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The Ratcatcher of Kvatch


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The Ratcatcher of Kvatch



A certain poor, neglected dark-haired Breton storybook waif will one day learn that catching rats is an entirely different kind of problem in Kvatch, because Kvatch has entirely different kinds of rats. True, its unique geography -- maybe it's the Deep Ones who make their home under Kvatch Mountain? -- draws free-spending conjurers like flies to honey, but for the local ratcatchers -- when there are any -- the "pest problem" has become a macabre joke. The "pests" themselves were an ongoing nightmare.


It seems when Daedra are summoned atop Mount Kvatch they have a tendency to stick around. For the big ones it's rare, and of course when it happens it's a huge scandal, so you almost never see a Xivilai running amok, but Scamps and Clannfears just seem to fall through the cracks -- literally, as they make their nests just under the city.


A Conjurer who happens to summon up a Spider Daedra he can't control or dismiss isn't going to be able to hide it. Seriously, how are you going to keep a rampaging horse-sized spider a secret? Lose control of something like that and if you can't deal with it yourself -- quickly if not quietly -- it's guards and shouting and swords and before you know it you're looking at a locked city gate from the outside wishing they'd let you back in. Naturally you'll have taken measures. The worst nightmare of any Conjurer of Kvatch is to be kicked out. (Beldaburo? Seriously? You're one headless zombie away from Wendelbek.)


As easy as it is to lose track of Clannfears and Scamps, and as wealthy as conjurers tend to be, the Duke and City Council have convinced the watch to turn a blind eye to the lesser Daedra that find their way underneath the iron drainage grates and stone culverts. They refer to these creatures as "rats" -- so as not to scare the common folk -- and every once in a while an out-of-work ratcatcher loses the battle between greed and common sense and decides that Kvatch might be a good place to earn a living.


This is the story of Katrina, Ratcatcher of Kvatch.


Chapter 1: The Duke of Daedra


"Ladies and gentlemen ... WELCOME! ... to the Arena!"

"Fetcher." Katrina the Ratcatcher narrowed her eyes as she studied her most hated arena combatant. As the announcer continued his babble she made a final check of her gear. Restless, she shifted her weight from side to side during the final windup:

"You know him! You love him! The Duke of Daedra ... the Prince of the Planes ... Martin Ottus!"


"Bloody fetcher!" Katrina growled again.

"He has The Rose this time I see," muttered her Argonian companion in a low singsong voice.

"Lousy sodding fetcher!" Katrina hissed again.

The contest was decided in its first 30 seconds. The hapless conjurer Martin was facing did his best: a faded wraith and the buffs to go with it, even a Fortify Speed from the brisk way it maneuvered around the field, but Martin was the crowd favorite for a reason.

Martin almost always opened with some kind of flashy Daedric magic. Last week had been easy on the ratcatchers: he Wabbajacked his opponent's daedroth into a sheep and led it out of the Arena, holding a feast of mutton in honor of Sheogorath. Everybody loved Martin, but none moreso than Martin himself. At least the ratcatchers finally got a day off: the dead sheep never reverted, and in all honesty the mutton had been pretty darn good.

Today, though, it was the Sanguine Rose. The conjurer Martin faced knew all about it, of course, and would've dodged it like a champion except that Martin didn't fire it at him but at his Wraith. There was a puff of red smoke and a daedroth appeared just as Martin completed his own conjuration, a fire atronach.

Martin pulled out something that looked like an Akaviri katana doused in burning lamp oil. It was "Goldbrand", always a crowd-pleaser. Usually the way things went down in the Kvatch Arena the conjurers would summon, buff, then duck out with invisibility or chameleon, maybe risking the occasional "assist" if the action in the ring didn't look too dangerous.

Martin wanted to get his hands dirty.

Katrina drank a "Detect Life" potion. In this situation it was not strictly speaking necessary, but there wasn't a ratcatcher alive who wouldn't have done it out of reflex. The sad, nameless conjurer twinkled into view. With so many dangerous creatures in the ring he'd be letting his wraith take all the chances. The poor sod was an old hand at playing the tomato anyway -- Martin dominated so many for so long the Arena had to change the rules just to stay in business. No one would be dying today save possibly a careless ratcatcher. Katrina and Quick-Feet watched warily from behind the bars of the cleanup gate.

Against all that fire the faded wraith never stood a chance. As the bloodshot eyes of Martin's daedroth began to turn -- the Rose drove its summoned Daedra into a frenzy and a trained ratcatcher always saw it first in their eyes -- Martin waved Goldbrand aloft to the cheering of the crowds. Women threw roses at his feet. Martin blew a kiss toward a knot of spectators who happened to be mostly female, sheathed Goldbrand and the Sanguine Rose with a flourish, and marched out of the arena with his head held high.

"Piss on Lord Sanguine," Katrina's orange-scaled Argonian partner hissed from behind her. The daedroth had by this time gone into a full-on rage, bellowing and slamming against the walls of the Arena.

"RATCATCHERS!" The Arena Master's voice pounded like a headache.

As the spectators piled out of the Arena to catch a glimpse of their beloved Arena hero the service grate began to ratchet upward. The real contest was about to begin.


Katrina drew a steel short sword. "You've fought one of these things before, right?" Katrina palmed something blue-black and slid her weapon through it, turning the blade an oily green.

"It looks like an overgrown Clannfear. It should be no problem." Quick-Feet dragged on each syllable like smoke through a pipe, slow and intense.

Every word he spoke sounded like that, so Katrina never really knew how to take it. She continued, "It's about half the speed and ten times as tough. You can't really flank them like a Clannfear, but you can outrun them, even back-stepping. In-and-out is better than around. Watch out for the claws."

Quick-Feet nodded as he pulled out several vials.

"Only four at a time. You know the rules."

"Yes, mother."

Katrina selected her remaining three: 2 Shields and a Restore Magicka.

Quick-Feet drank 4 vials in rapid succession; on the fourth he turned invisible. Katrina could still see him, of course; even his tail sparkled with life.

The daedroth noticed the gate just as Katrina summoned a scamp and drank her last potion. The daedroth's heavy legs pounded into the ground as it charged toward them. The scamp materialized just outside the bars.

The enraged daedroth slammed headlong into the scamp, grabbing it by the head and trampling its body underfoot. The emaciated scamp's head tore away, flaps of skin spattering ichor across the ground. In a flash it all disappeared.

"Fetcher." Katrina conjured again. The bars had raised just high enough she could make a run for it, but without a distraction she would die. Although she had gotten good at conjuring "under the bars", a crucial advantage, she couldn't conjure through the bars, so she could still only get off two summons before the gate was fully raised. This would be her last chance.

The daedroth leapt against the half-raised gate, slamming its head into the rising portcullis with a metallic clang. Dust, wood chips, and debris rained down from above, but nothing jammed and the gate continued rising.

A full-grown scamp materialized behind the daedroth. Outside of Kvatch a "creature upgrade" from a novice's summons would be impossible, but then outside of Kvatch ratcatchers would actually catch rats.

The daedroth shook itself.

Is it dazed? ... No, it's armoring itself.

In the lull Quick-Feet and Katrina darted out from the gate.

This scamp lasted a bit longer than its stunted cousin. Instead of ripping its head off the daedroth was forced to bite through its neck.

Katrina took advantage of the brief distraction. After a quick glance behind her to make sure she had a clear line of retreat, she drove all her weight into a lunge, left hand flat against the pommel, jamming the point of her sword against the daedroth. The point scraped across an armored scale and hit an indentation, the point where it overlapped another, and as Katrina shifted her weight forward through the lunge the tip of the blade finally broke the creature's skin.

The daedroth spun with an angry bellow, and in the same motion slammed Katrina hard enough to send her flying. For a split second she saw and felt nothing, the passing of time leaving a mysterious hole in her memory, then came the opposite sensation of hyper-perception, of time slowing down. She felt no pain, just things that should not be. A calm voice, her own, spoke matter-of-factly in her mind:

Dislocated shoulder. Two or three broken ribs. Keep your breaths shallow or you'll puncture a lung. Can you move your fingers?

Then the floor of the arena rose up, slowly as if she floated on a cloud, and as she slammed to the ground the spell was broken. Everything hurt, her mouth was full of blood and dirt, and an angry daedroth was ... turning toward Quick-Feet.

Conjure! The voice in her head made the decision, her left hand made a quick motion, and another scamp appeared.

One swipe and Quick-Feet would be dead, but half her body was out of commission until she healed. The way restoration worked was still a mystery to her, but it worked, and as she drained the last of her reserves her body knitted itself together again. The restore magicka potion was still coursing through her, bringing her power to conjure and heal anew if she could live long enough.

The stunted scamp had its squalid entrails scattered across the ground as its life flickered out and the mess disappeared.

Run! She stepped back as the daedroth's baleful glower told her she was next, and she felt despair as her back thumped into the arena wall. It must've knocked me clear across the arena!

Then Quick-Feet made his move. Invisible again, she saw the pink mist sail up the back of the daedroth, saw a lanyard flash above its reptilian head.

"Quick-Feet! No! You can't garrotte a daedroth!"

Quick-Feet looped the ends of the lanyard around specially-made quartz guards on the thumbs of his gauntlets and hauled back with all his strength.

Against a Clannfear this might have been decisive, but on a daedroth all the force was absorbed by the fatty, armored wattle hanging beneath its chin. The deadroth bellowed and shook its head, but Quick-Feet hung on.

"Run! It's not going to work!" Katrina had maneuvering room now, and the last ebb of the potion she took granted her just enough power to summon another scamp. They might both survive if Quick-Feet would just listen to her.

As the scamp popped fireballs ineffectually against the daedroth's hardened scales the daedroth had finally had enough. It shook its body, as it did when it cast its shield, only the shaking was much more violent.

Quick-Feet went flying in a spray of blood. His gauntlets fell to the ground, the thumb sections shorn away with parts of thumb still in them.

The daedroth had never been garrotted before and wasn't sure it liked the feeling. It didn't hurt exactly, but it did get the beast's undivided attention.

"Get out of here before you pass out! I'll take over from here," Katrina screamed. Quick-Feet staggered toward the gate. The daedroth bore down, even with the scamp and Katrina nibbling away at it from behind. Then Quick-Feet lost consciousness. His eyes just glazed over and his feet stopped moving and he began to topple forward, a statue tipping over.

Somehow, miraculously, Quick-Feet stayed up, his arms splayed in front of him and feet dragging behind, and he left the arena, walking and unconscious. Katrina might have been fooled had she not seen a pink glow race toward him just as he fell. It had a tail.

The daedroth was finally slowing down. The poison that did that was ridiculously expensive -- Boar meat? -- but dying would've been worse. The battle in the arena raged on for an hour, with the daedroth's growing fatigue turning its claw swipes into drunken punches as every so often Katrina darted in, delivered a bee sting, and darted out. She had burned through potions and poisons like a noble through roasted boar to get to this point, but now it was just a battle of attrition against a crippled, slow-witted beast. She had all the tools she needed to stay alive and eventually win, so long as she didn't do anything stupid or the daedroth anything smart.

She finished the job throwing her beginner's shock spell from a safe distance. Destruction magic was all flash and no sizzle, but she felt like the daedroth might be seeing through the scamp distraction, that she'd used that technique one too many times. If it bit her even once she would probably die. So she'd finish the beast with tiny electric shocks. If she'd had a bow she might've fired arrows, too, but she'd never really learned how to use one.

As she carved them out of its corpse's ugly head she noted the daedroth's teeth were perfect. It might not pay the bill for this encounter, but at least the body didn't disappear and leave her with nothing. Kvatch was unpredictable that way -- sometimes things get left behind.

Quick-Feet's thumbs had been mashed into a bit of a pulp by the time the fight was over, but the gloves had at least kept the mess contained. Katrina scooped them up, carefully keeping the glove thumbs upright lest something gross spill out, and slogged toward the arena exit. She never walked away from a job fatigued or injured -- if she wasn't dead she'd heal herself -- but she was still exhausted.

I wonder? she thought to herself, and downed a Detect Life. The arena was empty.

Edited by RatcatcherOfKvatch
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Chapter 2: See No Evil


Treacherous bastard. And after I brought his thumbs back.

If there's one thing a ratcatcher always has plenty of it's detection. Rats aren't all that hard to find, but in the Imperial City sewers where she grew up anything with two legs was something to be avoided, and the potion itself was made from rat meat, so the habit was formed.

Now her stash gave her some tiny peace of mind. Katrina had never felt this level of paranoia before, never felt the oppression of eyes constantly watching her, never. Neglect and abuse she had plenty of experience with, but to be watched ... ever since the arena Katrina had that feeling. When she saw Quick-Feet, in the gated sewer alcove she called "The Ratcatcher's Guild", she knew why.

Although her paranoia was ultimately justified it was at this particular moment her worst enemy. Could she act nonchalant while a purple glow with a distinctively Argonian tail hovered menacingly behind her, poised to strike with a short blade judging by the position of the hands?

Katrina had a dangerous job, but she was a peasant at heart, an urban ploughman whose experience ran more toward extreme animal husbandry than any sort of real fighting. Rats were dangerous, but they were also dumb. Summon a virtually harmless stunted scamp and a rat would take the bait. Send a flare right into their faces and they would run right into it. You killed rats, but you never fought them. In Kvatch the rats were bigger, but they weren't any smarter. It was still animal husbandry.

Thus the thought of fighting, of facing thinking opponents, of foolishly gambling her mortality against professional gamblers, scared her to death. Thinking opponents could adapt. They could fight back with clever tactics, low cunning, or the foresight and perseverence of many hours of training. If whomever that lizard behind her was -- correction, whomever she was, and wasn't that interesting? -- if she wanted Katrina dead it was as sure a thing as betting on Martin in the Arena. Act. Normal!

"Good news, Quick. This bloody mess just happens to be your missing thumbs," Katrina chirped. She was terrified, but so far her voice didn't betray her -- or at least it sounded natural to her ears.

When she had left the Arena she was more curious than frightened. Definitely not a Kajiit tail. So an Argonian "mystery man" saved Quick. Think ... have you detected anything like that before? She thought as hard as she could, of all the times she'd tossed back a detect in Quick's presence, and thought she'd have noticed if there were an extra somebody running around invisible. The thing about invisibility is that under detection it stands out like a lighthouse beacon. An empty spot glowing like crazy is impossible not to notice. There is no way I would have missed her. If she's been hanging around she's been careful about not just keeping invisible but keeping her distance.

More curious than afraid as she had left the arena Quick's thumbs were her only priority. Quick wouldn't go near the Temple of Akatosh -- he actually seemed afraid of it -- so it wouldn't be Oleta's practiced hands that repaired Quick's. But with enough perseverence even a novice could reattach a couple of thumbs.

There was no way Katrina wasn't going to keep detect up until she saw what she was looking for. As she made her way through downtown Kvatch toward the Guild every fuzzy outline she passed by matched up with a visible body.

Covered in blood and grime as she was even her friends probably wouldn't speak to her if they saw her pass. They would politely nod and walk on by, not wanting to subject the status-aware Katrina to the embarrasment of making conversation while filthy. She liked that about having friends from the trades -- they knew not to mess with her when she was working.

She had a strong feeling the mystery woman would show up again very soon, but even so she had to fight to keep her eyes from flicking over to the rampaging obviousness of pink-glowing empty space when she walked into the Ratcatcher's Guild. She's here. Katrina's heart pounded; her blood rushed in her ears. She's moving. See No Evil, Kat, just an ordinary day. Isn't Martin a dirty fetcher?

Quick's severed thumbs are all I care about. Come on, Kat, ignore that mystery woman in the corner. Think about bloody, mangled body parts -- surely you can't be distracted from that? She psyched herself to care only about Quick's thumbs. I must act like Katrina would act. I must play the role of myself.

"Looks like the Kat has caught a couple of mice." A lame joke. Good! Now to business. "Arms on the table, Quick. We'll be at this all night."

"So ... strange night in the arena, wasn't it?" He dragged his words like a knife across a whetstone.


Treacherous bastard. And after I brought his thumbs back.



Chapter 3: Daedra of Destiny

"Mona" wasn't her real name, but it's what she told people to call her. Martin could not only summon her specifically, he could -- perhaps with her consent or assistance -- keep her for hours at a time, maybe even days. He had bought her a house in town -- the town of Kvatch, where this sort of craziness could happen. "Yes, I know I'm a much more powerful Daedra than the one in my basement, and No, I'm not going to kill it. Do you want the money or not?"

"I'm happy to take your Septims, I'm just curious." That she was Martin's mistress was the worst-kept secret in Kvatch. She was a big, blue monster with white flowing hair, impossibly feminine and muscular. She's beautiful, I guess, to a guy who likes 'em big and blue. Martin knows how dangerous it is to consort with Daedra like this ... arrogant fetcher, showing off, but he does seem to really like this girl.

"Call it 'Daedra Diplomacy'. If Martin ordered me to kill it then fine, but for me to do it on my own initiative ..."

"Oh please, your 'relationship' with Martin is the worst-kept secret since flax powder. If Martin ordered you to do anything it would only be because you told him to. Anyone would know that ... ahh, no, anyone in town would know that ..."

Mona smiled, and Katrina searched her eyes wondering what that might mean, but they told her nothing. She continued, "Hey, is this 'diplomatic issue' because you're under the same Prince or something? I didn't even know until recently that all Daedra served a Prince ..."

"I serve Hermaeus Mora. You'll know by my Lord's reputation not to pester me with questions."

"Reputation, yeah; Hermaeus Mora, could my life get any better? Since you're talking to me it means I get to play a role in Destiny, like catgut plays a role in a symphony. Streched on a rack and scraped by Destiny, how wonderful for me."

"Do this for me and I'll owe you a favor."

"No Daedra's ever told me that before. What kind of favor?"

Mona gave Katrina a blank stare. "Are you really that stupid?"

"I just don't know what to expect. 'Go to this ruined castle, get the Chalice of King Filmore, fill it with spriggan sap, and bring it back to me at the next full moon,' that's what I expect. You've just kind of caught me off-guard ... in a good way, now that I've considered the usual alternatives. I hope you don't mind my asking whether there is anything more you're supposed to tell me?"

"Don't waste my favor on something frivolous. Ask me another question and you'll be doing just that."

"Let's see about that rat in your basement, then."

10 minutes later, dragging a dead scamp in a bag marked with the sigil of Count Goldwine, Katrina emerged from the basement.

"Favor or not, you still have to pay."

"Hah, you mean Martin has to pay."

"Bloody fetcher. Give me that gold. As many messes of his as I've cleaned up I've earned ..."

"A favor from Hermaeus Mora. Don't forget, now." Her eyes seemed to sparkle as she counted out 20 Septims.

"And your friend there," Mona nodded toward the rat-bag, "That's a servant of Mehrunes Dagon."

"Destiny is just calling my name, isn't it?"

"Not yet. That one got here by accident." Katrina cocked her head and stared. Mona stared back, but her eyes said nothing more.

"Here, help me haul this to the incinerator," Katrina said finally.

"I would, honey, but my time is up. Leave the door unlocked; Martin will be by later to tidy up."

In a black flash Mona disappeared.

Edited by RatcatcherOfKvatch
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Chapter 4: Favoritism

It will deal with the Argonian assassin and Mona's favor. Chapters 5-6 are a flashback that'll make way more sense when Chapter 4 puts it in context ... if I ever write Chapter 4.



Chapter 5: Liminal Bridges

Starts a flashback of how Katrina learned Conjuration, learned life lessons from her father, and became an orphan. Chapter 6 continues that timeline.



Chapter 6: Altars Without Gods


"You're going to do just fine," Ballantine reassured her over apples and venison. She'd had venison plenty of times, but not like this. Every bite promised a new world filled with delights of which the perfect venison was only a taste. "You and your ratcatcher friends will save me a lot of trouble, and of course I'm happy to pay for the privilege. As long as you bring me filled gems I'll keep selling you the empty ones at a discount. Everybody is happy!"

She had sold her most prized possession, her father's copy of Liminal Bridges, to stake her first set of gems. She would hide two of them and keep one to use on a rat. Now she had a job only she could do, a contribution that was entirely noncompetitive, and she would finally make friends of those two bullies and they'd stop treating her so badly! The Imperial City would have its first Ratcatchers' Guild, she would have friends who valued her ...


"It still doesn't understand us," growled Pink. She didn't know his real name, just his most prominent feature, two ribbons of pink scales running up his tooth-filled snout and converging on top of his pointy head.


Katrina sputtered, coughed, and gasped.


"You've got smoothskins paying you our money," explained Horns (six long ones, poking out of his ugly geen face). "Where is it?"


"I thought we had a deal," Katrina snuffled. She was trying not to cry.


"Aww, did she think we had a deal? Did we lie to Little Princess?" Pink dragged her underwater from behind. Horns helped by holding the top of her head by the hair. They dragged her down maybe 20 feet, deep enough even if she broke free for a few moments there would be no air.


Katrina thrashed for a few more seconds then went still. She pondered the unfairness. Please let me be out of this place, she prayed to an emptiness she called Altars Without Gods, a place in, through, and outside her mind she'd found after reading Liminal Bridges. I tried to bargain with these animals, to be reasonable like my father taught me, but they are cruel monsters. No one warned me other kids would be like this. What am I supposed to do? Pain and misery were supplanted by a growing feeling of a deeper need. She thought it should be air, but what she needed was revenge. I hate them, her thoughts burned, burned away all she knew, the pain of her betrayal burned, life's betrayal of her, everything she knew being wrong, it all burned, rage and pain, burning, scarring ... teaching. My father taught me about helping, sharing, and cooperating, which surely was right for negotiating his perfect life, but he couldn't possibly have known about the animals inhabiting mine. These monsters will never leave me alone. I wish they would just die!


The two kids who were holding her underwater took her lack of struggle as a hopeful sign of compliance. They lifted her out of the water, waited for her to cough and gasp like weak smoothskins do when you hold them underwater, then Horns glowered while Pink spoke with slow fury. "Give us the money."


"Please, I'll get you some more, just give me a little time," Katrina didn't know what to say. She had used the money to buy strawberries and wine to celebrate after Ballantine, the mage who "hired" her, had treated her to dinner. At the time she was quite pleased with herself, convinced she had found a way to cooperate. She'd sell soul gems to Ballantine, the Argonians would sell the rats. Both sides prosper. Now she looked back on her naivete with an embarassment close to rage. How could I have been so stupid?


"If you don't have the money we give you swimming lessons for free." She decided she hated Pink the most. 45 seconds later she was praying to the Altars Without Gods again when she sensed the place was more alive than before, more real and less a theoretical abstraction on the other end of a Liminal Bridge she had tried and tried to find her way across.

If only I could escape to that room ... if I could summon some kind creature with wings to save me from these monsters I would, but ... AIR, I need AIR, I just cross the Liminal Bridge into that room, I'll have ...

She felt panic and fear, an urge to breathe she had to suppress, and a tingle in her mind as a creature appeared in the Altar Room. "AIR! I need AIR! HELP ME!" Her mind screamed as the need to breathe made that room the only thing that mattered to her. She had the discipline to hold her breath until she passed out, but the idea that creature could summon her into that strange room became a belief so strong she poured her entire soul into it, then her entire soul did go ... somewhere ... and snapped back completely emptied. Never had she been drained so much ... it had to be a spell, what had just ripped out her heart, paralyzed her so that half her precious air bubbled out of her lungs before she could stop herself. She heard a grinding and a growl, felt a "pop" of displaced water, felt the weird tingle of a nearby summoning, and she knew she had summoned that creature she had seen across the Liminal Bridge. She should've been proud, but all she could feel was despair. A whole room full of Air, her escape, if only the creature had understood and brought her to its place of safety.


"What in Oblivion?" Horns stammered, instinctively raising his arms against the fanged beast and releasing Katrina's feet.

Pink was more pragmatic. "If you can do that ... you're more dangerous than I thought. You'll never breathe again." He had her tight by her long black hair and was in no danger of letting go no matter how crazy things got. Katrina knew she was going to die, that she would drown in the next few seconds, that if she had even a little reserve she would burn her own hair off to escape, but she had nothing. Pink-Eye, she almost laughed, and she grabbed his arm for leverage and plunged her thumb as hard as she could into his large oval eyesocket. If I'm going to die they'll call you Pinkeye from now on, she thought, her rage-fueled gouge hastening her nearing asphyxia. Miraculously "Pinkeye" released his grip on her -- even Pink could get rattled it would seem -- and she scrambled for air, her vision gray and heart pounding.


"No! You will DIE, smoothskin!" Pink grabbed her foot but her other foot had found solid ground -- no, she was kicking down the corpse of Horns, she realized, but the momentum was enough to carry both her and Pink up ... up but not enough for air. A familiar shape slid down toward Pink, and as the gray of asphyxiation narrowed her vision to a tiny tunnel she saw Pink's throat go red, ripped out and bleeding, and she struggled to the surface thinking only of taking the breath that would keep her alive.


She broke the surface with a gasp, heaving for air, vomiting seawater she had no idea she had even swallowed, and she scrambled ashore, shocked at how close the safety of shore had actually been the whole time, just a few feet. As she lay there the creature, summoned by her, which had in just a few seconds ripped her tormenters to bloody shreds, stood over her, its face blank, its breath hissing slowly in and out. All had seemed to go quiet until the beast's rasping breath gradually awakened the rest of the sounds of the tranquil afternoon, waves lapping, birds singing, wind sighing through the trees, the sounds of sailors on boats ... but no one could've seen her or they would've helped, wouldn't they? No girl was so unwanted that people would stand by while she was drowned to death, would they? So they couldn't have seen ... that other thing that happened, either.


And it had happened, hadn't it? Her life saved, the misery of her near-captivity to those two bullies ended for all time, and nobody saw. They're dead. They'll never bother me again. "Thank you," she said to her new friend. "Hahhhhh," its breath hissed out one more time as Oblivion swallowed it back up. It was only in her world for a few seconds, but it had saved her life -- changed her life, because now she could do anything she wanted, and no one could stop her. Thinking how much better her life had just become -- she hated the two who died and loved being alive with too much intensity in that moment to feel any remorse over their dying -- she closed her eyes, the water lapping at her toes, and under the shade of a large tree fell asleep.

Edited by RatcatcherOfKvatch
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