Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Day Eight-Hundred-Sixteen: This is why you don't abandon the protagonists

Had Nagi been anything other than what she was - an evasive, rogue-ish thief - she never would have survived the next three months. 

Each day passed with the speed of a snail gliding across tar. Nagi remained cloistered inside the inn, hiding away from the werewolves in whichever room seemed safest at the time. Under other circumstances stealing away in the inn’s closest room to an executive suite might have seemed a blessing to Nagi, but she was too fearful of the werewolves of Foregone to enjoy the experience. She masked her scent with a cocktail of expensive, pungent colognes from the suite that made Nagi’s head spin, and, gradually, the werewolves learned to associate the inn with a painful, stinging odour. 

It took an entire month for the werewolves prowling Foregone’s streets to leave the inn entirely alone. By then they were crawling their way into the surrounding countryside, looking for fresh prey and new recruits in the farming homesteads dotting the plains. Nagi estimated that there were hundreds - possibly thousands - of the creatures by the time the snow was at its worst, and the combination of danger and inclement weather made travel nigh impossible for the half-snake.

When she wasn’t watching for werewolves, foraging for food or reading novels, Nagi spent her time playing Solitaire with an old deck of leather cards. At first she kept score, comparing her wins to her loses, but the scoreboard proved so dismally revealing of how much time she’d spent in Foregone that she ditched it and played without any knowledge of her successes and failure.

When she dreamed, Nagi dreamed of the Dauphine. In retrospect, it hadn’t been so bad. Hectic and dangerous, yes, but also safe. She missed those days.

By the time Daena was making a beeline towards Foregone Nagi’s routine had become less terrifying and more dull. Awakening just before noon, when the werewolves were most likely to be napping - though not entirely nocturnal, they seemed to prefer darkness over light - Nagi would slap on whatever cologne she had on hand all over her body, garb herself in a robe of flat browns, and sneak into the market down the street. She only did this if she had no food left, and on this particular day, the food in her impromptu larder was scarce indeed.

Maybe today, Nagi thought, staring at the distant, dull walls surrounding Foregone. Maybe they’ll send soldiers today. Or maybe they won’t. Hell, maybe they never will. Maybe I’m just gonna be trapped here ’til I’m old and grey, and, eventually, very hairy.

Maybe I’ll be a purple werewolf.

That would be something.

Abruptly, almost viciously, Nagi slapped herself. She’d conjured the image of a purple werewolf to match her hair hundreds of times, and it never failed to dampen her spirits. She knew she had little reason to be in a good mood, granted, but that was no cause to make things worse.

The slap was, unfortunately, harder than Nagi had anticipated, and through some grim providence the scarf covering her face slipped away just in time for her hand to hit her cheek. Not only did the blow sting, it reverberated noisily through the streets, loud as a cannon blast to Nagi’s ears. And she knew all too well that the werewolves had much better ears than hers.

Crouching instinctively, flinching at her stupidity, Nagi darted for the nearest, half-wrecked vendor’s stall, one she knew to be an adequate hiding spot. Her tail propelled her up, over, and behind the cart, where she shimmied into a gap and peered out at the road through a gap in the wood. The stench of her sweat seemed almost to overpower the cologne’s musk, and Nagi wondered if she’d not applied enough. She was running out.

No werewolves came. They seldom ever did. The only sound she heard was the gentle, persistent lapping of unabated fires from the eastern quarter of Foregone, miraculously kept at bay by the weather. Nagi knew the spring would either douse the flames at last with persistent showers… or fan it even further with gusts of wind that could only be found on the plains.

Nagi waited twenty minutes before she dared move again, and this time she kept her slapping hand to herself. 

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