Walkabout Chapter 15
The dog glared at the samurai over the dish of raw steak. The samurai, unfazed by the baleful look, stared right back.
If I unbind thy jaws, he said, very low so any eavesdropping maids in the hallway outside would not hear him talking to a dog, wilt thou try to make a desecration of my room once more? Or may I trust thee to sup without fuss?
There was really no telling what Interceptor would do once Cyan released his jaws, but the animal couldnt be expected to eat and grow strong without food and drink. He was still so weak it wouldnt be much of a job at all to restrain him if he launched an attack or tried to run amok again. Cyan reached out and, with a quick jerk, removed the binding, ignoring the rumbling growl that began as soon as he stretched out his hand.
For a few moments Interceptor didnt even lift his head off the rug, too tired or too wary to make a sudden move for the meat. Then he raised himself from his prone position and, never taking his eyes off the dark-complexioned man, began to eat from the willowware, growling softly all the while. He did not know this place or how he had arrived there, but he vaguely remembered the man and his funny lip-whiskers. The sad lip-whiskered man had been a friend of the man in black, and this re-assured Interceptor that it was safe to focus his attention on the meat and leave their confrontation at a warning growl for now. It had been so long since Interceptor had eaten a real meal he almost didnt taste it at first, but then the flavour of blood and rich flesh flooded his mouth and he began to bolt the chunks down. Between plunging his muzzle eyes-deep into the basin of water for drinks and snapping up hunks of steak he soon forgot completely about the humans quiet presence.
Cyan was more relieved than he would have ever admitted to see the dog taking sustenance on his own. It had been enough of a trial for one day having to clean up the broken shards of many a prized possession from the floor, and while he was glad that his charges health was improving, a break was extremely welcome. He ate his own dinner of cooked fish and cheese in thoughtful silence, already less squeamish about dining around what he would have earlier considered an unclean beast. It didnt smell much worse than a chocobo, really. At least he didnt have to stick his hand down the blasted things mouth again; he had dosed Interceptors water earlier and made sure of that.
One of the wonderful things about Matrons miraculous medicinal was that, in addition to being a potent restorative, it also had a very powerful tranquilizing effect on whoever partook of it rest being a curer of all ailments, as every wise old medicine woman knew. Within minutes of finishing off the meat and water Interceptor was making herky-jerky motions with his head as he fought to stay awake, still rumbling softly to himself deep down in his chest. The growl soon turned to a low, untroubled snore.
He was never sure why he did it later on the creature was unclean and had made a cesspit of his room, no matter whom its master was but watching the ill dog sleep, Cyan felt the same stirring of pity in his heart as before, and reached down to scratch the top of his head.
Silly beast, he said, more to himself than to Interceptor. Thou makest foolish, maudlin clowns of us both, blast thy accursed hide.
But he didnt stop petting the dog for a long time.
Over the next several days a strange truce began to grow between the two warriors, an uneasy friendship that neither seemed to understand but both grudgingly allowed to continue despite themselves.
Interceptor was slow to accept help at first and growled every time Cyan approached him, wary as always of the hands of man. Mens hands had hurt him gravely in the past, and the only one he had ever really come to trust was the man in black, in every way as quiet and vicious as he. Still, his body was very weak, and very wobbly, and so he took the meat and drink the whiskered man proffered with only low growls of warning. The rest of the time he slept on a rug in the corner, gradually gaining back the strength the desert had stolen from him. Some day soon he would set out on the girls trail once more, but for now nature whispered into his ear that sleep was the quickest way to recovery, and he took the advice and found it good.
Cyan, for his part, was enjoying observing his patient recover with more relish than he would have ever admitted to anyone. Interceptor was a dog, a dirty animal if one had ever been put on Alexanders green planet, but he also had so much dignity and bearing it almost hurt Cyan to watch him at times. When he tried to walk and stumbled sprawling on the floor it was almost like seeing an old samurai humiliated, and Cyan often found himself instinctively turning his head away in respect when this happened.
The one thing he never offered was help. Interceptor would have snarled him away if he had tried to give assistance, and it would have been a grave insult to boot. One would have never laid hands on a fellow knight of Doma, and more and more Cyan thought of Interceptor as just that: a noble warrior, a liege of the house of Arrowny. Edgar had (with surprisingly little alcohol to loosen his tongue) finally spilled the beans on Relms parentage and why she had passed through Figaro earlier; while Cyan was a little bit surprised at the revelation, it made perfect sense once he thought upon it for a spell. The father had given the daughter his knight, of course. Cyan had precious little respect for men who left their progeny adrift and fatherless and even less for ninjas, curse their dishonourable, treacherous hides but this passing on of the faithful bodyguard to his child made Cyan think twice about what kind of man Clyde Arrowny must be.
And now the liege was separated from his charge - what a mess this entire state of affairs was. Knowing there was nothing else he could do to help, Cyan continued to feed and care for the dog, wondering how exactly they would keep him from his noble mission once his full strength returned.
In Interceptors mind, certain types of people were inexorably linked with certain feelings and emotions. The woman and by proxy the girl had brought him happiness and love. The hands of strange men brought hurt and discomfort. Children other than the girl brought sheer unbridled annoyance.
Objects held great meaning as well. Right now, for example, there was a crate in the whiskered mans quarters, and crates meant one thing to Interceptor: treachery. His first master had used a wooden-slatted crate such as this for shipping him to fights outside of town, and ever since then Interceptor had growled and bristled at the very sight of them. Crates meant pain; it was as simple as that. The smell of the pine boards and hay spread out inside the thing made his lips twist back in an ugly snarl, wary and cautious as he circled it in bristling suspicion again and again. Some days the dog side of him dominated his moods and actions, but the slinking, crouching walk he used to investigate the box was all wolf.
Cyan watched this display with a mixture of amusement and deep guilt. Edgar had delivered the crate earlier in the afternoon with instructions to get Interceptor secured some time before first light the next morning. The dogs strength had been returning more and more with each day that passed, and before he became completely healthy again Edgar planned on confining him to a spacious pen in the conservatory, lest he go out a window as he had done in Thamasa. Half-dog or no, Interceptor was a dangerous animal without Relm there to control him; the only way to ensure the continued safety of the castles inhabitants was by containing him until she came back and fetched him, whenever that would be. Interceptor would be treated kindly the cage prepared for him was large, and all of his meals would be fit for royalty but Cyan had troubling believing the restless creature would allow his liberty to be stolen without a fight.
It didnt seem honest, somehow. Cyan could imagine the scene in his head: Interceptor pacing disconsolately around his cage, like a proud king thrown in a muddy pit, stripped of everything but his pride. The crushing sadness in his eyes, the confusion and frustration it was as if the thing had already come to pass. And quite to his surprise Cyan found that he did not want to see it happen. He had become fond of Interceptor, despite himself; the idea of this strange knight being locked away like some common criminal rankled him deeply.
This thing is not for us to decide, he muttered to himself, twirling one end of his mustache thoughtfully. Interceptor glanced up at him for a moment, then continued to stalk the crate, stretching himself out almost flat on the floor to touch the slats with the tip of his nose before springing away again. Would they lock the north wind up behind iron bars? Would they disrobe a samurai of his dignity and honour?
Cyan made a split-second, unwavering decision: not if he could help it.
Before he could change his mind or have a second thought, the Doman had stridden purposefully to the window and flung it wide, letting in a draft of cool air. The dunes outside lay quiet and undisturbed, not a soul abroad to see what he was about to do. Perfect. He carefully stepped away from the threshold and waited.
Interceptors head had swung up sharply almost as soon as the window was unlatched, sniffing the incoming breeze carefully. He glanced at the man, then at the open window, then back at the man. What kind of trickery was this? In response to the look Cyan merely waved his hand towards the opening again, beckoning the wolf-dog to freedom.
Go then, he said. Thy sovereign awaits thee, somewhere on the road.
He may not have understood the words, but the gesture and tone were unmistakable. Interceptor leapt for the window and had scrambled up and over before Cyan even had time to blink. He paused just once to look back, a stark black shadow silhouetted against the dying sunset, and Cyan almost thought he saw something like gratefulness in those burning amber eyes. Then with another bound he was off the sill and away again, back on the trail of his godhead.
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