“Huh?!” Food looked at me dumbfounded.
Tristain had a worried look on his face. “I’m afraid you’d accidentally kill me.” That was nonsense, he is the food source. No sense in killing that.
“Let’s just get going to the nearest village… I don’t want to live here with two very… disturbing… ug, let’s just pack and go.” Disheartened, Food started jamming things into one of the makeshift bags.
“B-but what about my Ice?” Seriously, I wanted more ice!
Tristain chuckled. “I would feed you either way, just let me know when you’re hungry. You’re a good friend, Lilia. I will always take care of you if you take care of me.” He smiled. That smile made me feel warm inside, like basking in the midday light in a clearing. It was the smile of Food Source, after all.
I can’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed. Sure, I was getting what I wanted, but it was as if it was at the expense of my resolve. He gave no consideration for what I was willing to give. It left a somewhat un-hearty taste in my mouth.
While I was thinking of my wasted resolve, Tristain and Food had finished packing. He handed me a bag, the one with all the bear claws in it.
“Carry this for us, please? I think it will be useful for trading. For some reason, they seem to be stronger than bear bones, and lighter than wood.” He pressed the bag to me again, and I took it, palming it for weight.
“Yeah, like, we give another person a bear claw, and they give us some food, or something.” He explained.
I wasn’t so sure I understood though. “But we have you, and you give us food, right? You cook for Food, and you give me Food. You are Food Source.”
He smiled. “So, I give you ice, right? That has value to you. You help protect me and Mika, and that has value to us. We trade those services. These bear claws can be useful to other people. So I want to trade them to other people, and then I get something from them of value. Trading. Make sense?”
“O-oh.” Tristain is smart sometimes. He wasn’t very smart against the bear. But it seems like he thinks a lot. “Well, if Food Source says so…” I muttered to myself.
“Come on, let’s get going!” He climbed up using some indents in the wall, and lept over to the other side.
I followed along, and was somewhat taken aback at the devastation. For a small tree’s height as distance away in all directions, the trees had been cleared from the walls that previously surrounded us. There was also a pile of bear carcasses at the edge of the clearing. They were in various states of decay, some partially stripped of their skins. Climbing among them were smaller bears, picking from the wreckage of their brethren’s entrails. They did not seem keen on getting near us.
This was unusual in many ways, but the most surprising part was the bears’ wariness of us. Never had I seen a bear shy away from anything edible. For a moment, I thought I had seen a hume among them, but upon closer inspection, I could not see anything out of the ordinary. It felt odd, like they were watching us.
“Lilia, don’t stare, you’ll anger them. They finally started to respect us and our walls, I’d rather they not be insulted by our gawking and start the fight back up.”
Huh? Food source just said some very odd things. Are bears really that smart? All I had ever seen them do was attack and eat things. Occasionally, they would drag dead prey somewhere, but never had I seen any show of intelligence to their actions.
I stopped staring and hustled to catch up to Tristain and Food. They had continued on while making effort to not look at the bears, the corpses, or anything in that general direction. I can’t say that was advisable and found it somewhat dangerous. Clearly, the bears, Food and Tristain had come to some sort of agreement. Maybe he offered them food. That’s quite the incentive, after all.
We walked from morning till night, and then through till daytime again. Neither Food nor Tristain rested for longer than a moment other than to defecate. They even ate while walking, having the foodless bear flesh I saw over the fire. I was impressed by their endurance, and my evaluation of Food, Mika, definitely rose. I expected no less from Tristain.
While we walked, several conversations came up, but nothing of much note.
“I still don’t believe you.”
“It’s true, though. These day night cycles are odd. We easily worked through at least fifteen of them the first ‘day’ I spent with you.” Mika, the Food, reaffirmed.
“There is no way I stayed up for 15 days. That’s like… three hundred and sixty hours. The most I’ve done before is fifty-ish,” Tristain scoffed.
I didn’t feel there was much value in talking about such things, so kept my thoughts to myself. We Dryads did sleep, mentally, but we could do so while walking. In fact, I’m not sure I didn’t fall asleep for part of our walk just now. I would get hungry, and ask Tristain for food occasionally, and sometimes, he would have some ready for me, without me asking.
He had taken the habit of giving me food in odd shapes. At first it was somewhat curious to try and eat them, but then I realized he was doing it to test me. I did not like this.
“Make me normal food, this is very upsetting.” Mika, the Food, looked over at what I was holding, and, for a second, I could have swore I saw steam from her ears. Her face was bright red, and she smacked Tristain in the back of the head, hard enough to knock him over.
“Look, she doesn’t know what that is, and you’re having fun at her ignorance. That’s not nice. Don’t treat her as your entertainment source.” Mika, the Food, took my ice I had been holding. It was a longer than normal cylinder with two spheres attached at one end. She then proceeded to snap it over her knee and showed it to Tristain. “I’ll do that for real if I see you do that again.” She gave the broken food back to me, then stomped off. These shapes are much smaller and easier to eat!.
Tristain looked visibly pale, and muttered a quick “Sorry…” after getting up. He rubbed his pants and followed after Mika, the Angry Food.
Thanks for the support! I am in your care! Whew. Kids are back in school… Not sure if that is a time bonus or a time drain.