RUN WITH THE HUNTED [P] Jul 2, 2013 0:14:08 GMT -5
Post by Ray "East" Kraus on Jul 2, 2013 0:14:08 GMT -5
A brutal, sunny afternoon had bled into a hot, sweltering twilight. Even as the ferocity of the sun abated, temperature was reluctant to lower. It was a windless evening, the air thick with the heat, which showed in the glistening temple and forehead of the Fulsi. Sweat beaded at the back of his neck, and he angrily wiped it away as he came to a stop. His breath came rapidly, not out of fear but exertion, as he settled into a hollow in the rocks, straining his ears.
He could no longer hear the sound of pursuit.
East lingered there, in the alcove that the rocks offered, and the relative safety of the roar of the river. He had been chased for what seemed like hours by a group of retromorphs. He'd been separated from Emmy early on, after the two of them were sent into Nilda territory in an attempt to map it out more extensively, and count the visible signs of prey animals in the area. Their mission had been cut short when they'd been intercepted by a pair of wolves and two dogs.
East tried to convince himself to stand and keep running. Emmy had said to make it to the Fallen border, where they would find relative safety, but that was a long way off. East stifled the sound of his breath as he rolled forward on the balls of his feet. Which direction was that again, exactly?
He barely caught the sound of it--the scuff of paw-pads and claws against rock, and the heavy panting of dogs. East was up and running in a matter of seconds, shape-shifting as he shoved himself off the ground. The Asiatic cheetah hit the ground at a lazy run, not full speed (Christ, he didn't want to twist an ankle) but the sound of the dogs became distant after a few minutes, and East stumbled to a walk.
He had no idea where he was. The Nilda had his scent, and weren't about to let him get out of their territory, if they had anything to say about it. His ears flicked, and he panted heavily, ribs expanding with each breath. Think, he commanded of himself. He'd left the highlands behind in favor for a mysterious pocket of forest. He began to walk, tail swaying. He thought he was going in the right direction--northwest.
He stopped panting and began to breathe through his nose--but what the Hell was that doing here? He stopped abruptly as the scent flooded his nostrils. Smelled like Poppy, he thought, all salfiddlyfarter and... dank, underground. Carna? East's head cocked, and his tail flicked--
Bark! Bark bark bark!
He shot upright, and began to run again--towards the roar of the waterfall. He was hoping that by running upstream he might lose them, and he hit the river at a sprint, leaping to the middle of it a hundred yards or so before the drop-off. He swam against the powerful current, until he reached the other side and could slink along the bank, feeling like a drowned rat.
After a while, he broke off and made his way back through the woods. The sound of the river faded as he quickened his pace.
Quite frankly, East wouldn't have found the entrance to the cavern if he hadn't fallen into it. One second, he was stepping on solid ground. The next? Open air. The cheetah tumbled ungracefully into the opening, which was remarkably steep, and after a few painful scrapes and bangs, he sprawled out with his legs splayed outward, tense and quivering.
He had found a damn cave. Fantastic, he thought, not without sarcasm. Did the dogs know about this cave? He was annoyed at his own question. It was in their territory, for Christ's sake! But he wasn't getting anywhere above ground, and the climb out was... well, he cast a backward glance towards the fading light outside, and concluded that it would be pretty difficult to clamber out.. He shook the water from his fur and began to uncertainly make his way deeper into it. He had been told about the catacombs, and thought that there might be another exit somewhere in the woods.
The problem was that by the time he was a few yards in, he could see nothing. The pathway of the cave (it was more like a tunnel, really) twisted and winded, with various branch-offs and so on. He became lost within a matter of minutes, and no amount of backtracking revealed to him the hole he'd fallen into. The only bright-side? He couldn't hear the dogs anymore--
That smell, East caught the scent just before the ground slid out from under his front paws, and he was sent face-first down another steep incline, directly into a body. The shock of it made East shift out of reflex, so that when he hit and tried to brace himself, it was as a man with splayed fingers--grabbing at clothes and limbs instead of dirt. "The hell!" Heads banged, knees clanked, and he was pretty sure his nose was about to start bleeding. "Ow... what..."