1965-06-26 - Fair Trade
Summary: Fjorskar likes shiny things.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo halgrim 


Despite its placement in the middle of the densest population area in the US, night in Central Park is quite similar to night in most other wildernesses. Animals that hide during the day emerge when they otherwise might sleep, driven to more nocturnal tendencies by the press of humanity. Prey move between the trees and underbrush in an attempt to avoid predators; predators, likewise, skulk in the shadows, seeking to catch prey that can't be had in daylight under watchful human eyes. It's not unheard of to stumble across deer, coyotes, or bears (and there have been rumors on the street of a bear, though no one's produced good evidence of it yet), though to the average New Yorker the presence of more dangerous animals occupies the same 'yeah it happens' sphere as most of the city's resident supers.

And maybe those bear rumors aren't just random urban legend, because *something* has surprised a large-ish animal of another kind by a watering hole and left a mess. A fair amount of blood, furrows dug out of the ground, and the unmistakeable trail of a carcass being dragged back into the undergrowth, towards a small grove. Additional tracks trample the grass in the opposite direction, around the pond and away from the scene of the crime.


There's one big difference between Central Park and true wilderness: Central Park has electricity. Elmo's out doing his own prowling, toolbox in one hand and some little device in the other. He's got his eyes on its fluctuating needle, dowsing a power line like a short, Jewish druid. Why he's here instead of, say, almost anywhere else in NYC, is known only to himself. Why nighttime? Well, illegally accessing city power out in the open is always best done under cover of dark.

He's really not expecting it when he comes across blood and there's a lot of it and "Ugh," he says, recoiling like a city boy without a lot of exposure to nature red in tooth and claw. He looks around, eyebrows cocking upwards in worry. The trail is clear, and if he had a lick of sense he'd go the other direction. So of course he doesn't, instead giving in to the urge to find out what happened. He follows the blood path, wary and curious.


There's not far to go before the sound of something having a good meal becomes apparent. Something big—big enough, apparently, that things like 'stealth' and 'eating in a safe place' aren't really on its radar. A stand of ash rings a clearing of rocks and summer-browned grass, and in the middle of it is the unfortunate deer and its killer. It was a big buck, too, before its untimely demise at the hand of, whatever this is.

It's not a bear. It's some sort of piece-meal assembly of raven, ram, wolf, human, and…dragon, perhaps: a wolf-man's body, like from the stories, though quite large, and with shiny, hard scales beneath its dark fur, a pair of heavy ram's horns curling back from its forehead, a great mantle of black feathers, and claws and teeth that glint metallic in the moonlight. It's making quick work of the deer, messily so, and more than a few raccoons have gathered in the bushes and trees. Every now and then one sneaks in to nab a bit of offal that's been flung clear. They haven't decided if the usual protocols of stealing from apex predators work with this one, and are feeling it out.


Elmo swallows, getting nauseated from the sounds. Just the sounds. That's before he even gets there, and it's dark enough that the monster is primarily a giant hulking shape with what little light there is glinting off teeth and scales and claws. He makes a tiny, terrified squeak. The device he's been using to track the power line falls to the grass. This is outside his experience and it makes him freeze up like a rabbit watching an oncoming car.


The sound of Elmo's approach doesn't draw the beast's attention, though it does earn him a flicked ear. Then he makes that noise, and the creature stops eating and goes still. The constellation of moonlit raccoon eyes goes out as they withdraw. It feels quieter, too, as though numerous nightjars and bats and shrews and mice which had been going about their business nearby have suddenly flown and crawled much further afield.

The creature turns around to face Elmo, moving slowly. The baleful yellow glow of its eyes casts stark shadows on its face, and give the red-ringed, amber irises a vicious cast. There's something hanging from its neck, some kind of stone pendant that shimmers with metal and gemstone that's hard to see clearly in the dark. It surveys him, lips trembling to flash its teeth and nose working as it smells him.


On an otherwise normal Tuesday night in June, this happens. The sense of surreality is intense. Elmo covers his mouth, eyes huge, face pale. His toolbox rattles; he's shaking and it makes all the metal things jitter and jive. He backs up, instinctively slow and as smooth and quiet as he can manage. Which, because of the toolbox, isn't all that quiet.


The beast looks curious now, its eyes darting to the toolbox as it makes those wonderful clanking noises. It starts to move towards Elmo, following him, but slowly and with extreme care. Of course, no amount of caution in its movements can mask the blood all over its face and forearms.


|ROLL| Elmo +rolls 1d20 for: 3


Elmo blurts Yiddish, "Ton nit esn mir!" and tries to bolt backwards, which doesn't work out. He trips and lands on his ass, toolbox making an unholy racket as it hits the turf. He flings out a hand at the wolfish monster, his fingertips lighting up with sparks, but they don't leap out to ground on anything, instead just seething in place with menacing hisses and crackles.


The commotion gives the beast pause, and it jerks back, growling at the sudden flurry of activity—clattering metal, half-hearted sparks, flailing human, *blathering* human. When Elmo properly hits the ground, though, it falls quiet, and watches him for a time. Then it makes a sound, a sort of hissing, snarling, croaking, bleating noise. It's like several things trying to talk at once, and it makes no sense, but it waits, staring at him hard, ears forward.


Elmo cringes at the cacophony. He stammers the first thing that occurs to him. "W-what?" The sparks throw harsh light everywhere, making shadows dance crazily. A little rationality returns to his eyes, though. "I d-don't—I don't understand ya." The creature is trying to talk? And its ears, just like a dog that's more interested in a treat than biting. He lets the electricity drop, sparks dying away with a fizzle.


The beast sneers at his words, and seems to say something else in that same racket of a language. When the sparks die it grunts and takes a half step forward, sniffing at his toolbox. Its eyes glow menacingly when they flick back and forth from him to the toolbox; a warning, probably, of the consequences he'll face for preventing access to the noise-maker.


Oh no. Dilemma. Abandon his beloved toolbox, or get mutilated? Elmo bites his lip, hard, drawing a bead of blood. He looks frantically back and forth between the monster and his toolbox. "Okay, uh," he says, voice shaking, and scoots away. JP told him: things get replaced. He doesn't.


The beast takes Elmo's abandonment of the toolbox as a relinquishing of possession, and shoves at it with its nose, yielding more of the clink and clank of metal (and getting deer blood and who knows what else all over it). It does this once or twice, clearly amused, then reaches out to prod at it with one clawed hand, toying with the lid in search of a latch or lock. As it does so, the pendant around its neck becomes easier to see: a dark red, rough gemstone, nearly the size of a lemon, with metal inclusions, set on a heavy, bronze chain.


Elmo is now not only terrified, he's confused. He watches the creature investigate (and dirty) his toolbox, his eyes so wide they must hurt. "You, uh, you like 'em?" he hazards. "You can h-have 'em." Maybe he can trade with the thing? He's looking at every detail he can make out on the beast, gaze flicking from horns to feathered ruff to scales to—that pendant, swinging heavy against the massive chest.

The toolbox has simple latches, no challenge for clever talons.


The beast snorts in response. An agreement maybe, or a laugh at the idea of trading with Elmo—it's hard to tell. Does a thing like this, that hunts deer in Central Park and eats it out in the open, have a sense of humor?

It flips open the latch and then the lid, and begins to shove things around inside, taking stock of the contents. Behind them, the raccoons have snuck back in and are claiming bits and pieces of the deer. They're watching the interaction with an abundance of caution; despite the danger, this is too good an opportunity to pass up.


Elmo winces. Not bad enough that he dropped his toolbox, now it's being rooted through like a garbage can. Dents and scuffs and bent wires are dancing in his head. The tools within are, although well-cared-for, far from new. Except for one thing: a brand-new wire stripper, gleaming with oil and shiny plastic. "Hey, easy, buddy, huh?" Elmo implores. His tools!


The beast grunts at Elmo's noises, looking wholly unconcerned with what he has to say. It pauses at the wire stripper, flipping it with one huge claw, but moves on. Presently it teases out a modest length of copper wire—a spare piece free from a spool, shiny with the promise of future use. This it drags free from the box and admires for a span of several seconds. It takes the wire in one hand, shoves the box aside, and stands up. And goodness, is it tall; close to ten feet on those back legs.


Elmo can't hold back the whimper that escapes when the beast stands up—and up, and UP. He presses the back of his hand hard against his mouth again, smearing a little blood on it from where he's bitten his lip. "Sure, you can have that," he mumbles, like he has any choice in the situation. "Gey gezunterheit, yeah?" Even terrified out of his wits he has to sarcastically wish the beast to use the bit of wire in good health.


The creature considers Elmo down its bloodied muzzle for far more heartbeats than can be good for Elmo's health. It narrows its eyes at his words, and starts shaking itself; its mantle, in particular, sending the mass of feathers to flailing with a noise like an entire conspiracy of ravens taking flight. Not much of this is needed for a few feathers to fly free; they flutter about and drift down to land within arm's reach of Elmo. One in particular is nearly two feet long, with a point to the tip and a heavy shaft. A flight feather for sure, deep black with a sheen of blue, green and purple visible even by moonlight.

The beast pauses to give Elmo a pointed look, then drops back to all fours and turns back towards the deer carcass. The raccoons scatter as it does so, scurrying back into the bushes and trees with whatever they can grab along the way.


Elmo barely waits for the creature to turn its back before he's scrambling to stuff his toolbox back together and latch it closed with trembling hands. He looks at the feathers, back at the monster, then snatches the feathers from the ground. Far be it from him to not accept a fair trade. Besides, if the creature is offering payment, he probably shouldn't refuse. Then he bolts, like a deer himself, but he has better luck—he escapes with his life.

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