Lentie Flyndon crested another hill. She was pleased and relieved to see that no more hills stood between her and her destination, Star Town. She took a few seconds to catch her breath before continuing down the other side. Before losing her high vantage point, she looked back to make sure the robbers were not visible. They seemed to be headed to roughtly the same place as her, but were following a path which wound between the hills rather than over them. Lentie had tried to keep ahead and out of sight, but her speed was even more erratic than their direction.
Satisfied that she had not been spotted, she started the perilous process of walking downhill. Having a free-hanging arm made balancing tricky, and on top of that it was a nuisance. The vision problem was the real danger though. At any moment she might find her attention snagged by a procession of rotating, morphing shapes, or might have a bout of nausea or dizziness from the mismatch in apparent motion. More subtly, she regularly misjudged distances, though that was becoming less common with time and experience.
This time, she reached the bottom of the hill without taking a tumble. As she was becoming thirsty, she decided to reward herself with a restful drink beneath the shade of the lone nearby tree in the meadow ahead. It was the same type of tree as the one on the hill overlooking the scene of the robbery, she noticed.
Lentie dropped her bottle. "Who said that?" Her heart was pounding like a runner's footsteps.
"The tree, ya daft noob!"
Lentie peered up into the branches, as the tree was low enough that someone could have jumped and pulled themself up. Seeing no one above, she checked behind the tree. No one was there. "You're inside the tree? Are you stuck? Do you need help?" she asked eagerly.
The tree let out a longsuffering sigh. "You've not seen a treeborn before?"
"You were born in a tree?" Lentie retrieved her bottle from the ground and set about unscrewing the cap.
"Yikes, you're even more a noob than I figured on! Don't even know what an element-born is. No, you nink, I am the tree."
Lentie sprayed out a mouthful of water. "Whaaaaat? So are you a tree with the ability to talk, or are you a player who's stuck being this tree as your character?"
"Hey, easy on the OOC talk. And what kind of dumb question... Ohhh, don't tell me, you're a ghost, right?"
Lentie frowned. "Do you want me to answer or not?"
"I meant don't tell be before I guessed, idiot!"
"Sorry, I'm new to this. First time." She at least remembered that OOC stood for 'out of character', though she wasn't sure whether she'd heard that from Kanda, if it was an ancient memory, or whether it was something she instinctively knew now.
"Ah, makes sense. Someone with a nice steel bottle shouldn't be so clueless. So no, I'm not a 'talking tree' thank you very much."
Lentie finally got a proper gulp of water and put her bottle back away. "So... what do you even do?"
"What do ya mean?"
"Well you're not exactly... mobile."
"Not mobile? Girl, I got here way faster than you did."
"Huh? Got here from where?"
The tree did not respond. Despite the lack of expression or any kind of feedback, Lentie clearly felt like she was being mocked.
The answer came to her soon enough. "Oh, that was you on that other hill! Have you been following me?"
"Clearly not, since I got here first." The tree's voice was feminine, rough and scratchy, flavoured with disdain and a casual disgregard for perfect pronunciation and grammar.
"You know what I mean. I've been going in a straight line ever since I went around those robbers."
"We prefer to be called bandits."
The tree maintained silence.
"Did you just say we?"
"Yeah, so if you could leave your bag and everything that's in your pockets, that would be great."
Lentie considered asking about the consequences of not complying. After a second of consideration, she sprinted away from the tree. She got five paces before she stumbled and tripped over her own feet.
Something whizzed close over her head.
"You threw a stick at me?"
"That was an arrow. Do you want to have another try at leaving your valuables?"
"You have a bow?"
"I have several boughs."
"That's not what I..." Instead of continuing to argue, Lentie picked herself up and resumed running.
Pleasure at her accomplishment washed through Lentie's entire being. She'd improved! Now she had a chance of—
Lentie forced some final words between her teeth before her life fully drained away. "Extreme pain? No... kidding."
|You are Dead|
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