Thirteen: The Wolf and the Falcon
Posted by Wolf2407 , in Act One: Roarke 06 August 2012 · 255 views
Meant to post this on my birthday, folks. Sorry it's so late.
The Wolf and the Falcon
The hunger was sharp enough to drive him to insanity.
Roarke fell to his knees, clutched his head in his hands, and whimpered with the sharp agony as his gut clenched and convulsed.
Tintrí, inside the coat and starving in her own right, screeched.
Light-headed with starvation, and shaking uncontrollably, Roarke somehow managed to gain his feet, and he reached inside the coat; understanding, Tintrí stepped onto his hand, fluttered to his shoulder.
With a spastic growl-whine in his throat, Roarke pulled the coat tighter over his shoulders, his eyes searching and probing the shadows.
He would have spoken, but the combination of famine and cold made his teeth rattle too badly.
He’d sworn to survive the winter, he remembered dimly. He’d sworn to survive the cold.
He’d forgotten about the fact that there was absolutely no food to be had.
Roarke lifted his gaze to the sky, and howled like a feral dog; a wild, desperate cry for help.
There was no answer.
He sucked in another ragged breath, forced it out, and watched his breath cloud in the air.
Breathe, he managed to think as the icy air stabbed like swords into his lungs. Breathe. In. Out. Again.
He doubled over, coughed violently as his throat felt like it was covered with sandpaper.
Inspired, he lunged for the nearest building, seized one of the icicles that dangled from the eave, and desperately broke off a piece with his teeth.
The pain of that stabbed again into his teeth, nested in his jaw, but the ice turned into water. Roarke bit again, and swallowed the shard of ice without waiting for it to melt.
When Tintrí made a low kak-kak sound, he broke off a smaller piece for her, offered it; grateful, she followed his lead and tilted her head to help it travel down her throat.
For both of them, the other was the only one in the world that they trusted.
“I’m out of ideas,” Roarke whispered. “I need your help.”
Carefully, she looked into his eyes, and lifted her wings.
And at that exact moment, a patch of snow some ten feet to left rustled.
Instantly, they both looked so sharply in that direction that the motion itself was nearly nonexistant.
Conscious thought lost, Roarke hissed quietly through his teeth, adjusted his footing and turned fully. Tintrí raised her feathers, and cackled softly- a sound that strangely, he understood better than human speech.
Watch out. Something’s on your flank.
“Point,” Roarke said softly.
Tintrí tossed her head in a motion similar to a horse’s, and that, he understood: flank.
Wait, she signaled quietly, shifting her weight on his hand. Wait.
For the falcon, the key was instinct: for the human, trust.
The black rat broke through the crust on the snow, peered at Roarke; it burrowed back under as he twitched suddenly, driven by some strange urge.
Wait, Tintrí hissed.
Roarke snarled quietly under his breath, but held his position.
Fear humans, her mother had told her, Tintrí thought. Fear humans, for they are cruel and unkind.
What was cruel about a boy who was so badly starved that he was human in body only?
The animal inside her could recognize its kindred when it was found, and she saw a wolf: feral, and caged.
The rat doomed itself when it climbed out of the snowpack, raised onto its hind legs to sniff the air, and then skittered forward.
She had an instant to jump off of Roarke’s hand before he lunged, and managed to get a grip on its ribcage.
With a displeased scree, she flapped her wings once and jumped to the spot where he knelt in the snow, struggling with his catch as it fought.
Humans, Tintrí thought, had had the hunter’s instinct mostly bred out of them.
But not this one. His awkwardness was that of inexperience only.
She reached, and gripping the rat’s skull in her talons, viced down hard enough to shatter it.
As Roarke watched her warily, she bent down, carefully ripped a strip of meat off of its back, straightened, and stared plainly back at him with that bit of fur still hanging from her beak.
She broke the tension by leaning her head back, swallowing the scrap- to her, a chunk of low-quality rat was on par with meat of pampered cow.
And like a mother hawk, she ripped off another piece- just meat this time, still steaming with the warmth of life- and offered it to him.
Sharing the kill, she thought, with one who’d earned his share.
He managed to make his hand move, and his fingers somehow understood the command to delicately take it from her.
At that moment, he doubted there was anything in the world that tasted better.
Intently, he followed her every motion as she took a piece for herself, offered him another, and with a clever flick of her talons, opened its ribcage.
“This could work,” Roarke said quietly, taking another bit from her, his mind clearing piece by piece. “We just might survive."