Jungle Run

April 29th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

My lungs are burning as I run through the jungle.  If I had any breath to spare I would curse the foliage that keeps slapping me in the face.  The same goes for the humidity.  And the bugs.  And the snakes.  And every other single thing between me and the river.
I know at this point that it can’t be that far away.  I’ve been running for almost three straight hours.  And I can feel all three burning through my legs.  I didn’t rig this body for endurance; I had focused mostly on sensory enhancements and agility.  I figured the most action I would need to be able to handle on this job would be maybe a little brawling, and even that would be a worst case scenario.
Yeah, right.
How in the hell did they find me, anyway?  In the middle of the freaking jungle, in the middle of the Barian Archipelego, the middle of gods-damn nowhere, and a pack of Hounds show up to try and take a bite out of my well-sculpted ass.  I tell you, it ain’t fair.
Drake’s teeth, where’s the river?
Gods, my legs hurt.  Maybe I should focus a little on cleaning those muscles out…no.  Not enough time.  If I could stop, catch my breath, focus, then I could stretch myself.  If I had time to prepare, I could run for days without being winded.  But they caught me by surprise.
And the operation was going so well, too.  I had gotten into the Solenz Guard, the elite soldiers that ran the inner workings of the corrupt government there.  I had ferreted out which one of them was going to betray the crown Princess.  Not that I held any sympathy for her, mind you; she was a stupid juvenile brat focused more on her feasts than the suffering of her people.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t care overmuch about that either.  Now, I’m not a sociopath, mind you, I prefer to see good things happen to good people.  But I’ve been all over this world, and that doesn’t happen as often as it should.  Most villains are just criminals that get lucky, and most heroes are just zealous assholes that get lucky.  Both kinds get statues made for them, depending on who gets the money when they’re done.
And the little guy gets screwed.  That’s the way of the world.  And I say, roll with it.  If Little Guy doesn’t want to get bent over, then he or she can hat up and join the big boys, rally a mob to run over everyone, or they can grunt and take it.  Which, let’s face it, is what most people do.
Ah, Bildrik’s face, there’s a ravine.  The river…no, just a creek.  Damn.  Follow the creek, or climb the other side?  I’ve got maybe another three seconds as I spring down the side, bouncing between Cho’nella trees and vine.  At least being light on my feet works some times.
I can’t risk the other side.  If any of the gods-forsaken pack is flanking me far enough, they could find a better path and gain too much time.  I can’t risk a direct confrontation yet, not like this.  And they know it.  Follow the creek, then.
Why haven’t they caught me yet?  They must not have had time to prep.  If they did, they would have had draft lizards tearing through this jungle.  Wouldn’t need to fight me, could just have one of those behemoths run me over like one of those bugs crunching under my feet.  Bam, the end, nothing left but to haul away the corpse.
Alright, keep reviewing.  Might as well use the mental exercise, movement functions fine on auto-pilot.  Thanks for the instincts, Sergeant Tral, may you and the rest rot in the hell of your choice.
Alright, could someone in the Guard have found me out?  Turned me over to a local Pack?  No, they couldn’t be local, locals would have caught my scent and twigged to me sooner.  That must mean that they came in for something else, and dropped it to try and earn whatever ungodly sum is being promised these days by the Iron Teeth.  Damn priests.  They don’t even worship a real god; they just say their Prophet was an enlightened mortal.  They will transcend past the Gods, with their bodies and wills, blah blah blah.
Friggin nutjobs.  Should be learning from me, not hunting me.  I mean, what I do is just like evolution, only without the necessity of breeding.
Seriously, if those psychos could just lighten up for a whole minute, they might even…Kimber, that’s the hugest gods-damn cat I have ever seen.
Nice Kitty, I’m going ’round, just keep eating, I don’t want any, please don’t chase, you’re too hungry…
Gods, can’t look back.  There’s no point; I couldn’t possibly outrun or outfight that monster.  He either ignores me and keeps eating, or he takes an interest and I’m fucked.  Keep eating, Kitty.  If you want someone to play with, just wait a few minutes, and someone tougher will hopefully run in from upwind and jump over that log rather than go around.  Play with them.
Why in the hell would a Pack even ship into Solenz, anyway?  Unless…of course, I’m an idiot, the Riggers must have been moving up the timetable.  Bought a mercenary Pack of half-rabid magic-immune furred maniacs to set on the storm-witches.  They would rip right through the lot of ’em.  Without the storms threatening to rip between the isles, the pirate lords could move that fleet they’ve been building right in.
Well, that plan is shot to hell.  I managed to slit that fat elf Barclay’s throat, so he’s not going to be letting anyone in the palace back door.  And with the racket these bastards are making, howling down these hills to keep me moving, there’s no way the Solenz won’t be prepping for an attack.
Well, the Riggers would be a hell of a lot worse for these islands than Princess Cheni is, so I suppose this is my good deed for the month.  Keep a bunch of folk out from underneath a bunch of vicious slavers and get my fee for exposing the traitor.  That would be nice.
Where is the river?
Ooh, listen to that yowling.  Somebody interrupted din-din, and I imagine somebody else isn’t too happy about it.  Feel free, Tiger.  Rip a couple apart for me.
That means they’re not far behind, though.  And even if a few stop to tango with Tabby, the rest won’t.  If they’re a small Pack, then that might be good.  If the others are flanking, they might very well lose my scent and have to slow down to reacquire.  That’s not likely, though.  The Baron and the rest of those thieves have deep pockets.  If there’s one lesson the Riggers took from the goblins before throwing their asses overboard, it was that sometimes you have to spend money to make money.  I should know, I’ve pulled a few jobs for the dimunitive greenskins before.  They might be theives, but at least they were honest about it.  That’s probably over with now, though.  With the Cartel broken out here, and the gangs back in Ukrik nearly stamped out, there isnt really much in the way of organized goblins left in the world.
Short-sighted, really.  The goblins murdered and stole, but at least they kept it relatively clean and simple.  Oh well, times change.
One foot pounds after the other, from tree root, to rock, now slinging through mud, pulling myself out with a vine.  Splash through the crick to wash the mud off of the gills lining my ribs.  They should be done in another fifteen minutes.  Maybe then I can fix my legs a little.
Oh, I shouldn’t have brought that up.  Gods, my legs hurt.  A lot.
Can’t think about it, need to focus on something else.  Where’s the river?
Oh wow.  I’m at the cliffs.  I can see the ocean from here.  It’s a gorgeous view, but I can’t stop to examine it.  Even I can’t survive a jump off of these cliffs.  The river must be east of here, right?
Yes, east.  Turn, keep moving, don’t stop.  If I can just get to the river, I can let the current carry me out to the saltwater.  I won’t even have to swim much.  I’ve already got the scales on, so the pik-fish won’t bother me any.  They’ll tear off what’s left of my clothes, but that will just save me the trouble.  And they’ll rip apart any furry sonova bitch that tries to swim after me.
Though maybe I should have done the gills first, since the scales slow my articulation a little.  Just the barest bit, but that adds up in a race like this.  Oh well, too late now.  I either make the river, and live, or they catch me, and I die.
Okay, let’s assume I get to the river.  That can carry me out to the sea, and from there I can make Tarries, or Fintown.  It would be easier to slip around in Tarries; even if the Hounds try to hunt around there, the filth of the pirate port would make it hard for them to track a pine tree, let alone me.  But there’s still the risk.
Fintown, on the other hand, would leave me a little more exposed, but the more reputable ships would mean I could get to a decently civilized nation faster.  I miss real cities, with fey-light lamps instead of the bug-lanterns they’ve got out in this rot-infested pack of atolls.
Good food, though.  They know how to cook out here.
Huh, I’m hungry.  I’m a little amazed I can even feel that, over the pain and the tiredness.  Of course, that just means I’m running low on energy.  Can’t be helped though.  There’ll be plenty of time to rest and eat in the river, deep spots a plenty in the mad twists of the Snake.  Just sit back and relax, and let the river coast over me, snatching out the occasional pik-fish.  They’re not actually bad raw.  Wouldn’t be my first choice, but not a terrible one, either.  Kinda like the river itself.  Which would be nice.
Whoa, losing focus, that means slowing down.  Gotta keep moving.  Where is the fucking river already?
Dear Gods, I don’t have blood anymore, just streams of liquid magma pipping through my body, collecting in my lower extremities.
Fuck it, when I hit the sea I’ll just head farther out to one of the smaller islands and find one of the frog tribes.  I won’t even need to impersonate one; the gills and scales will suit me.  Just kill one, and the rest will respect that.  Hunt with them and relax for a week or two.  By then, the Hounds will be long gone and the Riggers and Guards will be too busy eyeballing each other to watch for one measly shape-shifter hopping onto a ship for the nearest continent.
Oh, I hope that sound is the falls.  That’s gotta be it.  Almost there. Just a bit further, then no more jungle, no more bugling wolf howls, no more branches in the face.  Just a River-Mer, coasting downriver with the current with nary a care in the world.  The only spots shallow enough in the Snake where someone could possibly catch me are way upstream from here, before numerous tributaries swell together into the teeming froth of the falls.
And there it is, the beautiful edge, the water ending in a false horizon that means a fair pummeling at the bottom, but nothing that can’t be taken, especially compared to what I’ve just endured.
Almost there.  Down this last slope, over the rocks, and into gods-blessed freedom.
Arrow!  Damn, if it weren’t for the scales, that would have done more then just a light slice on the bicep.  Zig-zag a little, try to use the trees for cover, there’s less foliage to slow, but that works for pursuers, too.  But whoever shot it will have to stop to aim for the next one, and that will buy me the extra few seconds to get to the rocks.  I’ll take the arrow if it hits, it can’t kill me and it won’t be able to stop me from getting in the water.
But this is a Pack, so if one of them is running without fur and claws to use a bow, then that means there’s at least another, probably coming over the rocks right…there.
Sorry, bitch, but I figured you’d be here and gravity is on my side.
I plow into her and we tumble into the rocks.  Something, maybe an arrow hits the rock next to us, and its a brawl.  You might have fangs and claws, Miss Hound, but for the next five seconds, its just you and me and the boulders.  You would be a tough fight on open ground, and I wouldn’t have a chance now if any of the rest of you were nearby, but they ain’t.
Plenty of dense surfaces to bash your head against.  Gonna be a patchwork smile til you heal up, sister.  And it’s slick with moss, so every tumble just gets me closer to where I want to go.
I’ll be damned if I don’t hurt like hell and I don’t mind sharing.  You can’t get a grip to apply pressure with those claws, while I just get more opportunity to get in with knees and elbows.  I’ve broken at least three of your bones already.
Hey look at that, there’s two of your mates, unfurred and with bows, and four more rushing in in full wolven form, but you realize, don’t you, that it doesn’t matter?  It’s too late.
We’re at the river.
Nope, you can’t pull away.  I’ve got a grip on your neck and I’m pulling both of us over, and we hit that blast of cool water and sink down.  Come with me, darling, let’s go for a swim.
You can thrash all you want, hun.  This is my element, now.  This is what I’ve been preparing for.  And you can’t beat me without surprise.
Here’s the falls.  I’ll let go, now, sunshine, because its all over, and you know it.  You might make the surface before we hit the edge, but you’ll go over.  And there’s enough blood of ours in this water that the little Piks will be waking up and moving about below.  And that won’t be fun for you.
Here comes the drop.  There will be some vertigo, and the slam at the bottom will probably knock me unconscious, but this rip on my arm isn’t wide enough for the little jaws to get through, and I won’t surface with the last of the air expelling from my lungs right now.
I could use the nap.