Friday, March 27, 2009

Neg and Tinea Part 2: Gaining Trust

For a creature that existed with its belly on the ground, the caterpillar managed to move extraordinarily quickly. After a good fifteen minutes in pursuit, Neg lost all track of it, save for the tale-tell signs of the trailing rope.

Undaunted, she carried on, following the curved patterns of the rope as it was dragged through the dirt. The larva was headed north, and while its trail was erratic to the point of confusion, there was some obvious end goal in its mind as they trekked through the woods. The great mountains of Hellfire Peninsula loomed in the distance, casting the forest in shadow. It was when their massive form took up the majority of the sky that Neg finally caught up to the furry caterpillar.

The end of the rope had become miserably frayed and filthy, and when she found it, she paused to trace its course further through the underbrush.

In a small clearing surrounded by dense trees, the larva was busy chewing through its bindings. Now that it could manage without a grip on the rope’s slick surface, it was making considerable progress in a short amount of time – its strong mandibles had already chewed through half of the rope’s width. Unable to bend well enough to reach the noose around its midsection, it had settled for a section closest to its body. Losing the majority of the rope’s length would free much of its movement.

Not wishing to startle it from its task, Neg looked around the wooden niche. This must be a place the caterpillar was comfortable with, and she wondered why. The trees were very tall and very thin despite their number. In between their dark trunks were thick bushes reminiscent of the Silverleaf of Azeroth. Above her head, the canopy spiraled up into a maze of needle-like leaves.
Frowning, Neg couldn’t distinguish anything particularly notable about this place until she heard it: A low clicking noise similar to the chewing noises the caterpillar was making. She looked closer at the dark tree trunks across the clearing. They were covered in the same dark needles that filled the air above her head… in addition to pairs of dark eyes that stared down at the struggling moth larva in the clearing. Caterpillars coated the trees, their mouthparts clicking away as they watched their companion chew away at the rope, though whether or not their sounds were meant to be encouragement, Neg could not say.

Separated from the rest of the rope, the noosed-caterpillar marched over to the nearest bush and began chomping away at the leaves, evidently quite unperturbed by the attached loop of rope. As Neg watched, it ate its full, then climbed the nearest tree and settled next to its trunk-companion, completely blending in to the surroundings, save for the obvious light-colored cord around its middle.

Neg sighed a bit, debating whether or not she wanted to put forth the effort for what she had in mind. While she was not under any contracts at the moment, nor were the times overwrought with danger, it was a time investment to help this creature she found so intriguing. Still, it may be her only chance.

Slowly, she stepped out into the clearing. Immediately, the caterpillars that covered the trees retracted back up the trunk, disappearing into the foliage. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her tethered-friend retreat into the shadows. Careful to move in the least-threatening manner possible, Neg set up camp.

Over the next several hours she tended to her weapons, polishing and oiling her gun and blades; sorted her ammunition; mended and cleaned her mail and leather armors and packs; darned her cloth underclothes; checked her stores of potions, scrolls, and dried foods; wound up the rope for later use; overlooked the various items she had picked up over her travels that served more specific uses; and made bandages from the stock cloth she had gathered. Above her head, the caterpillars occasionally clicked or rustled in the darkness, but were otherwise silent.

She slept unperturbed through the night, then woke at the dawn for a morning hunt. Returning several hours later, she found her orderly camp disheveled, and her things covered in fine, dark hairs. After making sure nothing was damaged (abet some dried jerky was missing), Neg settled down to make lunch, ignoring the outbreak of chattering above her head.

As the day waned, she pulled a handful of berries from her pocket and placed them at the outskirt of her camp before going to bed.

Deep into the night, she awoke to sounds of scuffling and the chitter of mandibles, but she remained motionless, listening to the caterpillars move about in the dark.

The next morning the berries were gone, but Neg ignored their absence as she went about her morning routine. That evening, she deposited another handful of berries, and the cycle continued.

On the fourth day, she began noticing curious eyes peer out at her from the canopy above, and this time she laid out a small pile of berries during the day, leaving them in their now standard location, before dealing with her daily chores.

It was a few hours before dusk when the first caterpillar descended the trees. To her frustration, it was not the noosed-larva, but another large, bristled individual. Over the next several minutes more caterpillars came down, but the one she freed was not among them. Annoyed, she tossed the remaining berries in her pocket out among the gathering horde.

She watched as the large larvae greedily ate the berries that were scattered about, apparently quite comfortable with her presence. She scanned the tree trunks, hoping to see a flash of pale rope, but there was nothing of note among the black needles. Masking her disappointment, she turned to a bag of apples behind her. A bright splash of white caught her eye, and sure enough, at the base of a tree opposite from the gathered mass of caterpillars, was the noosed individual.
It bristled up when it noticed her attention to it, but relaxed when she made no further move. It moved its head towards the greater gathering of larvae, appearing interested in their frenzy to find any remaining berries, but made no move to join them. Its gaze fell upon her again and stayed.

Carefully, Neg removed an apple from the sack, and gently rolled it towards the caterpillar

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