Keelin Vaughan was less than happy. In fact, the slender redhead was quite unhappy. Perhaps she could even be considered mad. She stalked, away from the town of Tofte, into the surrounding forests, intent on getting away from the people there. She wanted to be in nature, in a place where she understood things, and they understood her. Not like her classmates, who could never understand who she was and why she was, because she could never tell them.
She had, at the moment, quite the shiner. Her right eye was darkened and swollen, and her cheek was bruised. One of her lips was split a little bit, the wound thankfully beginning to heal already, as Keelin always had a knack of doing. Her left fist, as well, showed signs of blood and torn flesh, as she had punched a tree, along with one of the students that had been making fun of her. She was muttering to herself, grumbling about the girl, Allison Gaines, whom she disliked very, very much. Allison was a bully, not just to Keelin, but to others as well. While shorter than Keelin, she was a bit broader, and built like a stump.
Of course, She was also rather thick, and took pleasure in annoying others, which, was why Keelin ran afoul of her so often. Allison's one great feature was her ability to produce insults at will, most of which sent people running and crying, or otherwise harmed their shallow, fragile little egos. But Keelin was different. Sturdy of will and swift of wit, she often squared off verbally with the girl, but, occasionally, the redhead's temper got the better of her. Today, it had ended badly, though Keelin could at least say that she had gotten in the final blow.
Now, however, she was surely going to have to pay for it tomorrow. She had of course run away before the teachers could get to her, and she was certain her mother would be getting a phone call right about now. And so, faced with the dread of probable detention the next day, found herself some solace in the forest. She walked, and walked, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the forest, brushing her hands along ferns, and gazing upward at the canopies, finding comfort in the natural beauty around her. It was the only thing that would get her through the next day, she was certain.
Meanwhile within the same forest, a hunter was stalking its prey. Lovell, the hunter, leaned motionless against the trunk of an old pine tree as he held his rifle steady, while a beautiful fourteen point buck, the prey, grazed passively downhill from where Lovell stood. The hunter had been tracking this particular buck on and off for a few weeks now, but every time he had gotten close enough to make his shot something would startle the prey; whether that was a mistake on Lovell's part, a warning from another animal, intuition, or...
The wind shifted suddenly. Now instead of blowing from the North and keeping him downwind, a gust had whipped up and was blowing in from the South-East across Lake Superior. Luckily, Lovell had planned ahead and prepared by masking his scent. "You wont be so lucky this time, pal," Lovell said in barely a whisper to himself. Through his scope he could plainly see the broadside of his target, and it had yet to wise up to being tracked. Flipping his safety off Lovell prepared to pull the trigger, but just before he fired the buck's head perked up and he bolted. Growling in frustration Lovell attempted to train his gun back on the deer before it disappeared, but no luck. The buck had once again eluded him.
Wondering what could have gone wrong, Lovell sniffed his clothing but concluded that it could not have been him. Another sniff of the air gave him a likely answer to his question. Somebody else was walking the forest, and judging by a sense of familiarity the scent caused he had a good guess of who it was. Ready to give this someone a piece of his mind Lovell began following the scent back to its origin.
Upon nearing the source, Lovell was able to confirm his suspicions. It was Keelin. While not a rare sight in the forest by any means, Lovell had a feeling something was off today; she wasn't admiring the trees quite as thoroughly as she usually tended too. Silently approaching from her flank, Lovell stopped roughly thirty feet out before making his presence more obvious if she had not noticed him yet.
"You look like the wrong end of an ugly stick. Get in to a fight did ya?" Lovell asked, calling out to the girl with little intention of pandering.
Keelin had stopped, taking time to look at a flower, which she had plucked and begun sniffing; an unusual gesture, as she tended to leave flowers be and smell their scents without disturbing them. "Why should you care?" she asked, dropping the flower and turning to face Lovell. Her hands went up and untied a kerchief which she wore around her neck, but instead of using it to try off any sniffles she might have had, she unrolled it and gave it a shake, at which it flapped out and expanded instantaneously, becoming instead a druid's cloak. She flung it over her shoulders, and tied it around before securing it with a simple silver clasp, flipping the hood up to cover her bright orange hair, obscuring her face a little bit.
"It isn't like you actually have to deal with those stupid people all the time..." the young Irish American muttered, seeming unhappy still.
Lovell hooked his left thumb into the pocket of his jeans while his right hooked onto the sling of his rifle that hung on his shoulder. Then leaning against a nearby maple he gave Keelin a deadpan stare as she changed outfits. "Why should I care?" Lovell repeated as he gave an exasperated sigh. "I should care because whatever it is you are brooding about left a scent on the air that scared off the deer I've been following for an hour now."
Pushing himself away from the tree he was on to avoid getting sap on his shirt, Lovell maintained his rather bland stare. "And you're right, I don't have to deal with those stupid people, but I do get the joy of dealing with you after you have dealt with those stupid people."
Keelin just stared at Lovell for a moment, eyes narrowed slightly, as she regarded him carefully. She could never be sure if the young man was insulting her or just uncouth. Today, she decided, he was simply being sarcastic, which, she had found, tended to be his default mode when things didn't go exactly his way.
"You were hunting Him again, weren't you?" she accused, simply.
Lovell chuckled once. As much grief as he tended to give her, Keelin was not green, so to speak, when it came to the woods, and as such she was also pretty good at making observations. "Yup," Lovell responded as he began a languid pace over to Keelin. "Makes, oh, about three weeks now, I think? He's lived long enough to earn those antlers for a reason."
As he got closer he stopped just beyond arm's length. Then leaning forward slightly he inspected the girl's black eye. In a way that he probably considered to be an apology for his earlier comment that may have come across as somewhat rude Lovell unslung his rifle before also dropping the small rucksack he carried his supplies in, and after digging through it for a moment he found what he was looking for. Wild potatoes. Having originally dug them up for a side at dinner Lovell now proceeded to slice one in half with his hunting knife, and then handed one half to Keelin.
"Hold this to your eye," Lovell said plainly. "It'll help the swelling."
Keelin gave Lovell a bit of a sour look, as if she were insulted that he assumed she was not already aware of the many uses of a Potato. But, out of respect for his willingness to help, she held her tongue, and accepted the tuber, relatively graciously.
"I'd have healed it already," she began, puffing herself up with something akin to pride for a moment before continuing, "but I'm pretty sure that it might raise questions when I go back tomorrow. You and I both know the repercussions of revealing our world to them."
Smirking slightly as he watched Keelin's reaction, and took a brief moment of amusement from feeling like he had teased her a bit with the potato remark. Standing back up he reorganized his pack on his back and reslung his rifle over his shoulder.
"Yup yup," Lovell agreed, sounding like such a response should have been obvious; much like his potato bit in hindsight. "That's why I generally just ignore and forget our world. I have that luxury, and one would think you would too. Then again, I don't meddle quite as much as you do."
Keelin frowned at Lovell again. "I don't meddle," she defended, pulling her necklace off and holding it out in her palm, letting the small wood and emerald charm grow into her staff, before sticking one end down on the ground and using it to make up for her sudden lack of depth perception, which was caused by the potato on her eye, held in place by her spare hand.
"It is my duty to protect and care for this wilderness, whether or not anyone else cares or realizes it. I wonder what they would say to me if they saw the things I'd stopped from ruining their ignorant little lives." The redhead leaned against her staff, inspecting the emerald entwined near its crown with her good eye as she did so.
Lovell could not decide if Keelin sounded proud or jaded as she spoke, though thinking it over it was probably a little of both. "If you hate dealing with them so much then just do what I do. Don't." Lovell suggested his arms now crossed as he cocked an eyebrow; as much as he hated to admit it, he thought Keelin's staff was interesting. "It has worked pretty well by me."
Keelin cocked an eyebrow at Lovell, hissing a bit in pain as it was the bruised one, and had grated against the potato. "Unlike you, I do have friends, even if they don't know me as well as they think." She proceeded to stand upright once more, and begin stomping around the small clearing, searching for a particular tree.
"Though, that's not really my fault. I'd bet they'd think I was awesome if they knew, or something." Finding the tree she had been looking for, Keelin spun around on her tiptoes, red all-stars digging a small hole in the damp earth beneath them, and then she flopped backward, landing with a dull thud and a slight 'oof' against the tree trunk.
A shrug marked Lovell's general indifference to Keelin's answer. It was one he had expected, and rather similar to suggestions he had made to the girl in the past. "Contrary. I go into town plenty. Know the guy at the general store and the gun shop pretty well," he said, his voice dropping in pitch and now sounding rather rough. "Though I'd be careful thinking along those lines. Public image wont always sway the way you think it might."
Staying where he was, Lovell followed Keelin only with his eyes as the girl's mood seemed to be improving. "In all honesty though, I don't see why you don't just hit this other girl, Allen or something like that. Do it enough, or hard enough, and she'll get the message not to bother you."
"Those two guys hardly count. One isn't much more human than most of the forest creatures, and the other owns a gun shop" Keelin stated in deadpan. She continued to hold the potato up to her swollen eye, but with her other hand she raised her staff and began swishing it around lazily, the emerald glinting every once in a while as it caught a shaft of light.
"And besides..." she continued, still swishing the staff about, "I DID punch her. Several times. I gave as good as I got, and that's saying something considering Allison could give a granite boulder a run for its money." The redhead sniffled a bit, for whatever reason, and began to stare upward. It was around then that Lovell realized what she had been doing, as the sun which had previously been shining above had been blocked out by clouds which had literally materialized out of nowhere, and now drops of rain were beginning to fall down on the pair through the gaps in the trees.
"Well, then you probably haven't hit her hard enough or as many times as it takes," Lovell reiterated. He was about to compare it to pack mentality, but figured that that would bring on a wolf quip from Keelin. As the girl was looking up, Lovell's ears twitched as they noted new sounds. His ears confirmed what his nose had suspected. It was raining. He had hoped that the rain wouldn't have set in until later.
With a grumble and a growl Lovell made his way over to the tree that Keelin was sitting against as it would provide the best shelter. He took off his rucksack and hooked it on to a raised root to keep it dry, and he leaned his rifle into a small nook after unslinging it. Now unhindered, Lovell sat down on the ground by the tree as well. "Don't suppose you know how long the system will be hanging around do you?" Lovell asked despite having a good feeling about the answer.
Keelin stared blankly at the half-werewolf. "Till all the sorrows have been washed from my soul," she answered, almost cryptically, though the tone was more comical than anything else, at least to an observer such as Lovell. she handed him the potato half, and walked out from under the tree just as the rains reached their full intensity. The green cloak and its owner nearly disappeared from view under the downpour, as she started off down a path that lead deeper into the forest. The hunter could also make out a small brown streak bound from a nearby tree and hop up under Keelin's cloak, the familiar, Mischievous Squirrel named Siofra which usually accompanied the young lady on her walks through the forest.
Lovell could not help but laugh. "That was the cheesiest thing you have said to me," he called after her. Content with the amount of interaction he had for the day, Lovell showed no indication of following after Keelin. Instead he buttoned up his flannel shift, hunkered down, and settled in for a relaxing wait for the rain to let up.
The story of magic in North America.
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