Swipe & Thorn
Thankfully for Eira, Cecile didn’t venture back into the woods after that morning. In fact, she was the only one Eira’s age that stuck around, under the guise of ‘helping her cope’. Still, it was a very nice thing of her to do, Eira thought as the two conversed for much of the day. As they worked on one chore after another together, from laundry to gardening, even feeding the goats and chickens, Cecile was constantly asking her friend how she was feeling, taking her hand to see if she was trembling whenever she questioned her short responses. That was simply her way, Eira figured, never the one to gossip like the other girls, or take part in witty banter. She herself enjoyed watching the others whenever they did it, after all, there wasn’t much of an opinion she had on a lot of things. Today, however, it bugged Cecile to no end.
Eira never told her the story. At least not in its truest form. She didn’t want to mess this relationship up either. Instead, she entertained Cecile’s most important thoughts. Namely, men. As young, unmarried boys returned from their daily hunting trips, Some with rabbits, foxes, and other animals hung over their shoulders, the two giggled at possible suitors. Sure it was childish, Eira thought, but enjoyable no less. Perhaps that was why Cecile was so fun to be around, Eira thought, as she seemed so innocent and yet was too afraid to act upon her words, not unlike her.
Today was different, however. Cecile was certainly working upon her interests. Whenever she conversed with young men returning from the forest, she cocked her head to the side in a flirtatious manner as she spoke to them, when she twisted locks of her hair with a finger for added effect. Eira knew too well of what was to come. Folk men only followed her from those moments, each wishing to make Cecile their wife. Still, the dark-haired girl loved the attention, taking it all in with but a giggle here and there.
Eira sat by herself some ways away. Her hands played with the various pouches on her satchel, fiddling with each pocket on the side with a playful flick. She could only hear the sound of Cecile laughing as men complimented her and other Folk couples reunited, giving one another their dearest words before returning to their homes and chores for the day.
She looked up. Men were beginning to pile wood up into a great bonfire. Children tended to the stones surrounded it, making sure they were aligned just right, hindering any chance of the fire escaping. Laughter soon filled the air as the boys began to roughhouse, as they tend to do. They chased one another around and around, losing themselves in their games until one ran into a young man returning from the hunt. Oblivious to the world, the boy stumbled off his feet when his friends ran to help him up. When they looked at the man, their eyes widened.
“Zaines!” One of them cried out. It prompted many others to turn with a welcoming smile. Tall and fit, Zaines looked down at the boys with a confident chuckle. He cradled a massive fish in his arms, making it impossible to playfully shuffle the boy’s hair like he so often did. A few other Folk men followed him as he made his way into the heart of the village, struggling to keep the fish in his grip. Whether it was the thick coat of slime enveloping the fish or simply its colossal size, the muscular young man had a difficult time with it when he finally dropped it with a wet flop onto the ground. There it only hopped from one side to another, its gaping mouth gasping for air.
Just as interested as the other Green Folk, Eira stood up and joined the others as they surrounded Zaines. He placed his fists on his hips as he took a deep breath before laughing, his green wardrobe stained with ooze.
“Pulling this one out was like pulling a bear out. And look, it’s still going!” Sure enough, the catfish, with its glossy eyes and long, winding whiskers, continued to gap with its wide mouth. “We caught it miles back!”
“That’s impossible.” One Folk remarked as he studied the fish closer. “One might think it to be enchanted.”
“Well believe it. I thought it was dead once or twice, but nope, here it is, still kicking about.” Zaines retorted when he chuckled again.
“Now it’s certainly been an interesting morning…” A Folk woman cooed. “First Eira, now this.”
“Oh yes, you’ve missed the whole thing. Eira there survived a Coffin Spawn attack.” Zaines looked from the elderly woman to the girl, crossing his slimy arms with a smile lining his scruffy face. Eira, meanwhile, looked back at him meekly.
“Really? Well Miss Aune, I’ll have to hear all about it.” The girl felt her face grow red as she felt everyone’s eyes fall on her. Immediately her fingers danced, unsure of how to deal with the extra blood her racing heart was pumping into them, when they simply latched onto her satchel strap and refused to let go.
“Perhaps some other time. You know I’m a terrible story teller.” She replied softly. A collective hum came from the Folk around them, with the assumption that Eira had more…intimate intentions. Zaines’s smirk only grew in response when he unfolded his arms and walked up to her. Eira cringed when a sloppy glove landed on her shoulder, and Zaines was but a few inches from her face.
“What about tonight then? During the bonfire?”
“Sounds good.” The girl breathed anxiously as her hands soon began to fiddle with one another again. The young man only smiled in response as he and some of his friends began to deal with the catfish once more, leaving Eira to assess what she had just said. Suddenly she felt a sharp jab in her side, only to see Cecile giggling when she drove another finger into her side.
“Zaines and Eira, the strong and the timid. Come on, who didn’t see this coming?”
“Well, I didn’t.”
“What? Everyone’s figured you two would be together since we were kids.”
“Only because I don’t melt over him like you and the others do.” Eira replied as she tried her best to wipe the slime from her clothes, dropping down to press a palm into the dirt.
“Give him a chance. He’s quite charming if you ask me, and who knows, maybe some of his confidence will rub off on you. A little bit of that wouldn’t kill you.” With a gulp and a submissive nod, Eira forced herself to smile.
As the sun set ever so slowly, it began to cast its hazy auburn hue down onto the never-ending plains. Shadows from lonely trees and blades of tall grass seemingly stretched off into the horizon, where they met dark rolling storm clouds flashing spontaneously with vigor. The cool northwest wind had yet to reach the band of dinosaurs, all of whom huddled around one another for protection.
Dryosaurs dropped to all fours as their small beaks clipped off tough blades of grass before chewing. From a ways away, one could only see their pale yellow tails as they popped up from the forest of grass and wagged up in the air, when occasionally one would stand tall to look around. Being smaller creatures, the herbivores had to pray for the protection of much larger beasts around them.
With great bulbous bodies and small heads, stegosaurs swung their tails around lazily while they seized the moment to eat. Serving as guards in a way, the dinosaurs certainly looked the part, from the bony plates lining their back to the sharp spikes at the tip of their tail. They had little to fear when together, evident by their blank stares while chewing the tough dry grass. One couldn’t help but admire their simple but effective system. As soon as a stegosaur brought their head down to eat, the one beside it brought its head up to scan their surroundings as they chewed.
Still, one could never be too safe, a lone dryosaurus thought to herself as she looked up. She held her arms close to her body as brush shuffled loudly in her grinding teeth. With her long legs she began to walk around the herd, taking some interest in the others. Some of the other dryosaurs gossiped amongst themselves, but their words were muffled by the food in their mouths, while the stegosaurs had very little to say, save for an occasional grunt or the passing of gas, in poor taste no less.
The young dryosaurus continued to look around, but there were few things of interest in this little band. As she swallowed loudly, the desire to wash the brush down with water was overwhelming. She darted over to a small band of friends, asking them if they’d go with her to the stream. They looked back with annoyed stares while chewing, but as she couldn’t understand what they said, the dryosaur assumed the answer was no.
With a sigh she turned and asked a stegosaurus, who retorted that if he was to escort her to the stream, he would leave a hole in the formation open for carnivores to get in. Well, she didn’t want that, so with another sigh she peeked out into the prairie from behind the stegosaur. Her large eyes looked one way, then another, and then back to where she looked first. She wouldn’t be gone long, she reasoned. Why, the sound of running water was just a few yards away. It wouldn’t take but a minute or two. Still, the back of her mind warned, it would take just that much time for a predator to get her.
With a nervous gulp, the dryosaurus stepped out from the ring of protection, half-expecting to hear vicious howls and to be surrounded by teeth and claws. But she wasn’t. In fact, she thought, for leaving the herd for the first time, it wasn’t so bad. With a smile and a crouch, the little dinosaur scurried through the tall grass, her stiff tail wagging back and forth, until she nearly fell into the running water.
Wow, she thought. The stream was a lot bigger than she thought. And deeper too. Her heart raced at the thought of something lurking beneath that water. Something with a long snout, like a crocodile, which would have to simply drift ashore to grab her. But as the sun began to fall closer to the horizon, her light, and safety, faded as well, to which she had to make up her mind. With a timid gulp she waded into the water, so as to not lick up mouthfuls of soot, and drank. She had to be quick, and her heart raced with each passing second.
Suddenly gentle waves of water washed up against her ankles from behind. She froze in place, when her eyes opened wide. Her nostrils flared, but it wouldn’t do any good as they were underwater. With one last gulp she stood tall and turned. All she could hear was her own heart pounding in her chest, feeling as if it was fit to burst any second. She anticipated wickedly-tipped teeth sinking into her flesh, tearing her helplessly limb from limb.
“Hello.” Her heart stopped when she met eyes with another dryosaurus, who had poked her head out from the brush. The newcomer smiled politely. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I was just thirsty too. Would you mind watching over me while I do so?”
“Uh, s-sure. Sorry. Th-this is the first time I’ve left the herd alone.”
“Really? Oh I do it here and there. I need some peace and quiet too. I have this one spot that…hey. Ow! Hey!” The dryosaurus looked back, but not a moment later was she consumed by the forest of tall grass, dragged by her own tail by something much larger than herself. Shaking at the knees, the lone dryosaurus felt her jaw drop in horror as the other’s cries came to an abrupt halt.
Instincts kicked in, when an earsplitting wail erupted from her. Alerting the others, she quickly heard the pack return her cry with a collective howl. The stegosaurs looked up altogether, their eyes showing an uncharacteristic glint of life and urgency. Spiked tails flailed in creating an impressive and threatening display. Together they trumpeted loudly as most of them charged toward the threat, while a few stayed behind to protect the dryosaurs. As grass shook violently, the lone dryosaur found her chance to escape, but not before crossing paths with the predator itself.
Holding the dead dryosaur in its toothy jaws, the two-legged carnivore had to drag its kill away rather than run with it. But when the small herbivore met eyes with it, she couldn’t look away from the large horn protruding from the tip of his snout. When she finally did, she found that his eyes were not filled with bloodlust and anger, much to her surprise. Rather, his eyes were wide with terror, knowing quite well what a ceratosaur’s chances were against a pack of stegosaurs. Without another moment passing by, the horned dinosaur carried his meal away as quickly as possible, leaving the dryosaur to run back to the herd.
Thorn ran and ran, until he was certain the stegosaurs had lost his scent, and he had lost theirs. The prairie grass grew short as he climbed the steep hills toward the forests. He rested there, to catch his breath and see what remained of the sunset. Only a fraction of the sun remained, and it danced on the edge of the horizon, the very end of the world it seemed, until it faded away completely.
From the hill looking over the prairie, Thorn could see herds of numerous dinosaurs, from the stegosaurs and dryosaurs to titanic brachiosaurs off in the distance. He watched as the stegosaurs composed themselves once more, huddling down around the dryosaurs as they called it a night. The long-necked brachiosaurs in the distance, however, continued on their way, with their forms becoming little more than silhouettes against the orange sky. Thorn cocked his head, taking a moment to enjoy the view. For herbivores, such massive creatures commanded a lot of respect and awe from predators like him. The thought of killing one almost came to him as a sin.
With a blink the ceratosaurus paid close attention to his stomach as it growled. Licking at the backs of his teeth, he turned to his meal, ready to enjoy the best food he’d had in days. As he looked at it, his posture slumped. It certainly wasn’t a nice fat dinosaur, not as he had hoped. But food was food, and beggars like him couldn’t be choosers.
Before he could begin his feast, Thorn heard a swift rustling from the woods. He closed his eyes with an aggravated groan and turned. Surely it was yet another carnivore wanting a piece of his catch. Then the smell hit him. Yep, he thought, there was certainly someone there.
The forest was slow to forfeit the predator, as they were sizing Thorn up without a doubt. Could they take him? Would a struggle be worth the meal? Or would the wait be worth it? Such thoughts constantly plagued a scavenger’s mind. While the air stood still, the ceratosaurus narrowed his eyes, preparing for the worst. A deep growl began to rumble in his throat, solidifying his stance on who deserved the dryosaur.
Seconds seemed to drag on, when finally a figure began to creep out from the darkness. Like any cautious carnivore, it held its body low, and as it approached Thorn, what little light was left revealed its feathery appearance. Larger than a more common velociraptor, the deinonychus was still substantially smaller than Thorn, less than half his size in fact. But that didn’t ease his worries any less.
“Alright,” Thorn growled. “Where’s the rest of you?” He looked back to the forest. “Where are your pals hiding?” He scanned the woods back and forth, ready for other raptors to pop out and surround him. How he hated the sneaky creeps.
“Tis only me mate.” The accented raptor replied. Thorn shot his gaze back to the lone dinosaur as he laughed. “Funny thing really. Kicked me out ‘cause a me eyes they did. Couldn’t tell red from green or blue from yellow really. Whateva those are.”
“Yeah! That’s the word! Yeah, kept gettin’ me relatives wrong. And I mighta let some of me mates get run over by them longnecks. They kept tellin’ me to look for a bloody red rock in the path to follow. 'Couldn’t miss it', they said. 'It’s right there', they said. 'No! There!' They said. Well, I was a just little late gettin’ to ‘em I was. A lot late actually. And so here I am mate, little ol’ Swipe. That’s me name. I wasn’t wantin’ to infringe on ya and ya meal. I was just wantin’ the leftovers was all.” Thorn cocked his head, his eyes narrowed with suspicion and the corner of his mouth curled up.
“Heh, that has to be the worst story I’ve ever heard. Come on now, where’re the others?”
“Oh please don’t make me think of it!” Swipe cried out. He lowered his head and his long fingers covered his eyes in shame as he whimpered. “Just eat. Eat! I don’t wanna think about it!” Thorn tilted his head to the other end from the raptor’s over dramatic response. Slowly he looked over his shoulder, back to his meal, a meal he hoped so dearly to enjoy by himself, then back to the pathetic creature.
“Well…listen lad, I understand. I do. Um…well…you uh, you can join me in this meal, but only if…”
“Ah bless ya mate! Bless ya!” Swipe looked back up with a wide grin and even wider eyes. He jumped up once and tapped his large hook-like killing claws on the ground before darting toward the dryosaurus. “Ya know, ya prolly get all the gals mighty well with this generosity ya give. Give ‘n give ‘n give. That’s you huh? My, ya sure are handsome! Mista Handsome Givin’ Out Fella!”
Thorn walked over to Swipe’s side as he began to dig in, not quite mindful of his table manners. His eating even made the ceratosaurus a bit squeamish, but this was his food more than it was the raptor’s, so he’d better enjoy it. Still, he wasn’t sure just how long he’d want to be in the company with this…character. It would be best to eat and distance himself as quickly as possible, he thought.Swipe was certainly a fellow he didn’t want around for very long. Not long at all.