From Behind

Title: From Behind
Time Period: March 15, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Jain's luck runs out on his way from the loo.

Monogamy isn't really a situation that Jain or Traa-dy-Liooar are comfortable with. Weeks spent at Mairi's house recovering seem endless to the highlander, more and more he's been taking trips out to the yard at night. To be alone. To be alone with the familiar she has no idea about. To be alone and leave his familiar with her. Alone is wonderful.

From the farmhouse to the outhouse and back again can be made into a good two hour trip if dinner's been prepared just right. As of late, Jain's been getting better and better at leaving right after the dishes have been cleared and not coming back until just after she's gone to bed. It saves him from talking about feelings. More than that, it saves him the chastising by shrew later. Neither of them have been questioning where he goes lately. Enough honest answers have led to no questions at all. Now he can do whatever he pleases.

Before the trip back from the outhouse, he was at the tavern. Before that, he was at the Dovetail.

The lights in the house have recently gone dim. The smoke still comes in thin ribbons from the chimney, she might be still awake. She might also still be awake. Jain is in no mood for seconds, or thirds, lately they just don't agree with him. So he pauses halfway between. Far enough from his familiar's reach but still within sight of the building. Barely.

The night is clear and there's house smoke on the wind, softening the gape of wide open skies with a touch of civilization. It's quiet, aside from the off rush of cold wind through skeleton branches, which calls all the more attention to the solo split of a twig beneath hoof or paw. The sound originates somewhere along the path ahead. Not far at all, and followed presently with an off-balance rustle that stifles urgently into silence.

Jain reaches over his shoulder for the one companion that he likes these days. Finding the claymore absent, he lets out a long and frustrated breath, inwardly cursing his luck. Or lack of foresight. Then again, Mairi and Traa-dy-Liooar might have become suspicious if he'd taken the large sword to the outhouse. Instead he strafes a few silent steps toward the sound and crouches down along the side of the path.

His sharp eyes flick in all directions about him, trying to find anything that might be out of place. He knows this bit of wilderness enough to crack at a guess.

Quiet and crouched as he is, Jain might have time to imagine little bunny eyes flashing over the stutter of his heart. Silence stretches until the wind rises again a breath later, fresh air whisking light across darkened farmland. Just as it begins to die down, the thing in the brush hunkers closer to the ground, rattling brittle grass into the start of a slinking turn before the blow comes from behind.

Ringing white cascades from eye to eye and ear to ear, numbing perception to naught in the reeling second it takes for a second impact to catch Jain square between his shoulders rather than his skull. The application of bootheel to spine does not need to be precise to throw him forward onto his face, where he'll taste dirt. And blood, if his teeth aren't careful about his tongue.

A knee takes the boot's place. An arm hooks and binds itself hard around his throat, and whatever lingering clarity of perception he might have retained goes with it. Ringing rises into a defeaning underwater roar. The sky and ground and grass smother into a uniform grey. Traa-dy-Liooar does not exist.

When Jain awakes, the first thing he will notice is that he is upside down. His ankles are bound far over his head and his hands are pins and needles behind his back. All-consuming nothingness gives way to sticky warmth about his face and neck and the wind is back, bringing with it an on and off creaking of rope. The ground is five feet below him, scarred clear nearby as a stretch of earth he may recognize as the main road into Dornie. A figure is three feet ahead, grey and indistinct.

Time is such a relative thing. Jain barely pays attention to it except when it inconveniences him not to. In this case, it will, if he spends too long out. Craning a look up/down to the sky has his nostrils filling with the iron scent of blood. A familiar smell, also a familiar feel, except that it's his own and someone seems to have gotten the better of him. Possibly the figure nearby.

The fact that he's hanging by his ankles instead of his neck is a good sign, they might want to keep him alive. "Seems I might've made someone a bit angry then," he ventures, not really a question. There could be so many. "How about you cut me down from here before I get really angry?"

The man (if it is a man) turns to the sound of consciousness regained, but his face is no more readily marked than the rest of him. He's tall, so there is that. And darkly dressed.

Or simply dark.

There is an unsettling buzz that crawls in the air about him, more visceral than confusion rooted in concussion. It obscures movement and smudges detail, rendering him a ghost against the crisp detail of blood mottled soil under (over) head. Static burns in Jain's ears when he steps closer, and rises once more to a dull roar when paired fingers prod into his sternum a deliberate beat later, stirring him into a slow, relaxing swing.

The pain makes it more than a little awkward to keep a manly face. Twisted into a grimace, Jain tries his best not to wince or scream when what seem to be chiggers in his brain, at first, turns into something rather agonizing. It shows, though, in the tightness of his muscles as he swings back and forth. By the way his veins grow to ropes on either side of his neck.

Apparently his captor isn't much for conversation.

The slow swing makes it hard to focus on the dark man. Jain's eyes cross and straighten as he gets closer and then farther away. On one of the swings away, he tests the bindings at his hands, arm muscles flexing as he begins his struggle. Like a rabbit caught in a snare. Fear creeps in, especially when a few blinks don't make all of this go away.

Struggle as he might, there is nowhere to go.

Slightly above even eye level and close enough that Jain might smell his breath if he had breath to smell, the man reaches to draw a mask up off over his head.

There is nothing beneath it.

More of the same otherworldly grey that shifts and sizzles and seethes infuriating familiarity, as he tucks the mask away. Recognition is as instantaneous as it is impervious to recollection. Jain knows this man, but he cannot see him.

Not that it matters. Gloved hands wrap roaring about the bound man's temples and twist sharply to left, same as a child might twist a gourd from it's vine.

There is a sound somewhere up on the path ahead. A snap. Not far at all.

For as long as it to die without the nerves to tell your heart to beat or your lungs to breathe, Jain's eyes remain open watching the grey faced thing, man, whatever. Dying should be much more painful than this. Instead a cliche. Life flashes before his eyes.

The snap of a twig ahead, jars the soldier back to life with a quick blink and a quick breath through flared nostrils. This time, he doesn't have to reach over his shoulder to remember. Traa-dy-Liooar he yells it through his mind, hoping that the familiar will hear it and come to his aide. More hoping that she hasn't found somewhere warm with some living thing to feast on and ignore him. She's been eying the kestrel in the rafters, the kitten near the fire. The thing that's so suspicious of him. Hurry.

When Jain flinches so does the thing ahead. The initial snap is tailed by a rake of claws over dirt, suddenly uncertain as the wind begins to pick up precisely as it did before.

He used to take her everywhere. When the shrew first felt the initial flutter of panic in her heart and the sick feeling that accompanied it, she tried to ignore it. Jain doesn't deserve a love as strong as hers. But when it didn't go away and his scream came pounding through her head, she scurries through the wall to get outside. Mud and plaster cloud the air as a bristled boar explodes from the outer wall of the farmhouse. The familiar didn't gauge its change and turned a bit too soon.

The roar of anger from its throat rides the whisper of the wind over the field, making the silvery light seem red in Jain's eyes. His lids slide halfway down as he surveys the grass, the scurry of whatever animal that might be, turning his head toward whatever is about to hit him from behind. Then he veers into the grass, running through it toward his familiar, rather than the sound that had someone breaking his neck.

Behind there's nothing.

Who or what was going to be there has evidently decided to be somewhere else. Ahead, a familiar coiled low in the grass pricks its ears to the sound of rage on the wind. Soon it's tearing off for the tree line at a dead sprint, scrubby grass whispering in its wake.