Shredder XXIX

The woman’s assessment had been swift and feral, head to hands and arms to eyebrows to groin and back again.  Gerard ladled stew as the inspection took place, grateful that her shriek was brief and guttural.  With luck, their presence would be overlooked for normal nocturnal activity of the local fauna.  Still, he thought it best to mention the danger.

“There are considerable predators in this region,” he spoke in even tones, “I would recommend keeping the outbursts to a minimum.”

Her gaze came to rest on him as he spooned some of the hot meal into his mouth.  The look held accusation, but Gerard simply shook his head to dispel such nonsense.  “No,” he added when she hesitated, “I found you as such.  I gather you had some length of hair last you recalled?”

“I’m hairless,” she responded, befuddled despair lacing her words, “Utterly.”

Gerard nodded in understanding and gestured to the steaming bowl of nourishment.  “I noted as much when I carried you to our shelter here.”

The woman looked at him over the warm bowl she worshipped with her hands.  A pang of guilt ran through Gerard and he set his own meal down and began unlacing some of the buckles on his jerkin.  He quickly pulled free a length of fabric which he wore wrapped around his midsection to foster warmth.  Tossing the meager ball of cloth to his counterpart, he said, “My apologies for not offering this sooner.  In truth, I figured the cold was your element, considering how I found you.”

The woman snorted as she caught the fabric and wrapped it around her neck and head, closing her eyes in delight with the transferred warmth of her makeshift scarf-hood.  “You carried me?  That I would have liked to see.  You don’t look like you way over four stone.  How far?  Where did you find me?  You must take me there.”  Warmth and nourishment had loosened her resolve, words pouring forth.

“I will,” Gerard raised a staying hand, “At first light.  Now, may we please start at the beginning?”  The color had come back to her cheeks fully, and for a moment he was sure she was going continue to rail against him.

“Well enough,” a simple nod escaped her, “There’s certainly strangeness afoot.  May be best if we talk it out.  Alright, first, thank you for your kindness Gerard.”

A hint of surprise walked across the Halfling’s face, and he nodded graciously.

“My name is Merinde.”


Shredder XXX

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