Blaming on His Boots the Faults of His Feet
✧ ✧ Reavers ✧ ✧
- Timeon, Bafaloukos, Adyna
- Guosim Camp
It has not been an easy week for Timeon. All he did was blow up one little hut, and now he's being watched all the time. It's not fair. Not like anyone got hurt. Why him, and not his sister Kevi? This is more or less the content of the teenage fox's mutterings, though to untrained ears, it sounds like a continuous stream of curses and dark speculations on the nature of justice. "Bloody unfair," he says (among other things). He squats under the hot sun, which is at last beginning its recession behind the treeline, and sweats. He holds in one paw a hammer that looks ludicrously large next to his scrawny arm. The other paw he plants on the ground beside him, to steady himself against the wobbles that accompany each swing of the hammer.
Bafaloukos is as thrilled to be a part of this as the grousing youth, but not nearly as vocal. Not far from Timeon, the older fox is packing earth around the base of a tall upright log. Pale green lacerations in the bark betray the thing as freshly felled... with a blunt axe and little skill. Leaning back on his haunches, Bafaloukos tries to wipe clay from his hands. The late afternoon heat has already begun to bake it into his fur, though, making his effort futile. As it dries, it pulls painfully at tufts of his fur, which does nothing to help his mood.
"What's it for, anyways?" Timeon asks, looking up at his unwilling babysitter. He lets the hammer fall to the ground, and his arm goes slack. "Or do they not tell you, either?" He attempts to hoist the hammer again, but its mass pulls back on him with equal and opposite force. He falls back on his haunches. "Toads," he says, panting.
Bafaloukos closes his tired gold eyes as the younger fox accosts him with yet another volley of questions. This is far from the first inquisition of the afternoon. Most queries have been met with a curt word, a sharp look, or simply nothing at all, but for the first time all day, Bafaloukos answers in full sentence: "Jaksor wants a proper guest house for any future... visitors. We've come up short on huts for some reason." When he finishes, the old fox just stares emptily at Timeon.
Timeon snarls, but the sweat and dirt have arranged the fur around his eyes in such a way that the look is comic rather than menacing. "No bloody imagination," he says. "All week, I can't even use the pit without you following me." He hefts the hammer to shoulder height, then flings it weakly with a twist of his back. The head chinks loudly against the head of a stake, and it sinks the rest of the way into the earth. "And always about the hut. You could use my skills. Think a what I could do the Abbey. Boom! Kschhphhht!" He wipes his face, which would leave a mark if it weren't already coated in mud.
The sound of nocturnal insects starts to ring from the flora around camp, lazily calling for the moon. Their dirge is soft at first, a choir comprising a few crickets. But soon the hooting of an owl encourages them, and the forest explodes with the noise of a thousand tiny arias. Bafaloukos digests the complaints of the younger fox, without breaking that vacant, vaguely hateful stare. "Those 'skills' of yours almost burned up the camp and got you and your sister killed. Driving spikes suits you much better for now." He hefts himself to his feet, headed for a rucksack among a nearby heap of tools.
"Whatever," Timeon mutters. He looks down and scrapes the hammer along the ground ineffectually. "One mistake," he says, so quietly that he can't be heard over the slow crescendo of the evening chorus. After a pause of a minute or so, the young fox rises and follows Bafaloukos, though he keeps his distance.
Bafaloukos crouches to plunge his hand into the the bag, leather abraded and soft with long use. From it he produces a cloudy green bottle, and removes its cork with his teeth. He spits the cork over his shoulder, in the general direction of Timeon, then turns away to pull a drink. "You really expect us to trust some mangey pup who claims to be able to raze ancient castles with fire?" There is skepticism in his gravelly voice, as if Bafaloukos still doubts that Timeon is capable of such sorcery.
"Bloody right, I do," Timeon musters some boldness. He steps forward. For a moment, he catches the last light of the sinking sun square in the face. He squints, and the scar tissue on his muzzle tightens. He doesn't look quite so comical now. "And I'll show you, too." His air of confidence flags briefly, then he holds out a paw for the bottle.
A shadow detaches itself from the gloom beside one of the hovels and saunters forth, inaudible against the insects, until it resolves into a familiar, ornery stoat with a bottle in her hand. She raises it to Bafaloukos in something that might pass for a salute, if one doesn't look too close. [Adyna]
Planting his rump in the dirt with a fatigued breath, Bafaloukos surveys their work. It is clear that the foxes were chosen for this task as punishment, not for their talent as architects. Shabbily hewn logs strew the area, along with rope and heavy iron nails and stones. For all their hours of work, the two were able to plant three corner posts and construct a prison wall that looks very likely to collapse if sneezed upon. "It isn't me you need to convince. You think I enjoy being your shepherd?" He deliberates for a minute, then relinqishes the bottle to Timeon's outstretched hand. "Careful." When Adyna arrives, the old fox nods a miserable hello.
Timeon presses the bottle to his lips. His eyes fix on Adyna, not exactly amicable, then he tosses back his head for a manly draft. Almost instantly, his head flies forward again. He flings the bottle away and spits out more than half of his overly ambitious swig. He coughs a few times.
Adyna watches the younger fox as he splutters out remains of the manly draft before she shakes her head at Bafaloukos, clearly unimpressed. Cough. Clear throat. "Who's that snippet?" she asks, after a moment, in a voice still unacquainted with talk.
Bafaloukos' hands are clumsy, heavy with hardened clay. He glares at them in abject frustration, patiently waiting for the warmth of the bottled lightning to wash over him. It does, but not as planned. When Timeon chokes on the hooch, a tepid mist of spit and alcohol soaks the old fox. "A dead beast." The threat appears to be empty, though. Bafaloukos rubs at his face and shirt with stony gloves, before moving to collect the discarded bottle.
Timeon recovers his composure, but his swagger is nowhere to be found. He seems to shrink, and Bafa's threat, though empty, is enough to silence him, at least for the moment. He drifts back to retrieve the hammer from the ground.
Adyna watches Timeon for a few moments longer -- but she keeps any further thoughts on that subject to herself, quietly seating herself on a nearby log to reacquaint herself with her bottle and every once in a while uneasily scan the darkened horizon.
When Bafaloukos secures the bottle Timeon chucked, he gives its contents a swirl to inspect the weight of the damage. Much is lost to the earth, but there might be enough for the night. He greedily gulps two quick chugs, follows Timeon with his eyes, and then shakes his silvery old head. "Chin up, pup," the tod calls after Timeon. "You'll grow a stomach one day." The booze has mitigated his foul mood a bit. "Any plans for the evening?" he asks Adyna.
The young fox, suddenly shy, takes the opportunity to slink away. It's been a long day. And if the past week has been any indication, tomorrow promises to be just as long, and just as hot, and just as exhausting. But most importantly tomorrow will give him another crack at proving himself.
Timeon trips and faceplants.
Adyna shakes her head, from half a mile away. The jill rarely seems to have plans further than the next bottle of something. With Timeon gone she's starting to drift off into an alcoholic trance with glassy eyes staring off into the dark.
Bafaloukos continues to watch the young fox as he retires. Due to the contagious nature of humiliation, he jerks in a weak wince when Timeon takes a tumble. "Suppose the nice thing about making a beast work in the sun all day is that he ain't likely to run." The old tod sinks to the log beside the stoat, and wags his bottle for a friendly clink against hers.
The clink seems to bring Adyna's mind back from whatever gloomy place it's slipped - assisted by a torch lighting up elsewhere in the camp. Presently she takes another sip of unknown and unnameable spirits and looks down at Bafa. The look on her face says her train of thought is on another line, in a different country.
Bafaloukos has known Adyna long enough to recognize that look. He offers her half of a smile, but lapses into silence for a while. By now night has found the camp. The white glow of the moon peaks over the forest canopy, flanked by a hazy corona that hints at future rain. Fireflies inspect the ramshackle jail that he and Timeon left quasi-constructed. "I'd say the two of us should split, but I don't doubt we have prices on our heads now... from the river south to the town, at least."
"They do," Adyna replies, distantly, cradling the bottle and gazing off at the treeline. "Weren't I in that stunt. Weren't you neither, 'less ye were."
Bafaloukos slumps forward, resting his chin in his palm, elbow supported by a knee. He wonders if he owes the stoat an apology. After all, Bafaloukos had goaded her into coming along. She could be contentedly drunk in a back alley of Ferravale right now. No bounty. No hostile otter vigilantes. But, no; the spirits promised him gold. They wanted him here, and Adyna too. Who was he to question their designs? "Well, we don't want the polecat gunning for us, either," he says in excuse.
"Wouldnae follow, would 'e, 'less ye took somethin'," the stoat guesses, illustrating her point with a wave of her bottle. "More'n ye an' I in this camp."
Bafaloukos wags the mouth of the bottle at her, objecting. "I'm not so sure. We have knowledge of the camp, so we're a threat as soon as we leave it." He pauses to bring the hooch in for a swig. His nose wrinkles and lips smack as the foul stuff burns its way down his gullet. "Things have changed. Few beasts are going to traipse half way through the forest to recover a few sacks of gold and trinkets, but... now that they've stolen the pup." A gesture indicates the old lodge where the squalling otter is being held. "They'll be actively searching for us."
Ah, yes... that. The jill doesn't keep up with current events nowadays. "Who'd they see takin' it?"
Bafaloukos' ear flits at her question. He does not answer right away, because the booze is at his mouth again. The angle at which he tilts it says the thing is empty. "Does it matter?" he asks. Adjusting his grip on the neck of the bottle, the old fox suddenly hurls it at the slipshod prison wall a few meters from them. His face alights in momentary delight when the thing actually hits the wall, but joy withers all at once when something creaks. A series of pops follow in quick sequence, and then the fruit of Timeon and his drudgery folds into a pile of rubble.