Morning came swiftly. The snowfall did not ease, and when Lucy woke up she found herself under a second layer of snow. She shook her head, shivering as she grumbled about the cold, and then looked up.
Ariss sat on the steps, in the same place he had been the previous night, covered in his own dusting of snow. Lucy tilted her head to one side. “Haven’t you moved this entire time?”
He looked up slowly, snow falling from his hair, a clump sliding down his shoulder. “Hm? Oh. No.”
She frowned, stretching out her paws slowly, claws digging into the tarpaulin. “How do you manage it? Don’t you get restless if you don’t move?”
Her question was met with a shrug, and he stood up. The rest of the snow fell from him, and he shook his head to dislodge any that still lay in his hair. The morning was dark and grey, the trees above them towering over, branches weighed down and bowing with the weight of the snow atop their leaves. Ariss looked through a gap in the layered boughs, looking toward the skyline he had observed in the previous evening. His attention was returned to Lucy as she stood up, obscuring his view. Ariss looked up at her, and walked down the steps, toward her.
She seemed nervous at first. Her fear had still not completely disappeared, and he could not fault her for that. He helped pull off the layers of covering from her back, laying them flat on the ground, the more waterproof sections on top. Then, he put one hand lightly on her wounded shoulder, and carefully unwrapped the bandages.
Lucy stood still, her muscles tense. Every few seconds, shots of pain would spike, as he knocked a particularly tender part of her wound.
It was healing, Ariss had noticed. He frowned, examining the scales around the damaged area carefully. The dried blood around the area had been cleaned off by the bandage, and he could not mistake the clean tissue beneath, showing the signs of healing. He glanced toward Lucy’s head, as she looked away, before he started to put the bandage back on. “I’ll redress it later, if Lola and Scarlett have clean bandages.” He paused for a moment, before an idea struck him. “Or, they might be willing to. They’ll have more experience in dressing wounds than I do. Or at least, they’ll remember what to do.”
She muttered a quiet thanks, waiting for him to step away before she shook herself. A ripple ran through her entire body, dislodging any snow that had become matted in her fur. She took a deep breath, watching happily as her breath steamed in a cloud, and she sighed. “What are we going to do while we’re here?”
His answer was delayed. “I’m not sure. You need to heal completely, and I suggest you figure out how to hunt properly. You’ve only killed and eaten once.” He started to walk toward the cabin. “Perhaps Lola could help you. She must have been in a similar situation at one point.”
Thinking back to the previous night, a question rose in her mind. “Why did you tell me not to attack her? She was tearing you to pieces.”
“Think about it.” He replied, almost immediately after she had said it. “I knew that she was a werewolf. I’ve seen them many times before, and every wolf I’ve seen has had little to no control over themselves.”
“Wouldn’t that mean it’s… better… to kill them, stop the danger for other people?”
“No. Far from it, Lucy. Most werewolves I have seen have been innocent people, trapped within a body that does not belong to them, that they cannot control. It is not their fault this happens to them, I think it unfair that we decide they should die for it.” He turned to face her, once again without an expression on his face. “If I were living, and had the ability to die, I would have fought back. I wouldn’t have thrown my sword aside, but I wouldn’t have directly tried to kill her. Back when I actually was alive… Well, I didn’t quite understand.”
The pair fell into silence for a moment, before Lucy spoke again. “Did you hunt things other than dragons? Like, did you hunt things for bounty, or… or what?”
“I hunted many things when I was alive- mostly dragons, of course. They fetched the best price. But I’ve hunted my fair share of other creatures, many of which I have not seen since I returned.”
There was a loud click as the door to the cabin opened, and Scarlett stepped out over the thresh hold, wearing pyjamas and slippers, with a dressing gown tied loosely around her waist. “I- i- it’s c- cold out here, a- are you sure you d- don’t want to co- come inside?”
“Let them do what they want, Scarlett.” Lola sounded irritated, as though she had been woken up earlier than she had wanted.
“It’s okay.” Lucy reassured Scarlett, who was wavering. The girl nodded to the dragon, hopping back inside and shutting the door again. “You can go in if you want.” She said to Ariss, looking up at the sky, feeling the cold snowflakes land on her muzzle.
“I prefer being outside.” He said, and started to walk away, toward the trees. “I’m going to look around, make sure we weren’t followed.” He left without another word, leaving his own large footprints behind as he trudged through the snow. It was around a foot deep at this point. There had been a brief period of heavy snow that night, with strong winds that blew it into the areas it couldn’t quite reach properly earlier.
Lucy sighed, starting an attempt to fold up the blankets, pushing at corners with her muzzle, pulling back edges with her claws.
There was a loud, constant tapping. It drilled into his head, and he was aware of a quiet chanting- a noise that grew and grew in power with every tap, until it rang through his body, and the man found himself staring into darkness. Darkness surrounded him, encasing him in something, trapping him. He was aware of something holding his limbs still, holding him down so he couldn’t move. After a few moments, there was sudden light, and a cry of triumph. He heard muttering, an excited chatter moving through a crowd. The chatter died down as more mud was removed from his face, uncovering the pale bone of his skull.
After a few more minutes, his eye sockets were completely uncovered, and he stared up at the faces of people. There were two in the grave, standing toward the side, both holding large spades. The chanting had stopped, and he could see more people above, leaning over to get a look. There was silence, and the diggers stopped. One of them- a sturdily built man, wearing dark brown clothes, a scruffy beard over the lower half of his face- looked up, one foot on the top of the spade. He said something in a language the man could not understand- a language that still sounded strangely familiar. The other person in the hole joined in the conversation. The skeleton in the hole was aware of fingers being pointed toward him, and the sound of people arguing.
Confused, he tilted his skull, looking at the rotted wood that had made up his coffin. There was a shout, and the conversation died. The woman who stood above his head raised one hand to cover her mouth, pointing straight down at his head. He shifted a little beneath the heavy load of mud, trying to move his arm. The man closest to him jumped, yelping.
One by one, the assembled group turned to look at him, and brief words were exchanged. The second man in the hole- slimmer than the other man, and younger- knelt down by his skull, looking down with bright eyes. He said something, a question, the corpse realised, and then waited patiently for an answer.