Green Tail

Title: Green Tail
Time Period: November, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A long journey home for a widow ends with a loss and a farewell.

While Mairi strives to do a lot of the work for the farm on her own, logistically it can be difficult at times. Without a dedicated worker at her side, it means that Mairi not only has to do the framework, but the deliveries as well. Most of this is taken care of in town, but there are the rarer few that are a little farther away and after taking care of the farm and the deliveries, it can be quite late.

One such evening finds Mairi traveling home, just after sunset. With the deliveries finished, the wagon is lighter and the dark brown stallion hitched to it is able to keep up at a steady gait. It's a good thing, too, since the darkness has fallen and left only the moon and stars to light the way home. She doesn't like to stay out this late, but there was nothing that could be done now.

The dusk was lovely, considering the usual foggy nights on the roads; it melts orange and gray into the dark of the night, and the twinkle of stars is nearly poetic, for all that they are balls of gas, billions of miles away. The cold is not enough for snow to find a place, yet it is cold enough that it feels close to it. The road is muddy in places, and the path worn down to rock in others. It winds through field and grove with ease, and Mairi's progress is not made without the watchful eye of an owl, rabbit, or something else moving about in the shadows.

This time would be little different, if it were not for a scent that drives into the nostrils of her horse; a predator, and the smell of infected flesh, and of stale blood.

"Easy," Mairi murmurs reassuringly towards the stallion. "The darkness isn't going to come hurt you." Maybe it's not the darkness that needs to be feared, but it's perhaps a reassurance of them both. The reigns are held in a strong grip in case a quick direction needs to be given, but the pace continues at a steady clip. She glances into the back of the wagon, where a dog sits up, sniffing the air. Stalwart's searching for the smell too.

They won't need to search long. Something lumbers its way noisily through the sparse wood; it is dark, despite the lack of trees- the moon is but a sliver in the sky, and reflects very little to the earth below. The stench gets strong enough that Mairi can soon smell the rot, just before an ungainly creature all but lurches out through the path that cuts through this grove. When the weak light hits it, she'll know that it was not made for such hide-and-wait hunting techniques.

It is a young Green Tail, being about half the size of an adult, and colored a pea-soup green. One of its wings has been mangled by something- quite possibly another Green, judging by the burnt look and the reek of the dead flesh torn and hanging. It appears to have been that way for some time now. On the same side, the rear leg limps half a pace behind the other foot. The good wing props him up, and a long, swan-shaped curve shows off what could have been a handsome set of scales on the back of his neck.

Yellow eyes find the horse on the path, and the black irises seem much too dilated. Pain and hunger are the same, now, and predatory sensibility has been infected with it, as a disease. Or possibly, it is diseased.

Go!

Stalwart's the first to react. The dog gives a soft growl, not making a move from the wagon but remaining where he is defensively until he can decide the best route of attack. One of Mairi's hands covers her mouth and nose, while the other grips the reigns as the stallion neighs loudly in fear and breaks into a run, the wagon rumbling and bumping along as it's pulled.

Swearing softly, the widow keeps a grip on the reigns for control, but reaches her arm back, carefully feeling for where she's stored the shotgun—a necessary precaution when traveling farther than she'd like. Hefting the weapon with one arm, she turns towards the creature. A shot to hit or a shot to startle? She settles on a warning shot, firing near it in an attempt to tell it to back the hell away. It's clumsier than she'd like, given that she still has reigns in hand, but it should serve it's purpose.

She hopes.

The Green lets out a shrill noise, something deeper than the screeching of an angry sea-eagle, yet high pitched enough that the familiar hunting call echoes its way along the horizon. Mouth opening, his teeth bare wide in a hiss, and the long muscles in his neck pressure the scales above. The young dragon hops forward with a bark in his throat, gruffing out a series of shorter, less shrill sounds.

A flinch comes from her shot, the dragon's neck coiling back to sit squarely onto his powerful shoulders; the long muzzle opens again, and a thick yellow smoke emits from the back of his nostrils into the cool night air. He swings his maimed wing about to use as a pivot, the hooked claws on the tip of the other scraggling along the ground before the giant hind feet reposition themselves. He is moving around the side of the road, to get on the other side of the wagon from where she is pointing the fire-stick. The fumes coming from his face tell her but one certain thing, even if she has not met one so close.

The sound is not one Mairi's encountered before, and while such a creature might be known to exist, it is not something that she could ever have thought she'd have to deal with. It's hard to aim a gun and steer a horse at the same time, especially from atop the wagon, but she's no soldier and is unsure if her best bet would be to abandon her only wagon or to continue to try to go at a breakneck pace.

It's Stalwart who takes wing, a hawk swooping from the wood of the wagon to fly straight to the face of the dragon, an attempt to distract it as the familiar makes the decision for her—if successful, he's hoping Mairi will have time to unhitch the wagon. It'd be much faster to simply ride a horse than pull a wagon. She can always come back for it later.

She hopes.

Stalwart is with Luck tonight- the dragon spouts a premature flame that misses his tailfeathers by a few inches, and he can feel the heat in his down and hollow bones. Still young as he is, the flame is not as wide or as damaging as an adult's- but it is enough to catch a wheel of the wagon ablaze. It cuts off as the hawk swoops down at its forehead, and the snapping motion that follows only comes once, twice- and the creature realizes that the bird is not what he was actually after.

Lurching forward again, the dragon lifts back his wings, the damaged side shrinking and folding weakly against his ribcage. He crouches down and pushes off, landing with a crack of wood on the wagon, which buckles backwards under the weight, both rear axles snapping, the back end now digging into the mud.

THUNK!

She won't hear the arrow move above the barking racket of the beast and her horse, but Mairi can certainly hear it hit the mark. A wooden arrow sticks from the injured wing at an odd angle, exacerbated when the greenling squeals and rolls off of the wagon in stinging pain, short arms clawing at dirt and tail lashing about on the road. The arrow snaps off while he is at this, the tip still in the soft, exposed flesh of his wing.

Mairi would like to have time to worry about her familiar but the circumstances aren't apt to allow her to think beyond the next second. She only hopes that Stalwart knows what he's doing and that he does what she needs him to do. She'd know, at least, the minute something happened to him. Her thoughts, instead, are on the struggle to keep her horse and herself alive. One hinges on the other, as she's certain that she'd certainly not do better on foot, especially since she's not entirely sure she'd be able to kill it.

It's a cautious move, crawling up onto the back of a speeding horse while trying not to fall off and die as well as keeping a grip on a shotgun. Still, it needs to be done and as the back of the wagon is dragged in the mud, the whole lot of them has slowed enough that she can clamber onto the back of the stallion. Her legs keep a grip on the horse while one hand works off the ties that bind it to the wagon.

She's keenly aware that something has happened to the beast. There's an arrow which means that someone else is attacking the creature. Stalwart, regardless of form, is not proficient in archery and is unlikely the cause of such an attack. The dragon is still a threat, however, and now that she's secured on the horse and the wagon has been abandoned to the road, she continues to try and keep control of the horse while she fires another shot, this one in the dragon's direction. She doesn't care if it hits… it's already in pain and might be likely to flee. Of course, a gunshot from the back of the horse is enough to startle the stallion into rearing up—Mairi comes sliding down off the back of the horse into the mud.

Another arrow flies past, and this one she can hear- it whizzes past her stallion just before she pulls the shot of her own at the young dragon. She misses and hits the ground at its feet, which in supposing serves to startle it into a froth. The second arrow lands in its shoulder, embedding itself loosely between scales. It wasn't intended to be a killshot, anyway- it does distract the beast long enough for Jorn to drop the heavy longbow into the grass. He towers onto the dirt road to grab the horse by the bridle, pushing its head around so that it may find an opening to get out of the way.

Even from her view in the mud, and having the looming figure contrasted by a smoldering wagon, the furred cloak is telltale for Mairi. The knickering of another horse comes from in the near distance, presumably his own.

She's grateful for the effort to rescue the stallion. The loss of a wagon is one thing, the loss of a horse would be much more devastating. With Jorn's aid, the horse is directed enough to stumble off into the treeline, likely in the direction of Jorn's own horse. Mairi pulls herself from the mud as quick as she can while the gun is held, aimed towards the beast as she keeps an eye on it. She's much less worried than she was before—the arrows rang true and the beast is much less likely to charge at her, she believes. From the sky, Stalwart swoops overhead, waiting to make another move if the creature comes any closer to his mistress.

The dragon reels its way back upright, jaws snapping, smoke once again yellowing at his nose. Jorn has not said a word above the din, and when the youngling spouts a second belch of flame at him when he darts to the side. It lights the blue of his eyes and the dark outline of his face, flashing an expression of rage. Jorn has the upper-hand, here, while the greenling has likely never had to fight something that can form a strategy better than 'duck'.

The fire flies high as Jorn circles low, at a lope around to the other side of the creature The wood of the wagon has since caught fully ablaze, and it offers orange fire like a beacon on the road.

"Kom igjen, bror!" Jorn's yell is loud, angry, and his eyes quite mad- a taunt, of the best kind. His hand finds the hilt of his sword, and drawing it, moves forward to strike up across the beast's injured side. The motion does little to grievously injure; it was not meant to.

It's only now that Mairi really has a second to observe the dragon-fighting figure. While she's not surprised, his identity is not one she expected. There is still danger, especially with the creature so close to Jorn himself. Metal from the barrel of the gun is gripped tightly, knuckles turning white as its bearer keeps an aim on the creature. She won't fire, not while there's any chance of striking an unintentional target, but it's there for safety. If things get worse or if it decides to charge her instead of him, she's ready.

Stalwart hasn't given up his fight. While his mistress is out of immediate danger, there is still the creature to be dealt with. He dives once again, this time talons poised to claw at the young dragon's face in a quick hit-and-run motion.

The first strike was meant to lead it away- to goad it into lashing out. When it does, it is with the leg attached to the thigh that was bit into by Jorn's blade. It is a desperate, mulish kick. Stalwart finds his face during, and the dragon flails his head back, tail hefting behind him to try and knock away a fast-approaching Jorn, who is now taking advantage of the hawk's interference. The bird in its face, long jaws open again to snap frantically at feathers, catching the air under the familiar's wings.

Half of the blade finds a tender place under the rot of its injured wing, between shoulder and fleshy skin. Jorn's momentum carries him into the dragon, and they seem to lean into one another for a passing second. That is, until the Green wails shrilly and curls its chin down to bite at the man wielding the blade. Its teeth catch on his scabbard, and though it pulls, such frantic snapping only serves to provide Jorn an opportunity to grab things by the horns. Or rather- the farther one of the pair that sticks out from behind the drum-shapes of this youngling's ears.

It seems rather like yanking down a cow for slaughter, if cows had thrashing tails and legs that flounder on the ground, askew and kicking up turrets in the dirt. And if butchers were in fact, berserkers.

While Stalwart keeps making narrow escapes, Mairi's position is stable, gun still aimed at the dragon as it's pulled down. She can't get a shot in that she thinks will make it, so instead she steps forward through the mud, eyes not moving from the chaos before her. The gun remains aimed at the dragon, in case it should rise up again, and getting closer should enable her to get a shot in if necessary. As she approaches, Stalwart circles overhead, resuming a watchful vigil instead of a steady attack. Both he and his mistress are both waiting cautiously while they are in a position to.

Jorn pulls his sword free, leaving a gaping wound under the wing that seeps out red and brown into the mud. The other wing flaps out open on the earth, wingspan open and beating weakly. The wound must have been a true one, aimed at some sort of bloodline from torso to wing- it bleeds profusely, stinking up the air.

"Jeg vil sette deg fri." Jorn tugs hard at its head, letting go of the horn to loop the back of his arm across the hollow of its throat, and press it back. The long neck is a dusty brown on the underside, and bulges between moments of writhing. All the better to cut clean; the tall man braces one knee on scaly limb, hefting his sword to sever the injured greenling's throat.

The slaughter of a creature is not an unfamiliar sight to Mairi. She's seen the butchering of creatures before. She's had to put down animals a few time in her time and has seen her father and husband do it more than that. Still, there's something about what was once a powerful creature reduced to the rotten beast before them that makes her cringe when its threat is silenced with the blade. Her gun slowly lowers, no need of it now, and she swallows the lump in her throat.

It's then that Stalwart swoops low, landing on the nearest tree to them (which is still a good distance away), stopping to watch both Mairi and Jorn from a comfortable location. He seems much less worried now, and much more apt to let the woman handle herself. The decision to move forward is one she labors over in her mind until her feet drag her a few steps closer into Jorn's line of sight.

The clopping of hooves can be heard down the road, and from the far glow of the burning wagon, Jorn's mare, Kuu, stands with the wagonhorse, both sets of nostrils flared. The latter horse seems much more nervous. When Jorn moves to stand, he does so with a slight teeter in his step, favoring his right leg, and grinding his left boot into the ground. If there is a pain somewhere, it does not show on his expression- a gaze of glassy eyes and a firmly shut mouth. He can see Mairi well enough, yet first tends to setting down the horse-sized head in his arm to the ground, and wiping his blade over the cloth part of his pantleg.

As he sheathes the longsword, Jorn looks past Mairi, to the horses, the burning wagon, and back down to the dragon. His nostrils flare as he wipes a glove across the red on one cheek, and he offers the warm corpse a few unintelligible words, followed by a deep nod of what looks like a farewell, however rudimentary.

There's respect in his actions and Mairi hovers nearby to watch. To him this creature was obviously more than just some monster roaming the woods. In some ways, it was a lame horse that needed to be put down so it didn't suffer. There's a tiny nod from her in some sort of approval of his actions, but her eyes are drawn away at the sound of horses.

Relief washes over her features when she sees the pair of horses, her own frightened stallion still present and presumedly uninjured. The wagon she takes as a loss—she'll have to see what she can put together in the next couple of days. Perhaps she can do some trading in town, or ask for help from… someone. She frowns a touch, but turns back to Jorn, unsure of what to say. That and she doesn't want to interrupt him until he's said his farewells.

Coming down from certain highs get harder and harder. Jorn finally meets her gaze when she looks back to him, pale blue eyes giving off a strange sort of wariness.

"You are uninjured?" He cannot see anything wrong, apart from the fact she has a new layer of mud. Before truly waiting for an answer, Jorn moves to the remnants of the wagon to kick part of it back into the pile; he then lifts a hand and clucks his tongue towards his horse. The smell does bother her, but she comes to Jorn even so. "The body is unsafe, we must leave it." He will see to the disposal.

Jorn runs a weary palm over his horse, peering behind his shoulder to Mairi. "Your wagon…"

The mud is unnoticed. Perhaps in some other circumstances Mairi would have been concerned about her appearance. A tired sigh does escape her as she moves towards her horse to take ahold of its reigns. "I'm not hurt," she agrees. The dragon's stench is enough of an indication that it's sick and she has no desire to touch it even without the warning.

Mairi twists the leather of the reigns between her fingers as she studies the fire that has taken over her wagon. "I had already delivered my goods, I lost little of value other than the wagon," her murmur is soft, but audible. "I will get a new one. Build one, if I have to."

Jorn takes his horse by the reins, leading her away from the space and to where he dropped his bow and quiver. He was possibly out hunting, himself- the bow is not much of a war bow. Too slim, the arrows too simple. He straps them up to hang from the side of the saddle. "A wagon is not an easy project." He is already shaking his head, voice rough. "I can help you pay for one." It wasn't Jorn that lit it on fire, yet he seems content to take such blame, brow furrowed and jaw set.

"I can take you home." He states, plainly, as he puts one foot in a stirrup and pulls himself up onto the horse.

Mairi's free hand strokes her horse's neck soothingly, perhaps for her own benefit as well as his. The other hand stays on the reigns for a moment before she makes the decision to mount her horse as well. It's much more difficult this time, despite having clambered aboard the horse while it was running, as now she's mounting from the ground. It takes a moment, and Mairi doesn't ask for assistance, but she makes it up onto the horse.

"I won't refuse an offer of assistance like that," she admits, "but it is not something I will ask of you. If you wish to help with the wagon, that is fine, but I have ways to come up with a wagon should I need to." Perhaps still a way of asserting she's not entirely helpless. There's a pause and her voice comes softer. "I would appreciate the escort home."

The attitude with which Jorn has assessed and dealt with the situation- Mairi included- is a great deal more cold-blooded than she knows him to so usually be. An animal in captivity, and possessed of human reason- is still an animal. He watches her get into the saddle, nodding when she both accepts and asserts on what he has said. "It is part of your livelihood, and it is almost true winter."

"Savner." It sounds formal, in his mouth-filled tongue. He turns Kuu to start down the road. "Come, then. Your nerves will soothe themselves." He pauses as well, debating in silence. "I promise."