the Reyla people. He could finally tell a distinctions between them.

Unlike the mound-dwellers, these cave-dwelling Reyla had thick heads of hair, sprawling from the very top downward. Some cut it short, others allowed it to reach to their lower back. There were even different hairstyles, from braided to tied back to braided and tied back- oh, how he missed actual variety! They, also, had two sets of horns, the first set being the exact same but the second set budded from their temples. They were thin, black like the tip of his spear (once was), and, after growing out two inches, curled back and wrapped with each other on their foreheads, making them look more like a tiara or a circlet. Their skin tone was the most contrasting; unlike their kin, it was scaled. Rich, chunky scales that seemed to fight with each other, creating solid, uneven ridges. Their color, also, was stark in difference, ranging from jet black to ghostly white.

The contrast that truly disturbed Nick, though? Unlike the others, these Reyla didn’t wear any clothes. None whatsoever. Not that it was needed; he couldn’t tell a distinct part of their anatomy due to those scales. However, he still couldn’t feel a little... enamored when he saw the females. Although he couldn’t see their breasts against their armored hide, the arms always gave it away –well, the arms and hips, and those hips didn’t lie. But how did this disturb him? Was it because, at heart, he was still a puritan and believed nudity was a- no. Not at all. What did was the fact, it turned out, they were very reptilian when it came to the no-no parts. Man and woman alike, it was tucked away into a slit, with the only distinction there being men were higher up. It was as if he was looking at a bunch of remodeled dolls for a shot in a movie or for a school art project.

And, for most of his time already spent there, he was at that level to see that. The sun shined against his back, hands tied against it in thick, braided cord, the same kind that carried him up to the fourth level of the mountain. It was the only way for him to get up there. Another difference between the mound-dwellers and the mountain-dwellers; the mountain-dwellers claws could pierce the rock, so they climbed up the sides. Sadly, Nick didn’t have such an ability, and really couldn’t do it with his arms already tied. Even if he could in that state, there was no way he was letting go of his spear. Even now, it was tucked in between his arms, the tip swaying over his head, hands holding firm.

Once there, they asked him the usual questions. Who was he, what was he, why was he there, why was his weapon coated in the blood of their people, why did he run at them screaming; normal, daily stuff. For the first three, he wanted to ask if they lived under a rock, but that would be a moot point. He answered them, as well as the last, but found it hard to answer the one about his spear. There was simply no way to tell them without sounding like a complete and total psychopath, which, to be fair, would be technically correct, but it was for a just cause: He was sick of their bullshit.

Instead...

“Wait. That’s what that is?” He said. “I had no idea. It was simply like that when I found it.”

Oldest trick in the book. At home, at least. For them, though, it seemed nobody ever said that because they simply asked him where did he find it. With the dog that ate his homework, more than likely, but Nick doubted they would understand either one of those items. So he went with the truth of where he found it. If they didn’t even know who or what he was, there was no way they would know what happened there as of late.

The one leading the welcome party, Bren Dailyr, listened to every word, her stormy blue eyes locked on his, seeming to swallow the words and his entity into those raging depths. Nobody said a word after he finished, nobody moved, bows creaking, still aimed, all attention on Bren. She did not blink, did not look away even a bit... until, at last, with a long sigh, she raised her hand-

Pain thundered through Nick’s left arm, his shoulder on fire, throbbing around the arrow that pierced it. He cried out, looking from it to the only archer that fired, finding a lack of words. Bren, however, did not. She bolted to her feet and back that archer into a corner, screaming in a dialect he barely could understand. He could boil down what she most likely said, but, from how the others seemed to shrink and sheepishly put away their own arrows, it was clear to all it wasn’t anything comforting. Even Nick was starting to feel bad from the verbal lashing that girl was being whipped with. She was reduced to a quivering ball on the floor by its end, crying, and being surrounded by a pool of her own urine, but that wasn’t enough for Bren. She kept. Going... For another thirty minutes.

The others already left by the time Bren finished beating that dead horse, and remembered that Nick was shot. She heaved a weary sigh, stomping over, and knelt to him, checking that fine, feathery phallus plunged into his shoulder.

“You’re lucky,” she said, cracking off that side. The sudden snap made the entire wood spasm, which added more to his pain. She reached behind and snapped off why she said he was lucky before wrenching the rest of the wooden haft out with one, quick motion. Still stung, but the fact the head made it all the way through was fortunate indeed. “Deidre was always a terrible shot... However, now that it’s only the two of us, maybe you can tell me the truth.”

“I haven’t already?” He panted out, arm starting to go numb –which, in this case, was actually a good thing.

“Maybe, but I have never heard of hoomans or this supposed Earth. The fact you don’t know why you are here is, also, questionable.”

“I know, right? I’ve been asking that question for almost the last year. Ever since I first arrived a day outside of Leyshun.”

“So you’re from Leyshun, have been to Ralai, and now are here, at Mirecote.” She ripped off a bit of his tunic, exposing his midriff, and wrapped his arm in it, taking away the comfortable numbness. It throbbed as she pulled it taut, tying it with such a dainty bow, before huffing and yanking it to pull him to his feet. He swayed a moment, feeling the glass behind him, but she held, keeping him up until he could find his feet. Only then did she continue to press. “Why here, though? Why come towards the Teeth? Surely you were told of the dangers of the dregsao in either village.”

“Well, you know, I was always a mountain fan and that’s where the spear pointed me when I spun it at the crossroads –I’m telling you the truth. I swear.”

“I would be more likely to believe you if you didn’t speak our tongue so fluently.”

“Back home, I took several tongue courses and figured out how it was formed. From there, it was simply listening and figuring out the patterns.”

“I never gave it much thought, myself, but there’s truth in what you say. In all that you say... Very well. I know we had a rough start, but I’ll talk it over with the others and see what we should do with you. However, what do you wish to be done?”

“Really, I wouldn’t mind staying –only for a time, I assure you. I don’t plan to stay in any one place too long. While I am here, though, I will help with whatever tasks you may give.”

“Very well.” She let him go, and returned to the quivering boulder in the corner. Giving it a sharp kick. “Oi! Deidre. Let’s go.”

It simply whimpered, and Nick wondered if it would roll out after her, making him remember more music puns his father used to say. Deidre didn’t, though, instead standing in her own pool of piss and followed out with her head down, leaving him with that to assault his senses in a locked down room. Then again, smell was sort of on the back-burner for the constant throbbing of his shoulder. He took a step back, leaning against the glass-

And, if he had a heart, it would have been assaulted.

He jumped a good bit of height, spinning as he did, and panted as he looked at the “glass”. It was still in place, but he could see how it bowed out from where his back touched it. It stayed like that a moment longer before it oozed back into place, a solid sheet again. Nick cocked his head, walked up to it, and pressed his knee against it. Once more it gave; it took a bit of force to do it, but it simply bulged out, forming around his kneecap, standing out like a nipple as he removed it before it, too, oozed back into place. He never tried leaning on the “glass” back in Leyshun or even in Ralai; he only ever touched it.

“What is this?” He mumbled, and winced as his arm flared, striking into it. In hindsight, for multiple reasons, it probably wasn’t the best idea, but it didn’t matter. As he suspected, the “glass” did not shatter and, instead, stretched out from the point of impact. It didn’t even form ripples, absorbing all the force into that one, gelatinous point before smoothing out again. “It behaves almost like a silicon base, or a jelly. How-”

“What are you doing?” Bren demanded, making him jump again. She stood in the doorway, this time armed with a spear of her own. “Ollin and Vorefren told me that you were throwing yourself at the membrane so I rushed up here as fast as I could.”

“Membrane? You mean the glass?”

“What is galass?” She shook her head, and stormed across the room, wrenching at his good shoulder. “You almost had me fooled. You almost had me believing you, but then you try to escape?”

“Ah! Easy. On both accounts,” he said, panting as he tried to keep pace, trying to keep his feet from dragging along the stony path as they entered the main hub. Unlike the mounds, there were no stairs to each floor, no different halls to be had. It was all one, tall, conical tower with indents in the wall to climb up with. Sadly, Nick didn’t have claws, but they weren’t a dumb society. They had a working “elevator” of sorts, what originally brought him up and most likely the supplies to make these floors, but it was little more than a corded basket. They stood there, waiting for it to rise, all the while her claws dug into his arm. “I wasn’t trying to escape. I leaned against the... membrane... thing... and felt it give. I never tried nor asked at the other villages, so I was testing it.”

“They don’t have membranes on Earth? How would you get your sunshine in the morning? How would you know to wake up?”

“Really, humans don’t need sunshine. We work at all hours.”

She blinked, and looked at him. “Come again?”

“Already? I haven’t ev- no. No... Now’s not the time for that... Humans don’t need to go to bed when the sun disappears. We can stay up at night with little-to-no issue. In fact, because of the Dark Pact, none of us ever have to sleep.”

“... I’ve just made a decision.”

“Wh-”

He gasped, and looked down at his chest, where her spear pierced through. She pulled it out, covered in red blood, and kicked him over the edge, right into the rising “elevator”. It huffed, but the string it was attached to snapped, letting it and Nick down, down a story below where his body made a sickening crack on the warm, stone floor. His head rang, struck from the haft that was pressed against it, and his vision slowly faded, taking with it the thundering and throbbing his whole body now felt.

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