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Pokemaniac7000

What This World Has to Offer- Story

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minespatch    75913

Cute chapter. Chester will be a good ally to them . For a second, I misread that section as the lureplant before realizing what the thing licking Webber was.:wilson_ecstatic:

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Pokemaniac7000    391
1 hour ago, minespatch said:

Cute chapter. Chester will be a good ally to them . For a second, I misread that section as the lureplant before realizing what the thing licking Webber was.:wilson_ecstatic:

XD I was shooting for a more adorable side of Webber and I'm glad it worked out at least a little. I'm thinking the next chapter will be a forum exclusive, so yay! Privileges! XP

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Intermission: Kyra's Pack

 

 

It was a beautiful day to Kyra. The trees were completely stripped of their leaves, letting the winter sky show through the branches clearly. Snow lay in drifts or blankets all across the clearing. She smelled food nearby, but her belly was full from the morning hunt and the entire pack was in a state of relaxed harmony. The ice hound rested her powerful jaw against the ground, her tail waving gently back and forth as she kept a watchful eye on her pup.

 

The pup- who was currently unnamed due to being too young to receive a name- was playing with two slightly older pups, Sizzle and Ebony. He showed no resentment to the older hounds for having names while he didn't yet. Even though they were older, he was bigger. Kyra couldn't help but see the compact muscles forming under his thick blue fur and the broadness of his shoulders as he shoved Sizzle off of him and growled playfully at her. Besides Kyra, her friend and the mother of Sizzle and Ebony was cleaning her paw. Rose paused long enough to watch the three pups at play for a few seconds before returning to cleaning her fiery red paw.

 

“He's going to be a strong hunter,” Rose praised, motioning towards Kyra's pup with her nose. “He's already bigger than my litter. He'll probably be bigger than you before he's fully grown.”

 

"He'll be just like his father," Kyra murmured, stretching before settling into a sitting position. She was leaner than the pup, built for speed like many female hounds instead of strength like males. Still, though. Females tended to be a bit bigger, and the fact that Rose's prediction about her pup being bigger than her when he grew up was probably true was a bit startling to her at first.

 

Rose gently lowered her paw, frowning at Kyra with concern in her eyes. “Do you still think about him?” She asked softly.

 

“Of course.” Ebony reared up against Sizzle, swinging her paws at her sister in hopes to get her nose. In retaliation, Kyra's pup butted Ebony in the flank and pinned her to the ground. Ebony struggled for a moment to get him off before Sizzle crashed into him and they all collapsed into a furry pile of hound- Sizzle a fire hound, Ebony a non-elemental, and her pup an ice hound. “I think about him all the time... my pup will bear his name when he gets older.”

 

“Shatter?” Rose looked thoughtfully at the unnamed pup before nodding. “It'll suit him fine...” She looked at Kyra for a moment, her eyes wide with pity, before licking her ear.

 

“I... I just don't want to lose him too.” Kyra looked at her paws. “Do you suppose he remembers his sister?”
 

“I doubt it,” Rose said heavily. “He was less than a day old when...” her voice faded off. “Kyra, it'll be alright. He'll be a powerful hunter and fighter. If he gets strong enough, he might even be able to take on Varg!”

 

The two she-hounds turned their attention to the leader of the pack, the mighty, brown-furred brute they called Varg, who had stopped near the pups to watch their game. Kyra felt sick to her stomach at the mere thought of her tiny puppy, the last connection she had with Shatter, taking on Varg. Shatter was a third Varg's size... even if my pup gets as big as his father he'll be no match for him...

 

“Oh Kyra,” Rose sighed. “I was exaggerating. I don't think he has an ambitious bone in his body. Even if he did end up challenging Varg, Varg wouldn't hurt him enough to kill him.”

 

“I just... I don't want to lose him like I lost his father.”

 

“Shatter died bravely,” Kyra's friend said sternly.

 

Suddenly, Varg raised his huge head, his ears twisting to face forward. A duo of female ice hounds, the best scouts for this weather, leaped out from the undergrowth, their fur bristling. Even if you didn't know them, it was obvious they were littermates. They had identically pointed ears and rounded eyes, although one was smaller than the other- the runt of that litter. “Varg!” The larger one, Crystal, panted. “Important news!”
 

The brown beast abandoned the pups, who had broken apart from their tussle to watch the exchange with wide, curious eyes, and slowly padded towards the sisters. Kyra's pup almost instinctively bounded over to his mother. He reared onto his haunches and pawed at Kyra's belly. She licked him on the head and lowered herself onto her side. The pup squeaked with happiness and he pummeled her belly with his wide, strong paws.

 

Varg was now standing over the two scout-hounds, his breaths appearing as clouds of steam in the frosty air. “You smell like salt,” he growled. The smaller sister, Frostbite, cowered slightly, but Crystal met his gaze boldly.

 

“We saw the Deerclops,” she explained. “And we followed it to make sure it stayed out of our territory.

 

“It was chasing the survivors!” Frostbite exclaimed, her voice high-pitched with fear. “It drove them off a cliff!”

 

“Sir, it is safe to assume that the survivors are no longer the survivors.” Crystal looked amused about the situation.

 

“There. That's one of your problems solved,” Rose commented to Kyra. “That's what they needed and deserved for killing part of our pack.” Rose fell silent for a moment, and Kyra remembered that her mate was also killed- but he was stabbed by one of the previous groups of survivors. “You don't have to worry about Varg sending mini-Shatter out on the battlefield against them.”

 

Even though there was a teasing note in the fire hound's voice, Kyra was visibly relieved. Varg stopped trying to appear intimidating. “Are you sure they're dead?” Varg grumbled.

 

"They took a plunge off of a thirty hound-length cliff into the water only an ice hound can survive. There's no way they could have survived it," Crystal promised with absolute certainty.

 

Varg nodded and turned. “Kyra!” He barked, so loudly the she-hound jumped.

 

“Uh-oh,” Rose murmured.

 

Now he made his way to stand over Kyra and her pup, examining the latter with sharp eyes. “Kyra, how old is your pup now?”

 

"Two months," Kyra responded, frowning. She knew very well that a nursing hound was nearly third-in-command in the pack, and that he wouldn't dare to lay a claw on her.

 

“How long until he's old enough to be weaned?” Varg pressed.

 

“Another month.” Kyra frowned. He wants me back on hunting. He wants to get my pup to start hunting. She flinched as she imagined the tiny pup against an entire beefalo herd. She gingerly licked him again on the head, and he looked up at her with big, trusting puppy eyes. She wrapped her entire body around him as Varg walked away, dragging his heavy paws. He won't have to do that if I have any say.

 

Nothing will ever happen to my pup.

 

No one will ever touch him.

 

She rested her muzzle on his furry forehead.

 

No one.

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Pokemaniac7000    391
1 hour ago, DragonMage156 said:

I like how we got a bit of light-heartedness in the previous chapter. And interesting side story with the hounds ^_^

 

41 minutes ago, minespatch said:

Interesting touches with humanizing the hounds. Neat introspective.

Thank you very much! ^-^ Honestly, the hound side-thing is something I've been wanting to do for awhile but I never got around to doing it in the original script. I'm glad you guys like it :)

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 19: Nightmares and Daydreams

 

 

 

WX-78's POV

 

There was ice beginning to form on the tip of my spear and in between my fingers. The hot, dry smell of the desert conflicted terribly with the icy temperature everywhere else, disallowing for any definite strategy for keeping a comfortable warmth. I snorted with impatience. Any time, now!

 

A loud rustling from the undergrowth somewhere near me alerted me that someone else had gotten tired of waiting as well. Webber broke out into the desert, claws gleaming and teeth bared as he lunged for the blue creature who, up until now, had been peacefully munching away. It let out a startled bleat, hopping away. Webber drew back, growling just loud enough for my sensors to pick up. He looked back, caught my eye, and nodded once. I nodded back. Arguments and petty rivalries could be set aside for survival, surely. Keeping low to the ground, he made a wide circle, disappearing to my vision. The goat looked up again, looking in fear of Webber's direction, before bleating again, louder this time, and fleeing straight towards me.

 

As soon as it was within range, I broke from my own cover and swung my weapon in a wide arc, cracking the beast against the side of its head. It pitched sideways, obviously dazed, and I raised my weapon again, preparing to stab it in its neck. Before I could bring it down, something shoved me aside roughly, and when I looked up again, Webber was on top of the creature, his knife buried deep in its throat. It started thrashing, but he held on, and eventually, its struggle subsided. Only then did he release it and back away, looking pleased with himself. Annoyance welled up in my chest. “WHAT WAS THAT FOR? THAT WAS GOING TO BE MY KILL.”

 

He smiled in a way that was just asking to be punched. “You weren't quick enough,” he replied calmly. “And it wouldn't stay dazed for long.” He wiped his claws off on his fur before meeting my gaze again defiantly. With a glimmer in his eye, he added, “In a few years, you might be able to be half as fast with a kill as we are.” I tried to think of something to say in response, but he cut me off before I could. “Brr! It's too cold to just be standing around arguing! Let's get this back to camp, shall we? Wilson will think we've frozen to death.”

 

“YOU SAY AS THOUGH IT WOULD BE A BAD THING,” I grumbled, but had to grudgingly admit he had a point. I pushed past him before he could even attempt to grab the slain animal and grabbed it by one of its twisted horns. Despite the chill, it felt slightly warm beneath my grasp. I gave him a glare, expecting him to protest, but he had already turned away and was walking calmly back to camp. Annoyed, I followed him. Imagine having to follow the lead of a scrawny half-bred fleshling! My mind scoffed. Oh, how far I've fallen.

 

About halfway through the forest, I dared to look up and squint through the trees. The sky was beginning to turn darker, and with it, even harsher frosts. Webber dropped behind to match my pace, tracing my gaze to the sky.

 

“It won't be long until spring,” he commented distractedly. “The air tastes less like ice, more like melted water.” He sniffed. “Smells too much like wet dog, if you ask us.”

 

“I WAS NOT PLANNING TO.”

 

He pointed at the sun, ignoring me. “The days have been getting longer. I don't think you'll like spring very much. It's very rainy. Summer will be even worse." He shivered. "The sun will be so hot, the trees won't help to protect us from the heat very much. And the days will be so long, and the nights so short, we won't even be able to rely on using the coolness of nighttime to do anything."

 

I glanced sharply at him. “YOU KNOW THIS HOW?”

 

“We've still been having dreams, you know,” he went on. “We think Wilson has been too. Nightmares are getting to both of us.” He finally looked at me, frowning slightly. “But we can never remember them when we wake up. What about you? Any strange dreams lately?”

 

“IF I DID, I WOULD NOT TELL YOU,” I snapped.

 

“Yes. Weird...” He shook his head.

 

Something caught my eye before I could reply. I turned to look at it, but it was gone. “TAKE THE CREATURE BACK TO THE CAMP AND MAKE SURE POOR WILSON DOES NOT GET SCARED. I WANT TO CHECK SOMETHING.”

 

“Also known as you're tired of being in our presence.” Webber snickered. “Alright, we get it, you're too amazing and superior. Have fun freezing to death out there while we're nice and cozy and warm by the fire.” There was a teasing note in his voice as he grabbed the goat from my grasp, but I remained silent and refused to reply. I hadn't been able to get a good look at it, but it felt important somehow. I waited until he disappeared from sight before changing course and heading towards where I saw the glint of blue light.

 

The snowbirds flew into the sky with a loud flutter of wings as they officially recognized the coming of dusk. A few braver birds tentatively flew down again to peck at the seeds still littering the ground, but otherwise, it turned almost entirely silent. I won't be long.

 

I listened intently to the area around me- I wasn't going to be caught off guard, not again. There was no way I was going to let another... fleshbag... rescue me again. It was humiliating the first time. It wouldn't happen again.

 

Eventually, the forest broke open into an almost unnaturally round clearing. The first stars were beginning to appear in the darker part of the horizon. In the center of the clearing, a ring of green mushrooms had sprouted, reaching for the sky's last remaining light, but that was far from the most interesting thing I saw.

 

The middle of the mushrooms harbored a smooth, white-streaked gray rock, just high enough to reach my knees I assumed, despite it being just too far away to tell exactly, and perched on said rock was a person. A real person, not a skeleton, not some weird and random creature, facing away from me. I found myself pausing, trying to figure out what to feel. Should I feel excited to see another living person here? Should I attack him- he could be a threat. But instead, I did the one thing I didn't want to do.

 

I did nothing.

 

I just sort of watched him.

 

He wore a brown leather tunic and a tan undershirt, even though surely the clothing wasn't thick or covering enough to protect him from the temperature or anything else for that matter. He had a mess of short brown hair on his head, and by far, the most interesting part about him was the sword. It hung at his side, glowing brightly and shedding blue light on the frost-covered ground and the figure himself, sharp and pristine.

He stiffened, and then he turned to face me.

 

His eyes.

 

They were glowing.

 

All of the instances of glowing eyes in the past hit me hard, but his weren't amber. They were blue- the same blue as his blade. I quickly looked for something to say, but before I could, the air seemed to shift and suddenly, the clearing, the mushroom ring, and the man were all gone. I was left alone, deep in the heart of the forest, with nothing but traces of sunlight to guide me. I stumbled backward, nearly tripping over myself, before turning and running as fast as I could home. I could not make sense of what I had seen, but there was a sense of dread deep in my chest.

 

Something told me that this vision, tonight, was the hint of something terrible to come.

 

And we would all be helpless to stop it.

Chapter 20: Winter Wrap-Up

 

 

 

Wilson's POV

 

He'll never be able to do it! What are you going to do about it, huh Wildumb?”

 

“That's not even a creative insult!”

 

A splash of cold snow, instantly numbing any skin it got into contact to.

 

“Fight back, you weakling!”

 

“How? With his tiny little chicken arms?”

 

Laughter.

 

A chilly wind ran through my hair, jostling me from the deepness of my thoughts. The sun had not yet to rise, but something felt different. Something about.. the air. Uncertainly, with a hint of fear and concern, I found myself looking at my immediate area, trying to figure out exactly where it was coming from. “Do you feel that, WX?” I called to the robot, half-aware as always during this time of day. He snapped from his own thoughts and turned his eyeless gaze to me.

 

“FEEL WHAT?”

 

“That crackling tension in the air...”

 

There was a pause, machinery humming softly against the silent black night before replying. “IT IS ELECTRICAL,” he said thoughtfully. “AND YET, NATURAL AT THE SAME TIME. PERHAPS LIGHTNING, OR A STORM.”

 

Thundersnow? That might be an interesting sight, although I'm not particularly fond encountering it now.

 

“I HOPE IT IS NOT,” he ended, nestling a bit more into the bark of the tree he leaned against. “BUT THE KID SPOKE OF SPRING'S ARRIVAL. MAYBE HE'S ACTUALLY CORRECT ABOUT SOMETHING FOR ONCE IN HIS LIFE.”

 

His gaze shifted slightly to the kid in question, bundled into one of the weirdest sleeping positions I had ever seen. He looked more like a heap of black fur than a person.

 

“It's been winter for what feels like way too long. I hope spring is soon.”

 

The robot said nothing, probably thinking about rain by the expression on his face.

 

The sky was beginning to turn paler, milky fingers of light stretching across the nearly black expanse. I stood, stretching, and brushed myself off. “I guess it doesn't matter. As long as we're able to get to that Goose before Spring's end.”

 

“YOU SPEAK OF KILLING THE GIANTS, YET YOU DARED NOT TO HUNT THE DEERCLOPS?” WX pointed out, standing as well.

 

“That was... different.” I grimaced. The last thing I wanted, to be honest, was to fight the Deerclops. It was infinitely more terrifying than the Bearger and, according to the book, much more powerful. Fighting the Goose first for her precious down feathers would probably be the smartest course of action.

 

I chose to ignore that after Spring and the Goose was Summer and the Dragonfly. I preferred not to think about fighting the Dragonfly.

 

Finally, a ray of light hit me in the face, bringing with it a wind that was far from bitter. I looked around, eyeing the trees around me and watching in wonder as the snow clinging to their branches all Winter began to drip off of their needles. I nearly exclaimed in excitement, but I was abruptly cut off by a rather ungraceful sound of annoyance as a cascade of droplets showered WX, sneaking into his frame and causing sparks to explode from him. He looked frustrated already.

 

Not to help matters any, the water also woke up someone that would make him even more frustrated.

 

He stretched and yawned, blinking up at the sky with a loud sniff. “Oi, smells like Spring. Is it Spring?” Webber glanced at WX, a sly smirk coming to his face. “You probably deserve that.”

 

He was returned with an intense glare, as though the robot was daring him to continue.

 

“You know, I'm rather hungry,” I intervened before they could start yet another fight. “Maybe we can go to the rabbit holes and get something to eat. Would you be alright with cleaning the animals if we hunt them, Webber?”

 

The spider boy shrugged as he stood, stretching once more. “Of course. Would hate to see one of you puke because we refuse to.”

 

I beckoned for WX to follow me, in hopes that it would distract him from the argument. It partially did, given that he still shot a few glares behind him, but credit where credit is due, he followed without verbal protest.

 

The sun had fully risen by the time we reached the savanna. The air was lighter and fresher than I ever remembered seeing it, and the distant birch forest disappeared into a sea of green. WX scanned the area before huffing. “THEY HAVE HIDDEN AWAY FOR BREEDING SEASON,” he said with a scowl, pacing to the nearest collapsed set and peering inside of it. He kicked the mound of earth at the entrance and turned to face me. “WHAT BRIGHT IDEA DO YOU HAVE NOW, SCIENTIST?”

 

“I'm thinking, I'm thinking.” I waved him away. It would really suck not being able to stock up on rabbit meat before Summer arrived, but it could prove useful as a catalyst to exploring new food sources... “Perhaps we could try the desert again?” I suggested, but he was already shaking his head.

 

“LET THE GOATS REPRODUCE. THE LAST THING WE WOULD WANT IS TO DESTROY THEIR HERD COMPLETELY.”

 

“Well, what bright ideas do you have?”

 

He pointed to the birch forest on the other side of the savanna with his spear. “NUTS, BERRIES, PIGS. ALL WOULD MAKE A SUSTAINABLE SOURCE OF FOOD.”

 

“Pigs?” I grimaced at the thought of eating a pig. Surely they would have touch and stringy meat, and the thought of eating something that was able to produce cognitive thought patterns enough to at least speak in broken English...

 

“ARE YOU AFRAID TO FIGHT THEM?”

 

“I'm afraid to eat them. It feels... wrong to.”

 

He scoffed. “THEY ARE JUST ANIMALS, WILSON. DESIGNED TO BE SLAUGHTERED AND EATEN.”

 

“Well, I'm not going to. I don't care what you eat but I'll stick to things that don't talk to me, thank you.”

 

He made a face eerily similar to one rolling their eyes. “FINE. I SUPPOSE WE CAN KILL A COUPLE OF BUZZARDS AT LEAST SO WE HAVE SOMETHING WITH SUSTENANCE.” He hoisted his spear over his shoulder. Most of the walk to the desert was in silence, except for a low grumbling noise slowly growing louder and closer.

 

And the rain started to pour.

 

WX tried so hard not to react to it, that it was almost comical. His facial expressions voiced his unspoken frustration and anger as sparks flew from him. The suffocating heat of the desert washed over us as we broke out into the wide, sandy expanse. Almost instantly, he held out his arm as a signal to stop, and pointed ahead with his other hand. “THE VOLT GOATS ARE ENRAGED.”

 

“What? Are you kidding me?” I pushed slightly past him and looked towards the herd myself. Several of them looked rabid- their blue fur was spiked up erratically and their eyes glowed with hatred. Lastly, their mouths were contorted into snarls as they apparently confronted some unknown enemy.

 

I took an alarmed step backward.

 

“I BLAME THE KID,” he decided aloud.

 

I snorted with amusement and glanced at him in the corner of my eye. “Why?” I laughed.

 

He shrugged. “NEED TO BLAME SOMEONE. ALRIGHT. THROW DOWN THE BAIT AND LET'S DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE. UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU DO NOT WANT TO, AND YOU WOULD PREFER TO STAND HERE UNTIL YOU BECOME PART OF THE DESERT. EITHER IS FINE WITH ME.”

 

I elbowed him. “Shut up you love us.” I dug through my bag and tossed a stale morsel that most likely belonged to a rabbit at one point onto the ground and waited for the vultures to take the bait.

 

 

We got home just as the sun was setting. We both dragged two limp corpses behind us, the birds' muddy feathers making small furrows in the ground as we walked. It was still raining, except now it was accompanied by periodic flashes of lightning.

 

WX's steps were beginning to falter, as though the rain was beginning to get to him.

 

“Are you okay?” I asked as I paused for him to catch up for the fourth time.

 

“I AM FINE. JUST NEED TO GET DRY,” his words sounded a bit slurred as well. I frowned in concern, but he waved it away. “I WILL BE OKAY WHEN IT STOPS RAINING.”

 

“Alright... just maki-” My words were cut off as a particularly loud lighting flash sent me tumbling to my feet, muddying my clothes and ripping the flesh of the birds I held. It looked like lightning had struck right next to me...

 

Slightly in panic, I looked up to make sure WX was alright, but he seemed unharmed. In fact, he was standing much taller than he was previously, examining his hands curiously as tiny bolts of lightning jumped across his frame. He was glowing.

 

“Are you alright!?”

 

“SYSTEM OVERLOAD...” he replied softly. “I NEVER EXPECTED THIS TO HAVE MADE IT INTO MY DESIGN.” He clenched and released his fists, as though testing them out. “I AM MORE THAN ALRIGHT.” He took a shaky step forward, as though trying to get his bearings again.

 

“Were you struck??”

 

“IT APPEARS SO.”

 

I shakily got to my feet and rested my hand on his shoulder. I could feel his entire body buzzing. “How does it feel?”

 

“INVIGORATING,” he said simply. “LIKE I COULD OUTRUN DEATH.”

 

I took a step back again, nodding. “That may come in useful.” And as if to echo my words, in the far distance, echoing through the pines, I heard the faintest noise- a loud and angry honk. I looked in the direction of it, glaring into the woods. Who knows if any of us have any other undiscovered powers or abilities. We're only getting stronger by the day.

 

Come at us, Goose. We're ready for you.

 

 

Chapter 21. Shatter

 

 

 

 

“Watch me, pup, I will show you how we hunt.” Kyra stretched luxuriously, showing off her rippling muscles as she watched her little pup hop up to her. He was growing muscular, just like his father, and she felt a hint of pride. She nodded to a fallen tree trunk that lay on the forest floor just ahead, resting slightly above the ground on a rock. His eyes followed her gaze and he tipped his head.

 

“Are we gonna hunt a tree, Mommy?” He bared his tiny teeth- clean and sharp. “Imma show my teeth and scare it into submission. Graa!” He lunged at it, but she gently reached forward and nipped his scruff before he could.

 

“Now, be patient, pup,” she purred. “Hunting is not all about scaring your prey. You must be quick and painless in killing them.”

 

“Why though, Mommy?” He worked his paws in the earth. “The food isn't hounds. Why do we have to be nice to it?”

 

“Because all living creatures are like us, little one. We just want to survive. Now, pay attention to me.” Kyra narrowed her eyes, envisioning the tree trunk as the dusty pale coat of a beefalo, before charging at full speed. Her bulk tore away at fronds and brambles until she reached it. Instead of launching herself at it, she feinted to the side and slipped under the trunk, pressing her spine against it and freeing it from its perch. It fell with a thump, and before it had time to settled she was on top of it, her teeth ripping away at bark where the beast's neck would be. Finally, she released it, panting with elation as she dipped her head to her little pup. “Now, what did you see me do?”
 

But he wasn't watching anymore. His huge eyes were traced on a butterfly, fluttering around his nose before landing on it. He sneezed, and looked back at Kyra innocently. Despite herself, she wasn't able to be mad at him. She padded towards him and nuzzled his neck fur. Oh, Shatter, I can't send him out to battle. Varg wants him ready by mid-Spring and... I don't think I have it in my heart to.

 

She licked his cheek, and turned back to their encampment. “Come on, little one, let's get you something to eat.” Like all hounds in the pack currently, her pup had the slightest hint of fat in his cheeks and flanks, but that was alright. They could hunt as much as they liked until Summer, in which the fire hounds would take over as it became too hot for any other hound to bear. She wasn't worried, though. Her friend, Rose, would likely make sure there was enough for all of the pups to have their share.

 

“Mommy?” Her puppy spoke up behind her, and she slowed down to let him catch up.

 

“Yes, little one?”

 

He paused, clawing at the ground before continuing. “What happened to my Daddy?” He asked finally, looking genuinely curious.

 

Instantly, she felt the pang of grief fresh in her chest. “What do you know about your father?” She asked gently.

 

“I know he was a big and strong hound!” He said happily. “And he was sweet and loved by everyone. But... what happened to him?” Fire lit in his eyes, something that surprised Kyra and scared her even a little bit. “Did the mean Survivors get him! I'll kill all of them!”

 

Her steps faltered a little bit, almost terrified of her own puppy. The pack is corrupting his mind... she realized suddenly, but she shook her head to drive the treacherous thought away. The thought had been appearing a lot more recently, and she couldn't help but wonder if there was a better life for him. No. The pack brings safety, and food, and shade in the Summer. Nothing can be better than that. “It wasn't the Survivors,” she corrected him gently. “It was a beefalo.” She remembered the scene clearly now, running with the wind in their fur and joy in their steps. Shatter and Kyra running side-by-side, their fur brushing as their muscles stretched and folded to the same rhythm. She had loved her mate with all of her heart, and even though she spent countless nights wondering and thinking and crying, she could never figure out what went wrong- why that time was what brought the mighty hound down.

 

It was well before her pup was born, she didn't even know that she was carrying pups at the time, but even though there had been whispers spread about her mate disappearing just before she found out she was carrying pups, she knew that they were their's. And now, the rest of the pack couldn't deny it either. No other hound had such a bulky and powerful build. She lowered her head, breathing in the chilly sent of her precious son. She loved him. She loved him with all of her heart. The pack would expect the same of him that they came to expect of Shatter. He's too tiny... he's so small... please, don't make him attack entire herds of beefalo, please don't think he can do as much as his father could. Please... I can't lose another pup.

 

“Don't we eat the beefalo, though, Mommy?” His sweet, innocent voice brought her back from her thoughts. “How did the beefalo-”

 

“I don't know,” she cut him off, just wanting to not be reminded again of how her mate fell. “But, what I do know,” she continued before he could be deflated by her dismissive tone. “Is that there's something very special I must discuss with Varg when we get back.”

 

 

“Shatter, hmm?” Varg mused, lifting his mighty head from the pool of which he drank. “A powerful name for a powerful pup, Kyra. But it would bear a weight that he might not be able to handle- do you really think he will grow up to be as strong as his father?” His beady eyes met Kyra's, thoughtfully. “Do you think it would discourage him, knowing he might not be able to fill the footsteps his name would set out for him?”

 

She lifted her chin slightly. “I am very sure, my Alpha.”

 

Varg shook his head slightly. “If you are certain, then the ceremony shall take place immediately. It's about time he's gotten a proper name.” He shook himself off before raising his head. “It is time for a pack meeting!” He barked, his voice low and smooth. Kyra stood by his side proudly, but then felt that pang of pain return. Shatter should have been on his other side. “There is a pup who has grown into his name. Pup of Kyra and Shatter, stand forward.” She saw the confusion across the face of her puppy as he stumbled out of the den after Sizzle and Ebony. He yawned, then scampered to stand at Varg's feet. Varg nodded to Kyra. “Go on.”

 

She took a step forward. “Before Shatter and I came to this pack, all we knew was hunting and an owner who cared nothing for us. We were nothing but a tool for his survival, and we got only the scraps of what we hunted. But neither of us could have expected to find such amount of love in this pack and more importantly, in each other. Shatter, if you can hear me now, I want you to know that I still love you, and I wish you were here to stand beside us now.” She dipped her head. “But I have thought long and hard on this, and I realize that you are not fully gone, but you live on in our son. Which is why I request our leader to pass on your name to our pup.”

 

“Kyra's request is a humble one,” Varg rumbled. “And I accept. From this moment on, this nameless pup shall no longer be nameless. In its place, I pass you the name of Shatter, so that your father's legacy shall not go unremembered.”

 

She could see the shock and excitement flashing over the newly named Shatter's face, as though he couldn't believe that he had a name now. He didn't move or speak, but finally, he broke away and buried his face in Kyra's chest, laughing and crying at the same time. She touched her nose to his head. “You earned it, little one.”

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minespatch    75913

Wx is still frustrated as usual, good chapters. The side story with Shatter brings me back to Animal Farm by George Orwell. Hoping to see more chapters.

 

I concur with Mage, been a while.:wilson_smile:

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 22: Duck Duck Goose

 

Webber's POV

The sky was clear for the first time in days, thankfully enough. The constant rain was, in all honesty, driving us insane. The rain brought one good thing though- perfect opportunities to mess with WX as he was rendered practically useless by it unless he was struck by lightning, an occurrence that had happened only once that we knew of, that being when he and Wilson had gone out hunting.

We were all together now, trekking through the slightly less familiar forests outside of our typical pathways and places of interest. We lagged behind the other two, our whiskers twitching with concentration as we listened and scented for any change in the air. We were learning the ins and outs of this new world, no longer were any of us left completely victim to its twists and turns. A new, fresher breeze brought a new scent to our nose, and we paused, growling softly to tell the others to do the same. It was faintly similar to the smell of vultures or crows, but with a musky tang we couldn't recognize. Wilson saw our confused look and looked around. "What's wrong?"

“Dunno... we smell something we're not familiar with.” A thought came to us. “Maybe it's the Goose? Should we follow it?”

“What do you two think?”

WX shrugged. “THAT IS OUR FINAL GOAL, IS IT NOT?”

“We're ready for a fight.” We rolled our shoulders. This would be our first step to killing the giants. This is what we had been preparing for since the fateful encounter telling us what we had to do. “We've been ready for a fight.” No more sitting and watching and waiting.

"Alright, lead the way then." Wilson nodded to us, and we obliged, taking the head and following the scent of the Goose. There was the sensation of tingling in the air that grew more intense as the scent grew stronger, like lightning arriving on the horizon.

The cover of the forest broke out into the frog-infested grassland, but almost the entire valley was haunted by the shadow of a larger being.

We could see her, standing on the crest of the hill. The sun was behind her at this point, making her form nothing but a mere silhouette. Wilson brought in a sharp gasp of air and WX took a step back. She was bigger than we could've imagined.

“Alright, here's the plan.” Wilson seemed to snap out of his stupor and lowered his voice. “There's three of us and one of her. She has strength and size over us, but we have numbers and speed. We need to disorient her, make sure she can't hit any of us.” He nodded at WX. “You're the heaviest hitter of any of us, and you can take the most hits. Think you can try to bring her down? If you focus enough on her legs she'll have to fall, and then we can get to her neck and head.” The robot nodded, focusing on the titanic shape on the hill. “Webber, you're the fastest. Try to keep her attention away from WX, and try to hit and dodge as much as you can. WX might be able to tank her, but you're fast enough to kite her. Got it?”

“Sounds easy enough.” We cracked our knuckles. Our blood was boiling like it hadn't for years- the readiness for battle that we had not felt since forcing ourself to act more civilized.

It felt... good. Addicting, almost. Our senses felt heightened, and we could almost smell the warm salt of the blood running through the massive creature's body. It took us a long moment to realize we were panting, and our face had been twisted into a snarl. It took us a moment even longer to realize that Wilson was giving us a concerned look, but we waved him off before he could say anything. He didn't need to know about this craving for battle, one of the few primitives things left from our other half. Wilson looked unconvinced, but he apparently chose not to protest. Instead, he merely motioned for WX and me to flank the monster. Slightly grateful, but refusing to admit it, we dropped onto a quadrupedal stance to approach it near-silently.

The Goose was milling around peacefully, hopping around in useless circles as if patrolling- or maybe, she's just too stupid to have any idea of what she's doing. Her bulk made the very earth shake, and we could see glimpses of reflected metal as WX was understandably tossed slightly out of his shelter, probably tripping from the vibrations. We, however, were unaffected, easily keeping steady even as the world shook around us.

Her head turned to the side.

She had seen something.

Her body turned as if she were looking at something behind her, and, as if we shared the same mind, we both slunk out of our cover. We could see the egg now, huge and gray with lightning sparking from it.

She honked in surprise as we reached her first, brandishing our weapon. We leaped and channeled all of our power into thrusting it into her leg. The smooth black skin split and her honk turned to rage. She kicked us away, the spear still embedded firmly in her skin, then raised her injured leg to stomp us into the ground.

WX got there first. His own spear held firmly in his grip, he was at our side in an instant, pressing the flat end of the spear into the ground with the sharp end sticking up. The inertia of her stomp was too great for her to stop in time, before impaling her own foot on the weapon. WX let out a grunt of satisfaction as she reared back. Both spears fell to the ground, and the blood flow from both had already been staunched.

She paused for a moment as if unsure as to which of her pesky targets to hit first. Her gaze landed on us, perhaps realizing that we were smaller and therefore had less defense against an attack. Satisfaction filled our chest as we figured that she probably suspected that we were just any child or easily smashable spider. The Goose let out what we assumed to be a battle cry, her wings flashing out as pure and primal rage twisted her beak into a snarl. She dipped her long neck down and bucked with her horns. For the most part, she missed, but the air from the force of the attack still swept us off of our feet. Her muscles rippled under the feathers of her body as she tried yet again to crush us into the ground.

We saved ourself this time, rolling out of the way of her attack while grabbing our weapon as we did so. WX had his weapon now, as well. He looked frustrated, but he attacked again nonetheless. His spear buried into the flesh just above her foot, deep enough that the sharpened end protruded from the opposite side of her leg. She didn't seem to notice, her gaze transfixed on us.

She reared back again, but this time her battle cry was caught off by someone else's.

"Go for the eyes!" Wilson shouted, his gray eyes alight with a fire we had never seen from the docile scientist before. In his grasp was not a spear, but instead, a weapon we were hardly familiar with- a glowing blue morning star. He heaved the weapon up, looking slightly strained, and swung at the same place that WX's spear was still embedded in. There was true anger in her honk now. We won't be able to do anything to her as long as we're only able to reach her legs. Luckily for them, we know what we're doing. Her attention temporarily focused on Wilson and WX, we disappeared into one of the many trees surrounding the Goose's nest. We scooted up the tree like a squirrel and stuck our head out of the newly growing leaves. The scent of springtime growth was almost enough to override the overpowering smell of bird meat, so powerful it was nearly dizzying.

Shaking our head vigorously, we reached the top of the tree and looked out. She had not seemed to notice our absence, too busy with focusing on Wilson and WX to care that we had disappeared. She wasn't very close, but it was close enough. Bunching our muscles, and taking a deep breath, we unsheathed our claws and lunged at her.

Her eyes caught ours in mid-air. A single, high-pitched noise erupted from her throat.

We were unable to dodge as she flicked her head to the side and knocked us out of the air, her horns hit our rib cage hard enough that we could almost swear that we heard something crack. For a split moment, we were almost certain that we were going to black out. It was terrifying, being flung through the air like a ragdoll.

Perhaps this was the reason we managed to stay conscious. Awareness spread through our limbs suddenly, and we managed to roll in mid-air to land neatly on all fours again. We were still intact.

But the failed attempt at a better fighting angle hadn't done anything to relax our mood. Letting out a snarl that rumbled deep in our chest and throat, we grabbed our weapon once more and rejoined the fight.

“Let me fight.”

No. You won't be careful enough to avoid collateral damage.

“I've always been a better fighter than you.”

I don't trust you. Stop distracting me. We shook our head furiously, trying to clear the webs from our thoughts. We were moving again before we even realized it, throwing up clots of dirt as our claws dug into the ground, with our spear being held in our mouth. We pushed past WX, who was viciously stabbing whatever he could reach of her, anger and determination burning in his eyeless gaze, and took a flying leap. Our claws pricked into the Goose's skin, allowing us to climb up her body almost as easily as we had climbed the tree.

She shook her whole body, probably trying to shake us off, but we clung to her feathers like a burr.

"Webber! Are you stupid?!" Wilson shouted from the ground. We, naturally, completely ignored him. We shifted our spear to our hand, clinging on with all other limbs, and stabbed the sharpened end into her neck. Warm blood bathed our claws, the smell of salt and sweetness overwhelming all other senses. It awakened a primal instinct in our mind, the pure feeling of power and approaching death sending us just inches away from falling into a pit of never-ending rage and bloodlust.

The beast gave a massive shudder, abruptly halting our descent into the blood-driven insanity. She contorted her neck almost unnaturally and threw us off with her beak. Too dazed by our outburst to do anything else, we hit the ground heavily on our side. All of the air in our lungs was lost, but we were pretty sure we weren't hurt that badly. The ground heaved again as the Goose collapsed, blood pumping from her neck wound.

We took a startled step back, blinking several times to clear it. Where did that feeling come from? And there was the Goose, still bleeding into the dirt... our claws shook slightly. Had we done that?

WX, however, didn't seem to be affected by it at all. The second the monster hit the ground, he was moving, his spear poised to strike. There was a sharp sense of guilt, almost enough to force us to call him off, but even if we were to do so, by the time we decided it, he was already sinking the sharp end into her long neck.

The sound erupting from the beast tore heartstrings as if she was truly in pure agony, but WX's grim expression stayed firm as he twisted the weapon, before yanking it out of the wound. Her body quivered as if trying to recover, but that didn't mean that it would help. There was too much blood- one of us, either WX or I, had punctured the artery that ran through her neck. She let out another soft honk, her eyes- were they always brown, or had we just never paid attention before?- drifting to the nest that she had fought so hard to protect. The egg had cracked at the top, but there was no way the moslings could survive without their mother for long.

We had won.

But it didn't feel like we did.

Had this enormous giant only been protecting its nest? Was there really no other reason for killing it, than for our own escape? What made our survival more important than this bird's?

Without a word, we inched closer to the Goose. Her breaths were short and shallow, but we knew there was no way she would get up again. This is wrong. She shouldn't be left to slowly die again. We raised our own weapon, our entire upper body shaking, and we thrust it into the spot right where her neck met her beak.

The beast sighed and disappeared into the ground. We didn't feel like puzzling over this fact, simply because there were other things on our mind. You're going soft, feeling pity for the things you're supposed to kill. What's next, crying over a rabbit? We got to one knee, closing our eyes and letting out a long sigh.

However, we were shaken back into the present world by the touch of a hand on our shoulder. We glanced up, meeting Wilson's worried gray gaze. “Are you okay? That was a pretty bad fall.”

“HE HAS SURVIVED WORSE,” WX mused, sounding to be the only of us that was not shaken. He simply bent down, touching one of the pools of blood and examining the red substance on his finger, before making his way closer to the egg. “HOW ARE WE TO GO ABOUT THIS?”

Wilson took a few steps forward as if planning to stand beside WX, but we stopped him, simply pointing at the widening cracks in the egg. "We're not done."

At first glance, the moslings looked kind of cute. The first one poked its head out of the very top, its entire body was covered in ruffled feathers, sticking out oddly like they had been rubbed furiously with a balloon. Their beaks were bluish in color, and their eyes were huge and innocent. The first one hopped out, making an odd caterwauling noise as if searching for its mother. It turned its head the other way to look at us from its other eye. In the corner of our eyes, we saw WX get once more into his battle stance, and Wilson's brow furrowed in concentration and worry. The mosling inched its way closer to us, still making that odd honking sound.

It must've taken a second to realize it, but it was finally beginning to realize that something was off- that something was missing.

And of course, it realized almost instantly that these strange intruders near its nest were the cause of this odd occurrence. It flung its wings out almost threateningly, its feathers bushing out until it appeared twice its size. The light of the now-setting sun caught on its yellow feathers, bathing them in a reddish color- like it's soaked in blood. Three more of its siblings tumbled out, and the egg shattered into pieces. Electricity fizzed in the air, so heavy that we could hear the static building in the world around us. Wilson's hair turned slightly more insane than usual, and we could feel our own fur bush out in response.

Then, without warning, without a cloud in the sky or a raindrop in the air, lightning cracked through the sky. WX turned his own gaze upwards, and we could see the faint glimmer of hunger glowing in his eyeless sockets, like a craving that needed satisfied. The wind whipped up around us, and all at once, as if on command, all four goslings lunged at us. Lightning struck again, hitting the ground just a couple feet away from us. We took a second to be glad that WX and Wilson would be too busy focusing on the fight to jest at our awkwardly standing fur. We were certain that we looked faintly similar to a deranged, lopsided catcoon. The first mosling landed on us- light and surprisingly soft to the touch despite the crackle of energy that fizzed between us, and its beak instantly clamped around our throat. We could feel the teeth lining the beak of the creature, hidden from sight, but harmful all the same.

Instincts kicked in the second we felt those teeth graze against the sensitive tendons in our throat, and we dropped into a roll. There were a muffled cracking noise and a squawk of protest. Snorting with satisfaction, our claws slid out and impaled the mosling's fragile body, earning a much louder screech of pain as they tore through its skin. Tearing the bird away from our throat we threw it to the ground. This time, the scent of blood and the feeling of ripping flesh startled us slightly, almost making us feel sick. We shook our head furiously, unable to drive the thoughts away, and pounced back onto the mosling we had thrown. Just as we were about to make a killing blow, something landed on our back. It wasn't heavy, but its talons were sharp enough to drive the breath from our lungs.

Lightning cracked again.

This time, however, it was accompanied by the mosling on our back being torn away with surprising strength. Still pinning our opponent into the ground, we looked up just in time to see the target of the lightning strike. WX wasted no time in stabbing the mosling from the head down, driving it straight into the ground beneath it, before raising his weapon and kicking it off. Whether or not it was dead yet, he raised one foot and stomped it into the ground with a sickening crack. The electricity that sparked in the air took a solid form on his frame, tiny bolts of lightning like static flashes jumped between his limbs as he raised his head once more, flipping his spear around and cracking the second mosling across the head.

Wilson didn't quite have his adversary under control. It was the biggest of the four, striking at him before dancing away in a mesmerizing pattern, like a ballad dancer getting all of its moves just right. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he swung out with his morning star, but the bird simply danced and dodged around the futile attacks to hit it. Growling deep in our throat, we wrapped our claws around the neck of the mosling, for just half a second feeling the fragility of the bones in its body, before snapping its neck with a quick flick of our wrist. We left this one to rot, barreling towards the beast that Wilson was fighting and hitting it from behind. Unlike the first we fought, this one was able to throw us off easily, but at least it threw off the careful and graceful movements it had been using to torment Wilson.

WX was at our side as well, reaching our aid in only two bounds, and ditching his spear in favor of brute strength. In almost perfect synchronization, Wilson swung his weapon in a wide arc, cracking the mosling in the side of the face; WX put all the power of his own strength plus the overcharge from the lightning strike behind a final blow, and our claws dug into creature's throat.

It didn't even have time to lash out. It was a quick, but certainly not bloodless, death.

We ripped our claws away, taking several stumbling steps back. We were panting again, shaking very slightly at the tips of our whiskers. Wilson and WX stepped away from the fallen mosling as well, the latter looking for all the world like he wanted to punch it again, just to be sure.

The sun had fallen by now, but the light of dusk was not totally gone just yet. Wilson walked numbly towards the destroyed nest, lifting up a sizable chunk of the egg that was about the size of our head. He turned back to us, seeming too out of breath to say anything, holding the eggshell out questioningly. His gaze swept over us, and he took an alarmed step back, fear flashing in his eyes before he shook it off.

He's afraid of us? How intriguing. I wonder why...

It wasn't until we turned away that we realized our claws were fully unsheathed, digging deeply into our palm, making blood drip... drip... drip... onto the ground beneath us.

 

 

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 23: Bloodshed

 

Wilson's POV

Scared would typically be the last thing I would describe my emotions, standing face-to-face with a seven-year-old that I had just fought a fifty-foot-tall Goose monster with.

In fact, I was pretty sure that had I thought about it before this whole mess started, I would've thought I was going insane. I wiped the sweat off of my forehead, partially formed from stress and partially from just overworking myself, and took a step back. I was shaking, I realized, probably from the fact that my friends and I had just taken on a fifty-foot-tall Goose monster and won. I had intensely mixed feelings of Oh my God did we just do that?! And We could've died and WE BEAT ONE OF THE GIANTS HOLY MOTHER OF SCIENCE. WX seemed to be satisfied with himself, crossing his arms with none of the energy or fear or guilt that I was sure Webber and I shared.

This battle did something to Webber. I couldn't tell exactly what it was, and I couldn't be sure of what it was I was seeing, but I knew one thing for sure.

There had been something else fighting with him. It wasn't something I had seen or something I heard, it was something that I just acknowledged and felt. It was something that was far beyond the forces of science to be able to comprehend. It wasn't good, it wasn't benign. There was something it wanted.

The first person to break the silence was the boy himself. He shook his entire body- not unlike a cat- and looked up to meet my eyes. “She wasn't evil,” he said at length. His voice was small and timid, more like the little boy he truly was instead of the fierce facade he managed. “Did you see the way she looked at her nest? She just wanted to protect her babies...”

He was echoing my own thoughts. I turned the shell over in my hands, feeling the unnaturally smooth surface brushing against the scrapes I had earned on my hands after using them to keep myself falling face-first into the dirt. Sure, to my little group, we had perfectly good reasons to be killing her, but did she realize this? I was gathering my thoughts to give him a reply, but WX was the first to jump into the conversation.

Apparently, a more WX-like fashion to replying to someone was to walk up behind him and backhand him heartily. “ANIMALS ARE STUPID,” he huffed. “IT PROBABLY DID NOT EVEN REALIZE IT WAS FIGHTING SOMETHING. THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY SORT OF THOUGHT PROCESS.”

“No, not it. Her.” I bent down, feeling the carefully created nest that the egg had been protected in. With her great size, how long had it taken her to construct this? It was so small... especially to be housing such a monstrous creature. “And, to be fair, WX, that way of thinking could be easily said both ways. Have you ever thought your own thoughts, or have you just always followed the thoughts programmed into you by a human?”

Did he turn his head, only slightly, to glance at Webber as I asked that?

“IN MY DEFENSE, I WAS HAND-CREATED BY THE MOST POWERFUL DIETY TO EXIST.” He tipped his head arrogantly. “YOU SHOULD FEEL BLESSED TO BE IN MY PRESENCE.”

I felt a smile try to force its way onto my lips, but the back of my mind still rambled about how the robot could possibly function. I felt my fingers twitch, wishing nothing more than to have a pencil and paper right now. Could WX feel anything other than what he was programmed to feel? Was there any way for me ever to figure this out?

I shook my head. Focus, Wilson! I turned away from WX and clapped a single time, pushing my worries about morality and personal ethics and everything in between to the back of my mind. I let the smile that came with knowing that we had just taken the first step to our freedom crack through. “Do you understand what this means? We're a fifth of the way done with this, guys!”

“I CANNOT WAIT TO BE DONE WITH DEALING WITH THE LIKES OF YOU.”

I was about ninety-nine percent sure that he was just saying stuff to act big and tough. However, I decided not to bring this up to him, in favor of keeping the bones in my lower jaw intact.

Webber gave the shard in our hand a dubious glance. "Are you sure that's good enough?" His 'whiskers' were twitching, but I couldn't tell if it was nervousness, amusement, or fear. His voice lowered. "Are you sure we don't have to do that again?" He sounded distant, his gaze glazing over and his claws curling again. A shiver ran down my spine. I had never seen him more spider than human, but that look in his eyes when he stabbed the Goose in the nest, the blood staining his black fur...

“IS OUR PLAN TO STAND HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND WAIT FOR THE NIGHT MONSTER TO CATCH US?” WX scoffed, holding out his arms, indicating the powerful glow coming from his body from the lightning that had struck him. I felt a pang of jealousy- when was I going to show up with awesome powers that rip someone's throat open or bash a mosling's head in with a single swing- but then I instantly felt fear spawning from these thoughts. Where had that come from? “I CAN ONLY STAY THIS WAY FOR SO LONG, YOU KNOW.”

"Right," I forced myself to say between my thoughts and worries. I had time to worry later when Webber was asleep and WX was in his nightly trance that he seemed to force himself into despite his inability to sleep. Now was the time for optimism. I hoisted the morning star over my shoulder, decidedly not nearly falling back due to the weight, and held the shell closely to my chest, trying not to crack it any further. "Safety first. Come on, Webber." I waited for him to break himself out of whatever state of half-consciousness he was in and follow me. He matched my steps, looking quite like he wanted to say something, but also looking too nervous to say whatever was on his mind. It was so weird.

As soon as I saw our base appear between the thickly placed trees, I was hit with a powerful surge of exhaustion. It felt like we had only been fighting the Goose for an hour at most, but apparently, it had been the entirety of the day. I chose to ignore this in favor of collapsing on the ground next to the unlit fire. I was way too tired to want to light it. I heard WX let out an audible groan of annoyance before starting to do so himself. By the time his system overcharge had worn off, the fire was large enough to chase away the monsters in the night. Take that Mom, Dad came those thoughts that I suppressed so hard. The thoughts that I buried beneath observations and theories and concerns during the day- they always came back out at night. Right on that borderline edge between awake and asleep, just a couple of them would leak through. I told you I could be strong.

I told you I wasn't useless.

I was running through a maze. How long had I been wandering through this twisting and turning labyrinth? I couldn't remember. High walls surrounded me on all sides, threatening to trap me forever in stone and marble.

My eyes were dazzled by a flash of light in front of me- a bright, dancing orange light, that threw orange spots in my vision until I got used to the lightning. The fire was burning on top of two pillars, with no rhyme nor reason as to how they continued to burn. I puzzled over this phenomenon, frowning at these pillars until my eyes hurt.

Which is probably why it took me so long to see the creature that was standing just on the edge of the shadows cast by the fire. I recognized it- the tall, slim figure that had sent me and my group on the quest to kill the giants in the first place. It was still cloaked in shadows, probably the reason why it was standing in the darkness instead of the light just paces in front of it. I was kind of afraid of what it would look like in the light anyway.

One down, scientist. Four more to go,” it said in that weird, warping voice of its. It rose its clawed hand, tiny black flames that gave off no light flickering at their tips. With the slightest flick of its wrist, one of these flames sputtered out.

I stepped forward, shivering at the unnatural way my shoes clicked against the floor, and it continued speaking.

Your next fight will be the hardest." It gave me a scrutinizing glance as if it didn't quite believe I was cut out to be fighting. "But I assume you already know this.

I took a deep breath. “Summer. The Dragonfly. Two tons of pure muscles and scales and fire. With claws that can impale even the strongest of hides.”

It's a shame the fight has to be so soon. If it were just the two of you, you could easily last long enough to fight it after you've had more experience. You two are strong, but I know one of you... who isn't.” It shook its head, making a clicking noise with its tongue. “Keep your eyes peeled, scientist. Not everything here is as it seems...

I was thrown out of the dream rather violently. Cold sweat dotted my face and back, but the heat from the fire and the soon-to-be-rising sun was already beginning to dispel the fear I had felt in facing that creature. Why did I fear it so much? It didn't seem particularly evil in any fashion, and it certainly had done nothing but helped us so far.

But there was something I couldn't shake off. Some underlying fear of it that made me cautious of its mere existence. It was hard to explain, but just being near it felt like I was standing near a tear in the fabric of space-time, something that should not- and should never- exist. I should probably be waking up now anyway, I thought blandly. But I barely got any sleep... I glanced quickly at Webber, who was only a foot or two away from me, curled into his typical ball and snoring softly. He didn't seem like he was going to wake up soon anyway... Shrugging my shoulders, I let myself fall back asleep.

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minespatch    75913

It's been a while since I read a chapter of your story, but still consistant growth of the plot and more secrets being unearthed. Something tells me the clicking creature is one of those thulians featured in the Metheus puzzle.

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 24: Guilt

 

 

WX-78's POV

 

The sky was stained pink and red and orange with the rise of the sun. All night, while the others slept, I had watched the sky. Sometimes, counting the stars, but most often just letting my mind wander. Wilson had seemed happy, but also uncomfortable, at the fact that we had killed the Goose, but I couldn't tell what Webber felt. Every time I had looked at him there had been a different expression on his face. Grief one time, glee another, shock, then fear, then guilt, then excitement. I hated to think about it, but I had felt truly overjoyed at seeing the beast fall. Some part of me that I was trying desperately (and more often than not failing) to salvage hated it simply for being a living, breathing creature. So what if it had a nest to take care of? If we had let those moslings live, they would've grown up to be just as much trouble as their mother. Another part of me, that was decidedly my own thoughts, so take that Wilson, wondered if I should be more sad about it. However, even if I tried, I couldn't muster any guilt for it.

The beast had deserved to die. It was more trouble than it was worth. If we had not killed it, it would've killed us. It was simply the circle of life. The new day reminded me that I was, in fact, existing. I shook my head, only slightly, before turning my gaze disdainfully to the other two of my group. They were still asleep, of course. Weak. But the thought wasn't as scornful as it usually was. Of course, they were going to be exhausted. It was not their fault. It was the fault of their weak, fleshy and far too easy to harm bodies.

What if one of us had died in that battle? Could the other two make it out without them? If I had died, could they make it without my brute strength? Could Wilson and I make it without Webber's... whatever he contributed to the group? Of course, I mentally added. I could make it by myself.

But was that entirely true? All of us had suffered painfully for our arrogance in the winter.

Stop. Stop doubting yourself. That was a single case. An unlucky one, at that.

The rising sun caught the fragment of the Goose's egg, glinting like a tiny sun. Wilson had been clutching it to his chest when he had fallen asleep, but his grip had, by now, loosened enough to where it fell onto the dirt beside him. I hesitated, then slowly began to inch closer to them. I had not touched it since Wilson had retrieved in, primarily due to my lack of caring about it beforehand. I retrieved it, studying it closely and holding it up into the light. To my surprise, it was not just a solid color. Small fragments of something black and green glittered in the pale blue surface, looking quite like distant stars in the midnight sky.

I frowned, just a little. There were so few stars in this world, even on the clearest of nights. Where did I see that...?

Instinctively, I looked up at the brightening sky. There were many things that the old sky held that this one didn't. For one, I had a very faint, vague memory of clouds that appeared in light fluffs. Here, the sky was either clear and sunny or mostly covered in thick, foreboding gray clouds.

Sometimes, it was hard for me to realize that I had only been built in the past four or five years and that the time to form new memories was short. We had not even been in this world for an incredibly long time, but already my memories of our home world were beginning to fade. I looked back to the other two members of my group. Wilson never talked about a family or friends, yet he seemed to fancy escape just as much as I did. He never really spoke of how he got here; He tended to focus on what was happening and what needed to be done at the current moment.

Webber was an enigma. The way he threw himself into the brunt of the action, always eager to strike the first blow, to spill first blood, was oftentimes useful for our gain. Yet, he almost never spoke of freedom. It was easy for me to forget how young he was, despite the fact that he was the smallest of all of us. He was a magnet for trouble, of course, the most likely to shatter his legs or get pushed into the ocean in the middle of winter or literally any other stupid thing, but he also didn't show the same passion that Wilson and I shared to escape.

A soft, almost-but-not-quite barking sound jogged me from my thoughts. My gaze rested on Chester, the sentient pumpkin-creature had idly hopped up to me, and now it panted expectantly like I was the most likely candidate to give it a rub or a pat. I stared at it with disdain. I had my misgivings about keeping the little creature, but truthfully enough it was fairly easy to ignore, or even forget about. In fact, the only times I ever really saw it was when it had bounced out of the shadows to rest by the fire. Despite the fact that we held the item that summoned it, it rarely showed up. Good. It had better stay that way.

I didn't plan on giving it the pet that it obviously wanted. I looked up at the rising sun, letting out a quiet, static sigh. My team would be waking soon.

I stopped.

My team? Did I think of them like that now? Sure, I greatly appreciated their help at times, not that I would ever tell them, but did we truly work as a team? I had always pictured a team working like cogs in a machine, linking and moving and humming and working together, all the time, to make something greater. We fought, we argued- we were nothing alike. We even let our arrogance split us apart at one of the roughest times of the year.

Despite this, we had killed the Goose. Despite all of our pettiness and grudges, we had set that all aside in the heat of battle. I closed my eyes, leaning my head back and letting the sound of the early morning birds chirping and squawking as they flew down to the ground and searched for seeds to eat.

Intermission: Kyra's Pack

Kyra and Shatter padded side-by-side in the back of a hunting party. Her pup bounded beside her, his little pink tongue hanging out from the side of his mouth. "Where're we goin', mamma?" The newly named ice hound chirped in question, looking up cheerfully at Kyra's face. She gave him an affectionate lick on the side of his face. He was growing big, but he was still as eager as a tiny puppy. This would be his very first hunting mission- it wasn't anything dangerous, Varg would never send a warrior-in-training on a mission that could take his or her life before they were fully grown, just an expedition out to the rabbit holes, but she still worried deeply for him and his safety.

Shatter- the original Shatter- had died before the survivors had become prevalent to the pack. Sometimes, Kyra had heard Varg mention that this was a shame for multiple reasons, not just because an expectant mother had lost her mate, but also because if anyone could take on a group of survivors and win, it was Shatter. She knew very well that this is what his plans were for her pup. This was merely a trial run. If he did well here, then Varg would know he was almost old enough for a proper hunting party.

She wasn't sure if Varg would wait until he was at least fully grown before sending him against the survivors.

He wouldn't be that inane, she hoped. Sending a small pup against the survivors? Not even Varg would expect that to work well. Her nose twitched as she caught the powerful scent of rabbit meat. Sizzle, the fire hound pup, hung back for a moment to walk beside Shatter. “Are you excited for your first hunting mission?” Her voice was kind and soft, easily the gentler of the siblings. Then again, compared to the ever-rowdy Ebony, perhaps that wasn't a hard title to gain.

“Am I ever!” Shatter exclaimed, hopping between his feet. His icy blue fur was practically glowing in the sunlight, as were his wide, silver eyes.

“Hush,” Hailstorm hissed. The ice hound was leading the party, his fur brushed out slightly as the smell of meat washed over them all. “Take your positions. I want each of you to lead your prey into Shatter's paws. The success of this hunt will determine young Shatter's place in the rankings.”

“What about me, sir?” Kyra stepped forward, beside her pup. Shatter was quivering with excitement, his paws eagerly kneading the ground in anticipation.

“Take his back,” Hailstorm instructed. “We can't fail a hunt just to train a pup. Try to catch any rabbits that he misses. Alright, pack, positions!” He let out a short, quiet bark, and at once, the entire party split into different directions. Shatter flattened his body to the ground, whining excitedly. She could see black and blue shapes moving among the grass. A singular red-tinted one slunk beside a black-furred hound as Sizzle followed \her own instructions. There were few rabbits still about due to the season, but a small handful of them had dug free of their burrows to store more food to last the spring. They moved as one, a full force rather than its separate parts. When they broke free of their carefully created circle, they all ran together, quickly eliminating all escape routes that could possibly be used by their prey.

Shatter worked surprisingly well considering his young age. He was fast on his feet as the first rabbit plowed its way to him. Kyra held her breath as he leaped, pinning down the rabbit solidly and biting its scruff, growling. Another rabbit swerved past him and straight into Kyra's jaws. He released the rabbit he had and clamped his teeth around its neck.

“That's all!” A sturdy, female hound shouted. She had a dead rabbit at her feet.

“Excellent job!” Hailstorm called. “Varg will be pleased!”

Shatter dropped onto his haunches, his tongue sticking out of his mouth. “Did I do good, momma?” He chirped. His mouth was stained with blood from his kills, and his teeth were partially showing from his half-open mouth. Kyra took a step back, her brow creasing with worry. Shatter's excitement faded as he saw her reaction. “Did I do something wrong?”

“N-no,” she stammered. He's a hunter at heart. He is just like his father. Varg's... Varg's going to... send him out... "No, pup, you did fantastically." Her words caught in her throat. Oh Varg, I'm begging you! Please don't send him against the survivors! I couldn't live with myself if something happened to him!

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 25: Erika

 

 

Webber's POV

 

"One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand..." Our face was buried in the darkly colored bark of an old pine tree. Our breath was hot and moist on our fur. "Twenty-one thousand... twenty-one one thousand... twenty-two one thousand..." The thrill of the hunt was boiling in our blood. Our claws twitched with excitement. "Forty-eight one thousand... forty-nine one thousand... fifty! Ready or not, here we come!" We leaped away from the tree, our eyes closed tightly as we breathed heavily in, then out. Our whiskers twitched with concentration. Then, finally, we sucked in a breath that brought us the scent of our target. Turning on our heel, we took a final moment to determine where the scent was coming from before dropping to all fours and running. The fresh spring air blasted us in the face and we weaved around obstacles with nary a thought. We threw up mud and dirt in our wake.

We broke into the desert, the hot sand feeling nice against our chilly, damp feet. Buzzard cawed overhead as we kept low to the ground. We could see him now, sitting in the sand just over a ridge. The sun glinted brightly off of him. He seemed deeply lost in thought. We licked out chops and slunk closer, whiskers twitching intensely.

Closer... closer... closer...

Then, we were leaping, crashing into WX-78 as hard as our inertia would allow, bowling him over. He let out a shout of indignation, twisting and burying his foot deep into our ribs. We bared our teeth. “Scared ya', didn't we?”

WX grunted with annoyance. He pushed us off and brushed the sand off of himself. “I COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE SCARED BY YOU.”

“Yup! We scared you!” The desert was quickly drying the water that had gathered on our fur. “Whatcha doing out here?”

“GETTING AWAY FROM YOU.” The robot frowned deeply and crossed his arms. “WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE DOING?”

“Wilson told us to explore a bit,” I explained.

“SINCE WHEN DO YOU FOLLOW ORDERS?” WX huffed.

“When there's nothing else to do and we planned on exploring anyway.” We shook the sand off of ourself. “And, to be fair, we aren't following orders! We're following you!”

"WELL, YOU CAN FOLLOW THIS!” The robot picked up a stick and threw it. We stared at it for a long moment, then back at him.

“Really?”

He threw his arms in the air in frustration. “DON'T YOU HAVE SOMEBODY ELSE TO ANNOY?”

“Nope! Come on! Let's explore!”

WX crossed his arms and growled. “FINE.” He turned angrily away, marching past. We grinned, counting it as a victory, and followed. Much of the walk was spent in silence, which eventually devolved into awkwardness. He seemed upset about something, but we couldn't be bothered to care. We were jogged out of our thoughts by the sound of a low, distant rumble. WX paused, looking confused.

“It's an earthquake,” I informed him. “Just underground. It shouldn't bother us.”

Turns out, the world didn't like it when you claimed that it did something harmless. Despite the many times we had fought, it was easy to forget how heavy the robot actually was. We were cresting a hill when we saw WX stumble slightly in the corner of our vision.

Then, the ground crumbled away beneath him.

He let out a short exclamation of surprise, quickly cut off by the thick darkness below.

“WX!” I cried, lunging forward to grab his hand. Of course, a seven-year-old trying to hold up a robot that was easily over a ton didn't work very well, and it only succeeded in sending us both into the hole.

The darkness swallowed us both, but it wasn't until we hit the bottom that everything went dark.

Blackness. Shadows. We opened our eyes groggily to see nothing but a tiny beam of light above our heads. We slowly rolled over, groaning at the ache reverberating through our whole body. “WX?” I croaked, before instantly dissolving into a fit of coughs. “WX, are you okay?”

We managed to drag ourself to our knees, waiting for our eyes to adjust.

"I'M HERE," came the rough voice as WX dragged himself closer to the light. He looked worse for wear but otherwise fine.

“Any idea where we are?”

WX's eyeless gaze slowly drifted down. “YOU'RE BLEEDING.”

We touched our chest, only to bring our hand away soaked in blood. “...guess we are.” We flicked our hand, tiny droplets scattering the ground. “That doesn't matter right now. We're just glad that both of us are alright. We need to get out of here.”

A hiss drifted from the shadows, announcing the arrival of someone new. A spider. WX stiffened as if startled, but we found a tiny spark of hope. "Hello?" I hissed in his language. “Who are you? Can you help us leave?”

Two red eyes slowly neared.

“What are you?” The spider spat back as it finally made itself shown. It was completely white sans its bright red eyes. It moved carefully and precisely. Its mouth was twisted in a snarl. “You aren't one of us.”

It hit, but we didn't let it show. “Is there a problem with that?”
“Surface spiders aren't welcome here.” The spider snarled. It slowly stalked closer to WX, who appeared to be readying himself to attack. “Nor is
your kind.

“Hold on, WX.” We waved him off. “We just want to leave.”

It turned to the ceiling and let out a long, loud hiss.

Thousands of eyes opened in unison.

We slowly stepped back until we backed into WX.

“BACK AWAY YOU PESTS!” The robot shouted.

We can take out... maybe twenty together? But that's way more than twenty... We quickly assessed our options. We couldn't run or else risk angering the monster of the dark...

“Don't touch them!”

We snapped our gaze upward as one of the spiders broke away from the legions, shoving the leader angrily. This one's eyes were closer to pink than red, and her voice was distinctly feminine.

“Father, they did not mean to intrude! They fell from the surface! Just let them go!”

There was something... familiar... about her?

A girl with sparkling amber eyes, grabbing my hand and jumping up and down with glee. Gleeful laughter pierced my ears.

The leader shifted his gaze carefully across both of us, before resting them on the newcomer. “Erika, this is not your place,” he growled. “You have no right to interrupt me.”
“I do, when you're about to kill two innocent victims of M-” she cut herself off. “
Him. Besides, look at him! He's injured! They both are!”

“WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?” WX growled softly.

“Debating our life or death,” I replied grimly.

“Ignore my father,” 'Erika' sighed, flicking one of her front legs. “You're welcome here! Come with me! Let's fix you up!”

Erika, you may be my daughter but you are not in charge here.”

“He's kind of a killjoy at times.” Erika winked. “We can fix up that wound, but... that.... what is that?”

“Someone we're stuck with for the rest of our lives,” I replied with a grin. Startling ourself, we reached up and touched the edge of our grin. …Why are we... smiling? “He pretends to hate me, but we're absolute best friends.

“O... kay? He's going to have to stay here. My voice isn't loud enough to tell the entire colony to stay away.” She turned and beckoned us.

"...WX, would you mind staying here for a while? We shouldn't be long."

A knowing look passed over his face and twisted into a sneer. “OH, I UNDERSTAND. YOU WANT SOME PRIVACY.” We tipped our head in confusion. “ALL RIGHT. GO HAVE FUN. BUT NOT TOO MUCH FUN.”

“...what?” We would've protested more, but our wound was really starting to bite. “You know what? Nevermind...”

The leading spider was grumbling angrily, but Erika ignored him. She bounded into the darkness, but we hesitated, unconsciously shifting closer to WX. “

“We... can't go into the darkness. The mo-”

“She won't touch you here,” Erika cut us off. “There's- actually, I think it'd be cooler to let you see yourself!”

We looked into the darkness, feeling as if we were directly staring down the monster of the dark herself. ...we trust her. I don't know why, but we do. “Alright. Lead the way. We'll... be back soon, WX. Don't get too lonely.”

Before the robot could even respond, Erika eagerly pushed us into the dark, her grumbling father following behind.

We could understand now why Erika was unconcerned about the monster of the dark. The darkness only lasted for a short time before red light suddenly flooded the area. We took a disoriented step back as spots danced in our vision. Erika looked amused. “Yeah, a lot of outsiders react that way.”

“Didn't your father say that no outsiders were allowed here?”

“He's all bark and no bite,” Erika said dismissively. The rest of the spider army had gone to do other activities, but that didn't stop the occasional skitter of spider claws behind us. No matter what we felt or thought, we would never be alone in these caves. “Slinger! Come over here! We've got a wound that needs tending to. Slinger is our medic,” Erika explained. “He can speak twenty-four languages, including everything from tallbird to hound.”

“Yes, Erika!” Another snow-white spider dropped from the ceiling, nearly right in front of our feet. We yelped then quickly brushed ourself off in an attempt to keep our composure. Erika let out a giggle. “Oh boy, that's a pretty bad wound. How are you walking right now? Hey Slasher, come look at this guy!”

“Yeah, boss! That's a pretty bad one. You should probably do something about it.”

We glanced uncomfortably at the ceiling. How many spiders were hiding up there, out of sight, watching our every move?

“Alright, alright, let's get you fixed up! Come with me, come with me!”

We followed him, slower this time. Was it wrong to choose to go with the spiders? Were we about to get eaten alive? Spiders weren't strangers to cannibalism- we remember with a sickening twist in our stomach... the bitter, rotten taste of spider meat sitting in our otherwise empty belly like a lead ball...- and they definitely were not strangers to trapping each other and group-attacking them. Uh oh. We're about to get eaten by our own kind. Eat your hearts out, spiders! You're gonna get a huge surprise once you get past the tough, outer, chewy layer!

“This might sting a little,” Slinger stated, before quickly and efficiently binding the wound on our chest with silk. We decided not to think about where the silk came from. However the method, soon, the weak blood flow was staunched, and Slinger stepped back to examine his work. “There! All nice and clean!”

We gently touched the makeshift bandage. “...thank you.”

“No problem, weird-looking spider! Come on, Slasher!”

“Of course, boss!”

After they left, we were left along with Erika.

Well, Erika and the four thousand spiders watching our every move.

“So... um... could you show us to the surface now?”

Erika laughed. “With that wound? Of course not.”

Yup, we're definitely going to become this spider's lunch.

We've lived for seven years. That's a... well, not 'long' but it was a life I guess.

“Just get some rest, and you'll be better in no time! Good night, er...”

“Webber.” But the name didn't sound right and there was an intense want to say something different but there was nothing different to say.

“Webber. Huh. You've probably already heard my name a hundred times, but it's Erika.”

Snow battering my face as the winter chill turned my nose red. Snow condensed into a ball colliding with the back of my head. We turned away, trying to drive away the half-formed and fuzzy memories. “Goodnight Erika,” I murmured, curling up on the silk beneath and closing our eyes.

“When was the last time I slept on silk? Oh, it's been so, so long! I've missed it. I'm surprised that she is still alive, I will not deny. After... you know.”

What?? What are you talking about??

“...nevermind.” A small chuckle resonated in the back of our head. “You'll find out soon enough.”

Slinger hummed and hurmed at the gash we received from the fall. The 'dangling depth dweller', as Erika had explained them to be called, clapped his front legs together. “You should be able to return to the surface today!”

We perked up, our eyes widening. “Really?” While only two days had passed, it was hard not to have gotten sick of the never-ending darkness. We only knew how much time had gone by because of Erika.

“Erika! It's time for our guest to leave,” Slinger called into the darkness. His cry was almost instantly answered by the pink-eyed dangling depth dweller. She looked almost... sad? Nostalgic?

“Already? Yes, yes, you have your friends on the surface to tend to.” She tapped on the floor, then forcibly brightened. “Well, I guess this is goodbye until you and your friend fall down here again!”

“Until then,” I responded with a smile. We hesitated, then added: “will you be the one to show us the way out?”

“Of course.” Her expression softened, but she shook her body as if to scatter thoughts. “Come on! The Nightmare Lights won't stay lit forever. We only have a short amount of time.” The white spider turned and scurried away, but her rush shocked us. There's something off about her. I'm not the only one that feels it...

 

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Actually, Erika is on the cover too, I should mention. Look at the girl <3 And yes I believe Webber can befriend spiders in the caves? I haven't survived long enough as Webber to know but I'm going off of what the wiki says

image.png

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DragonMage156    27195
3 minutes ago, Pokemaniac7000 said:

Actually, Erika is on the cover too, I should mention. Look at the girl <3 And yes I believe Webber can befriend spiders in the caves? I haven't survived long enough as Webber to know but I'm going off of what the wiki says

image.png

Oh cool. Also I never really went into the caves myself but I want to try it out at some point ^^;

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 26: Pop! Goes the Ice Hound

 

Wilson's POV

 

I couldn't help but tap my foot expectantly as Webber walked towards me with his head down. While WX had returned to camp the same day he had left, the spider had been gone for two days. WX had held the information of his whereabouts over my head for his own amusement, which I wasn't surprised about. It didn't make me any less worried about him, though. It's a dangerous world. It's not safe for any of us to be out alone. “Well? Where were you?”

“Um... dying...” the spider mumbled. “Probably?”

I raised my eyebrow at him.

“We weren't in danger,” he said quickly. “We-uh- were with other spiders. We fell through the hill with WX and got a nasty injury on our chest.”

“HE HAD A CRUSH ON ONE OF THEM,” WX added with a sneer.

“Did not!” Webber growled, but I cut him off before another argument could surface.

“Alright, alright, don't even start. Webber, I really don't like that you were out that long without telling me where you were.” I crossed my arms. Despite the fact that he acted independently, he was still a young child, and he still had to learn rules and discipline. His jaw dropped in anger.

“What were we supposed to tell you? They literally would not let us leave!” Webber stomped his foot, puffing his cheeks out and his whiskers twitching.

“You've survived a lot worse than a gash to the chest,” I pointed out. “We've been here for less than a year and you've probably already broken half of the bones in your body. Surely you could've left any time you wanted to, even if they didn't let you.”

“Why are you treating us like a child?” Webber fumed. “We've survived by ourself for years before!”

“Because you are a child, Webber!”

"Well, you're not our pa! You have no right to tell us what to do! If we want to spend some time with our own kind, then let us!"

“I may not be your father, but you should be glad about that! If I was your father, I would've washed your mouth out with soap by now!”

“We'd love to see you try!”

“WILSON,” WX spoke up, startling me out of my glare-off with the spider boy. “YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT IT WOULD BE USELESS TO KEEP A LEASH ON HIM. IF HE WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF, LET HIM.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose, letting out a long sigh. “You're right, WX. I just worry about both of you, alright? We need each other. Webber, I'm sorry I yelled at you. I was- grr, I was really worried about you! WX wouldn't tell me where you were! I seriously thought you were dead!”

Webber's shoulders relaxed slightly, and he lowered his head again. “...it's okay. We just... really... we are independent. You know that, right?”

I sighed once more and shook my head. You aren't! None of us are! Why don't you understand that! “Go get something to eat.”

“Yes, Wilson.” He turned and scampered off, leaving me alone with WX. I turned to the robot with an incredulous expression.

“He doesn't get it.”

“HE IS YOUNG,” WX replied, surprising me with the touch of fondness in the comment. “HE WILL LEARN.” The robot shook his head. “IT HAS BEEN GETTING WARM. SUMMER IS COMING.”

“I'm aware. I'm not looking forward to it...” I shook my head fiercely. “But it doesn't matter! We've survived this long! At this point, our exquisite master may as well give us the key out.” I cracked my knuckles, choosing not to read WX's expression. I didn't need to see his doubt. “I know the book says that the Dragonfly is the strongest of all of the Giants, but I call bologna. It's stupid to have the hardest enemy be the second one we fight.”

“...I SUPPOSE. WHILE YOUR OPTIMISM IS SICKENING I CANNOT HELP BUT WONDER IF THAT IS WHAT HAS GOTTEN YOU THIS FAR.”

“Wow! We missed the taste of rabbit!” Webber exclaimed, rejoining us. His hands were covered with red juice that he was contently licking off. “Slurper may be good but it will never beat the peaty taste of a goo-”

“Hush,” I cut him off, aggressively motioning my hand towards him to stop. He paused with his hand in mid-air. “...do you hear that?”

Whiskers twitching, Webber closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. “Hounds. Seven of them. Coming from...” he paused, then pointed in the direction of the savanna. “Over there.” He looked baffled for a moment. “We... there's a tinge that we can't quite make out...”

I hoisted my morning star over my shoulder, watching carefully in the direction that Webber had pointed. I was surprised by how much I trusted the boy's sense of hearing and smell, but there wasn't time to really think about it. Webber gripped his knife closely to his chest while WX chose not to take a weapon. The robot's heavy weight allowed for him to give rather heavy blows as well, and his hands obviously did not break down like a weapon would, so he had been using his fists more and more as of late. For a long moment, there was only the faint sound of the wind and mine and Webber's breathing, along with the very, very faint churning of metallic parts working together.

Then, the first hound broke through the tree line. Webber growled deep in his throat, his muscles bunching, but I was too shocked to respond for the longest moment. That's a huge hound! And it's BLUE! Why is it BLUE? Behind it were five black hounds, tailed by another blue one, this one substantially smaller. Is that a puppy? I felt a tinge of guilt. We have to fight a puppy? Maxwell, how cold can you get?? I didn't have enough time to feel too bad though, because the front runner had reached us.

Teeth like icicles gleamed in the sun as it lunged for my chest. Readying myself, I swung my morning star in a wide arc and hit the side of its face with a sickening crack! It went flying but managed to land on its paws anyway, its furry chest heaving. Fire blazed in its hungry gaze, but I could see something more. Are... are they sentient? No, don't be stupid, Wilson. Animals are animals. They can't think or care any more than a rock can. Before I could renew my attack, the second blue hound latched onto my ankle, causing me to collapse. Its fur was as cold as snow, and despite its small size, it was rather heavy. I hit the ground heavily, losing my weapon in the process in favor of trying to pry it off.

It let out an excited yelp as it realized that it had the upper hand, and clamped onto my hand. It tossed its head back and forth, growling, and I couldn't help but feel dizzy with relief that it was just a puppy. If it had been a fully grown hound, it could've easily taken my whole arm off. I could still feel its jagged teeth digging into my skin though, and the blood pooling around its teeth told me enough about the state of my hand.

Then, it released me with a howl. I blinked rapidly, my racing mind taking a second to recover from the attack, but I was just in time to see why it had stopped.

WX stood over the bloody body of the largest hound. The rest of the hounds lay, lifeless, on the ground around them, and I realized that he and Webber had taken all of them out in the time it took for me to nearly get nibbled to death by a puppy. Its blue fur was so stained in its own blood that it was hard to make out what color it was anymore. The puppy had released me in favor of nudging and whining at the hound's body. My stomach lurched in horror of the realization, and I turned to see the exact expression over Webber's face. His jaw dropped and he looked absolutely devastated. If he was anyone else, I would've expected to see the boy crying.

“You killed its momma!” Webber cried, glaring accusingly at WX.

“IT'S 'MOMMA' WAS TRYING TO KILL US!” WX snapped back, glaring at the puppy with disdain. “AND SO WAS THIS STUPID CREATURE.” He brought his arm back as if to finish off the hound pup, but Webber caught the robot's hand before he could. WX gave him a nasty look.

“Don't kill it! It's- it's just a baby!”

“OH?” WX sounded incredibly amused. “SHOULD I PICK IT UP AND KISS IT AND MAKE IT ALL BETTER?” His voice dripped with sarcasm.

Webber looked at me with a pained expression. “Wilson, we can't kill it!”

“It's just an animal, Webber. It's not like they have feelings any more than a rock or insect does.”

Hurt flared in his eyes, and he looked sharply away. I was confused. Did I offend him or something?

"Is that all we are, then?!" He exploded, snapping his gaze back towards me. His fur bristled and his whiskers were twitching like crazy. "Are we just an emotionless insect, Wilson?”
GAH how do you make it SO EASY TO FORGET WHAT YOU ARE?

“That's- that's not what I meant and you know it!”

His fur flattened a little, but he didn't look any less upset. He just looked... he looks sad... he looks so sad.

“Webber.” I tried to make my voice as gentle as possible. I rested my hand on the boy's shoulder. “What else could we do with a hound? They're born and bred to kill. Just because this one is smaller doesn't mean it's any less capable of killing.”

“Spiders are too. We're also born to kill, and you still let us stay around. Why couldn't we make an exception for this puppy?”

I gave WX a 'please-help-me-look'. “DO NOT LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT, SCIENTIST. THIS IS YOUR MESS TO CLEAN UP.”

I sighed. “Webber, we couldn't care for another pet. We already have Chester, and he eats enough for four animals.” I attempted to lighten the mood. As if to solidify my comment, the little orange beast let out a bark from his spot by the fire.

Webber said nothing, only breaking away from me and slowly nearing the hound. As he did, the puppy shied away, but Webber was able to gently touch the top of its head. It almost seemed to melt into the touch, closing its eyes and turning its cheek for Webber's claws to stroke. Webber closed his eyes, then stood up, his gaze burning with determination. “Okay, if we can't appeal to your emotional side, then think about it logically. We'll have a sentry to keep watch at night while we sleep. Hounds may not attack us as often or badly if they risk hurting one of their own kind. We could train this puppy to hunt, Wilson. It's obviously built to withstand the cold, and you remember how horrible the winter was with hunting.”

I rubbed my temples, trying to force myself to say no, but he was making legitimate points. “...you'll be responsible for training and feeding it?”

Webber perked up. “O-of course!”

WX scowled.

“Fine. If you want to keep it, it's yours. But if that hound takes one step out of line, we're going to have to get rid of it.”

“Really, Wilson?” Webber sounded more childlike than I ever heard him sound. “Oh thank you thank you thank you!!” He barreled towards me and hugged me as fiercely as he could. I let out a nervous laugh and patted his head, unsure of what else to do. Webber seemed to notice how impulsive the action was and he broke away almost immediately, blushing fiercely in embarrassment beneath his fur. “Um... yes, very... very smart to agree... it would be stupid not to...” he hiccuped, choosing to stroke the hound pup without looking back at me. I smiled. Oh, Webber, you don't have to act big and tough all the time. You're allowed to act like your age.

“YOU'RE SERIOUS, WILSON?”

“Hey, you didn't protest so I figured the decision was up to me.”

“IT IS A KILLING MACHINE! IT IS DESIGNED TO WANT TO KILL US.”

“So are you, and yet we keep you around,” I responded cheekily. “What have you always wanted to name a pet?” I asked Webber as he grew bolder in petting the newest addition to the group.

“Popsicle!” The spider boy responded without any hesitation. “He feels like a little popsicle, you know? His fur is all cold.”

I smiled, surprising myself at how the boy's excitement bled into me. "...Popsicle. All right."

This hound was still small, but something was telling me that he wouldn't stay that way for long. If the size of his mother was anything to say by it, he would be very strong. Maybe this was actually a good idea. Maybe this was a stroke of luck, that we are taking in this hound.

Maybe Popsicle is going to give us the edge we need.

 

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DragonMage156    27195

And both stories intertwine ^_^ kinda sad about the other hounds though. I wonder if they'll ever find out his real name.

This storie's getting more interesting.

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Pokemaniac7000    391

Chapter 27: The Hunting Party

Shatter's POV

“Kyra!”

The female ice hound glanced up, fur sticking up along her back. That was my mother. She was the strongest hound in the whole pack. Or so, that's what I had been told several times over by almost all of the bigger hounds I knew. She looked worried, deeply worried as if something horrible had happened.

She told me the story of how she and my father had joined the Varg's pack. They were once a pair of hunting hounds owned by a walrus by the name of Mactusk. After a particularly harsh winter followed by a summer far too hot to make up on the lost hunting, and they had been given up. They had traveled together for a while until Varg's pack found them hunting a beefalo together. They had joined in hopes of providing the best life possible for them and their future pups. While my father had passed before I was even born, though, I carried his spirit in my name.

I was proud to carry this name. I was still small, but I was growing quickly. Soon, I knew, I would be big enough to join my first dangerous hunting party.

I didn't realize how soon it was.

Varg was incredibly massive and incredibly terrifying. His eyes were white and beady, and today they were flaring with either excitement or anger or both.

“Shatter did very well in his first hunting assignment,” Varg began.

Momma dipped her head, looking... worried? “He did.”

“Shatter, are you interested in joining another hunting party? This one will be much more dangerous, but should you succeed, you will be hailed a hero.”

Kyra looked as if she were about to speak, but she clamped her jaw shut and glanced at me instead. “...This is your choice, pup. You're old enough to have a name, and you are old enough to make your own decisions.”

“Your mother is right, young hound.” Varg's eyes glimmered. “Will you join the party against the survivors?”

"Will I!?" I exclaimed, quivering with excitement. "O-Of course!" I hesitated, then broke into a bow as I had seen the other pups before I do to address their leader. "I-It would be an honor to serve you!"

“Kyra, I expect that you would like to go with Shatter,” Varg continued, and the female hound dipped her head in agreement. “And... Ebony, Coal, Midnight, Ash...” The mighty beast lowered his head in thought. “Pitch.” The five black hounds barked to show their acknowledgment and lined up in front of Varg. My mother gently nudged me from behind, encouraging me to join them. I did, but slowly. Kyra joined them, and I stood beside her. Varg paced down the line, sniffing each of us in turn. He stopped at me, his beady eyes freezing me in my spot. “You're young, but you're strong. I've seen the way you can hunt and fight, and I trust in your ability to do this.” A huge paw touched the top of my head. “You have your father's strength.” He turned back to the pack. “These hounds will return victorious over the intruders of our hunting land!”

Yelps and bellows of triumph echoed over the group. I felt my chest puff with pride. This is my pack. I'm going to fight for my pack!

“You will leave immediately,” Varg rumbled. “Good luck. The faith of the pack follows you.”

The other hounds pounded the ground and barked, including my mother. I found myself deflating slightly, seeing the passion and strength in all of their shoulders and backs. It was rather obvious that I was the odd one out, but before I could say anything to mom, they were moving. Kyra naturally took the lead, and I was awed by the muscles rolling under her fur. I had never realized how strong my mother was.

We will do this! My mother is the biggest, strongest hound in the whole pack!

I will make you proud!

 

Apologies for the shortness of this one. There wasn't really much to say for this. This next chapter will definitely be longer

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minespatch    75913

Kind of interesting that Shatter/Popsicle was made before Artic varglings were a thing. The whole storyline for Shatter makes me think of Orwell's book "Animal Farm".

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