Collab with @ERode“I’m fine,”
Isidore said as Augusta busied herself with using that healing flame of hers again. He didn’t offer too much protest after those words, however, focusing instead on the continued dissection of the creature. It stank, but the snow was plentiful, and after doing a fine enough job with butchering the hog, he stood up, kicking around the snow until he uncovered a large enough stone to use for less-direct cooking. Uprooting it carefully, the man scrubbed the surface of it with snow, before setting it close enough to the fire to begin soaking up heat. With that, he set the organs onto. The liver was slippery, but it’d be most important for himself, while the heart, pierced by a sword as it was, promised to be a hearty
treat as well. Some fat from the boar’s stomach was placed on top as well, releasing a heavy oil as it began to cook. The fire occasionally spat and sputtered when the juices flowed off the rock, but everything was looking alright, and soon enough, Isidore’s task was done.
Abruptly, he spoke. “Octavia, grown up, will be dangerous. More dangerous than the deer that guards this place.”
His eyes lifted to meet Augusta’s. “Do you think we can tame her?”
Augusta had finished up with Isidore’s healing when he started to speak about Octavia. It seemed fine so she gave a test tap to see if he reacted… Surprised. “Octavia, dangerous?” If the deer was smart enough to tell him and Donovan about the nearby settlements and to not let the mutt into the forest, it should be guessed that it might have told other things about her. How much did he actually know? That was to be determined. The elf woman met Isidore’s eyes and let her special one glow. “Yes, well. I can see things others can’t. I’m aware of what special little secret that plant left us. That said, if I can apply magic as I have been, I’m quite sure that I can do something. There are many things I would love to try. For example, perhaps there’s something akin to a familiar contract. I just need to be careful of any other surprises that might arise.”
There was a grand sense of confidence exuding from Augusta, though it might be hard to tell if it were truly an attitude of surety in herself to do as she said, or bluster. “Worst case, we get that man to cast his purification stuff on Octavia, though I’d be loath to do so. I very much do love that beast, despite her… Darker nature.”“If you’re confident, that’s fine. I trust you.”
No he didn’t. But the former statement was true, at least, and Isidore had his own form of confidence too. When everything else was equal, it was the physical range that he had that would grant him a deadly advantage over the dog, if Octavia ever bore her fangs towards them. “If you see so deep, we’ve got a demon seed. The nature of their bondage may be reproducible through our powers too.”
A tendril of fire licked out from his finger, before slowly weaving itself into a chain. “And from there, this ‘familiar contract’ is made. If Octavia is not of concern then...”
Isidore pulled the ribs out from the fire. He blew off the ashes, then tore half of it off to hand it to Augusta. “...Donovan is.”
“Yes, I was considering what to do about the demon seed inside. I thought I may be able to study it and repurpose it if possible but…” She took the food Isidore handed her and gave a testing bite. It was about as one expected. Not the most flavorful thing that she was use to with their lack of seasoning, ashes aside. “Donovan?” She asked, curious as to the man’s meaning. Realistically, she should only trust these men as far as one could throw them, but desperate times. “Please, explain. Or, are you perhaps talking of that amulet he found?” She can barely remember if she even looked at his status lately and she would do it now except for him going back into the woods.“He’s a good person,”
Isidore said, taking a bite out of his own rib. It was hot and greasy, and that was all the comfort he needed. “But too much. He’s self-sacrificing to self-destructive ends. During the encounter with the deer, he charged and attacked first, when it had nothing to do with him. After, when I told him to run, he prostrated instead, and begged for mercy.”
The man grasped the rib bone, and snapped it in half to slurp at the marrow inside. “Don’s a religious man, willing to do what he believes is right regardless of what others say. I’ve never seen someone like that. But Octavia is a devil in the making.”“Nick’s normal. You’re selfish. Both are easy to understand and work with. Don though? Righteous, driven, and inconsistent.”
He tossed those bones into the flames. “Makes one wonder, where he lived his past life.”
“I’d rather not think of me as selfish, just… looking out for my own self interest.” Augusta teased before taking a bite of her food. “And if you think Don’s anything strange, you’ve not spent much time in politics. Regardless, I think you speak the truth of it.” The woman mentioned. If what she said was true… He might not fit well into her future plans, pawn or collaborator. A pawn that can surprise you is worthless. A collaborator… Well, nothing would work out. She ate as she thought on the matter.
Soon enough, she spoke up. “Do you have thoughts on what you want to do about Don?” She was going to let the question float until she thought about how that sounded. “Or, rather perhaps I should say… Do you plan to split from him? Eventually, and not in the short term. I think you’re trustworthy enough for now, so I’m willing to go along with your ideas so long as they aren’t…” She gave a shrug, “Bad?” “Bad?”
Isidore smiled, or was that just a trick of the shadows? “Unlawful, or irrational?”
He wiped his hands on the snow, before drawing out his sword and slicing the boar’s liver into small cubes. It parted easily, and he popped the first one into his mouth, mashing it against his palate. Warm, soft, and full of iron. It’d do well, considering the blood he lost. “Eat up, Augusta. For your lost blood.”
He chewed on liver for a bit longer, staring into the flames. The meat was beginning to warm his body up again, an internal furnace that raced through his veins, from his heart to the tips of his fingers. His clothing, at least what remained after the shredding it received from the monolithic deer, began to steam, finally shedding the damp it had absorbed during the day’s work.“I’ve no intention on letting Donovan die on my behalf.”
Something was stuck between his teeth, and he sucked at it before continuing. “It would be ideal if we could part amiably.”
Isidore, though, was accustomed to settling for the unideal.
It had almost slipped her mind that she took a stab earlier in the day. If Isidore didn’t mention it, Augusta wouldn’t have thought of it. She shook her head at Isidore’s words encouraging her to eat but took his advice anyhow, biting into the hunk of meat. Eating was good. As she did so, she thought on Isidore’s words as he spoke, what few there were. “Ideals are good and fine, but ideals get you a knife in the back.” Those words seem to be from experience especially with the biting sting that seemed to be on the woman’s tongue. “Of course, not being aware of those closest to you has the same result.”
The elf went silent as she bit into the meat again. She broke off a piece and chewed it, finally swallowing it some seconds later. “As for my thoughts, if he wants to die on my
behalf, I shan’t say no. Perhaps, if that happens, I’ll make a monument for him.” Her tone indicated a joke, though it would be obvious that her real thoughts were soaking through.“Unless the men of this world are blind, there’ll be many eager to,”
Isidore replied. “Good for employment though.”
“Hmm? What do you mean?” Augusta questioned. “What about the men of this world?”“Beauty inspires self-sacrifice. More so when it’s as transcendent as yours.”
“Ehh?” This took Augusta by surprise. Perhaps more the deadpan look that was alway on his face while saying it. “Transcendent beauty? That’s a new one.” She hadn’t seen her face since coming here, so her only real thought was on her slightly above average looks from back on Earth. She could only laugh. And so she did. “Couldn’t you at least say that with a look of sincerity?”
Isidore raised a brow. “And what does sincerity look like?”
“I’ve been working in politics too long, so I don’t think I can say for sure.” Augusta smirked with a giggle. “Certainly not what you do with your face.” She teased, taking a bit more of a bite from her food.
He reached for his jaw, feeling for how his own expressions have been changed by this new body he inhabited. Indeed, one could only see others’ faults easily. “Close your eyes then,”
was Isidore’s suggestion. Can’t be affected by expressions that you couldn’t see, after all.
“That just sounds dangerous.” Augusta mentioned. “But I’ll consider something of the sort for the future.”“And our direction of travel tomorrow?”
“You mentioned non-humans.” Augusta reminded the man of what he told her earlier. “I was thinking that maybe that might be our best course of action. Mostly because I’m curious about what is out here.”“Should set off early then.”
Perhaps the question was a bit silly, now that Isidore thought about it. Both forms of civilization were southwards, after all. They’d encounter both in time. “Goddess didn’t grant us resistance to frostbite, did she?”
Augusta’s eye started to glow and she seemed to stare into empty space. Her eyes wandered like she was reading a novel. “Yes, I can guarantee that you don’t have it, at least.” “Unfortunate. Suppose self-immolation will be the way.”
Augusta gave a soft laugh as she finished off her food. “Yes, well. You can get on that if you desire. Though, this may be one of those bad ideas I mentioned earlier.” She took it as a joke, regardless of what Isidore’s face would have said. “Now, I’m fed and you’re healed and we have a plan of action. I think I’ll practice my magic a bit more. Hopefully, make my firebolts hurt a little bit more.”“Practice on that pile of wood then,”
Isidore said, tilting his head in the direction of the damp firewood. “Don’t knock yourself out.”
They had a long day tomorrow, after all.