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LMS V: Past the Breakers



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Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:31 am
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TheSilverFox says...



@TheSilverFox please jump on this wagon with me.


@Ventomology: do the thing
me: okay

Alright, I've had this story kinda floating around in my head the last couple months, but it only really took shape Thursday. I'm also a bit exhausted from the plot tangle that is BATP, so I present

Past the Breakers

Queer Romance with Magical Foxes



The Backstory:

There's only two things I can write: high fantasy and vaguely creepy poetry. This obviously isn't poetry; it's actually distantly related to BAtP (distant enough that this story probably won't become a plot tangle too). Long story short, The Creator barged into an empty dimension, created a universe (yay!), made a family out of his AI partner and a few people he grew out of vats (yay?), got on the nerves of a remnant from the last universe (not yay!), picked a fight, won, etc. The Creator looked at what was left from that fight and decided "you could make a world out of this," so that's what he did. He populated one continent with humans, and another continent with all the less violent and volatile creatures The Creator and his enemy had made.

And it was all going great, but the humans were too busy worshiping The Creator to do anything useful or productive. He wasn't a big fan of that, so he offered some humans the chance to get on boats and sail over to the other continent. Oh, and then he lifted the human continent up into an alternate dimension/'heaven' thing, but that's not really important right now.

What matters is that there was now a bunch of empty ocean, blocked off from the other continent by some pretty big walls. The Creator also wasn't sure what to do with some of the more violent and volatile creatures he and his enemy had made. So, he decided to kill two birds with one stone by making a new continent (ugh, so many continents), and sticking them on it.

A couple millennia later, those creatures mellowed out some, so might as well see what they're up to.

The Setting:

The story is set in and around a village of kitsune by the coast. By village, I mean a group of grass-roofed adobe houses grouped kinda closely together, surrounded by farmland. They grow wheat and corn, since, despite being next to the sea, the place doesn't have super fertile soil (think the white cliffs of Dover). Also some sheep and cows grazing around, because why not.

By kitsune, I essentially mean bipedal foxes who grow additional tails about every 12 years or so. Their magical power increases with every tail, maxing out with the 9th (though no one's really lived long enough to see what that having nine tails might be like). The older the kitsune, the stronger they are, which actually relates to the only form of government the village has. Foxes with more than a couple tails usually rally together as warriors if the village is ever attacked, with the one having the most being the head of the guard. Head of the guard is not a prestigious position, and it rarely comes up, but it's the closest thing to a leader the town has.

And by coast, I mean a set of cliffs with the occasional sandy beach and inlet. It's not exactly a safe place, even if you don't consider all the big and dangerous creatures swimming around in there.

The Characters:

Xain (pronounced basically like Zane), a two-tailed kitsune. A fisherman in a time and place where nobody else wants to even go near the water, he lives in what used to be his parents' house, a little ways from the village. When his parents died of illness, he and his sisters moved closer to the village, but he found it wasn't quite to his liking. Now he goes fishing with his father's rod, line improvised from some of the clothes his oldest sister sends him, and a spear. Otherwise, he's generally busy keeping the house clean, fending off his concerned and controlling sisters, and being insecure. Getting close to growing his third tail.

Idiot (placeholder name until I can find a good one), who is an idiot. Also a fox, which is a pretty important distinction. He has one tail, a pretty fixed amount of magical ability, and is the sole character not from this continent. An adventure who had wide eyes and a lot of money, but now finds himself a little jaded and a lot broke. Getting stranded in a strange place with people who don't understand a word he says can do that to someone. Likes maps, keeps tons of drawing and notes about everything and everyone he runs into. Just a little bit of an ego.

Yisele, a two-tailed kitsune and Xain's older sister. Very friendly, chaotic, happy-go-lucky person. Social butterfly of the village, keeps trying to get Xain to come back and embrace all the uncertainty and fear of being outside his parents' home. Xain likes to think he has enough uncertainty and fear already.

Yisele's wife, a three-tailed kitsune. Daughter of the head of the guard (who has five tails). Adorably romantic and good at punching things, an effective combination.

Verta, a three-tailed kitsune and Xain's oldest sister. Mother of two. The calm and rational sister who decided to take it on herself to keep her siblings safe. Which means she can be pretty controlling and harsh, though she's extremely defensive of her family. Got Xain to work on her husband's farm for a bit, hasn't stopped trying to get him back there. Picked up weaving from her husband, and usually makes clothes for the villagers. Was a warrior once or twice, has the scars to show for it.

Verta's husband, a three-tailed kitsune and Xain's brother-in-law. Father of two. Doesn't talk too much, but generally a friendly and calm person. Definitely the person Xain goes to when he wants to get his sisters off his back.

The Plot: Not too sure? Right now I just have idiot washing up on shore, befriending Xain, them overcoming mutual language barriers, Xain's sisters showing up, etc. Oh, and bipedal saber-tooth tigers who grow fangs so large they can accidentally impale themselves, and definitely won't show up to cause havoc down the road. But, whatever I decide to do, assuming an 18+ rating from the start probably should help.

Spoiler! :
where I stole the title from

phpBB [media]
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Mon Jul 29, 2019 4:48 pm
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Jaybird says...



I know you're not entirely sure what the plot is going to be, but this story sounds awesome and I can't wait to see whatever you're scheming for it! Do you know where you'll be posting it for LMS?

And, even more importantly, how long do I have to wait before a character from this shows up in a roleplay?
Magestorrow → Jaybird
  





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Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:55 am
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TheSilverFox says...



@Magestorrow: haha I just plotted the entire thing out earlier today, so there's been a lot of scheming going on.

I'm not sure if I'm posting it in this thread or actually publishing it? On one hand, publishing makes it a little easier for people to find than just posting it here, but I also have a habit of taking reviews super seriously and stressing out over them. So yeah, I'mma just wait until September before I figure out what I want to do.

Maybe not for a little while! This novel is super new, and I need to get a little more comfortable with the characters before throwing them in some RPs. They would be pretty entertaining, though.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Sun Aug 04, 2019 7:53 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



Whoop, should probably write an update to this - setting's set up, plot's plotted, characters are planned out, this novel should be pretty smooth sailing when I get to writing it.

More of the Backstory: Obviously, the kitsune isn't the only sentient species on the continent. There's quite a few scattered around, but the real power player in the area (and the one that's going to come up most often) is the saber-toothed tigers. They carved out a territory to the northwest, fighting rival groups like the dire wolves and consolidating their power. These days, they're a bit like the Vikings - largely farmers and settles who've established a semi-stable set of kingdoms over the lands they've occupied, while raiders and adventurers attack the surrounding area and/or create the foundations for new kingdoms. I'll switch between saber-tooth tiger and tiger for the sake of convenience, so fair warning.

The dire wolves used to be prominent rivals, but lost their power after a long series of wars with the tigers. The last war saw their capital destroyed, their population enslaved, and their warriors exiled to a far away island that definitely won't be relevant in the story.

More of the Plot:

Idiot and his idiot decisions end up guiding a lot of the plot. Whether shooting a gun to scare off a monster, selling some of his notes to a trader, or keeping a really detailed account of the equipment that he used to get to this continent in the first place, he ends up setting a lot of things in motion. Not that it's really his fault. Unfortunately, idiot and Xain have to deal with a lot of the consequences.

When it is idiot's fault, it's mostly because of his internal struggle. Part of him wants to go back home a successful, beloved adventurer, while the other part of him is coming to terms with what could happen if those two continents know each other exists. That's the heart of the plot, essentially.

More of the Characters:

Leader of the Raiders, who is the leader of the raiders. Saber-toothed tiger, very leader-y and calm under pressure. Maybe he should get more character development?

Jerk, who has a much less polite name in my notes. Village tiger who decided he was a big fan of the raiding and signed up. Is fluent in both the tiger and kitsune language, which is rich for someone who regularly wears kitsune fur.

Jerk's mom, who is not a jerk. Lived in the village with her son as her only surviving family member, and he ended up dragging her along into the raiding business. She's old, extremely disinterested in anything her son does, and a healer.

Shipbuilder, who builds ships. A village tiger who got hired to build a ship. Kind of a bigot for someone who knows the kitsune language.

Oichi, a nine-tailed kitsune. Nine-tailed kitsunes typically have so much magic/energy that they lose their corporeal form, which they definitely always take well.

Aaand a couple more characters who would probably be even more spoilery than these ones.

Ugh a month to go before I start writing. ;-;
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Sat Sep 28, 2019 4:40 am
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TheSilverFox says...



The Writing


Chapter One: One-Tailed

Part One (1,003 words): Yee, time to try my hand at this whole novel thing again. Note that forepaw refers to hands, and hindpaw refers to feet. I just find it really hard to describe the bipedal version of a quadruped creature in terms of bipeds.

Spoiler! :
Strange things washed up on shore all the time. Sometimes splinters of wood from what might’ve once been a boat. Sometimes the stray tentacle or rotting lump of meat. Sometimes bones. Xain was convinced that, when he was a kid, a whale had beached itself on the tiny cove outside his parents’ house. His father had kept Xain inside the house, though – Xain had barely known anything had happened until he’d heard the whispers among the villagers when his father had gone to town to sell his wares. The kitsune understood why his father had done that. As much as he loved the sea, what it spat out wasn’t his business. Especially if he couldn’t eat it or sell it.

Staring down the winding path in front of him, Xain let out a deep breath. On a clear day like this, with the smell of the tranquil sea in his nostrils and the morning dew budding around his paws, he could catch some large fish. He wasn’t keen on anything getting in the way of that. His two tails twitched as he stepped away from the thin layer of grass, paws navigating over rocks and avoiding holes. The dim light of the sun, just barely rising above the horizon, illuminated the switchbacks carved into the white rock below him. The switchbacks that he had gone up and down a thousand times, almost since the moment he could first walk. He knew these steps, these crevices, these gaps inside and out. There was (usually) nothing to fear here.

Xain tapped the bottom of his fishing pole against the stone, humming snippets of tunes to himself. The sunlight, pink and red and white, climbed up the wall to meet him. He lowered his head to keep from getting blinded, since his forepaws were a little preoccupied holding up his fishing rod and net.

Which left his ears to pick up on the splashing of something in the distance.

The kitsune paused. Setting his pole and net against the rock that jutted out in front of him, he crouched down and grabbed its edges. Just like his father had taught him. And Xain wasn’t too far from the house, if worst came to worst. He wasn’t always that lucky.

As much as the sun reflected off the cliffs, the pale sand on the beach, and the blue-green water at the center of the cove, it didn’t take Xain long to spot what was making that noise. And, to Xain’s surprise, it was some kind of boat. A completely intact one, with a design that Xain couldn’t recognize. The tigers always preferred bigger and more imposing boats, while the (very few) kitsune boats he’d ever seen had used plenty of straw and whatever else had been on hand. Trees were hard to come by here.

Curious, Xain decided to do something his father wouldn’t have done – he made his way a little further down the path, quickly resting on his belly behind a smaller rock. Still far enough away that he felt fairly secure, though the tentacles on some of the bigger creatures in the ocean could possibly reach him. He ignored the pit in his stomach and kept on watching.

Now it was possible to pick out more detail on the boat. Specifically, there was one occupant, who appeared to be trying to paddle with a paw. It clearly wasn’t nearly as effective as the tide, but Xain guessed that the occupant was trying to escape from something. The long, murky shapes in the water confirmed that guess.

Xain bit his lip. As far as he could tell, the stranger was some sort of kitsune. Was it someone he knew? Was it one of his siblings? The stranger was on a strange boat, wearing clothes that Xain wasn’t familiar with (and a few more layers than most of the people Xain knew, including himself), so it couldn’t be them. But he felt a bit guilty feeling relieved about that.

Some of the larger waves carried the boat towards the shore. One threw the boat onto the sand, sending the occupant flopping face-first onto dry land. Heartbeat roaring in Xain’s ears, the kitsune couldn’t begin to imagine how much more terrified the occupant was as the occupant pulled their face of the sand and caught sight of the long, green-and-pink tentacles that began to slip their way out of the water. Suction cups the side of Xain’s head twitched, while the tentacles curled and unwinded.

The stranger was doomed. The creature didn’t exactly know where they were, but that didn’t matter. They were too close to the ocean, too far from the cliffs, going up tentacles that were too fast and too flexible. They’d probably be dashed against the rocks, or crushed, or, worse yet, pulled into the water.

But the stranger didn’t get the message, because they ran back to their boat. A few seconds of paws running along the crevices of the boat later, the stranger pulled out some kind of long wooden tip with a metal end. Before Xain could figure out what the stranger was trying to do, the stranger pointed the stick towards one of the tentacles.

A boom! rang out. The stranger toppled onto the sand in a cloud of smoke, while the tentacles flailed. After throwing lot of foam and spray, along with a couple bubbly screeches, the creature slipped back into the water, fading into the dark depths of the cove and the ocean beyond. The cove fell silent.

Xain hesitated, waiting for any other noise to let him know that the creature was still there. He got the impression that he wouldn’t be doing any fishing today, but he wasn’t concerned about that. Was the stranger alright? What had the stranger done? Had the stranger killed the creature? There was only one way to find out.

Once his stomach stopped feeling like it was churning, Xain slowly pulled himself onto his hindpaws and began to navigate the cliffs.


Part Two (636 words): xain: are you an orphan

Spoiler! :
When his paws touched the cold sand, Xain hesitated. The stranger rested on the sand a stone’s throw away, besides the long wooden stick. Xain half-expected the stranger to twitch, yawn, move – nothing happened. The stranger was out cold. Which was perfectly understandable.

The kitsune decided to walk over to what he was a little more comfortable with. Standing beside the broad-bowed boat, with water gently washing over Xain’s hindpaws, Xain set a paw against the wood. Yep, that was wood. Bleached and cracked from exposure to the sun, but surprisingly intact. There were a few scratches along the sides that Xain wasn’t curious to learn anything about, and a small amount of water inside the boat, but that either wasn’t a problem or could be fixed easily, respectively. Xain just wasn’t sure if he could pull it away from the shore before something dragged it back in the water. He’d have to figure that out after he dealt with the stranger.

Xain looked over at the stranger. And blinked. It’d been a little hard to see through the reflected sunlight, but that definitely wasn’t a kitsune. The fur color was a little too red, that body was a little too compact, and the stranger smelled wrong. It wasn’t the smell of the stranger’s leather overalls, or the tan shirt (which was still made out of some material Xain couldn’t place). It was the stranger’s matted and gritty fur. Against his better judgment, Xain walked over, kneeled down by the stranger, picked them up by their head, and sniffed. Eugh – Xain wrinkled his snout. They clearly hadn’t taken a bath in a long time. But they weren’t a kitsune.

So, what were they? Xain shifted the stranger onto his side, taking note of the tail. Only one? Where they a kit? What was a kit doing out here, dressed up in strange clothes, sitting in a strange boat, waving some strange stick around? Had their parents abandoned them? Speaking of that strange stick, Xain reached a claw out and tapped the metal end. The heat flashed its way through his arm, causing him to yank it back. His claw managed to pick up some of the strange-smelling black powder that also littered the stranger’s paws. Hmm.

Well, Xain wasn’t going to get any answers until the stranger woke up. Sticking his arms underneath the stranger, Xain lifted him back onto the boat. The boat shifted ever so slightly, but didn’t slip back into the cove. Grabbing the stick by the (fortunately much cooler) wooden end, Xain also tossed it into the boat. After that, it was a matter of getting around to the other side of the boat, looking down to make sure nothing in the water was trying to bite his ankles, and slowly shoving the boat across the beach.

A few breaks later, Xain managed to wedge the boat between two rocks by the cliff. The boat probably wouldn’t be submerged in high tide, though he wasn’t sure if it’d be intact when he got back. Whenever he got back. Ugh – so much for fishing.

It was when Xain picked up the stranger again that Xain noticed something jammed into one side of the boat. A chest, from the looks of it. A locked chest. What was that about?

Xain, trying to keep his snout as far away as possible, looked at the stranger out of the corner of his eye. The stranger’s chest rose and fell gently, while the stranger’s head slowly tiled towards Xain. The stranger looked a little too peaceful for Xain to rummage around their (many) pockets.

And maybe just a little adorable, but Xain didn’t want to admit that. With a huff, Xain navigated the unconscious stranger around the rocks, and began to make the long climb back up.


Chapter Two: Introductions

Part One (450 words): aw yiss, family drama time

Spoiler! :
A fire crackled in the hearth at the center of Xain’s home.

Xain hummed to himself as he attached cleaned-out fish to strings, suspending them over the fire. He was starting to run low on his supply of manure, straw, and the occasional bit of driftwood, but hopefully he’d be able to cook enough fish to keep him going for another week or two. The less often he had to go to the village, the better. Though he wasn’t quite sure how things would work out now that he had another mouth to feed.

The stranger was currently on the other side of the one-room house, tucked into bed. Hopefully the stranger wouldn’t complain about the flax pillow or the straw-filled mattress when they woke up. And they’d started to snore an hour or two ago, so Xain guessed that wouldn’t be too much longer.

Turning around, Xain reached down to open a couple of straw boxes next to what he liked to think of as the kitchen. One box had strings of cooked fish, while another had been partly filled with raw fish. Xain took out a couple of yesterday’s catches and set them down on a metal plate beside a basin. The water in the basin was looking a little murky, but Xain figured he could clean and scale the fish before he replaced the water.

A rusted knife and a little while later, the kitsune had some more fish to string over the fire. With that out of the way, Xain moved to the table beside the kitchen. He had to admit, he was a little happy to have the chance to pull out one of the chairs he’d stacked in the corner of the room. It had been a while since he’d needed any of them.

Grabbing a string from one box, Xain laid out a couple slices of well-cooked fish meat on the table. With the addition of a couple pouches of water, the kitsune could finally sit down and pick apart the cooked fish in front of him.

Xain sighed. He felt like he’d done the right thing by brining the stranger back to his house, but he wasn’t quite sure how he could make this situation work. Ideally, he could find out who the stranger was, who the stranger’s family was, and point the stranger in the right direction. If that he didn’t work out, he’d probably have to teach the stranger how to fish. It was difficult enough for Xain to feed himself, given the kinds of things the sea liked to throw at him. Himself and the stranger? He’d have to think about going to the village. Going to his sisters.


Part Two (886 words): xain you may think it's just because rasca was adrift for a long time, but no, rasca has zero self-awareness ever

Spoiler! :
No, he wouldn’t worry about that. That was a last resort. If he could get the stranger out quickly, or if the stranger and him could live off of the ocean, Xain wouldn’t have to bring his sisters into this. That didn’t stop him from thinking about their murmurs of disapproval, their raised snouts, or the paws they would set on his shoulder as he used up his claws to tear the fish into pieces. He realized he hadn’t taken a bite.

Spearing one of those pieces with a claw, Xain raised it up to his face. And then paused. Had the stranger stopped snoring?

Xain glanced at the bed. Yep, the stranger was definitely awake; they yawned, stretching their arms. Eyes still closed, they paused in the middle of scratching their back, clearly having realized something was off.

The stranger’s eyes shot open. They darted around until they focused on Xain, whereupon the stranger pulled their bedsheet up to their neck and glared at the kitsune. That’s when the stranger growled something that Xain didn’t quite understand.

“What?” Xain said, tilting his head slightly. Maybe the stranger was just exhausted, hungry, or thirsty after spending what Xain had to guess had been days on that boat. After all, the stranger hadn’t exactly smelled like they had taken a bath in quite some time. Unless they didn’t like baths. Which was a little gross of them.

Narrowing their eyes, the stranger repeated whatever they had said, but more slowly.

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” said Xain, setting his piece of fish down. He thought about getting out of his seat, but figured that’d spook the stranger a little more than they already were.

The stranger, face wrinkled in confusion, said something else. Xain had the feeling it was the same question – it had the same intonation and tone – but almost like it was in another language. That Xain also couldn’t understand, though he swore he could vaguely recognize some of the words.

However, he couldn’t really deny it at this point; they spoke different languages. And Xain had never heard of the languages the stranger was speaking. So much for getting the stranger out of here quickly.

Having seen Xain’s open mouth and bewildered expression, the stranger threw their paws up in the air. Then the stranger seemed to realize something else, because their eyes bugged out, they started patting their bed, and they glanced around at the floor. Before Xain could ask what was bothering the stranger, the stranger focused on Xain again and made some kind of gesture with their paws. The outline of something?

Oh. Xain pointed to a spot behind the bed. Craning around, the stranger quickly wrapped their arms around the chest that Xain had left there. And began caressing the wood. Hng.

Xain was pretty sure it was the right time to get up. His chair screeched as he pushed it back and walked over to the stranger. The stranger, now resting his head on top of the chest, tried to wave Xain off. Taking the hint and keeping a couple feet away from the stranger, Xain gestured back towards the table.

Almost immediately, the stranger fixated on the cooked fish, and began to pull themselves out of the bed. Only for Xain to get another confirmation that the stranger had spent a long time on a boat; the stranger slumped onto the floor, arms and legs shaking. Xain took that as a cue to wrap his arms around the stranger’s shoulders and pull the stranger onto their feet. The stranger resisted, if waving their arms and mumbling what Xain guessed were threatening comments was resistance, but they quieted down as Xain dragged them over to the table.

A minute later, Xain found himself sitting opposite from the stranger, who was currently engrossed in stuffing their face full of fish, tipping the pouch of water over their mouth, and generally being a rude houseguest. Not that Xain could exactly blame them, but it did make things a bit awkward. The language barrier between them wasn’t all that helpful either.

Once it looked like the stranger had slowed down, Xain decided to take the opportunity to introduce himself. It seemed more and more like they were going to be under the same roof for a little while, so they might as well know each other’s names.

Pointing to himself, the kitsune said, “Xain.”

The stranger, in the middle of gnawing on their last piece of fish, froze. “Xain?” they said, pointing to themselves after a few seconds of staring at Xain.

What. What did the stranger think Xain was saying? The kitsune shook his head, then pointed to himself a little more forcefully. “Xain.”

“Xain,” said the stranger, copying the kitsune.

Ugh. With a deep sigh, Xain gestured to himself. “My name is Xain,” he said slowly and carefully, extending the pads of his paws to the stranger when he finished.

The stranger seemed to (finally) get the hint. They pointed to themselves; when Xain nodded, they said, “Rasca?”

Ah, so that was their name. Nodding, Xain said, “It’s nice to meet you, Rasca.”

Confusion flickered across the stranger’s face. “Xain?” the stranger said.

Xain got the feeling the next couple weeks were going to be a little long.


Chapter Three: Getting to Know You

Part One (229 words): no, I don't know if xain has ever played charades/a game comparable to charades, and I'm definitely not making stuff up as I go along

Spoiler! :
Xain watched as the string on his fishing soared through the air and landed at the edge of the deeper water in the cover. As he stood there, ankles in the water, he tried to think about the words that he’d learned today.

It had been about a week since he’d pulled Rasca away from the shore. Rasca had spent most of that week in bed, and Xain could only get them to come out from under the bedsheets with food. And whatever Rasca had in that chest, but Rasca wasn’t keen on explaining the chest to Xain. Sometimes, when Xain left the house in the early morning to go fishing, he could hear Rasca open the chest. But it, and Rasca’s lips, would always be closed by the time Xain came back.

That wasn’t necessarily Xain’s problem – talking to Rasca, and figuring out Rasca’s situation, was. Their meals were starting to turn into vaguely annoying games of charades, where Xain and Rasca would point to different objects in the house and name them. Yesterday night, Rasca had named a pillow, and maybe the chimney. Or maybe fire. It had been a little hard to tell, since Rasca had been a little uncomfortable sitting next to the fire. Xain wasn’t quite sure why; the kitsune had gotten used to the smell a long time ago. And Rasca smelled worse.


Part Two (1087 words): Once I caught a fish and dad stoned it to death in front of me without telling me what he was going to do beforehand, anyways here's your weekly post

Spoiler! :
But Xain could take care of that. In the meantime, the kitsune focused on the surface of the water, rolling around new words in his head. Learning another language was, strange. He’d heard snippets of other languages from traders, sailors, travelers that wandered into his village or by his house, but it had been gibberish to him. They’d either been talking to each other, hadn’t known what language he knew, or had been humming some tune. None of that had anything to do with him. Taking that gibberish and applying it to something he knew was a little off-putting.

The string snapped taut. On instinct, the kitsune hauled the rod back, sending a large brown fish soaring into the air. As the kitsune twisted around, he threw the rod towards the sand. In a few seconds, the fish crashed onto the beach, flopping around helplessly.

Xain walked over to the fish. Maybe he’d bring it to Rasca and ask what it was called in Rasca’s language. Two words for the same thing, unless Rasca’s idea of a fish was a little different from Xain’s idea of a fish. Hmm. Xain felt like he’d get the hang of it eventually, but it scared him. Maybe the rock that he picked up meant something more like a pebble or a boulder in Rasca’s language. How could he ever figure that difference out? Maybe it didn’t matter – maybe Xain would get Rasca back to their home before it became an issue. Or maybe Xain would figure out how to think and speak in two different languages, blend them together, sound like he’d spoken them both for his entire life, impress his family, understand Rasca perfectly. He did like the idea, even if he wasn’t sure how to make it happen. It’d take a while, at the least.

Slamming the rock on the fish’s head, Xain watched as it started to struggle a little less, mouth opening and closing more slowly. It stopped moving after the third blow; Xain picked it up and dropped it into a basket. At least the fishing hadn’t been so bad. After Rasca had driven away that monster, it must’ve told its friends to stay away from the cove. The larger creatures wouldn’t be scaring away the fish for a while. Hopefully. Those things could be surprisingly persistent, especially since they weren’t used to a whole lot of resistance.

Right now, it didn’t look like Xain would run out of fish too quickly. He still needed to get Rasca to join him, even though that’d make Rasca’s already impressive appetite worse. Before he could do that, though, Rasca needed a bath. Xain wasn’t about to let Rasca’s rancid odor drive the fish away.

That was why, with only a couple hours of fishing behind him, Xain slung the basket over his shoulder, grabbed his rod, and began making his way up the cliff. The gentle morning wind nipped at his ears, while the stone under his paws felt frigid. He ignored it. The seasons didn’t change too much in a place like this – it was always humid, never too hot, could get frigid in the winter. And it was only a couple weeks before harvest season wrapped up, so the weather wasn’t going to get any more reasonable than this for a long time. Not the worst time to take a bath.

Reaching the top of the cliff, Xain walked around the house. Not far from the back of the house, a stone well with a rotting wooden conical top had been set into the ground. Xain remember when his dad had last replaced that top with the prow of a boat; the kitsune could still see where the peak of the cone curved. A rope stretched deep into the well, with a submerged pouch of water on the other end.

Xain set his basket and rod down, stretching. He winced as his back popped, then relaxed as he rotated his shoulders and caught side of the metal basins set next to well. Walking over, Xain dragged one around the side of the house. He wanted to respect Rasca’s privacy, after all.

It wasn’t long before Xain found himself yanking the rope up, pouring pouches of water into each of the basins. Between the rotting top and the frayed rope, it wasn’t the safest thing he’d ever done. But he could still remember sitting on his father’s shoulders, trying to hold the top up while the father nailed it into place. He didn’t quite feel in the mood to replace them, even if they’d been around long before he’d grown his second tail.

The basins were just wide and just deep enough for Xain to sit in, so long as his legs dangled over the side, so it only took until the sun had risen slightly above the cliffs for the kitsune to fill them up. Now came what Xain suspected was the hard part – getting Rasca to take a bath.

On the bright side, the commotion had clearly woken Rasca up. Rasca stared at Xain as he walked into the house, rod and basket in hand. But, by the time Xain had walked over to the kitchen to set the rod and basket down, they’d already flopped back into bed and wrapped themselves up in blankets. Ugh.

Xain made his way over to the bed in question, gently prodding the lump resting on it. Nothing. Another prod. Nothing. A third prod. Rasca’s snout poked out from the blankets, sniffing in Xain’s general direction. Xain could see a pair of eyes in the shadow of the blanket. Good enough.

Crouching down, Xain tugged at the blanket around Rasca’s snout, tapping Rasca’s overalls while waving a paw over his nose. Rasca took the hint, given the way that they growled and shoved their snout back into the blanket. The blanket turned into a pile of flailing limbs and grumbling, spitting out overalls, a shirt, an undershirt, boots, long socks, and boxers. The kitsune was a little concerned about how he’d wash all of those things, since he didn’t quite recognize the thick fabric on them, but he figured they’d probably take to cold water well enough.

Still, there was the matter of Rasca themselves. After some more prodding, Rasca seemed a little less enthusiastic about giving up the blanket, but (eventually) handed it over anyway. Tail wrapped around their waist, Rasca turned their back on Xain, and was even less enthusiastic when Xain kept on poking them.


Part Three (857 words): I was going to write "his tail scratching his back" but I am human and have limits, and my fox-people having prehensile tails is one of those

Spoiler! :
Rasca groaned, waving an arm at Xain. Ugh. With Rasca not being very cooperative, Xain figured it’d be best to bring the tub to them. Setting Rasca’s clothes on the floor, Xain walked outside the house, around the corner, and grabbed onto the edges of the basin. A lot of struggling, growling, and scraping later, Xain managed to haul the basin up to the front of the house. “Come on out!” Xain said. “I don’t want my house smelling like wet fur!”

A growl came out of the entrance. Ugh. Well, Rasca must’ve heard all that noise, and they could definitely see the edges of the basin from the bed. If Rasca didn’t take the hint, Xain would have to be a little more forceful. Xain wasn’t about to share a house with someone who smelled that awful, especially if the other person was okay with it. Xain had no idea how Rasca’s parents could’ve tolerated them; he certainly wasn’t about to. Still, Xain had been waiting a week, and he could wait a few more hours. In the meantime, Xain could take his own bath.

The kitsune walked around to the back of the house, where his own basin was. Slipping off his loincloth, he slipped into the water. Just a tad frigid, but he’d been doing this long enough that he didn’t notice. Besides, he liked being able to rest into the water and stare out at the horizon. As he scratched his back, his eyes shifted from the gently rolling plains to sharp cliffs. It wasn’t always the friendliest place; those short, gray grasses didn’t provide any protection from the winds, and they made farming a bit of a challenge (as he’d found out in the couple months he’d tried to farm). The rocks on the cliff were cold and unforgiving, and the sea was full of strange, large, dangerous creatures. He’d certainly gotten his fair share of cuts, bruises, and scratches from the both of them.

And yet, this was all his. His house. His well. His basins. His fish. His thatch baskets. His family had made a living off of this land, and so was he. As many evenings as he saw stray tentacles, as many family members told him that they were worried for his safety, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

He tilted his head back, staring up at the mostly clear sky. Pale blue, with a few clouds running across it. It wouldn’t look this nice for a long time. Xain frowned; he didn’t way that matched up with his situation, but he was trying to keep an eye on a kit he didn’t understand. A very unhygienic and strange kit, at that. What would happen if his family decided to pay a surprise visit? What if he couldn’t teach the stranger how to fish? He wasn’t in the mood to head back to the village, or see how the stranger would get along with the others. If the villagers weren’t big fans of Xain, they wouldn’t like the stranger. Maybe he felt just a tad protective, but the stranger wouldn’t have been alive if Xain hadn’t gotten them out of there.

Reaching down into the basin, Xain pulled out a comb. He began to run the comb along his arms and legs, trying to smooth out the fur. It was always nice to see the knots uncurl, tangles and twists fade away, matted furs stick back up. The only thing that dampened his mood was knowing that it’d be a long time before he’d stop worrying. It had taken him years to get comfortable living on his own here; he guessed that the stranger, if they were staying around, could take as long. Or longer – even with Xain as a support, the stranger had some weird motivations. Which meant that Xain would have to face his family. And he’d faced them plenty of times, but it never stopped being scary to him. They’d never said to his face that they’d drag him back to the village if they were afraid of, but they’d never had to. He hated that.

Once he felt like most of his fur was spreading out, Xain pulled himself out of the water. He stretched, then pressed his forepaws against his back. Time for the less fun part; Xain grabbed the basin and tipped it over, spilling water onto the soil. It ran between grass blades, reaching towards the cliffs. The soil wasn’t nearly deep enough to soak much of it in, so it sat there, waiting to freeze up with the night. Xain had some less than fond memories of slipping on that ice in the past. And Xain still needed to wash all the clothes in blankets, which meant filling that basin right back up.

Fortunately, by the time Xain made it back to the house, loincloth in hand, he found the other basin pulled away from the house and tipped over. Some fur in the water also told him that Rasca had actually gone and taken a bath.

Alright. So Rasca did take the hint. Xain could work with that.


Chapter Four: Open Book

Part One (211 words): lmao languages

Spoiler! :
“Soil,” Xain slowly said in Rasca’s language, handing a block of earth over to Rasca.

“Soil,” Rasca said back, using Xain’s language. The fox (that’s what he liked to call himself) reached up and set the block into a corner of the house. “Block of soil.”

Xain nodded, reaching down to scoop up yet another block in the pile beside them. “Block of soil.”

Tail twitching, Rasca stepped out of the way and gestured towards a higher-up spot. “Small,” he said, gesturing to himself. “You are not.”

Perks of being a head taller. Xain set the block in place, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. They’d only been working for a couple hours, and had spent a lot of that time tearing down worn and collapsing bricks, but that corner of the house was already fitting back into place. It looked almost normal again; it would by the end of the day.

“Good?” Rasca said, looking over at Xain.

Xain nodded again. “Good.”

Rasca took the opportunity to immediately make a beeline for the front of the house. Not exactly what Xain had meant, but figuring out this whole metaphors and hidden meanings thing was a bit of a challenge. Besides, Rasca was probably going to go get his sketchbooks.


Part Two (1,012 words): lmao stress

Spoiler! :
It’d been a bit of a surprised to find out why Rasca had been obsessed with that chest, but Rasca adored those books. The fox loved to make sketches of anything that caught his interest – the horizon, the house, the cove, the plains, Xain, so on. Which was why the fox was already coming back around the corner, sketchbook and charcoal in paw.

Xain wasn’t quite sure how he felt about being sketched. Rasca had shown him a couple sketches, and Xain had been pulled in by that attention to detail, the postures, the little smiles and frowns in those facial expressions. It had almost been like looking in a mirror. And yet, Xain hadn’t looked in a mirror in years. He’d seen his own reflection in puddles plenty of times (and sometimes in the cove, if the ocean was calm enough). Though he didn’t want to criticize Rasca’s art skills, Xain couldn’t help but wonder if those drawings were wrong. Were Xain’s whiskers really that long? Did Xain’s ears really taper off like that? Seeing himself on a piece of paper felt strange, especially since it reminded Xain that he hadn’t thought much about how he looked in a long time.

Oop, Rasca had started gesturing at Xain. Hoisting a block up to about the height of his head, Xain stared up at the corner of the house and tried his best to look serious. Uncomfortable or not, Xain had to admit those sketchbooks gave Rasca something other to do than eat or sleep. Other than trying to talk to Xain, but Rasca generally had to leave the bed if he wanted to find any inspiration for a drawing.

It took until Xain’s arms had just started to shake before Rasca gave a thumbs up. Or, what Xain was reasonably sure was a thumbs up. Ugh, it was annoying enough that they had to try to understand what the other was saying. All those little gestures and signs were icing on the cake. But Rasca had already started to walk away, so Xain hoisted the brick onto the corner and adjusted it so it fit nicely in place.

Plopping down on the ground, Xain crossed his legs and took a deep breath. He still wasn’t sure what to think of Rasca. They’d only known each other for a couple of weeks, and they had an enormous language barrier to overcome, but Xain was starting to realize just how little he knew about Rasca. Age, for example. Xain had been convinced that Rasca was a kit, because of Rasca’s one tail. But Rasca had seemed a little confused when Xain had pointed at his tail, and that conversation had quickly turned into something about the number of summers they had both been through. From the way Rasca described it, he was only a couple summers younger than Xain. Which didn’t make any sense at all. What had happened to Rasca’s tails? Was there something wrong with Rasca that kept him from growing tails? Rasca had seemed confused when Xain had explained growing tails (possibly because Xain had done that by gesturing something moving away from his butt), so there was the chance that foxes just didn’t grow tails. A pity – Xain wasn’t far off from growing his third.

And Rasca wasn’t being honest, either. That chest was far too large to hold just those sketchbooks, but Rasca didn’t want to explain what else was in there. Xain was almost certain Rasca had stuffed the metal stick in there the moment Xain’s back was turned. When Xain had asked about it, Rasca had grimaced and said, voice a little high-pitched, that he didn’t know what Xain was talking about. Xain had tried to get it into Rasca’s head that Xain needed to know where Rasca had come from and why Rasca had ended up here, but Rasca had shut his lips and looked away. Rasca also hadn’t been keen on the idea of going fishing, which didn’t make Xain nervous at all. It wasn’t like Xain’s plan was starting to fall apart, or Xain needed outside help or anything.

They were sharing the same bed now. Xain had grown tired of sleeping on the floor, especially with as cold as it was getting, and had figured they were just familiar enough with each other that it wouldn’t make Rasca too uncomfortable. Rasca never brought that up, but Rasca definitely liked to kick Xain in his sleep. That felt a little too appropriate.

But that wasn’t quite why Xain hadn’t been getting much sleep. He’d been alone in this house for a couple years now. How was he supposed to share a bed with someone he didn’t know if he could trust or not?

“Good?” Rasca said. The kitsune turned his head to see the fox peeking around the corner.

Pulling himself up, the kitsune gestured to the blocks still on the ground. Slapping himself on the forehead, Rasca walked on over. Snatching up a block, Rasca stared up at Xain’s face and said again, “Good?”

Oops, Xain had been frowning at Rasca. Shaking his head and blinking his eyes, Xain sighed. “Good,” Xain said, though he got the distinct feeling that his smile didn’t line up with his eyes.

Rasca smiled awkwardly, but didn’t say anything; he started moving blocks over to the corner of the house. Xain followed suit, taking the blocks from Rasca, lifting them up, and sliding them into place. Silence fell over the both of them. It was an anxious silence – as simple as the work was, as quiet as the work was, as much as it brought Xain comfort by being part of his normal routine, Xain had been thinking a little too long. A question had also started worming its way through his brain.

“Rasca?” Xain said at last, setting the brick into place and staring down at the fox.

The fox winced, instinctively cradling the brick closer to his chest and hunching slightly. “Yes?” Rasca said.

Xain pointed over at the cliff. “Fish?” the kitsune said.


Part Three (1,042 words): rasca does not actually like the boat

Spoiler! :
The fox visibly winced. Not a great sign. “Yes?” Rasca said, gesturing to the house.

Ugh, Rasca was deliberately misinterpreting him. Xain shook his head and said, “Go to cove.”

“Many fish,” Rasca said, tilting his head at the house.

“For one,” said Xain. The kitsune set a paw on his hip and frowned.

Lowering the brick he was holding, Rasca gulped. “Couple days?” the fox said, taking a step back.

The kitsune shook his head. “We need food,” Xain said, setting a paw on Rasca’s shoulder. A tad rude, but it looked like Rasca had half a mind to run away, and that wouldn’t help either of them. Fortunately, it was about then that Xain realized he had another way to persuade Rasca. If Xain couldn’t appeal to their ability to eat, Xain could appeal to Rasca’s hobbies. “Draw the water.”

Rasca’s eyes lit up. “Yes?” he said.

“Yes,” Xain said. “Go to cove, fish, draw the water.”

The light slipped away, replaced by a frown. “Fish?” Rasca said.

“No fish, I no go to cove,” said Xain.

The fox stared out towards the cliffs, biting his lip. Xain knew that there was no way Rasca would go to the cove on his own. Rasca knew what was down there – even if the cliffs, the cove, the water were gorgeous, it wasn’t worth the risk to go without someone who knew what lurked in the depths.

Still, Rasca had been more than a little stubborn the last couple weeks. With every second that Rasca looked away, Xain grew more worried that Rasca would try to go on his own. And then whatever leverage Xain had over Rasca would fall apart, because Xain wasn’t about to let Rasca head to the cove alone. And Xain got the feeling he wouldn’t quite be able to restrain Rasca either. That would only make them living in the same house even more stressful.

Fortunately, Rasca bowed his head and said, “Fish.”

Ugh, finally. Trying not to let relief show on his face, Xain nodded. “Rod?” the kitsune said, tracing out the shape of the rod.

Since Rasca began to walk over to the house, Xain figured he’d gotten the hint. The kitsune took the opportunity to snatch up the few remaining bricks and slide them in. Standing back, Xain sighed. Not the prettiest work Xain had ever done, but he could smoothen them out soon. Besides, it was his house – he could do what he wanted with it.

Walking quickly, Xain headed around the corner of the house and almost ran right into Rasca. Rasca jumped back, almost dropping the rod in his paws. Clutching his chest, Rasca took a deep breath, then handed the rod over to Xain. Not the best part.

“It’s noon,” Xain said, pointing to the sun as he walked towards the front door. Rasca quickly caught up to him, keeping pace. “Fish asleep, monsters asleep.”

That seemed to make Rasca feel a little better; the fox had stopped shaking by the time Xain walked into the house, snatched a net from where it had been lying by the baskets, and handed it over to Rasca.

After that, Xain made a beeline for the coast, with Rasca right beside him. Xain let out a quiet sigh of relief as he thought of every reason that it had been better that Rasca had agreed to go fishing. The cliffs they found themselves navigating down weren’t extremely dangerous – the path was wide enough to fit both of them side-to-side, if not comfortably, and none of the drops between the switchbacks were that steep. However, someone who wasn’t familiar with the path could easily get themselves hurt, either by tripping over a rock, slipping down the side of the cliff, or both. And Xain didn’t exactly have a lot in the way of first aid.

“Fish asleep,” Rasca said as they rounded one switchback. The kitsune looked back to see the fox dragging the net along the ground, steps slow and heavy. Hng.

“Yes,” Xain said, tugging on the corner of the net. The fox glanced back, then draped the net over himself. Xain nodded in approval. “Learn to fish, then fish.”

Hindpaws digging into the sand, Xain waited for Rasca to step onto the beach. Rasca hesitated at the edge of the rocks, nudging the edge of the sand with his hindpaws. Whatever the fox thought, it was enough for him to walk onto the beach.

Nodding, Xain walked out onto the beach. Even with the midday sun, the sand felt cool as it wormed between his claws. A faint gust whipped up the water, which formed little white caps as it crashed onto the shore. And, sure enough, the ocean was just frigid enough that Xain could already feel the tips of his claws go numb as he walked into the water. However, the kitsune didn’t notice that, since he realized that he hadn’t been hearing Rasca’s pawsteps.

Xain looked back, finding Rasca staring at a spot by the cliffs to Xain’s right. Oh, that was where Xain had left the boat, wasn’t it? Though the kitsune had the feeling he’d regret it, his eyes followed Rasca’s, catching sight of the splinters of what had once been a boat. It didn’t help that the sand was dry enough to show that the tide never went that far. Something had clearly decided to smash up the boat. Something strong, if a plank of wood resting a few feet up the cliff was anything to go by, or how a piece of one of the oars was protruding up from the sand to Xain’s left.

The kitsune wasn’t terribly surprised – even if Rasca had killed that monster, it wasn’t out of the question that some other one had been attracted to the cove by all the fish. And those monsters were usually smart enough to know that boats meant targets (they usually weren’t smart enough to know boats could also make for threats). And a monster could’ve easily smelled traces of Rasca on that boat. Poor Rasca; he’d probably been fond of that boat, if how he treated that chest was anything to go by.

“Asleep,” Xain called, gesturing for Rasca to come over.


Part Four (1,067 words): oooooooh mysteeeeeeerious

Spoiler! :
Visibly shaking, Rasca pointed to the boat. Ugh, it didn’t look like the fox was going to move. Sighing, Xain made his way back to the shore. The kitsune wasn’t quite sure whether to place a paw on the fox’s shoulder, or give the fox a hug, or anything like that, so he decided to stop in front of the fox and repeat, “Asleep.”

The fox relaxed slightly, shoulders slumping. When he reached paw towards Xain, the kitsune took it in his own and squeezed gently. “Yes?” Rasca said, looking at Xain with wide eyes.

“Years here,” Xain said, nodding. “Yes.”

Placing his other paw on top of Xain’s, Rasca let the kitsune walk the both of them into the ocean. The fox made a small squeaking noise – a glance back told Xain that it was both the temperature of the water and the net trying to slide into it. One of Rasca’s paws shot back to readjust the net, and then Rasca tightened his grip on Xain’s paw.

It wasn’t long before the water reached halfway between their ankles and their knees (enough for Rasca to stop at one point and roll up his trousers). Deep enough; Xain stopped, gently shaking his paw free from Rasca’s. While Rasca pulled the net off and slipped it into the water, the kitsune crouched down, staring at the shifting sands around his hindpaws. Nothing hiding in the sand, as far as he could tell.

“What?” Rasca said from over Xain’s shoulder. The kitsune turned his head back, almost smacking Rasca with his snout. Just a tad too close for comfort.

Xain shook his head. “Nothing,” he said, waving for Rasca to take a step back as he rose up. Then Xain gestured for Rasca to take a few steps forward. The fox gave a couple hesitant glances, but rolled his trouser legs up a little more and made his way deeper into the water.

Rod in hand, Xain yanked the string back, throwing it forward so it landed close to where Rasca was standing. “Catch fish,” Xain said, pointing at himself, then pointing at Rasca, “Net.”

Rasca nodded. Taking a wider stance, the fox tossed the net into the water, then reached his paws down to pick it up. For a second, Rasca toppled forward – Xain gasped, but Rasca quickly yanked himself back up, net in his paws.

Letting out a sigh of relief, Xain shook his head. “Net,” the kitsune repeated, using his spare forepaw to gesture lowering the net into the water. Rasca nodded and gave a sheepish grin, shoving the net into the water and shaking it like he was trying to trap some aggressive fish. Water spraying across his clothes, Rasca looked over to Xain and tilted his head, the fox’s smile growing a little more strained.

When Xain nodded, Rasca let out a sigh of relief and pulled the net back. Swiveling around, Xain pointed to a spot on the other side from where Rasca was standing. Rasca tried to move over there, but Xain raised a paw. “Catch fish, throw fish, net fish,” Xain said to Rasca. The fox shivered, but seemed to get the point – he stayed in place.

Xain threw the string back into the water. A few seconds later, he tugged on it, then hauled it over his head. Rasca bolted after it, or as much as he could bolt in the water; he managed to kick up a good amount of sand in the process. Between that and the effort of raising the net over his head, the fox was almost distracted enough to flop into the water. However, Xain quickly grabbed Rasca by the nape of his neck. The fox growled, but took the next few steps very carefully. A few seconds later, Rasca lowered the net into the water, and Xain gave a nod.

They spent the next few hours gradually make their way across the cove, Xain picking new spots for Rasca to run to. The kitsune was genuinely surprised at how well the fox took it. In spite of the cold, how hard it was to run across the water, how much his clothes got soaked, Rasca got into the rhythms of catching fish quickly. It helped that they took a few breaks, so Rasca could run back to the shore, grab his book, and start drawing sketches. And, towards the end, Rasca looked to be in good enough spirits that Xain could teach Rasca some of the basics of using the rod himself. Which Rasca also got the hang of, though the fox wasn’t so quick about tossing the string back, and wasn’t so slow about pulling the string in. But that’d just take practice.

With the sun not too far away from the horizon, Xain found himself resting on the shoreline, propping his arms against the sand while he stared up at the sky. The clouds had started to break apart and drift away, leaving behind the pale sun and an even paler blue sky. The rod, net, and Rasca’s trousers soaked in the sunlight beside Xain, while the fox stood at the edge of the water and scribbled his surroundings. The fox looked so focused, staring at the cliff faces and the waves so intently, not even noticing the water beginning to pour over his hindpaws, that Xain was almost afraid to say something. But the kitsune did have something to say.

“Sorry,” Xain said. When Rasca blinked in looked in the kitsune’s direction, the kitsune made a gesture that the fox would hopefully interpret as Xain grabbing him by his fur.

Rasca shook his head. “Okay,” the fox said. “Not wet.”

A small pause.

“Fish tomorrow?” said Xain, voice sounding more confident than he had been expecting.

Rasca nodded. “Fish,” he said, slipping his book and charcoal back into his pocket and stepping back from the waves. The fox sat down beside Xain, crossing his legs and staring out at the horizon.

Between his small frown, the barely-visible bags under his eyes, and the way his snout twitched, the fox almost looked sad. It hurt to see that emotion on Rasca’s face. And it hurt more that Xain wasn’t sure if he could ask why. Maybe he’d find out, one of these days. At least “one of these days” didn’t sound nearly as scary as it used to. That was something.


Chapter Five: Stinging

Part One (1,052 words): gosh darnit, I checked my notes after I wrote this and found that I had a much better plan in mind. Ugh, I'mma definitely have to go edit this sometime.

Spoiler! :
“You can see?” Rasca said, standing at the edge of the water. Waves washed up against the soles of his boots, while sunlight began to color the white cliffs in shades of pink and purple. The fox crossed his arms and shivered, rattling the net on his head.

“All time,” said Xain, nodding. The kitsune, hindpaws in the water, stared out at the horizon ahead of them. A tad late, since the sun had just started to crest over the ocean, but they could still catch some fish. Hopefully more than usual, now that Xain had someone who could use a net. Besides, though the waves were a little rough this morning, the fog was quickly retreating in the wake of the sun. He wasn’t as worried about being on time, what with the weather better than normal.

Everything had been going according to plan. Xain had been taking out Rasca earlier and earlier every day, and they’d actually caught some fish yesterday. Rasca hadn’t been too comfortable about the whole beating the fish to death part, but Xain had tried to stand between Rasca and the fish and be as quiet as possible. There hadn’t been much more he could’ve done; it was just part of fishing for food. It wasn’t like they were going to eat their food alive. Xain had tried that once, and he hadn’t been a big fan of it.

Xain heard Rasca walk into the water behind him. The kitsune wasn’t sure if he was a big fan of the sloshing noises coming from those boots, or how slow Rasca was moving. Rasca had been more comfortable putting them on when Xain had explained to Rasca that there could easily be monsters at this time of the day, but those boots were still loud. Hng. As long as they helped Rasca stay safe. If they scared the fish away, there was always the chance they could scare the monsters as well.

Catching up to Xain, Rasca walked alongside him. “Day and day and day?” Rasca said, catching the net before it slipped off of his head.

Extending his rod, Xain nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Need food.”

“Get more food, go less?” Rasca said, stopping when Xain did.

“Idea, yes,” Xain said. Pointing to a spot in waters shallow enough to see the sandy bottom, the kitsune nodded. The fox, taking the hint, walked over to that spot. Then Xain lowered his rod, letting the string dangle over the water. It touched the water’s surface, stretching out ahead of the kitsune. And, with the rod baited (with a worm that had been squirming around by the back of the house) and prepared, they waited. Now that they were out to catch fish, Xain knew it’d take a little longer than Rasca was used to for Xain to flick the rod back, but Rasca had shown that he could handle that wait. If nothing else, it made it a little easier for Rasca to see beneath the almost-black waves. Some creatures loved to hide in the –

Something moved at the edge of Xain’s vision. The kitsune, already beginning to move back, glared down at the water around his hindpaws. He could make out his hindpaws, as well as the small clouds of sand that they picked up, but it was hard to spot anything else. Or, until the sun rose enough to illuminate the surface of the water. That tail swishing beneath the waves was unmistakable.

“Oh, sh—” Xain started, trying to turn around, but it was too late. He screamed as he felt a searing pain in his ankle. Dots splashed across his vision, arms and legs buckling and forcing him into the water. The cold ocean rushed around his ears as he struggled to prop his forepaws against the sand. He’d let go of his rod. He didn’t know where it was. His eyes tried to make out any shapes in the water, but it was all too dark and too blurry.

The kitsune almost screamed again when he felt something wrap around his waist. It took him a couple seconds to realize it was a paw – Rasca had grabbed onto him. A second later, Xain’s head popped above the water. Coughing and spluttering, the kitsune’s eyes darted around wildly, trying to catch a glimpse of anything. But Rasca held Xain’s head close to his chest, if only because Rasca was trying to carry the net, Xain, and the rod (Xain could see Rasca clutching it with his free forepaw) out of the ocean.

Xain couldn’t say anything – any words that formed in his brain never made it past his mouth, or came out as anything other than blubbering. Xain couldn’t do anything. Had he been poisoned? Was he alright? He couldn’t exactly feel his knee anymore.

The icy water gave way to sand as Rasca dragged Xain across the shallows. Grunting and groaning, Rasca tightened his grip around Xain’s chest and hauled the both of them onto the beach. Xain flopped on top of Rasca, who quickly squeezed out from underneath the kitsune and dragged the kitsune’s hindpaws onto the beach.

And screamed.

Eyes shooting over to the hindpaw in question, Xain saw blood leaking onto the sand. For a second, Xain’s heart stopped – he couldn’t move that hindpaw, and he swore that he could see bone. What little bit of sense was left in him tried to get a hold of him, reminding him that no, it couldn’t be as bad as that. As matted and blood-stained as his fur was, he couldn’t actually see any bone. A few seconds of looking later told him it was too far above his ankle to have done any significant damage. Sure, he could feel his heart pounding against his chest, and he knew that it wasn’t just a scratch. But he wasn’t dying. Hopefully.

Throwing the net and rod on the ground, Rasca crouched down by the injury. The fox quickly peeled his shirt off, wrapping it around the wound. Tears beginning to stream down his face, Rasca kept glancing at Xain’s face as he tightened the makeshift bandage. It was about then that Xain realized he was just a little startled.

“Okay?” Rasca half-said, half-shouted, reaching over to pull Xain’s head up. “Are you?”
Last edited by TheSilverFox on Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:26 am
TheSilverFox says...



More of The Writing


*screaming angrily about post limits*

Part One, Redone (1,262 words): lol took care of that


Spoiler! :
“You can see?” Rasca said, standing at the edge of the water. Waves washed up against the soles of his boots, while sunlight began to color the white cliffs in shades of pink and purple. The fox crossed his arms and shivered, rattling the net on his head.

“All time,” said Xain, nodding. The kitsune, hindpaws in the water, stared out at the horizon ahead of them. A tad late, since the sun had just started to crest over the ocean, but they could still catch some fish. Hopefully more than usual, now that Xain had someone who could use a net. Besides, though the waves were a little rough this morning, the fog was quickly retreating in the wake of the sun. He wasn’t as worried about being on time, what with the weather better than normal.

Everything had been going according to plan. Xain had been taking out Rasca earlier and earlier every day, and they’d actually caught some fish yesterday. Rasca hadn’t been too comfortable about the whole beating the fish to death part, but Xain had tried to stand between Rasca and the fish and be as quiet as possible. There hadn’t been much more he could’ve done; it was just part of fishing for food. It wasn’t like they were going to eat their food alive. Xain had tried that once, and he hadn’t been a big fan of it.

Xain heard Rasca walk into the water behind him. The kitsune wasn’t sure if he was a big fan of the sloshing noises coming from those boots, or how slow Rasca was moving. Rasca had been more comfortable putting them on when Xain had explained to Rasca that there could easily be monsters at this time of the day, but those boots were still loud. Hng. As long as they helped Rasca stay safe. If they scared the fish away, there was always the chance they could scare the monsters as well.

Catching up to Xain, Rasca walked alongside him. “Day and day and day?” Rasca said, catching the net before it slipped off of his head.

Extending his rod, Xain nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Need food.”

“Get more food, go less?” Rasca said, stopping when Xain did.

“Idea, yes,” Xain said. Pointing to a spot in waters shallow enough to see the sandy bottom, the kitsune nodded. The fox, taking the hint, walked over to that spot. Then Xain lowered his rod, letting the string dangle over the water. It touched the water’s surface, stretching out ahead of the kitsune. And, with the rod baited (with a worm that had been squirming around by the back of the house) and prepared, they waited. Now that they were out to catch fish, Xain knew it’d take a little longer than Rasca was used to for Xain to flick the rod back, but Rasca had shown that he could handle that wait. If nothing else, it made it a little easier for Rasca to see beneath the almost-black waves. Some creatures loved to hide in the –

“Xain?”

Looking up from the water, the kitsune turned back towards Rasca. He half-expected Rasca to ask about how long Xain was taking, or maybe ask about making a sketch soon. Instead, Rasca appeared to be staring down in the water, shaking visibly. Ice flowed through Xain’s veins as the kitsune cause the unmistakable swish of a tail in the sand between the two of them.

Rasca tried to take a loud step back, but Xain raised a paw. “No,” Xain hissed. The fox paused, boot almost above the water. “Stay. Quiet. Boots safe.”

“Sharp,” the fox whispered back, eyes darting between Xain and the creature.

“Yes,” said Xain, nodding his head. “So, quiet.”

The next few seconds trickled by. Both eyes focused on the creature, which rotated around in the sand. It seemed indecisive, like it had spotted them both and wasn’t sure who to target. Which had to be the case. Xain slowly moved his hindpaws through the sand, trying not to get the creature’s attention. And, fortunately enough, it worked. Unfortunately enough, the creature began to twist its way over to Rasca.

The water exploded into life as Rasca, screaming, turned and began to run towards the shore. Between all the splashing, sloshing, and the sand kicked up, Xain found himself also running, all while frantically scanning the water to see where the creature had gone. He could make out his hindpaws, as well as the small clouds of sand that they picked up, but it was hard to spot anything else in the murky chaos. Or, until the sun rose enough to illuminate the surface of the water. That tail swishing beneath the waves was unmistakable.

“Oh, sh—” Xain started, trying to change direction, but it was too late. He screamed as he felt a searing pain in his ankle. Dots splashed across his vision, arms and legs buckling and forcing him into the water. The cold ocean rushed around his ears as he struggled to prop his forepaws against the sand. He’d let go of his rod. He didn’t know where it was. His eyes tried to make out any shapes in the water, but it was all too dark and too blurry.

The kitsune almost screamed again when he felt something wrap around his waist. It took him a couple seconds to realize it was a paw – Rasca had grabbed onto him. A second later, Xain’s head popped above the water. Coughing and spluttering, the kitsune’s eyes darted around wildly, trying to catch a glimpse of anything. But Rasca held Xain’s head close to his chest, if only because Rasca was trying to carry the net, Xain, and the rod (Xain could see Rasca clutching it with his free forepaw) out of the ocean.

Xain couldn’t say anything – any words that formed in his brain never made it past his mouth, or came out as anything other than blubbering. Xain couldn’t do anything. Had he been poisoned? Was he alright? He couldn’t exactly feel his knee anymore.

The icy water gave way to sand as Rasca dragged Xain across the shallows. Grunting and groaning, Rasca tightened his grip around Xain’s chest and hauled the both of them onto the beach. Xain flopped on top of Rasca, who quickly squeezed out from underneath the kitsune and dragged the kitsune’s hindpaws onto the beach.

And screamed.

Eyes shooting over to the hindpaw in question, Xain saw blood leaking onto the sand. For a second, Xain’s heart stopped – he couldn’t move that hindpaw, and he swore that he could see bone. What little bit of sense was left in him tried to get a hold of him, reminding him that no, it couldn’t be as bad as that. As matted and blood-stained as his fur was, he couldn’t actually see any bone. A few seconds of looking later told him it was too far above his ankle to have done any significant damage. Sure, he could feel his heart pounding against his chest, and he knew that it wasn’t just a scratch. But he wasn’t dying. Hopefully.

Throwing the net and rod on the ground, Rasca crouched down by the injury. The fox quickly peeled his shirt off, wrapping it around the wound. Tears beginning to stream down his face, Rasca kept glancing at Xain’s face as he tightened the makeshift bandage. It was about then that Xain realized he was just a little startled.

“Okay?” Rasca half-said, half-shouted, reaching over to pull Xain’s head up. “Are you?”


Part Two (868 words): very short chapter for everything that goes on in it, somehow

Spoiler! :
Xain tried his best to look a little calmer; lowering his eyelids and closing his mouth (but still gritting his teeth), he nodded.

That didn’t seem to get through to Rasca. Wrapping his arms over his head and biting his lip, the fox stared at the bandage, which had already turned a shade of dark red. Then Rasca pressed his head against Xain’s stomach, mumbling something that Xain didn’t understand. If Xain had to guess, Rasca was saying the word “sorry” over and over again. And Xain wanted to say that no, it wasn’t Rasca’s fault. Rasca had gotten scared, had flipped out over something genuinely scary, probably something he’d never seen before. The kitsune couldn’t blame Rasca for trying to run away - Rasca had even come back to help him. Xain would’ve been at the mercy of the sea and that creature if not for Rasca. But Xain was a little tired, very out of it, and having a hard time breathing with Rasca’s head on his stomach.

“Rasca?” Xain gasped, slowly pulling an arm up from the sand.

The fox glanced up, an eye visible between his arms.

“Go,” said Xain slowly.

Rasca shook his head. “Not you,” he said. Even as tears continued to pour down his face, the fox reached out to grab Xain’s arm and hold it close. At least the fox had raised his head.

Xain shook his head. “Go, home,” he said.

Glancing out towards the sea, the fox shook his head again. “No, I can’t-” he started, voice choppy.

After taking the opportunity to free his paw, Xain set it over Rasca’s mouth. “No,” Xain said, using his other arm to point in the direction of the cliffs. “Us, home.”

Rasca breathed a long, unsteady sigh of relief. He wiped a few tears from his face, then turned around to look at the rod and net. “Walk?” the fox said quietly, beginning to roll up the net as best as he could. Which, given the way it was trying to spill out in every direction, wasn’t great, but Xain wasn’t exactly in a situation to complain.

“You, yes,” Xain said. He tested out his arms and legs – both of his arms were more than a little floppy, jerking along with his heartbeat, but he could move them. His legs, on the other hand, didn’t want to cooperate. He could barely bend his knee on one leg, and he didn’t have any luck with the bleeding one. Hng. “Me? Hmm.”

Stuffing the rod into the center of the loop of net, Rasca twisted back to face Xain. “Hold?” Rasca said, picking up what he’d made and holding it out to the kitsune.

When Xain nodded, Rasca gently lowered the stick and net into Xain’s arms. The kitsune wrapped his arms around the net, the both of them immediately trying to fall apart. Gritting his teeth, he tried to focus as hard as he could on keeping his arms steady. Better yet, he could even tap into his wellspring of magic. As Rasca wrapped his arms around Xain’s chest and began to drag Xain towards the cliffside, Xain watched as a thin layer of ice formed between his forearms and the net. Not comfortable, but it worked.

“Leg?” said Rasca.

Staring down, Xain noticed the trail of blood that stretched along the sand. Far too tempting for any monsters that were lurking in the ocean, but it wasn’t like there was much they could do about it now. “Go,” Xain said.

Sand switched to rock, strong tugs turned to gentle pushes, and Rasca’s frantic breathing turned to slower pants. For his part, Xain closed his eyes and let his mind wander. It didn’t travel far – it didn’t want to think about how he was still bleeding, how cold and rough the ground was, how his leg sent jolts of pain up and down his body, how he was half-convinced he wasn’t in his body. It didn’t want to think about how scared Rasca was, how Rasca blamed himself, how Rasca had been convinced that Xain had told him to leave the kitsune to die. It really didn’t want to think about how much food he had left, how long he’d have to be in bed, what could happen if the injury got infected, if he’d have to go to his family.

Instead, he thought of laying down in bed. His sister had left a bundle of herbs the last time she had showed up. He’d completely forgotten her instructions, but those could certainly come in handy. He just needed to find a better bandage, make some kind of poultice, fall into bed, and go to sleep. If he was lucky, he could wake up the next morning and find out it had all been a dream. And he could go fishing tomorrow. Bring Rasca along, show him the ropes for another few days.

“Xain?”

The kitsune opened his eyes. They’d already made it halfway up the cliffside, and Rasca was currently trying to move Xain around one of the many switchbacks. “Yeah?”

“Good?” Rasca said.

Xain nodded his head. “Good,” said Xain.

“Good,” said Rasca. “Keep good.”

“I will,” Xain said.


Chapter Six: Home

Part One (241 words): gross, words

Spoiler! :
“How are you today?”

Xain frowned. Head against the bedframe, he focused on his paws and tried to think of the right thing to say. “I am okay,” he said, tapping his claws together. A pause. “Thanks you.”

“Thank you,” Rasca said, nodding. The fox had pulled up a chair beside the bed, and was alternating between looking at the kitsune and scribbling in his book. “And your leg?” he said, tilting the tip of his stick (he’d called it a pencil?) to the makeshift cast lying under the bedsheet. A couple pieces of wood, Rasca’s shirt, a few ground-up herbs, and a few odds and ends lying around the house had gone into making it.

“It is, sore,” said Xain. “But better than was last day. Thank you.”

Rasca nodded. “A good to hear thing,” he said. “And yesterday.”

Xain sighed. They’d been stuck in this house for the last week, and he still couldn’t figure out basic words. And sure, languages were hard to figure out, but he’d had plenty of practice, hadn’t he? Getting Rasca to make the poultice had been a challenge all its own, to say nothing about all these conversations. He hadn’t known there was so many words to keep track of, or that those words had to be in the right order, or that there were so many ways to get those words wrong, but not exactly wrong. Like whatever Rasca had just said.


Part Two (1031 words): tmw you get hurt and suddenly you and your weird and rude houseguest have to worry about starving to death, am I right, fellas

Spoiler! :
Noticing the sigh, the fox bowed his head and looked away. “How will it take?” the fox said.

“How long,” Xain replied, then paused. He stared down at his lap, focusing on something beyond the tan bedsheet and his red-orange fur. “Weeks, months, maybe.”

“How many weeks?” said Rasca, biting his lip. “You said months yesterday, so that good is, yes?”

Shrugging, the kitsune reached down and tugged at the bedsheets covering his legs. “That’s is good, yes,” Xain said. He pulled the bedsheets up, quickly focusing on the cast. Even between the planks of wood, he could still see the swelling. His ankle looked more like a grapefruit, or one of those other weird round fruits that a merchant had brought up from the south once. The red and orange had been replaced with hints of blue and purple, and it didn’t move quite like the rest of his leg did. “But I do not know. This never has happened before, and I have often been wrongs.”

Rasca tilted his head. “Not even when a kit were you? And wrong.”

“Never,” Xain repeated. “Dad did not like me going to the ocean. And when you were a kit.”

A small pause. “So, uh,” Rasca began, tapping his pencil against his sketchbook, “How much f-”

“What about you?” Xain said, dropping the bedsheet back over his legs. He leaned forward, resting his chin on a cupped paw as he looked at Rasca. “When you were a kit, what were you likes?”

The fox bit his lip. “What you were like,” said Rasca, “And we do not have any thing big to -”

Xain nodded, saying, “No, we do not. You were a kit, yes?”

“Sure,” Rasca said. His voice grew much quieter, but Xain could still recognize the word. Rasca liked to use that one when he was feeling nervous, or didn’t have anything else to say. Which Xain didn’t mind – he could talk for them both.

“So, what were you like?” said Xain. “You had a dad, yes?”

Rasca nodded.

“Did he take you and him fishing?”

Rasca shook his head. “We, did a whole lot not,” said the fox. “And no ‘and him.’”

The kitsune frowned. “You did not do a whole lot?” he said. “But do fathers not do things with their kids?”

“We just did not,” said Rasca. “He did not talk to me much. He had…strength? So he was busy often. I drew and I wrote and I read and stuff. And then happened things.” The fox’s voice trailed off.

Hmm – that had been the most Rasca had talked about himself since he’d landed here. And Xain wasn’t even sure he knew what Rasca was talking about. Strength? Rasca had hesitated when using that word, so it probably hadn’t been the right one. Maybe the right one had been one that Xain hadn’t taught him. Maybe Rasca had meant something like power? Maybe Rasca’s dad had been leader or captain? Either way, from the sound of it, Xain wasn’t the only orphan. The kitsune set a paw on Rasca’s shoulder, breaking the silence that had fallen over them. “I am sorry,” Xain said. “That must hurt.”

Rasca focused on Xain’s paw. “That is fine,” Rasca said slowly. He set his pencil and sketchbook on the edge of the bed. “It was some time ago.” The fox reached out and grabbed Xain’s shoulder. “Can we try and walk you?”

Blinking, the kitsune nodded. That was a bit of segue – which was just like Rasca – but Xain could understand why Rasca would want to change the topic. Besides, all of Xain’s plans for the next couple weeks involved him walking, and he hadn’t had much success with it a couple days ago. He needed to get the hang of it again.

“We can,” Xain said. He started to shuffle around, but Rasca let go of Xain’s shoulder, grabbing his legs and navigating them over to the side of the bed (while taking care not to knock the book off). While Xain grabbed Rasca’s other shoulder, the fox wrapped his arms around Xain’s chest and slowly began to pull Xain up. The kitsune winced as he felt his injured leg creak and pop, but breathed a sigh of relief once he realized it didn’t give way. A better start than last time. A few seconds later, the kitsune found himself standing and staring down at Rasca, who moved an arm up to Xain’s shoulder. Moving to a spot beside Xain, Rasca used his free paw to gesture at Xain’s legs.

Nodding, Xain began to lift his injured leg. As shaky as it was, and as much of an odd angle as his hindpaw was, the cast did its job. He managed to raise his leg at least a few inches before his vision started getting blurry. He leaned against Rasca, feeling the fox lower Xain’s leg for him.

Then they started walking. Sure, Xain’s parents had told him that he’d had to learn to walk and all, but he couldn’t remember it. And, after that, he’d never had a hard time walking. And yet, here he was, trying to figure out how to make his hindpaw land where he wanted it to. He struggled with every other step; his hindpaw refused to cooperate, trying its best to send him toppling towards or away from Rasca. The fox had an incredible amount of patience, given the way he tugged on Xain, pushed back against Xain, and otherwise did his best to keep Xain steady.

But, before he knew it, he found himself standing in the kitchen. Panting, the kitsune blinked the spots out of his eyes as he stared out over the basin, the knife, the cutting board, the box of dried fish that Rasca had just opened –

Oh.

“How many weeks?” said Rasca, staring up at Xain.

Pinching his snout, the kitsune sighed. “One,” he said. “One and half of one, at most.”

“That is not long enough, you know,” Rasca said.

Xain let out a long breath. “I know,” he replied.

“Are you going to town? To family?”

The kitsune’s shoulders slumped. “Maybe,” he said, lowering his head.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  








Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.
— Francis Bacon