#22 Feraad Bazir
Feraad Bazir. Master of scents, hunter of beasts, tracker of rare creatures, exile to his faraway homeland. We’ve been on the road for a some time and, while his anecdotes seem a tad exaggerated, he knows more about beasts than anyone I’ve ever met.
“And then I lured it, I lured the damn thing out of its cave”, he shares enthusiastically; “and it starts spitting acid. Acid, I tell you. I was wearing no armour. So I jumped forward…”
“You jumped forward? Toward a scorpara?”, I say in disbelief.
Feraad’s friend, Karaad, nods in silence as he walks a few steps ahead of us.
“By Firn’s might I did!”, Feraad exclaims. “I couldn’t go back, not without the tail of a scorpara. And so I jumped forward…”
“Pray remind me, how did you lure it out of its cave?”, I ask. Feraad doesn’t seem bothered by my rude interruption. Instead, he grins, his carnivore teeth becoming even more evident. I’m sure he thinks he looks more affable to non-Mentrasii if he smiles.
“With the scent of a female scorpara”, he says.
“And pray tell, how did you get ahold of such a scent?”
But I already know the answer. Feraad proudly sticks his chin out and points at the symbol on his right cheek. The symbol of the Illusionist.
“I specialise in beast scents”, he says. “So I replicated a scent as close as I could to a female scorpara, lured the male out of its cave, jumped forward…”
“Were you able to examine a scorpara?”, I venture.
I heard Karaad chuckle ahead of us. Feraad smiles proudly.
“Of course not. I studied a lot, asked around a lot, and then manufactured the illusion. And it worked.”
Impressive. Beast scents are already hard enough to replicate, but a scorpara, without having studied one in the flesh… That’s something else. Those giant aracnid-scorpioids are deadly.
“Did you slay it, then?”, I ask.
The Mentrasi’s tail wags involuntarily. There’s a proud shine in his eyes.
“Man, did I slay it. I jumped forward, right onto its carapace, and clawed onto its neck. It stung me right in the back with its double sting. I could feel my body weakening by the second, but then it occurred to me. What’s a scorpara’s weakness?”
“Frankly, I have no clue. Fire?”, I venture.
“No, my friend”, Feraad replies. “We’re not talking about a small scorpion. We’re taking about a scorpara. If I were to encircle it in a fire, it would spit out a cobweb and escape, they’re very smart. Or if anything, it would kill me before the fire grew too big.” He then growls: “It’s their joints. And the mouth, but I wouldn’t bite a scorpara in the mouth.”
“Yes, where the meat is softest. So first I clawed its eight eyes out…”
We enter a small meadow, the hoarfrost embracing the grass blades and the trees around us. It’s so cold that my feet start aching. I should’ve bought proper garments for winter in Arnwell.
There’s no sight of Karaad.
“…and then, when I had my teeth on its last leg, the bastard—"
“Something’s wrong”, I say.
“Listen, I let the other interruptions slide, but this is the best part of the—"
I hush him and he lets out an almost imperceptible whimper, but his ears dart up as he sniffs the air. His hackles raise.
Before we can react, a blast of chilly wind strikes us both in the chest. It’s so cold it burns. I look at Feraad, but he’s not looking at me. His eyes are focused on the ice hill ahead of us. Only it’s not a hill. It splits in two as two wings unfold and a beast emerges. I can see Feraad drop his backpack immediately.
“Rheädraig!”, he shouts.
What is a frost draig doing in the middle of Arnwell? Unlike Feraad, I keep my backpack and stand my ground. I ready my arms and breathe in.
Feraad tackles me to the ground, just in time to avoid a blast of ice shards.
“No!”, he growls at me. “It’s a youngling, can’t you see it’s in pain?”
I can’t stop Feraad. He charges at the beast, his hind legs clawing onto the little snow there is on the ground, avoiding the frost caused by the rheädraig.
The smell in the air changes. Fire and smoke, but not quite. It’s as if someone had set a corpse on fire. The stench is so strong I have to breathe through my mouth.
The rheädraig snorts and screeches, and its eyes dart from one cloud to another. Feraad takes that instant to jump on its throat and, swift as an arrow, pulls out a vial from his belt and forces its contents into the frost draig’s mouth. He then holds the draig’s jaw shut as the beast shakes its head and neck in all directions, slamming Feraad against the surrounding trees and the ground.
The seconds that follow feel eternal as the rheädraig’s movements become sluggish and drowsy, until it finally falls to the ground, asleep.
Feraad climbs off its head. He has bruises all over.
He hushes me with a gesture and sniffs the air.
“I can’t smell Karaad anymore”, he says, the bone on his face sinking into a deep frown. “And this youngling…” He looks at the sleeping rheädraig, and points at a rune burnt onto its side. “Somebody claimed it already.”
We hear movement ahead of us. I manage to stand up again, with some help from Feraad. My legs shake and my chest still hurts from the blast.
“Ah, thank you for finding Blizzard”, says a voice.
To our surprise, it’s an Arnwelli. Dark-haired, her skin a blend of grays and greens, her hare ears elegantly standing as tall as they can possibly be. From her attire and the tools on her belt, I presume she is a huntress. Other Osvarii accompany her.
Feraad looks at her, and then at the hunters beside her. His hackles are still raised.
“Rheädraig don’t belong here”, he says, also standing tall.
“Mentrasii don’t, either”, the tall Arnwelli says with a smirk. She has many symbols on her face, one of them the mark for Materia. “Move along now.”
“Pardon my interruption”, I say, feeling the tension increase. “Have you come across another Osvari, about as large as him? He was just right ahead of us.”
The Arnwelli looks at her fellow companions and shrugs.
“Perhaps Blizzard ate him.” Her cold eyes scan the area behind her. “No, can’t say I’ve seen him.”
Feraad is still between the group of hunters and the rheädraig. He doesn’t seem to believe the Arnwelli.
“I should report you for this”, he says, pointing at the sleeping beast. “Sneaking an ice draig into Arnwell…”
“One’s got to bring food to the table and a roof over her children’s heads”, the Arnwelli retorts. Her hand’s resting on a hunting bow, ready to shoot.
“Who paid for this?” Feraad asks. “You know what? Never mind. Just give me twenty ræ for the trouble.”
To my surprise, the Arnwelli opens her satchel and counts twenty lilac quartz-looking pieces, and hands them over to Feraad.
“We’re even”, says the huntress. “Good luck finding your… friend”, she adds.
Feraad doesn’t reply. He doesn’t look at the hunters or at the rheädraig, picks up his backpack from the ground, and gives me a short nod, signalling we can leave.
We walk deeper into the woods. I notice traces of snow and ice here and there, but they look unnatural, as if the rheädraig had roamed around long before Feraad put it to sleep. After a while, when we’re at a prudent distance from the hunters, Feraad finally says:
“It’s impossible Karaad didn’t see the rheädraig. He would’ve engaged it, I’m sure of it. Those hunters have him. Maybe they killed him.”
He looks at me in the eye. His gaze is so intense I have a sense of how a prey must feel like in the hands of their hunter.
“We have to go back and find him.”
“What? In this cold? But the inn…”
“I say we go back. I’ll go back. And you’ve got to come with me, old man, because I can’t take down four hunters on my own.”
“Wait, hang on, no. Take down? I’m not—"
“I knew I could count on you. Now, if we want to catch them by surprise…”
He starts devising a carefully ellaborated plan, a plan that to an old Osvari like me sounds too much of an adventure, when all I want is to rest my cold feet by the fire at the nearest inn.