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Chapter 11:

The Spring

Keio (9-K-O-512)

Location: forest, near lake
Health: weakening, dehydrated
Additional effects - enhanced nature-vision, impaired movement

It seems Badass wasn’t lying. We soon reach a clearing covered in bright green moss, a clean spring sparkling in the middle. I slide down the elk’s neck and rush to the water, forgetting all my ailments. I throw myself onto the moss, drinking straight from the shimmering pool. The spring water is crisp and cold, tastes different than the sips I gathered from the branches or the recycling pouch.

The elk drinks as well, one head after the other. I don’t know if it’s satisfying its own thirst, or mine. Our bond weakens, though our life-shapes are still stuck to each other. I sit up, drinking more and more - moderately now, a cupped handful at a time. “Thank you,” I finally get the chance to say. “Beats the lake.”

Badass nods. “The gulls don’t joke around.” He tells me more of his adventures and the dangers he faced landing in the lake. He adds that he found a whole village of survivors in the woods.

While he’s talking, I tear a couple of strips of smart fabric from my garments and fashion them into tiny waterskins. I stopper them carefully once full, and store them in my spider-cocoon belt pockets. “But how did you get from the lake to the forest?” I ask with interest. Badass may have discovered many useful things about the local nature, things I should take note of.

He hesitates for a moment, then explains that nearby caves are inhabited by intelligent badgers - they were the ones to help him in his plight.

“And now the villagers are planning a large hunt,” he concludes. “I was on my way to warn the badgers when I happened upon your Little-Friend.”

I can’t comprehend the thought that other survivors would hunt intelligent inhabitants of the planet. “Let’s go.” I mount the elk quickly. “Let’s warn the badgers.”

“But the village?” Badass asks carefully. “I should take you to them first. You could rest and… You don’t look so good.”

I grunt scornfully. “If what you say is true, I don’t want anything to do with these people, survivors or not.”

“They aren’t that bad,” Badass tries to defend the villagers. “Naiscy and Tooler…”

But I know I don’t have the strength to argue with a village full of strangers. And the reserves of my natural energy are failing. Already my elk-steed tends to wander off of its own accord and I’ve had to consume several pocketfuls of fir sprouts to reconcile the animal.

“No. Let’s go to the badgers,” I maintain.

It seems Badass doesn’t really want to argue. He points me in the right direction and we set off for the badger home.

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