OKAY HERE HAVE SOME MORE SATYR/DEMIGOD!GAMZEE AND NATURE SPIRIT!KARKAT DANg!
First Installment: X
You don’t meet anyone as you flicker from branch to branch, searching for the plants you need—you do see some humans, though, and in that at least fortune is in your favor. You circle them and make the trees rattle and the roots writhe and they drop the deer they killed and bow in terrified reverence before leaving the clearing at a run.
One of the local deities will probably end up getting the offerings for that, but you haven’t ever really enjoyed getting offerings anyway, so it doesn’t matter. What matters if you have the flesh of a healthy young doe and you didn’t have to find one that was old or dying and take it back. You cannot kill, and that makes getting fresh, tender meat really difficult sometimes.
You pull the body onto your shoulders over your wing joints (lucky she was small) and start walking again. She’s not heavy, really—weight doesn’t matter to you like it does to humans—but you’re small for a spirit and the body is unwieldy. So all in all you’re in a fairly nasty mood by the time you haul her back to the cave next to the river, with blood dripping down one of your shoulders and a bunch of plants in a bundle tied up under one arm.
It’s moved a little from where you found it; it’s half out of the cave now, dragging its bad leg and leaning on its good arm to bring its face down to the water of the tributary you made for it. The wounds it left on the forest are already starting to heal—thank everything powerful and good your power to heal your land doesn’t depend on only positive strong emotion. You know a lot of spirits whose powers work that way, and you would have no chance.
It startles when you get close, and looks up at you like it’s been caught doing something it shouldn’t. It hisses softly—then as you come closer it retreats in earnest, pulling itself away from the water and starting to edge back into the darkness of its cave.
Well, it tries to, anyway. Its broken leg catches at the ground as it tries to roll back, and it lets out a horrible sound and slumps again, breathing hard and fast through its ludicrous fangs, not looking at you. You think maybe it’s prouder than you would have guessed at first—it ordered you around instead of asking you for things, and now it can’t bear to watch you watching it in pain.
You don’t have a lot of patience for prideful beings. You drop down next to it, grab a stick, and grow a skin of bark and wood around its broken leg. It howls and tries to kick you with its other foot—you lash it to the ground with a thick root and burn the infection out of that bone as well. It’s over in the space of a few breaths—you’re not kind, but you certainly aren’t cruel. Its eyes are running, and it tries a baleful glare that just turns out furious and hurt.
“Now stop trying to move and just let me take care of you, alright?” you snap at it, and it makes a whining, growling sound and howls a few choice words into your skull. You sigh. Yes, alright, maybe you could have handled that better. “…I’m sorry. There, see? That’s what you do when you do something bad to somebody. Remember that.”
It hisses at you, but it looks more sulky than furious now. It’s eyes keep flickering past you to the body of the deer on the ground.
“How do you eat?”
MY PARTICULARITY GOES AS FAR AS YOU JUST GETTING THAT SHIT INTO MY MOUTH
“Okay.” You don’t like starting fires any more than you like trying to hunt down edible meat, but you are partial to the outcome—humans had a good idea when they came up with cooking flesh before they ate it. But before that… “…what do you say when you want something?”
The response is immediate and unhesitating.
GIVE IT TO ME
It blinks at you.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN
“I mean the thing you say when you’re asking someone for something is ‘please’.”
It sneers—as well as it can with that lipless mouth.
“Do gods want to eat?”
It huffs through its nose.
ALWAYS PUSHING AND PUSHING
YOU’LL PUSH TOO FAR
YOU’LL GET TO THINGS YOU AREN’T OF WONT TO SEE
“I can just eat this by myself if you would like,” you say pointedly, and settle down next to the doe. You’ve got a curved blade—you draw it out of the air and set about cleaning the body. “You’re not going to get any by taking cheap shots at my wings either, noseless.”
It looks vaguely affronted.
I got a nose
“No you don’t.”
“And I’ve got wings!”
“Yeah, well, your nose is flat.”
YOU’VE GOT BLOOD LEAVES LIKE A FREAK
“Your blood is purple!”
It doesn’t answer. It just lies there, making this hacking, choking sound. You feel, kind of, maybe a little bit concerned and come closer, and it lifts its face up just enough you can see the corners of its lipless mouth drawn back, its round eyes crinkling up.
I LIKE YOU
A fair bit more than I’d credited
“No, okay.” You cut it off, and wave your bloody blade at it. “—I’m not a ‘pushy little mouthful’ okay, I’m a nature spirit and you’re in my forest, so get that right. This is my place. And my name is Karkat.”
FUNNY NAME FOR A FUNNY
Well it’s better than him comparing you to some form of food at least. You seek out the dead wood, pile it up and concentrate until they burst into flame. It watches hungrily as you slice off thin pieces of meat and dangle them above the fire to sizzle and drip. It smells amazing. Even if you get nothing else out of helping this ingrate of a demigod, you’ll get a hot venison dinner out of it.
“I bet your name is funnier than mine,” you say eventually, more idly than nastily this time, and make another smooth cut. It smells like blood and cooking meat—the plants around you turn their leaves and beg and you chop of little pieces of meat and drop it to their roots, letting the rot creep into it. Their roots curl around the food and they twine up towards the light. “What are you called, then?”
It makes a noise in your head so sudden and loud and horrible you drop your knife and cover your ears with both hands.
The noise stops.
You asked for my name
I GRANTED YOU THAT
“Well your name is horrible to listen to and it’s making my head hurt!” You rub at your skull—wow, humans sometimes have problems hearing the true names of spirits, but he really is from some bad stock if your head hurts that much from hearing it. “I’m giving you a new one I can actually say without burning my mouth. What’s that word—yeah. I’m going to call you ‘gamzee’.”
It cocks its head to one side and frowns at you with its eyes.
“It’s a human word for ‘goat’.” It huffs through its teeth. “Oh come on, it’s not like there are going to be any humans around to laugh at you. You look like a goat. You’ve got feet like a goat. You called them your brethren. So yeah, I’m calling you Gamzee.”
MORE OF YOUR KIND
Know the human words
THOSE WHO’LL SAY
He takes the name of an animal
“Nobody is going to make fun of you for the name, great good growth.” You roll your eyes. ‘He’, huh? Okay. Well, you thought it looked like a male, but there’s no assuming. “Okay then, Gamzee, all you have to do is ask politely and you get some of this. Otherwise I’m finishing it off myself and calling over some friends who’ll be a lot politer about it. So do you want some or not?”
He rumbles low in his chest.
You tear off a piece of the roasting meat and a branch of the mulberry you brought and hand them over. He tears into them like he’s been starving for a season.
“You’re welcome,” you tell him—he ignores you. Well, you’ll fight that battle later. You glance up at the sky and snag a roasting slice of meat; it’s delicious. The sun is setting through the tree trunks, and you can feel flowers and plants curling themselves away for the night around you. “You want help getting back in the cave for the night?”
WHY SHOULD I TAKE SHELTER
He sounds less angry in your mind now, at least. The food seems to be making him sleepy; he picks up a branch of nightshade and chews on it idly.
“I don’t want your horrible face stunting the growth of the new plants that I need to bring up to replace the ones you wrecked,” you tell him bluntly, and frown at him. “…you should clean those cuts up before they get sick, too.”
He cringes a little.
Why should i
His voice is doing that thing again, where it goes a little bit soft, almost shaky. He sounds very vulnerable when he does that, for all his ferocious snarls and his pride, and you wish he didn’t because it makes your stomach feel strange.
“Because otherwise your face will start to rot and I’ll have to do what I did to your broken bones to your face.” You put a thick chunk of meat up to cook and put a few more dead sticks on the fire, so you don’t have to look at those wide, violet-gold eyes. “…you remember what it felt like when I burned the sickness out of them? You want that on your face and all over your back?”
I DON’T WANT YOUR CLAWS NEAR MY BLEEDING SELF EITHER
And then, soft again,
I don’t like things that hurt
“Nobody does.” You could go out hunting, but you don’t want to walk away from the fire—you put a hand to the ground and reach with all your might, and a soft stem of silver-green, downy leaves springs up between your fingers. You pluck a few of them and hold them out to him. “—here. See this?”
He hesitates, then reaches out and takes the leaf from you, running his darkened, calloused fingertips over it. His ears perk up.
What is that
GROWN OUT OF DIRT AND ROCKS BUT SO SOFT
What kind of plant feels like this
“Human’s call it ‘lamb’s ear’,” you tell him, and his lipless mouth twists a little like he’s smiling. “I can use that to clean up your face a little bit, and then you can get some actual sleep and I won’t have to deal with your face oozing all over the place because of all the foul things you got in the cuts. Alright?”
He hesitates, then dips those massive goat horns in a nod.
“Good.” You pluck some more of the largest leaves—you have them growing almost as large as your hand—and dip it in the stream water. “…sit still and don’t snap at me.”
His skin is cool when you touch it, but warmer around the cuts—you frown, and he whines when you dab at the place the middle cut splits deep into the bridge of his nose. The skin there is dark and surprisingly soft, and you hate yourself for maybe rubbing your fingertips against the short, velvety fuzz of fur there. You hate yourself even more when his eyes unfocus a little and he leans minutely into your petting hand.
By the time your careful wiping and scrubbing gets the worst of the crusted purple blood off his face it’s almost dark. You give him some honeysuckle and the cooked haunch of venison and he slumps.
You jump a little and he seems to realize what he said. He tenses up all over again.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT
“Nothing.” Huh. You didn’t even have to prompt him. “Okay, big tough demigod, turn around and I’m going to clean up your back. What did you even do to yourself?”
His ears flatten. He doesn’t answer, but he doesn’t complain either, just shuffles awkwardly around and lets you run trickles of water over the scratches and cuts on his back. Those go by without too much of a hitch; they’re mostly on his shoulders and his spine, and he’s certainly not happy but he only twitches and makes little warning snarling noises when you have to lift his wild hair out of the way to wipe blood off the back of his neck (and Kanaya makes fun of you for your hair, at least leaves don’t work themselves into massive, unmanageable tangles).
Then you wipe away a streak of blood on one sharp shoulderblade, and he tenses and shivers. There’s a silvery scar patch of skin under your fingers, almost like a scar but smoother. You poke at it again. He growls.
“What is this?”
A brother can’t walk around all dressed up all the time
CAN’T GET HIS REVEAL OF HIS GODLY MIGHT SO SIMPLE NOW
Can’t carry around real wings in these tiny places
REAL WINGS LIKE YOU HAVEN’T GOT
But a body remembers where they’re at
WHERE THEY’RE PLACED WHEN THEY’RE GETTING THEIR REALNESS ON
And you’re touchin’ it awful familiar and you can’t comprehend
CAN’T BEGIN TO GET YOUR KNOWIN’
On how strange it feels to have your claws on the inside of something
THAT I DON’T FOR THIS BRIEFEST SECOND TRULY HAVE
You’re touching something that ain’t there
“You have wings?” You poke the spot again. He growls again, louder. “You can just…send them away and bring them back?”
You think I walk around with one face always the same
YOU THINK I’M BOUND LIKE YOU TO A SINGLE SHAPE
Brother this is not the face I wear alone
THIS IS THE FACE OF A GOD
“You don’t normally look like this?” He shakes his head. “Well what do you look like then?”
That face is mine
He lowers his horns, and even though he’s not looking at you the threat is clear.
IT IS NONE OF YOUR BLIGHTED CONCERN
And just like that, the conversation is over. You finish cleaning up the last of the cuts, making a bit of half-hearted effort of avoid the places where his wings aren’t, tell him to sleep on his side, and then curl up by the fire, pointedly not watching him. You feel his eyes on the back of your neck, until finally his breathing evens out to a low, steady rhythm and you close your eyes and drift off, dreaming of flight.
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