Dog Bites Man

Title: Dog Bites Man
Time Period: June 20, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: …and then man bites dog.

In the depths of sickness, the world rocks back and forth like a scarlet cradle. Not fast and feverish, like the beating of a heart, but slow and rolling, like labored breath. Cold. Wet. Gritty. And a sound. Sounds. The sighing of waves. Like the beginning of memory.

He's been lucky. It would be hard for Thorpe to avoid having his little boat pressed against a rocky shore and capsized, were it not for the calm of the water. And the night would make finding his way to the island nearly impossible, if not for the generous supply of light provided by already fat and waxing moon.

His camp is hidden in the shadow of a grove of middle-aged ash trees, whose roots form a serpentine weave save for where he's hacked it clear, in the outline of a crude circle. The circle, jagged with unevenly severed roots, marks the edges of a deep pit, recently dug, extending well past the shallow carpet of roots . This upper layer rattles Deckard's head as he's dragged, by his legs, over to this pit.

Before he forgets, Thorpe reaches into Deckard's pocket and reclaims the cigarette case.

"I wus lying, you know. 'Bout finding anyfing of yours on the beach." Just to make it clear that he's not a common thief. He then sets a boot to Deckard's side, and rolls him into the pit. Thorpe peers over the edge.

"But I did near to break my back digging this 'ere for you, so don't say I ain't done nuffing for yuh, eh?"

Deckard rolls to an abrupt halt at the pit's bottom like a sack of dirt. Sans resistance.

Dust lifts past the jut of an elbow and earth cool against his cheek; the jar of bone from gravity to ground clears some of the cobwebbing out of his eyes.

For a while he just lies there, immobile save for the regular fold and press of his battered ribs. He's in a pit. In the ground. And he has work in the morning.

Hunger etching at his gut is nothing new. Didn't eat before he snuck off the perimeter. Dumb.

Eventually, the tingling in the arm beneath him begins to ache and he pushes himself into a sit, joints clicking skeletal protest. Not long after that, he looks up. First in search of Thorpe. Then to measure how deep he is. Like, literally.

About fifteen feet. The job appears to have been performed with troubling professionalism. One wonders how often Thorpe finds it necessary to dig inescapable pits.

He does his case no favors by dragging a grid of lashed branches over the mouth of the hole. That was definitely made on the spot. He continues to gab away as he places stones to weigh it down.

"I swear, friend, I'm doing you a favor. Scotland's a buggered-bloody arsehole. Where you're headed? The Continent? The Mediterranean? The worst prison there ‘as got to be a fucking summer retreat next to a Dornie winter.

"Bet they don't even 'ave summer retreats in Dornie. Never 'eard of 'em. 'aven't invented 'em."

Below, boots thump sole to sole when they're tossed aside after a stretch of silence.

"What kind of favor?"

Flint's voice is hoarse when it finally rises from the pit, one hand gone to feel slow across his ribs while the other touches at hard-packed dirt. His knuckles follow at a half-hearted gouge, but there's a tremor at his wrist that curtails dedicated focus to the potential for handholds and he turns back. Calm deteriorating faster than he can think.

"Well maybe I didn't-" Thorpe admits, with the casualness afforded to him in his position, "maybe you'll be thrown into another pit- a deeper one, deepest one they got- and not ever let out to see the sun again. Buggered if I know, friend. Them as hired me said you wus sum sort of dangerous, but didn't say nuffing 'bout your par-ticular crime, nor how they aim to punish. And it ain't none of my business, pr'fessionally speaking."

He crouches at the edge and looks down at Deckard. His toetips cause a clump of dirty to tumble down the hole, bursting into grit at the bottom. The island’s earth is thick and relatively root-bound, but sandy in spots. The risk of trying the walls would, of course, be premature burial.

"Not sayin' I ain't curious, unpr'fessionally speaking. But 'course, like with every blackguard, your memory gets fuzzy 'round those details, don’t it? 'S all right, though. Like I said, friend-

"I know how that can be. Some nights, we find ourselves up to things’d make us sick just to hear 'bout during the day."

Thorpe looks down and Deckard looks up, eyes bled pale in a wash of gridded moonlight. Unblinking. Shadows roll in the pit of his jaw while he works it over, processing speed limited — as ever — by nagging distraction. Currently the effort involved in keeping his breathing slow and regular entails is taking up a lot of RAM.

"Drop in," he offers, voice sanded down into saw-toothed neutrality, "and I'll show you."

This makes Thorpe laugh. As he believes he is meant to. "Thass it. Keep your sense of humor 'bout you. Won't be long now, anyhow. There's a ship days out from Dover coming for you. They get here, and we'll part ways, you 'n' me. But no reason not to be personable in the time we got, eh?"

Flint doesn't laugh.

His brow hoods when Thorpe does, teeth shown and put away again just as quickly when he reatreats into the shadows banked against dirt walls. There he drops into a sit next to his boots, knees drawn up and toes curled. Unpersonable.

"If that's how it's to be, I've got business elsewhere anyhow," Thorpe says, playing petulant - yet more jocularity. Things are generally funnier to the guy on the better side of the bars.

He disappears from view, but his voice bounces down, unavoidable. "Jus' sit tight. I'll be back, maybe 'ave a little supper for us as well."

"And don't try and dig or nuffing, you'll bring the 'ole thing down on your 'ead," he says, reappearing to give this last directive.

"You're worth less than your weight in shit to me dead."

And then he's going. And the sound of oars meeting water means he's soon gone.

Logic says that the laces in Flint's boots may be of some practical use in escape; when the smack and slip of Thorpe's paddles begins to fade, he reaches to loosen the strings. Quickly at first, and then with an increasing thickness to the bone that impedes nimble movement until leather and lace are slung hard at the far wall.

Loose sand and grit tumbles after it.

The bottom of Thorpe's boat makes a gravelly sound as it meets the edge of his little island. Along with the ever-present lapping of the waves and the wide open sigh of the sea's expanse, this is the only sound until it gives way to the loose crunch of Thorpe's boots. By the bulbous reflection of the gibbous, he picks his way through the trees back to his camp amidst the ashes.

What he finds is more silence, more stillness, hanging heavy between the branches and roots. Absence, or even just its appearance, unsettles. He seeks the edge of the pit, trusting rather a lot to his skill at finding his feet in the dark. Just to be sure his guest hasn't done anything foolish or costly.

A low, diesel growl makes for an unsettling overture to Thorpe's approach, kept quieter than it could be through slavering jaws.

The source is the pit.

It hushes into terser silence than before when sand skims down over the lip. The interior has been disturbed — the occupant's been moving dirt despite the risk, spilling loose sediment into a miniature landslide across the floor and rendering the overall design heavily lopsided near the base.

Then there's the occupant himself.

Fifteen feet is a long way to leap, but Thorpe can feel a blast of hot air and spittle rank on his face when Flint hurls himself up against the pit wall under his feet. Heavy jaws snarl and snap short of purchase; bristled fur and wild eyes slide inexorably back down into a growing heap of earth. Next time he jumps, he'll have an extra inch.

Thorpe lands on his ass, hard, the shock hurling off his feet and down to the ground. In an ashen instant, his gregarious manner is replaced by abject terror. He's sweating. It's cold. He's shaking.

He's still shaking when he manages to get to his feet and stumble away from the pit's edge. At first it's enough just to be away, as he leans against a tree and tries to gather his wits, to make sense of what has happened. Did the wolf come and gobble his captive all up, like grandma, and just forget to put on his shirt and boots? No woodsman, he still makes for an ax - his hatchet rests, blade sunk in a cleft between roots.

Thorpe's got it in hand, held like a weapon and not a tool, as he turns back towards the pit.

There's a scuff and spatter where the beast rolls up onto all fours and shakes dirt free of his ruff, hunched shoulders and long arms stooped ape-like at a circling amble until he rises upright to look. Pale blue eyes are set deep in wolfish skull held some seven feet aloft, long nose and pinned ears swiveling around after the sound of Thorpe's return. His pelt is short and thin and patchy in places where stress has exposed grey skin, a dusky mix of brown and black and grey that's thickest at his ruff.

Tongue pushed slow over coal black nose, shirt and boots aside, the creature peering up at the bottom of Thorpe's pit is wearing Flint's pants.

Most of them.

It's also growling again, hackles gradually stiffened out into a mud-spined bristle.

"Bloody fuckin' 'ell," Thorpe intones, granted a full and proper look at the thing-that-was-Flint. He gives his hatchet a glance and a heft, imagining what it could possibly do to that thing before his throat got torn out. Not much, he figures, and that estimation has nothing to do with lack of imagination.

"That mean you're ‘ungry, mate?" he calls down, suppressing a stammer. He takes a few steps away from the edge, realizing that the answer might be 'yes', and that it might not be all that funny a joke upon further consideration.

Thorpe retreats. Flint lunges. Looses a hefty lump of it into caving in on his face. There's a tangible whumph and an unsettling sink of earth at the pit's rim. Garbled snarling, a choked bark. Struggling, clawing, he churns until he's free enough to snap around at the ragged flag of his own tail and haunch.

Blood drawn seems to brake him back into a less of a frenzy — after nosing after the wound he pauses to catch his breath. Huffing and puffing, even, through the froth dribbling to pool between broad, paw-like hands.

This is one of those situations where you start to reconsider your previous cost/benefit analysis. Thorpe has, through his characteristic and admirable foresight, bought himself a little time. Within this time he can either live or die, and conservative projections have these two in dead heat.

The trouble is that he's been paid in advance already. That's why he takes the time to grab his knapsack before making any decision, since he's not about to go anywhere or do anything without something to show for it. It's weighty, hanging heavy on his shoulder.

"Think I'm gonna 'ave to leave you to your own devices, mate- nuffing personal," Thorpe says, settling on a decision that is characteristic if not necessarily admirable, "I think both of us is inadequately informed, is all. No ‘ard feelings, eh?"

His chatter covers the hasty collection of his things, and the start of his retreat.

The pit hollows the bass force with which another series of growls occasionally tears into snarling, massive lungs reverberating warning through Thorpe's diaphragm in addition to their own. In no sense are they carrying on a dialogue, rather — one voice seeks to smother out the other.


Moonlight traces an edge that crumbles slightly outward every several seconds, cross-branch cover keeling in at an uncertain angle. Perhaps he wishes to accept Thorpe's apology in person.

Know what? He'll send you a card. That way you can put it on your mantle, and remind yourself every day just how sorry Abelard Thorpe is that he drugged you and dragged you and dropped you into a pit. Surely that would be preferable for all parties.

Thorpe doesn't waste any more time or breath. The latter goes to running, the former to living.

It doesn't take long. Another avalanche of shifted earth sloughs down into the pit and a fully-grown werewolf wrests through wood and vine at the crest into cold moonlight. Dry dust rises from the rough of his pelt and the wet stuff clings close, falling away in clumps while he circles to get his bearings.

Behind Thorpe, the sudden pool of quiet is worse than the savagery that preceded it.

Flint lopes along on all fours in relative silence, gaining ground by the meter along a parallel path. Leaf litter turned underfoot is hard to detect past pounding ears and a covey of sleepy birds spooked live up ahead.

He comes from the side, jaws twisting and crushing through ball and socket at the shoulder while the sheer, mummy-dry weight of him wrenches man and pack backwards to the ground. Flesh and cloth alike twisted from bone are choked down through a snarl. An instinctive nip to the neck is diverted back to rasping at the meatier span of shoulder and bicep he's already blooded before it has time to sink in.

Thorpe hits the ground like a sack of meat, made a ragdoll by the initial assault. His coat goes to tatters and begins to feel damp and warm as blood begins to leave his body at an alarming rate.

This is generally the part with the screaming. The kind of scream is important. The cry of startlement is to be expected, an instinct as deep as that which birds give to send their whole flock aloft. And pretty much anyone might choose to vocalize pain like this, even when experienced through the skein of adrenaline.

But the truly fatal scream is one of fear - not shock nor surprise, but a confrontation with death's immediacy that sends the fearful soul surging up into the voice, pealing out of a person as if in attempted flight from its doomed vessel. It is a scream, yes, but it is also a surrender.

Thorpe is a man of professional violence, who has faced death before. Even with the teeth of the beast sunk in him, he doesn't give this last kind of scream. Not to say he might not still die - he almost certainly will - but he knows better than to give up that quick. And that he does not waste time screaming gives him just a little space in which to think.

Not that it would seem to matter much. What the hell do you do with a werewolf if you didn't happen to pack any silver weapons? You're just proper fucked, aren't you? Only silver on him is in his choppers. True to form, it would seem that Thorpe's last coherent thought will be something of a joke: the irony of being eaten by a werewolf when one has silver teeth really is too delicious not to indulge, even here, at the end. A joke taken too far.

But then Thorpe goes ahead and takes it one step further. The sentiment can only be one of 'what the hell' as he twists himself in the werewolf's grip and tests his own teeth on the beast. Maybe he can get a spot at the bar in Valhalla for his bravery, or at least his desperation.

There's an audible clack of jaws snapping wet at Thorpe's forearm as he twists, foam and blood flung in an arc from the start of a worry and shake that breaks off as violently as it started. A shrill yelp sees the beast twisting backwards over himself like a headless snake, panic white at the corners of his eyes. For an instant hind talons turn through air and then up into his own neck, where fresh teeth marks sizzle and smoke, until one massive paw thrusts Thorpe away at a kick on his way to rolling upright again.

Simpering, hunched as the last smog burns off black, Flint snaps his chops and puffs and growls. But he doesn't lunge back in.

It starts as panting, sharp intakes of breath smoothing down into a more controlled rhythm, one that rumbles into a stutter of half-mad laughter. Thorpe's mouth tastes of something unnameable, and even if he manages to get away, it's even odds he'll pass out before getting to Dornie in hopes of getting help, and even then- he's hasn't exactly made any friends. The person he's interacted with most in Dornie is presently slavering at bay before him.

But one must stay optimistic. Isn't there an old expression- stiff upper lip? Thorpe's legs still work - even if he's going to have to scrape his way back along the coast one-armed - and he gets up on them, swaying a little but staying up. His satchel, strap torn, lies on the ground. He gives it almost more than a glance. But he's no fool. He's being positive, not Pollyannaish.

When he backs away, he does so with teeth bared, the moon gleaming in his teeth. Grinning for his life.

Incoherent rage bubbles red through thick fangs and sodden chops at the glitter of Thorpe's teeth, less cohesive than a traditional roar. A warble and snap, snarl and bark jarred by a feint that doesn't come close to catching at bloodied trousers. He quakes with it, tremor rippling nose to tail until he tears into the pack instead, spilling its contents into the fray for as long as it takes a fresh fizzle at his neck to get the best of him.

Teeth clipped back at his own shoulder fall short and he forgets about Thorpe or decides he has more pressing concerns, spinning in place until he thumps into a tree, spooks and retreats into the shadows.

However far Thorpe makes it, if he comes back for his pack tomorrow, it'll be to find it heavy and rank with supernatural piss.