"I don't get it." I told Gilda while shaking. Nadene had given me another of those 'mana potions' to try and help me overcome my worsening condition.
"I keep having these nightmares, and it's always about a river of blood trying to force itself down my throat. It doesn't make any sense to me." Trixie, on my back, was rubbing me with her hooves, trying to calm me down. Who ever thought of her as the caring type right? Maybe she just didn't want her ride out of commission.
"So, blood keeps trying to make you drink it? Sounds kind of weird. I hope you aren't turning into a vampire." Nadene mused.
"I'd be fine with vampirism, so long as I don't sparkle. I always liked the night better anyway." Everyone looked at me like I was an idiot before dismissing it as just another human thing.
"Is there anything else about the dream? Darkness, blood, what else?" Trixie asked.
"Well, right before I wake up, I always get a sour taste in my mouth, but I don't get what that might mean."
"It's kinda obvious when you think about it Grif." Gilda deadpanned.
"Remember, dragon blood is sour. You told me that after you killed that big black one."
"Hold on, shakes, headache, trouble focusing, dreams of blood forcing itself down my throat, irritable, no wait, that last one is just me...... well fuck. I'm a drug addict, and the drug is dragon blood. Wow, hooked after one use? I didn't think I'd be such a lightweight. Damn it."
"Now that I think about it, it's been about two months since you had it, and it's starting to act up now? What gives?"
"I'm not sure, and we can't do anything unless I know more. Can you read through these books? I can't really concentrate right now. I need to know what to do."
Gilda spent about two hours reading through, pointless as the books didn't have any info on dragons, while Trixie kept massaging my temples and neck, and Nadene was trying out various restorative potions on me to see what helped. The dogs were a little wary, after all, a crew isn't in good shape if their captain is out of it. As I sat against a tree, I picked up Hades and looked at it intently, admiring the gleam coming off of it as it shimmered in the sun.
"I wish we had a sauna, the steam might make me feel better. Hold on, what?" Just as I said that, my condition suddenly improved.
"What is it?" The dogs asked.
"I just said I wish I had a sauna to make me feel better, and then my headache went away."
"It's just the potions kicking in." Gilda replied.
"Well, I feel better. I think it's time to look for a tribe to dump all this gold off on."
Gilda and I flew for a bit, leaving Nadene at home with Etch while I had Trixie ride me, Growl being carried by my flight partner. I figured I leave the dogs out of too much, and while Trix and I had become inseparable, mostly due to the fact that she liked riding me, I liked being ridden, and we were much more effective at combat as a unit. So Nadene got to stay behind this time. I still don't know why I like it so much. At first I thought it was because ponies are soft, but even through the armor, it just feels right to have something there. Anyways, we found another village and I motioned for us to drop down. we didn't bring any of the loot with us, we wanted to see what each group had before we went and hauled a hundred pounds of gold all over the jungle.
Also, I realized something, while Equestria called this place the great southern rainforest, griffins called it the feline jungle. I assumed it was because cheetahs, lions, manticores and stuff were here, but since there's the pseudo khajiit as well, I think that's where we got the name from. Strange. It's like ponies literally have no care about what goes on outside their borders, and didn't even bother learning about them, considering that griffins, on the other side of the continent, have at least some form of knowledge on the topic.
After we landed, we decided to be very careful in our approach, in order to lessen the culture shock of seeing an unknown race. Or so we thought. Turns out, they knew very well what a griffin was, considering that they had a live one strung up over a not yet burning fire pit. I recognize this as Carl's former companion. She looked scared out of her mind.
"Oh damn it all. Meeting."
"Looks like the griffin who was formerly known as Carl's bitch is about to get cooked. Honestly, I wish Nadene was here at this point. I mean, we could save her, but I don't know how she'd feel about having one of the ones who killed her mother and destroyed her village being rescued by us. Or, we could just let them eat her, and that would prevent a degrading relationship with this group. What do you think?"
"Well, yeah she made a mistake, but from the looks of it, it's not like she wanted to do that. It's more like 'green' threatened her. I'd hate to see another griffin go down the tubes, at least not without a fair trial." Gilda remarked.
"I say we let slaver griffin burn." Growl added.
"We could always use an extra pair of hands." Trixie, who had started picking up on my lingo, said hands instead of hooves. I am so proud.
"I kinda want to see her burn, you know, for hanging out with Carl. Draw..... so we go in and find out what this is all about first and see if one of us changes our minds?"" The group nodded in agreement.
"Alright, no idea if they're hostile, so...... Trixie? Clone me up will ya? Just make have it approach and mimic what I say. Gilda, leave Growl here, go back and get the others, fast. I'll need their opinion on this as well."
Gilda took off as the fake me sauntered out into the village. The cat men all took up spears and axes of sorts, looking for a fight.
"Hola mis amigos! How are you on this bright and sunny day?" Trixie looked at me with confusion, while the cats looked at the fake me in the same way.
"I can't help but notice you are getting ready to cook that griffin. Might I ask why?"
A cheetah patterned woman walked up and looked in the illusion's eyes, as though examining him.
"Because we're 'ungry, that's why! Ya blind er sumthin? Er can't ya see our ribs beneath the fur?" She said with the voice you'd expect a witch to have.
"Well, that's no reason to eat someone. How can you be hungry? The forest has an abundance of food."
"Not anymore it don't. Take a look around would ya? Not a single nanner on them trees. You know why? Cuz the Romak tribe been stealin em! This is Lemko land, OUR land, and they won't stay offa it! We're warriors, but they're the sneaky type. They know we'd beat em in a straight up fight, but they're too afraid to come and face us proper!" The hag coughed. As I looked around, I could tell that they clearly were emaciated. If something wasn't done soon, they'd all die from illness, stemming from malnutrition.
"Is that so? I see...... well now. It sounds like you have a problem. Lucky for you, I'm a guy who solves problems. For the right price of course."
"Bah, damn greedy, that's what you are. Always about the money eh? Ain't willin to help someone in a tight spot out of the goodness of yer heart?" She tried to slap me, of course, it wasn't me, so it just turned to mist. My laugh echoed through the wood.
"Err, where are ya! Show yerself!" They all took up armed positions as Growl, myself, and Trixie on my back left the treeline.
"I could care less about your money. In fact, right now, I have more than I know what to do with. I'm interested in something else."
"And what might that be?" The village elder asked in her usual tone.
"That." I pointed at the griffin.
"That's our dinner. We don't eat that, we starve."
"Well, that's a problem then. Hows about this, you hold off on cooking her while the rest of my crew gets here, and then we figure something out?" With a huff and a growl, and a shake of her mane, causing all the little bone fragment clips and such to jingle around, she agreed. Honestly, she looks like a freaking Hagraven, or that might just be my Skyrim packed brain trying to process it. She was creepy as hell though. Gilda eventually arrived, bringing Etch and Nadene with her. The cat looked shocked to see the state that they were in. She was about to run towards them to help, but I put my hand out, motioning her to stay back. Don't want to give away the bargaining chips.
"Well now, glad you got here. We've got a couple options, but given the nature of this, I'm leaving it up to you Nadene, you and you alone. That's the griffin who was with Carl. We either negotiate to free her, or we let them eat her and be on our merry way." Gagged and hanging on a fire spit, the griffin, who clearly didn't have her adult feathers in yet, was crying her green eyes out in fear, and also recognition of our group. Nadene seemed to be struggling with herself over the decision, grabbing the sides of her head as she thought. After all, she was part of the group that had killed her mother and enslaved her village.
"I need to know more. I.... have to hear her side of the story, why she did what she did. Then I'll make a decision." Nadene was deep in thought.
"So basically, we need to have a court case. Damnit, I hate law."
"Alright. Here's the deal, first, elder, state your name."
"You may call me Elder. Only members of the tribe may speak my name."
"Fair enough, Elder, the griffin you have with you has been accused of crimes by our own Nadene. We wish to have a trial to determine her guilt. Will you allow this?"
"You want us to release her to you so you can put her on trial? What would we receive in return?" She asked.
"Medical care by the plaintiff, as well as food. Considering that we griffins can fly, we can gather a substantial amount of it quickly, from other regions. We'll feed your people, and then we can get this underway." She agreed to the terms, Nadene set about administering care to the sick and injured, while Etch and Growl went about assisting her. Trixie stayed behind to make sure everything went smoothly, while Gilda and I went out to gather food from our own area.
"Hey Grif? You've got that thinking face on. What's up?" Gilda asked as we flew.
"The Romak have been stealing food from the Lemko land, making the Lemko starve. But why would they do that? There would be no reason to unless either A, they're trying to take over, which is unlikely considering the way their kind conducts themselves, or B, they have a food shortage of their own. But why would that be? They're right on the border of the volcanic lands, so plants grow really well there. What could cause them to have a lack of food, so much so that they'd steal from a known warrior tribe? I mean, it sounds like desperation."
"I'm not sure. Even with your drug addiction, you're still able to come up with this. Impressive." Gilda remarked.
"Yeah, that blue stuff Nadene's been giving me works wonders. Besides, I only get the shakes in the morning. I wonder why that is?"
We gathered up some food, taking our time to get plenty. We didn't need to worry about the others. After all, they could handle themselves, or at least as much as to escape if cornered. Hauling back a big burlap sack full of some kind of red striped banana, we arrived and delivered it, to which the towns....cats..... dug into with haste.
"Very well, we will allow this trial of yours. Since we no longer need to eat her, she is yours to do with as you please." Elder stated. Pushing dirty thoughts out of my mind, (Hey, I belong to Gilda alright?) the griffin was released, held guard by the dogs, who she looked disgusted with, so she wouldn't fly away.
"State your name."
"M.....Maria." The griffin stuttered.
"This, is Nadene. She will be your judge and jury, and if it comes to it, executioner. I will be the prosecution, and Gilda, the defense. Etch, Growl, and Trixie will be the guards, and this town, the witnesses. You will tell the entire truth, leaving nothing out and attempting no fallacy."
"The kitty is going to decide what we do with you, I'm gonna convince her you've been a bad birdy, while my friend over there tries to convince her that you're not an evil murderess. The dogs and unicorn are going to make sure you don't get away, and the entire town gets to watch. You're going to tell us your side of the story, all of it, and you aren't going to lie, because if you do, I'll catch it and it'll just prove my case. Got it?"
"Good, now that everything is set, let the trial begin!"
We all took positions around the firepit in the center of town, the warrior kitties happily eating the fruit that we had brought. There was only about... say... 30 or so of them, pretty small village, but then again, we have no idea how long they've been starving for, and how many might have died already. they seemed pretty happy though, given that they had food and medical attention now, as well as entertainment of sorts. Once everyone was in position, I took my spot across from Gilda, with Nadene in the circle on my right, and Maria on the left, held by the dogs who flanked her.
'Oh my gosh, I can't believe I get to do this! Every time I've been in court, (parents went through divorce, custody battles suck for the kids, in my case, both parents arguing about who I loved more when I hated both) it was always incredibly dull. I finally get to do one my style. But wait, I'm the prosecution, doesn't that make me Edgeworth?'
Dear Princess Luna,
Do you have a pet?
Sincerely, Nadene the cat.