=[Interlude: Chapter 1]=
Ice forms around me on the ground as I stand before the crater. They’ve been here. I can smell it in the air. Their raw Essence burns this place, it stinks of them. I snuffle, causing some of the slow lumpen humans nearby to look alarmed and hurry to their flimsy abodes. I hear one of them bar a door. It amuses for a moment to think anyone so foolish as to suspect that would work.
The stink of essence is replaced with blood and matted hair as my companion moves to flank me. Where I am tall and lean, he is hunched and brutal. He likes to imagine that he and I are equals. As much as I am disgusted to play along, I encourage his beliefs as it will make my inevitable betrayal so much more delicious.
He grunts at me, tusks and broken teeth making it hard to understand his language, “The prey… it moves from here. In the sky.” It is clear such a description truly taxes the thuggish thing’s mind. I nod quietly. I have gone forty seven days without having to actually speak to the creature. Somehow that makes me feel cleaner.
Yes, I must have been here before. I glance over at a nearby structure and see a relic of my last visit. A fox carved of stone. The fox, the crater, they both seem strangely familiar to me, but this form won’t allow me to remember. I gesture and the fox comes to life, glancing around with solid stone eyes. I gesture again and it runs to join me, leaping at the last moment and melding with my form. I feel it merge and flow within me, eventually taking its proper place as my third tail. For a second, I almost smile. That wouldn’t be an appropriate action in front of the thug.
“North,” he croaks through his horrific mouth, “We must go North.” I roll my eyes in a dramatic show of disbelief. I could open my mouth to convey that the prey is travelling North by sky ship, but I doubt this thing could even understand the reason why that would make a difference. Instead I focus my energies and reach out to the world. Finding what I was looking for in seconds, I gesture to the West. My companion sighs and starts trudging in the direction I pointed, apparently being smart enough to remember that I do not discuss direction with something like him.
Once he has turned away, I do smile, and start walking towards the Place of High Water and towards my prey.