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Chance Encounter

By Steel and Blood: Chance Encounter

I could almost feel my hard-hitting aggressor closing in on me from behind those bushes, intently eyeing me with devious intent, waiting for the right circumstance to attack, beefing up its strategy to catch me off-guard. In a sense I pity this creature in that I am always one step ahead of it. To think that it actually and instinctively believes that it has already etched my demise, it boosts my great pleasure to know I would not think twice of cutting its breath off its lungs. My dagger alone would make swift action of it and I'd spare it of the pain, just because I'm feeling a bit giving as of lately. This bonfire in front of me is at its twigs' end, and once it loses its luminance then I'm pretty sure the wily creature would flank me from behind.

Three minutes in, fire struggles for breath, and it begins to drizzle, killing off the very last one. My enemy steps out of the bush, drool dripping from its sharp, murderous fangs, frozen eyes piercing right through my flesh. It takes no drastic step, unusually, and I begin to question my calculations. I've been all too sure of its cockiness to deny itself of an offensive manoeuvre, only to be met with hesitation. I turn around to see for myself, and there it lay on the ground, suffering and bloodied, a dire wolf, lost from its pack. I nursed him to my side and tended to its wounds. These medications would have had made good use for something else more important but I did not think twice. The carilli herbs proved very useful, and in a matter of two days after setting up camp in a local settlement, the wolf regained its senses minus vigour.

Gurran especially truly was the man to be thanked for this miracle. He is the settlement's main healworker, a veteran in the skill of medics, surviving both the Flowers and Graves War and the victory at Acacia. He knew better than I what the animal needed to survive, I only avoided the path which would have ended in tragic death.

'Amaryllis,' Gurran whispered, as he continues to work on some documents that seemed vital for something. 'The wolf you brought -- it's half-recovered now, walking and exercising its injury. He's there at the back, locked up for the moment. I can't take the risk of putting such an untamed creature loose within my infirmary. Safety precautions, 'tis all.' He carefully sets the papers aside and grabs hold of a tiny pouch.

'What is this?' I asked, clueless.

'You gave the animal medication more than its needed. You should know by now not to waste valuable inventory on such minor trivialities, dear,' he replied.

I opened the pouch to find more carilli herbs than I previously had coupled with the strong aroma of mana dwelling within it. An alchemist like Gurran must have done something to increase its potency. 'I'm guessing these are payment for the rescue?'

He already sat back to his chair and returned to his papers. 'I wouldn't say payment. I wouldn't have saved the animal myself, knowing the danger associated with their species. Their numbers are dwindling, Amaryllis, and I'd rather keep it that way and end their misery quickly. This world is not a pleasant place for honourable creatures as dire wolves.'

'I only did what I did because it felt right at the moment,' I said, setting the pouch aside. 'But thanks anyway.'

'What if you were wrong? This wolf could have played possum and killed not only you but every single one here. You are aware of what these things are capable of.'

I'm beginning to not like this conversation. His apathy to living things that are considered to be non-humans is infamous but I didn't expect it to be this bad. 'Not enough reason to just let it be, Gurran, now get off my back so I can see this 'danger' you speak of.'

He signals to the back without saying another word continuing his work. I then walked towards the back to find a rusted circus cage big enough to fit a war elephant. There it was standing in the middle beneath the rays of sunshine gathering up its strength without having to notice my presence. The creature struggles to walk but turns around as it spots me walking from the curtain, its eyes transfixed to myself once more, without the hostility. I wouldn't trust my instincts yet though considering the last time. My level of alertness still was above average. Strength-wise I wouldn't be able to out-wrestle even an injured dire wolf due to its size and weight, and it would waste no time to stick its fangs into my armour-less flesh. I need to be agile and dexterous if I were to be attacked.

But it sat down in the middle as I came closer to it, as if it welcomed me into its cage and waiting for me to come. What we lack in speech we make up for instincts and actions, and clearly it's demonstrating its intellectual ability to discern mutual respect to its saviour.

I took a chunk of meat near the cage entrance as an offering. Dire wolves, as Duggan pointed out, are honourable creatures, violent but proud. Very similar to lions, only they boast size and thickness in hide. Nowadays these creatures are very rare and usually solitary, travel only in packs when migrating to another  bountiful land largely feeding on herbivorous animals such as twillaus and deers. This particular creature's hide is blanched and smoothly elegant, meaning it may have held great rank amongst its pack before it got separated. A royalty amongst the honourable.

I tossed the meat forward and even it was largely ignored by the animal. It is not a creature that normally begs but takes, because it easily has that ability to.

'I am Amaryllis,' I announced, as it sits staring at me with its chin up and almost immobile. 'I am the one who saved you in Kuram that fateful night. You must have remembered me. I thought you wanted to kill me. Turns out my guesses were incorrect.' I didn't expect any responses from the creature, and I didn't really know how to react, so I bowed my head because the creature continued to stare at me in a tense, uneasy fashion. I felt I had done my part so it time for me to say my farewells and attend to the matter in which I was supposed to be given a task of. I walked back to the curtains and turned around. The creature remains sitting beneath the shade of light with its eyes on mine. Their mysterious nature baffles me, but this petty concern needs to abruptly end for a greater cause than what's in store for the mission ahead. I bid Gurran farewell, he nods to me coldly.

The view of the lively settlement grounds greets me warmly. What Gurran has here very much reminds me of home in Thallis. I am eager to someday be able to come home with less purpose and more convenience, but at this moment my value is much required for something much greater, and I am bound to serve it until its bitter end.

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