OOC - Enter Kirito and Asuna. Wonderful job Claec and Odd
Cursing at length, he snatched his companion by the collar and jerked him under the rock, kicking up sand into the eyes of the monster following them. It shrieked, jerking back, giving M'kalna time to draw his blade. He ducked under its lunge, swinging back so the edge bit into the monster's scaly hide. It suddenly jerked itself around, fast as a striking snake, and sank its teeth into his shoulder. He cried out, stabbing it again and again. The man by the rock started toward him but stopped when he shouted, "Stay down!" and finally managed to find its neck. Its headless body collapsed, writhing and M'kalna ruefully considered the head, who by its teeth was still lodged on his shoulder. "Well, its a pretty head," he said, laughing. "But I'm not sure its quite the decoration I wanted."
Now his companion crawled forward, clutching his side. Blood seeped from between his fingers, indicating a sizable wound. "Sir? Are you alright?"
"Sure, except for scaly here," M'kalna patted the head with a wry smile. "When did you of all people start to doubt me?"
"Oh I don't sir! Its...its just..."
"I can die now? So I should stay at home, leaving all the best critters, and rot like an old man?" He snorted, then walked over and pushed his companion back to the ground. "You're the one about to die here. Hold still." Seeing his companion's worry he added peaceably, "You work on this thing's head while I take care of you, alright?"
Appeased, his companion drew a belt knife and set to work. M'kalna worked in silence, and his companion chose not to break the quiet. only when the both had finished their doctoring did M'kalan ask, "Did you get it? Please tell me we didn't lose it, after all that."
"Oh no! Here it is," and he held up his cloak, inside something was furiously trying to get out of the makeshift bag. M'kalna sighed in relief.
"Thank goodness. Good job Etheral. Now I know why you didn't block that thing's attack."
"Do you suppose there's more of them besides that pack?" Etheral asked, glancing nervously around.
"Et, calm down. Its just a game. Yes, it is," he said, cutting off Etheral's protest. "Life is a game. Every day is an adventure. Every day is a new chance to die. All this means is we have new ways to die now, okay?"
"You're not making me feel better sir," Etheral replied.
M'kalna chuckled, squatting. "You'll get through, Et. We all will. Now, how about we see the fruits of today's gamble?" Etheral offered him the cloak, which M'kalna stuck his hand into without any caution. "Here now," he said, as he struggled to grab the elusive critter. "Hold still you little devil." He drew breath sharply, and his face took on an expression of long suffering. Etheral chuckled.
"It bit you?" he guessed.
M'kalna suddenly jerked the bag to knock the creature off-balance, then caught it firmly and pulled it out. "Healthy fellow," he said clinically, holding up the animal that looked like a cross between a cheetah and a hyena. Its mottled coat was the color of dirt, with sandy spots. It had a couple of spots over its eyes, giving its face an evil look. "He looks kinda like Thatcher, don't you think?" he said.
Etheral laughed. "He does seem in good shape," he said admiringly, as the little monster struggled to break free.
"Healthy teeth too," M'kalna said wryly. "Et, there's a calming crystal in my pack. Would you please get it for me? Its the blue one."
"Where will we go now?" Etheral asked as he searched. "Central's too far to reach by dark, I think. Not with all the higher level monsters in the way."
"There's a rest stop just a few miles from here. With any luck, we'll be able to get some supplies. If we're really lucky, we may even get a job."
Etheral nodded, passing him the crystal. M'kalna adjusted his hold, and held the crystal over its head, trying to focus positive, gentle energies to it. Slowly, the cat calmed down, and he put it down in his lap with relief, still cautiously holding the crystal over its head. "Etheral, get the others over here," he said softly. "We move out as soon as they get here."
Etheral nodded, and hurried away, leaving M'kalna to focus on his new catch.
The cave opened up, revealing a sea shore that stretched from horizon to horizon. Lily's eyes grew wider and wider as she stared in wonder, her mouth opening into a huge smile. She began laughing, clapping her hands and hopping, grabbing Rasmus's sleeve and pointing. No less awed than she, he adopted a lofty expression, smiling down at her. "Its the ocean Lily," he said. "We found it."
"The ocean! The ocean! The ocean!" Lily laughed. She started running forward, her arms out wide as she spun around once before running straight forward again.
Rasmus smiled faintly, walking after her. His steps weren't that long or that quick, he reasoned. "Not too far Lily!" he shouted. "You never know."
She glanced back, beaming at him, before continuing on. He followed quickly, suddenly worried about the possibility of monsters. It seemed a peaceful beach, but that same thought had led to many troubles for him before. However, no monsters suddenly appeared, or spawned, so he relaxed slowly. Lily was already in the water, holding up her dress and splashing about. He debated joining her, then sat down on the sand instead to keep watch. After a short time, he lay down, tucking his hands behind his head and stared at the sky, a picture of peace. After a bit, Lily came over and lay beside him, sighing.
They lay there in silence for a while, before one of them spoke. Rasmus glanced at Lily's peaceful face, then asked quietly, "Hey...what do you think? Those people...they seem so frantic all of a sudden. And they talk of some other place, some other world. It seems weird, yet, somehow...but I don't know any place besides here. What do you think is going on?"
Lily shrugged. "I don't know. They all seem so worried though. I really wish I could help them."
He studied her, then said quietly, "You can't even really protect yourself, you know. I swear, you act like a baby sometimes..."
She reached over, touching his arm. "That's why you're here, right?" she asked, her bright eyes serious.
He stared at her, then nodded. "Yeah...that's why I'm here." He took her hand, smiling at her. "I'll always protect you."