- Northern Territories, Pt. 1
Gnashing teeth were all that the frigidly cold harehound could picture as he trudged on, his head down and his coat held up as high as he could on his face. Blood poured from a gaping wound on the left side of his torso, his free arm clutching to that wound as tight as he could in the howling winds, snow, and cold. His overweight frame was bundled up in a thick, puffy green coat, black ski pants, and a black hat which covered even his long, pointed ears. His tail was the only bit of fur that was sticking out from his shell of clothing which kept a large portion of the cold out, but the dark brown appendage was hung low between his legs as it too was battered with wind. It was all that the harehound could muster just to stand against the raging winds, let alone to be able to trudge on with such an injury. He knew that he would die if he stood still, or at least didn’t find some way to slow the bleeding. Keeping his arm and gloved paw there and moving on were his only choices for the moment, for he could see a forest up ahead. In the cover of the trees, the winds would be less severe and he would be able to get some sort of a reprieve from the blasting cold and shards of ice and snow pelting his entire body. It was like his sole oasis, and he knew that it was his one and only hope of survival.
Step after step, the hybrid moved forward at a very slow and deliberate pace. He was hopeless, in every sense of the word, as every muscle of his body screamed at him to do what his mind had done when he had first gotten injured; give up. The hybrid knew he was no survivor; he was out-of-shape, a nerd with no outdoors sense, and only there because he had been on a trek to see an old friend of his who had decided that living way out in this part of the world was a brilliant idea. Giving up because of all that seemed like the best course of action in his logical mind, but anger was keeping him standing and putting one foot in front of the other as he thought about the string of choices which had brought him to Death’s door. It had been a decision that the harehound regretted and cursed with every agonizing step towards his one hope of salvation. He even went as far as to curse that friend over and over again, his addled mind just hating that bear with every fiber of his being. If it wasn’t for him living where he did, if it hadn’t been for that thin sheet of ice, if the driver had been better trained… The harehound seethed with rage, and knew that it would be the one thing which would keep him standing.
Unbridled, yet unjustified rage did keep him going for a while, but eventually even that began to fade. In its place, or rather coming along to overshadow it with dominance inside the harehound’s mind, was the pain. Each breath felt like a knife to the throat and the chest. Every step shook his entire skeleton like it was made of glass. The rapid thumps of his aching heart made his head pound like it was being hit with a baseball bat. His extremities were numb to the point of pain, as was the gashed area on his abdomen. The hybrid had hoped his hefty frame would keep him warmer for longer, or at least long enough to reach the tree-line, but it was failing; he wasn’t going to make it. He willed himself to go on, pushing with every bit of power he had left in his frozen shell to keep it propelling itself forward. His body had won out over his mind though, and with the last vestiges of energy leaving his corpse, the harehound fell to his knees in defeat.
Peering through his tinted ski goggles as he sat on his knees, huffing out pained breath after pained breath, the hybrid just looked at his destination. It had to be at least another half-mile from where his broken husk kneeled, and that alone was enough to deflate what had been a rising amount of resolve in the harehound. He was finished, he knew it, and his body couldn’t agree more. The forest may as well have been miles away with the wound he had, for even if he made it, what would he do once he got there? He had no idea what to do with such a wound, and even if he did, he had already lost so much blood that it would only be a matter of time for him. He could feel his body getting more and more drained with every passing moment, to the point that he was now just slumped down on his knees with one paw keeping him off the ground. It was a losing battle all around, and as he slid down to the ground courtesy of his arm giving way, he had lost.
His eyes remained open, even as fatigue fought with them to get them to shut. A bright light appeared on the horizon as that war was being lost, causing the harehound to try and feebly reach towards it. Was this death? The bright light seemed to get closer and closer, almost feeling as if the warm embrace of the hereafter coming forward to greet him. The white light drew closer still, nearly blinding the straining, tired eyes of the harehound. He shut them, reaching a shaking, bloodied paw out towards the glow as he gave up his attempts at keeping blood from spurting free from his midsection. Surely it was so cold that the blood had even frozen, and who would be there to save him anyways? Death was warm, and that was where he wanted to be. That was his last thought, as he drew in a breath one final time, and then lost consciousness.
All that was around the harehound was white, and smelled of a bakery. Wherever he was, it was utter bliss to him, pure and simple. He couldn’t see much; he was still mostly blinded by the light all around him as it poured into his eyes from all around him in every single direction. The bakery smell started to grow stronger as the harehound began to regain control of his faculties; moving was becoming a little bit less of a task. He slowly bent his limbs, checking them to make sure that he was even able to bend them over and around with all that had happened to him recently. There was a lot that could have been going on with him, but he was trying to discount all of that and instead just begin to sort out what was going on with him. He began to try and put his feet down, but found no purchase on any surface below him. There was utterly nothing below him in the white space which was all around him; there was just nothing period in that ether which now comprised his entire existence. It took the harehound a moment to figure this out, but once he did panic began to set in for him and he immediately started to fall. It was as if gravity had given him a chance to recover before reacquiring its permanent lock on his form and dragging him down to some sort of a surface and taking care of him. In doing that, it meant splattering him onto the floor very far below. It was a sensation unlike any other; to suddenly be falling like that, and it sent a cold shiver down the hybrid’s spine as he knew that it was not going to end well…
The hybrid sat up, covered in cold sweat. He was lying somewhere cold and a little damp, but very much alive. He was certain of that as the twinge of pain from his wound instantly made itself aware from his upright position, and forced him right back down to the makeshift bed below. It was as if he was being stabbed by a million knives all in the same spot, and that was enough to take care of any logical sense in his mind as he lay there and writhed in pain. He may have just awoken, but he was very much awake at that point and very certain that there was going to be hell to pay for such a sudden movement with such a gaping wound. Indeed, he began to feel the familiar warmth of blood seeping from the gash after less than a moment of being flat on his back again, and that was enough to get him panicking yet again. He was very worried about the fact that he had reopened his wound, so much so that for the time being he forgot that he was indeed alive, conscious, and nude.
Those thoughts took longer to coalesce in the mess that was his mind. It was first the pain, as that overpowered every other thing which was running through his head. There was nothing else which even had a chance to form for a brief time because of it. Agony, torture, pain, anguish… Each one was making a cycle through the harehound’s mind as he lay there with both paws clutched to his gash and trying to keep it held together. There was little else he indeed could do in his state either; moving wasn’t going to come easy, he was bleeding again, and he had no idea where he was. That thought alone was the first to enter his mind outside of just how much everything hurt, and the fact that he shouldn’t have been alive. He had collapsed; he had died. He had felt life leave him, reveled in Death’s embrace, he had seen the afterlife… What could have happened that brought him back from most certain peril to the life of the living yet again?
Once that thought truly began to spread through his mind, the harehound began to think about other things. The pain was ebbing too, toning down to just a dull feeling of a railroad spike through him rather than a searing blowtorch. This let him think a bit clearer, and as he looked around the room what little he could move his head, he began to notice a few things. He noticed his nudity almost immediately, and saw that all of his clothes were nowhere around him. He was not cold however, he was in fact a nice, comfortable temperature; aside from the stabbing pain in his abdomen of course. Woolen blankets adorned the walls and the makeshift bed which he was laying in, all handmade by the looks of them. The room itself was small and cozy, with little more than the blankets he could see and a small pile of clothing in one corner populating it. The harehound couldn’t see more than that, and as he moved to get a better look the pain in his middle came back in full force.
He cried out as this happened, unable to keep his muzzle shut as the agony was just too much to bear. He didn’t know if someone could hear him, but he hardly cared about it at that point; he had been saved, so hopefully his savior was at least friendly. Even being around at that time would have been enough for the harehound, as he wanted to see who had saved him, as well as see if he or she had something for the pain. It was too much, far too much, for him to shoulder, and he could feel unconsciousness beginning to wrap him in its arms as that thought took over his mind. There was little that he could do to stop that, aside from continuing to clutching his wound and moaning out to no one for aid. He would do more if he had the strength to move, but there was just nothing left in him, as apparently dying had taken a lot out of him. His savior was apparently nowhere to be seen either, and that meant he either hadn’t been expected to make it, or he had been left to heal. Either reality was nerve-wracking for the harehound, but as his consciousness slipped away from his waking mind he could do little more than hope for the best.
Rest didn’t come though, for right as he was nearly back off into dreamland, a paw clasped his shoulder. The hybrid jumped, clearly startled from the sudden contact, and then immediately tightened his grasp on his midsection. The owner of the paw which had brought him back from the brink of unconsciousness placed his other paw on the harehound’s, gently tugging at them to try and move them. The hybrid was having none of that though, even as more force was applied to his paws. A faint growl from the beast above him stopped that resistance though, a menacing noise which scared the broken harehound into complying implicitly with any and all orders he would be given. He was unsure of who had saved him, and was both too afraid and in too much pain to open his eyes to check. That growl, and the feeling of the paws which he was now taking in and realizing how large they were, meant it was something big. The hybrid didn’t want to see that at the moment, he just wanted the pain to stop.
Just like that, it did. Any and all discomfort that had been on his middle vanished without so much as a tingle or zap. One minute it was all that the harehound could think of, and the next there was nothing which he could feel. There was a slight feeling of cold on his middle, but nowhere near numb and not at all uncomfortable. The hybrid was so stunned he didn’t even try to move or open his eyes, he just sat in silence for a few moments until the paws were removed from his frame. He still didn’t dare open his eyes for fear of what he would find, but he did slowly move his own paws towards his wound. Instantly another growl happened, and the hybrid took that as a sign to not touch where he had been injured. He thusly stopped, and put his paws back by his sides. Lying stock still for a few more moments, he decided enough was enough and stole a peek at his savior, opening his eyes just enough to get a slight look at them.
He was greeted by a muzzle in his face, sniffing at him much like a more primitive canine would. The harehound immediately recoiled, squirming somewhat out from under that muzzle and sliding himself back into the bed. The beast, looking to be a wolf/bear mix, had been hovering over him and looked equally surprised, pulling back himself and taking a few steps back from the bed which the hybrid was laying in. Both furs looked at one another for several seconds, drinking in what they saw of the other and looking equally afraid. Neither dared say a word, the silence in the room filling it with tension the longer they didn’t speak. The harehound and the wolfbear just stared at one another, the harehound’s brown fur standing on end just like the wolfbear’s jet black fur. The wolfbear’s imposing, muscular build was a stark contrast to the shorter, fat harehound, and served to further intimidate him as he shrunk back slightly against the wall behind him. This gave the wolfbear an advantage, but it looked to be one that he was ignoring as he still looked at the harehound in fear.
The harehound finally broke the silence, uttering simply: “Thank you.” The other hybrid gave a nod and a grunt, looking to have regained his composure now that the harehound had spoken. He didn’t talk back after that either, instead turning towards the door and walking out of it briskly. The harehound watched this, looking surprised and slightly stunned as his savior had all but ignored his thanks. Scrambling to his feet, the brown hybrid caught just a glimpse of what was outside the door, but hardly could tell heads or tails of what he saw. He wanted to follow the wolfbear out of the room he was in, but was afraid of any repercussions. He was also nude, and going out into the cold with nothing but fur on would not be wise. Figuring the clothing must have been meant for him once he awoke, the harehound all but pounced on it and threw the items over his back and around his waist, making sure to take care sliding the garments over his wound. He didn’t touch it as instructed, but it felt different than it had before as he brushed the area around it; the seam was far stronger and felt as though it could handle normal movement now. The hybrid ignored that though as he had a task of following his wolfbear savior, and finished dressing himself in short order. The clothes all felt thin and light, but something was better than nothing to him, and he had to hope that he could find his gear and get it back.
Before he left the tent, he caught a glimpse of himself in a puddle on the rocky floor of the room. He was unsure of where he was, but at least he was sure that he still looked the same; no frostbite on his thick muzzle or sagging rabbit ears. His brown-furred self looked even healthier in fact, a slight sheen to his fur that hadn’t been there at the start of his trip. His mane looked fuller, slightly more pronounced as it ringed his head and covered up his double chin as best it could. His hefty frame was not left at all to the imagination under the tight shirt which he wore, as his moobs were pressed right against the fabric, pulling it taut. His belly hung low, stretching the shirt nearly to its limit and peeking generously out from the bottom of it; even his green belly star was just barely present. The waistband of the pants he was wearing wasn’t helping either. It dug in harshly below his sagging gut, making it protrude that much more and making the harehound look even fatter than he was. His thick rear and meaty legs strained the pants, having even popped a seam or two as the harehound had thrown them on in a rush. The hybrid just sighed as he looked at that image, not entirely pleased with his build and feeling very self-conscious of it with the looks that his savior had been blessed with. He couldn’t let that get to him though, not when he was lost and needed rescue. How he was going to get it and where it would come from he didn’t know, but he had to cast how he looked from his mind and focus on getting himself back to those he knew. Vanity had no place in terms of survival after all.
With a faint amount of resolve now running through his mind and no more pain in his gut, the harehound stepped out of the room he was in, immediately seeing that it was no room, but a hut. Several more small ones like it were all around him, dotting the stony floor which he was standing on. There were at least twenty the size of the one he had been in, and one central hut which looked to be comprised of four or five of the smaller structures merged together. The harehound saw each one of them was hand-made, giving away that he had been rescued by natives of some kind. The low light of where he was made telling much else difficult, but the lack of wind and the reflections off where the sky should be gave away that he was in a cave. The cave explained the thinner clothing, but the harehound was very confused as to everything else; he had heard no mention of natives when he was traveling up to visit his friend. He also hadn’t thought natives could be so native in the modern era. No machines, no real signs of civilization as the harehound knew it… It was a shock to the hybrid’s system as he took one more look around.
He barely had time to finish his second glance around the area before a set of paws were clasped on his shoulders. The harehound jumped nearly a foot into the air when that happened, or rather tried to but was held firm. He still yelped with surprise and turned his head as far as he could, his double chin bunching up slightly as he did so. He could just see a paw on one of his broad shoulders, the same jet-black fur on it as was on the ones his rescuer possessed. That realization put him somewhat at ease, but not nearly enough to calm him down. He could hear a few seams pop in his shirt as he tensed up a little, but barely paid them any mind as he just stood with the large, strong paw on him. He wasn’t sure of what to do now that he had been caught, of sorts, sneaking around. He hadn’t heard a lick of English, nor had he seen any signs that the furs there knew it. Still he hoped he could at least communicate with them, and maybe even convince them to get him help.
A grunt and a light squeeze to his shoulder snapped the harehound out of his train of thought, making him yelp with surprise again. The wolfbear behind him let out a snort of laughter then gave him a light nudge on the back. The brown hybrid took it as a sign to walk and began walking forward. The wolfbear followed, still with a paw on the harehound’s shoulder as he did so. Light changes in pressure steered the chubby fur in the wolfbear’s grip, guiding him towards the largest tent there. The harehound went quietly, not resisting in the slightest and shaking lightly with fear as he got closer and closer to the door. He was nervous, and his nerves were growing as he heard a faint murmur coming from the tent. It was not in any language he knew and sounded very gruff and angry. He hoped the group he had stumbled upon wouldn’t harm him; why save him just to hurt him after all. He was still nervous though, and as he took the final few steps towards the tent with the black hybrid behind him still steering him in, he shook even more with fear.
Pushing the flap aside and stepping into the large main room of the makeshift tent, the harehound cowered in fear as he took a quick scan of the room. Almost two dozen wolfbears, all similar to the one which had guided him into the room, sat on the floor of the tent in a large semi-circle. Each looked to be about the same build and size of the one which had brought him in save for one, who was easily a head taller. He was also about ten times wider, putting the harehound at a small amount of ease as he looked at the mammothly obese wolfbear with a hint of awe in his eyes. He was full of fear, but seeing the leader as fat as he was calmed the hybrid down for some reason. He couldn’t put his finger onto why, but he felt more comfortable around the fatter wolfbear, and his nerves calmed themselves only just as he stood in the doorway. The wolfbear behind him moved further into the tent, joining the others on the floor and leaving the harehound standing there in silence. He was unsure of what to do, so he didn’t move or even blink, he just lowered his gaze to the ground and shrunk down as much as six feet and a couple hundred pounds of harehound could.
“Sit,” suddenly came out in a thick, deep voice. The bass in the voice and how loud it was made the harehound jump with surprise as he stood at the door. He complied however, and took a few steps into the tent before sitting down in the middle of the semi-circle. He didn’t raise his eyes to look at whomever had given him the command, but he could take a guess. “Welcome to camp,” the commanding, rich voice said. It was very heavily accented and tripped over words, but could be understood by the harehound. “Name?”
“Jin. Are you better?” The deep voice asked, clearly concerned and yet still so intimidating that it took Rovest a moment to respond. He had barely managed to squeak out his name, and now a request as to whether or not he was doing better… He wasn’t sure if he could handle being spoken to by such an imposing figure.
“Uh… Yes. Yes I am, thank you.” The harehound’s voice shook as he spoke, high-pitched and fearful. The leader and others in the room picked up on this, and all lowered their heads for a moment. A few murmurs filled the room, and sideways glances in his direction made Rovest realize he was the topic of discussion. This made him nervous, but it was nothing new for the harehound, and he just took the talk in stride. He was still a prisoner and guest of sorts, but the fact that he was being talked about was less nerve wracking than being talked to. Even the leader had turned towards the taller one who had brought him in and whispered something, gesturing towards Rovest. The wolfbear responded in kind, quietly making the same gesture and then shrinking back as the elder, fatter beast hit him with a padded paw.
“We are not enemy. Just friend Ro…Ro… Rowest.” The elder struggled to get the harehound’s name out, and thusly looked to be a little annoyed with himself once he finally did. The hybrids looked at one another once those words had been spoken, seeming to study one another. Rovest looked over the rolls, folds, and valleys of fat on the leader with admiration, while Jin looked over Rovest with intent curiosity. He had clearly never seen another like the harehound and was absolutely fascinated with how unique the brown-furred beast was. Rovest could say the same about the fatter beast looking back at him, but that was barely in his mind as he was still looking for a way out of the situation. He felt less in danger than he had, but he still wanted at the very least assurances that he wasn’t either going to be eaten or killed; undoubtedly the laws of society didn’t extend all the way out here.
“Where am I?” The harehound finally managed to inquire, his voice shaking slightly as he did so.
“You are in Wore tribe home.” The wolfbear replied flatly, looking at Rovest still with interested eyes. “You are safe.”
“But wh-” Rovest stopped talking as a loud ring filled the whole room. Each beast in the room jumped, most growling and with fangs bared as they heard the noise. Rovest knew what it was though, and immediately rushed towards the sound. He squealed somewhat with delight once he heard it, hoping that it was his rescue. The others in the room were afraid though, and as Rovest made his way over to his wet and bloody things, he could hear a few snarls pointed at him. The harehound wasn’t going to let fear best him this time though. Instead of cowering or letting the larger, intimidating beasts get in his way, he just walked over to where he needed to be and began digging. It didn’t take long, as he found his target in his ski pants rather quickly. “Yes!”
A satellite phone was in his paw, and he immediately extended the antenna and looked at the screen in hopes of seeing who had called him. His hopes sank almost immediately as he realized it was a dying battery sound over rescue. Trying to stay positive, the harehound reminded himself that at least he had his phone so that he could attempt rescue. Pushing in the number which he had been given to use in emergencies almost immediately once he saw the battery was dying, the chubby hybrid’s fingers danced along the keys in desperation. Number in, he pushed send and put the phone to his ear, all but ignoring the staring furs behind him. The line rung, and rung, and rung. It gave the harehound little hope, but he had to stay on the line and keep trying so that he would have a chance.
“Hello?” A crackly female voice finally came through, getting a hoot from Rovest in response.
“Yes! Hello, I’m stuck somewh-”
“Sir, I can barely….” Static took over the line making the rest of what the female said inaudible.
“Si-…Stay o-… Pl-…” And the line went dead after that, followed by the phone.
“No…” Rovest whispered, removing the device from his ear and looking at it with a distraught look on his face. His whole body sank as he slumped down onto his padded rear from his knees and just began to shake lightly. He had no hope of anyone coming to get him now as his only means of communication was dead. The tribe had no electricity, and certainly wouldn’t know where to begin in sending him back to civilization, so the harehound was stuck. He was trapped with wolfbears he didn’t know or trust, and in a place so incredibly cold that he couldn’t venture outside without multiple layers. It was just too much for him to bear, and as it all came down to weigh on him, a sole tear rolled down his left cheek.
A thick padded paw came to rest on Rovest’s shoulder as he sat there, giving a comforting pat once it had. The harehound turned to look at the paw, and then as he did he felt the large girth of the leader pushing against his back. The hybrid didn’t feel too comforted by this, but he could tell that the leader was indeed trying, and that was going to have to be enough for him. That was all he was going to get too, as he didn’t even have to look to feel the others shrinking back around him. He had pulled out a phone on beasts which had more likely than not never even conceived the idea of a phone, and that was quite a thing. Granted, it was now a dead phone, and he was stranded, but that little bit of power had to amount to something while he was stuck with the natives.
“Sorry my lord. Comfort?” The large chief said from behind, and immediately Rovest perked up. Lord? He was no lord, but apparently the natives thought him to be one. This was most likely thanks to that phone, and meant that instead of having to hope to leverage the technology over the Wore clan, the harehound could immediately start living a bit more comfortably. This brought more solace to him; maybe being trapped wasn’t going to be such a terrible thing for a little while. Smells of food wafted towards his muzzle as he sat there too, and he moved to turn around to see just what was being piled up behind him. It was a true assault of scent, and the chubby hybrid wanted to know what was causing it.
The chief had stepped aside once Rovest was spun around, allowing the harehound to lay eyes on a rather impressive spread of what looked to be comfort food. Nothing was food like he had seen before, but he doubted deep fryers or burgers made it this far north. The smells were intoxicating to say the least, and the hybrid moved a bit closer to the plates with a look of curiosity and hunger in his eyes. He hadn’t eaten since he had awoken, and was now suddenly starving. He was also still reeling from the loss of his phone and his only way out, but shock in that respect had taken hold and he could handle it later. He was going to cope the only way he knew how; by eating until he hurt less. The tribe seemed to sense that too, each bringing another dish from an adjacent room in the tent while the chieftain stood guard over the large offering.
“Sorry you stuck with us lord. Please, comfort.”
“Wow… Thank you,” Rovest uttered as he continued to look over the spread. He had no idea if he could maintain the illusion, or how long he would be welcome here, but if this was his welcoming gift into the tribe, he could hardly wait to see what he got once he had been in for a while. The chief was still looking at him too, almost waiting to see how the harehound would react and what he would go for first. Rovest had no plans on disappointing his intimidating hosts. He was lost, stuck, still somewhat injured, and starving; the harehound was going to demolish that offering.
And he did.