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 Saying Grace, [Event Quest]
 Posted: Nov 29 2017, 07:06 PM


(Warning: minor gore; emotionally heavy, involves loss and grieving)

Cynthia woke from her sleep just as the dew began to form and frost over. The freezing late autumn air raised her hairs as she looked out to the wilderness. Light would come, gradually, in a few more hours. Before that happened, she had to be ready.

Amnisiad, like most of the critters of the forest, would not awaken until dawn, so Cynthia was alone, for now. She stood up slowly, shaking off her leafy bed which clung to her white clothes. She gathered her spear and her pale form softly tread away from her makeshift camp. Eventually she found a suitable place. Nestled between a boulder and the roots of a giant tree, she hid and waited with her spear at the ready. Minutes trickled by, and she half closed her eyes. Hours trickled by, and she felt like her body was turning into the unmoving stone and wood that she sat beside. She couldn't see much anyways, so her eyes closed and she listened to the silence.

Finally the sky beginning to brighten. Her eyelids snapped open when she heard a few soft rustlings. The dark sky was streaked with hints of gray, betraying the dawn and dimming the stars. Another rustling. Something was digging through the thick carpet of leaves, scraping away the layers of foliage, first the newly fallen and then the old, decaying layers.

Cynthia hardly breathed, let alone moved. Between the rustling of the leaf layers being hastily pulled apart, she could hear the footsteps of the creature, dainty and quiet. She waited as it drew closer, just a few more steps at a time. Finally, she saw it: a dark brown shape that snuck into her limited view. Its nose twitched and its long fluffy ears flopped back and forth whenever it took another hopping step. Its soft, brown fur was accented with a tuft of warm, tan wool that covered most of its lower body. The Buneary cast dark, wet eyes out towards the shadows, feeling safe near the shelter of the large tree. But it should have been watching the tree itself, to see who was already taking shelter there. As it leaned over and began pushing its little front paws into the soggy leaves, Cynthia's spear flew out of her nook, stabbing the poor creature through the neck and pinning it to the ground.

The trachea as well as the jugular were both pierced, and the Buneary tried to let out a scream but could only manage a soft cry. Vaulting out of her hiding place with assistance of the now firmly planted spear, Cynthia quickly drew her knife and cut the Pokemon's suffering as short as she could. For a moment, she stayed kneeling beside it, watching the last heave of its small chest as she gently laid her bloodied knife in the disturbed leaves beside it. She solemnly bowed her head as she silently thanked the Buneary for its life and wished it the best on its next journey.

She could finally breathe again, and she stood up, swinging her arms to stretch her cold, stiff limbs. Cynthia grasped the spear in one hand as she leaned down, placing her other hand on the body and pressing it down as she yanked her spear upwards, dislodging it from the earth and the deep puncture wound. She grabbed her knife and scooped up the back feet of her kill, lifting them with the hand not tightly wrapped around her spear. Several more stars vanished as she made her way back to her camp.

 Posted: Dec 7 2017, 05:03 PM


Amnisiad was waking up and ruffling her feathers, puffing them out to ward off the cold. She stretched her wings out, lifting them from her body briefly only to hastily draw them back in. It was too cold to be stretching out like that. Her black eyes darted around camp. Dawn had broken, and the sky was quickly becoming a pale blue. The small bird hopped from her safe little perch in the tree to the pile of leaves that Cynthia had left behind. It was already cold. She must have left quite early.

Just then, the shuffling and crunching of leaves under a strong pair of boots alerted Amnisiad to the return of Cynthia. She looked up in time to see the tall woman emerging from the brush, and peeped a light-hearted good morning. She caught sight of Cynthia's kill, and gave a gleeful chirp, "Look at that one! Wow, it's big. I bet that'll be enough for at least a full meal or two. Hah! It's fat!" Amnisiad made a prodding motion with her beak towards the deceased Pokemon's belly, full in preparation for winter. Then the bird hopped excitedly around the dead Buneary that Cynthia was still holding in her hands, and Cynthia gave a small frown.

Even though she couldn't understand the exact words, the irreverent tone and rude jab did not escape her observant eye. She turned away as she propped her spear up against a tree and moved her dagger into her now free hand. She began field dressing the Buneary, slicing away the entrails so the meat could be rapidly cooled and readied for preservation.

Amnisiad watched, uncertain about the sudden, stony silence that Cynthia was offering her. Several minutes later, Cynthia finally responded, her tone stern with disapproval, "Amnisiad... That's not a nice thing to say."

The bird blinked a few times, confused. Tentatively, she piped, "Not nice? Me? Is that what you're telling me?"

Cynthia turned a cold stare onto Amnisiad for a few seconds, before returning to her kill. She spoke as she did so, "You have to be thankful for the food you're given. I took a life, so that we might eat and live another day. Disrespecting that life is... it's not okay."

Amnisiad understood "food". She understood "thanks", "live", "day"... But disrespect was a difficult word. A difficult concept.

Cynthia saw this, and gave a thoughtful frown. She pointed accusingly towards Amnisiad. "You." She made a dismissive motion with her hand and rolled her eyes in an exaggerated show of disrespectful nonchalance. "Disrespectful." Last, Cynthia gestured towards the remnants of the Buneary. "To him." She narrowed her dark green eyes and pursed her lips, making them go pale and taut. "Bad."

Flustered, confused, and suddenly, uncontrollably haughty, Amnisiad turned away sharply, beak in the air, scoffing in a warbling voice, "That's stupid. How is that bad? I'm a predatory bird. I'm beautiful, and I'm going to be big and strong. I'm going to show no mercy. And I'm going to show no remorse." She hopped into the air and lunged at a leaf close to her feet, grasping it tightly in her sharp little talons and promptly shredding it. She hopped again, grabbing a second one and shoving her beak into it, stabbing an imaginary prey and ripping it apart with a few quick swipes of her beak. Oh how much she wished she was like Mama Bird. Someday, with Cynthia, she knew she could be.

Cynthia looked on, pained and frustrated. Amnisiad didn't seem to understand the difference between merciful and respectful. Her jaw locked, and the muscles of her face went tight and rigid as she tried to explain, "You can be fierce but grateful at the same time. Just because you are a powerful killer, and you do your best to claim victory, it doesn't mean you can't also respect your prey." Amnisiad shot a somewhat incredulous, somewhat exasperated look to her. Angrily, Cynthia turned away. She wiped the dagger clean on some leaves, shoved it into its sheath, and grabbed her spear. The wooden stick clattered noisily against the tree, her grace giving way to a blind, enraged clumsiness.

She snapped, "I'm going to look for more prey," as she stalked off into the forest with a sharp huff.

 Posted: Jan 19 2018, 12:45 AM


The sound of stone hitting stone rang through the frigid air. It smelled like winter. Huffing and puffing, a young woman toiled away with her shovel, forcing it into the cold, unforgiving ground and shoving it to the side, flinging little spurts of dirt away. She lifted the shovel and thrust it down again, but it hit another stone, and she cursed as she slammed one foot down onto one side of the back of the shovel, hoping she could find the strength needed to break through, or slide between, the little rocks that kept impeding her progress.

The shovel didn't budge. She lifted it with both arms, clasping it tightly in her gloved hands and raising it about a foot above the ground. Then she thrust it downwards with all her might. Another clang of stone on stone. She gasped as the shock ran up the stone shovel, through the wooden handle, and vibrated through the bones and tendons of her tiring arms. With a frustrated, half-strangled grunt, she lifted her shovel, poising it above the cold winter earth for a second. She viciously stabbed it into the ground, over and over again, her hot breath turning into fog before her eyes as she huffed and puffed with every weakening blow. After a minute, or perhaps two, the shovel thunked into the ground and this time it did not rise back up. Her hands were too tired to even keep a good grip on the shovel anymore, and the tool lamely leaned into the ground and to the side, evading her grasp. It came to rest leaned against the side of the hole, which was now several feet deep.

Exhausted, she slowly sank into a kneeling position by the hole she was digging. Despite the severe chill, her body was covered in sweat, and her hands were not the only thing trembling anymore. The girl's face contorted and her lips tightened as a pressure built up behind her eyes. On a closer observation, one could see that they were puffy and red. She pulled a glove off one of her hands. It took great effort to remove the thick leather, especially with neither of her hands really cooperating anymore. Her entire torso convulsed as she brought her newly bared hand up to her face, covering and pressing lightly against her eyes. The pressure in her head was building, and finally she let it out. Tears leaked from her eyes unbidden and mixed with the sweat dripping from her brow. A sharp sob escaped from her throat as she tried to breathe. Shakily, she managed to draw air into her lungs, but it left as another sobbing cry wracked her chest.

Her eyes were squeezed tight as she pulled her other glove off between soft, high-pitched breaths. She couldn't keep going. This would have to be deep enough. She twisted to her right and opened her eyes. An off-white, linen bundle laid in the frost, and she pulled it towards her, unfolding the cloth to reveal... It was a Purrloin - curled up into a tight ball of silky, dark fur. It looked exceptionally tiny, lying on the cloth, half-closed green eyes glossed over and glassy.

She lifted the bundle into her arms and cradled him against her chest, gently holding him close. She pressed her wet face into his soft fur and breathed in. He smelled like comfort, like home.

Nobody was watching, as far as she knew. So she began to talk, "Hey... We had good times, right? I remember when you would get scared and you'd hide in my room... I remember I'd keep you company. I know you used to get so scared, back when we first found you. I'm sorry for the life you had... before us. I know it must have been rough. But... I hope..." She choked up again and had to force herself to take a few deep breaths, "But I hope that I made it better. Made you know you were loved. And then, back when I was little... when I was lonely or afraid of the dark, you'd sit on my bed with me while I fell asleep..." She stroked the velvety purple ears and his small head. "Even the bad times - Even during the bad times... Remember when you stole Dada's fish? He was so mad. And then you barfed it all up in the bedroom." Half a smile rose to her face at the memory, but was quickly distorted into a grimace of pain as she clutched him tighter. She shook her head, just half an inch to each side, trying to clear it. She managed to continue her previous thought, "Even during the bad times, I loved you anyway. I always loved..." Her voice caught and she corrected herself after a shaky moment, "I will always love you." She buried her face once again into the fur of the back of his neck and she cried fullheartedly.

Minutes passed before she finally seemed to calm down. Though tears still occasionally rolled out of her eyes and down her cheeks, she was quiet except for a small sniffle now and again. She rested her grip on the Purrloin and she whispered again, "I will always love you. You will always be my baby kitten." Her hand trailed along his jutting spine. Though his coat never lost its sheen, his thin and bony structure betrayed the horrible sickness that had finally claimed his life.

She looked into his fading green eyes, and pain twinged within her heart. They had always been so bright and shiny, so beautiful and deep. She wished she had some way to describe their color. Something to compare them to. Instead, she bit her lip as she realized that, in the years to come, she wouldn't be able to remember their exact hue. It was too difficult to put into to words, and too rare and enigmatic to imagine. But they were already losing their luster. It was time to bury him.

She leaned over the hole she had dug and looked into it, but suddenly she was clutching his frail, bony body tighter than ever to her chest and a new wave of crying took her, raising into a desolate wail as she was faced with the prospect of letting him go for real. To lower him into the grave she had carved into the frosted earth, to cover him up, to truly, once and for all, never see him again, never touch him again, never smell him again. Even after holding him close to her and breathing his comforting scent in until she was gasping for air and dizzy with her uncontrolled sobbing... Even as she steeled herself once again to lean over the hole and gently, carefully lower him into the bottom of the grave, laying him down and tucking his tail in around his paws - as she did so often when he would fall asleep with it hanging loosely off the edge of his favorite purple chair that he blended so well into, except for his eyes and his small white areas - even then she found herself frozen, her hands resting on his cool-to-the-touch body as a wave of hysteria drowned out all her reason. She wanted to keep touching him. Even though he was already dead and gone, and she knew it, and he had been for at least a couple of hours, she couldn't bear the thought of breaking contact with his fur.

"I c-can't... I don't-don't want... I can't let go..." she whimpered weakly into the forest floor between keening howls of grief. Her hysterical cries silenced whatever still dared to move in the quiet, cold forest. After an eternity, but also after just a few fleeting heartbeats, she finally allowed her hand to slip off his fur and she painfully pushed herself up, first onto her hands and knees, and then slowly, resentfully, onto her feet. She swayed, lips chapped and head light, and looked back down into the grave.

"Goodbye... Berry... Thank you for all the time we had together. Thank you for-for being there for me throughout my entire childhood. I'll always love you." She picked up her shovel. After a second or two of hesitation, she hastily dug it into the pile of dirt she had dug up and dragged it into the hole. Before she could think twice about it, before she could falter, her arms were working double-time to cover his lifeless body. Once he was buried, she'd have no choice but to let him go. Right now, though... Right now, she was still struggling against the impossible desire to stop and just hold him forever.

Once all the dirt was back in place, she found one particularly large rock that she had thrown aside early. It was white, and nearly the size of her hand. Silently, she placed it atop the mound of dark brown, freshly disturbed earth. After lingering for just a few more seconds, she turned and left without a glance behind her. Berry, his beautiful green eyes, his soft fur, his ratty little tail, his adorable trilling voice, and his sweet, comforting scent, were all gone now, for real.

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