Hullo everybody. Here I am again with the latest instalment of this story. Not much else to say than that really except that I know that compared to some of the other characters the ones that are featuring in this chapter have been getting rather a lot of attention, but they have their own storyline which needs to be set in motion after all so here they are once again. I hope that you enjoy reading the chapter. Not an action chapter again but still, hopefully you'll find it interesting.
To Be a King
Chapter 25:- Bastemon Alone
Bastemon was cold. She was wet. She was miserable. She was tired. She was in pain. You come up with a negative adjective and more than likely Bastemon could be described with it at this point. Never before had she had such a horrible night in all her life.
She hadn't slept at all, which was a first for her. Normally she was out like a light that had had the wire cut and the bulb smashed whenever night set in and wouldn't be woken up until sometime around midday unless something was wrong. But this time she had not been able to nod off at all, not even dozing, and right now she was wishing that she could just disappear into the realm of her dreams. Her dreams were always pleasant.
Her reality right now, on the other hand, was anything but pleasant.
She was utterly bedraggled and well aware that she was lucky to even be alive right now. Her fur seemed to be clogged with the water from the river, and her large leopard-patterned leggings squelched whenever she shifted, making it seem like they had absorbed half the river. She had lost her tail-rings somewhere in the water and who knew if she would ever see them again. Her ears were practically drooping over her face as if they too were weighed down by water and her long red hair was a complete mess, spattered with large clods of mud that made it look like some kind of patchwork and not to mention all over the place.
But of course the arrow in her shoulder was worse than all of that. The shaft had long since snapped in half, leaving a splintered fragment of wood sticking out from her skin that looked like it would split down the middle at any moment itself. Bastemon couldn't tell how deep the arrowhead had gone in, but her shoulder ached fiercely when she kept it still, panging every now and again. But whenever she moved or she reached up to touch the arrow shaft experimentally, her shoulder was met with a sudden, searing pain, as if another arrow had just been plunged manually into it every single time.
And considering she had fallen down a waterfall and plunged into a pool, it was a flaming miracle that she hadn't broken her bones or claws or teeth, let alone drowned. It was almost as though she had got off lightly, but it didn't feel that way.
But what was probably the worst thing for her was not the wet and the cold, and not the arrow either. It was her emotions. They were all horribly jumbled up at the moment and here she was, curled up in a bush a short way away from the river, downright distraught.
Because she felt completely and utterly useless.
The things that Greymon had said to her yesterday – about how she expected everyone around her to look after her and to do things her way, how she never pitched in to anything that Xros Heart did and how she just lay down and slept the problems away while everyone else was trying their hardest to sort them out – they were all true. She knew that now. She'd never thought about the way she was behaving before – she always just took everything for granted.
And now here she was, completely alone, undefended and injured and she had no idea what to do next. She should know what to do. She should know the best course of action to take. But did she? No, she didn't have a clue, because her entire life had revolved around being pampered when she was awake and spending the rest of her time dreaming.
She was a member of an army that didn't need her. If this had happened to Shoutmon or just about any of the other members of the group, they would know what to do now, but Bastemon had never bothered to learn and now she'd been thrust into the lessons the hard way.
And then there was what had happened back there, when she and Greymon had been attacked by the unseen archers. What had she done then? She had cowered on Greymon's back, whimpering and clinging on her dear life, while Greymon had been storming around trying to find their assailants, before running off in an attempt to get her to safety, trying as hard as he possibly could to protect her even despite how angry he had been at her before and all the things he thought about her not being a true team member.
Greymon had been hit by countless arrows and smashed in the side and in the foot by massive boulders flung from mobile trebuchets, wounds far more substantial than the ones that Bastemon had received, and he had fought on, refusing to give up, trying as hard as he possibly could to save her while she had just been washed away in the current of the river, floundering around helplessly.
Bastemon whimpered to herself and curled up into a tighter ball. She was pathetic. She had no right to even be a member of Xros Heart. Xros Heart stood for courage and fortitude and protecting the innocent or anyone who needed their aid. Bastemon had none of that. Not even slightly.
She felt like a waste of space.
She felt like a failure.
She felt like anything but a noble princess at this point.
She swallowed hard, tears blurring her vision and adding more water to her already sopping body – she had been out of the river for hours but the lack of sun getting into the bush she was curled in ensured she was still soaked.
What was Greymon doing right now? And what had happened to Revolmon? They had never found him again after he had gone scouting?
Doing his own part for the army and helping to look after the expectant princess.
Bastemon gritted her teeth and buried her face in her arm. Maybe they would all just be better off without her.
To answer Bastemon's first question, Greymon was wandering through the woodlands, in what had so far been a totally fruitless search for the princess. He had not got nearly as far as he would have hoped at this point. He was a powerful Digimon and was not tired, even now, but he had been finding walking difficult all night. The foot that had been slammed by the giant boulder pained him, lancing vicious spikes of agony up his leg every single time he put it on the ground.
In the adrenaline and the heat of the battle when he had been hit and had continued chasing after Bastemon he had barely noticed the pain and completely ignored it, running as if nothing had happened. Now, he was very aware of it, and he was actually limping. Greymon had never had cause to limp before in his life, not even after the ground had caved beneath him in the Disc Zone and he had plummeted into the darkness. He had come out of that fine, and here he was now staggering through a forest with only one good leg.
In the darkness of the night he had been eventually forced to stop and rest – he could see nothing and the smell of Bastemon had been washed away by the river. Assuming she had been there – he didn't even know if she had been washed down the river at all; she could have died in the fall or drowned at the bottom of the pool and burst into data for all he knew. The river was the only hope he had left of finding her.
Nevertheless, despite his worry for the princess he could not go on in the night like this. His night vision was not brilliant – better than a human's but not but vast amounts – and even if his foot was healthy he could just step past some vital clue in the darkness and not see it. He could even walk right past her unconscious body, lying half in and half out of the river, and keep on going without the slightest idea that he had missed her, while she lay there possibly dying.
Which would probably be what she was doing now if she was still alive, assuming she wasn't still being washed down the river.
Greymon could not banish the thought from his mind, but he had little choice but to stop and rest. He found a reasonably comfortable spot and lay back on his haunches, a pose that looked utterly ridiculous for a giant dinosaur, especially since he was trying to stretch his injured foot out so he could rest it. Then he spent the next couple of hours reaching around to either side of his body with his head and tail, to the best of his ability, and pulling out any arrows that he could find, of which there were a lot.
It was not pleasant. At all. His skin was tough enough to mean that most of the arrows that had not bounced off or merely grazed him had not gone very far in, and they were relatively easy to pull out with his teeth if he could reach them. And there were others that were much deeper, but if he could reach them as well with his teeth then he could pull them out relatively easily too. To him, unlike to Bastemon, they were mere pinpricks.
But the bigger problem was the fact that Greymon could only reach around with his mouth to his legs and tail and his back end. His neck wasn't long enough to allow him to pull out the arrows around his shoulders and upper torso, as well as the few that were in his neck itself and while he was able to pull a few out from his sides with his hands, he could not reach them all. He had to get those out another way.
And unfortunately that other way involved digging them out with the spike on the end of his tail.
As previously stated; not pleasant. But fortunately it wasn't so bad for most of them since they did not go in that deep.
It was at times like this that Greymon wished he had longer arms.
But once he had determined he was free of arrows Greymon had passed into a rather restless sleep leaned against a pile of boulders with his foot outstretched and his bruised side exposed to the air.
Digimon healed fast, so when dawn broke and Greymon immediately pushed himself back onto his feet most of the arrow wounds had already gone from his body, though he still had a few scars here and there that were still clearing up. His foot was doing better as well, but not by as much as he would have liked. He grunted to himself as he tested it out. Pain shot up his leg again, but it wasn't as intense as it had been the previous day.
"I can live with it," he muttered to himself, before looking up and down the river course. "Princess, you better be out there somewhere. Don't you dare go dying on me! Not before you understand I'm sorry."
And he limped on down the stream, covering more ground than the previous day. But before he'd gone far he stopped and turned to look back the way he had come, the waterfall having long faded into the distance and the strange attackers with it. But now he was wondering what had become of the third member of their travelling party – Revolmon. In his rush to find the princess again he had, admittedly, not thought much about what had become of the treasure hunter.
He was sure that he would be fine though – he could look after himself better than Bastemon could, and Greymon knew it was better to focus on finding someone who he knew to be injured to someone who could well be perfectly fine.
He pressed on downstream, searching for any sign of the missing princess, or any other form of intelligent life – preferably one that would not attack him when they saw him.
Revolmon himself was not a happy bunny either. None of them seemed to be at this stage, but the Men who had him held captive had been keeping a close watch on him during the night, never letting their eyes stray from his back for a moment as they held swords and arrows at the ready, just in case he turned around. None of them wanted the barrel of his chest gun pointed their way now that they knew what it was capable of.
Revolmon had been able to get some sleep during the night, but he was worried about Bastemon, just like Greymon. Knowing Greymon himself was still alive was a relief, but Faramir has said that they had "lost sight" of Bastemon during the battle.
And his mind kept flashing back to the shadow that had fallen past the gap in the cave wall. The shadow that had been around Bastemon's size.
Of course, he'd had no proof of this, but according to the others Greymon had descended down the cliff and moved straight into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and then started to make his way downriver. Why in the world would he do that unless he was worried that Bastemon had fallen over the side?
But Revolmon had no proof beyond that. And it was driving him mental. Absolutely mad and his brain tortured with the same mental images that had run through Greymon's mind.
Since last night he had been moved into a smaller storage room, where a large open possible escape route was not present. The stone walls around him pressed him in, and the shelves that lined them even more so, while the Rangers stood behind him and made sure he was still facing the wall, on his knees and his hands still secured behind him. Still, Revolmon was pretty sure that if he tried he could whirl around and take them out with his body-gun, but that was not the way that Xros Heart did things to people like these Men, who thought they were just protecting their home and were so incredibly wrong about it.
So he just sat there in mental anguish, and waited for his next visit from Faramir.
That visit came sometime around mid-morning, when the young Captain stepped into the room, nodding to the two Rangers standing there and stepping past them to look down at Revolmon's kneeling form.
"Come to ask me how my night was?" Revolmon asked, pre-empting anything that Faramir had been about to say. "Because I can tell you now that I have had much better nights."
"No, I would not be so crass as that," Faramir said, pulling a barrel away from one of the shelves and sitting on it. "I wish to speak with you further… Digimon, was it that you called yourself."
"That's the name of my species yes," Revolmon nodded, turning his head around as best he could. "But my name itself is Revolmon."
"Very well, I shall refer to you by that name," Faramir nodded.
"It's the only name I've got so… good idea," Revolmon nodded. "Now what have you got to tell me about my friends?"
Faramir hesitated, before he sighed and said, "There has still been no sign of the cat-woman. We're not entirely sure what happened to her during the battle."
"I think I could probably figure it out," Revolmon muttered dully.
"And as to your two-legged dragon friend, it would appear that it is still moving down the river and away from this area. I don't think that it knew that you were here after all."
"Perhaps he just has other things on his mind," Revolmon replied. "Such as the location of the cat princess."
"I have heard tales of dragons capturing maidens and taking them back to their lairs with them," Faramir voiced. "Is that the case here with the cat-woman?"
Revolmon laughed out loud, something he hadn't done for a while now. "Oh, be serious! Greymon capturing a maiden? He'd rescue a maiden long before he would ever think about capturing one. And also, he's not a dragon. When are you going to stop calling him something that he is not? I've already told you many times that he's not a dragon and that he's not a threat. Not to you, not to anyone that does not a) attack him, b) attack his friends and c) try to take over the world or hurt innocent people. And because you didn't listen to me, Bastemon could be dead!"
Faramir stared at Revolmon, whose voice had gotten increasingly angry during that small speech, and he saw him slump down now, yellow eyes screwed shut, and if he had any teeth he would probably be gritting them right about now.
The Captain of Gondor felt uncomfortable, fidgeting with his hands a little, before he said, "You care about the both of them, don't you?"
"What gave me away?" Revolmon sighed.
"Your distress at the thought that one of them might be dead for one thing," Faramir began, not catching the sarcasm.
"Of course I'm distressed at that thought. They were… are… my friends. My comrades, and my brothers in arms. I've fought beside them before, against armies where we were vastly outnumbered, and we are the rest of our friends have always stuck together. That's what we Digimon do."
"Well, I'll say this for you," Faramir murmured. "You are not like any minion of Sauron I have ever seen before."
"I take that as a high compliment, especially since none of us were minions of this Sauron guy you keep mentioning. I told you that too."
Faramir nodded silently to himself, turning his eyes away for a moment and focusing on a loaf of bread sitting on a nearby wooden shelf for a few seconds. "I know," he said after a moment. "I know that you told me. But you must understand that I only have your word to go on that anything you say is true. And for what it's worth… I am sorry. Now I really don't know what to think. None of the stories I've heard about dragons…" he paused. "…Or things that look like them, ever held anything good for the people the dragons encountered."
"Don't judge a book by its cover," Revolmon replied.
"An interesting phrase," Faramir nodded. "And… perhaps an apt one in this case."
Revolmon sighed. "I accept your apology," he said, a moment later. "But it's not me that you should be apologising to for this – it's Greymon. And Bastemon. She's just an innocent Digimon princess that has never had to act independently in her life and now… she may be dead. Killed by your men. How the heck am I supposed to explain that to Knightmon the next time I see him?"
"Knightmon?" Faramir frowned. "I presume that he's… another Digimon?"
"Well yes," Revolmon nodded. "We got separated from most of the rest of our company. Who can say where Knightmon is now? Or any of the others?"
Faramir regarded the kneeling Digimon for a moment before he turned to the other Rangers and said, "Please leave us for a while. I would like to discuss some things with the prisoner alone for a bit."
"But sir…" one of the two Rangers protested.
"Do not fear," Faramir replied. "I am having a lot of things being called into question in my mind at the moment and I want to discuss them with this Digimon alone. Stay outside until I call you back in.
"Yes, Captain Faramir," nodded the two men together and they turned a filed out of the room, closing the wooden door behind them. Faramir then turned to Revolmon again, and the Digimon looked up at him, shifting around so that he would have been facing Faramir if the Ranger Captain had not drawn his sword and held it against the barrel of Revolmon's body-gun to prevent him from going the whole distance.
"I would rather you didn't point that thing at me," he said. "I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here by ordering my men out of the room like that but I still do not completely trust you. Keep that… gun… off to the side, if you please."
"Fair enough," Revolmon nodded, sitting side-on and turning his head to look at Faramir directly. "Can we at least get these ropes off?"
"One step at a time," Faramir replied, lowering his sword so the tip was resting against the ground but not putting it away. "Now… you say one of your friend's names is Knightmon, yes?"
"Indeed," Revolmon nodded.
"Is the 'knight' in his name a reference to something? Is it 'night' as in the darkness that comes after day or is it 'knight' as in the warrior."
"The warrior," clarified Revolmon.
"And the 'mon?' What does that stand for? Every one of your friends thus far have had names that ended in that syllable."
"It's short for 'monster.' We're not really monsters in the sense of the giant, terrifying beasts that think of nothing but destruction, but we are monsters as in we all come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Digimon names usually do mean something. Revolmon is short for the Revolver Monster, and the Revolver is another name for this type of gun that I wield – they come in many varieties, you see. And Knightmon is, as his name suggests – the Knight Monster."
"Knights are not something that I associated with the kind of people or creatures that would ally with Sauron," Faramir observed. "A true Knight is a noble warrior that fights for justice, honour and freedom."
"Well that describes Knightmon to a T. And most of the rest of us to be honest. And you and your men may have caused the death of Knightmon's charge, Princess Bastemon."
"And what does her name stand for?"
"I believe it has something to do with an ancient mythical goddess of cats that nobody really believes in anymore," Revolmon shrugged. "At least that's what Wisemon told me, and I bet I don't need you to tell me about his name."
"Indeed not," Faramir agreed. "You know, you are unusual, Revolmon. You are your words are… puzzling in the extreme."
"Glad to hear I'm entertaining at least," Revolmon responded dryly.
"And your mannerisms…" Faramir went on. "Nothing like someone that would ally with Sauron. Not willingly anyway. And you don't strike me as the type to cave in to threats or be taken in by lies."
"Are you saying you're beginning to see sense and that you believe I'm not a minion of this Sauron guy?"
"I am saying that I do not know what I believe at this point. But based on what I have seen of your personality, you are either telling the truth or you are an exceptional liar. I do not yet know what side of that I believe you are, but if what you say is true and you do consort with men like Knights, then I am willing to believe I may have misjudged you. However, your unusual and unknown form and the company you keep with a… Dragon that isn't a Dragon… I have to be sure. For the sake of my men, my home and my people. Do you understand that?"
"I do," nodded Revolmon. "I'm sure there's a lot at stake at the moment if anything I've gleaned about this world is accurate. But that doesn't change the fact you attacked Greymon and Bastemon, although I do understand why you did it."
"I know, and if it turns out I was wrong about you and we did cause the death of your friend then I will take full responsibility for it," Faramir nodded. "But I must be sure. Absolutely sure. So… I want you to tell me everything. Everything you can about you, your race, your friends… No more games, no more withheld answers. I will take in what I hear and make my final decision later about whether I believe you can be trusted or not, but I swear I will have an open mind, as long as you continue to understand the many pressures and concerns that I have to look to."
Revolmon paused for a moment, regarding Faramir coolly for a moment. "Alright," he said, slowly. "I'll be honest with you. I'll answer your questions. But only if you swear, in turn, not to tell anyone who might try and use this information for ill intent."
"Naturally. I had no plans on doing that anyway," Faramir nodded sincerely.
"Alright then. But I warn you now; a lot of what I have to say will probably sound like drivel to you, because I'm betting that if you've never heard of a gun then you've never heard of a computer either."
"Exactly…" Revolmon sighed. "Well… here goes nothing."
Midday was drawing on when Bastemon finally managed to push herself to her feet. She winced and gripped her panging arm with her long bejewelled claws from her other hand, but wished she hadn't a moment later because that just made it hurt worse. She was still wet, the shade of the bush depriving her of much sunlight, and she shivered slightly as she looked up at it, blazing down on the forest landscape around her. She coughed up a few more droplets of water and stumbled down towards the shore of the river.
This river had taken her down to this point. Bastemon had no idea how far she had been washed down its course since she had fallen over the waterfall. She could remember almost nothing of the floating journey, such details as the width and speed of the river at certain points lost on her. But she did know one thing:-
The opposite direction to the way the river was flowing, would be the rough direction that Greymon was. She might have been a pampered airhead, but she did have a brain and she could use it.
She could only hope that Greymon was looking for her. She sniffed to herself at the thought – why would Greymon even want to come after her. She was just a spoiled child of a Digimon, no use to anyone.
But she swallowed that thought as quickly as she could. Greymon wouldn't leave her, no matter what their differences were. He was just as much a member of Xros Heart as anyone, and they didn't leave people behind. He would be looking for her.
But what if he thought she was dead? Would he be looking for her then?
And what about those attacking people with the arrows. Would they come back? She already had one arrow that she couldn't touch without it causing severe pain in her. She didn't want another.
"Come on, Bastemon," she muttered to herself. "You can do this. You can do this. You need help. You're… you're not going to survive out here on your own because… you never tried to learn. Get moving."
Talking to herself seemed a bit of a comfort, but the silence that came back when she stopped seemed to press in on her a little. But she ignored it to the best of her ability, stumbling away and along the back, holding her injured arm as still as she possibly could as she tottered unsteadily forwards, walking against the course of the river and back up the way she had come.
It was slow progress for her. She was hungry, she was incredibly tired – having gone without sleep for far longer than she ever had before as well as the exertion of the ordeal she had just been through, – she was also quite thirsty, but she could barely bring herself to look at the river at the moment, let alone drink from it. It sounded stupid even to her but that river had taken her all the way down here, away from her friends, and after being nearly drowned in it she was hesitant to even touch the flowing water with the tip of a claw.
She just focused on the walking ahead.
She made very slow progress, tripping over just about every rock that got in her way and forcing her to stagger to a halt and collect herself again before she shuffled onwards. Her shoulder sent spikes of pain into her system every time that it shifted even a little, which was unfortunately a lot even though she tried hard to hold her arm still, and every time it did she stumbled yet again. At one point, she fell over completely and she automatically threw out her arms to catch herself and instantly regretted it.
But nevertheless she pressed on, walking and walking and trudging and tripping for a good two hours in the head of the Sun, leaving a dusty trail behind her and seeking shade whenever she could. Still she did nothing to quench her thirst and the Sun seemed to grow ever more merciless as it climbed its way higher into the air, meaning the princess had to stop and rest in the shade whenever she could.
Her stomach grumbled and as clutched it tightly for a moment, whimpering. She hadn't come across so much as a berry tree so far.
Nevertheless, she could be commended for her feat, fighting on up the river at her shambling pace and generally sticking it out as best she could. She felt unbelievably tired, and by this point under normal circumstances she would have keeled over and gone to sleep about a dozen times so far.
But there was a very slight fire in her belly at the moment, determined to push herself on and find Greymon. Then, maybe then, she could actually prove something both to him and to herself. Prove that she was capable of doing things besides sleeping and letting other people wait on her hand and foot.
Still, her weariness began to tell, and after a while she began to flag, getting slower the further she walked, until even after she had just got up from the shade she was gasping for breath within about ten paces, her feet aching like hell. This might have been the furthest she had ever actually walked on her own so far – the longest walks she'd ever really done before was from one end of the castle to the other before.
Eventually her head began pounding almost as much as her shoulder, severely dehydrated as she was, her throat seemed to be devoid of all moisture, her heart hammering, and worst of all her vision was beginning to blur. She took a moment to pause and collect herself, trying to clear her head, but two steps after she had pressed on again everything went straight back to being fuzzy. She felt faint, as if her head was clearing of all matter, her eyes rolling up into her head and suddenly she collapsed, falling down onto one knee, chest heaving as she gulped in air.
"What am I doing?" she croaked to herself. "Just get the water." And just saying these words brought on a bout of coughing that wracked her body and stirred up the sand in front of her that made her think, for one alarming moment, that her lungs had gone so dry she was coughing the sand up from there. To faint to stand back up again she crawled towards the river, wincing with every inch that she moved as she struggled towards the water surface.
Another wave of dizziness hit her and she slumped towards the ground, her claws inches from the water. But as her tongue, dry as a bone, lapped at thin air still a fair distance from the water surface, and her vision began to darken and black out, she saw, blurred and distorted, something moving slowly towards her to stand over her. Something tall and thin – humanoid in shape.
But before she could make out any further detail, her world went utterly dark and she passed out.
The first thing she became aware of after that was a faint trickling noise, as well as a sensation of something cool running over her tongue and down into her throat. Her nose wrinkled blearily, her tongue stretching out and trying to get more of the soothing sensation, which promptly came in a greater amount.
"Lie still, whatever you are," said a rich voice above her. "You are in a bad way. Let me help you."
"Ngh," Bastemon said, unable to really muster anything more than that as she opened her eyes and blinked several times, trying to regain some focus. She saw a large waterskin hanging in front of her face, the neck of which was hovering just over her mouth and being gently tipped out, allowing trickles of water to pass over her tongue and down into her mouth.
"Wa…water," she moaned lightly, her mouth feeling dusty as she reached up with her long-clawed hands and tried to grasp the waterskin. The figure hovering over her, which she could not yet make out through the blur of her mind and eyes, flinched backwards as she did so, but steadied itself, allowing her to grab the waterskin herself and tip it up further, gulping down the reserves of cool, clean and fresh water down her neck, feeling her strength being invigorated from that alone.
Bastemon drained the entire waterskin in a few moments and the figure gently took it back from her. "Goodness," she said. "You were thirsty. And to pass out so close to a river as well – that seemed almost cruel. I will go and refill the waterskin."
Bastemon grunted and tried to say thank you but hiccupped instead as the blur of the figure retreated. She blinked a few more times, trying to clear her head further. She was lying some distance away from the bank, on her back and propped up against a large boulder, her legs and feet stretching out in front of her. She winced as her shoulder panged, reaching over unconsciously to hold it steady, and opening her eyes further, trying to focus on the figure now crouching beside the running water.
At first all she could see of the person was their back, which had long pitch-black hair flowing down it and was adorned with what appeared to be a long, flowing garment, tipped with white and patterned with yellow rings against brown and surrounded by red. As the figure straightened out and turned around Bastemon's eyes widened slightly.
The figure was clearly a human female – an adult woman with a large and tall red hat perched over her hair, a large golden neck adornment, and her robes had a red chest section and a blue abdomen section decorated in white stars above blue leggings and red shoes. And the figure's skin was a rich dark brown colour, darker than Bastemon's own tan skin and something she hadn't seen in a human before – though admittedly her experience with humans was limited only to the six children that had come to her world.
The woman stepped over to her and handed her the waterskin again, which Bastemon took with fumbling fingers and brought it to her still dry lips once again. "You look like you've gone through… a rough spot," the woman observed, kneeling down beside her.
"You can… say that… again," Bastemon muttered, between gulps.
"You speak the Common Tongue," the woman noted. "That's interesting. I didn't know if you would be able to speak at all considering you're… well… you look a lot like a cat if you don't mind my saying."
"Am… a cat," Bastemon murmured, tipping the waterskin back greedily.
"Wow, you're demolishing that," the woman observed. "Steady now, make sure you savour it. And then, you can tell me who and what you are? I don't believe I've come across or heard mention of your kind before. Cat people are you?"
"No, I'm… I'm a Digimon," Bastemon replied, taking another gulp from the waterskin. She lowered it a moment later, water dribbling down her chin, which she normally would be quite prissy about but right now she didn't care. She stared at the human woman in front of her for a moment and then murmured, "You saved me."
"I don't know about that. I'm sure you would have regained consciousness on your own eventually and managed to get to the water yourself. But I saw your plight and how much you were struggling and I felt the need to investigate. Once I saw what a terrible state you were in I decided to help."
"Thank you," Bastemon murmured. "So much. I… I don't know why I didn't go to the river sooner… I'm looking for my friends… I got separated from them."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Are they cat-people, like you?"
"No, they're Digimon, like me," Bastemon sniffed, taking another gulp from the waterskin. "Can't thank you enough for helping me though. My name is Bastemon. What's your name?"
The woman hesitated for a moment, eyeing Bastemon as if wondering if she could trust her or not before she said, "I'm Saleme. You're fortunate that I was passing through the area, otherwise you might have been lying there in the Sun for quite some time. I heard the sound of something falling over, so I went to investigate. I don't think I could ever have imagined setting eyes on something like you."
"I'll take that as a compliment, shall I?" Bastemon yawned. "Where am I?"
"You don't know?"
"Not really. You're the first talking person I've seen from around here that hasn't shot at me."
"Yes, I can see you've had a run-in with someone," Saleme's eyes locked on the arrow still embedded in Bastemon's shoulder. "You might want to get that looked at."
"I can't… it hurts… and Greymon told me to leave it there until we could find a way of treating it and… I don't know what to do."
"Well, fortunately for you, I happen to have some skill at healing," Saleme nodded. "Not much mind you, at least not compared to a professional, but I can treat battle wounds like this with no problem. If you will allow me."
"Oh thank you," Bastemon nodded, gritting her teeth as her shoulder panged at her again. "Please… you have to do something. It hurts…"
"I can see that. Hold still," Saleme knelt down beside her while Bastemon poured some more water onto her tongue. Saleme's hands reached up to carefully press certain points around the wound, drawing various degrees of a painful reaction from Bastemon until she carefully took hold of the shoulder and held it steady, examining the wound with a critical eye.
"Looks like it's been in there for some time," she observed.
"It hit me some point yesterday," Bastemon said.
"So I guessed," Saleme nodded, reaching into a small bag that was placed next to the boulder and pulling out a few things. She then stood up and began to sweep around in the nearby vegetation, kneeling down every so often and pulling up a herb or two, as well as some fallen leaves, before returning to Bastemon's side and mixing some of the herbs together in a little earthenware pot she'd pulled from the bag.
"Alright then," she said, removing a piece of cloth form the bag and holding it up before Bastemon's face. "Put this in your mouth and bite down on it."
"Why?" Bastemon recoiled a little, the idea of her putting something like that inside her mouth far from pleasant.
"Because this is going to hurt a little," replied Saleme. "And there's nothing I can do about it, but if you bite down on this, it will give you something else to concentrate on. Trust me on this okay? I know what I am doing."
"O…okay," Bastemon nodded. "Just… make it quick. It really hurts."
"Not surprising," Saleme nodded as Bastemon opened her mouth and she stuffed the cloth inside, filling her jaws up as much she could. Then she gently applied some of the poultice she had created around the sides of the wound and took a hold of the arrow shaft that remind, careful not to splinter it any more than it already had been. Bastemon flinched and bit down on the cloth, finding that it did help a little to focus her attention away from her shoulder.
"Alright then, I'm going to pull it out on three," Saleme said softly. "Ready?"
Saleme yanked the arrow straight out of her shoulder before she had even finished the motion. Bastemon let loose an incredibly high-pitched scream of agony the sound muffled by the cloth in her mouth, otherwise it would have probably been heard for miles.
Saleme immediately applied more of the poultice to the now open wound, pulling out a couple of extra arrow splinters as best as she could while doing so, before applying the leaves, coated with a little mud to form a plaster and then fishing out a roll of bandage from her bag and wrapping that around Bastemon's shoulder swiftly but efficiently, while the cat princess spat that cloth out of her mouth and lay there panting.
"Why… why did you do that?" she whimpered, pain wracking her arm and throbbing around the wound site.
"Pull it out early?" Saleme said. "Old trick. Thought you might have been expecting that. If I had counted to three and pulled you would have unconsciously tensed your body and made the pain even worse and the job harder so I lied to get you to relax and took you off guard. And the cloth, in case you're wondering, was to stop you from damaging your own teeth by clenching them together when I pulled it out. I've seen some pretty horrible things happen if precautions like that aren't taken." She picked up the cloth and inspected it as finished applying the bandage. "Wow, your teeth are sharp. I'm going to need to fix these holes."
"I…thank you…" Bastemon gritted her teeth and tried to move her arm, but another pang of pain put paid to that thought.
"I would not recommend you do that just yet," Saleme cautioned her, placing a steadying hand on her arm. "That wound it still raw and it could still get infected if you're not careful. Leaving the arrow in was a wise decision until you could put treatment on it to stop that infection but still you can never be too careful with this kind of thing."
"Okay… thanks," Bastemon nodded.
"You intrigue me," Saleme said, sitting down beside Bastemon and looking her up and down. "You're most unusual, and I would quite like to know more about what it is that I have just helped to save, if that would not be too much trouble. Then maybe I can help you find your friend."
"Okay but first… tell me… where am I? I did ask you before, but you didn't answer me."
"Ah yes, my apologies," nodded Saleme. "Well, you are in Northern Ithilien, province of the Kingdom of Gondor. Does that help?"
"No… not really," Bastemon groaned, her head lolling backwards as her shoulder throbbed. "But… you're saying that this is not…the Digital World? The Digital World… doesn't have humans in it."
"Pardon?" Saleme asked. "I'm afraid I did not understand that."
"I was… hoping… you would… Now what are… meant… to…" Bastemon's head lolled forwards and her eyes closed, her long exhaustion from her period in pain and her staggering walk up the bank finally telling, and with the arrow out of her shoulder there was nothing left except a dull ache to keep her awake thanks to the poultice that Saleme applied. She fell into a fitful sleep, as she should have done many, many hours ago.
Saleme regarded the Digimon with interest, wondering what in the world she was going to do about this.
Greymon was making some slightly better progress now, his leg having healed up a little further, though it probably would have been faster if he was not forcing himself to use the thing. He was still following the course of the river, keeping eye and nose out for Bastemon. Twice now he had found something that looked like it could have been something human adult sized moving about on the bank and followed it a short way, but neither time had he smelt Bastemon and neither time had he come up with any results.
"Come on, princess," he growled to himself. "Be somewhere ahead. Don't go giving up your life just after the things I said to you, you hear?"
Bastemon, of course, did not hear, but Greymon merely grunted in acknowledgement to himself and pressed on. He had come to a rather irritating part of the river, which flowed into what was temporarily something like a deep ravine with high walls on all sides, as it this had somehow been a hill. The banks was strewn with very large boulders on both side so Greymon was forced to bypass them, heading away from the bank of the river for a short time as he tried to rejoin the river of the other side of the ravine as quickly as possible, hoping that Bastemon was not anywhere within the ravine.
As he plodded along, dragging his foot slightly so he left shallow grooves in the ground with his toes whenever he moved it, he heard something snap beneath him and he paused, slightly alarmed. For a moment he had thought that was his foot cracking, but there was no extra pain and everything seemed fine with it. Still capable of moving even all the individual toes.
Greymon looked up, glancing around him with narrowed eyes, his nose up and sniffing the air. He could smell something – something a little like the humans Generals had smelt but a little bit different. It was an old scent, possibly over a month old or even longer, but it was in very large amounts in this area. There had once been a lot of activity here at some point but for what reason?
And why should it be a concern of Greymon's? He had a princess to find?
Two steps later and Greymon found out why it should be a concern to him when the ground suddenly gave way beneath him and with a roar he plummeted down in a shower of earth and grass all around him like a miniature landslide. He crashed onto his injured foot which buckled underneath him, eliciting a roar of pain as he collapsed onto his side and crashed against an earthen wall in doing so, smashing onto his shoulder as the loam from up above cascaded down on top of him in a shower of dirt and dust.
Greymon lay there, half buried in the pile of soil, and did not stir.
Bastemon woke up again a couple of hours after she had slipped off, her head clearer that before and her shoulder feeling better. It took her a moment to remember what had happened, but she saw the bandage still secured around it and remembered the treatment of the human woman, Saleme.
She sat up, her energy restored somewhat but still feeling somewhat weak, blinking in slight bemusement. She was not in the same place that she had been in before – now she was lying underneath a shady canopy of leaves, surrounded by bushes – like a grove of some description. The river was nowhere in sight, nor could she hear the running of the water anymore.
How had she gotten here? And where was here?
There the crackling sound of a fire to her left and she glanced over, seeing her rescuer kneeling over a fire and turning a fish that she had impaled on a stick over the top of it, while munching on what appeared to be an apple in her other hand. As Bastemon sat up higher Saleme looked up and smiled warmly.
"Where am I now?" Bastemon asked.
"I took you back to my campsite," Saleme responded. "You passed out from exhaustion again so I carried you away from the river to here. We were too exposed out there – it would not have been safe to stay out in the open like that. Even having a fire like this can attract attention, which is why it's taking so long. But I thought that when you woke up again you would probably be hungry."
"Starving," Bastemon replied, her belly answering with a gurgle at the very mention of food at the same time. "Can't remember when I last ate."
"Well, I wasn't entirely sure what to get you but I thought fish would be the best choice. That's one of the main things that… ordinary cats eats after all."
"Yes, it is. But I do love a good mouse for some reason," Bastemon nodded, a dreamy looking smile appearing on her face as she remembered the giant Chuchumon that she had eaten in front of Taiki and the others. "When I see one I just… can't really stop myself from going for them."
"Sorry, I don't have mouse, but fish will do," Saleme nodded. "Seemed better than berries."
"I'd go for berries," Bastemon replied, as Saleme removed the fish from the fire and passed Bastemon the stick, so she blew on her meal to cool it down before taking a bite, savouring the delicious taste that filled her mouth and she could practically feel drop down into the bottom of her empty stomach when she swallowed. "But this is lovely. Thank you so much for everything you've done for me."
"No problem," Saleme replied. "I want to learn more about you. It's not every day that you come across something as unusually new as you."
"And I want to hear more about you," Bastemon nodded. "Learn more about my saviour."
"You first I think," Saleme nodded, sitting on a nearby boulder. "You're the stranger here, after all. And some of the things you told me back at the river don't really make sense to me."
"Let me just finish this first please," Bastemon nodded with her mouth full as she tore another chunk out of the fish, nibbling and gorging in a very un-princess-like manner, but then again she was ravenous at this point, and her airs and graces of royalty did not apply here. In fact, she quickly consumed the entire fish, bones, head and all, leaving Saleme looking rather alarmed at the sight of her tossing the tail into her mouth and chewing that down as well.
"That was lovely," Bastemon smiled, feeling her strength returning a little as the effects of the food seemed to seep through her, though she still felt quite weak in body and shifted against the boulder she was leaning against. "You wouldn't happen to have any DigiNoir, would you?"
"No… I'm afraid I've not heard of that dish," Saleme replied.
"You haven't?" Bastemon asked. "Everyone in the Digital World has heard of DigiNoir… but you're a human so… Actually, I don't think I've heard of Northern Ith… Ithlio…"
"Ithilien," Saleme offered.
"Yeah, that," Bastemon nodded. "I don't think I've heard of that place before. And if you've never heard of a Digimon…" she paused. "This is the Digital World isn't it?"
"The Digital World?" Saleme asked. "I do not know of such a place. This is Northern Ithilien, which is in Middle Earth. Nowhere have I ever heard or seen of a Digimon in all the years that I have lived in this world."
"We're not in the Digital World anymore," Bastemon moaned, leaning backwards and covering her ears with her hands, automatic tears trying to spring to her eyes. "Oh no, what are we supposed to do now?"
"Are you okay?" Saleme asked.
"Not really," Bastemon sniffed. "I… I think that… I'm not in my own world anymore. Not even in my own universe. Greymon was right – this is a real crisis and I was just… oh, what if we can't get back. What happened to us? What…?"
"Easy, easy," Saleme said, stepping over and placing a calming hand on Bastemon's shoulder. "Take it slow. Don't panic, whatever's going on – do not panic. Take some deep breaths and calm yourself down."
Bastemon complied with her authoritative tone and gripped the rock behind her with her uninjured arm, sucking in and expelling air slowly and trying to calm her blazing nerves and heart. It helped to a degree but she couldn't really get over the sense of fear that had suddenly sprung into her mind. The fear of being trapped here, forever, in a completely different world and away from everything that she knew.
"Now," Saleme said, once she had noted the Bastemon had considerably calmed down. "I won't pretend to understand all of this, but you say that you are from another world? How can such a thing be?"
"You believe me?" Bastemon asked.
"I do not know what to believe but I am staring at a woman that is also a cat," Saleme replied. "I am willing to believe anything at this point. Now, I know that your name is Bastemon, and you say that you are a Digimon? That is the name of your kind."
"Yes, it is," Bastemon nodded. "Most of the creatures that live in the Digital World, which I now know I am not in, are called Digimon. That is my home and… who knows if I can ever get back there now? What will Greymon say when he finds out?"
"Steady yourself and talk to me," Saleme said slowly. "Start at the beginning and tell me more about yourself. If I know and understand what is happening here, then maybe I can help."
"Really?" Bastemon gasped, seizing Saleme's hands in her own and causing her pain through her injured shoulder as well as alarming Saleme slightly due to her long claws. "You would do that?"
"Well, I have already treated your wound, watered you, fed you and sheltered you," Saleme chuckled. "I can't just send you on your way after all that, can I? And you seem to be a friendly person. Why should I now help you?"
Bastemon beamed and lunged forward, seizing Saleme in her arms and pulling the woman off balance with a slight yelp and squashing her against her own body in a hug that a bear might have envied, ignoring the non-verbal protests her shoulder sent at her with the movement. "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll never forget it, I promise. You're such a nice person, Saleme."
"Well… I do try," Saleme chuckled, a little wheezily as she was practically crushed against Bastemon at this point, while the Digimon rubbed the top of her head into the side of Saleme's face affectionately, just like a real cat would. Then she released her and Saleme pushed herself backwards, sitting on the other side of the fire. "Now… I believe there's a story to tell."
"Yes," Bastemon nodded. "Well… I'm Bastemon, and I am a Digimon who has, for all my life, lived in the Digital World. I am a member of a group of Digimon called Xros Heart, which I suppose you could call the personal forces of the Digital World's King, Shoutmon. We're something like an army really, although I'm not really a fighter. Most of the others are, but I'm not. I'm a princess."
"A princess?" Saleme blinked, with interest. "You mean you are the daughter of the King?"
"Oh, by the Code Crown no," Bastemon giggled. "I think I'm older than Shoutmon is. But when we first met, he was not the King and I was the ruler of the Lake Zone, which was a country of the Digital World at the time. I never wanted to be a Queen – I think I prefer the title of princess, but I was the one that made the decisions. But the Digital World was being attacked by a Dark Lord at the time, and he was trying to take over everything, so when Shoutmon and his General Taiki Kudou helped save my Lake Zone I decided to join their group."
"Well I suppose you do have the bearing of a princess," Saleme noted. "Or perhaps you would have more of one if you had not been shot with an arrow. Still, those are some magnificent jewels you've got there."
"Thank you," Bastemon nodded. "I admit I do like to treat myself to something sparkly sometimes, though I appear to have lost my tail-rings when I was separated from Greymon. Who can say where they are now?"
"Don't you think that all of that jewellery though is a bit… excessive?" Saleme asked. "I can understand the circlet of gold on your head and a few others but…"
Bastemon chuckled slightly. "I have been asked a few times in the past whether it might be a bit much but I like it. And why should I not, for I am a princess and one of the liberties of being a princess is…"
She stopped, and frowned. She was about to start talking about the comforts of life that being a princess granted her, but for some reason that made her stomach tighten and her throat constrict a bit. And then she remembered – it was those same liberties that Greymon had accused her of having too much of so that now she just expected everyone to do things for her when she asked them.
Not five minutes after she was back in a situation of relative comfort was she already resorting back to that kind of attitude of the airy princess?
Oh gosh, just how right had Greymon been?
"Are you alright?" Saleme asked, concerned.
"Oh, I'm fine," Bastemon shook herself a moment later, shifting uncomfortably but smiling nonetheless. "But where was I? Oh yes, after we defeated the Bagra Army…"
Greymon's tail, half covered in soil, twitched slightly and a low rumbling emerged from the dinosaur's throat as he began to stir, red eyes opening and his head raising up, a shower of dirt pouring off his large nose and he did so. He gritted his teeth, wincing as his side throbbed dully and his foot panged at him a little more.
He looked up, taking stock of his situation and what he saw was far from encouraging. He was surrounded on all sides by large, earthen, vertical walls. Quite tall ones as well actually, with lumps of loam and earth hanging over the side up ahead, along with numerous large leaves and branches. Inside the pit, Greymon could see numerous large staves and bars of wood, many of them sharpened into a point. It would appear that he had missed most of them, which was sheer luck on his part, but he had landed on one, fortunately not on the point, and crushed it beneath him, while another had scored a deep gouge across his side while a third had nicked his tail and another had been inches from hitting him in the eye.
A pit trap? He had fallen straight into a pit trap! A cleverly disguised pit trap, but a pit trap nonetheless. Why on earth was there a pit trap of this size around this area?! Surely whoever had attacked him had not had the forethought to plant a trap for him so far ahead of where they had previously attacked him – and the smell of the humans in the area had been at least a month old so that didn't make sense either.
What Greymon didn't know was that this pit had indeed been dug by the Rangers of Ithilien, but it had not been intended for him. It had been intended for any passing Mûmakil – the giant pachyderms from the South that were ridden by the tribes of Men down there, known as the Haradrim. In recent months the men of Gondor had seen the Haradrim marching north towards the Black Gate of Mordor, and they had been bringing their massive mounts with them, which were a danger to anyone who got into their path, destroying everything before them.
The Rangers had responded by digging numerous pit traps for the giant beasts, which were incredibly hard to take down by men on the ground, placing the pits at strategic points that they thought the Haradrim might pass through. Mûmakil were larger than Greymon, which was why the stakes had been set further apart that would have been necessary to try and skewer him, but Greymon had still had an unfortunate escape nonetheless. They had made the trap coverings strong enough to support the weight of a human, but not anything much larger.
Still, Greymon could not believe that he had fallen for something like that. But more importantly he could not believe that he had actually been knocked unconscious. This was utterly ridiculous – he was a proud and strong Digimon from Blue Flare from the Xros Heart United Army and first he had been hit by flying boulders, now this.
It was not on! He was not some measly creature that could be bashed around like this. He was a Greymon!
And he sure as heck wasn't going to let a few injuries like this stop him. Not by a long shot! With a furious snarl he surged to his feet, ignoring the raw gash in his side and ignoring the pain in his foot, which had increased again since the floor, placing it on the ground and supporting as much weight with it as with the other foot.
The walls were high, reaching up to around Greymon's head, and the dinosaur was not known for his climbing ability.
But right now there was fire coursing through his veins – he was angry. Angry at being battered and bruised like this ever since he had got to this stupid place, separated from his companions and then separated from the few he had left. The fire seemed to course into his throat and spurt out of his mouth as he launched a Mega Flame at the wall in front of him, causing an explosion of soil that fountained everywhere, and which Greymon ignored as he charged in and slammed his shoulder and head into the wall, crashing and smashing himself seemingly in a mad frenzy against it.
This wall was nothing! Nothing compared to a Digimon like him! The soil fell down around him and bunched around his feet, but Greymon didn't care. He barely even noticed. Then he took a couple of steps backwards and let loose a rippling bellow of "BLASTER TAIL!" before he span around a full three-sixty degrees in the tight space, the large dinosaur charged energy into the metal casing beneath the spike on his tail and brutally smashed it into the wall, blowing the remains of it sky-high with a colossal geyser of dirt. The thing fell into a complete landslide that bunched around Greymon's throat, forming a slope right out of the pit that Greymon immediately stepped onto and clambered up.
"I don't care what this world has to offer," Greymon snarled as he stepped forward without a limp, blotting out the pain in his foot as if it did not exist, and moving onwards as if nothing had happened in that pit. "I am going to take it on as I've taken on everything – head-on."
He had no idea how much time he had lost in that hole, but he could see that the afternoon had begun and he still hadn't found Bastemon. He picked up his pace, storming on ahead now in his search for the missing princess. And woe betide anything that got in his way now.
Bastemon herself had unfolded the rest of her story to her new companion, who had seemed most fascinated by what she had to say. Bastemon had explained how something strange had happened a few days ago at their late dinner, celebrating their five years of peace since Shoutmon had ascended to the throne, and then the next thing she knew she was waking up in this large woodland next to Greymon and Revolmon, and had no idea what had happened, and how she had come to be separated from the both of them.
"Well, princess," Saleme had said. "That's… quite something."
"You do believe me, don't you?" Bastemon asked, a little worried.
"Well… it is a little hard to swallow but I suppose, for now, I can give you the benefit of the doubt. You certainly are a strange creature, and coming from another world is about the best explanation I have for why I have never heard of anything like you before. Though I must admit I have never spoken to royalty such as yourself either."
"Well… now you are," Bastemon smiled. "What about you? What are you going to tell me about yourself?"
"Oh, there really isn't much to tell," Saleme shrugged. "I suppose you could say I'm a bit of a… a nomad, I believe would be the best way of describing it. I don't like in the big cities of this region – I live out in the wilds and make my own way in the world, foraging for my own food and living my own life without rules or regulations that the so-called Steward and his sons would impose upon the people of this land. But I suppose a princess like you would not understand an existence like that, since you belong to the class of people that make those rules, right?"
"Well, I've never tried to be an overbearing princess if that's what you mean," Bastemon replied.
"And… your King?" Saleme asked.
"Oh, he's not like that either. He doesn't make countless rules and regulations for his people to live by. He lets them get on with their own lives mostly, and steps in only when they need protecting from a Digimon that's seeking to cause harm."
"Sounds pleasant," Saleme noted. "Well… I've heard all that I think I need to hear. Your story is certainly… and interesting one and quite frankly half of what you say I still find hard to accept within my mind, but you seem earnest enough. I think I'll believe you."
"Thank you," Bastemon smiled. "So… will you help me find Greymon and Revolmon, and maybe some of the others if they're around this place?"
"Of course," Saleme nodded. "You say that you were washed down the river and you were heading back up in in hopes of reuniting with your friend?"
"Yes," Bastemon nodded. "Where is the river anyway? I can't see or hear it from here."
"My apologies – I did not realise that you needed to be beside the river in order to continue up it," Saleme replied. "It might be possible that your friend has bypassed the spot where I saw you."
Bastemon looked alarmed for a moment, cursing herself for not thinking of this earlier, but then she relaxed a little and said, "Not to worry – Greymon is quite large and hard to miss. If we head back to the spot, there would surely be tracks if he had been that way. He's at least five times taller than I am. Probably more – I was never good at math."
"Very well," Saleme nodded, getting to her feet. "Then I shall lead you back to the starting point where we met and we can continue from there together."
"Great," Bastemon smiled. "Thanks again for this – it really means a lot to me."
"Stop thanking me," Saleme chuckled richly. "It is no trouble whatsoever. Excuse me a moment though while I break camp."
Bastemon nodded and watched as Saleme put out the fire and began to scatter the stones surrounding it, as well as the smoking remains of the firewood, covering them up with soil as she did so to hide the ash. Then she pulled several things together and placed them into her pack, hefting it over one shoulder, and then knelt down to reach beneath a large clump of ferns. To Bastemon's alarm, she hefted a pair of viciously curved axes from beneath the foliage and twirled them deftly in her hands.
"What do you have those for?" she asked, shying backwards a little nervously.
"These are dangerous time," Saleme replied. "There are many marauders and raiders around in lands even such as this. If you want to be a wanderer like me then you need to learn to defend yourself against creatures like orcs – they would not hesitate to carve us up if they found us. They even turn on their own at most every given opportunity. But don't worry, princess. If we do come across an orc raiding party I will protect you. They rarely come out in the day anyway – they prefer the night. That's why I hid the evidence of my camp."
"Okay," Bastemon nodded, pushing herself to her feet and wincing as her shoulder pained her once again.
"Can you walk?" Saleme asked.
"Yes, I think so. Thanks to you."
"Okay, well then, we head that way," Saleme pointed off into the bushes. "We need to cover up our trail as we move – no use burying the campsite if we leave a clear trail that can be followed."
"I understand," Bastemon nodded, as Saleme strapped her axes to her back and produced several strong smelling leaves attached to the end of a stick. As Bastemon stepped away, Saleme walked closely behind her, trailing the leaves to blur up any tracks that they made as they walked and also to cover the scent of their passing.
"I wonder if Greymon found Revolmon," Bastemon murmured as she walked, holding her arm steady.
"Sorry?" Saleme asked.
"Revolmon, our other companion – I was just wondering if Greymon found him."
"Oh, right," Saleme nodded. "Well, if he hasn't by the time we reunite with him then I will continue to help you looking for him."
"You're very friendly for a solo wanderer," Bastemon said with a smile. "You remind me, I think, of a female, human version of Dorulumon."
"I… will take that as a compliment," Saleme chuckled.
"Oh, it was meant as one," Bastemon replied. "Dorulumon's not quite as smiles and laughs as you but he's a very friendly guy who used to be a wanderer himself."
"Perhaps I will get on well with many of your friends after I meet them."
"Yeah, I think you will."
And so they pressed on into the woodland. Bastemon felt tiredness, like she normally would around this moment, and the urge to curl up on the nearest log and fall asleep was strong within her, but she resisted it as best she could. She needed to keep going. Now was not the time to just stop, even though she had now found a friend who would look after her. Greymon would be looking for her and she needed to find him.
A sudden, horrible thought occurred to her – wondering if Greymon had even survived his encounter with whoever had attacked them – but she banished it quickly. Of course he had survived. He was Greymon. He could survive anything.
So they moved on, slipping around bushes, over brambles and scrambling under the occasional fallen long, all the while with Saleme slightly behind Bastemon and blotting out their trail as best she could with her strange-smelling leaves.
They were still going half an hour later, and Bastemon could still see nor hear any more sign of the river or of Greymon. She frowned in bemusement – had Saleme carried her this whole way? If she had then she was clearly a very considerate person indeed. It seemed that she had fallen into some good company.
So she kept walking.
But still, she began to grow more concerned quite quickly – she was sure that she should have come across something by now shouldn't she? It was difficult to tell, for the forest all looked the same to her and she had the urge to fall asleep every so often, which didn't help.
"Saleme," she called over her shoulder. "Are you sure that this is the right direction?"
"Of course I'm sure," Saleme replied. She had fallen back a bit to fiddle with the leaves on the end of her stick as they were starting to come loose.
"Okay, but…" Bastemon frowned. "I'm no expert but shouldn't we have gotten back to the river by now? I wouldn't have thought your campsite would have been…"
She yelped as she felt a sudden stinging pain in her lower arm and looked down in alarm, thinking she had been stung by some kind of plant or insect. But her heart practically stopped when she saw the dart protruding from her arm.
She swung around, eyes wide and half pounding, and saw Saleme lowering the blowpipe that she had used to blow the dart, a smirk on her face as she stowed it back in her bag.
"Saleme," Bastemon choked. "You…" And she suddenly staggered a little, feeling woozy and not just from natural tiredness.
"You are quite naïve to go trusting every random stranger that you come across, princess," Saleme chuckled as she stepped closer. "You should have been more suspicious of someone like me, even if I did help you. After all, like I said, these are dangerous times. Though perhaps you wouldn't know that if you really do come from another world."
"What are you…" Bastemon coughed as her vision blurred.
"That dart was coated in a small mixture made from the roots of the Arunya flower," Saleme said as Bastemon fell to the ground, gasping for breath. "Don't worry, it shouldn't kill you, but I'm afraid that you might not be waking up for a while, princess. Not to worry though, since you've already spent half the time in my company asleep, right?"
"Saleme… why…?" Bastemon hacked, her limbs losing their feeling as she fell onto her side and her world growing hazy and dark, like on the riverbank all over again.
"Sorry, princess," Saleme replied. "But I'm not quite the nomad that I said that I was. I have my… duties… to consider. My duties to the Haradrim."
That word meant nothing to Bastemon, but even if she had the strength left to question her about it she was distracted from the question by the rustling of the bushes as several other humans stepped out from where they had been hidden in the bushes. Bastemon felt like such an idiot. Saleme hadn't been taking her to the river at all, but to the rest of her group.
"What is that?" she heard one of them say through her fading hearing.
"It doesn't matter," Saleme replied. "Let's just say that she is a princess, or so she tells me, and from this moment on she is our prisoner. Let's take her back to the main camp and secure her. I have a feeling that there are some people who would be very interested in…"
Bastemon heard no more than that because she lapsed into unconsciousness and her world blackened around her.
Yes, yes, yes I know, I am mean. I must be one of the meanest people on the planet really to keep doing this kind of thing to poor Bastemon but things aren't going to be looking up for her so quickly I'm afraid. She's got quite a few trials ahead of her yet, and this is how they begin. Heh, sorry about leaving you on another cliffhanger… okay, I'm not THAT sorry… Geehee. If any of you want to know, Saleme is an evil hero in the game War of the Ring, which I have never played, but since she was created then I though, why not use her?
See you next time then.
The Digimon are on the move right across Middle Earth, most of them wondering around lost, while others have found their new companions. For the most part the people of Middle Earth are unaware of the intrusion on their world, but in the land of Rohan there are many closing in around them.
Coming up:- Chapter 26 : The Borders of Rohan