Last time on The Autumn Keep
Suddenly Griffin is aware that he is not alone in the woods. Something it coming!
It is now @fromage's turn to add a link to the story in Chainlink 2.
It whirled, tail whipping through the air and brushing the foliage. “Mate,” it shouted playfully as it rustled the leaves around them. “Mate, do you think the man-thing has heard us?” The ape whirled back and forth between the rough positions of the two of them, brandishing his giant artificial claw at the trees in front and behind him.
Its mate stretched and laughed, long grey coat sparkling in the twilight beneath the canopy of the trees. “No, Mate. Only frightened of a shadow in the trees. Not wise enough to fear us, yet.” Its mate’s eyes gleamed with delight, smiling and bounding just out of range as the man spun and lunged forward, slashing at nothing.
It lamented that the time of year had come again that these poor creatures would wander into their wood. Whenever the leaves began to turn the great blundering things came, clanking and cursing and search and dying their warm blood pulsing, the flesh tearing as they screamed. The metal was pain and their meat tasted foul but the screams, ah the screams. The screams were delectable.
The road brought the metal creatures here, and then took them up, past the wood and onward. The few that passed though the wood alive never came back. It had once been curious about what lay beyond the wood that called them so. It followed the narrow road up into the moorlands and mists. It had seen what waited for them in the highlands.
The man whirled once again and began to hack into the woods. As it leapt out of reach the man seemed to catch a quick glimpse of its sleek black fur and lowered his sword.
“Shall we end this, mate?” In answer its mate began to circle behind, crouching in preparation to pounce.
“Creatures! Hearing you. Warning you.” It stopped. The beast spoke their language. They’d heard them chitter and grunt before, but never had they spoken the true tongue. “Am strong, of great blood, of the...” the man made some additional sounds in their gutter tongue. It sniffed the air and wrinkled its nose. This man’s blood was no different from any other. “Danger. Hurt to you.” It smiled. The accent was terrible.
But it still paused. “Mate, a voice...” They knew no law but this; that which spoke was not food.
Its mate sighed and began to turn back into the woods. “Very well. I will hunt elsewhere for our children tonight. Send this thing onward and find me.”
It nodded as it settled onto its haunches then turned to the man with a low growl of warning. “Can man-thing understand or just talk?”
After a long moment the man nodded slowly, still trying to find it in the underbrush. “Hear you. Am understand. Need take.” He shook his head as stood for a moment, thinking. “Need go up. Need go that way. Up.”
It laughed and the man shrank back, afraid. What cowardice. Wise at last. It walked slowly out of the woods, well out of the man’s reach, and lay on the road. “I know where you are going. I can take you there. But you will never come back, and I will have wasted my night with you. What do you have to give to convince me?”
The man backed slowly away as it emerged from the wood. Keeping his sword leveled against it the man set the shining box in his other hand on the ground. Rummaging through his metal skin and disturbingly smooth fur he produced a small hunk of what smelled like rabbit flesh. It chuckled at how large the morsel looked in his tiny hands. “Am give,” he said, tossing the meat near. “Agree?”
It sighed and took the meat, then loped off down the road. The man grabbed his shining box and followed. I will go to the edge of the wood, no further. Such a paltry gift deserves no better. Still, it was intrigued by a beast that could speak. Perhaps it would stay with him long enough to watch him die at his destination.
Chainlink 2 completed!
Now the torch is passed back to @zakludick to add in Chainlink 3 of the story!