In Dreams of Trees : Treed

Wordcount: 1,116
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 (Death and Fighting)
Summary: Blue and Horn hunt a killer whose hunting them back.

NOTE: This is a very rough draft with no editing at all (per National Novel Wiriting Month rules) and is presented for amusement value only. Think of it as a periscope into my writing process rather than a coherent story!

There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing. These snippits are also posted out of order, so please refer to the Outline to figure out where it’s supposed to fit.

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Treed

The body is still warm when Blue gets to it, but he paused only long enough to roll Tosh over, checking for the deep bloody gouges that prove he’s still on the killer’s trail.

Horn makes a keening noise, his gripping claws dug deep enough into Blue’s shoulder harness to prick the boy’s back. Elves are too fond of blood and Blue’d risk sending Horn into a frenzy if he stayed for more than the heartbeat needed to confirm the kill.

“Where?” Blue’s already moving as he asks, Horn’s whiskers brushing the side of his head as the odd mix of racoon and cat leans in the direction Blue needs to go.

The elf is panting in soft whispering whines, a combination of hunting andrenaline and hunger and Blue runs faster. If they’re lucky Horn can use the frenzy to help down their prey.

If not.. well that’s why they carry powerbars.

This is the seventh death in a hand of days and even if Tosh hadn’t been a friend Blue is eager for the kill. Horn needs the status boost, no, deserves the status boost, and Blue is determined to win it for him.

Status is everything to elves and Horn’s the fourth son of a minor cousin— not enough to win him a house or a mate when the time comes for his father to drive them from the nest. Blue’s father didn’t live long enough to see the elf’s future secured, so it falls to his son to bring glory to Horn’s name.

And glory is hard to find, these days.

They round another corner and then up over the city wall and into the river that circles it. Horn objects to the sudden bath with a strangled yelp, but Blue is too focused on the chase.

He can see the killer now, a small black smudge against the far shore and he’s suddenly glad for the swimming lessons from his trainers. ‘No skill is useless’ makes more sense in context.

They catchup quickly, even with Horn dancing along his back trying to avoid the cold water, and Blue pauses only a moment for the elf to settle in before running into the woods.

Blue has been here twice before, on trips with the trainers, but Horn is too fond of the city and he hasn’t been outside the walls since presentation. Blue can tell by the way the elf shifts his weight that Horn is loosing his nerve— the hunting frenzy detroyed by the cold bath.

“Little more, little more,” Blue pleads as the head further into the forest, “I can catch him.” There are flashes of black ahead of them, sometimes closer, sometimes further away, as if he was leading them instead of running away. But Blue doesn’t care and Horn doesn’t notice, the lure of status coaxing him out of his comfort zone.

They come out in a narrow clearing and the killer is waiting on the far side, smiling.

Blue’s knife is already in his hand and he can feel Horn bristling as the hollow spikes that line the elf’s spine puff up with air.

“Ah, now you’ve caught me.” The killer laughs, dressed all in black his face is the only glimpse of skin that Blue can see. Black hair, dark eyes, narrow and unkindly, there is no more humor there than in the elves. “Whatever shall I do?”

“Die.” Blue suggests with a grin as Horn begins the whistling keen that means he’s slipped beyond reason and into the hunting frenzy.

They all move at once, the killer flinging slivers of light that shred the bark where Blue and Horn had been crouched, while Blue goes right and Horn goes left.

It’s Blue’s job to distract him while Horn comes in from the side, but the killer dodges Blue’s thrown darts without taking his eyes off the elf.

“I was going to stop at one,” the killer remarked causally as he stepped under Horn’s leap, “but you seem so eager to volunteer—” a heavily armored foot sent the elf flying without succumbing to the spines poision. “How can I refuse?”

Blue catches Horn before he can hit the tree, wincing as the spines trace a familar burn along his arms. He turns and releases the elf before Horn can react, redirecting the frenzy back to the killer.

“Ah, intersting.” The man in black dodges Horn again, but this time he’s watching Blue who grits his teeth against the posion and follows up Horn’s charge with one of his own— abet more causiously.

They circle for a moment, as Blue looks for an opening and the killer plays matadoor with Horn.

“I think I like you.” The man in black points out, in an obnoxiuosly cheery way and Blue spits curses back at him. Horn is starting to tire and Blue looks for a way to manuver the killer into his path— but the man is too quick.

Finally the posion and the chase run Blue’s reserves out and he’s left glaring at the killer, reduced to simply keeping himself between the man and black and Horn.

He’s made no move to kill them, but he’s constantly moving and Blue has no illusions on how this is going to end. He’s just got to keep the killer busy enough for Horn to get safely up a tree once the frenzy wears off—- and he can tell by the way the elf is moving that Horn is almost in control again.

“Why are you doing this?” He’s buying time, or trying to, but the man seems willing to talk.

“You should be thanking me, you know.”

“For killing my friends?”

“For removing your limitations.” The killer is watching Horn intently and Blue throws one of his last knives to refocus the attention. “That’s not very nice.”

“Neither are you.”

“That’s not the point, I—” there’s a crashing sound in the woods from the diretion of the river and all three of them turn, but the killer moves first, flinging another volley of light that Blue manages to catch most of before it can hit Horn.

The light is searing, but they’re small cuts and he’s still standing as the killer turns and takes off into the woods.

Blue scoops Horn onto his shoulder pad, wincing as the elf grabs hold outside of the padded area, and chasing after the man in black.

Four breaths in the man runs into the side of a tree and vanishes. Blue’s too tired and too woozy to process that and he follows without thinking.

There’s a flare of blue light as he hits where the trunk should be and the world goes dark.

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