Having long since stumbled out of the sewer and gone head first, quite literally, into the Senun River, Elle has spent the time since hobbling onward. She is in the Jacint Woods now and her clothes are no longer wet as a result. Yet, they are filthy and torn. The young brunette could not care less for in one evening she has lost her brother, parents, home and town. It would not be, in her eyes, incorrect to say that her life, as she knew it, is over. Regardless, she is pushes forward hobbling over the uneven root strewn wood heading… She doesn’t know to where she is heading. There is certainly no destination on her mind. In fact, all she is attempting to do is to put as much distance between her and the Uru as possible. Whether her efforts are proving successful or not, she cannot say. Her current judgement is that thus far she is successful. It’s a conclusion she has reached for no other reason than she has not seen or heard anything which she might consider as being to Uru. Alas, that does not mean her will to continue will last forever. It will not. No ones can and Elle is fully aware that she is currently in dire need of rest. Even if said rest is little more than a pause. A chance to stop trudging forward over the… The young woman trips, stumbles and lands on all fours. Her face twists due to the stabbing pains which rip up her arms from her wrists. They took the brunt of the fall.
Elle knows there is a need to continue onward but she does not feel able to. Her body refuses and so here she remains for a good while, listening, her head on a swivel as sounds reach from the darkness of night taunting her. She hates them, all. If she could she would scream for them to leave her alone but her voice is shredded, little more than a rasp capable of passing her lips now. The loss occurred during her scramble through the sewers, when the Uru had still been insistent on reaching her. And they had got close. Not because they had managed to worm their ways down into the sewers to join her, they had not, but via other means they had. Her best estimate of a description is to say that they reached for her and used tactics, she did not know they were capable of possessing, in hopes of flushing her out of the subterranean tubes and back to the surface. It seems the Uru are far more devious than she might have thought. Alas, they failed. Had they not then she would not be here, like she is.
Has survival been worth it? She cannot say. A large part of her thinks not. She will not refute that. Nor will she refute how that same part believes she should have ran into the Uru. Not to fight but to die. In that way she could have joined her brother and parents. You don’t know if they’re dead! Of course they’re dead! Is the exclamation she roars back in her head. Her teeth gritted as she does so for the declaration that what she saw might not be what it seems is cruel in her mind. It denies reality, truth. She will not abide that. Then get moving! Is the next command that is issued in response to her refusal to quit. Without thinking on how her subconscious has manipulated her, Elle obeys and struggles in hopes of returning to her feet. She fails and so elects to crawl on hands and knees.
The ground is rough, her knees quickly become scuffed as a result, but the young brunette pushes on all the same until suddenly the ground drops away. Elle tumbles, unable to stop herself, head first down the steep slope. Quickly her tumble becomes a roll that sees her barrel end over end over end. The young woman wonders whether it will ever stop and as if on cue it does. Again her tailbone suffers a hit. This one is far worse than the first. In fact, it renders Elle immobile, her head meanwhile is spinning, dizzy. She fights off the urge to vomit and pass out. Instead, left to stare bleary eyed as her head lolls about taking in nothing of the grassy area that is well manicured and divided by vegetable patches ahead of her. Let alone the stone cottage with its pitched wooden roof from which a middle aged man and woman dressed in farmer’s rags approach.
The farmer’s wife stays back, rambling to her husband questions he has no answers to.
He drops into a squat beside Elle to check on her. His lips move, Elle sees them, but no sounds reach her ears. In fact, no thought can be picked from her head. It’s a feeling most unusual to the young brunette who without consideration flashes a confused smile. In response the farmer’s brow furrows. His wife catches it and asks what might be the problem. He announces that this young woman is concussed.
“Then get her inside you big dolt.” Is the reply the farmer is met with for delivering the diagnosis.
His reaction is to sneer irritated; an expression which is hidden from his wife. It lasts only moments and right after is replaced by something else entirely.
The farmer gathers the dazed Elle into his arms and hauls her off the ground. The young woman goes into a fit, her head shaking profusely in refusal. The farmer’s wife rushes forward in hopes of easing what she can clearly see as being the result of terror. The rough hands of the wife that clasp either side of Elle’s face do little to prevent the shaking and so the farmer’s wife is forced to remain alongside as her husband carries the young brunette into their home.
Once inside the farmer gently places Elle upon the cottages sole bed. He does not know the hour other than to say that it is late and that no matter what happens next the likelihood of him being able to return to slumber before the dawning of a new day seems slim at best.
With Elle draped upon the fur covered bed the farmer’s wife slaps her husband back. Her hand crashes repeatedly against his muscular arm urging space so that the young woman has room to breathe. The farmer does not protest and quickly retreats leaving his wife to carefully approach and then perch herself on the edge of their bed occupied by someone they do not know.
The farmer’s wife checks the young woman before her over carefully. She is a state. That is the conclusion Nell, the farmer’s wife, reaches. Gashes, the start of bruises, dirt, a torn dress, sweat, all paint the picture of a fearful young’un running for their life. But from what, Nell wonders. Answers are best suited for another, better, time, is her conclusion and so she calls to her husband, “Fetch water, dear.” The command is quick, abrupt but met with no defiance for the farmer slides off to the well to retrieve a pale.
“You are in a terrible state, love.” Nell admits honestly while checking Elle’s forehead for a temperature. There isn’t one. That is a good sign. If this young woman, whose hair is clinging disgustingly to her skin, had a fever it might be the end of her.
“Where have you come from?” The question is not one Nell is expecting an answer to. It’s rhetorical, spoken only as part of her personal considerations done aloud and because there are no other property out this way but theirs. And this young woman is certainly not from their home. Nell and her husband, Rik, never had children, though not for lack of trying.
“Yillingham. Uru. Coming.” Are the surprising words that leak from the mouth of the brunette woman as she is laid out on the bed. The words are spoken in a raspy voice barely more than a whisper. Regardless, Nell catches them. Her brow furrows alongside a recoiling.
Yillingham, is miles away. There is no way that, in this state, this young thing could have traipsed that far. And that is without considering the other words to have passed her lips. The Uru are a myth. A ridiculous one and so they cannot be coming for they do not exist. It is but a story. One Nell has not heard spoken in a very long while. That suggests to her that this young lady must be delirious.
Before the farmer’s wife has chance to get any further with her thoughts Rik returns, pale in hand. It’s full to the brim. He places it alongside his wife and retreats to the background once more, though only once the cottage door is shuttered and bolted.
Without a word Nell pulls a cloth from a pocket housed in a nearby dress. The garment is draped over a plain looking wooden chair.
While the cottage might look sizeable from the outside its interior is anything but. Still, it does the couple.
Nell dips a section of the bunched up cloth into the water pale and then having wrung the excess out begins to dab the cloth along the young brunette’s forehead. Mutters and murmurs escape Elle’s lips. None are intelligible. They are little more than sounds; scared, panicked, desperate. Nell shakes her head.
“What is it, Nell?” Rik queries.
“She’s terrified.” The farmer’s wife admits following a deep sigh.
“Of what? There is nothing out there. The Jacint is devoid of predators.”
“She mumbled Uru.”
Uru? That’s an old wives tale.” Rik assures.
“I know that, dear. But that is what she said.”
“Was there anymore than that?”
“That town’s many miles away. She can’t have come from there without transport.”
“I’m aware of that too, dear. Now shush, let me focus. I need to clean her up. Go chop some firewood or something and leave me in peace.”
Under any other circumstance Rik would find his wife’s responses and demands grating, but not this time. He does not know why. Though, he does obey. Yet, he has no intention of standing out in the dead of night, its cold air, chopping wood they do not need cleaved and so heads for the fireplace. It is little more than cinders, as well it should be for many hours previously the couple retired for the night. If it were not for the tumbling, choked shrieks and crash they might still be. Well, to be more accurate Nell might be. Rik had slept through it. It was his wife who had roused him, with a series of sharp elbow jabs to his ribs.
The farmer had woken with a snorting half snore; sleep in his eyes, cursing his awakening at any hour that is not that which determines the beginning of a new day. It’s hard work being a farmer after all, tilling the land and sowing crops by hand. If he held more land he could afford farmhands, but alas he does not. And honestly, what he produces is enough for him, Nell and for there to be a little extra to sell so that they are able to pay for the rent of these lands. The current landlord, a man who has not set foot on or near them since he was little more than a boy, inherited them from his recently deceased uncle. The uncle had been a fine landlord; fair and respectful. Nothing like the shrimp who took over all those years ago with ideas, clearly, high above his stations and with a penchant for continually raising rent prices, the bastard.
With a rod of iron, used as a poker but never intended for such a task, Rik begins to dig into the remains of the fire. It is the only fireplace in the cottage, which is an otherwise open plan single space divided haphazardly into a kitchen, dining area and bedroom through the use of furs draped over roof beams and wicker panels held in place by pots or fastened with twine.
Quickly Rik learns that embers have survived through the night from when last the fire was exactly that, a fire. A smile slides across his face for he feared there would be a need to go through the monotonous process of stacking the logs and then coaxing them to burn. He might still need to but the likelihood is diminished. Alas, before he gets the chance to build a fresh fire he hears noises. They are not from his wife or their visitor, the young brunette woman. Instead, it sounds very much as though they are coming from outside.
Rik looks toward his wife. If she has noticed their presence she does not shown it. Rather, she is engrossed in wiping much of the muck from the young woman’s face and neck. Rik wonders how long their visitor will be staying. They don’t really have room for another. He knows it is a cruel thought to have when she is clearly in need of aid but it remains the truth. This cottage was never built for three and yet Nell and he had tried for children. That strikes him as being different. He refuses to elaborate as to how because again the same noises reach his ears. Nell, for a second time, shows no acknowledgement of their existence, his eyes having never left the view of her side and back as she cleans the horizontal young lady on their bed. Sighing he elects to investigate the source of the noises. They sound… He doesn’t know for he does not recall having heard noises such as these previously. If he were a superstitious man, like it seems might be the case with the young woman on their bed, he might judge them as belonging to some myth, like the Uru. He is not and so with the iron rod still in hand he rises out of his squat, knees cracking loudly as he does so, before slinking over to the cottages bolted door.
Upon arrival he peers through the view hole but finds nothing of note within the limits of the view it affords him. With a shrug he releases the bolt, pulls a lantern off a nearby hook to join the iron bar in the same hand and then goes about opening the door. It creaks, loudly.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Nell questions with her hands braced against her hips and a stern look upon her face.
“I…uh… heard something. Was going to go check it out, see if it relates in some way to our young guest there. Is she alright, by the way?” Rik explains hesitantly, feeling as if he has committed some grave sin for his actions. It’s why he queries how the young brunette is right after.
“She will be with plenty of rest, but I don’t think going out at this hour is sensible, do you?”
Rik does not say what first crosses his mind, which is to remind Nell, his dear wife, that she was the one who suggested he go outside to chop wood. If he did he would never hear the end of it. In fact, she would likely damn him to sleeping on the floor for a week. Why that should bother him when they have this visitor, he does not know. After all, that is likely to be his fate regardless. Still, there is no need to unnecessarily poke the beehive, his wife, or encourage wrath which is not too difficult, in the grand scheme of things, to circumvent the seeming inevitability of.
That had not always been the case. Rik recalls when he and Nell had first started courting. Boy had she been a fiery, feisty young woman with thick wavy black hair down to the small of her back and a pair of ever ablaze dark brown eyes that stared into any soul who dared question her. Back in those days, Rik had been a foolish headstrong man cocksure he could control Nell. He couldn’t. Though, it took him years before he’d admitted it. By that time they’d been married a while and engaged in frequent verbal jousts, none of which he ever won. Nell always got the last word in. She was better at the game than he. So he’d changed tact, worked out how to diffuse situations, which he generally had been the cause of to begin with. In that way it seemed Nell had softened, but that was not true. She remained a fiery woman capable of winning any fight that wasn’t physical, not that their arguments ever turned that way. Rik would never lay a hand on his wife. He loves her. He simply had to learn how to handle her when she wanted him to understand the mistakes he’d made, or might soon make.
Instead, following a period of silent consideration he admits, “You are right my love, let me bolt this door and then…” Rik never gets to finish for a deafening chittering rustle bursts forth alongside the cottages door, which swings violently inward slamming into the farmer’s back. The man, sent flying, lands awkwardly but manages to turn and see the mass, formless and featureless that glares without eyes at him from beyond the confines of their cottages interior.
Nell gasps, her hands shooting up to cover her mouth. Rik meanwhile leaps back to his feet, as best he can for a middle aged man who has spent his adult life tilling land and sowing seeds. He is by no means as agile as he used to be, but brandishes the iron rod, like a sword, all the same. The sounds that he is met with are mocking. He’d demand whatever it is leave but fear is preventing him from doing so.
“What is that presence?” Nell queries feeling her voice catch in the back of her throat. It’s a first for the woman who has never previously experienced such a thing. Swallowing, she finds does little to change the feeling as Rik declares, “Stay back Nell.” Without warning he shuffles forwards.
“What are you doing, Rik? Get back!” Is the chastising screech which the farmer gets in reply.
He ignores it; unlike he would usually and continues to edge forward. His aim is not to confront but obstruct, by means of the cottage door. Slammed shut and bolted in place it should, he hopes, hold off against whatever that formless mass is. Regrettably, Rik manages only to get within arm’s reach of his goal before the mass surges forward. The farmer’s eyes go wide and in his mind he sees the worst possibility of these events play out. That is why he launches himself at the mass, so they might meet half-way. Nell screams an ear-splitting shriek, Elle wakes. Her body stiff does not afford her much movement, yet she glimpses just enough, the Uru are here.
Rik roars defiantly, bashing with the iron rod as he brings it down. Alas, his efforts prove futile as he is hauled off his feet. Nell’s screams continue even as he is rended limb from limb mingling with her dying husbands own.
The farmer’s wife grows faint, her head spins, Elle appears at her side to steady her. The middle aged woman with her hair collected beneath a rag feels a question should be spoken but try as she might she cannot locate it. Elle throws Nell aside as the Uru, the formless mass, rush forward into the cottage. They get as far as the doorway only to retreat. Elle’s brow furrows as her eyes seek what might be the cause of their halt. There are two possibilities: light, which seems doubtful considering the flames which consumed Yillingham, or the flowers hug around the opening.
“What are those?” The young brunette asks quickly with a raspy tone, pointing.
“Those, they’re…AH!” Nell screams never finishing her answer because Uru have reached through the small porthole window and grasped a hold of her. The Uru, arms long, thin, veiny and impossibly dark, are trying to squeeze the farmer’s wife through the narrow opening. They can’t, though might succeed if they are permitted to continue their efforts. Elle has no intention of allowing them to and so grabs a handful of the flowers, identical to those hung around the doorway, and thrusts them toward the Uru. It has no affect. Elle casts them to the fire. Flames previously not present burp into existence. The Uru retreat with cries and without Nell, who released crumples to the floor wheezing. Elle drops to the cottages stone floor to be alongside the middle aged woman for a check-up.
“Th-th-thank you.” Nell manages between ragged breathes of pollen saturated air which does nothing to alleviate her spluttering.
“The flowers, what are they?” Elle begs to know.
“It’s Jacinta. They’re named after the wood you came crashing out of, Jacint. They only grow around these parts. Why?” Nell replies with a broken voice and ever seeking eyes sunken into her terrified and focused face.
“Did you know they could spark fires?”
“No. Why would I?” Nell is barely able to contain her grief. After all, she might be answering these seemingly pointless questions but that does not mean her mind is not focused on the loss of her husband…by those things.
“How much do you have?” Elle’s tone is insistent as she delivers the question.
“Burning.” Is the young woman’s reply which is spoken without hesitation. And alongside her reply she delivers a hard stare that urges an answer to be given by the older woman.
“Only what is around the door.” Nell admits lost as to what significance flowers have at a time like this. Yes, she saw them spark flames that had previously been extinguished but what does that matter. The flames sudden appearance likely startled whatever attacked. There is no more to it than that, at least in her mind anyway.
“Is there a basement, a small room, even a…”
“What you see is all there is.” Nell assures cutting off the young woman with long brown hair, which is a mess. “What are those things?” The farmer’s wife demands to know right after.
“Uru.” Is the succinct reply Elle gives not liking the situation she has found herself in and hating herself for having dragged this couple into it with her. It may not have been by choice and yet she cannot doubt that the fault is her own. No, it’s not! It’s the fault of the Uru! Is the claim that rings clearly in her head from her subconscious. She cannot say that she agrees as her head whips round, hoping an idea will present itself, one that might…
Without warning the roof comes crashing in atop Nell and Elle. There was no prior warning. No creaks and groans. It simply folded in upon itself noisily. The collapse renders the young woman dazed while Nell has managed to escape entirely unscathed. Alas, with the roof caved it means the Uru are now inside the cottage. Nell, seeing the smaller mass, leaps to her feet, angry and craving revenge. She grabs a hold of a length of wood from the flames that have spread beyond the limits of the fireplace. It strikes the farmer’s wife that the length of wood might once have been a section of a handle, likely from one of Rik’s tools, for no other reason than due to its shape.
Armed, anger boils up from deep within and spills over; the middle aged woman isn’t thinking straight. She swings the burning stick and demands, “Back! Back you murderous scum! I will end you, all of you, for taking my Rik from me. You will not get me or this young woman!” Nell hasn’t a clue as to why she says what she does but try as she might she cannot make out any features in the mass that has been stated are Uru. They can’t be Uru. Uru are creatures. They have faces. All creatures have faces. This has to be something else. That is the conclusion Nell reaches while swinging the dying flames that top the length of wood back and forth.
Elle groans. Nell takes the risk of looking the young woman’s way. It is her final mistake. Elle screams. The Uru surge. Nell turns back too late, the mass heaves her off the floor, into the air and while continuing to scream the middle aged woman is eviscerated. Elle gasps horrified at the sight she is forced to witness. Following it and a swift shaking herself free of despair the young woman lunges for the fireplace, it possessing what she thinks is most important. For within it are the burning remains of the flowers. Somehow they have become entwined with a log. Elle heaves the log out of the fireplace and swings. The Uru retreat a full step and are revealed by the purple tinged flames of the torch. Elle’s expression twists with disgust for the faces of the Uru are grotesque with huge lifeless glossy black eyes, dull dark skin lined with scar patches and burn marks, a flat snout as if they have been smashed in the face forcefully and a set of pointed twin rows of teeth stained dark with blood that in the limited light does not look to be human.
The monsters chitter with that rustling sound she knows all too well now. In defiance of them and it Elle jabs the flaming torch in her hands toward the monsters. The Uru recoil as one; fearful, angry, impatient as they do so. They are baying for blood but they stink. A fetid stench of decay and death exudes from the mass. It’s enough to make Elle want to vomit but she does not. Rather, she takes the lit torch in both hands, pulls it back and brandishing it like a club informs, “I refuse to accept my fate!” The words leap from her mouth, spat with vitriol, in the moments prior to the Uru launching themselves toward her with those deafening noises they make. As they rear up to strike Elle disappears from sight. Yet her voice, her battle cry, can be heard loud and clear.