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Ashur Wind and heartbeat! Both race as the woman takes flight-- too fast to burn beneath the sun, too fast to feel the pain of a sprained ankle, the stitch in the side from where a gatling gun was smacked barrel-first against the ribs. Like the rest of her men she fled, sacrificing pride and glorious martyrdom for the sweet taste of life.

That was hours ago now. As the adrenaline fades, the world takes a darker turn; her gang is lost, the survivors out of reach, and that precious laser pistol she'd harassed some wandering tech-head to give to her cheap enough it'd be a steal was lost in the tumble. Hurt, alone, ill-equipped and without supplies, Chloe is forced to accept a humbling truth:

She might actually die out here.

But maybe that inspires a second wind, even as the dark revelation sees the sweltering heat submit to a cooling breeze as clouds roll before the sun's face. All around her is dry cracked land, parched riverbeds, rocks, relics of bygone eras-- sign posts, faded street lines. But the horizon has a hint of green. El Dorado.
Chloe     Chloe could barely believe it. She almost made it to the city of El Dorado with most of her crew alive, but the winds of fate were never especially kind. She lost everything - her crew, her weapons, her food. It was all she could do to simply run away under a hailstorm of gunfire and the deafening thunder of horse hooves, lest the Enclave capture or kill her. Angry and humiliated by such a brutal loss, there was really only one option left to her: reach El Dorado, gather allies, and find the survivors. Many miles and even more days away from a life she deserted, only the passion for vengeance guides her way.

    Despite her survival - and beneath all the dirt and sweat - she hardly managed to flee entirely unscathed. Dried blood glimmers from a busted lip. Numerous scrapes scrawl across either knee and the palms of her hands, in her desperate and stumbling dash towards safety. It hurts to put her full weight on her left foot, and a subtle ache throbs across her temples, and bright pain flashes through her whenever she takes a deep breath. Still, she's too stubborn to give up. So long as she can reach the city, or even other people, her misery will be a distant memory in only a few short weeks.

    Clutching her side, a flood of relief enters her mind at the welcome gust of cool air wafting off the wasteland. Stopping there against a boiling rock, she decides to strategize a bit. She needed water, or else she might not make it all the way. Green eyes track the landscape for some hint of wildlife or sources of water. Even recent tracks might prove useful, were they to lead to a meal.
Ashur Thirst has become her companion. Chloe recognize in herself the earliest signs of dehydration; the dry lips and feel of licking sand, the faint spell of dizziness that fades at the cool breeze. It might just be fatigue, true.. but is it a chance she can take?

No. Of course not. She knows that-- she seeks water. With her ample experience, keen eyes, and raw grit her guided meanderings southward prove auspicious; follow the faint tracks, see which distant locations seem a little greener than others.. but the most reassuring sign is certainly when her skin is pricked and itched by tiny little feelers, as clouds of insects violate her. It sucks, but she knows: bugs mean water.

And there, some twenty yards yet off, she can see it-- hear it, the faint babbling of a small brook, fed by some thin source in the greenbrown hills. She slinks, attentive, tired, through the reeds that line it, crushing the graveled stones beneath her feet. Water, water, everywhere-- and a fat humming bloatfly feeding off a partially decomposing carcass.
Chloe     Chloe can already begin to feel the weakness in her body as dehydration arrives. The cramping in her gut, the shakiness of her hands, and the dizzyness making every step that much more tentative to take. To find faint tracks was a godsend, encouraging her towards the source with progressively deeper depressions in the ground. Insects arrived next, but she didn't care. She found it. Just the mere sound of water bubbling and frothing conjures a second wind, and she has to will herself to stay wary of other creatures that found the same prize.

    As expected, a couple of other wanderers arrived at the brook, but the first was being steadily consumed by the second. Brushing the reeds and insects aside, she cautiously crouches down for a sip. The bloatfly may have its banquet, but so shall she.
Ashur The bloatfly is in that transitional stage between juvenile and adult; its coloring and size mark it more than a babe, yet it lacks the fully hardened carapace of an adult. Nevertheless, it is a foul and ugly creature; it rivals a large dog in size, its faceted eyes are immense and seem furred, its legs are spindly and cruel. It hovers on wings that move a mile a minute and seems to be.. depositing larva in the rank flesh.

Gross. But Chloe moves first, before it even disengages from its wholesome fertilization.
Chloe     Chloe always hated Bloatflies, the ugliest creatures of the wasteland. Still, if she was going to finish her drink and safely walk away, she was unfortunately going to have to injure it enough to give herself a headstart. Stealing enough sips of water that she very nearly feels like a human bloatfly herself, she glances around for opportunities. A couple seconds later, she locates a nice, sturdy rock. Lofting it in the palm of her hand, she shifts around and winds up, before launching the solid mineral directly at the nasty giant insect thing! Barely giving the projectile the chance to hit, she turns tail and runs as fast as her legs can carry her.

    After only a handful of seconds, she doesn't hear any buzzing. That's odd. Glancing back, she can just barely see the Bloatfly lifting off into the air and chittering away. Skidding to a halt, she turns around and calls out, "that's right! -I'm- the mistress of the babbling brook!" Proudly, she ambles back to the reeds for a bit of R&R, grinning as she sips more from the waters like a wasteland Queen.
Ashur The water is most ambrosial; drinking deeply, Chloe quenches her thirst, banishing the dry mouth and securing her life. She might have lost her weapons, but she still has a canteen somewhere on her, and wisely fills it. And the bloatfly? It delivered its genetic payload to the half-rotten mutant lizard corpse a few dozen yards from Chloe's current position, and in time the fetid larvae will feast and grow.

Of course, as the rumbling in her stomach reminds her, there's no need to give them the chance to grow up.
Chloe     "Oh my god, this water's fucking amazing." Once she's had her fill and filled her canteen, Chloe washes herself with the rest of the babbling brook. Her wounds get looked at, causing her to wince at the revelation of a sprained ankle, but at least her ribs haven't fractured - or at least, fractured too severely. Once she's clean and rested, she feels the oncoming ache of hunger. She rises to her feet to collect sticks, reeds, and rocks for a nicely toasty fire, and then digs cheerfully into the mutant lizard corpse for a maggot skewer!

    Despite the evening surely settling in soon, Chloe definitely did not want to be left out in the open for the bloatfly to make its return - or worse. So once finished with her early dinner, she dusted off her dress and rose to her feet, continuing her journey towards a new home.
Ashur The brook leads south into the greener lands of rural El Dorado. Eventually, it terminates in a still, soggy pond, small and shallow; no doubt draining into the aquifier beneath the rocks. The militia patrols these lands, and in her travels she'll see trading caravans, the various ranches of the city families, and perhaps even a traveler or two-- but there will be no Enclave soldiers, and the wilds here have been broken into submission. It's a safe, tamed land.. for now.

Chloe has made it back to civilization.