|By : GrayNeko|
Category: -Misc TV Shows > General
Views: 67 -:- Recommendations : 0 -:- Currently Reading : 0
|Disclaimer: I do not own the Dark Crystal or The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, or any characters from either series. I make no profit from writing this piece.|
Jane didn't understand what was happening. One moment she'd been jogging and the next she was tripping over a tree branch and plunging into a pool of water. When she surfaced, beneath her sudden panic there was the observation that wherever she was could easily be mistaken for the Amazon. Or nearly, because besides having been in the US a second ago, several thousand miles from the Amazon, she watched as what looked like a clump of grass picked itself up from the edge of the pool of water and squeak as it scurried off into the swampy terrain. That let panic take full control, spurring her to scramble out of the pool even if she had no idea where to go or what to do.
Jane pushed wet strands of blonde from her face as she spun at every little noise, none of them familiar. The air was humid, but despite that she was shivering and a small corner of her mind feared she was going into shock. Everything she wore was soaked, the squelch of her shoes sparking the urge to check her phone. The arm case she kept it in had saved it from the worst of any potential water damage. The lack of signal or bars meant it was little more than a flashlight at the moment, which might actually be useful given how thick the canopy overhead was.
Jane stopped to lean against a tree as she took several deep breaths to combat her mounting fear. She needed to think, running around blindly would just make things worse. That meant she had to get her bearings, find an opening in the canopy. Cautiously, and still shivering, she began to scan the tree tops periodically. It was nerve wracking because things that only sometimes resembled animals kept fleeing as she moved about and she nearly jumped out of her skin every time.
Eventually, Jane noticed that some of the trees seemed to form natural pathways over the network of pools, rivers and muddy terrain. At first, she thought it was just how the long, winding branches grew, but some definitely were smoother, almost polished from having born many creatures travelling across them. Jane tested one of the thicker branches, and though it creaked under her weight, the branch held. She began to travel along the branches to avoid walking across the irregular patches of soggy soil.
The forest seemed to go on forever in every direction and soon sweat had drenched her jogging clothes anew as the humidity clung to her like a wet blanket. Jane considered trying to climb higher but the network of branches grew together so tightly there'd be no way for her to breach the treetops. With frustration mounting, Jane began to speed up until she was nearly jogging again. She stuck to thicker branches that seemed to keep going in the same direction, hoping that something would eventually give her an idea of what to do next.
Jane was so focused on maintaining her balance and speed, she never heard the whirring sound approach and screamed as her legs suddenly became entangled. She fell, slamming into another branch hard enough to drive the air from her lungs. She scrambled to hold on to that branch even as her ribs ached and she struggled to breathe, but with her legs thoroughly ensnared, her arms couldn't do the job on their own. She fell further, landing hard in a shallow pool of water that many little things scurried away from. Jane groaned as she lay in the muck and started to push herself up, wondering what had happened, when a spear tip was shoved in her face. She froze, staring at the odd blue spear head mere inches from her face before slowly turning her focus to the spear's wielder.
The strangest creature Jane had ever seen stared down at her harshly. Golden-yellow eyes glared at her from under the shadow of long, dreadlock-like braids of dark hair. A face that was slightly elongated with a rather flat nose still managed to convey anger and surprise. Their skin shifted from golden tan to green near their hairline and small bumps that seemed almost like horns enhanced their angry expression. Their clothes seemed to consist of hides and wraps and Jane noticed a bolo on their hip.
"What are you? Some new Skeksis monstrosity?"
Jane had not been ready for the creature to speak and doubly unready for it to say something she could understand. Her mouth worked soundlessly and then she jumped as the spear tip came even closer, the creature's wide mouth twisting in a snarl.
"Speak if you can! Why have you come to the Sog?" The creature's voice was surprisingly deep and masculine.
"I-I'm lost," Jane finally managed to get out. "The Sog? Where on Earth is that? Where am I?"
Perhaps it was her fearful expression or the desperate confusion in her voice, but the creature began to lower his spear as he truly studied her. He shifted closer, looking her in the eyes and seemed to start slightly, which Jane didn't know what to make of that.
This close, Jane finally noticed that he was incredibly small, his head would only reach a little higher than her hips if she were standing. That did nothing to lessen her fear, considering her legs were still bound and he was still armed.
"I didn't mean to come here, if that helps," Jane tried to explain. "In fact, I have no idea how I got here. I-"
"Quiet!" the little creature suddenly hissed, spinning to face the forest behind him. Jane tried to shift away from him but he snapped over his shoulder, "Be still!"
Jane froze, more because of the change in his demeanor. He seemed more intent on something else moving through the swamp, something that might actually be dangerous. A scream caught in Jane's throat as what looked like an many-finned eel came floating through the air. Only the creature's warning to remain silent and still kept her from scrambling backwards as the strange eel wriggled through the air like it was swimming. The little male before her ignored the eel until it swam to him and curled around his shoulders. It made a series of low, almost musical notes that the small male seemed to be able to interpret. Jane thought the creature might be expressing distress.
It seemed her hunch was right because the male turned and pulled a slim bone knife from his waist band and knelt to cut the bolo that had her legs bound in one smooth motion.
"What-?" Jane asked softly, still unsure what was happening.
"You're not a Garthim, so we'll figure things out later. We need to go!” he said before surprising Jane with a display of strength by grabbing her by the wrist and pulling her to her feet. “Can you run?”
Jane felt a twinge of pain along her ribs where she had slammed into the branch during her fall, but beyond that she seemed fine. She had been fortunate to avoid twisting her ankles during her landing.
"I think so. Where are we going?"
"Away from here," he said as he began to pull her along.
Jane winced as the pain along her ribs intensified but she swallowed down her body's protests as they began to move faster. Through the pain, she noticed the forest had gone strangely silent and then a moment later she found out why as the air filled with a horrible 'click-clak' sound. Something massive and covered in a shiny black carapace burst from the underbrush, waving a brutal looking pincer as a clawed hand groped at the air.
"Garthim!" The little male roared, letting go of Jane to rush the monster even though it was twice his size. Jane could only watch, paralyzed with terror, as the male ducked under the monster's initial swing. He kept going and leapt, jumping from branch to branch until he was above the Garthim. In an amazing acrobatic feat, he twisted midair and came down with his spear driving straight towards the monster's head. Sparks danced across the armor as the spear struck and the Garthim shuddered but didn't fall. The clawed hand reached up to blindly grab for him but he kicked at the hand while struggling to pull his spear free.
The Garthim began to move, lowering its bulk as it sped toward a thick tree trunk, clearly intending to crush its attacker. The little male refused to give up his spear and looked at the tree trunk rushing toward him with grim resolve.
That look turned to one of surprise as Jane rushed the Garthim, driving her shoulder into its side to knock it down. The jolt of the impact made her shoulder scream in agony and certainly didn't do her ribs any favor. She panted as she looked down at the thrashing monster, still unsure what had driven her to such a stupid thing.
"Move, you fool!" the little male yelled from the other side of the Garthim, but his warning came too late. The Garthim swung that wicked pincer and caught Jane along her arm, scoring a long gash that bloomed red.
Jane screamed as she fell back, clutching her wound. She kicked and thrashed, desperate to get away from the Garthim before it could right itself and finish her off. Only, the Garthim had stopped moving. Fighting back sobs, Jane slowly sat up to see the little male standing over the Garthim's head, his spear driven deeply between its plates of armor. He yanked the weapon free and the Garthim gave one final twitch before lying still. He spared a glance for his spear head as he moved around the body before turning all his focus to Jane.
Blood had run all the way down her arm and dripped from her fingers and Jane felt dizzy as it continued to flow. The male studied the wound before looking around and darting to the base of the tree he had nearly been smashed into. He returned with handfuls of moss and began jamming the stuff into her wound. Jane hissed in pain and tried to pull away but he grabbed her wrist firmly and looked her in the eyes.
"Stop. This will staunch the bleeding for now." His tone brooked no argument but there was also a hint of pleading in his eyes.
Jane reluctantly held still, wincing at his less than gentle touch and the burning sensation the moss caused.
"Thank you for helping me in the fight. My name is Monjihn. What are you called?" he said without looking up from treating her wound.
Jane started at the introduction and it took her a moment to gather her faculties to answer.
"My name is Jane, Jane Do-"
The eel creature still wrapped around Monjihn shoulders suddenly let out a sharp bark and Monjihn's head snapped up. At first there was no sign of anything but then they both heard the distance sound of plates of armor striking against each other.
"More Garthim. We must climb," Monjihn said before glancing down at her arm. "Will you be able to?"
"If it's a choice between staying here to face more of those," Jane said with a nod towards the dead Garthim, "and climbing with a busted arm, it's no choice at all."
Her words were brave but also easier said than done. Monjihn climbed with ease, those jumps he had done during the fight seemed the barest of his athletic abilities. When he looked back for Jane, he saw her still struggling to get off the ground. Her face was screwed up with effort as she tried to climb with only one arm, the pain along her ribs complicating things further. Monjihn leapt back down, shaking his head.
"You can't climb in that condition. We must lose them so your injuries can be properly treated. This way."
Taking her good arm, he began to lead her in a direction that took them away from the approaching Garthim. Monjihn moved carefully, showing Jane where to step to avoid deep, grabbing mud. After a while the sound of the Garthim receded and Monjihn pulled Jane through a curtain of woody vines. They formed a natural screen and Monjihn directed her to sit on a root that curled up out of the ground.
Jane was glad for the chance to rest, her ribs throbbed and the wound on her arm felt hot in a way that scared her. She closed her eyes for a moment even though she knew she really oughtn't relax right now. Little hands probing around her wound made her eyes snap open and she found Monjihn closely examining it.
"This isn't good, it's already inflamed. I'll have to try to heal it before it gets worse," Monjihn said before he reached up to stroke the eel creature around his shoulders. The creature's head perked up and he met its eyes. "Go keep a look out, Yudi."
The creature, Yudi, gave a soft croon that seemed an affirmative and wriggled free of Monjihn, taking to the air. It slipped between the vines easily and was gone.
"Is Yudi your pet?" Jane asked quietly as Monjihn returned his attention to her arm. She wanted something to occupy her mind as every little press of his fingers burned like fire.
"Yudi is my Muski, less pet and more hunting companion. Now, please be quiet. I must focus and I'm not sure this will even work," Monjihn said brusquely as he produced a small gourd that must have been strapped to his back and poured water over her wound.
Jane bit her lip to keep from crying out as he rinsed the gash clean but couldn't stop a gasp from escaping her as Monjihn's hands suddenly lit up with blue flames. She tried to pull away but he grasped her arm fiercely and the ethereal fire poured into her wound. Jane clapped her good hand over her mouth to keep from crying out more as her injured arm went numb with cold. The cold vanished and heat seeped into her flesh, heat unlike anything she'd felt before. It was like basking in the sun, only a thousand times more intense while still being extremely pleasant.
For a moment, Jane heard some sort of music. It was almost like singing, as if she were surrounded by a chorus of countless voices and she was filled with the urge to add her voice to it. And then it was gone, fading so quickly into a ghost of a memory that she wondered if she had just imagined the whole thing. The heat was suddenly gone from her body and chills swept through her.
As she shivered she realized that Monjihn was panting next to her as if he'd been running a marathon. He took his hands away from her arm and she stared the unmarred flesh beneath the streaks of drying blood. She was still staring in wonder as he sat down beside her.
"How?" Jane finally managed to ask, also realizing her ribs no longer ached as she drew breath.
"It is said the Smerth-Staba gifted the Drenchen with the Healing Blue Flame. I am one of the few left with the ability."
Jane wasn't sure if that actually explained anything, but she was too grateful to keep pressing. They sat in silence for a time before Monjihn finally got up and began to pace while throwing glances her way.
"Is there something you'd like to ask?" Jane offered.
"What are you, Jane?" Monjihn asked bluntly. "I've never seen anything like you before on Thra."
Jane nibbled at her lip, her disbelief at everything that had happened so far still holding strong in the face of her experiences. Still, even if this did turn out to be some sort of dream, there was no reason to be rude even if Monjihn often was. She began to explain about herself and Earth, even showing him her phone, which he examined suspiciously. Things almost took on a casual air until Yudi came swimming back through the screen of vines, singing out an alarm. Monjihn watched as Yudi swam in circles above him, his eyes widening in alarm.
"From all sides?" he whispered in disbelief. He grabbed his spear and wrung the shaft as he paced faster. A second later they heard the distant cacophony of grinding plates and it did seem to be coming from every direction.
"What are we waiting for? Let's get out of here," Jane said, springing to her feet. Despite the adrenaline pumping vitality through her, she could feel an undercurrent of exhaustion, perhaps a side effect of Monjihn's strange healing. If they were going to do something they needed to act quickly.
"No," Monjihn said, driving the butt of his spear into the ground. "We can't fight them, but we must lead them away. All ready they are too close to the Smerth, where my people live. Jane, you were strong enough to knock a Garthim down, I've never seen anything like that. Will you help me?"
Jane swallowed nervously, the idea of encountering more Garthim made her queasy. She wasn't a fighter and that charge had been a fluke on her part. She hugged herself as she reluctantly nodded and then her face brightened as an idea came to her.
"If we need to lead them away, I have an idea, if your friend Yudi is willing."
Moments later her phone was tied to Yudi and the Muski was flying away as the device began to blast music at full volume. Jane watched her phone float away with a soft sigh. It would have definitely been a comfort to hold onto until the battery died but this was a far nobler death for the device. Monjihn had instructed Yudi to fly above the Garthim until they followed away from the Drenchen's hold and then dive into deep water to kill the phone, which would let Yudi slip away. The two of them waited until both the music and the sound of Garthim faded completely.
"It should be safe now, let's go," Monjihn said, pulling the screen aside for Jane. They climbed a nearby series of branches and Monjihn began to lead the way.
After all this, Jane had to admit she was eager to see what this Smerth was like, and to meet more of Monjihn's people. Once her initial shock had worn off, she found that the little warrior looked rather noble and his elfin appearance helped cut the bite of his gruff attitude.
"Monjihn, why are these Garthim things after you and your people?"
Monjihn paused and looked back at her, a sorrowful expression pulling his features down.
"It's a long story. Even though you are not a Gelfling, perhaps I can try to Dreamfast with you once we are safely back at the Smerth. It would be faster."
Jane was growing dizzy with all these words she didn't understand but before she ask another question, the branch they trod upon shuddered beneath their feet. Monjihn crouched to steady himself while Jane threw her arms out and teetered precariously. The branch shook violently again and the harsh rattling of chitinous plates filled the air. Beneath them, both in front and behind, Garthim had sprung up from where they had been sitting stone still, seizing the branch with their pincers and cracking it with fearsome strength.
"Jump for the water!" Monjihn cried, pointing to a murky pool on one side of the branch. "It's deep and the Garthim can't swim."
"Won't they just wait for us to try to reach shore?" Jane protested as the Garthim continued to tear at the branch with their pincers.
"Trust me!" Monjihn shouted back before leaping from the branch and making a sizable splash.
Jane hesitated, especially as Monjihn failed to surface, but then there was a massive 'crack' as one of the Garthim nearly severed the branch entirely. Taking a deep breath, Jane launched herself from the branch only moments before it gave way and experienced another stomach fluttering freefall before she was enveloped in water. She wasn't sure how far she sank but the instinct to kick for the surface quickly overwhelmed her, even knowing what waited for her when she reached it.
Something grabbed her leg and kept her from rising, and she shrieked reflexively.
With that cry went her air and then the water tried to rush in. Jane thrashed but was only pulled deeper. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears and already her limbs began to feel heavy. She didn't have the strength to struggle as something took hold of her shoulders but her eyes shot open as she felt lips against her own. In the murky darkness, Jane was just able to make out Monjihn looking back at her. Her oxygen starved mind didn't understand why he was trying to open mouth kiss her much less why he was breathing into her. Moments later the fog settling over her began to clear and her eyes widened in disbelief. How was he making air?
Monjihn saw the light return to her eyes and the corners of his eyes wrinkled in a smile. He reached down to grab her wrist and guided her hand to his neck. Jane felt several ridges that flexed and she could feel the water being pulled in by them. Gills!? Monjihn had gills! Jane could feel the laughter rumble up from Monjihn’s chest as he saw the realization dawn on her.
They floated there in the dark for a time, Monjihn breathing for the both of them. Occasionally, they would glance up at the opaque surface of the water as Garthim claws jabbed downward searching for them, but there was only a little shelf of shallow water before it turned into a sheer drop off and they never set a foot in the water.
Monjihn began to guide her down deeper, so deep the pressure on her ears began to border on unbearable. Finally, she was able to make out what he was pulling her towards, an outcropping of roots. He helped Jane weave among them, occasionally pausing to give her more air. Despite the necessity of the kisses, Jane began to feel heat spread across her cheeks each time. Finally, they reached a pocket of air deep within the roots and their heads broke the surface.
"Gah, finally, we should be able to-" Monjihn started to say with a gasp before Jane took hold of his face and pulled him into a kiss, a real kiss. The stunned Gelfling nearly sank beneath the water once Jane let go of him.
"Wha...what was that?" Monjihn finally managed to get out as he caught himself on a root.
"Sorry, just feeling very appreciative about being alive," Jane said, wondering if he could see her cheeks glowing. She certainly felt red in the face enough for them to be visible in the dark. It was true though, after so many close calls, she not only felt more alive than she had ever before, but thankful for Monjihn's presence and perhaps a little enamored with his constant heroics.
"Is that a custom where you're from?" Monjihn asked softly and Jane wished for nothing more at the moment than to see his face. She suddenly felt as if she crossed a line she shouldn't have. After all, hadn't he called her a monstrosity when they met only a little bit ago. What if she was hideous to him? It was a silly thing to be concerned about considering everything else going on but it still nagged at her.
"Uhm, actua-" Jane started to say, hoping to brush the incident under the proverbial rug, when Monjihn reached out, cupping the back of her head and pulling her into a kiss. It was a little clumsy but Jane felt a shock of excitement as their lips met. He pulled back quickly, his voice still soft and perhaps a little hoarse.
"I, too, am glad to be alive, which I would not be if not for you," he said before coughing and speaking more loudly. "This is a good custom. Now, as I was saying, we should be able to wait here for a while. Yudi can find me anywhere in the Sog and then we can follow these roots to another pool. All the trees of the Sog are connected and he'll be able to let us know if it's safe above the surface."
Where the darkness had first filled Jane with doubt and uncertainty, after Monjihn had kissed her, she now began to feel emboldened.
"I don't mind waiting, but who knows how long it could take? Do you have any ideas on how to pass the time?" Jane said, her voice low and enticing.
Jane wondered if maybe she wasn't getting enough air. She had never been this flirtatious this quickly with anyone before and it really wasn't an appropriate time for it either. At the same time, the danger that seemed to loom ever present only made certain risqué ideas more exciting. She moved closer to Monjihn until their bodies were nearly pressing together and the sound of his breathing filled her ears. Even in the warm water, Jane swore she feel the heat of him, but she dared not push any further. She couldn't understand it, but she wanted Monjihn to make the next move.
She heard him swallow heavily and held her own breath in anticipation when something else suddenly broke the surface of the water.
“Monjihn? Are you here?”
Jane and Monjihn sprang apart as both turned to face the direction of the new voice.
“Maudra Naia? What are you doing here?” The surprise in Monjihn’s voice was palpable, though Jane thought she detected undercurrents of concern and… Was Monjihn afraid?
“Searching for your silly hide,” the other voice, a woman's voice if Jane had to guess, snapped. “Garthim have been seen in every corner of the Sog and all hunters have been called back to the Smerth. We feared the worst when you didn't arrive with the others, but then my Tia noticed your Yudi singing all distressful like. I followed him to you.”
“You needn't have risked yourself,” Monjihn said, though Jane would have bet good money, if she had any, that he was looking rather abashed at the moment.
“You're one to talk,” Maudra Naia shot back. “And who's this with you? I heard two bodies moving about in here.”
“This is Jane,” Monjihn cut Jane off and she had a feeling he was glancing at her nervously. “I found her lost in the Sog. We killed a Garthim together, but had to hide down here to get away from the rest.”
For all that Monjihn made it sound like an impressive feat, Naia only made a dismissive sniff at his words.
“If she got lost then she isn't Drenchen. Well girl, speak up. What clan do you hail from?”
The air suddenly felt very tense and it was Jane's turn to swallow audibly. Whoever this Maudra Neira was, she had a forceful presence.
“I don't have a clan, ma'am, I'm not from here.”
Silence greeted Jane's answer before Maudra Naia exhaled loudly.
“Well let's get out of here then so I can get a proper look at you.”
“What about the Garthim?” Monjihn asked, swimming closer toward the sound of Naia's voice.
“It's nearly nightfall and Garthim have a hard enough time seeing during the day in the Sog. If we are quiet, we will be alright.”
With that Naia slipped under the water, leaving Jane and Monjihn to blindly grasp for each other.
"Is everything alright? She seemed...not pleased," Jane said softly as her hand finally found Monjihn's.
He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze before responding, "If she's angry at anyone, it's me. She's stern but nicer than she lets on. Are you ready?"
Jane squeezed Monjihn's hand in confirmation and took a deep breath before slipping under the surface. They emerged from a different pool, one that grew shallow gradually with a figure that could only be Maudra Naia standing near the edge, waiting for them.
Stern was definitely the word Jane would have used to describe Naia. Naia held a spear impassively in one hand while a Muski swam around her ankles and another rushed to swim circles around Monjihn's head. He stroked Yudi affectionately down the side before kicking forward to reach water he could stand in. Jane's feet touched bottom much sooner and as she slowly emerged, Naia's head continued to crane back to stare at her while her face remained impressively impassive.
"Big, aren't you?" Naia asked, and Jane had the feeling that there was a hint of a challenge in her words.
"Maudra Naia," Monjihn interjected pleadingly, "we should get going."
"Not until I know that this one here isn't a threat," Naia said coldly, tipping her spearpoint at Jane.
"Maudra-" Monjihn tried to say at the same time Jane said, "Please-"
"The Skeksis came from another world, offering gifts and friendship and look what has come of it. What does this creature from another world come bearing?"
Jane felt a lump in her throat as fear took hold of her. It was a different kind of fear, not like the terror of finding herself on an alien world, or the horror and panic that had gripped her when facing the Garthim. Somehow the thought of being cut off from Monjihn filled her stomach with icy dread that seized her voice.
"Maudra!" Monjihn cried out forcefully, perhaps louder than he should have given the circumstances. Naia slowly looked from Jane to him, all the authority she possessed burning into him. Despite that Monjihn stood firm and said more softly but just as forcefully, "Look into her eyes."
No one moved for a moment, not even the Muski, and then Naia strode forward to stand in front of Jane.
Jane sank down until she and Naia were eye-level with each other. Jane struggled not to tremble as Naia leaned forward, examining her closely. She had to blink back tears as Naia took hold of her chin, turning her face one way and then the other. Naia's expression was still unreadable once she let go. She turned and began to walk away, pausing only long enough to look over her shoulder and say, "Well, are you two coming or not?"
Jane felt dizzy as she stood, confusion over what had just happened colliding with relief to form a storm of ambivalence within her. Monjihn took her hand and began to pull her long.
"What...what just happened?" Jane asked, almost in a whisper to herself.
"The Maudra has given you the protection of the Smerth...for now," Monjihn answered just as quietly.
"You have blue eyes," Monjihn said as if that explained everything.
"Quiet! No more talking until we are safely home," Naia ordered in a harsh whisper.
Neither Jane or Monjihn challenged her on that as they began to climb. Naia had been right about how dark the Sog was at night and they had to move carefully to make sure their footing was sure. After what felt like hours, they broke through a particularly dense maze of branches and emerged on a broad, almost road-like branch that crossed a great span of deep, dark water. The branch led to a massive tree, bigger than anything Jane had seen before and she had once gone to see the Redwoods. It rose from the middle of this huge body of water like a living island and among its multitude of branches were lights and the sounds of a community.
"Ah, the Smerth," Monjihn breathed in a sigh of relief, only to yelp as Naia spun on her heel to cuff him on the head.
"We are not safely home yet," she warned, shooting Jane a warning glare as well.
Monjihn sighed and nodded, following behind Naia with his head lowered. Jane dipped low to take his free hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. He returned the gesture as they reached the other side and then his grip tightened as Jane gasped at the sight before her. There were many structures built outside the main trunk, but that trunk itself was hollow and within was what seemed like a whole town's worth of people.
Everywhere Jane looked, Gelfling like Naia and Monjihn moved about the many tiers within the tree, carrying out evening tasks. Many had spears either in hand or resting nearby. A hush settled over everything and Jane quickly realized all eyes were focused on her. She tried not shrink under the scrutiny of so many gazes and felt Monjihn's hand squeeze hers again.
Maudra Naia thumped her spear several times, drawing attention to her.
“This is Jane. She comes from a far away place. Today, she and Monjihn slew a Garthim.”
Naia paused, letting the sudden roar of excited chatter have its moment. When she was ready to continue she thumped her spear until all grew silent again.
“She will be staying with us for now. Treat her as an honored guest. Monjihn will be her guide in our ways.”
That brought more chatter and Jane and Monjihn exchanged glances, and Jane thought she saw Monjihn's face flush with color.
“Your Maudra has spoken.” Naia thumped her spear one final time and the tree filled with the sound of more excited conversations. Naia turned to the two of them, her eyes narrowing at the sight of their clasped hands.
“Accommodations will be made for you, though you find them somewhat cramped,” Naia said to Jane before shifting to Monjihn. “You missed the evening meal, I'll have some food brought to you both. Teach her well, Monjihn.”
With that she turned and walked away, summoning others to her with a gesture as she went. Jane looked around and saw many still looking at her with confusion, fear, and in some cases outright hostility.
“What do we do now?” Jane asked softly.
“As the Maudra suggests, eat while a place is made ready for you to rest,” Monjihn said, letting go of her hand so he could stretch, giving off an air of relaxation that Jane certainly didn't feel. “Come, I'll show you where we eat.”
After a meal of fruit, nuts and smoked fish that Jane was surprised to find very enjoyable. To be honest, after everything that had happened, she would have eaten nearly anything put before her. A hard faced Gelfling came to direct them to her quarters when they were done and they began to follow a winding path further up the tree. They passed dozens of structures as they went and that was when Jane noticed that more than a few seemed empty in a way that suggested abandonment. Had even more Gelfling been living here at some point? She wanted to ask Monjihn but the stares and whispers of others had her shrinking in on herself, especially as she caught bits of some of the conversations.
"-why bring such a creature here?"
"-an ill omen for sure."
"-that pointy nose-"
"-looks like a deformed Vapran-"
Jane was glad when she was directed to a structure on the exterior of the Smerth. It had no door but a screen of vines covered an entrance she would have to duck low to get through. The vines had beads woven in so they would clatter when moved. Jane thought it might have been a store room of some sort but now several bed rolls lay on the floor on one side along with a jug for water and a bucket.
Monjihn waited just inside the door, watching the other Gelfling leave before pounding his fist against the wall. Jane blinked in surprise and tilted her head.
Monjihn was so taken aback he practically flinched with incredulity.
"What's wrong? What's wrong!? The Maudra says you are an honored guest and then has you put out here. Keeping you at arm's length in one of our most remote structures like a Podling covered in filth. There was barely any acknowledgement of our achievement. We should be celebrating you and cracking open casks of Sogflower wine and drinking until the Brothers come up. And don't get me started on how they've acted around you. I thought my people were better than such snobbery," Monjihn ranted as he paced.
Eventually he walked up to Jane and took both of her hands in his. "I'm so sorry for how you've been treated."
Jane smiled and guided them to the pile of bedrolls. She lowered herself to the pile and patted the space beside her. Monjihn joined her with a huff of frustration.
"Thank you for being upset on my behalf. It's very sweet, but can you really blame them? I don't belong here."
"But you are here," Monjihn argued, looking up at her. "And you're not our enemy or a monster and shouldn't be treated like one. You're brave and clever and...and..."
Jane's breath hitched as Monjihn looked at his lap and his shoulders stooped as he struggled to speak. It felt like he was on the verge of doing more than praising her qualities.
"May I try something?" Monjihn said when he finally spoke again.
Jane nodded and he held out his hands, palms facing her. She took the hint and placed her hands against his and watched as he closed his eyes, tilting his head up as he began to take slow, deep breaths. Jane wondered if he was trying to use his healing powers again, though she didn't understand why he would, when she thought she felt something. It was like someone was standing just over her shoulder, but she knew she and Monjihn were alone. The sense of a presence grew stronger as Monjihn's face tightened with effort and then it wasn't a presence anymore, but emotions, only they weren't Jane's. Fear, anger, sadness, a tumultuous storm of emotions that mystified Jane until she realized they must be Monjihn's. She marveled at this even as they began to bleed into her. At that, she resisted and they both grunted audibly as she mentally pulled back.
"No Jane, please, don't fight it," Monjihn said, his voice strained.
Jane grit her teeth as she tried not to struggle and soon the storm passed, leaving a comforting warmth that Jane slowly recognized as affection. That warmth deepened into the heat of attraction and Jane thought she felt flickers of something more before the connection suddenly broke and Monjihn pulled back gasping. Jane was breathing heavily herself as they looked at each other.
"What was that?" Jane asked.
"I tried to Dreamfast with you, but it didn't work right. We should have been able to share memories and thoughts, to see through each other's eyes. Though honestly, I'm amazed anything happened. Of all the creatures of Thra, only Gelfling can Dreamfast."
Jane absorbed this information with amazement, before something occurred to her.
"Did you feel how I felt?"
Monjihn nodded gently and a blush began to grow across Jane's face. If her attraction to Monjihn had felt anything like his to her... Anxiety and unease that had clung to Jane like mud sloughed off as she realized that despite everything that had happened to her, she wasn't alone.
Jane reached to cup Monjihn's face, raising it as she leaned down to kiss him again. His eyes widened in shock before he truly returned the kiss. Their breathing was heavy once their lips parted.
"Is this another custom from your world, Jane?" Monjihn asked, his voice barely a whisper.
"Sort of," Jane said with a smile. One hand traveled along Monjihn's jaw line and then up through his thick braids of hair. She cupped the back of his head, pulling him to her as she kissed him again, daring to tease him with her tongue. Monjihn moaned, though the pitch of his cries suggested surprise as well.
"Monjihn, is this your first time?" Jane asked as she settled him on her lap.
"Of course not!" Monjihn said indignantly before ducking his head abashedly. "I've just never been the smaller one in this kind of situation before."
Jane let out a soft chuckle, "In that case, I think this is new for both of us."
They kissed again and Jane felt her body heating up with anticipation. It was different from the danger-fueled excitement that had gripped her while they were hiding from the Garthim. Passion drove them now, passion and an eagerness to continue learning more about each other.
"Do you want to touch me?" Jane asked huskily, taking Monjihn's hand and placing it on the narrow gap of bare skin between her sports top and spats. His hands were calloused and she enjoyed the way he scraped against her skin. A pleased sigh escaped her as he slipped his hand beneath her top.
"You feel so nice Jane," Monjihn said as his other hand trailed down her hip, slipping behind to grasp at her butt.
"I bet you do too," Jane said before playfully tugging at his hides.
Monjihn sat back and began undoing the bindings of his clothes. As he did, Jane pull her top off, which didn't reveal much yet as she still wore a sports bra underneath. She could see Monjihn pause in untying his shirt as he watched her from the corner of his eye. Jane flashed him a sultry smirk and slowly began pulling the bra up. The reveal was everything she could have hoped for as her breasts slowly spilled out of the very elastic but restraining material. Monjihn stopped glancing and full on stared as her heavy, pale breasts jiggled upon falling free. Her equally pale, pink nipples already stood at attention in anticipation.
Jane sighed in relief as she tossed her bra to the side, she had been wearing it far longer than she was accustomed to. She smiled at Monjihn as she hugged herself, causing her breasts to mound up teasingly.
"Well, what do you think?" she asked.
"You’re beautiful," Monjihn breathed, before blinking and blushing furiously. Jane felt a blush creep across her face as well. Many men had had similar reactions to seeing her topless, but it was nice to see she could get that reaction on other worlds.
"Your turn," Jane, reaching out to tug on the leather cord that held his hide tunic. Monjihn shucked his shirt, his long braids swinging wildly as he dropped it. He was so thin but there was a wiry strength to his frame and several scars decorated his chest. Jane gently traced one and looked at him questioningly.
“I can’t heal myself and Garthim aren't the only danger out there,” he explained, though from the way he held himself he didn't seem proud of his scars.
“Why didn't Maudra Naia seem happy that you killed that Garthim?” Jane would rather have not asked the question and risk ruining the mood, but there was something about his melancholy that made her feel the need to ask.
“Because of my healing gift,” Monjihn began, his eyes downcast. “There are only two others left with the gift and the Maudra considers us a precious resource. Too precious to risk fighting, and if the elders hadn't stepped in, too precious to even let hunt to feed those of us left. I'd have wasted away in the Smerth, not able to do more than hope that anyone injured was able to make it back for me to help them. I'm no more important than anyone else and I want to do everything I can to help my people."
Monjihn was on the verge of tears when Jane scooped him up, hugging him to her bosom and rocking him gently. He seemed to melt in her embrace, stress-fueled tension leaching from his body as he basked in the heat of her body and listened to the powerful beating of her heart. Jane stroked his hair until he managed to look at her from between her breasts, an odd sight to be sure, but one she welcomed.
"I'm sorry Jane, it must be silly that not being allowed to put myself in danger seems like such a burden to me."
Jane shook her head, "It's noble that you want to do everything you can. I think I might be a little biased but I definitely appreciate that you try so hard. In fact, why don't you let me show how appreciative I am."
Jane lowered Monjihn to lay on his back before her hands began to travel down his body. He almost felt like corded steel. Jane playfully smiled as she reached his breeches and began undoing them. The moment she had kissed him, she had been mentally preparing for whatever she might encounter beneath his clothes, and she was ready for nearly anything, so long as whatever she found didn't have teeth. She tried not to sigh in relief too loudly when a phallic member sprang up as she pulled his breeches down.
Jane couldn't help but pause to study Monjihn's penis. This was, after all, her first alien cock. It had a pleasant upward curve and a series of bumps similar to those on Monjihn's forehead ran down the top of his shaft from just behind the helmet to the base. If Jane were to hazard a guess based on how tall Monjihn was, he was well endowed for his kind. He was roughly the size of a toy that lay nestled in the back of her underwear drawer back on Earth; a smaller one, but highly effective at its job.
Jane finished pulling Monjihn's trousers off and returned to kneeling over him and his twitching erection. She gently wrapped her fingers around his cock, engulfing it so that the tip just peaked out. Monjihn moaned, tossing his head back as that grip slowly exerted more force than he had ever felt before. Not in a painful way, but being gripped so snuggly all over was a little overwhelming at first.
Jane stroked him slowly, feeling him throb in response. Her other hand dipped between his legs to find his balls, which made his hips twitch and a bark of a gasp escape him. His balls felt like two plump cherries in a soft, hairless sack and Jane cautiously began to fondle them. She was curious to see how much like humans Gelflings might be when it came to sexual pleasure. Dampness began to slick her hand as she stroked Monjihn and she shifted so she could lower her head and dart her tongue out to taste him. There was a hint of saltiness but the flavor was mostly tart and not unpleasant.
Jane shifted her hand to his hip and Monjihn looked down as he felt her warm breath wash over his cock. The moment her lips wrapped around his cockhead, Monjihn moaned loudly as his hips tried to buck involuntarily. Jane was able to hold him down but also brought her other hand up to make sure he couldn't move as he continued to tense and twitch.
"Oh Jane," Monjihn breathed as she took him fully in her mouth. His breathing hitched as she began to bob her head and he shuddered with pleasure. Jane enjoyed his reactions, few of the men she'd been with were ever so earnest with how good things felt.
It was easy to bob faster because of his size and Jane was eager to see what kind of stamina Monjihn had, especially after the day the two of them had been through. Monjihn's hands found their way to her hair, and gripped her blonde locks, not enough to hurt, but still as if he were holding on for dear life. Jane sank all the way down to the base of his shaft and let out a purr of a moan. Monjihn's back arched and then he sat up in a flash, grunting as the pleasure went from amazing to world-shattering. Tartness exploded in Jane's mouth like she'd bitten into an apricot, some even trickled down her chin. Tenderly, she pulled back, swallowing the rest as she sat up.
Monjihn lay on the bedrolls, panting heavily. Sweaty strands of unbraided hair clung to his forehead as he stared at the ceiling of the hut before eventually lifting his head to look to Jane. He was treated to the sight of her rising while also working her spats and underwear down. She slipped her shoes off and stepped out of her leggings.
Jane came to stand over Monjihn's chest and let her hands trail down her body, rhythmically swaying to a beat only she could hear. Her hands reached her flushed mound, where she spread her folds for him to show her glistening pink inner walls.
She was eating up the enraptured way he stared at her. Plenty of men had looked at her with lust in their eyes but she could count on one hand those who gazes were filled with something more. Right now she knew that Monjihn was quite literally the only in the person in the world who looked at her that way. That thought had her on the verge of masturbating when Monjihn performed an impressive kip up and was standing before Jane. His hands grabbed hold of her hips before he paused to look up at her.
"Jane, may I show you my appreciation?" he asked.
"Yes, Monjihn, do whatever you want with me," Jane nearly moaned the words as her body ached to be touched.
Monjihn nodded and brought his lips to her dripping pussy. He trailed a combination of kisses and licks all over her mound, exploring every part of her that he could. Jane began to sway on her feet from the pleasure flooding her and then yelped as Monjihn forced her to pivot on one foot with surprising strength. Her back hit the nearby wall and Monjihn's arms went between her legs, forcing them open a little more as his hands dug into her firm, round ass cheeks. Monjihn bent his knees slightly and began to eat her out in earnest as his hands kneaded her ass.
Jane began to play with one of her nipples while the other hand reached down to stroke Monjihn's head, eventually sliding down along his long, pointed ears. Monjihn moaned enthusiastically at her touch, surprising Jane with just how sensitive his ears must be. She continued to caress and fondle his ear, mindful not to distract him too much from his ministrations.
Monjihn redoubled his efforts, working his tongue deep into Jane's folds. Her taste was unlike anything he'd ever experienced, a metallic flavor that wasn't harsh and sweaty, salty, sweetness that he lapped up eagerly. He pulled back for a breath and then traced his tongue along her labia until he reached the peak. Jane's clit had become quite swollen with all the teasing and to Monjihn, it seemed a delectable pink berry that he swirled his tongue around before sucking on it aggressively.
"Yes, Monjihn, right there! Right fucking there!" Jane cried out as her legs nearly buckled. Only the fact that she was braced against the wall kept her upright as Monjihn took her words to heart. She grabbed his head and began to grind against his face, her voice rising in staccato cries.
Monjihn's arms squeezed her even tighter as he was used by Jane, but he didn't pause in eating her out. Jane held him in place with one hand as the other returned to her breast, pinching and twisting her nipple hard. Monjihn's mouth was flooded as Jane came, her body quaking as she squirted again and again. Her juices trickled down the sides of Monjihn's mouth but he didn't relent until her quaking turned to spasms and she let out a pained whimpered.
"Are you hurt?" Monjihn asked between deep breaths as he stepped back and Jane slumped to the floor. She gave her head a slight shake, and smiled reassuringly.
"No, just a little too sensitive at the moment. It will pass quickly," she said before opening her arms to him invitingly. Monjihn happily settled on her lap and let himself be enveloped in her arms, far less troubled by the role reversal now.
"I wasn't too rough on you, was I?" Jane asked, cringing a little at how she had treated him. It would take some getting used to, being with someone so much smaller. To her surprise Monjihn laughed, a deep, rich sound that Jane immediately found herself enamored with.
“On the contrary, that was…refreshing,” Monjihn said after a moment's consideration. “The Maudra and Elders have always said I take the most difficult path, as if I was drawn to suffering."
It was Jane's turn to laugh, which felt really good after how the day had started. She leaned down to kiss Monjihn on the cheek.
"How fortunate for me you're a bit of a masochist, though we might need to develop a safe word in that case." Jane had to stifle another laugh as Monjihn looked at her in complete puzzlement and she was forced to explain.
Monjihn rubbed his chin in contemplation, "Your world must be a strange place indeed if you have a word for that sort of thing."
"I'm going to let that slide since I'm the outsider here," Jane said, her voice rife with amusement at Monjihn's observation and the irony of it. "Well my little masochist, if you're not completely worn out, think you're ready for more?"
Monjihn replied by reaching up and fondling her breast, squeezing it so he could take her nipple in his mouth. Jane reached into his lap and found him already half-erect. She stroked him back to full as he suckled heartily at her breast, his tongue roughly batting her nipple about. She began to reposition him, holding him to her as she lay down and then shifting him so he could kneel between her legs. He pulled away from her breast with an audible 'pop' as he guided his cock to her flushed entrance with one hand, the other hooking under her knee.
In one smooth stroke, Monjihn entered her and they both sighed contentedly. Jane had been right about his size and the ridge of bumps along his shaft felt better than she expected. Monjihn was amazed at the warmth enveloping his cock as well as the way her walls flexed and massaged his length.
At first Monjihn pumped slowly, letting himself grow accustomed to the feel of Jane and the way their size difference made this position rather distinct from what he was familiar with.
Jane was happy to let him find his own pace; she liked things to start of slow at first anyway. In the mean time she was enjoying the sight of him between her legs, his face screwed up in concentration. There was just something about a man focused on a task that turned her on, especially when that task was her.
Of course, being able to distract a man so focused could prove fun as well. Jane reached down, trailing her hands down his back, feeling his wiry muscles flex with each thrust. Cautiously, she let her nails drag along his back as her hands came back up, and was rewarded as Monjihn's hips bucked and he slammed into her with a surprising amount of force.
Monjihn's head lifted just enough for their eyes to meet and found Jane's challenging gaze. Monjihn smirked and shifted his grip to her hips, his fingers digging into her flesh. He leaned over her more, his face just barely even with her jiggling breasts. His thrusts were harder, almost jarring if not for that ridge of bumps stimulating her clit with each push.
"Faster, Monjihn, I'm not made of glass," Jane said encouragingly.
"I'm well aware," Monjihn said as he began to pant from exertion. "This would be far harder if you were."
Jane threw her head back and laughed loudly at his little joke, only for that laughter to devolve into a long moan as Monjihn redoubled his efforts. Jane would never have been able to match Monjihn's speed or intensity with a mere toy and she showed her approval by running one hand up and down his back, periodically dragging her nails, while the other hand sought out his ear to caress and pinch.
Monjihn shuddered as his body was teased in ways he had never truly experienced before. Though he had had a moment to recover his stamina, he knew he wouldn't last long if things kept going as they were. He needed to level the playing field. His gaze fell upon Jane's voluptuous breasts and an idea struck him.
Jane gasped as strong, calloused fingers grasped her nipples and pulled on them. Her head snapped up to look at Monjihn and found him smirking as he held her nipples tightly, using them to leverage himself as he rose up. From that position he would tug hard as he slammed his hips home and then relent as he pulled back, developing a new rhythm that hit Jane with peaks of pleasure like the swelling waves of a storm. Jane nearly raked her nails harshly across Monjihn's back as the intense pressure on her nipples rivaled nipple clamps and had her teetering between pleasure and pain. She took her hands away, grabbing handfuls of the bedrolls to brace herself as she felt her climax building.
"I'm close Jane!" Monjihn grunted, speeding up his pace so Jane was assaulted with lightning bursts of euphoric pleasure.
"Do it, Monjihn! Fuck me!" Jane cried, her legs wrapping around Monjihn, pinning him to her. Pinned as he was, Monjihn still ground his cock against her and both cried out as they came nearly in unison. Monjihn gasped and shuddered as he came powerfully, blasting hot seed into Jane's depths, while Jane struggled not to crush Monjihn between her legs as she experienced a full body spasm.
Monjihn lay limply on Jane's stomach, gulping deep breaths as Jane's chest heaved with the same need for air.
Their sweat slicked bodies almost clung to each other and they both shivered as the damp swamp air felt cool against their warm bodies. Jane gently ran her hand through Monjihn's braids, twirling the tip of one between her fingers. Monjihn peppered her stomach with kisses while he mustered the strength to pull himself free and crawl up to lay beside her face-to-face.
For a time, they simply lay there, basking in each other's presence. Jane's free hand found Monjihn's and squeezed it affectionately.
"Going to be an interesting day tomorrow, isn't it?" Jane mused.
"Indeed," Monjihn said before sitting in silent consideration for a moment. "Jane, you must be aware that these are dark times for my people. Things will not be easy, but even so, I will try to make you happy here. I am truly earnest when I say no one has ever made me feel like this, Jane, and I am glad to know you."
Jane was silent, if only so her voice didn't betray her as she blinked away tears that threatened to blur her vision. No one in her past had come close to something so romantic and sweet. She kissed Monjihn then, a tender press of the lips that he returned happily.
After, Jane pulled him close and enveloped him in her arms. With the sound of her heart beating so close, Monjihn soon drifted off to sleep. The exhaustion of the day coupled with his rhythmic breathing quickly claimed Jane as well. Her last thoughts were of Earth and wondering if she'd ever find a way home, but as she held Monjihn to her, she felt a comforting confidence that if and when she did, she would have quite the story to tell.
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