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Feb 27, 2024

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Reinventing the Lightbulb - Part 5


Previous - Reinventing the Lightbulb Part 4


Zorro squints, looking out through the forest between the branches. At times like these, he wishes he was taller. Actually, he often wishes he was. Being a Fennec isn’t all it’s cracked down to be. “You see anything, Raz?”

Raziel shakes his head. “No I can’t.” He notices the fox trying to crane his neck to see, and chuckles. “All I see is more forest. But we can’t be far off, now.”

Viktor looks around with a blank concentrated look, his ears pivoting around while his head does the same. “Haahve Aai ever told yoo thaaht Aai don’t much like the vorest.”

Zorro shakes his head, “I do not think you have. But we can’t be too much further away.” His tail flicks this way and that, “Why don’t you like the forest though? Bad experience?”

Raziel looks to Viktor, noting his concern. “It’s not very dangerous at all. Much safer than the roads, if it’s bandits you’re worried about. They tend not to venture out this far.” He chuckles to himself a bit. “And if it’s wildlife that concerns you, well…we’re still many miles off from the Whitemarch.”

Viktor shakes his head. “No. Iz juzt kreepy. The vorezt iz zoft aahnd gentaahl, aaht leaahzt zound vize, vhich iz nize, but the treez, they’re qviet, aahbzolutely zhilent….. leaahnink in aahnd vaahtchink my every move……”

Viktor shudders. “Aahlvaahze vaahtchink, zo zilently.”

Zorro pauses for a moment, and looks up, squinting. You know, just to be /sure/. He hadn’t really thought of it that way before. But now that Viktor mentions it, he’s getting the heebie jeebies. He looks around to see if someone’s watching from the trees.

Raziel raises an eyebrow at that. “Hmm…I should probably be the one afraid of nature. I didn’t leave the city or see a living tree until I was 12 years old. But the trees themselves? I just think of them as scenery. Only the things that wander between them ever give me problems,” he says with a smirk.

Viktor shakes his head. “No, no, iz theze treez, thiz vorezt, the treez baahk aaht cetaahyaahnti vere aahlvaahys movink, vith birdz, inzectz, the vind, but theze onez, therez nothink, nothink aaht aahll…. iz unnaahturaahl.”

Zorro blinks, and looks around, checking to make sure there really are no birds, insects and all of that. He walks over to knock on one of the trees if not, as if to verify it’s real.

Raziel considers this, and looks around at the trees. It may be extremely quiet, and the woods may be very still at the moment…but he still isn’t convinced it’s unnatural. He doesn’t hear or smell anything out of the ordinary, anyway, and the only thing he sees in any direction is more trees.

Viktor stops and closes his eyes, focusing on his hearing. “Thiz vorezt iz deaahvenink, therez aahbzolutly nothink, no zoundz except inzektz on the ground. Aahll the aahnimaahlz aahre gone vore aah vaahze, tryink to heaahr vaahrther, but iz haahrder to konzentraahte.” He clenches his teeth tight and furrows his brow as much as possible, trying to squeeze a bit more concentration out. “Aai heaahre aah…. zhaahmblink? Iz haahrd to koncentraahte, aai don’t think iz faahr ovv. Aai… kaahn’t tell.”

Zorro’s gargantuan fennec ears swivel around, listening for sounds.

Raziel listens to Viktor, and finally begins to catch on that something may not be right here. He doesn’t even bother to focus on his hearing; he’s clearly outmatched. However, his pale blue eyes are quite sharp, and his height gives him some advantage in visibility…

Viktor collapses to his knees, panting and releasing his concentration. “Iz gettink klozer aai think, not zure….. aai need aah rezt…. aahnd zomtink to eaaht.”

Zorro blinks a few times, “You alright?” He keeps listening. What does he hear? Those big, bobblin’ ears swivel this way and that, trying to figure out what the arky fox refers to.

Raziel looks around, eyes wide and alert, and slowly draws his gun. “Shambling…right. What are the chances that it’s friendly…” he asks, rhetorically. Without turning around or taking his eyes from the forest, he asks, “Can you tell me what direction it’s coming from, Viktor?”

Viktor nods. “Yez, juzt drained. Zound maahjik taahkez aah lot ov enaahrgy vith kontinued uze like thaaht.” He pulls out an apple from one of his packs and bites into it. “No, iz maahybe levt? Aai heaahrd it vith my levt eaahr.”

Zorro focuses his ear to the left. Does he hear anything?

Raziel moves to Viktor’s left, and points his rifle in the direction indicated, as best he can tell; and slowly watches the area for movement.

Viktor finishes his apple and looks to Zorro, focusing his magic on the fennecs ear. “Here, yoor eaahrz aahre more zenzaahtive thaahn mine, aahnd my maajikz zhould help yoor heaahrink. Zee iv aah’m juzt heaahrink thinks, or vere thiz zhaahmlink iz komink vrom. “

Zorro’s eyes widen as he finds he can hear a ton further than he could before. The magnification is astounding, especially with how effective the ears were before. He listens closely!

Raziel continues watching, though he listens to the conversation behind him. Hopefully it is nothing…but luck is rarely so kind.

Viktor starts to sway a bit, his eyes fluttering. “Aai… caahn’t hold out….. much longer. Hurry, pleaahze….”

Zorro’s ear flits, and his eyes widen, “Druj! That is definitely a druj! I think… there’s one… no, two of them. There’s two!”

Raziel looks ahead, now with some indication of what he’s looking for. “Druj? Are you sure? What are they doing so far in from the Whitemarch?” He keeps his rifle steady, but he’s slightly unnerved. He’s never envountered Druj before, and all he knows is what he’s heard in the stories of drunken travelers. He hopes bullets will be good enough…

Zorro’s ears lay back, “Not sure— if they filtered through the forest from the southern areas, though, the border isn’t fully guarded there. A druj has to stumble its way through the woods, which is difficult, but at least not actively resistant.”

Viktor falls over, completely drained, laying on his back. “Hey, caahn you graahbe me aah vaahter pleaahze?”

Raziel squints. Is that movement up ahead? “Zorro…do you have anything to defend yourself with? A flintlock, a knife, a pointed stick…? “

Zorro’s ears lower, “I have a small knife and my fountain pen.”

Viktor musters enough energy to pull his canteen out, draining the thing into his mouth. With that, he groggily sits up finding some grapes and munching on them. “Aai caahn help…. in aah minute…..”

Zorro pulls out his knife. It’s proportional to him. So it looks the ‘right size’ in his paw, but that’s like… two inches.

Raziel sighs. “Take care of Viktor, then. Make sure he’s fine, and…” He trails off. “I am pointing in the right direction, yes?”

Awwww shiiit, y’all. Deez druj are nasty-ass mutha&&^%ers. All covered in boils, the two of them shamble along toward the group. One of them has an arm that’s a sort of keratin blade, and the other one has an additional foot in the middle of his chest which kicks on occasion.

Viktor continues to eat his fruit, softly shaking. “Aai’m fine, juzt….. need to rezt.”

Zorro’s ears lay back, “They ain’t got no alibi.” He says, and jumps behind Victor, his head poking out from behind the arctic fox. o.o

Raziel cannot hide his look of revulsion, but they at least seem manageable. They have discernible heads, and they’re not /as/ enormous as the stories made them out to be. Both are of considerable help. He lines his up his sights on the head of the leftmost Druj. “Zorro…cover your ears.”

Zorro presses his big ears to the sides of his head, covering them as best he can.

Viktor reaches up and places his hands on Zorro’s ears, muting the sound entirely.

Raziel lines up the shot, pulls the trigger, and…*click*. He swears and immediately starts fumbling around in his pockets. “I forgot to reload! After the target practice on the road, I FORGOT TO RELOAD!” He quickly begins pulling shells from his pockets and shoving them into the gun. “I’ve been walking around for weeks with the thing unloaded! It’s /never/ supposed to be empty!”

Zorro can’t hear what Raziel is yelling on about, what with the noise cancellation. So he just yells, “SHOOT THEM, RAZIEL! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

Viktor uncovers Zorro’s ears, grabbing another fruit and munching it, staying silent.

Raziel loads the last round, and cycles the lever. He brings the rifle back up to his shoulder - idly thinking about how things that slowly shamble can cover so much ground while one is not looking - and pulls the trigger again.

Raziel’s shot misses entirely. “What’s wrong NOW?!” He drops to one knee and pulls a small wrench from one of his pants’ many pockets, and begins making subtle adjustments to the alignment of the barrel. All the while, the Druj continue to trudge closer…

Zorro starts climbing up one of the trees here. Druj can’t climb trees, right? Boy, he hopes not. The little fennec grunts and scurries up some branches, covering his ears as best he can once more.

Viktor finishes off his apple and stands up shakily, then collapsing again. He picks himself up and takes another canteen out of his pack, drinking it slowly.

Raziel doesn’t bother to stand up this time as he brings the rifle back to his shoulder; hopefully his crouching stance will improve stability. They’re close enough now that he can’t miss the shot without looking bad, anyway. “Well…third time’s the charm, eh?” Raziel mutters to himself as he fires once again.

Zorro shouts down to Raziel, “Fly, you fool! Take to the trees!” He says this with all the bellowing and drama of a stage actor, which he probably is, at least on occasion.

Viktor shakes violently, slowly capping his canteen before just dropping it, falling to his knees and forcing himself from upchucking, taking deep breaths when he forces it all back down.

Raziel growls. “This is ridiculous!” Never a mechanical failure, /except/ in life threatening situations. Well, if he’s learned anything while traveling, it’s that rage is sometimes an asset. He slams his fist against the receiver of the rifle, cycles the lever, and aims straight at the blade-armed Druj.

The Druj with the blade arm is struck, and he stumbles and flops on the ground. He may not stay there. The other one keeps moving forward, that third leg kicking as it approaches the tiger!

Viktor finds his strength and with a surprising burst of speed and energy rushes the chest-foot one and slams both his paws against the creature, it’s fleshy body acting as a giant amplifier, causing it to shake horrendously and fall over.

Both druj are down and stunned now. If they’re not finished off soon, though, they’ll get to dining on your faces, and soon.

Raziel can’t bring himself to feel remorse for killing the horribly disfigured beasts. He runs to the first Druj, still convulsing, and shoots it while it’s down. Quite a few times, actually, just to be safe.

Viktor takes one of his larger tuning forks and stabs it into the creature till it hits bone, quickly pulling it out and stabbing it again, the effects of his harmonics shattering the bone he struck, as well as almost all of the smaller bones in the creatures body, it’s fluids betraying it yet again as the force reverberates around. He shakes even worse than before, doubling over and coughing up a few droplets of blood, stumbling off into the trees a ways. “Iz *cough* not gettink up…. kill it.” He disappears and a horrible retching noise is heard for a second, and a minute or so later he stumbles back, wiping off his muzzle with his arm bandages. “Kaahn aai uze one ov yoo guyz vor aah krutch vor a vhile?” He reaches Raziel and collapses, just crawling to his packs now.

Zorro’s eyes go wide, quite freaked out by Viktor’s display— that was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. It takes him a short while to compose himself, but when he does, he climbs down off that tree and runs to the arctic fox’s side, a look of concern on his muzzle, “You alright?” He’s not sure he’ll make a good crutch with how short he is, but he starts to try.

Raziel supports Viktor’s weight, and helps him over to where his packs are. “That was…not the most pleasant encounter, was it?” He looks around, making /absolutely/ sure there are no more. “We should probably rest for a while. You, specifically, Viktor. I didn’t know magic was so…harsh on one’s body.”

Zorro’s ears flatten, “From what I’ve seen, it usually isn’t. But I imagine that if you can blow up one person’s bones, you have to be pretty careful not to shred yourself in the process.” Even without being able to X-ray the situation, seeing the Druj’s skeletal structure mushen up, and the earlier rock demonstration— he figured it out.

Viktor uses the both of them to get to his packs, sitting down and taking out some more grapes and eating them slowly. “Aai uze wery high-kozt aahdvaahnced maahjiks. Aai’m wery zkilled vith them. Aai didn’t vinizh my traahinink, zo aai’m not aahz good aahz aai kould be, but ztill. The think vith high-kozt maahjiks iz thaaht they uze aah lot ov energy in one burzt, uzink them kontinuouzly iz wery draahinink, like vith the lizenink zpell aai uzed eaahrlier. Once yoo run out ov energy, the maahjikz ztaahrt to uze the energy thaaht keepz yoo aahlive iv yoo kontinue to uze them. High-kozt maahjik uzerz kaahn die iv they uze their maahjiks too much.”

Raziel, busy with the other Druj, did not see the entire display, though he heard it and certainly saw the aftermath. “Well…you’ll hear no arguments to as to its effectiveness.” He leaves Viktor to sit and eat, and goes to investigate the ‘liquified’ Druj. The sight is disturbing. It’s not quite dead, but without an intact skeletal structure, there’s not much it can do. “Cover your ears again,” he says, and once he’s given them time to comply, he finishes the creature off.

Zorro nods a little, ears laid back, “I see. The fox then meeps at Raziel’s command, grunting, gritting his teeth and covering his ears. He also yips a little when a splash of blood hits him from the Druj. He slowly opens his eyes to see the dead thing laying there. “Unngh… I never get used to that.

Viktor coughs again, this time without blood. He then uses one of his forks as a crutch, using it to stand up. “Thaahnk you.” He reaches down and picks up his packs, shouldering them. “Er, aahbout thaaht think vith the high-kozt maahjikz. Thaaht vaahz how aai aahlvaahyz underztood it. It kould only be me thaaht thiz haahpenz. Aai vaahzn’t a wery…. aahtentive ztudent aaht timez.”

Raziel walks back towards Viktor, and makes sure he’s not about to collapse as soon as he stands up. Once he sees that that won’t be necessary, Raziel sets down his own pack, and begins reloading his rifle.

Zorro takes a seat and a little breather, watching the two, “Maybe we’d better make camp so you can recover, then. I imagine when we wake, we’ll stumble onto what we’re looking for within a few minutes, eh?”

Viktor looks down at the fennec, then rapidly sits again. “Okaahy. Aai think aai kaahn do thaaht.”

Raziel shrugs, and finishes reloading, only to pull out a toolkit from his backpack. “I’m fine with camping here for the night, though…I think we should move /them/.” Using his lap as a workbench, he begins to intently fiddle with his rifle, not looking up or seemingly paying attention. He apparently took his rifle’s misfiring earlier as a personal insult.

Zorro looks at a bit of a loss, “Where to, exactly? They don’t seem the sort of thing that one eats…” Ew, gross. “They almost look human, in a twisted sort of way.”

Viktor falls onto his back. “Aai zaahy roll them into the vorezt. Give me aah moment aahnd aai’ll help.”

Raziel looks up, then between the Druj and his companions. Zorro should probably not be tasked with any heavy lifting, and Viktor is in no shape to do it, no matter what he says. “I’ll take care of it, just…give me a moment.” He places his tools and rifle on his pack, stands, and begins walking towards the Druj before he stops, comes back, and puts on a pair of welding gloves that he takes from his one of the pouches of his bag. Raziel then briskly walks toward the foot-chested Druj, and begins pulling it off into the forest. He hopes he can get it well out of the way before he realizes how utterly disgusting and squishy the creature feels. He is wrong.

Zorro rubs over Viktor’s back, and starts wondering to himself how useful he really is on this venture. He goes to find one of the blankets, and then comes back to wrap Viktor up in it. You know, as if an arctic fox needs a blanket? But he figures the value is more psychological.

Viktor curls up in the blanket a little and drinks some water. “Thaahnk you, Zorro. Yoo aahre aah good vriend. Aahnd you too, Raahziel.”

Zorro’s ears turn a bit pink, and he kicks some dirt to the side, “D’aww. Shucks, t’weren’t nothin.”

Raziel is apparently quite a ways off, and now hidden behind a number of bushes, but given the near unbroken silence of the forest, he still hears Viktor. Though, an “Mmmhmm!” of recognition is all that comes in reply. He’s not having fun. He returns briefly for the other Druj, before dragging it off as well.

Viktor calles out the the seemingly irate tiger. “Aai zaahid aai vould haahve helped!”


Next - Reinventing the Lightbulb Part 6

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