Final result of the YCH auction, won by the ever amazing Xetsa. This scene features Xetsa's character Dagrún in the setting of 'Shattered', helping my mantis Saa, in the desert.
As part of the deal, my dear Amethystine wrote a story to accompany this pic! Which you can read just below!
I hope you enjoy this!
The Kindness of Strangers - by Amethystine, for the picture of the same name, WhiteMantis & Xetsa
"What is your name?" asked Saa, quietly.
After a moment, she added, hastily, "If I may ask..?" She sounded desperate to remain as inoffensive as possible.
"Dagrún," replied the formerly nameless stranger.
There was silence for a long moment, filled with nothing more than the barest of breezes and the sound of the beast that bore both the mantis and the odd-looking woman upon its back.
"Forgive me for what I am about to say, for I am only curious, but.." again, Saa paused, unsure. "..that's not a name I've ever heard, and it seems unlike all other names I have ever known."
The thrice-horned woman who handled and apparently owned the beast of burden, shifted in place, glancing back at the pale mantis from where she sat, in the forward position of the saddle.
Saa nervously took a long sip from the water-gourd the stranger had given her, afraid that it would be snatched back at any moment, before she would be shoved off of the large mount and left stranded in the middle of the desert. The small girl did not want to anger her benefactor, but she couldn't help wondering about the unique nature of the other woman.
"Are you saying that you think my name strange, little one?"
Taking another sip of water, believing it best to have as much as possible before it was too late, Saa shook her head after re-capping the gourd. "N-no! No, I'm sorry if it seemed that way.. I just meant that it's very different."
She had meant it was weird.
Everything about Dagrún was odd, starting with the first thing she had done upon encountering Saa.
The stranger had done the strangest thing of all.
She had helped Saa.
The insect-girl had taken it to mean she had done a good job hiding herself, for surely no one who had seen her would ever be so kind.
"Calm down, poor pale one, and pace yourself with that water, please. No one's going to take it from you but yourself. Don't be a thief that leaves you thirsty later," said Dagrún, looking forward and steering the beast up a dune.
Letting out a soft sigh of relief, Saa smiled slightly at the turn of phrase. "Yes.. thank you. Words to live by."
"Speaking of words, what is yours, little one?"
"You asked my name. What is yours? The word that names you, the word that is more yours than anyone else's, your title."
"Oh," Saa murmured, marveling at the woman's way with words. "I am Saa."
"Hrmm. Your name sounds very different to me, too. Where I come from, mine is not odd. In any case, hmm.. 'Saa'.. A small name for a small girl. I like it.." Dagrún said, trailing off to peer back at Saa once more. "..and I like the girl."
Blushing, Saa was speechless until Dagrún had turned back around to focus on the road ahead. "Th.. thank you, Dagrún. I like you too."
"Good! Then it's settled, we're friends now!" She emphasized this point with a flex of her legs and thick, striped, twin-tipped tail, which made her hop in place, upon her half of the cloth-covered saddle.
Saa couldn't help but smile. She had her doubts, as always, that anything could ever go so well for her, but she tried to be friendly with her new.. friend. "If you insist, Dagrún. Thank you. I am happy to have an ally in this world."
"You don't sound too convinced.. or too happy," mused the strange being ahead of the red-robe-clad girl.
"My apologies. It's been a long time since I had a friend. It makes me think about the last one I had.. or thought I had. Painful memories."
After another long moment in the relative silence of the desert, accompanied by the steady and sand-muffled plodding of the beast, Dagrún spoke once more. "I'm sorry. I'm more used to.. well, where I come from, I guess people make friends faster. But either way, I'll stop forcing you to talk, I can tell you're someone who appreciates the peace of quietude. - And, I know, talking uses the water of one's body, which is always a concern. - Do me a favour while I pay you this kindness of tranquility, though. Think of something pleasant, not that painful past I hit upon. Surely you have something nicer to look back on..?"
"Yes.. I do, thank you," Saa said softly.
If someone else had told Saa, yesterday, to think back to something nice in her life, she would have had to search far and wide in her memory to find such a thing. What little joy there had been in her childhood was fading away, eroded by the hopelessness of her current circumstances. She might have turned to a happy recollection of her family, but her mother was the only family she had ever had, and any thought of her was tainted.
Her mother had abandoned her. She never knew exactly why, but she suspected it was because of her oddities, which had made life hard for both of them.
Now, though, Saa could think back to what had happened a mere hour or so ago.
She had been near collapse, but had miraculously reached her destination; the oasis.
The shade of the palm trees had been blissful on what little skin she had not been able to consistently cover with her robe. Thankfully, that wasn't much.
Walking into the small, small splotch of green in the vast expanse of brown, Saa had been over-joyed to actually arrive at and enter into the rare pocket of vibrant life. Before spotting it in the distance, she had harboured horrible doubts about ever finding it, despite the detailed directions she had managed to procure. Even once she had seen it, she had feared her legs would give out, and she would collapse, with her goal so near.
As if thinking about it caused it to happen, Saa had stumbled over a root, and tumbled to the ground, when she was only a matter of feet away from the glorious pool of water.
There had then been a rustling, and then a cruel, mocking, sibilant voice spoke up.
"And THAT is why legs are so stupid. Am I not right, brother?"
Another, equally unpleasant voice, also arriving amid a noise of sliding, chimed in. "Indeed, brother. Useless things, legs." There had been a pause. "Frail, fragile, weak."
Looking up, Saa had seen that her low-to-the-ground view of the oasis' pool had been blocked by a thick, scaly, legless body. Two serpents loomed over her.. and one pointed at her as it spoke again.
"What, her? Or legs in general?" chuckled the first voice that had spoken.
With a laugh, the second replied, "I meant legs, but yes, this one too."
Trying to ignore them, Saa had inched closer on her scythes, hands and knees, heading toward the coil.
"And where do you think you're going, you little pest?" one of the snakes had sneered, hissing derisively.
"Please.. I just need some water," had been Saa's plaintive plea.
"You and every other insignificant tiny pebble that rolls in here," one of the snakes had said.. Saa hadn't cared to note which it was. "You still have to pay."
The mantis had slumped onto the ground, feeling defeated. Whether these two were bandits or people who had a legitimate claim to the oasis, or represented someone who did, it mattered little. They could certainly stop her from drinking, and thus leave her to die, only inches away from salvation. "I have no money, I cannot pay you," she had admitted. She instantly regretted it, imagining she could have tried to lie, somehow.
A few seconds had passed in silence, and Saa peered up, catching what seemed to be the end of a non-verbal exchange between the similar-looking reptiles. They both turned to look at her at the same time, which caused her to shiver, despite the heat.
"We believe you are only half correct, foolish bug," one had said.
The other had begun to speak as soon as the first was done. "You may not have coin, but we think you can pay us.. a different way," he had hissed his words with an odd twist to his voice, capping his statement with a slow flick of his forked tongue. He had been implying something, but Saa did not know what. Perhaps she hadn't, due to her near heat-stroke, or some part of her not wanting to divine the terrible truth.
"Such a debased transaction will NOT be necessary today, you worms," a new voice had called out, amongst quick, oncoming steps. "I will pay for both myself and this poor girl."
There was a jangling of hurried commerce somewhere above the dazed bug-girl's head, and then a rustle of scales as the pair of males had slunk off. The brave, proud voice of the woman who had rushed in had then lowered to address Saa, just as the woman herself dipped down to help the smaller female up.
"Here, let me help you.."
Saa had then drank as much as she was able to, going from dying of thirst to feeling bloated with water.
After, she had stood with the stranger, who was clad in a green tunic and lighter green shawl over her head and neck, near the edge of the oasis. They were still in the relative shade of the trees, resting near the saviour's sandbeast.
"I had been told that this oasis was still free for all to use," Saa had said.
"Most likely a rumour spread by those who have claimed it, or it's a recent development," the stranger had pondered.
"Yes.. nothing is free in this world.. not any longer."
"Well, this is!" the oddly horned woman had said, holding up a water-skin to the mantis.
"Did you not pay for that?" Saa had gasped, backing away slightly, fearful of incoming serpentine wrath, directed at the apparent thief, or whoever held the stolen object.
"No, no, silly girl. I'm giving it to you, that's how it is free. From me to you."
Saa's eyes had gone wide in surprise, but then she dipped her head slightly, taking on a downcast look as she reached up with both hands to accept the gift, feeling foolish for not realizing the woman's intention. She was still suspicious of such kindness, but she had little choice, she couldn't afford to not accept any offers of good-will.
"Th-thank you," Saa had stammered. "Where.. where are you going to go next?"
"I ride to Alh Xiaf. Why do you ask?"
It had been unbelievable, that was where Saa wanted to go. She had wanted to cry. She had wondered how could she ask for a ride with this stranger. She couldn't do it.
She had not needed to, though, in the end.
The stranger had offered.
On the back of the sandbeast, Saa smiled faintly to herself, having replayed in her mind, the events that had unfolded at the oasis.
They had traveled a fair distance, and the fair-sized town had just begun to be visible in the distance. Dagrún pointed it out to Saa.
"To where do you travel, Saa?" asked Dagrún.
Confused, Saa answered, "To Alh Xiaf, of course. You asked me earlier and--"
"I know, but is it your final destination? I wonder if our paths will continue to run parallel with one another."
"I could never continue to burden you with my company, slowing you down, costing you money, Dagrún," protested Saa.
"For a beautiful girl, Saa, you certainly have a low opinion of yourself."
At this, the small insect blushed profusely. "I am not." She thought to herself, 'If you saw the whole of me..' while keeping her third eye firmly shut, even though she knew it was covered by her hood and hair.
"You are, you'll have to trust me, because I'm not arguing the fact with you. Back to the matter at hand, though. What is it you seek? Where are you going?"
"I.. seek.." Saa began, haltingly, before hitting on a way to answer Dagrún without revealing too much. "Change. Just a change, a new beginning. I do not think I will find it in Alh Xiaf, though."
"Then why go there?"
"It is large enough for me to believe I might find someone there who can point me in the right direction for what I do want, in the end."
"I see," said Dagrún.
"And what do you seek?" queried Saa.
Twisting around to grin at the insect, the generous stranger said: "Everything."
She added, "I'm just exploring," after seeing the look the mantis gave her. "And I want to see everything I can. Meet all the people I can."
"Oh," whispered Saa, considering the foreigner's goals. Nothing could be more foreign to the mantid, who attempted to avoid any and all potential aggressors. Which, to her, was anyone and everyone.
Upon reaching the city, the pair dismounted the beast and walked together to the market, roughly in the centre of town. Though 'together' might be too strong a word, as Dagrún had to keep Saa from trying to slip away from her, the small girl wishing to escape the crushing kindness shown to her by the not-longer-stranger-but-still-strange-woman that somehow filled her with trepidation and dread.
If she had been pressed, Saa might have said that she had a sense of impending doom whenever things went well. She feared the pain of losing anything good.. or being abandoned by it.
All the same, Dagrún and Saa browsed the market together.
While Saa cast forlorn eyes at things she thought she could never afford, nor have, Dagrún giddily admired the wares on display. As one might expect, she fawned over jewelery and clothes, but also seemed fascinated with farming tools and other simple, less ornate objects.
She murmured things like 'you made all this by hand?' and 'I wouldn't even know where to begin' and 'such craftsmanship!'. Oddly, it seemed as though she was more likely to remark on the quality of the construction when the item in question was rough-hewn.. when the work that had gone into it showed more clearly.. whereas more finely made things, which expertly hid the evidence of their own manufacture, seemed to hold less interest for the woman.
It was only a momentary curiosity to the stall owners, but Saa witnessed the entire arc of it, and puzzled over the strangle inverted appreciation for creation of things.
Dagrún must have been somehow removed from any sort of manual labor or work, somehow.
The answer seemed clear, then, to the mantid. With the wish to see the world, and the generosity of money, and the lack of experience with tools or the making of things; Dagrún must have been the daughter of a lord, or king, from some foreign region. Isolated from the world, she surely must have run away from her luxurious life, to explore the land.
As Saa pondered this, Dagrún went to a food vendor. "Of all the things I've experienced here, eating is the absolute best," she said, half to Saa, but partly to the attendant and somewhat to herself, since the mantid and the lizard were both preoccupied. Neither took note of what an odd thing to say it was.. or at least an odd way to put it.
In the midst of Saa's deductions about the nature of her companion, her line of thought was interrupted by Dagrún saying, "Let me buy you something to eat, dear, please?"
After a quiet refusal from the little lady, the alleged runaway princess (or whatever she was) returned to the luckily lineless booth for something else.
Ignoring the taller woman for a moment, Saa considered her theory. It was something of a romantic notion, perhaps, but something about it sickened the mantis.
How dare she? How dare Dagrún abandon her family for some flight of fancy like this? How dare she leave behind a perfectly good home, where she would have been safe and cared for? Saa could not imagine ever doing such a thing.
The red-clad girl numbly followed Dagrún as she found somewhere to sit and eat, sitting cross-legged on a carpet, in an alcove on the periphery of the bazaar. Saa sat next to her, still silently fuming. She might have taken her chance to leave the stranger behind at that moment, but found herself wanting to tell the tri-horned female off, but couldn't bring herself to do it, not with how kind Dagrún had been to her.
Even that was part of the problem, though. Saa imagined Dagrún used people like the mantis to feel good about herself, treating them like pets, charity cases. Giving meager help to select individuals from 'the unwashed masses' here and there, to prove to herself how nice she was. Of course, it would only ever be people Dagrún deemed worthy, or interesting. So because Saa was unique-looking, or cute - according to the 'princess', as Saa could never see herself that way - she had been singled out to be 'saved'.. at least for a day, surmised Saa.
Soon, Dagrún had finished eating. "This.. this food.. it's so good, my goodness," she sighed, licking her lips and the odd black tips of her fingers. She was clearly done, but half of her food remained.
Saa was just about to mentally accuse Dagrún of over-buying for her meal because she was accustomed to lavish feasts at her palatial home AND as she was thinking that if the spoiled girl thought the food was good there in Alh Xiaf, the cook servants she was bound to have at home must not be all that great.. but curse her, Dagrún should appreciate her poor staff!
The mantis was just about to condemn her companion with these latest revelations when Dagrún smiled over at her, catching the pale girl's pink and purple eyes with her own deep, light blue gaze. The insect was transfixed.
"I'm sorry, Saa," apologized Dagrún. "For intruding on your life, your travel." She paused, turning her body to fully face the mantis, and lean closer, not once breaking eye contact. "You didn't really need me to help you, I'm sure.. but.. isn't it more pleasant to have the help, and the company? If it's all the same in the end, why not make the trip happier than it would have otherwise been?"
The smaller female was speechless, eyes trapped in the pale blue pools that held her and drew her in. She couldn't look away, although she wanted to.. while also wishing she never had to.
Dagrún went on, "I know you can take care of yourself, but that doesn't mean you must do everything on your own. You don't have to take my advice, of course, but.. just let me say this: Don't be too quick to judge others. We are all living our lives, and we all do what we think we must, for better or for worse."
During the generous female's speech, Saa remained all but mesmerized. She listened in rapt attention, nodding mutely, unaware that she was doing it. All the while, her eyes never left Dagrún's.. although somewhere beyond her focused reception of what the woman had to say, there was a ticklish prodding from a part of her mind that would not cooperate with the rest. It made her want to look up to a point above the woman's head, between her horns.
She never did. Besides, she knew there was nothing there.
Finally, the foreigner finished by smiling and saying, "And I'm sorry, but I must apologize one last time.. I bought too much food! It would be such a shame to have it go to waste. Please, would you help me finish it? You would be doing me a great favour."
With the smile, the spell that had seemingly been cast by that intense stare was gone, and Saa blinked, then slowly smiled back. "Oh.. alright. I'll help you. But you had better thank me an awful lot for such a big favour. You bought so much!"
Laughing, Dagrún proceeded to thank Saa for every bite and every swallow the little one took.
"Are you sure you want me to stay outside, Saa? It seems a little.. untoward in there."
"I will be quite fine, thank you," was the mantid's soft reply.
Saa stepped into the dark, and immediately felt better. The afternoon was hot, and the heavenly god was angry as ever. The One Above seemed angriest at Saa, as always, of course, with how her skin burned under the gaze of the God.
Now, though, Saa could lower her hood. In the privacy of the dim entryway, she opened her third eye, relaxing the vaguely aching muscles that held it tightly shut for hours at a time.
She looked around as her eyes adjusted to the dark.. then remembered to close her two 'normal' eyes, and relied solely on the vision of the third, which had not been accustomed to any brightness, so it was ready to see in the low levels of light within the room.
It looked to be a promising place.
She had sought out and quietly asked those who she thought would not shun her, where she might find the oldest and wisest in the ways of mystic and mythical matters. The items on display in that front room, and the general sense and smell of the place spoke of ancient knowledge and items.
Or maybe it was just her imagination. She frowned and closed her third eye, reopening the other two. She pushed her hair back over her forehead and pulled up her hood before venturing deeper.
Parting a gauzy curtain, she called out. "Hello? I was told this was the home of a great scholar. One who knows all about the divine, and the d--"
"Yes, yes! Come in already, girl!" came a rasping, but still somehow piercing, screeching sort of voice.
Even before she saw him, Saa knew it would be an old bird.
He was an owl, his large eyes staring holes into a tapestry hastily thrown over a table.
"What is it that you want? I'm quite busy," he demanded, ruffling his feathers, not even looking up.
"Please forgive the intrusion, sir, I come to you to humbly ask--"
"Get to the point," the owl snapped, head twisting almost fully around while his body remained still, beak clacking in annoyance.
Equally annoyed was Saa, who had been coming quite swiftly to her point after merely observing the most basic tenets of polite conversation. "Sir, I--!" She nearly snapped back at him before quickly starting again, hurriedly saying, "I wish to know where one can find something.. anything that can change someone from one thing to another."
"That is quite precisely vague," stated the thickly plumaged bird with a chuckle, who had turned his head back to the old woven artifact below his girthy, forward-hunched frame.
Withdrawing a little bit more into herself, Saa clasped her hands together nervously. "Well, I've been told that the only thing that might do that is.. the Lost Containers--"
"The Lost Containers of the Gods?!" bellowed the voluminous bird, interrupting Saa once again, although to finish her sentence for once. As he had shouted, he straightened up and turned to the girl, only to hunch over again on a cane, which put his piercing eyes low enough to stab back at Saa's surprised expression. For a moment, the girl had hope of having found someone who might actually be able to help her in a real, meaningful way.
Then the cackling began. Hoots mixed in with his expulsion of patronizing, pitying mirth. Saa flushed and turned away, crossing her arms. She waited for him to calm himself.
"I should have known you were another one of those people. Idiots, all of you. They're just a myth. And even if they aren't, they're called LOST for a reason, little fool!"
Suppressing a sneer, Saa turned her head to look at the bilious old bird, sizing him up with a quick scan from talons to beak. "But you're not a fool, sir. You're supposed to know everything.. so you must be able to guide a simpleton such as me, on even the most inane quest."
"Hmph. Flattery will get you everywhere, tiny bug," wheezed the windbag, shakily shuffling past her, toward his den.
Allowing herself a subtle smirk, Saa allowed the almost audibly creaking, feather-coated bag of bones to lurch past her and onto his nest of pillows before she asked, "So, oh wise one, where would you turn for answers, on this matter?"
"If you promise to tell him I sent you, I will tell you who to see."
Pausing momentarily at that, Saa nodded. "Of course, why wouldn't I wish to use such an intelligent gentleman such as yourself as a referral, sir?"
"Quite so.." murmured the owl. He leaned back and waved dismissively at the girl as he picked up a piece of parchment to peruse. "Go west, young mantis. Seek a vain lord of the feathered kind. He is one with a keen interest in this sort of subject, and obsessively seeks such silliness.. among other things."
Saa couldn't believe her antennae! A real, solid direction, after all the time she had spent searching and asking. Who knew if this lord she was to find would know anything more than the owl did, but.. at least it was better than the load of nothing she had been given by every other so-called wise man.
She bowed to the elder. "Thank you, sir! I will go west at once!"
"See that you do.." said the owl, trailing off into a mutter as Saa turned to leave. "..that you shall never bother me again."
Outside, Saa rushed to Dagrún's side and tugged on her white arm, grasping the copper-coloured armband that surrounded the woman's wrist. "I know where I must go!" she exclaimed, excited.
Dagrún did not turn to look at Saa, and stayed staring straight ahead, across the narrow street. In the shadow of the other side of tightly-packed buildings, a trio of men lounged, watching Dagrún, and now Saa as well.
"Who are they?" asked Saa, softly.
"Nobody important," said Dagrún.
Without a word, the three large but young males collectively picked themselves up from their relaxed leaning or sitting positions and ambled forward into the light.
A scorpion, a wasp and a tarantula.
All three were armed with blades that hung on their bodies, glinting noticeably in the sun.
The quiet of the alley, which Saa had thought nice after the bustle of the market, when she first entered the isolated area to find the owl's home, now seemed eerily menacing.
"Saw you two in the market," drawled the scorpion. He was the apparent leader of the pack, standing in front of the other two. His demeanor was cold, his matter of fact admission that he and his partners had followed them there chilled Saa, in spite of the heat.
The fact that they wore no masks spoke volumes as to what they planned to do next.. one had to assume that the gang was planning on leaving no witnesses behind.
Dagrún just smiled. "I think I saw you fellows, too."
The wasp jeered, "Yeah, sure ya did." The other two scowled at the stranger, but didn't know what to make of her confidence or the idea that she might have seen them.
"A really clumsy group of guys, I have to say," Dagrún continued.
"Shut up! We weren't even doin' anything," the tarantula commanded, in his deep voice, unhelpfully.
The stinger-tail of the frontman swung over in front of the larger arachnid as the scorpion-leader took over again. "Look, you two are coming with us, and that's that."
The wasp, the smallest and most slender of the three, although he was still about as tall as Dagrún, chimed in. "Yeah, we know someone who'll just love a coupla freaks like you two. He'll pay us real g--"
Again, the scorpion's stinger shot across behind himself to control his 'troops', silently, cutting the wasps rapid-fire speech short.
"Don't make this hard on yourselves."
Dagrún was unimpressed, and smiled all the more now, as Saa looked on, aghast. "Look how slow you were to stop your buddy's jabbering, sheesh.." she mumbled, before glancing at Saa quickly amid keeping her eyes on the trio of thugs. "Maybe I didn't see you guys, but I think I know your type.. and like I said: really clumsy!"
The woman's bravado gave the men enough pause for her to launch into another declaration about them. She drew her hand out to point accusingly at the scorpion, squarely in front of herself. The way she swung her arm made the wasp and the tarantula flinch, as it seemed like she was drawing a weapon, perhaps to throw at them.
"You! Sir whippy spike-tail! I've seen guys like you.. you just love.. olive oil! Right? And you're a real messy eater."
"..wha..?" the scorpion half-said, glancing to his cronies as they looked at him questioningly.
"And you! Hairy-gut-lots-o-arms!" she announced, pointing at the largest of the three. "You've got two leg feet, don't you? I can just tell. Stumbles the strongman, they should call you."
"No way, you stupid--" the spider began, but was cut off.
"That brings me to you, buzz-butt." Dagrún turned to glare at the wasp.
"Yeah?" he replied, hand going for his blade, much like the other two had already done, some time ago.
The tri-horned woman narrowed her eyes and simply said, "You're just a coward."
The scorpion screamed, "Enough!" as he took a step forward, closing a quarter of the distance to Dagrún. "Just use the blunt sides of your swords, we want them alive!" he ordered his pair of partners, as he moved to draw. Furious, he ripped his scimitar from his belt.
The scimitar flew out of his hand, lodging itself in the wall far above, behind and to the left of Saa and Dagrún.
"What?! My hand!" the surprised scorpion cried, looking at his empty palm.
Dagrún laughed. "Told yoouu~! You've got to stop having so much oil at lunch. Or at least wash up properly after."
The stinger-tailed one was dumbfounded, but his second-in-command was not.
"Shut up!" came the brown bug's baritone bellow, barging forward, pushing his boss to one side roughly, knocking the surprised scorpion down, onto his backside. It seemed the tarantula sometimes forgot his own strength.
Regardless, the spider's advance was unhalting. He drew his own scimitar slowly, surehandedly. He was NOT going to drop it, not after what happened to his friend.
As soon as the blade was up, though, it went back down.. along with the rest of him. The tarantula tripped, taking a tremendous tumble, seemingly stumbling over something he had not seen. Whatever it was, it had been kicked into a spot where Saa couldn’t see it past the bandit's bulk. The mantid could have sworn the street had been utterly clear, too, though.
"The bigger they are.." Dagrún murmured to herself.
From there, it was a two-step process;
The spider landed so close to Dagrún that she simply needed to take one step forward onto the flat of the sword's blade with one foot as the dazed would-be kidnapper regripped it and attempted to lift it. He pulled his face out of the dirt as he felt himself unable to raise his weapon.. only to see the thick-toed foot of the woman on his sword.. AND the other foot sailing toward his face.
The kick to the face from the surprisingly hard toes of the odd foreigner had smoothly followed as the second step. 'Stumbles' was out cold.
Dagrún quickly knelt, took the sword from the spider and stepped up to the scorpion, who was only just sitting back up, having watched his lieutenant fall.. and then be put down. The woman held the tip of the blade to the scorpion's neck. He was silent under the girl's gaze.
Saa was amazed, she couldn't believe anything that was happening, nor could she take her eyes off of the foreigner. Again, though, there had been flashes of something.. in the excitement, something had both drawn the mantid's eyes to and repelled her gaze from the space between Dagrún's horns.
There was nothing there.
Out of the corner of her eye, though. It was as though there was. Sometimes.
With her eyes unmoving from the leader, Dagrún spoke to the wasp, who was staring, wide-eyed at her. "I told you that you are coward. I was right, wasn't I? Just leave. I doubt you've ever seen a man die, and I don't think you really want to."
The wasp shook his head.
Dagrún raised her eyes just long enough to give the wasp a meaningful, cold stare, before going back to watching the scorpion.
"Go home to your mother."
After leaving the two arachnids tied up (with the tarantula's silk, no less!) outside a guard station, Dagrún and Saa walked back to the entrance of the walled city together.
"I have to go west," Saa said.
"And alas, I wish to go east," Dagrún lamented.
"It seems we must part ways," Saa stated, with even more regret than she imagined she would.
Dagrún glanced at the mantis and smirked, "I doubt you're all that upset. You can go back to being alone, no more putting up with my silly talk."
"I.. I wouldn't say that, exactly.." admitted Saa, noncommittal.
Stopping and turning to peer down at the hooded mantis, Dagrún said, "Either way, we've come to the moment wherein we must part."
"Yes.. we have," said Saa, stalling, trying to figure out what to do, what she wanted to do, before Dagrún was gone.
Seemingly, Dagrún knew Saa needed some time to divine what she should do, before leaving.
Finally, it came to the little lady.
Slowly at first, Saa leaned forward, then quickly latched onto her friend's form, clinging and hugging with all four arms. "Thank you, Dagrún. I'll always remember you."
Hugging back, the taller woman smiled and patted the mantid's head. "I know you won't forget me.. even if you wanted to," she chuckled.
Saa wanted to protest the very thought of that, but she simply hugged tighter.
"Will you remember me, too?" Saa whispered.
"Where I come from.. we all tend to have long memories. Don't worry. Aside from that, though.. you're unforgettable, and so was today. Thank you for letting me join you."
Eventually, the pulled apart.
They said their goodbyes and Dagrún climbed atop her beast.
She rode away into the desert.
There was copious waving.. even though the waning evening sun still slightly singed Saa's skin.
Soon, Saa was left on the edge of the city, with two things on her mind.
She just needed to find a way..
Thanks to her time with Dagrún, though, it didn't seem as hard as it might have, that morning.