“Why didn’t you save me?”
Upon hearing those words Koumoru snapped awake half tangled in his bedroll. As he became more aware of his surroundings he realized that her voice had only been in his head, a byproduct of the nightmare he had. He rubbed his eyes for a moment and realized where he was and that was at his small campsite near Bluefog. “Why am I out here?” he thought, then he remembered “oh yeah a meteorite hunt.” Now his head is clear and he remembers everything. A skywatcher in Ul’dah had observed a meteor go down over Thanalan in the vicinity of camp Bluefog and he was offered a decent amount of gil to find any fragments. He had been out here for two days so far with no luck. Suddenly his stomach made an uncouth rumble. Apparently bad dreams were not enough to ruin his appetite. “Good morning you.” He says playfully patting his tummy as he stands up and walks over to Aiden his chocobo where he had his supply pack stored. He fetches a pair of eggs and a tin can of preserved meat along with a small pan. He goes to work coaxing the dying coals of last night’s campfire into a crackling blaze to cook his breakfast. He puts the kettle on with last night’s coffee to warm it up before cracking the eggs in the pan. He uses his knife to gingerly open the can of meat and he makes a face as it is less than appetizing. He decides to dump it in the pan and mix it with the eggs.
After a bit of time his simple camp breakfast is ready and he sets to work devouring it with gusto. He makes a bit of a face as he tastes the coffee, unfortunately the day old beverage is not as good the second day but that doesn’t stop him. Soon he is finished with his meal and he sets to work planning his day. He takes out his well worn map that he has marked up and made notes on to indicate where he has already searched. He decides that if he doesn’t find anything today he is going to call off the search. After all the trip has not been a total loss he did find a raw gemstone of some kind in a dried up creekbed. He doesn’t know much about it but it has to be worth at least something. He goes back to plotting his course for the day but his thoughts are drifting a bit. He is thinking of the Miqote girl he met at the tavern recently and also thinks about the invite to watch her compete at Grindstone and he is sure now that he wants to go and cheer her on. The more he thinks about it the more he wants to be away from this barren patch of land and back in civilization. So he settles it in his mind, he will spend a few more hours searching for the meteorite then he will venture back into town and get cleaned up to meet her at grindstone.
After securing his supply bags onto Aiden’s saddle he mounts the Chocobo and urges him forward. Aiden warks and fluffs his feathers a bit, picking up on Koumoru’s lighter demeanor. Soon the pair is out on the hunt riding down into a small ravine. He stops occasionally and dismounts to look around on foot but so far he is unable to find even the slightest hint of his hunt target. Koumoru is definitely distracted and that plays a part in what happens next, though it happened so fast even if he had been on complete guard it might not have saved him. As he rides along smooth stone basin his ears are suddenly assaulted by a horrifying shriek. His first reaction is to reach for his carbine musket in the saddle holster and he hardly finishes drawing it with something impacts his side with the force of a cannonball knocking him off his mount and sending the loosely held firearm skittering across the flat rocky table. He hits the ground hard and tilts his head to look and he notices a small black furry bipedal creature a few feet away about the size and shape of a spriggan but somehow far more horrifying. He looks to where his weapon fell and about that time the thing rushes at him in a flash of movement. It collides with him forcefully knocking him back down to the ground, it’s claws and teeth ripping at him but so far he remains unscathed by its ferocity. As he tries to hold it back it claws up his arm leaving long scratches that ooze rivulets of blood. He lets out a pained cry as he struggles with the creature. He’s not even sure what it is though he’s sure it has two clawed hands and at least one toothy maw though there may be more. As he fights it off with his left hand his right hand goes to his belt seizing his dagger, and in one smooth motion he swings it in an arc and buries it into the side of the squalling creature. The wounded creature lets out a shriek worse than the one it made when it first attacked and it appears to be bleeding some sort of disgusting green ichor. The creature ceases its attack and skitters off across the flat stony ground. Kou’s first move is to leap for his fallen firearm and he slides on his knees to it and in a single action brings it up level to a firing position while kneeling. The small creature is rapidly moving away though and his aim is a bit shaky from the adrenaline coursing through him, but he holds his breath while pulling the trigger and is rewarded by a sharp report that echoes off the canyon walls but sadly does not find it’s mark. Koumoru curses and lowers the gun, panting for breath as he tries to process the shock of the incident. He was so wrapped up in the surprise that he didn’t notice a hooded figure up on the canyon wall that was visible for a moment before withdrawing out of sight.
As he comes down from his adrenaline high Koumoru becomes acutely aware of the pain in his arm and he looks down to examine it. He has several deep scratches on his arm that are bleeding onto his shirt and he figures he better tend to the injury with haste. He walks over to Aiden and pats the large bird to help calm him “don’t worry boy I’m ok, you know I’ve had worse” he reassures the chocobo as he takes a small leather pouch from his saddle bags. From inside the pouch he removes a small flask of Lominsan grain alcohol. The harsh liquor was quite skilled at killing many different things like inhibitions, rational thought, and stomach lining. However it was also just as good at killing infection too and for that reason he kept a supply of it in his medical pouch. He pours some of it on a piece of clean linen cloth and uses it to clean the deep cuts. He has to stifle a yell as the potent concoction burns his wounded arm. It isn’t a pleasant task but soon the injury is cleaned and bandaged leaving Kou to plan his next move. The first thing he does is reload his musket before putting it back in it’s saddle holder, just in case one of those abominations wants to go another round with him. Then he mounts his chocobo and urges him on towards Uldah where he will seek out the client that hired him to see if everything is legitimate or if this attack was some sort of set up.
Upon reaching Ul’dah he is not surprised that there is no trace of the client that hired him so it does seem like this was some kind of set up. However it remains to be seen if he was specifically targeted or was it just luck and they would have hired any mercenary that came along. The other big question is why, for what purpose. Koumoru decides to forget all about Grindstone and spend the rest of the day poking around Ul’dah for any clues, he also pays a visit to friend of his who has a vast knowledge of arcane creatures hoping to find any information on what is was that attacked him. They both pretty much come to the conclusion that it was some sort of voidsent but nothing that has been noted before. The next step would be to find out if there has been any other recent attacks in that locale but he knows the brass blades are not going to be very forthcoming with their records so he instead checks some of the merchant groups for any reports of incidents like what happened to him. When that proves to be a bust as a last resort he spends a few hours at the Coffer & Coffin drinking and plying patrons for any sort of rumors or gossip that would be relevant to his inquest. Alas it proved to be fruitless and a waste of gil buying drinks for various individuals hoping to glean useful information. Feeling tired and rather defeated Kou trudges back to Ul’dah and goes to his rented room at the inn.
When he arrives at his inn room he collapses on the bed and closes his eyes as he tries his best to think and sort out the various loose threads of information. Sadly there is not much to work with and he is unable to reach any definite conclusions. As he sits back up on the edge of the bed a thought occurs to him, could the incident be somehow linked to the Carnelian Court, a group that his company tangled with in the past? “no that would be impossible” he thought “we destroyed them all and killed Lord Chalce.” He rises from the edge of the bed and moves to the desk “They did have a certain talent for calling up things that shouldn’t exist like that abomination that attacked him” he had to admit to himself. As unlikely as that scenario was it still chilled his blood, he had more than enough trouble defeating them with a full cadre of allies and now the thought of maybe having to face the same trial alone gave him pause. At last he reckons he should at least warn certain people, starting with the Twin Adders. He sets out the inkpot and quill and begins writing a missive addressed to Commander Pratt of the Adders but almost immediately stops. He realizes that his epistle would be as good as dead on Pratt’s desk and the only question would be the final fate of the dead letter would it be cremated in his desktop brazier or unceremoniously buried in the grave of paperwork on his desk. He decides to instead address it to Captain Ryder who is sure to at least read it and might even take the warning seriously. It doesn’t take long to finish the letter and seal the envelope so while he is at it he writes a similar letter to his sister Minawa. Lastly he pens a short letter to his mother but while he is addressing it he gets the thought to just go to Gridania and deliver it in person. It would do him good to see her again and he can pick up a couple more homemade shirts from her while he is there. Now that his writing is complete he extinguishes the lamp and flops down on the bed to get some sleep before departing to Gridania in the morning.
To be continued…