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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 20: "The Tiger"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

It turned out that he was not, in fact, fine.

Not that he went in and was immediately slaughtered. I watched with Malia from the safety of our Veil as he trudged into the mine, and we kept mental tabs on his location across our map of the mines, since we couldn’t enter the mines directly without risking our presence being labeled “direct interference.” But the first day he spent walking up and down the shafts, especially the ones the miners had recently reopened in the hopes that the tiger would be drawn to them, and their shaman could kill it quickly. But the tiger was wary, smart, or just not hungry, and refused to show itself.

By the second day, Hasda still hadn’t found the tiger, and the miners were starting to get antsy because it had attacked them at least once every day. Since Hasda had entered the mines, it hadn’t shown up once. Kydonian tigers liked to eat, and unless there were some unknown cave dwellers it was subsisting off to avoid the humans’ new defender, it was beginning to starve itself.

The third day rolled around, over, and through to evening, and still no sign of the tiger. Hasda did, however, find a fragment of a claw outside a tunnel the tiger had collapsed scratching the support beams. The miners seemed accustomed to these collapses and had a healthy chunk of the debris cleared away by nightfall.

And then the fourth day happened.

We had the map projected in the air before us, the glowing yellow dot that represented Hasda the only and in the ant farm. Jade had decided to join us today, since Hasda was by now comfortable with the villagers and familiar enough with the mines not to need her guidance. Suddenly, a brick red dot appeared on the map and collided with Hasda’s marker. The dots orbited around each other in a chaotic pattern, bouncing off the tunnel boundaries at insane speeds. Jade gasped, Malia hissed, and I ground my knuckles.

Hasda would be fine. He didn’t need our help, he was perfectly capable of handling himself. I’d raised him, I’d given him my blessing, and I’d armed him. He’d be fine. He would. Of course telling myself all that over and over only carried me so far, and I sorely wanted to go tearing in after him to slay the beast myself. But this was his trial. He would be fine. He would.

After what felt like far too long a moment, the red dot winked out and Hasda’s yellow dot slowly wobbled its way out of the mines. Malia snarled something under her breath and sank her hands into the ether, swirling around in the dimensions beyond to extricate rolls of dark leather. Jade hurried forward to greet Hasda as he exited, Malia and I forced to wait behind the Veil until he was a safe distance away from the entrance.

To say the lad needed a bath would be an understatement. He looked like he’d been dragged through the mud, repeatedly, by his ankles and, based on the behavior of the dots, that might not have been far from the truth. His tunic was in tattered shambles, the leather padding on the outsides of his bracers and greaves shredded like fronds of seaweed. His hair curled off in a dozen different directions, crushed pebbles peppering the clumps of mud stuck to his scalp. He sagged like he’d just run a marathon up and down the mountain, but his eyes were vibrant.

Jade led him into one of the larger huts, which the villagers had lent him for the duration of his Trial. Malia and I followed and, once inside, shrugged off the Veil. Malia handed him the bolts of leather and said, “These are replacements for the ones you damaged today.”

“Thanks.” Hasda smiled and set the leather on his cot. Leaning forward, he extricated his legs from the shredded padding and set to work undoing the straps of the greaves.

“How’d it go?” I asked, folding my arms and trying not to glare at Malia.

“He seemed nice.” Hasda kicked off the right greave and started on the left. “Mostly hungry.”

“It’s a good thing you had those pads to protect you,” I said. Next to me, Malia puffed herself up with pride.

“Yeah. If I didn’t have those, I wouldn’t have had anything to feed him.” He laughed. “But he wouldn’t just let me give him the leather, he wanted to work for it. He’s a lot better at wrestling than I thought he’d be.”

I blinked. “He what?” As I looked closer at the mutilated leather Hasda was removing, I could see that the tears looked more like bite marks than claw gouges. That would explain why the armor was slightly dimpled instead of scored or shredded itself.

“And how, exactly, did you figure out the tiger’s intentions?” Malia said, her snakes shivering and flicking their tongues as she folded her arms. “Did it just roll over to expose its belly and ask to play?” Though her tone was sharp, she sounded just as worried as I felt. While it was a relief that Hasda had escaped his first encounter unharmed, it was doubly concerning how odd this animal was behaving. First it isolated itself in the mines, then it fasted, and then it went after the leather padding instead of the fresh meat beneath the armor and decided to play to pay for its meal.

“I spoke to it.” Hasda gave us a look of pure innocence as we stared at him, open-mouthed. “What?”

“You spoke to it?” Malia echoed.

“Yes.” His brow furrowed. “Is that so strange?”

“Well, normally animals don’t talk,” Jade said, fingers fluttering nervously. “But some do. Magical beasts, anyways. Usually it’s just telepathic, although some go to the effort of using their magic to speak out loud. But not Kydonian tigers, and not to humans. Getting them to mindspeak with gods would be challenging enough, if they weren’t so reclusive. Of course, that’s just what others have told me, this is my first time seeing one in real life, and I was too scared to try talking to it myself. Especially after it started eating my villagers and hid in the mines.”

“You just...talked to it,” Malia said, shaking her head. Stiffening, her gaze snapped to my face. “How long have you known he could do this?”

“Uh…”

In all honesty, I hadn’t. But if he could talk to animals, he’d had ample time to practice during his hunting trips in the forest. And how would he have known being a nature whisperer was unusual? He’d grown up by himself, with a cranky old god for a father who talked to birds because he felt like it. Trips to the closest village were rare, playtime with other children even rarer. I scoured my memory, searching for any signs of Hasda showing hints of this ability, but my fractured mind showed nothing more than Hasda imitating me, speaking to the birds or rabbits or deer as if they were friends. It all looked like normal kid behavior, inventing companions when there weren’t any.

But if he could talk to any animal, which seemed likely if he actually talked to the Kydonian tiger, then that was a far, far bigger deal than just being a gifted human. No one ever became a Beast Whisperer by accident. Usually, but not always, a Beast Whisperer started with some innate ability to talk to animals, and then a god would imbue them with divine power, like through a Blessi—

“Oh.”

“What?” Her eyes narrowed. “I saw those gears turning. Spit it out.”

“Hasda,” I said.

“Yes?” Metal clanked as he dropped a bracer on top of the greaves.

“When you were little, you used to talk to the fish, and the birds, and the squirrels.” I winced at how childish that sounded. “Did they ever, er, talk back?”

“Of course.” He frowned, both at me and the leather entangling the final bracer on his right arm. “You did, too.”

“Well, yes, but I’m a god, and you’re just human.” I sighed. “Or rather, ‘were’ just human.”

Malia’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh.”

“I’m sorry,” Jade said, leaning around me to look between us. “I’m a little confused. What’s going on?”

Malia pinched the bridge of her nose and gestured towards Hasda with her free hand. “He was born a nature whisperer, and he—” she flicked her hand at me “—blessed him.”

“Oh.” Jade blinked. “So...what does that mean?”

“It means that Hasda can talk to any animal.” I rolled the words around my mouth. They felt weird and out of place.

“Oh, that’s good!” Jade smiled and clapped her hands. “So he can just ask the tiger to leave.”

“I don’t think he wants to leave,” Hasda said. Grunting, he strained at the mess of shredded leather and finally tore it free. The last bracer came off a moment later. “I can ask him, but I doubt he’ll go. He likes the mines.”

“Something is seriously wrong with that tiger,” Malia said, frowning. “What color was its fur?”

“Yellow as piss, and its stripes were bright green and all crooked.” Hasda shook his head. “I think it’s sick.”

“It might be.” I rolled my shoulders to get the stiffness out. “Well, tomorrow, ask the tiger if it will leave, and if not, feed it the leathers if it still wants them and then get out. Pay attention to its coat. Look for any spots, flaking fur, or dried blood, and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s wrong with it.”


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Mon May 24, 2021 11:48 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm back...yes....there's more reviews coming....I apologize to the notifications tab...

First Impression: Well...I was expecting more of an epic battle...but well...it seems like a pretty interesting twist at any rate...and the limitations here from the fact that this story is exclusively the point of view of Charax is fair enough I suppose. :D

Anyway let's get right to it,

It turned out that he was not, in fact, fine.

Not that he went in and was immediately slaughtered. I watched with Malia from the safety of our Veil as he trudged into the mine, and we kept mental tabs on his location across our map of the mines, since we couldn’t enter the mines directly without risking our presence being labeled “direct interference.” But the first day he spent walking up and down the shafts, especially the ones the miners had recently reopened in the hopes that the tiger would be drawn to them, and their shaman could kill it quickly. But the tiger was wary, smart, or just not hungry, and refused to show itself.


Considering the kind of firepower that the tiger is up against, I think the tiger is just smart at this point.

By the second day, Hasda still hadn’t found the tiger, and the miners were starting to get antsy because it had attacked them at least once every day. Since Hasda had entered the mines, it hadn’t shown up once. Kydonian tigers liked to eat, and unless there were some unknown cave dwellers it was subsisting off to avoid the humans’ new defender, it was beginning to starve itself.


Hmm....well the tiger either knows something is up...or something is interfering with the tiger...or its just bad luck at this point...mines are very places to get lost in.

The third day rolled around, over, and through to evening, and still no sign of the tiger. Hasda did, however, find a fragment of a claw outside a tunnel the tiger had collapsed scratching the support beams. The miners seemed accustomed to these collapses and had a healthy chunk of the debris cleared away by nightfall.


Well progress is progress I suppose...

And then the fourth day happened.

We had the map projected in the air before us, the glowing yellow dot that represented Hasda the only and in the ant farm. Jade had decided to join us today, since Hasda was by now comfortable with the villagers and familiar enough with the mines not to need her guidance. Suddenly, a brick red dot appeared on the map and collided with Hasda’s marker. The dots orbited around each other in a chaotic pattern, bouncing off the tunnel boundaries at insane speeds. Jade gasped, Malia hissed, and I ground my knuckles.


Well..after a lovely three days of aimless wondering we have finally have our fight I suppose.

Hasda would be fine. He didn’t need our help, he was perfectly capable of handling himself. I’d raised him, I’d given him my blessing, and I’d armed him. He’d be fine. He would. Of course telling myself all that over and over only carried me so far, and I sorely wanted to go tearing in after him to slay the beast myself. But this was his trial. He would be fine. He would.


Charax worrying about him like any father would is of course absolutely awesome to get to see.

After what felt like far too long a moment, the red dot winked out and Hasda’s yellow dot slowly wobbled its way out of the mines. Malia snarled something under her breath and sank her hands into the ether, swirling around in the dimensions beyond to extricate rolls of dark leather. Jade hurried forward to greet Hasda as he exited, Malia and I forced to wait behind the Veil until he was a safe distance away from the entrance.


Well...okay...that was kind of a quick to ending to all of that tension...

To say the lad needed a bath would be an understatement. He looked like he’d been dragged through the mud, repeatedly, by his ankles and, based on the behavior of the dots, that might not have been far from the truth. His tunic was in tattered shambles, the leather padding on the outsides of his bracers and greaves shredded like fronds of seaweed. His hair curled off in a dozen different directions, crushed pebbles peppering the clumps of mud stuck to his scalp. He sagged like he’d just run a marathon up and down the mountain, but his eyes were vibrant.


Well...honestly that's pretty good for something that just fought a divine tiger inside a mine...

Jade led him into one of the larger huts, which the villagers had lent him for the duration of his Trial. Malia and I followed and, once inside, shrugged off the Veil. Malia handed him the bolts of leather and said, “These are replacements for the ones you damaged today.”

“Thanks.” Hasda smiled and set the leather on his cot. Leaning forward, he extricated his legs from the shredded padding and set to work undoing the straps of the greaves.


Hmm...well...everything seems to be going quite well so far...seems pretty normal...

“How’d it go?” I asked, folding my arms and trying not to glare at Malia.

“He seemed nice.” Hasda kicked off the right greave and started on the left. “Mostly hungry.”

“It’s a good thing you had those pads to protect you,” I said. Next to me, Malia puffed herself up with pride.


Hasda just casually mentioning the tiger was nice is very interesting....what sort of mystic magic was worked into the situation this time.

“Yeah. If I didn’t have those, I wouldn’t have had anything to feed him.” He laughed. “But he wouldn’t just let me give him the leather, he wanted to work for it. He’s a lot better at wrestling than I thought he’d be.”

I blinked. “He what?” As I looked closer at the mutilated leather Hasda was removing, I could see that the tears looked more like bite marks than claw gouges. That would explain why the armor was slightly dimpled instead of scored or shredded itself.


Hmm...well that...first of all...why would a tiger eat leather...and second of all...that would explain the lack of a sufficiently epic fight, and injuries...just a lot of mob...well...can't wait till we get to see what exactly went down to make this happen in quite this fashion.

“And how, exactly, did you figure out the tiger’s intentions?” Malia said, her snakes shivering and flicking their tongues as she folded her arms. “Did it just roll over to expose its belly and ask to play?” Though her tone was sharp, she sounded just as worried as I felt. While it was a relief that Hasda had escaped his first encounter unharmed, it was doubly concerning how odd this animal was behaving. First it isolated itself in the mines, then it fasted, and then it went after the leather padding instead of the fresh meat beneath the armor and decided to play to pay for its meal.


Yeah...that does not look like general divine tiger behavior....I'm no expert on that...but I would say this tiger is looking very sus at the moment.

“I spoke to it.” Hasda gave us a look of pure innocence as we stared at him, open-mouthed. “What?”

“You spoke to it?” Malia echoed.

“Yes.” His brow furrowed. “Is that so strange?”


Well...when he says things like that....its hard to believe he's actually 32...but then in immortal turns he might as well be a newborn I guess...also wow...so that explains a lot...although how he can do that is another matter entirely. Either Malia is a really good actress which let's face it, she is or this isn't even her doing...

“Well, normally animals don’t talk,” Jade said, fingers fluttering nervously. “But some do. Magical beasts, anyways. Usually it’s just telepathic, although some go to the effort of using their magic to speak out loud. But not Kydonian tigers, and not to humans. Getting them to mindspeak with gods would be challenging enough, if they weren’t so reclusive. Of course, that’s just what others have told me, this is my first time seeing one in real life, and I was too scared to try talking to it myself. Especially after it started eating my villagers and hid in the mines.”


Well that's understandable...

“You just...talked to it,” Malia said, shaking her head. Stiffening, her gaze snapped to my face. “How long have you known he could do this?”

“Uh…”


Oooh Charax being put under the death gaze there...which reminds me...didn't he give out one of those blessing things...could that potentially wake some kind of dormant power or some nonsense along those lines....something's gotta give here.

In all honesty, I hadn’t. But if he could talk to animals, he’d had ample time to practice during his hunting trips in the forest. And how would he have known being a nature whisperer was unusual? He’d grown up by himself, with a cranky old god for a father who talked to birds because he felt like it. Trips to the closest village were rare, playtime with other children even rarer. I scoured my memory, searching for any signs of Hasda showing hints of this ability, but my fractured mind showed nothing more than Hasda imitating me, speaking to the birds or rabbits or deer as if they were friends. It all looked like normal kid behavior, inventing companions when there weren’t any.


Well...I'm sure we all talk to things...that's understandable....very easy to see how Hasda could've just totally not thought of it as a special ability.

But if he could talk to any animal, which seemed likely if he actually talked to the Kydonian tiger, then that was a far, far bigger deal than just being a gifted human. No one ever became a Beast Whisperer by accident. Usually, but not always, a Beast Whisperer started with some innate ability to talk to animals, and then a god would imbue them with divine power, like through a Blessi—

“Oh.”


Ooooh...yay!! Another correct guess...let's goo

“What?” Her eyes narrowed. “I saw those gears turning. Spit it out.”

“Hasda,” I said.

“Yes?” Metal clanked as he dropped a bracer on top of the greaves.

“When you were little, you used to talk to the fish, and the birds, and the squirrels.” I winced at how childish that sounded. “Did they ever, er, talk back?”


Well...that's not that childish....

“Of course.” He frowned, both at me and the leather entangling the final bracer on his right arm. “You did, too.”

“Well, yes, but I’m a god, and you’re just human.” I sighed. “Or rather, ‘were’ just human.”

Malia’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh.”


Well Malia finally figures it out...

“I’m sorry,” Jade said, leaning around me to look between us. “I’m a little confused. What’s going on?”

Malia pinched the bridge of her nose and gestured towards Hasda with her free hand. “He was born a nature whisperer, and he—” she flicked her hand at me “—blessed him.”

“Oh.” Jade blinked. “So...what does that mean?”


Okay...Jade is acting just super clueless at this point...

“It means that Hasda can talk to any animal.” I rolled the words around my mouth. They felt weird and out of place.

“Oh, that’s good!” Jade smiled and clapped her hands. “So he can just ask the tiger to leave.”

“I don’t think he wants to leave,” Hasda said. Grunting, he strained at the mess of shredded leather and finally tore it free. The last bracer came off a moment later. “I can ask him, but I doubt he’ll go. He likes the mines.”


Hmm...well something is definitely up with that tiger.

“Something is seriously wrong with that tiger,” Malia said, frowning. “What color was its fur?”

“Yellow as piss, and its stripes were bright green and all crooked.” Hasda shook his head. “I think it’s sick.”

“It might be.” I rolled my shoulders to get the stiffness out. “Well, tomorrow, ask the tiger if it will leave, and if not, feed it the leathers if it still wants them and then get out. Pay attention to its coat. Look for any spots, flaking fur, or dried blood, and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s wrong with it.”


Hmm...well that's an interesting twist...this is turning from a potentially epic battle sequence to spot the sickness...well...not saying I'm too disappointed...but a little bit...well let's see how this twist ends up panning out I guess. Hasda having a power is pretty cool at least.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Well...another very interesting chapter comes to a close...now let's go see exactly how this power ends up being used in the long run for this trial...

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:10 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, a lot of interesting developments in this chapter!! We finally find out some of the repercussions of Charax's blessing on Hasda, and I must say, I'm super curious how you're going to utilize this newfound ability of Hasda's.

One thing I really enjoyed about this was the way you revealed Hasda's abilities as a Beast Whisperer. The way you portrayed Charax's thought process was really well written. I loved how you started out with everyone being confused, and then kinda showed Charax's thought process in real time. It was super effective in creating the sort of big reveal/aha moment that really made this section super enjoyable to read!

I'm also super curious to see what happens next! Is there really something wrong with the tiger? Is it sick? How will this affect Hasda's trials? Eeee I'm so excited to read more!! You do a really great job of somehow making each part more interesting than the last while still preserving the same engaging vibe you had at the beginning. It's really masterful work, and you should be proud.

Specifics

Suddenly, a brick red dot appeared on the map and collided with Hasda’s marker.


This is just a small thing, but I'm pretty sure you need a hyphen between brick and red, as they precede the noun they're modifying. It just establishes their connection and makes it more evident to the reader.

Overall: nice work!! I really loved this part, and I'm super excited to see where the story is headed!! Until next time!





Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.
— William S. Burroughs