A Hermit of Mossflower (Open)

Riversong looked over the entrance to her primary stash with critical eyes. Located right above her winter burrow it would be the last one she made use of as the harshest part of the cold months came and she was unable or reluctant to leave. She didn't honestly need much, she really could have gotten by with a great deal less then she had on hand, but the excess was in case of emergencies and unexpected guests. She'd made no lasting friends in her years living in the woods but that didn't mean she wouldn't help someone who'd become lost or run out of supplies. With a thick coat and well built supply network she was in a unique position to help travelers in winter and despite her less then welcoming demeanor did find a certain happiness in it.

On the slave chain and in her years of wandering she'd never really had a home or much of a purpose. She'd survived and found little joys but living full time in the relative peace of Moss-flower had given her security and a sense of belonging. It wasn't the camaraderie of redwall or even some of the outlaying hamlets but  it was more then she'd ever thought to have and suited her better in a way. She'd felt smothered during her few visits to the abbey despite good intentions. It was enough for her to visit during the feasts and trade news and sometimes goods before departing back to her own place.

The last of the walnuts she'd gathered boxed and shelved she took a moment to sit and enjoy the autumn colors of the woods. It was a goodly place at any time of the year but she liked it best just on the cusp of the seasons, spring flowers giving way to summer fruit, autumn fire to stark winter black on white.

Her home at the tree's base was formed in a hallow between massive roots with a frame of thick branches she'd scavenged covered in earth as a roof. A large single room it was comfortable with shelves full of her carvings, bead work and her other crafts as well as more practical items she'd made herself in seasons past. It was comfortable even without a fire for heat in winter thanks to the thick insulation of the earth and the blankets she'd woven. Bright bands of color with beads sewing to them as well they were her treasures.

With her days work done she stretched and and headed to a bench seat she'd traded a mouse for a few seasons before, drawing a book from her belt pouch. A small thing mostly on the plants of Mossflower much of it was beyond her newly acquired literacy but the pictures and some of the words like edible and poisonous were more then enough to keep her entertained. Laying out on the bench she turned to the book mark and started where she'd left off. Burdock leaf.

It was snowing. Jaws hated snow. Jaws had come to the forest a few days ago. He had planned on getting through it as quickly as possible on his way to another desert. But just a few days in it began to snow hard. That had made it impossible for him to get to the other side of the forest. He continued to bumble and stumble through the snow. Jaws was soaked all the way to the bone, not surprising since his clothes were meant for deserts, not snow. He had his arms wrapped around himself and was chattering violently. He needed to find shelter quickly, before he froze. He could already feel icicles forming on his tail. Just then Jaws saw a tree. It was large and had many branches that had stopped much of the snow. He walked up to it and looked it up and down. He then took one of his swords and banged it against the tree, just to make sure it was sturdy. After a few more bangs, he took out his other sword, found an evergreen, and chopped off as many branches as he could carry. Then, with branches being dragged behind him, he went back to the large tree and put the evergreen branches on top of himself. He put one last branch over his head and set in for a long and very cold night.

Hearing the sound of a blade on wood Riversong was up and on her feet, bench and book forgotten. Up and into the trees she hid for a few moments as she oriented on the noise before moving quietly toward it. A wood cutter wouldn't have bothered her but the frantic sound of it told her it was no such person and beside that her home was out of the way of any settlements or the river. It took her a few minutes to find a fox in desert garb cutting down branches. It had been a long while since she'd seen such clothes but she knew them easily enough. So much cloth yet useless against the cold and the wet.

Watching she knew he was out of his element given how frantic he seemed at the light snow that fell. Even a little flurry could be dangerous though and while his impromptu covering was better then nothing it wasn't going to do much for him against the morning dew. Probably loose a toe that way, letting yourself get all cold and wet. Her own pelt was thick and oiled against water so snow was no particular trouble for her but she could see that beyond his clothes he wasn't geared properly. Cold meant carrying food enough to keep you going rather than just scavenging freely like in spring and summer. Plenty of water which was easy enough to find in Mossflower in any season and no food. Definitely a desert fox.

Marking the path Riversong went back to her tree and rooted about for a bit. Food and some of her more worn out blankets went in a sack and she was back to the fox's camp before dark though she did not move to make her presence known. With good beast or vermin she wasn't keen to make herself known without some observation first but she decided to compromise.

"Ello to the house." High above the little shelter she tossed down the bag of goods and waited for a reply or for the occupant to at least take what she'd given.

Jaws was trying to get some uncomfortable sleep. He was exhausted from being soaked and freezing. Just as he began to drift off he heard a noise, a voice.
“Ello to the house” it said. Just a second after he heard a thud nearby him. He cracked open his eyes and saw a bag next to him. He reached out and pulled back to himself. He carefully opened it and looked inside. Seeing the food woke him up a bit more. He grabbed an apple and started to wolf it down. Once it was all gone and he had stored the seeds in a small sack at his side, he rummaged deeper into the bag and found some blankets. He quickly took all of them out and covered himself in them. Now he was fed and warmth was returning to his limbs. Jaws then looked up into the tree, searching for his benefactor. He didn’t see anyone up in the tree, but he knew someone was there.
“Jaws thanks you for the food and warmth. Jaws will not hurt one who has helped Jaws. You may show yourself.” He said to the unseen beast.

"Jaws aint from these parts. I'm Riversong for all is worth." Riversong wasn't keen on getting too close but jumping to a lower branch she pulled back her hood so she'd be a more visible. Jaws as he called himself wasn't in a condition to menace her much even on the ground but she was a cautious one regardless. That he'd a vermin style of name didn't really instill much trust in her besides though she'd have treated a good beast much the same.

"Shuck yer clothes else they'll freeze yah stiff. Still autumn so the damps more yer enemy than the cold on its own." She hadn't anything on hand that would fit a fox but the blankets themselves. She was smallish and clearly not of the native red that populated the woods of Mossflower.

"Cut one of them blankets te make yah a shirt. Aint 'aps to yer likin but will be warm. Ye'll have need of er if ye intend to stay on in Mossflower. Seasons due to turn bitter." An obvious statement though in her case she didn't particularly mind the coming cold. Having spoken as much as she intended to for the moment she sat back on her haunches and waited for the fox to eat more or ask her a question. There was plenty more she could and might yet ask him but unless he gave her cause she'd leave him be. She wasn't keen on getting tangled up in others affairs more then she could help.

Jaws looked at the squirrel as she came down closer.
“Shuck yer clothes else they'll freeze yah stiff. Still autumn so the damps more yer enemy than the cold on its own." The squirrel said. Jaws took of his desert clothes under the blankets.
Cut one of them blankets te make yah a shirt Aint 'aps to yer likin but will be warm. Ye'll have need of er if ye intend to stay on in Mossflower. Seasons due to turn bitter." Jaws obeyed and cut himself a crude robe out of the blankets. He then wrapped the other blankets around himself for extra warmth. Then he looked back to the squirrel and said “Jaws does not plan to stay long. Jaws only wished to cross this land to a desert on th… tha… Ahhhh choe!” He sneezed loudly. “Jaws does not feel well. Jaws must be sick.” He said leaning against the tree. “But jaws has never had such a sickness. Jaws does not know what to treat it with.” He looked up at the squirrel and asked “Do you know what has happened to Jaws?” hoping for sympathy, and more stuff.

"Snuffling like a babe ye is. Drink up the flask o' elderberry. Intend as ye like but I mistrust you getting much o' anywhere without proper gear and a cold." The little wooden bottle held pungent wine in it but less then a cups worth so it wasn't likely to cause harm even if the fox downed it all. Riversong wasn't a healer but she'd traded some goods for a few things early on in spring and still had them stored for the coming winter. She'd never had a cold herself but that wasn't really the point as the fox was rather clearly illustrating.

"Wont be much but twill make travel hard if it gets worse. I'll get ye somethin better fer it in the mornin." She might have offered to take him to the Abbey but those beasts were goodly to a fault and she wasn't interested in seeing if they would get lucky and find no trouble from the fox or not. They'd never listen to her much on the point but she'd seen knife fights over wooden buttons and insults. The Abbey didn't contain any great treasure but secure walls and food were more then enough to inspire greed.

"Mean time eat up what ye can. I'll bring more so ye needn't fear it."

"… eat up what ye can."  Jaws needed no more encouragement. He sat down and began to take and eat all that was in the bag. He then took the cup of wine, opened it, and drank all its contents. Although he ate fast and ravenously, he was very careful not to drop a single piece of food, and to get it all into his mouth. Life in the desert had taught him that food was precious. He had soon emptied the bag of all its food, and then went on to contemplate his current situation. He was in a land he did not understand, It was cold and wet beyond his likings, and there was a squirrel who, although didn’t trust him, was willing to help him. He decided that he needed to keep on the good side of this beast if he wanted to survive. Jaws took off one of his bone bracelets. “Jaws wishes you to have this before you go.” He said. He then tossed it up to Riversong. He hoped that a sign of good will would placate her a little.

Riversong caught the creme colored bracelet deftly in a thickly calloused paw. Looking at it she didn't really have much question about the material even in the failing light of the day but she scratched at it with a claw once to make certain. Bone. Cracked Claw had been found of the stuff, weaving amulets of it into the matted dreads of his pelt for good luck or something along that line.

"Bit er friendliness. Y'aint wise carryin bone round goodbeasts. I aint s'a picky as all that but they might take it wrongly comin from a sharp toothed fella. Nice carven though." The bracelet was spirited into a pouch and then Riversong pulling her hood back up she jumped up to a higher branch before bounding to the next tree in a generally wrong direction of her burrow. It wasn't easy to track a squirrel even when you right bellow one let alone not able to get up and find the tracks. That combined with the fact she was particularly good at hiding hers made it unlikely the fox would be able to manage the feat if he tried. She was also rather paranoid and would come from a different direction each time she approached a stranger all the same though.

Jaws watched the squirrel climb and jump away till he couldn’t see her any more. He then sat down and thought on what to do next. The squirrel, Riversong, might come back with others to capture, or worse, kill him. He could run, but with his knowledge of the forest, he’d be dead in a day or two. He could try and follow Riversong, but she was the only that could help him right now, and losing her trust would mean death as well. Jaws didn’t like it, but for now he was dependent on that squirrel. He gathered up some of the smaller sticks he had cut down and then took a flint and tinder out of his pouch. He struck a few sparks and started a small fire. He added twigs and such but made sure to keep it small. He didn’t trust fire in a place nearly covered with wood. He began to warm his hands and feet on the small flame as he waited for Riversong to get back, for better or for worse.

Once back at her own dwelling Riversong ate a lite dinner as was her habit before putting together a care package of sorts for Jaws. It wasn't much, mostly food enough to get him someplace that wasn't near to her. The abbey would likely take him and it was his best choice of a place to wait out the winter. Other communities could likely have afforded a guest but not as easily and with luck the number of beasts about would keep him from any mischief he might intend or come up with later on. It wasn't any particular discrimination against foxes as she knew many a beast could be cunning just as a fox could be a fool. She simply didn't trust any beast until she had cause to and preferred not find herself in circumstance that gave grounds to find out.

"Mornin." True to form she came early and announced herself with another sack tossed at the base of the foxes makeshift shelter. Cloaked again with addition of a back pack she was ready for the trek to the Abby. The supplies in the rucksack were solely food as she'd already kited him with clothes to the best of her ability.

Jaws was having a wonderful dream about spending time in his tent during a desert sand storm when he was rudely awakened by a rucksack landing near him. Jaws looked down at it and then back up at the tree to see the squirrel. Jaws lifted the sack and opened it to see its contents.
“This sack contains much food. Are you bringing Jaws somewhere?” He asked the squirrel. “Do you know the way to the desert?” He asked eagerly getting up and brushing pine needles from himself.
occ: this is kinda short because I wanted the story to start towards the abbey, I think some more people should join too, if thats ok. theyed need to be fairly active though.

"Desert? Always avoided barrens m'self. I knows a place that might be more helpsome though. The Abbe bout two days out o'ere. I's thar er' no where." She said, gesturing with a a shrug of the shoulder before started to head that way. Stepping lightly from the branch she was on to the next then making a short hop. She'd give Jaws a few moments to collect himself before she set an actual pace but wanted to make it clear that she wasn't going to discuss the matter. He could go the abbey or figure something else out on his own.

((Bring anyone aboard whose interested. I made it open after all.))

(( I am tempted to enlist, however as I only have one character under my influence at the present time, I am not willing to create a continuity issue and be forced to wade through the tangled web of nonsense. 😛 Unless, the rules are lenient and allow a single character to inhabit two threads similtaniously?))

OOC: As far as I know that is possible. If not, then I am probably breaking that rule myself. 😛

Someone was taking an unhealthy interest in the conversation of the pair of beasties, and was fixed on learning more from their conference, to perhaps assuage the desperate creature’s growing uncertainty. Like the vulpine one subjected to the rodent’s wary precautions, this animal was utterly lost and at the mercy of the forest. Though He had trekked far and wide through Mossflower in years prior, not once had he been forced to endure the unrelenting chill of a winter, however brief.

Jack Frost’s gifts were unwarranted, and despite the gentle rebuffs and appeasements offered to the mischevious sprite, he saw fit to punish this defiance. The icy grip had driven the seabeast to so deplorable acts of thievery, and in his wanderings through this neck of the woods he found himself pilfering the clothing of needy woodland families. This had proved, despite its questionable morality, to be an effective survival method. The clothing has spared him from the brunt of the frigid night, albeit far too small and a little worse for wear.

Unbeknownst to the couple there was a pair of rheumy, bloodshot eyes stolen away in a grand thicket of elderberry bushes blanketed in snow, watching intently. Though longing and desperation drove him to hide so furtively and gaze with such longing, he was not but a mere crossbow’ throw from their area of convergence; far enough away to skulk back into the icy realm of the woods, and close enough that if he truly could not restrain himself, he could break cover and beg for a little body heat and victuals.

Then again, even in his sorry state, Fallo had far too much pride to leave himself at the mercy of two strangers who may very well cannibalize him. Certainly the corsair would make a tantalizing meal, considering the fact that he was practically seasoned with salt, and had plenty of liquor to be braised in. But from what he has heard down the grapevine and witnessed firsthand, ferret tartar is a rare delicacy around these parts.

His body quaked spasmodically in the bush, and in spite of his best efforts to remain silent, his kinetic motion stirred in kind the whole shrub to motion as well. His nose felt raw, his head akin to a cannonball in its mass and density, his extremities were almost nonexistent. In his current crouched position he staved off the cold by shoving his fattened hands into the soothing folds of his narrow armpits, though the effect was lessening still. His teeth chattered, and every foggy breath was beginning to lessen as the temperature within gradually equalized without. The shrub rattled as branch bet branch, and he cursed his own condition, knowing well that he would be spotted any moment now and consumed shortly after his discovery.

What Riversongs senses lacked in acuity they made up for in paranoia. Taking note of sounds that could have possibly indicated an observer she started scanning and picked up an outline that was not natural in origin. Eyes narrowing she wondered what ground bound creature was lurking but didn't regard the prospect of ambush with much concern. She was armed and in possession of what was incontestably the high ground.

Jaws was in the much more precarious position being on the ground but that was a tertiary concern as it didn't much impact her own safety. She stopped her progress and held up a fist to indicate to the fox to do the same but didn't choose to enlighten him as to why. He was probably picking up the same tells that she was anyway and between claws and namesake jaws could likely handle himself just fine.

"Oi, I don't abide lookie lous mate." She projected loudly enough to reach a bit past Fallow's hiding spot. From her position above it wasn't as secure as it could have been but not many were squirrel proof.

Jaws stopped and looked about confused. Unsure as to what the squirrel’s fist meant and further confused by her yelling, he just stood there and pondered as to what it could mean. Then he noticed the shaking bushes as well. He may not know much of the forest but he did know that plants don’t move by themselves. Pulling his swords out and dropping into a fighting stance, he prepared for the worst. Bearing his teeth and stretching his metal claws-gloves he made a very threatening sight.

His conclusion had been partially correct, although Fallo was far too frozen to display any satisfaction in his ability to realize when he was to be caught. The squirrel must have been the first to notice his uncontrollable quavering, which rather than subside as he planned began to double in its ferocity. In his mind he must have been jiggling about more so than a portly dormouse’s belly as he stumbled through the abbey grounds in hot pursuit of his pilfered peach pastie.  A sudden lance of cold perforated his slowly deteriorating defenses, reaching his bones and sapping him of his steadily wavering heat.  He gasped audibly as with arduous effort did he turn his gaze downward, only to discover that to his dismay that he was beginning to sink into the snow.

The corsair dimly heard the squirrels’ exclamation, instead turning his attention to his petrified paws when he realized that the sharp pain in his steadily freezing tendons ceased.  Though they were gloved, courtesy of that poor family, it seems that they were only woolen hand-garments. Wool tends to get damp very easily, and this was the case. The minute wind chill factor had contributed to the lack of sensation, but his situation had now taken a turn for the worst. Not only was he in dire straits in terms of the strife his failing body was forced to endure, but also now that fox had drawn his blades and turned to face Fallo’s hiding spot.

Such an open act of aggression would not have phased the ferret under normal circumstances, however his mind was all but shut down, his slender frame shaking violently, and his teeth clattered like unsecured rigging against a mast. Rather than die an unfulfilling death at winter’s icy embrace, he used the last bit of strength in his fatigued and nigh totally immobilized limbs to push himself out of the grasping and clawing boughs of the bush. Doubled over in a manner that almost looked as if he were suffering from some sort of incontinence with his leaden forepaws proffered towards the barbaric-looking canine, he fell to his knees and sunk into the snow with a soft crunch.

“Cc-ccc-ccold.”

He managed to whisper from his parched and cold-dried throat before the strong scent of pine filled his burning nostrils and all the sight fled his desperate hazel eyes. With that, he collapsed unceremoniously in a crumpled heap, unconscious.

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