Author’s Note: I had to rewrite this chapter because it was too violent. It’s definitely not young child safe, but it’s also a slight departure from how under-whelmingly violent things have been thus far. Please take note.
“Wuuuahh!!!!” Tristain flails in my arms and scrambles to escape my grasp. Not wanting to let him go, I decide to hold him in place. I frown at thought of him leaving my safety. “It talks! It’s ursine! Holy…”
“Tch, child, settle one’s self.” The Bearfolk disproves of Tristian’s outburst and crosses her arms. “Lest we take your behavior as impolite. We’ve eaten humes for lesser offenses.”
That’s my cue. How dare she threaten my food source! “You’re not allowed to eat Tristain, he’s my food source.” I hold him tighter, but hear some strange noises coming from him. “I’ll tear your limbs to pieces.” This was my food source, after all. She has no rights here. Mine. He feeds me, and warms me!
“Ah ha ha ha… ya’ gals shou’d be settle’ng it lateh. Shows uh startin’.” The trader motions for us to stop and points back to the gate.
“Ah, we see it’s standard fare this time.” The bearfolk, ‘Ursine’ as Tristain had called her, comments, watching a number of people exiting the town gate.
One woman, and one girl, both bound by ropes, and several men hold their reigns, struggling to pull them along. The woman is the one Tristain knocked out yesterday. She is furiously fighting her bindings, making clear she is enormously strong, and more than a match for even two or three of the men struggling against her. Unfortunately, it appears there are five assigned just to her.
“Aye, failure, ‘tis failure bein’ punished.”
Tristain sits up, and gently pushes my arms and vines away, rapt attention on the scene before him, then stands to watch better. I decide to do the same and stand next to him. I can hear his pulse quicken.
We all stare as two townfolk men wrap rope loops around two especially thick, delimbed tree trunks, and tie them off. The other ends are tied to a dark blue haired female child, spreading her out upright in the open air. We can hear the fear in the voices of the two girls as they beg, but we cannot make out their words. They appear related, as both child and woman have the same deep blue hair color, a rarity among humes.
“We despise these people. We’d murder them all, given a chance. Damaging their own this way, despicable.” The bearfolk woman scoffs and frowns.
“I’s once one, missy.” The trader responds.
“Tch. We’re sorry, Glen, you’re a darling.” The bearfolk softens her glare and lets her shoulders drop.
“Can’t say I’mma disagreein’ tho’.” He puts on a solemn frown and watches his former people at work.
There is a pause for a few minutes, while people stream from the village gate. It’s clear that the all of the women, both child and adult, are naked, except for chains on their arms and legs. With heads down, they kneel in front of the girl raised in the air. The men and boys stand behind them, watching. Lastly, the flower man from yesterday, the one who appeared to be in charge, arrives with Mika Food, and her mother in tow, also stripped of their clothes. Food keeps her head down and turned away. She doesn’t watch.
There are some words spoken by the flower man.
Tristain speaks up, “what are they doing?” His face scrunched in confusion.
The bearfolk woman responds, “She must be a void, such a waste. Voids are so strong physically, one can’t injure them normally, only cause some pain. You shall see. They’ll bring out our greatest shame. The betrayer of our race. He will perform the despicable act.”
A great bear strolls out from the gate, one larger than the ones I had seen so far. Around its neck is a large blocky collar with a rope attached, a woman holds it, guiding him forward to the screaming child. We could see from here, he first scores a lash across her back, dragging his claw through her flesh like a finger through loose soil.
“Disgusting. Be it food, or enemy, to torture… Unforgivable. Where is his pride as a bearfolk. He is a disgrace. Either kill her, eat her, or leave her. There is no pride in this.” The Ursine’s words were quiet but they felt like flames on my leaves.
Suddenly, the bear roared loudly, with a raised head, and takes one of the child’s arms completely, before walking back to the gate.
Tristain takes half a step then wretches, wafting the smell of bile into the air. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat any time soon. My appetite is ruined. I can’t imagine living without one of my arms.
“Stand, weakling, you eat our kin, we do the same here to yours; yet you have not the eyes for this? Watch how your kind treats their own!” The bearfolk woman reprimanded Tristain, “Know that we hate this, but you turning away is just as bad. Your kind did this! Can you not feel shame for this?!”
Tristain lowered his head and fell to the ground, his hands covering his face. “What the hell did I just watch…?”
“‘Tis retr’bution of fail’re, ‘tis law.” The trader answered his question, “‘tis how they treat anyone failin’. Teachin’ the Mother, and other mothers. Failin’ ain’t allowed.”
“They are the scum of this world, darling. We wish them gone. And you, you have a Dryad.” The bearfolk woman looked at Tristain, and pointed to me. “We have a chance to exterminate them with your inamorata, this Dryad. Darling, lend us your assistance to wipe this foul stench, this offensive stain from the world.” Her words dripped with hatred.
“Inamorata?” I respond. I’ve never heard that word.
Tristain looks at me, bewildered and scary. “Of all she says, that’s the part that matters to you?! They just fed her arm to that bear, and you’re concerned with her thinking we’re lovers?”
I… I don’t understand. Why is he mad and yelling at me? He’s frightening me. Why is he doing that? I can feel my leaves curling. Don’t be mad at me Tristain! Feed me and keep me warm!
Thanks for the support! I am in your care!