Prisons Past II--CagedMature

There was a thing about when he was out there, waiting to see if tonight was The Night— or if it wasn't the right time yet. Talain hadn't been able to figure out much of a pattern, and so he watched the larger disk of Marsujo, possibly outshining and overshadowing the smaller moon of Veninto, through the tops of the trees. He made his way to this spot before dark, an uninhabited area of the tree tops, where it was too warm as it always was when you could see the sky in almost every place on Mero.

Talain wasn't sure at this point whether the night would pass uneventful, or if skin would tear and memories turn into something he couldn't comprehend but for one night in many. Alcohol hardly existed anywhere on Mero except in the smaller country of Juvia, but any Juvian would relate to that sort of amnesia as the kind after a night of intense drinking and partying-- a core ritual in their country.

A shiver rocked his harvostaroj; he arched his back and curled his toes; his note itched and twitched; those were the indicators that tonight was The Night. Talain thought about the bird he’d seen from the Fariul Tigan earlier that wik, and cursed a force unknown to him as he was enveloped in pressure for just a moment.

Talain shook out his fur. He checked himself—four legs, two tails, two hokŝaj, four eyes, long nose—didn’t have a nose before. Always felt strange, more so than gaining extra eyes. He snuffled and sneezed, leaves scuttling away from him. Talain sniffed, but his new black nose didn't work right yet. He waited, stretching out a black and brown fur body. In truth Talain couldn't say he had fur, but he didn't know the word for closely packed hair-like structures that, well, just weren't fur. There was no one to explain such to, however, and so he needn't bother.

He sat down and scratched one floppy, useless ear with a hind leg. Ears were just decoration for mating, as far as any dog worth his nose was concerned.

He caught sight of a musiklo out of the corner of two eyes. First prey, Talain thought. If he didn’t eat on The Night he woke up with a shriveled stomach. Unable to hear himself, he howled and gave two short barks—his personal hunting call, something that was felt only by the hunter and heard only by prey— before chasing after the musiklo, as he’d done hundreds of times before.

He remembered every one of them.


Talain morosely stuck the sangsang in his mouth, too tired to do more than move it around to get it in his cheek. The night before had been long, filled with browns, purples, and colours Talain couldn't describe without his propper nose and double the eyes. Majk gave him looks that conveyed envy and understanding, but Talain ignored them. He'd let Majk and Fredi think what might be though for now, so long as it wasn't the truth.

Presently Majk moved to reveal Niki as he left the room. Ferlinik had, apparently, returned this morning or in the middle of the night before, and she was now indulging in liquid fire. Liquid fire, an expensive drink, was sweet-and-sour, but also freezing and warm. It was the perfect drink to get one excited or keep them awake, but it was difficult to make and the process was complicated. The drink had two swirling colours, green and blue, though mostly golden yellow-brown.

"Morning birdsong," Ferlinik said softly. He grunted and triple-checked his hair for leaves and twigs--as much as he needed their assumptions, he didn't want to feed them. Seeing papers on the table, he grunted again, this time in question.

Niki waited while Majk returned with a morning-struck Fredi, looking better for the sleep but still unappreciative of its interruption.  Then Niki pushed the liquid fire to one side and tapped the papers.

"Last night I saw a request with an unusually high reward for only one man, a Seventh Sinner. We know where he was last seen--recently and close to here--his name, and what he's carrying--that is, virtually nothing. He has a cloth bag. Hopefully that bag has clothes."

Fredi snorted-- an awkward, high-pitched sound that may have ripped his inner nostrils--and there was a silence unpunctered by wakefulness.

Majk scratched his head. "We're supposed to catch a naked demon?"

"We need to find, capture, and transport a naked homan," Ferlinik said. She looked nervous, almost shaked--anxiety like a mother waiting past dark for a child they'd last expressed anger to. The expression was unsettling on a bounty hnter. Fredi sat, expression blank, and Majk put his hand down.

Talain coughed, shuffling his feet; his stomach did an odd flip. Niki glanced at him with wide eyes and shook herself, face returning to a calm. Majk though he saw a wrinkle that wasn't there before forming when she took back up the liquid fire and announced chipperly, "I'm ready to chase a naked homan today!"

Talain abruptly fell to his hands and knees and vomited.

"Yea," he spluttered, "me... too."

The End

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