It was a testament to Meeks' legitimate toughness and experience that the fear drained from his face as he noted the Yludih's frantic departure. He waved in the direction of the howls in the forest, "No thingee unnatural be. Beastee yes, but no monster be."
His expression now became calculating and furious as he pulled one of his men back behind a tree, saving him from an arrow that whizzed through the space he'd just been standing.
"This just a man ambush, Mackie"
he said to the man, who was even now staring at the forested darkness that had swallowed the arrow, upon which his name had surely been graven, with a heavy gulp. Meeks smacked the man on the back and pointed at the quivering grass where the prisoner was surely squirming his way to what he hoped would be safety.
Meeks' voice became a conspiratorial whisper as he spoke into his second's ear with a crooked grin, "He must be worthee much mores than I first thinkee. Somebud' came to he rescuee. You watch, Mackie. There be no more beastee ravagee tonights, I betcha. We hunkee down like we scared off. Tomorrow we trackee down. Givee word."
It was likewise a testament to Meeks' reputation for insight that Mackie accepted his 'Whipholder's assessment without question. In a voice intentionally loud enough to be heard by anyone listening, but not to appear that way, Mackie play-acted his role with admirable skill; telling the men to hold out until daylight, to pull in where they could support each other against any further attacks; and that they'd be getting the fuck out at first light.
The legitimate cheer of relief gave even more credibility to the theater act. After a break of staying put, Meeks reiterated that he'd predicted the attacks would stop. The men fluctuated between apprehension and anger at the thought that some trickery had convinced them they'd been under attack by some Emean nightmare come to flesh. Meeks let them know, once again, that superstitions are for those that never rise above swabbee. He assured his scouts that the Yludih had left vivid tracks in the grass field.
He now introduced the element of unguessed value that this prisoner must have to have been the beneficiary of such field craft. As well, the inevitable policy of the criminal party that a few dead members mean more for the rest. Slowly the party began to look eagerly for the renewal of the chase.
In the meantime, Quio had indeed denied himself the sense that might have warned him he was about to stumble upon the very beast that had savaged the pirates from behind. A pair of heavily furred, midnight black paws barred further progress. But the legs attached are not vertically positioned, since the animal is lying down, his eyes boring directly into those of the escapee. A human voice gives a soft command and the shadowhound
stops growling. The intense ferocity of its eyes does not waver though.
A man seems to appear from some fold in the air, crouching beside his companion. "I suspect you'd like to get out of here, eh? I don't know how far I can take you, if you have somewhere you need to go. I'm assuming you're not planning to go back to Foster's Landing. I can assure you, that's where those boys hail from. But if you come all the way back with me, you may not be allowed to leave."
He looked up, across the grass towards the forest, and crouched again. "They're going to stay put for now, but I don't think they'll really be going back without their prize. Now I'm sure you have a lot of questions, but this is not the place for them. But it IS the place for Claytona Monticola."
He watched any reaction from the wounded man, to see if he realized he'd been identified as a Yludih by his rescuer. Many Yludih knew that it was a plant from which a healing sap could be obtained. A healing sap that only
worked on Yludih. But it was entirely likely that equally many knew nothing of this.
"Depending on how determined these bastards are, I should be able to get you away from them without having to keep you hidden away with...me."
He almost said 'us'
, and that would already be more information than he should ever be revealing about where he'd come from. So he tried to make it as if he was just leading up to introducing himself. "I go by Raiden Valance."
Again, he stopped a bit too abruptly, before adding 'Hound Master'. That too would be 'privileged' information.
He pulled out a small, curiously squeezable vial, and started applying small smears of a curiously cool sap, making no mention of the light seeping from the wounds he tended. Without looking up he asked, "So, what's your name; or, what you would like me to call you?"