3. Rocks and a Hard Place
Spirits, Kel's decided, are rather overrated. They're all bluster and no bite, a bunch of creeps who want to screw with her for reasons unknown to anyone but them. She's done everything right as far as she knows. Just the other night, she'd scattered ashes after dawn to ward them away, left bites of food in the crooks of branches, the whole nine yards. It would be nice if they'd leave her alone and let her get back home.
The scout sighs as she stops walking and plops herself onto a log for lunch. Rolling one of the fruits between her hands, Kel's gaze roams over its skin. Its juice was fine, but does she really want to chance it when she's got enough rations to last a week? What if it's only poisonous after a few days? It's not like the woods have been kind to her of late. It would be just her luck. Still, she's got to eat and rations are limited. Home could be days away at this rate. Better to eat before it rots.
The fruit proves to be rather light and sweet, not unlike a melon in consistency and pale yellow inside. That's good enough a sign of safety for Kel at this point, and she finishes it off quickly, wiping a trail of juice off her chin. It's gone before she knows it. The core's tossed aside and bounces a few times on the dirt before settling, nestled in the bushes for the bugs to take care of.
As the scout throws her things together and turns to leave, a chill settles over the area that's uncharacteristic for early afternoon, hints of fog creeping in through the trees. That's more than enough for Kel to hurry up and head out, tossing a glance behind her. Two near-disasters are more than enough for a day.
In her haste to get away, she completely misses the arrival of a certain stranger. They stand still to watch her exit for a moment before crouching down, body twisting crooked to bring their hand to the discarded fruit core. It dissolves into a tangle of fiber in their fingers before fading into the air.
"Not perfect," they murmur, unfolding upright. "But it will do well enough."
A few hours after narrowly avoiding the stranger, Kel's busy hacking her way through the woods. The brush in this area is particularly thick. Even with a sharp knife and a lot of patience, Kel finds herself sweating. There's more underbrush here than any forest has the right to have. It's enough to force her to pause for a break and try to get her bearings.
Luckily, the trees don't seem any harder to climb than most, and the scout's able to haul herself up for a better view. A rush of adrenaline floods her almost immediately. Not a stone's throw away is a mangled-looking animal; it's covered in rock-like tumors that sprawl across its body and face, leaving it blind. Its long neck weaves between branches as it sniffs out the area for food, and Kel catches a flash of teeth and claws as it moves. The beast is enormous. If she hadn't climbed the tree, then she might have been dinner. As it is, the thing is weaving closer, head raised into the air as it sniffs around. Sticking around seems like a bad idea.
Kel creeps forward to the edge of a tree branch, moving slowly to keep quiet. Who knows if this thing has ears? Its head twitches to the side after her, nostrils flaring. The scout barely dares breathe as she sizes up the next tree. Its branches are close, but it'll be noisy to make the jump. A glance down at the thing has Kel committing to the jump without more thought on the matter. Better to run for it in the trees than meet those teeth.
Leaves rustle as Kel launches herself into the next bundle of branches, and the creature's head instantly snaps towards her. The scout's breath catches in her chest- it can definitely hear her, and she's just made enough noise to scare off the birds. Crap. She frantically tears forwards towards the next tree in the set, hoping to get ahead of it so she can dismount and run. The thing bolts after her, body snaking through the brush with ease; it's right on her tail.
The next branch ahead, Kel makes another frantic leap, hands grasping for the bark- but they meet only air. She flails as her body plummets to the forest floor. At the last second, her hands snag against a low-hanging branch and grab tight, knuckles white. The thing's teeth snap just beside her as her legs kick in the air, muscles burning to pull her up.
Back on the branch, Kel's gaze flicks around frantically for somewhere to go. It's faster than her, so going up or trying to run again is a bad idea, but down is just as bad. Maybe she can bait it? There's no time to think. Her hand wraps snug around her knife as she pulls it free of the sheathe, then grits her teeth and yells out to get the creature's attention. Its head immediately jolts towards the sound of her voice, and she jumps back just in time. Its jaws snap shut inches from her face. There's barely enough time to drive her knife into its skull, and the thing lurches back, pulling Kel and her knife with it. Its head slams against the ground with enough force to dislodge Kel's blade. She scrambles to grab it as the creature rears back, legs raising high in an attempt to crush her.
The scout's fingers find the handle of her blade just in time- the beast's weight comes down full-force on the knife thrust over Kel's head. A spatter of blood shows that the blade struck true between the rocks coating the thing's stomach.
A few dying twitches later, Kel's left hauling herself out from under the creature's bulk. She takes a moment to look it over while she catches her breath. It's remarkable that she killed it at all- those rocks make for natural armor. The knife slipping between them was pure luck.
Speaking of luck... This is the third creature this size that she's come across in as many days. During past scouting trips, there's been at most one in weeks of travel. What's got the wildlife so active around here? Is it the fruit grotto from earlier? The stranger she's met twice now? It's certainly concerning.
Crouching down beside the beast's body, Kel lays a hand on its side. Hopefully the folks back home are having an easier time of things. This much activity isn't normal.
Nitty Gritty Details
Starting chaos factor: 7
Scene test: interrupt scene (6)
Random Event: NPC Positive (48)
Which NPC?: The Stranger (2)
Roll for Meaning (Character actions, general): Waste simple
Interpreted this as Kel throwing away something seemingly trivial that the Stranger wants; unfortunately, I had no idea what he wants. Roll for meaning again!
Roll for Meaning (Character motivations): Environment, family
Fate question: Is the fruit the thing left behind? Odds: likely
Roll: yes (60)
Chaos factor -1; current factor: 6
Added to character list: The Stranger (maximum 3 entries reached)
Scene test: altered scene (3)
Altered how?: Add a Character (2)
Which character?: Wildlife (8)
Roll for Meaning (character appearance, animal actions): interesting, ferocious
Sneak (Kel's Sneak vs Mediocre check): Fair (-1) vs Mediocre; Success
Fate question: Does the creature have ears? Odds: likely
Roll: exceptional yes (12)
Sneak (Kel's Sneak vs Great check): Good (+0) vs Great; Failure
Fate question: Does Kel make it into the next tree? Odds: very likely
Roll: yes (55)
- Scale: 1
- Body: Good
- Mind: Mediocre
- Social: Terrible
Get Ahead (Kel's Body vs Creature's Body): Good (-1) vs Good+ (+0, *1.5); Creature is very close
Fate question: Does Kel make it into the next tree? Odds: likely
Roll: no (84)- she'd have made it if the chaos factor were 7!
Fate question: Does Kel catch herself before hitting the ground? Odds: 50/50
Roll: yes (46)
Get Up Before It Gets You (Kel's Body vs Creature's Body): Great (+0) vs Mediocre+ (-2, *1.5); Success
Bait and Stab (Median(Kel's Body) vs Creature's Body): Great+ (Med(+0, +1) vs Good+ (+0, *1.5); Creature is Hurt
Stab from Below (Kel's Body vs Creature's Body): Critical Success! (+4); Creature is Dead
Chaos factor +1; current factor: 7
Added to character list: Wildlife (maximum 3 entries reached)
Wasn't expecting another encounter this session! I was shooting for a calmer series of events as a respite from the previous fights. The dice apparently disagreed with that idea- but they also gave Kel her first critical success at the perfect time. That was satisfying.
I'm hoping to find out more about the Stranger sometime soon. I've got a vague idea of who they are and what they want, but it's just that: vague. They're interesting enough to have me curious about what they want from Kel and how they connect to other spirits. What's the fruit core for? Why are they following her? What do they know that she doesn't? The neat thing about Mythic is that it keeps me guessing, and I'm just as surprised by the dice as anyone else. This could go anywhere. All I know is that Kel has a prophecy preventing her from going home so soon.