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Aug 08, 2022 4:23 AM
An exile fails to die
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The man was apparently part of a group, according to this, and they were outfitted with much more than a magic bracelet and despair, though Taharqi does note that the corpse has a bracelet of its own. They encountered a sandstorm, too, and it seems like the last bits of the writing were penned just before it, as the rest of the pages are blank.

A shame. He wonders what happened to his companions, but not for very long, and soon resumes his trek.

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He could cry.

He can hear the river long before he can see it, and it's all he can do not to sprint like a madman towards the sounds. Steady, slow, he's come all this way...

Through a pass between two tall rocky rises, there's grass now, not the dry all-but-dead kind from the past several days but actual green grass, actual green trees that can draw water from the earth because there is waterwater water water he will soon have water -

...it's more beautiful than anything he's ever seen in his life. At that point he does sprint, he runs full tilt into the water, he drops his axe and drops his waterskin because who needs waterskin when you have this much water, he submerges himself whole without even bothering to take his clothes off, he can't wait, can't hold himself back anymore, there's water!

(The back of his mind notices the humongous stone statues over yonder and wonders at them, but is mostly ignored in favour of water.)

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After drinking so much his stomach hurts he waddles back to shore to properly get rid of his soaked clothes before going back into the river and just staying there. Even as the sun comes higher up in the sky, it can't hurt him, it can't can't can't because he has water and everything will be okay after all and oh he's crying he didn't know he was feeling so bad before but he was, he was rationing magicked water and always on guard and always waiting for something terrible to happen but not this time, fuckers, because there's water.

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Now, when Taharqi encountered those jackals in the sandstorm, he figured it was something about the sandstorm that made them devil-touched.

He is about to be disabused of this notion.

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Not a full hour later he hears the growl, and his head is so fuzzy from what in retrospect is probably something close to sun stroke that it takes him nearly ten seconds to spot the source.

He did not expect a fully grown crocodile to be waddling towards him in the water.

That's absolutely bizarre. Crocodiles are pretty chill, in his experience! If you don't mess with them they're content to leave you be! And yet, this specific crocodile seems to be decidedly not very content, and Taharqi should... probably run away? Probably swimming back to shore and running is better than staying in the water, crocodiles can swim rather fast.

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The weirdly aggressive crocodile continues to waddle after him even as he puts considerable distance between them, until he eventually grows tired of this and just sprints off.

Which is... not that great an idea, actually, when he's probably suffering from sun stroke and furthermore hasn't eaten anything in perhaps two days. His vision blacks out for a moment and when he comes to he can see the crocodile in the distance, still chasing him with purpose.

Okay, no more sprinting, even light jogging should be fast enough and besides humans typically have more endurance than the vast majority of other animals. When they're not starving, anyway; he really should fix that.

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It takes a bit for him to convince himself he's lost the creature. And of course, he left all his belongings all the way back there, meager as they are. Oh well, he can come back for them later, now that the sun is getting to high noon he really should find himself some shade and something to eat. The riverside should have berry bushes and if he's lucky they'll be ones he recognises as safe.

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That's when he hears the shout followed by the twang of an arrow landing on the tree next to him. Looking in the direction they came from, he sees two people, dressed in ragged hides and holding makeshift weapons jogging in his direction. One of them has a bow, a pretty crappy one though still better than the one he made on his way here, and is readying another arrow.

"I'm not hostile!" he calls. "I'm new here! I won't hurt you!"

He's very sure he called loudly enough to be heard, and nevertheless the one with the bow shoots at him again. Seems like as good an excuse as any to resume flight.

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Except humans are just as capable of running as he is, so he'll need to change tacks. He heads for the water, instead, and dives into it once it gets deep enough, swimming at a thirty degree angle from the shore.

More arrows miss him, there, but he eventually does have to come up for air, which is when he'll be most vulnerable. There isn't cover anywhere, though, so might as well get it over with.

Up, and he spots the pair looking at him from the shore, seemingly not willing to get into the water themselves. The archer continues trying to shoot at Taharqi, but a combination of a bad bow and a lack of skill sees him still unscratched, if winded.

What in Set's name is wrong with this place.

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He swims away, more slowly now that it's become pretty clear that that person's aim is just actually shit and he's not in any danger, but back west towards where he'd left his belongings. Once he's far enough away, he starts making his way back to shore...

...and the fucking crocodile's there. Seriously? And now it's swimming towards him, and there he is absolutely outmatched. So okay he will need to get back to shore quickly before the crocodile catches up, which means going at an angle, and then run overland, westwards. This is getting ridiculous and he actually shouldn't be running around on an empty stomach under the desert sun, water or no water, but being eaten by a crocodile or turned into a porcupine by weirdly insistent locals are both worse options, so.

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He powers through the feelings of dizziness, trying to keep an eye out for any food. Maybe he should climb a tree, but then he'll be an easy target for any other people who might show up and want to shoot him so actually scrap that idea.

Now here he can find some cacti, it sure would've been nice to have any of that before, but whatever, they don't seem to have fruit of any kind so he presses on.

...and on. And on. And on. And he's pretty sure he recognises these landmarks, and the huge twin statues over there are closer than they were when he first arrived which means he's already walked past where his belongings should've been?

Did someone steal his stuff. Which is mostly fine except for the axe, the axe is important, did someone steal his axe?

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Someone absolutely did steal his axe. And everything else he owned.

Or maybe it was a crocodile, who the fuck even fucking knows.

He... guesses he'll keep walking westwards, then, and see if he can find literally anything to eat. He's not about to pass out from hunger, he's gone longer than this without food, it's just the combination of no food and the desert sun and having to swim and run away from murderous creatures that's kinda getting to him. ...also the tiredness, probably, come to think of it he's been nocturnal for the past several days which means it is many hours past his sleep time right now. But he doesn't dare stop to sleep, not until he's reasonably certain no murderous fauna or locals will find him.

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A few minutes later, he runs into... something.

It's... not a turtle. But also not a gorilla. It is, in fact, an abomination of nature. But whatever, at this point Taharqi is beyond caring, anything that's not trying to kill him - and thankfully, the gorilla turtles aren't - isn't his problem.

...but it might be food.

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Could he take on a gorilla turtle?

Maybe if he still had his axe, or perhaps a sword would've been better for the occasion. But even if he were to try to fashion one right now out of the resources around him, it would take him a long time and not even be that sharp. And it would, of course, just make him tireder and hungrier.

But he can probably run from a gorilla turtle, unless they're much faster than they appear, and their eggs look rather appealing.

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...except.

They're right by the river. The eggs are right there. Anyone could come and steal them, they're in plain view.

They're in plain view, visibly unstolen.

With all the other exiles who must be around here, who must congregate near the river, and all the animals like evil crocodiles and whatever else that are around, the eggs are right there, in plain view, unstolen.

This implies things about the gorilla turtles' ability to protect their eggs. It implies things that Taharqi is rather unwilling to test, in fact, when he's tired and hungry and naked. So instead of doing the probably-suicidal thing he will just walk on and not steal any eggs.

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No, actually, he'll steal the eggs and run, he decides after a while. He still hasn't found any other sources of food, and realistically speaking the same logic that applies to the eggs applies to river berries: any that can be eaten will have been. And he is definitely not in a good enough state to fight something for its meat. And he still does not dare stop and sleep because with this luck he will absolutely be found by another crocodile (or maybe the same crocodile, insistent bastard) or some exile who figures a half-dead Kushite is, in fact, food.

He is not food and he will remain not being food, thank you kindly.

His main guesses for what the threat model here would be is either that the gorilla turtles are much faster than they look, or they chase you very persistently. The webbed toes suggest they're at least somewhat well-adapted to water, the arms suggest some climbing ability, but he can't imagine they'd be very good with open areas with nothing to climb and nowhere to swim.

Relatedly, the trees around here are actually pretty tall and sturdy. He'll count that as evidence for his theory.

Open areas make him a vulnerable target, too, though, if any other hostile exiles decide to try to kill him again and are better with a bow than that first one. Conversely, he'd have an easy time spotting them, too, and all he needs is to run enough that the gorilla turtles stop giving chase. And if he gets a bit porcupined by it, so be it; he can deal with injuries later, after he's found somewhere to rest and filled his stomach.

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With that decided, he starts executing.

First, he needs to scout the surrounding area, find what direction will give him the most manoeuvrability and longest stretch of open terrain. It kinda sucks that the river is right there because this is exactly where all the trees are going to grow, and as a corollary open areas are going to be away from it. He suppresses a twinge of panic at the thought of leaving - it'll still be there for him later, he does not have the time for desert-related trauma right now.

Then he needs to think of contingencies. There's no way the gorilla turtles are good at every form of movement, animals specialise and if nothing else their shapes will influence things even if in ways that'll surprise him. So while his current plan is open areas, if he finds that the animals are capable runners he'll instead go back to the trees and try to bank on expected superior agility. And if nothing else, he can drop the eggs in the worst case.

(A trap would be ideal. Dig a hole in advance, or a net, or something. But he doesn't have the time, right now, he can feel his thoughts slowing down and will need to rely on adrenaline to carry him for a bit.)

And so... here goes nothing.

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