The next time she woke, she found a bog furry body wound around her from behind. When she pushed herself up onto her elbows, the head of the creature lifted and she turned to see that it was a huge white tigress. "Oh, my, god," she breathed, carefully running her fingers over on thick black stripe.
"You finally wake," a deep, rumbling female voice said. She wasn't as shocked as someone else would have been to discover that it was the tiger speaking.
"Um, yes, but is it bad if I don't remember when I got here? Or how I got here?" she asked.
"By the looks of things, you were shipwrecked. I bet the mermaids brought you here, since they'd never let a marked one die in their own territory. Do you remember why you were on that ship?" the tiger replied.
"No. I don't even remember being on the ship. Then again, I don't remember anything, not even my name," she admitted, looking out over the water to where the sun was rising.
"Well, mine is Spirit. Now, come on, let's get you up. It's too open here, and you need to eat," the tiger said, rising to her paws. She nodded and got to one knee. Pushing herself up, she found her legs wobbling and was forced to accept Spirit's help to stand. Spirit was far bigger than she expected her to be, just over four and half feet at the shoulder. She hobbled to where a pack lay in the sand, and Spirit lifted it in her jaws to her.
She slung it over her shoulder and let Spirit guide her up the beach to the forest, where a stream cut through the trees. The tiger guided her to the edge of the water and gently nudged her. "You smell like salt. Get in and wash," Spirit said.
"You'll warn me if someone's coming?" she asked.
"Yes, now get in," the tiger nudged her again, and she carefully pulled off the clothes she wore. Looking down at her body, she saw welt like burns spread over her arms and chest, rope burns wrapping around her abdomen, and older scabs circling her wrists and ankles. Fresh gashes, which she guessed were from the wreck, cut up her legs and arms as well as one long one across her side.
Slowly submerging herself in the water, she watched in amazement as grayish clouds were drawn from each wound. She scrubbed herself with a pine branch that Spirit dragged to her and watched salt wash off her body. Eventually, she got to her hair, which hung down her back in a salty braid. Undoing the braid, she combed through the mess with her fingers as she rinsed it out. She redid her hair in a neat, though wet, braid and reached for her clothes.
Examining the white shirt, she ripped it into strips and rinsed each one carefully. She scrubbed them with moss, which proved a good way to get rid of the salt. Then she laid them out on a branch and reached for the pack that lay at the edge of the water. Digging through it, she laid out a white shirt with loose sleeves that had ties around the wrists, a small dagger in a brown leather sheath, a small sewing kit, a small first aid kit that had bandages and alcohol in it, a bow in an oilskin slip cover, and a quiver of arrows in another oilskin cover. From the bank of the water, she made a fire and started to wash her clothes. Then she laid them out by the fire and took the first aid kit in her hands. Setting the needle from the sewing kit on a rock in the coals of the fire, she took the alcohol and carefully cleaned out each gash. Taking the needle from the rock, she stitched the worst ones closed, fighting herself the whole time she did. She bandaged each and wrapped them in white strips.
When she was done with self first aid, she pulled on her now dry undergarments and lay back in the grass, waiting for her clothes to dry. She listened to the wind sigh in the trees and the stream babble over rocks and looked up when Spirit returned, dragging a young buck in her jaws.
She reached for her clothes and slipped on the shirt and pants, then watched Spirit. "Come on, come take some so you can eat," the tiger ordered, padding over to the stream to lap from the water. Obediently, she picked up her knife and skinned part of a haunch. Then she cut away a few strips of meat and set them on rocks to cook.
After she ate, she pulled on the cloak that had remained in her pack, and looked once more at her supplies. Sighing, she tucked her sewing kit inside her first aid kit, and placed the flat box inside the pack. All her food was gone, her flask was missing, she had no shoes, and her bedroll was probably at the bottom of the ocean. That's when she noticed that one of the straps on the pack was broken, so she pulled it out and grinned. She looped it around her waist and tied it like a belt. Untying it, she stuck the sheaths of the sword and dagger through the makeshift belt and retied it around her waist. When she finally banked the fire and lay down in the bedroll, Spirit was curled behind her back just like that morning.
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