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Old 06-05-2015   #1
Don Chipotle
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How I Learned To Start Worrying And Love The Witch.

It's just past midday, I can tell by the position of the sun overhead. I've been out on the roads, or what pass for them in this part of the continent, for the better part of five hours now. Sure, I've a destination in mind. It's behind me, about half a day if I ride fast enough and don't run into any trouble. I never look for it. It finds me. But I'm not going that way. Not when there's a fork in the path. Not when there's a plume of smoke just o'er the horizon. No. My destination can wait. Today I ride for nothing save the feeling of the wind cooling my face.

My thoughts are with those I care for. Hidden behind an expression that seems stoic to an outsider. The scars I have run deeper than the ones visible to the naked eye. I miss them. Yet I'm not getting any closer to them down this road. World's a funny place. One hour you're heading to meet a stranger, the next thing you know you're seeking a poultice after an unlucky run in with a beast. World's a funny place.

In the middle of the road I see it. I shouldn't stop. I have no true destination in mind but I already know I'm behind schedule. I shouldn't stop. This isn't my business. Then why am I no longer moving. Why am I on foot. Why did I stop.

It's a cart. Overturned. Destroyed. Whatever cargo was inside is ruined or picked over. No sign of riders. Passengers. That doesn't seem right. Even if it's been here a couple of days there should be traces of a corpse. Blood. Bones. Something left behind. Leave it alone. Just walk away. Not my business. There it is. A trail. Faint, but present. It leads up through the brush, off the main road.

Should've walked away.

I'm following it, picking up more signs, a bigger idea of what happened to the cart. Attacked. But by whom? No. Not whom. What. The trail turns bloody. A body outside a cave. The lair of the attacker? Seems odd, then, for it to be outside the lair. Not too late. Turn back. This isn't my concern.

Step inside the cave. Not too dark. Nothing crawling around. But...breathing. Human. HumanS. Fear. They're afraid. Of me. Of what drew them into hiding. Attacked, they tell me, by a lizard. Third man didn't make it away in time. Explains the corpse. Explains the fear. Weren't any lizard did this. Wish it was. Lizards don't have those teeth.

Too late. Now I'm involved. Someone is responsible for the survivors. They're too afraid to move, to go back. Not with the lizard still around. Don't think about them. Reward. Someone has to have one for their return. Someone somewhere will be happy to see the head of the lizard. Someone had BETTER.

Deeper now. Follow the path. Towards the nest. Towards the lizard. Scamper. Clamber. Scramble. I see light. An exit. The sky is on fire. Sun going to be setting soon. How long was I on this trail? Doesn't matter. Waiting for me outside isn't just a lizard.

There are two.

Too small to be the one responsible. No less a threat.

The second is asleep. The one closest to the mouth of the cave isn't. He sees me. He hungers for me. Should've walked away. No time for regrets. Time for action. Sharp claws. Sharper teeth. It's an unmarked grave if either get me. Teeth or claw or tail. Have to keep moving. Can't let it get to me. One bite. One scratch. All it will take is one.

I'm unprepared. Why did I stop. Why did I get involved. Dodge. Left. Attack. Might as well be swinging paper for all it did. Dodge. Right. Attack. 'Lizard' in the air now. A moment to breathe. He dives. I dodge. Into the cave he goes. Perfect. Begin the attack.

Stupid.

Cornered beasts no less dangerous. The lizard is violent now. His space is cramped. He wants to fly. He wants to fly. Things with wings want to fly. He can't. He knows he's stuck. Wants to get unstuck. So he lashes out. Biting. Clawing. Shrieking. And I'm stupid. I follow in after it. He bites. I feel the saliva drip onto my arm. He swipes. I feel the gravel from the cavern rocks fall under my boots. Relentless. Violent. Anger. Desperation. Long. So long. I am not prepared. I have so little. So little everything. So little equipment. Potions. Supplies. Experience. And the lizard has much more.

Fury. The flapping of wings desperate to escape. This was a bad idea. It's about to get worse.

After hours, the lizard falls still. Dead. That's it. Leave. Just go. I'm not prepared.

Too bad.

The second stirs. Roars. Attacks. The cycle repeats, only now I'm a tired prey against a rested predator. Teeth. Talons. Tails. Think of the reward. There best be a reward. It's hours still until the second lizard falls. I'm worn out. I'm tired. I long for the warmth of a fire.

Roar.

Roar.


ROAR.


The attacker appears. That's one big lizard. Angry. And dinner has arrived.

The sky is on fire as the sun is setting. All I see is red. And scales. And teeth. So many teeth. No choice. Just killed two lizards. Just a bigger one. Meaner. Still unprepared. Sword is going to break. No food. No water. No choice.

The dance begins. Bite. Dodge. Swipe. Dodge. Attack. Attack. Atta-BITE-DODGE DAMN YOU. DODGE. DODGE!

Too close. Heart beating too fast. Can feel the hilt of my sword slipping from sweat. Calm yourself. Calm your-DODGE DAMN YOU. DODGE.

The lizard takes to the air. It owns the air. It owns the ground. It wants to fly. No time to calm down. It dives. Dodge. Swing. Your. DAMN. SWORD.

Keep swinging. Again. Dodge. Attack. No quarter. No hesitation. Hesitate and die. One is all it takes. Dodge. Attack. Again. Once more. Airborne. Eyes on it. It wants to fly. Let it fly.

When it dives, I'm ready. Attack. Attack. ATTACK.

All I can do. Nothing else. I'm unprepared. Regret stopping. How was I supposed to know? No excuses. My fault. Unprepared. Won't let that stop me. I'm a professional.

Dodge.

Swing.

Your.

Fucking.

SWORD.

The lizard roars. He flaps his wings. He wants to fly. He wants to fly. Sword is gone to shit. All I have. He wants to fly. He wants to fly so badly that he screams.


Swing.

One last roar.

He wants to fly.

He can fly in hell with his brothers.

The lizard slumps over. Dead. For the first time I exhale. Exhausted. Drained. Physically. Emotionally. I rest. I earned it. Its head my trophy. Its death my triumph. Our battle my story.

I ride into a nearby village and a worried man stops me. Asks me about friends and a cart. My answer is simple.

Have the head of a wyvern.

He can't believe it. Calls me a liar. Still pays me. He's just glad I was there to help.

As I count the crowns, I nod.

I'm glad I stopped to investigate too. We exchange no more words as I saddle up and continue on my way.

It's a big world out in front of me.


Next time I'll be prepared.




~




The Witcher 3 is fucking fantastic, you guys.
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How dreamlike to see my x-sisters, outside the context of a Papa Song dome. They sang Papa Song’s Psalm, over and over; background hydraulics underbassed that sickening melody. But how jubilant they sounded! Their Investment was paid off. The voyage to Hawaii was under way, and their new life on Xultation would shortly begin... Watching them from the hangway, I envied their certainty about the future.
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