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some places really need to be sued
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She spins and faced down whatever that just was, arms up in front of her as she naturally falls into walking stance. It's the last little remains of tae kwon do and karate that she took when she was in her early teens, and honestly it she wouldn't trust it to hold up in a real fight but it's comforting and also it is in fact a good idea to have your hands up and be in a stable stance when you're worried about being attacked.

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Something ducks behind the crest of the hill behind her. Low to the ground, moving on all fours. From the little she saw, the gait's all wrong.

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Fuck. She can keep moving down this road and not run in case that triggers predatory behavior and also make sure her constant panning includes behind her.

She needs to remind herself that if the notebook was being honest with her she's not really at substantial risk of permanent physical harm here. Suddenly that if statement feels wide enough to drive a truck through.

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She wishes she had a weapon. Fuck it, her scanning can include scanning for well-shaped sticks. It'd be notably- wait, super-strength. Rocks picked up off the ground and thrown are probably worth more than a stick that would just snap. Any nicely palm-sized rocks for her to pick up?

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Here's one now. 

When she stoops to pick up the rock, the thing comes over the hill at her, knuckling on its fists like a gorilla in a lope that brings its bloody snaggled teeth closer DAMN FAST. There's maybe twenty strides of flat ground between her and the thing and soon there won't be any. 

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And there it is. She somehow feels simultaneously panicked and like she's in more control of herself than she's ever been. Her stance shifts and her arm goes back and then she's throwing the rock directly at this thing's centre of mass as hard as she can.

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The rock smashes right through its leading arm as it charges, then breaks its hip to pieces. It flails and goes down, landing heavily on its shoulder. 

It seems disoriented, but not dead. Its remaining arm pushes at the soil to try and lift it, but it gets nowhere. Alethia can get a good look at it now.

It's vaguely humanoid, but with a simian posture. Dense black fur on the parts of it which are intact, which are not all of it; it looks half-rotted, and smells to match. The bone structure's malformed and off from one side to the other; its remaining leg is shorter than the other one. 

It moans, a surprisingly human noise. 

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Oh god. That sound.

Did she just kill somebody?

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No, whatever this thing is, if it's a person it was very obviously going after her and she's not going to collapse into guilt about defending herself.

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Yet, anyway. She can do that later, if it's warranted.

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If the metanarrative protection is real at all she wouldn't have been thrown into some place where the first thing that would happen is her killing an actual person.

But. It would be remiss of her not to check.

"Are you okay?" she asks. She knows it's inane and the answer is "no" but this maybe-person won't speak English anyway and the goal is to get it to try saying something back in words if it can do that.

 

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It's. It's dying anyway. And might be in too much pain to respond even if it could normally.

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It groans unintelligibly and then it tries to get up. It doesn't succeed; its right leg is shattered.

There's actually a remarkable lack of any blood. There's broken bones but they're not bleeding visibly.

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It looks half-rotted. It suddenly attacked her out of nowhere. And it's not properly bleeding. And she felt the presence of something that really did seem like an honest-to-goodness ghost, earlier.

It's probably undead. Or horribly diseased and half dead.

And it's probably not getting up from that wound.

And if it did, if it healed, maybe the next traveller wouldn't be as lucky as her and would find themselves getting eaten.

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But. That voice.

She'll. Wait a moment. To see if it actually says any words.

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It tries to get up again, to no more success. It makes another noise, but it's not coherent at all.

It does seem to be weakening a little.

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It's getting weaker. It's not going to live through this, probably, and if it did it might kill someone less lucky than her.

And in the world where this was all somehow- some sort of misunderstanding. And she's watching a very sick person die in front of her. It would probably be, on average, in most worlds, crueller to let them die here, slowly and in pain, rather than quickly. She thinks. She could pick it up and run to the nearest town and hope they somehow have healing magic, but it would keep trying to eat her and for all she knows it's got some terrible communicable disease and she's looking at a strangely shaped fast zombie.

And. It really does look like the situation is just that a maneating monster with a voice that sounds human just tried to kill and eat her and she's in very dangerous territory and she's wasting time agonizing over whether to put it out of its misery.

She doesn't know how to heal, or if that's even a thing in this universe for people who aren't her true loves, and she-

already knows what the right answer is, here, for what she should do next.

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She picks up another rock and throws it into its head.

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The rock shatters its skull. It falls, and doesn't stir again.

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She takes a deep, steadying breath.

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And then picks up a few more rocks before continuing down the path.

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The path winds on and on, and then...

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The hills level out into a large dell, filled with fields of wheat. The signs of cultivation are obvious. And then out among them there's a rickety little village, all crowded together like the houses are huddling for warmth. 

There are even a few people visible; they seem to be reaping the fields for the winter. 

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One of them looks over at her, then looks away, picks up his bundle of straw and walks off into the village proper.

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People! Glorious civilization!

She. Is normally kind of incredibly shy, but it's kind of not getting in the way at the moment? Her current situation just kind of- doesn't have room for it.

Is Friends In Low Places saying anything about, uh, how she should go about interacting with this village in a way that will leave her more informed, not attemptedly lynched, and also with them sort of generally positively disposed to her?

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