Desmond was leading us through the woods. He only told us that he thought something was wrong because he smelled Vetia again. Desmond stopped us before a clearing about a five minute run from the camp. We could see her dark red hair low in the tall ferns. Desmond walked forward with his bow out.
“Vetia? You all good?” He had an arrow nocked and was walking right toward her.
She popped up out of the shrubs, her clothes drenched in blood, but not a drop on her skin. “Sup, bitches?”
Desmond started rushing forward while stowing his bow on his back. “What the fuck happened to you? You’re covered in blood!”
“Oh,” she laughed awkwardly. “Don’t worry, it’s not my blood.” The blood-soaked clothes that were stuck to her skin were slowly getting less bloody and drying. How the hell was she talking after getting her tongue ripped out? Did I miss something?
I walked over toward the weird scene and eyed her up and down. “How are you talking, and where’s all that… blood… going?”
She looked down confused and pulled at her shirt, noticing the disappearing blood. “Well that’s convenient as hell. Oh, and I grew my tongue back, you know, fireblood shit.”
She was just smiling and looking awkward, all of us confused beyond compare. I looked at Adam, and could see him mouthing “what the fuck” while Brenden looked absolutely sickened, but curious.
She perked up again. “Oh! Adam, come here. I got us a big green llama-thing for dinner that you can carry back.”
Adam walked over and looked down by her feet. His eyebrows furrowed and his eyes went wide, his mouth in a horrified frown. “Jesus fuck, Vetia! What did you do to this thing?! It’s just a pile of meat, where’s the llama?! You said you were going to the bathroom!”
Vetia rolled her eyes and looked down at it. “Adam, I barely- uh, did I really do all that?” It was genuinely the most surprised I had ever seen her.
Desmond stomped up to her. “You can’t just go off on your own into the woods like this! We don’t know shit about this world or what’s in it. Do you even care that you can die? It’s like you’ve been flirting with death since we got here.” His eyes were a little teary. I couldn’t be sure if he was getting emotional or the smell was really strong again.
The rest of us walked over together and saw the… heap of meat on the ground. Whatever fur it had was torn to shreds. Its head was hanging on by a flap of skin. Its neck was ripped apart, massive bite marks that left only small tendons and bits of fur connecting it to the body, which had claw marks all over and what looked like holes bored into its sides. Every leg was almost untouched, but the weirdest part was how there was no blood anywhere on the ground or on the animal.
I looked at Vetia, who looked like she regretted showing us this. “Hey, uh, you bite all these pieces out of it?”
“Why isn’t it bleeding?”
“I was thirsty.”
“So you drank all of its blood?”
“Just, like, most of it. I’m sure there’s still some in there.”
“Did drinking blood give you your tongue back?”
“Did you have to rip it apart so much just to drink some blood?
“I have the right to an attorney.”
“That’s not how this works.”
“I plead the fifth.”
“There is no fifth here.”
“Fuck. Well, there’s dinner right here. We can have a nice long chat when we get back.”
Vetia began casually walking back toward the camp with her hands behind her. I heard Adam grunt behind me and I assumed he was picking up the creature. I started following her. She had to tell us what the hell was going on. Too much weird shit was happening around her that we couldn’t just ignore anymore. I heard Adam grunt again and watched a green and red blur launch across my vision and slam into Vetia’s back. She yelped like a choking bear and flopped onto the ground beneath the corpse.
Adam walked past her. “Congrats getting your tongue back, your reward is carrying that nasty-ass thing.” He continued on through the forest, looking a little irritated that she assumed he would just carry it.
Brenden followed him and said “You kill, you carry. Them’s the rules.”
Desmond just walked past her.
“Heya Tells?” Vetia turned her head toward me, straining her neck. “Wanna help me out?”
I walked over to her. Sure, she needed a hand. On the other hand, she was keeping so much from us. I was still pissed off about earlier, but her casualness about it was irritating me even more. I didn’t want to be pissed, but Desmond was right. “I can’t help you until your attorney gets here.”
She rolled it off of her, stared at it for a while, and then hoisted it onto her shoulders. Looking at the size of it, I was pretty sure I could carry it with ease in this body, but she was struggling. It was a slow walk back, and Vetia was wheezing the whole time. Every time she tried asking for help, I just ignored her and kept walking until we arrived at the camp and she threw the creature down by the fire. She was breathing heavily and flopped onto her sleeping roll. Everyone was just looking at her disappointedly.
She tried speaking between her breaths. “There you go… skin it and cook it… I don’t care. I’m sorry. I’ll try not to get side tracked in the woods.”
Desmond stepped up to the creature with his dagger out. “Apology accepted. Now tell us what the fuck happened.”
* * * * *
She told us everything from beginning to end. That she went into the woods looking for a meal to drink its blood, but it was hard to bleed, so she had to slice it up a bunch because she didn’t know what she was doing. Apparently Mother Yeline told her that she could drink blood to heal her bones, and the Mother gave the arms to somebody else who needed them. Vetia just sat near the operating beds and drank the blood that spilled down and it didn’t take long to get her energy back. By the time she got done filling us in on all the bullshit that led up to Simira hating her so much, we were already cooking the meat on a rock in the fire.
Brenden seemed like he was getting fed up with hearing a bunch of new stuff. “Okay guys. We need to lay everything out. No bullshit anymore. Keeping shit from each other is only going to keep getting us hurt. I really don’t want to deal with anymore shit because we couldn’t fess up and clear everything up before it becomes a problem. Who wants to start?”
Adam poked at the meat on the rock and hummed cynically. “Hmm, like the reasons why we think we have these bodies and powers? And, oh, I don’t know, what powers people might be hiding?”
Brenden sighed. “Yeah, pretty much. Everything on the table. Everything. Even if you’re embarrassed as shit about it. We’ve known each other forever. We all know each other’s fucked up secrets.”
Adam was loud and mocking in a particular direction. “Yup, forever. Why would we ever keep secrets?”
Brenden stood up. “Hold on. We need some fucking booze for this.” He went over to the wagon and carried over a few small barrels and some cups. “We all take a big drink to start. I only refill your cup if you reveal something without bullshitting me.” He poured a cup for himself. “Holy shit that’s good.”
Desmond reached forward. “Aw hell yeah, gimme some o’ that boonies village moonshine.” He took a massive gulp. “That’s some premium shit! Gimme more.”
Brenden held the barrel away. “Give us some gossip first.”
Desmond sunk a little, thinking. “Okay I’ve got three things at once. This’ll start my tab. One: My smell is super good-”
I cut him off. “Nope. We already knew that. Doesn’t count.”
“Shit, fine. Two: My hearing is insane. I can literally hear your heartbeats from a hundred feet away if I focus enough.”
Vetia’s eyes went wide. “Wait, so you can basically hear everything that happens every night?”
“Yeah. Don’t even get me started on your Captain Quick. I did not need to hear that whole awkward mess. I think I deserve a drink just because I had to hear that shit.”
“Good enough for me.” Brenden filled his cup again.
She lowered her head into her hands and mumbled, “Fantastic… noted.”
“Three. I got eyes like a hawk. Better than a hawk. Binoculars on my face that give me hella migraines.” He chugged his drink. “Bartender! Another!”
“Checks out.” Brenden poured Desmond a cup and took a swig from the barrel.
Desmond was swaying a little already. “And one last thing motherfuckers. I look… like this… because I wanted to look way better than I looked last life. Imma get mad bitches lookin’ like this!”
Brenden raised his cup. “To getting mad bitches!” He downed his cup and then poured Desmond another. Desmond just laid back. “Who’s next?”
Vetia looked up. “Fuck it. Pour me some.” She guzzled her cup immediately and grunted, looking at us tiredly. “I can absorb blood and shit through my skin to drink it.”
Brenden slammed his empty cup down. “You already said that! Does not count!”
“Shit, fine. Here’s one. I’ve got poison in my tail that can make you feel high.”
Desmond slumped up quickly. “Real shit? Hit me with it, I wanna try.”
Adam finished his cup. “I feel like we shouldn’t be injecting poison into each other. That just sounds like a really horrible idea.”
“Nah bro,” Desmond slurred, “I wanna get crossfaded as fuck!”
She scooted closer to me to reach her tail to Desmond. Her tail reached around my back and went to prick Desmond. There was no way that it was a good idea. That alcohol was hitting him like a freight train and getting crossed wasn’t gonna be good for him. I reached my hand out to grab her tail before it could reach him and I felt a poke in my hand. Everyone was looking down at my hand, which the tail pulled out of.
Desmond scooted toward me and looked me in the eyes. “What’s it feel like?”
I didn’t really feel anything yet. “I don’t know, maybe it takes a second t-” My head spun like a merry-go-round and my body felt like a wet noodle. My eyes stopped focusing on everything and I’m pretty sure I flopped back. It was so funny. I didn’t know what, but it was the most hilarious thing I had experienced in my entire life. I just giggled and giggled and let my arms sway in the wind above me. It felt like I couldn’t feel my body even though I could. Could I. Maybe. Ha. I felt a weird twinge in my stomach and my vision focused back in. My body lost its lightness and I felt like the poison was completely out of my system. Everyone was staring at me like their minds were blown.
Desmond’s eyes were wide and staring at me and Vetia. “ Whaaaaaat…”
Vetia held her cup out. “Gimme a drink now.” She began sipping it. “Tells how the hell did you just stop being high like that. My poison lasted for a while in the llama thing. It wasn’t even thirty seconds for you.”
I thought about the encounter with the first fireblood, and how I felt a similar sensation back then. “Hit me with the poison again.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Uh, okay.” I felt her tail jab into my leg. Almost immediately after, my gut felt the same twinge and the high feeling didn’t come back.
“Pour me one. I think poison doesn’t have an effect on me.”
Brenden chuckled. “Alright, I guess. Don’t think alcohol is gonna do shit to you then.”
Fuck. No. There’s no way. He said that and I took the cup, drinking as much of it as I could. It was sweet and tart like a sugary apple wine with a warming sensation all the way down, because it was very strong. I waited a second, feeling the warmth in my stomach. “Please don’t, please don’t, please don’t.” Sure enough, I felt the twinge in my gut, and the warm feeling went away immediately. I drank the rest of the cup. No warm feeling. Just the flavor and the little twinge. “No way. I’m immune to poison. I can’t get drunk.”
Brenden held his cup up. “That’s depressing as hell but we got a designated driver for life now!”
Adam leaned forward. “I wanted to be a big muscle man because being strong is cool and I wanted to be able to lift big things that I couldn’t lift in my old body.”
Brenden filled Adam’s cup. “Cheers, big man. If we’re talking about our bodies. I thought elves were cool and I wanted to be hot like I wasn’t before.” He filled his own cup again and drank from it. Brenden and Desmond were the farthest along, Desmond being sloshed and Brenden having a developing slur.
“Well shit, I guess if we’re being honest,” Vetia held her cup out. “I wanted to try something new, and I always though demons and vampires have a cool vibe. And also getting laid, I guess.”
Brenden burst out laughing. “Hell yeah! Weird ears gang out here being hot and tryna get laid!” I hadn’t realized it before, but he was right about the ears. Desmond’s and mine were normal, Adam’s were sharply pointed at the top and bottom, Vetia's had a few sharp tips and Brenden’s were long and pointed.
Desmond was laying down and raised his hand pointing toward us. “I knew y’all were insecure motherfuckers like me. Tells too, but she won’t tell us why she’s like that. Gimme some of that llama meat.” Brenden took a stick and tossed Desmond a flank of the meat. Desmond swallowed it up whole like a hungry dog.
I hadn’t really thought about why I looked like this, in fact I really didn’t know why. I thought we all wouldn’t know. I always had an off and on relationship with alcohol, having a lot of bad drinking and smoking experiences, so maybe that’s why I couldn’t be poisoned. I was certainly different now, but I just felt more confident in my body. I never thought much about my body before because I always hated it. I wanted to be whatever I wanted. I looked at my drunk friends around me.
Desmond bellowed out, “I’m hot and confident now, like you guys all said. Cheers to getting laid.”
Everyone cheered and drank. We drank and ate all night. The meat was good, but a little burnt. It tasted kind of like venison. I couldn’t get drunk like them, but it was comforting to be around all of them being idiots. At some point Vetia started jabbing everyone with her tail, sending everyone sky high and I think they eventually passed out. It was fun though, and it felt like we were back to normal again. No secrets. I found out later when I was the last one up, making sure nobody was vomiting and dying, that Vetia just didn’t sleep. She was hopelessly drunk by the road trying to learn how to fly, so I just kept an eye on everyone. The fire eventually died down and I sat there around the snoring fools and the flapping buffoon, occasionally hearing a loud thud and a groan behind me.
I finished the last of the meat, thinking about being here. I wondered what would be in the next city. I wasn’t too worried about Brenden and Desmond. Adam might stick out because he’s big, and Vetia might get killed if we cross those nobles. It would probably be best to let Brenden and Desmond lead the way there. They weren’t too bold and they could get along with anyone. I was terrible with people that weren’t this group of friends. I could manage, but I had a hard time connecting with people. No. Not anymore. I could be anything I wanted in this world. Anything. Nothing was holding me down.
As I was sitting there thinking, I felt another twinge in my stomach, and then in my legs and arms and my head. It didn’t hurt. It felt fluid, like I loosened up a lot and was really light. I could feel my entire body get shorter. I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t want it to be happening. As I felt reluctant, the sensation stopped.
I looked down at my hands and tried focusing. I thought about having bigger hands, with big talons like Geren had. My hands slowly seemed to morph into something similar to Geren’s hands. Long, weird talons and massive palms. It didn't feel real to me, and I lost focus after only a few seconds and they went back to being normal. I smiled to myself. I guess I knew why I was like this. I didn’t know the one thing I wanted to be when I first got here. All I knew was that I wanted to be whoever I wanted, and I guess I could do it with some practice.
I heard a massive thud and a string of curses behind me, but it just made me chuckle. I crawled into my tent and went to sleep, the happiest I had felt in a long time for how bad the day started. Regardless of our fireside conversation, we had a lot to talk about over the next few days of mindless travel.
Bio: I'm an amateur writer, but I've got a story in my head that I want to tell. What I write won't always be amazing, but I really think it will get better with experience. I love reading and watching anything fantasy, scifi and anything in that sort of wheelhouse. I've always been inspired by those genres to be creative and do my own thing, creating entirely new worlds, histories, creatures, plants and the whatnot. I like trying out new ideas in the genres I love.