2. Beasts

Animal attacks happen from time to time. It's normal enough to stumble across something guarding a food source, or even just minding its own business. Kel's dealt with animals plenty of times, and even some jerk siccing a dog on her isn't too unusual. Run-ins with clingy tree spirits, not so much. A few patches of berries will have to be enough for this trip- Kel's turning around and heading back home. Turning around and risking another dog encounter feels worthwhile compared to the nightmare she's just run away from.

Getting home would be easy if it weren't for the whole mess getting her horribly lost. Nothing here looks familiar, and even the trees look like a different species than the ones the scout is used to. Sighing, she wraps her hands around a low-hanging branch and hauls herself up to get a better view. It might be unfamiliar territory from the ground, but there should be a landmark visible from higher up. Sure enough, there's a familiar tree in sight, one that stuck out in passing because its species isn't native to that neck of the woods. It's much closer than expected, maybe an hour's walk away. It's strange to be that close given the direction Kel ran, but she's not complaining about a clear route back home. After dropping back down from the tree, Kel starts back towards familiar ground. Home's a few days away with any luck.

As Kel's walking, it occurs to her that she could take a slightly different route back in hopes of stumbling across another food source. It would be nice to bring news of something edible back with her instead of returning with pointers to a few berry bushes. There wouldn't even be that much travel time added: maybe a day or two if she swings west for a while. All she needs to do is remember where that tree is. If she can keep that in sight, then it'll be easy to find her way back.

It's a few hours of walking later that the scout stumbles across something interesting. The trees here are unusually lush, laden with out-of-season fruits. There's even a pleasant breeze to the air, which is odd given how dreary it's been for the last week. It's an unexpected bounty to bring back home. It also gives Kel the willies. She'd just stabbed a forest spirit. Is this some sort of apology, or is it a threat in disguise? Maybe the fruit is poisoned. That's something Kel can test easily enough, though; she checks berries for safety all the time. The tree's sap looks and smells safe, as does the fruit itself, so there are no red flags there. Squeezing some juice on her skin gets no reaction, and putting a few drops in her mouth is fine as well. All that's left is the classic "muck around and find out" approach of biting into it and seeing what happens, and that can wait until she's home. The scout stows a few fruits in her pack for later testing.

As she continues on, the fruits only grow denser, weighing down branches to the point of a few laying broken on the ground. This definitely isn't natural. It can't be good for the trees, either, but Kel's not feeling particularly worried after her run-in with that spirit. She's more concerned about animal life. Where there's food, there's fauna. Tracks in the brush make it clear that she's not alone. It's best to move quietly in hopes of avoiding attention.

The scout winds up glad she's being careful. Crouched in the brush, Kel catches glimpses of something large and mangled in the near distance, lumps of trailing viscera draped over its stomach and shoulders. The thing seems to be fine with its organs hanging out; the person cowering under it seems much less so. The creature snarls at them, throat rattling, and the person presses themselves further back into the ground with a squeak of terror. All that's holding the beast back is a rusty pipe picked up somewhere. The person's clinging onto it like a lifeline, occasionally swiping towards their attacker like it could hold the thing back. They would almost certainly be dead meat if Kel hadn't found them. As it is, it's awfully tempting to leave them here and bolt to save her own hide. Unfortunately, the scout gives enough of a crap to do something about the situation.

Charging out from the brush, Kel slashes at the back of the beast's neck with her knife. It reels around at the strike, blood rushing down its back as it roars in fury. She's definitely gotten its attention. The person's gaze snaps to Kel, and they seem to weigh their options before scrambling to a better position and swinging their pipe. Steel flashes through the air and cracks against Kel's back, sending her stumbling forwards. The scout has enough time to shoot the person a nasty look before the creature lunges towards her. She leaps to the side, narrowly avoiding a swipe of its claws.

Between the human with a pipe and the beast with teeth, the latter is a much bigger issue, so Kel rushes after it to take advantage of that missed charge. Her knife flashes through the air and rips open the creature's side, carving through fat and muscle. In the same moment, the pipe-wielder cranks back for another swing. There's just enough time for Kel to duck, sending the pipe whipping over her head instead of into it. She's about to yell at them to cut it out when the beast whirls around for another charge, blood caked to its leathery skin. The thing is intimidating but slow, and Kel's able to sidestep again as its teeth snap past her ear. Her heart pounds in her chest- she needs to end this before anything gets worse. Grip tightening on her knife, Kel drives it towards the beast's face. The metal crunches through its eye socket and sinks home in its skull. Shuddering, the beast crumples to the ground and rattles out its last breath.

It takes a moment's effort to pull her knife free, and the pipe-wielding person stares at Kel for a moment before dropping their pipe and bolting. Considering that Kel's covered in animal blood and a bit wild-eyed from the fight, it was probably a sane decision to run. They've vanished into the brush by the time Kel can do anything about their turning on her.

At least there's meat for dinner now.

It's a good thing that there's extra food in Kel's pack; a few hours' trek later and that landmark tree is gone from sight. A huff escapes her as she sets up camp for the night. She could have sworn she was headed back in the right direction, but apparently not. She's stuck in unfamiliar territory yet again, and overnight at that. All she can do is light a fire and hope it drives off the locals like usual. Most things here aren't fond of flames. Settling into her bedding, Kel drifts off hoping for the best.

When morning comes, it's quiet outside. Maybe a bit too quiet- even the wind has died down, and a stillness has settled over the area. The silence is enough to get Kel out of bed quickly. Normally, a lack of noise means something's lurking; however, a quick survey of the space turns up nothing but morning mist. The scout finds herself keeping a sharp eye out as she packs up camp, hesitant to trust that it's safe.

That uncanny silence sticks around as Kel resumes her trek. The crack of twigs with each step gives her little jolts; if she can hear herself, so can anything else in the area. But no matter how hard she strains her eyes, there's nothing to see in the mist. It doesn't have to be visible to be there, though.

The only warning Kel gets is an almost-electric zing through the air, a spark that sings of magic. One moment, she's walking along and minding her own business. The next, she slams face-first into a wall of mist made solid. The scout stumbles back, only to feel another wall materialize behind her. She's trapped. As she slams her fists against the air holding her in place, the mist parts in front of her.

The Stranger shows up in the mist.

A familiar face strides out from nowhere. Wreathed in fog is the stranger that owned the dog- they're quite tall, draped in rich colors that bleed out into the mist, making them an odd mixture of spectral and solid. Those colors bend at odd angles as they regard the scout.

"Apologies for the interuption," the stranger drawls after a moment. Their voice has a peculiar accent to it that Kel can't place, one that clips the stranger's words short. "But you've piqued my curiosity, and I thought I'd pause for a chat."

"A chat? Not really interested if you're caging me." Kel bangs her fist on the mist wall again. "Gah- just let me out, then we'll talk. Alright?"

The stranger laughs. "No, I'm afraid you'll have to stay there until I'm done with you. You would stab me the moment I was in arm's reach." They pause, considering something. "I do promise that all I want for now is talk- if I wanted you dead, then I'd have struck by now, hm?" They throw their hands out wide. "Besides, I've brought no weapons."

"Liar- you had a dog. That's a weapon."

"Direct, aren't we?" The stranger chuckles, striding closer to the wall. "Dear, you nearly killed it. That's animal cruelty by most human standards."

"It was trying to bite my head off- what, was I supposed to take it quietly?" Kel smacks the mist wall for emphasis, frustration boiling in her chest. "Your mutt started it."

"Fair enough, I suppose. Rude, but fair. I can't blame a pawn for playing its role."

"Are you done yet? I need to get home and you're wasting my time."

Another chuckle rolls out of the stranger. "You still think you're going home? Did you not listen to the trees, dear?"

"I'm not your dear and that thing wanted to keep me. I got away." She kicks her foot against the wall in front of her, trying to offset the feeling of goosebumps on her arms. "So I'm going home."

"It's never that easy, you know. You saw the strings of Fate." The pity in their voice grates Kel's nerves, and she shoots them a glare as they continue talking. "Prophecies have a way of- oh, don't look at me like that. It's not my fault you were singled out. This was decided before you were born."

"Then I'll undecide it," Kel growls. "Let me go. You're not saying anything important, and I'm done talking."

"Keep that spunk. You'll need it." The stranger rolls out their shoulders, glancing behind them before stepping back into the mist. "You know, you have some promise. We'd make a capable team."

"If you wanted me to play nice, you should have stopped your dog." The scout doubles down on her glare.

"Ah." The stranger laughs, shaking their head. "I suppose so. You all are so... quaint with your insistence that someone else take care of you. You solved that problem without any aid. I can't imagine why you'd be upset- but oh well. I won't keep you if you're so certain you'd like to go." They tip their hat to the scout. "I'll see you soon enough regardless, Kel."

Swirls of fog swallow the stranger as the walls around Kel dissipate, and they're gone before she can draw her knife to rip them open. It's only then that she realizes she'd never told them her name.

Nitty Gritty Details

Note: I misunderstood how Fudge handles skills and attributes. I should have picked one or the other instead of adding them together (which explains why Kel did better in the fight than they had any right to). Put it down to the growing pains of learning a game system!

Starting chaos factor: 7

Scene test: expected (9)

Fate question: Does Kel see any landmarks from the tree? Odds: unlikely
Roll: yes (60)

Fate question: Is the landmark farther away than expected? Odds: likely
Roll: exceptional no (98)

Fate question: Does Kel's detour lead her to something? Odds: 50/50
Roll: yes (62); rolling for a random event to see what

Random event: NPC Negative (41)

Which NPC?: forest spirits (5)

Roll for meaning (actions): start benefits

Fate question: Is the fruit poisoned? Odds: very unlikely (see fate question)
Roll: no (73)

Fate question: Are there creatures around? Odds: likely
Roll: yes (71)

Does Kel notice the creature? (Fudge: Perception + Roll VS Difficulty 2): Yes (2+1)

Roll for meaning (character appearance, animal behavior): abnormal (appearance), frightening (action)

Creature stats

  • Scale: 0
  • Body: Mediocre
  • Mind: Terrible
  • Social: Terrible

Stranger stats

  • Scale: 0
  • Body: Mediocre
  • Mind: Good
  • Social: Mediocre

Attack (Kel's Body + Knife vs Creature's Body): Superb (+2, +1) vs Mediocre (+0); Creature is Hurt

Fate question: Does the person stick around for the fight? Odds: 50/50
Roll: yes (59)

Fate question: Does the person betray Kel for a better chance to save themselves? Odds: 50/50
Roll: exceptional yes (14)

Attack (Stranger's Body vs Kel's Body): Good (+2) vs Good (+0) ; no injuries

Attack (Creature's Body - Wounds vs Kel's Body + Dodge): Mediocre (+1, -1) vs Fair (-2, +1); no injuries

Attack (Kel's Body + Knife vs Creature's Body): Great (+0, +1) vs Terrible (-2); Creature is Very Hurt

Fate question: Does the person continue attacking Kel? Odds: 50/50
Roll: yes (26)

Attack (Stranger's Body vs Kel's Body): Mediocre (+0) vs Mediocre (-2) ; no injuries

Attack (Creature's Body - Wounds vs Kel's Body + Dodge): Mediocre (+1, -1) vs Good (-1, +1); no injuries

Attack (Kel's Body + Knife vs Creature's Body): Good (-1, +1) vs Terrible (-3); Creature is Incapacitated

Fate question: Does the person continue attacking Kel? Odds: very unlikely
Roll: no (84)

Fate question: Does the person flee? Odds: very likely
Roll: yes (24)

Chaos factor -1; current factor: 6

Removed from thread list: find food source

Added to character list: wildlife (now at 2 entries)

Scene test: altered (5)
Altered how?: Reduce/remove an activity (3)

Fate question: Is Kel's night disrupted? Odds: 50/50
Roll: exceptional no (96)

Fate question: Is there anything dangerous in the area? Odds: 50/50
Roll: exceptional yes and random event (11)

Random event: NPC Positive (50)

Which NPC?: The Stranger (2)

Roll for meaning (general character actions): energetic, imprison

Fate question: Does Kel spot the stranger first? Odds: likely
Roll: no (77)

Fate question: Does the stranger have bad intentions? Odds: likely
Roll: no (82)

Roll for meaning (characters): curious, mundane

Chaos factor +1; current factor: 7

Edited thread list: find why dog attacked -> find the stranger

Added to character list: the stranger (now at 2 entries)

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