|Ashur|| The wilds of the world are wet with rain; the intermittent showers, cold and sudden, muddy the earth and leave pools of water that drain into the cracks like splotches of paint. The lake swells and the surplus spills from its edges-- all this rain is good for the town and the neighbors it trades with. The grasses and shrubbery that lines the lake's coasts and bloom at the mouth of the Pecos River stir in the breezes and are flourishing homes for all sorts of critters-- particularly mosquitoes, the nasty parasites that not even a nuclear apocalypse could annihilate.
Such beasts have been pestering Ashur. He is a giant of a man, flesh burnished and drawn taught over walls of muscle; he's bronzed and sunbaked, dirty gold, whose black hair has overgrown and fallen in thick partially-braided waves to his shoulders and whose beard and moustache have become ungainly thick. His body's riddled with the scars of war and nicked by fresh wounds, a legion of scrapes and contusions writing a bloody history across him; currently, he's kneeling near the lake, the rain washing dirt from his face, and filling a canteen from a puddle. His cloak, a tattered red thing emblazoned with a golden bull, is wrapped around him.
|Dawn||This is a dangerous place for a man, even a man of Ashur's stature. So why is it that Dawn finds herself here, without much in the way of supplies? Well, when you follow the trail of interesting sights further and further away from the town and eventually fall away from your 'tour' group, bad things tend to happen. Bad things like Dawn sitting near the lake and tossing rocks in. She wipes some sweat from her brow on the sleeve of her vault outfit, looking rather tired.|
|Ashur|| The water is clean, and it goes down smooth; Ashur chugs it from his canteen after refilling it rather than drink from the source. Even in the wild, a man must be civilized-- beasts submerge their heads, not men. Another refill, and he corks the top, rising from the knee he'd taken. The sprinkles are letting up; soon the sun will return. He knows that El Dorado is nearby.
Dawn's rock tossing has gone well enough. The frequent passage of settlers along the lake have taught the smarter critters a lick of caution; unfortunately, in one of the stagnant pools, a bloodbug laid her eggs some time ago. They were hidden amidst the reeds. There's a rustle, some crackling, and in the corner of her eye it comes: the hatchling, pale and pink like raw meat, its exoskeleton not yet hardened. Its spindle legs tap-tap-tap the wet ground, and its swollen abdomen and empty blood-sac pulse with life. It is the size of a dog, or thereabouts. It looks at her from its perch amidst the greenery.
|Dawn||Dawn knows what is what. This creature is this creature, and the books she reads tell her so. She shouldn't be afraid. But at the sight of it? The girl -shrieks-, falling backwards and scrabbling. A rock is thrown uselessly at the hatchling but it goes wide, leaving her to fall on her rump as she scoots away. "Shoo! Shoo!" She shouts at it, waving her arms like one might shoo away a stray dog, or a nosy child.|
|Ashur||The rock whistles by the bug's head and skips once across the lip of the lake, landing in the grass. Its wings rub together and begin to vibrate with an engine's purr. Those spindly legs seem sharper and more dangerous as it lifts into the air, and from her fallen-down perspective it seems even larger-- it was the size of a dog? Maybe. Its multifaceted eyes stare down at her, and the six double-jointed limbs click and sway. But most deadly is that knife dangling between its eyes-- the proboscis, the blood-sucking syringe. It makes a sound, and tries to grab her.|
|Dawn||Dawn shrieks again, tried to slide away and only managing to fall on her back and hold up her hands to ward away the monster. If her pipboy was the fancy wrist-mounted kind it might have warded off the blow... instead the dagger-like protrusion slits her vault suit lightly, a line of red wealing up on her skin from the grazing by the monstrous mosquito. She tries to batter at it with her fists, useless of course, panicking as she knows she's going to die in humiliating fashion.|
|Ashur|| Stuck in the cold mud, surrounded by wet grass, looking up toward a pink insectoid monster and an overcast sky-- so ends the story of Dawn, it seems, in humiliating and dour fashion. But there is a glimpse of hope: its outside hasn't hardened yet! She isn't strong, but the blows she rains down on it with her weak little fists find purchase, and the creature's flesh is sensitive; it recoils enough to let her squirm away some, sliding away from its legs... and then it's upon her again. It's not -that- sensitive.
"Vulgar parasite," comes a man's voice, a rumble like thunder that suits the fading storm. The insect turns around and there looms a man far greater than it in size-- by this point Ashur is there, having wandered the edge of the lake and been drawn by the girl's yelling. He seems unarmed; he lifts his right hand, and she sees the glimpse of metal, ringed and encircling his fingers. His left hand grabs the proboscis and he slams the fist down upon its head, popping its eyes. Every limb extends and shudders, then goes limp.
He tosses the corpse aside like so much chaff, and stares Dawn down. "Fool woman, where is your escort?"
|Dawn||Dawn is muddy, sweaty, tired, panicky... and also angry. She scowls up at the man who just saved her, like it's all -his- fault that she was just attacked. "I was fine! I was..." She drops the act, too exhausted to put up that front right now. "I don't have an escort." She mumbles out softly, trying to wipe some blood from her cheek and only succeeding in getting herself muddy.
She looks up at the man then, finally taking him in and blinking a few times at his strange manner of dress. Tribal, maybe? "Right, um. I mean. Thank you..."
|Ashur|| This close, more details of the man can be seen-- his armor is queerly styled, a mix of metal and leather, fashioned from old-world football gear and wasteland metallurgy. It is designed to appear Roman, though not many alive would recognize that anymore. There are tribal markers on him-- bits of bone, a feather in his hair, some tattoos.
"You should not be alone," he says, soaking in the sight of her-- so soft, so pampered, not an inch of her seeming marked by the hardness of the world. "The man who owns you," he begins, reckoning she must be some sort of pleasure slave or wealthy man's house servant, "will not be pleased you wandered off. I will return you to El Dorado."
He could use some directions, anyway.
|Dawn||Dawn actually -harumphs- at that. "OWNS ME?!" She blurts out as she scrabbles to her feet. Sure she slips a couple of times and almost falls, but when she plants her hands on her hips and glares at the man she very well might be a superhero from her pose. "I'll have you know I'm a woman of -science-. I'm a doctor. I have a -Pipboy-." Dawn declares proudly, holding up her muddy, handheld device. "An -original- Pipboy 2000."|
|Ashur||The man's brow furrows; his lips turn down to sneer. The weight of his displeasure hits like his metal-banded fists. "There is no pride in dependence on such old-world relics," he declares, staring at her. "One should not seek to prolong life through science. That way lies madness." He shakes his head, then softens, just slightly-- she seems so genuinely proud of herself. "But very well. You are a healer, woman? I've been injured on my travels; repay your debt by tending to my wounds, and I will keep you safe on our journey."|
|Dawn||She -was- proud of herself. Then she's talked down to about her technology and she just deflates a bit. Her shoulders sag and some of that defiance leaks out of her like a water balloon with a hole in it. "O-okay... I mean. I guess that's okay." She says, wiping her face again and smoothing away her hair nervously as she watches the big man between nervous glances away from him. "I... don't suppose you know the way to El Dorado? I might be turned around." She admits sheepishly.|
|Ashur||There's a twinge in the dark man's heart as Dawn sags; perhaps he was too rough. The desire for freedom and pride in one's accomplishments are not unforgivable sins. "... The city is toward the southwest," he recites from memory, harkening back to an earlier encounter in the wilds where a merchant caravan told him to follow the river. "But I do not wish to travel in the dark, in unfamiliar ground. The sun is beginning to set-- we'll camp here for the night, and come the morn I will return you." He once more looks her over; he devours her with golden eyes. "From where do you come, woman-- is El Dorado so luxurious? You look soft as a newborn."|
|Dawn||"Soft as a?" Dawn actually blushes at that, even though it's an insult rather than a compliment probably. She shakes her head, folding her arms over her chest. "I'm from Vault Town. Under.. beneath El Dorado. I've studied the wasteland! I know that was a Bloodbug, and... I know what is what." As though book learning might save her from doom. "W-wait, we're camping out tonight? But we could walk..." She waffles, indecisive as all get-out.|
|Ashur|| "You can walk on your own," Ashur offers, cupping a hand over his brow and looking into the distance. He can't see the settlement from here; it is somewhere past the rolling hills, nestled amidst the parched wasteland. "I have been on the march for the last few days. Rest would serve me well." The hand falls. A cool breeze stirs along the water's surface, rippling it and coming to the pair; it waves the tatters of the giant's bull-marked cloak, and chills the wet and muddied parts of Dawn from her time in the rain and dirt. The sun is indeed setting behind the cloud cover, gradually darkening the world. It's almost peaceful-- the sounds of water, of air, and insects.
She can walk off into that encroaching darkness, alive with bug-song.
|Dawn||Dawn shivers as she follows the man's gaze, arms wrapped around herself. Her teeth chatter for a moment and she bites down on her lip. "F-fine, I guess... but don't try any funny business. I... I can take care of myself." She threatens the man toothlessly, her tone far too tired to come off as an actual danger. She sighs, wiping her hair back again. "I don't even have a tent."|
|Ashur|| Her warning falls on deaf ears. "Be useful, woman. Fetch clumps of the drier grass-- some of it will have been spared the rains. Stay within my sight." He waves his left hand to dismiss her and walks. There are trees here and there, fed by the lake's waters, dotting the northern grounds that follow the river-- not a ton of them, a small copse, but some. From them he'll collect a few fallen branches. It does not take long; in less than ten minutes, he's collected an armful of wet and broken branches, and deposited them in a little clearing away from the water. It's a raised portion of the ground bulwarked by tall grass and two thin trees on the east and west of it. There's some rocks, and, most importantly, a stump in the center he sits on.
By the time Dawn returns, she'll find him with the branches piled next to his feet, peeling the wet outer layers of bark off them with a small pocket knife.
|Dawn||Ashur just -assumes- Dawn will do as he bids! That she -will- return. She actually walks a little ways away from him, preparing to leave and... bug noises. She stops in her tracks and shivers. A little scowl hits her lips and she hugs her arms around herself for warmth before she gets back to work collecting some dry grass. She actually manages to get a fair bit, though probably not as much as is needed for a decent-sized shelter. She holds the grass bundled in her arms, standing there and watching the man work. "So... what do I do with this?"|
|Ashur|| "I made a spot for it there," he nods his head without looking at her to the side, a little hole in the ground he'd dug up. It's dry and ringed by small stones. "Put it there. That will be our fire pit-- just lay the grasses out; collect some of the fallen leaves and twigs from these four trees next. Any you can reach. Dry."
He continues to work the branch, until finally all the off-grey and fibrous outer bark has been peeled. He then begins to score the dry white inner bark, shaving it to produce clusters of thin curls from top to bottom. "It's called a feather stick," he explains. "One way to use dead or wet wood in a fire. Strip it bare, and then cut the heartwood into flakes-- the more and the thinner, the better. A finer strip ignites better."
He works in the fading light, focused to a razor-sharp point. The disciplined air suggests a certain militarism.. but for all his apparent disdain, he is verbally walking her through the process. Who knows? She might remember it in the future, when she needs to start a fire.
"What is your name?"
|Dawn||Dawn is hearing the words as she lays out the dry grass, but they're probably not sinking in too deep. By all accounts she's obviously not the most... survivalist type. Once she's grabbed an arm-load of leaves and twigs she comes back and drops them in a neat pile before she gives a tired sigh and flumps down on her backside by the fire pit, preparing to enjoy the warmth without waiting for further instructions. "I'm Dawn... Dawn Smith." She says hesitantly, unable to come up with a good fake name.|
|Ashur|| "Dawn Smith," he repeats, his eyes bearing down on hers as she slumps to the ground. "Mm. For a Dissolute, you obey well enough. I am Ashur." The branches are properly feathered; the brute brings them to the pit. On his knees, the tinder and kindling are arranged, a spark is generated, and through well-timed feeding of material a healthy blaze is birthed. It banishes the shadows that have formed and creates a shimmering aura of heat and light for them and them alone.
"You did well."
|Dawn||Dawn shivers and leans in closer to the fire. While Ashur may be speaking her language, his words don't make a lot of sense to the girl. She is too busy warming herself, rubbing her arms to keep herself from freezing. "T-thank you, I t-think." She chatters out glumly, focusing on the fire and trying to forget the awful parts of what began as such a nice day.|