by Brian Randall
Disclaimer: Moved to the footer to avoid spoiling the surprise.
Blood. The scent of it filled his nostrils, both intoxicating and nauseating, like the time he had imbibed too heavily of his father's alcohol. He scowled, finding it easier to fight a sudden numbing weariness, and the men surrounding him drew in their breath, backing away while the raw tainted force of his curse writhed around him, sheathing his arm with a glowing black nimbus.
He shook his head once, stepping resolutely towards the gate, shifting his stance to hike one shoulder higher and make carrying the unconscious young woman he was bearing slightly more manageable.
The gate was opened at a cost; the staring men continued to do only that while the lambent nacreous aura around his hand grew, writhing like some great living thing that intended to feast upon him, and then the men when it was finished. He had no time to worry about that now. He had to get the girl to safety, then try and sort things out.
Her companions were waiting outside, he knew, though he wasn't certain how he was able to ascertain such.
One step forward, feet pounding the worn and muddy wooden slabs beneath his feet as he exited the fortress of the men, moving one step closer to the loamy area of devastation before the forest.
"How," he muttered to himself, taking care not to jostle the young woman as he walked forward, "do I get myself into these things?"
But that answer was all-too-clear to him, even when he tried not to think of it.
One mistake in the signal fire, using bursts of smoke to indicate how long it would be until he was back. It was crude, but an effective method of communication, and they put it to use as well as they could…
But then he accidentally nicked his hand on his knife, and while sterilizing the wound, managed to slosh bloody wine into the fire. Apparently, that was all that it took. He was merely trying to signal back that he would be home tomorrow, and was very hungry, but one thing led to another, then the demon, this place, the girl… It was all too much, sometimes.
Shaking his head, he glanced around, already at the low copse of trees marking the end of the “civilized” area, and the beginning of the Forest. No mere woods, these, they were Forest, full of rich variations of life, and all that lurked beneath the trees was beyond mortal ken… But he knew some of it.
He set the girl on the ground, while her companions drew near, their eyes glinting ominously in the moonlight. "Hey," he whispered, his eyes tracing her facial markings. "Wake up, Belldandy."
The two wild-women who had identified themselves as 'Skuld' and 'Urd', nodded, seeming to approve of his aid to her.
"What a strange day," he whispered, more to himself than anyone else.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's Ah! My Mononoke.
I should probably be ashamed.
I'm not, but I should be. Probably.
Disclaimer: Princess Mononoke belongs to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. Ah! My Goddess belongs to Studio Proteus and Dark Horse comics.
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