Boy stretched his arm out as far as possible, barely hanging on to the apple by the very tips of his fingers.
In return, the suspicious-eyed horse stretched its neck out also as far as possible, lips flapping in the air like a mute Mr. Ed… but the apple was just barely out of reach. One of them would have to move closer and Boy didn’t want to be the one doing so. The horse was a gorgeous, majestic creature with a gleaming white hide and long silky tail. Just the sort of horse described in a children's story being ridden by a knight in shining armor. Or evil sorceress.
Which would explain its tendency to snap at fingers or attempts to run over a curious Proxy.
If Boy could just.. reach a little… further…
He waggled the apple coaxingly, and he was finally rewarded by the horse slowly shifting its weight and leaning in a few precious inches. It grabbed the fruit with its massive yellow teeth and the apple vanished in seconds.
Using the moment of distraction, Toby lunged forward and grabbed at the handle of his favorite hatchet where it just so happened to be stuck in the beast’s neck. He pulled at the weapon with both hands but all that happened was the horse stepped sideways under the sudden pressure.
It be stuck but good.
Masky jumped in and wrapped his arms around Toby’s waist to add more weight, but even so, all the horse did was whip its head around and lunge at them with a very unhorse-like scream and bared teeth.
The proxies scattered in all directions to get out of the way. No one dared actually touch the beast, not knowing what would happen but having a good idea. All around the head of the hatchet where it had landed, the flesh of the horse had gone black and bubbly like it was leaking tar instead of blood and just as sticky. Weirdly enough, after it had kicked Toby clear across the field during the initial attack, the horse hadn’t seemed to care it should have been dying of blood loss.
It had even let Boy get close enough to feed it an apple.
Now, however, the bubbly black goop started to spread from the wound. It leaked down the neck, across the shoulders and back, then down the legs to the ground. The goop also leaked upwards towards the head. It only took a couple minutes of astonished watching before the snowy white steed had turned itself into some sort of liquified zombie horse with glowing white eyes.
The not-a-horse screamed again before leaping into the pond. When the rippling water had calmed back to a crystal clear clarity the horse was gone. Completely vanished- along with the hatchet.
Toby dug his hands into his hair and yanked. “Fuck fucking fucked fucker.”
Masky wiped a chunk of mud off his mask before replacing it back over his face. “Honestly, this is what you get for attacking a random creature you knew was acting suspicious.”
Hoody stared across the meadow at the pond. “Can we.. set it on fire?”
Toby whined. “My axe..”
Liu slogged his way through the knee-high grass to rejoin them. “Call me crazy, but has anyone tried talking to it? Kelpie’s are supposed to be intelligent.” He reached over to pull a stick out of Boy’s braid, tossing it over a shoulder.
“Kelpie. Shape-shifting water fae.” Liu looked from one puzzled Proxy to the next. “..nevermind. Go back to camp, I’ll stay for a bit and see if it can be reasoned with once it calms down.”
“Good luck with that. Toby tried to chop its head off so it’s not likely to respond well.” Masky looked back to the pond and would have sworn he saw a pair of white eyes peeking out of the water. They were gone when he blinked. “Ehhh… Keep the brat with you, I don’t want anyone out here alone right now. And be back by dark.”
The shift to a daylight schedule had been a complete surprise, Boy hadn’t known his brothers could adapt to sunlight. Well, he knew about half of them could. Alright fine, most of them did alright in the day hours, it was mostly just Jeff who refused to face the sun. And yet..
“Wait, why do I have to stay? It’s Toby’s fault! Can’t we just fucking buy him another one?”
“Why don’t we just buy another one of you,” Toby growled. The usually very energetic and happy boy was slouched over with his hands in his pockets. He glared at the pond until Hoody grabbed him by the arm and pulled him along.
“Now there’s an idea… what do kids go for on the black market these days anyways?” Hoody mused aloud. “Or pieces of one?”
Boy sulked harder as the voices faded, his outrage firmly ignored. “How long are we waiting?” The campsite would have had a nice big fire and dinner and why was Liu being so.. Liu. This was not the time to be Liu, this was the time to make a strategic retreat and leave!
“It’s not gunna come out, it’s just gunna sit there and fucking watch us.” Just as before, his sulking was outright ignored by the taller boy. But then Boy was pretty sure he’d been a brat for most of the week so far, being ignored wasn’t a surprise by now. He didn’t want to be out camping in the Scottish wilds! He wanted to go home and play video games and beg to go on a hunt and..
Boy could see the Kelpie out of the corner of his eye as he whined. A little shimmer of silvery light where the horse was poking its head out of the water to watch the Proxies. Boy was seeing all sorts of auras these days. Magic was gold, so was electricity, but the Proxies had a sort of dark gray haze outlining them instead. Now he was seeing silver. Great. Perfect.
Liu hmmmed lightly in response.
Boy shifted from one foot to the other. Wiped his hands off on his new and already filthy hoodie. Eyeless was always prepared by the way, the jacket was even in Boy’s favorite shade of red and the sleeves were long enough to be pulled over his hands and it had holes for his thumbs and a great big pocket. Boy was pretty sure he’d thanked him. Mostly sure. Might not have. Boy had been in a bit of a mood at the time he’d been handed the jacket.
It was starting to get dim. Not dark, the sun was still a few inches above the horizon, but dimmer. Once Boy was able to stop thinking about how irritating his wet jeans were, it was pretty nice out. Quiet. No sounds but the birds and the wind weaving through the grass. Very very faintly came the sound of moving water.
Scotland was utterly gorgeous in the summer, he had to admit. And he’d almost forgotten what they were waiting for until Liu gently nudged him. “Look. It’s gotten curious.”
The Kelpie had fully lifted its head above the water, bright white eyes glaring at the two boys. Also a lot closer to the edge of the pond rather than the middle. It was sneaking closer. Closer..
“It’s gunna try to eat us again.”
Boy fought off the urge to yawn. Being so still was making his brain slow down to a crawl after the previous excitement. Which he guessed was Liu’s intention since a calmer Proxy was one less likely to stab a magic water horse in the eye. Even if it did move startling fast when hoisting it’s over-sized body onto the grass edging the pond.
Boy blinked at the monster now a mere twenty feet away. The front half was pretty much like a half-decayed zombie. The back legs had melted into a sort of fish-like tail, all bloated and lumpy like the designer wasn’t sure how a fish tail looked.
“Don’t judge it by human standards.”
Boy squinted. When put that way… Nope. Even for a zombie horse it was still gross. The Kelpie hissed at the boys, mouth gaping open to show off a nice set of shark teeth.
Boy looked up at Liu as the older boy seemed content to stand and watch the beast. “...soo…”
“It ate your offering of an apple, I’m just wondering if you should be the one to approach it.”
Boy could have easily shrugged off the light grasp on his shoulders as he attempted to leave, it was nothing like Jeff’s grip that left purple and black bruises from his fingers digging in. It would have been easy to break away. Let’s put it down to conditioning as Boy wilted under the touch and allowed Liu to turn him back around. “But Liu…!”
“Just move nice and slow, and try not to look any more suspicious than you already do. Ask if you can have the hatchet back, and we’ll leave it in peace. That’s it.”
This is what happened when you spent all your time with a nose stuck in a book. Boy liked to read but not to the extent Liu did because all Liu ever did was read! That’s how he knew the Hellbeast was a Kelpie and that was kind of helpful, but then he also got weird ideas in his head! Such as sending his delicate, delicious baby brother to face down a man-eating monster four, ten, twenty times his size!
“I think you need a shrink…” Boy muttered even as he took a small step forward. “What if it tries to fucking eat me? You know it will! I’ll barely be a snack for that thing!”
Boy whined. He loved his brothers, Liu included, but there were some days they drove him batty. Like now. Right now. This was insane.
...Liu rarely asked him to do something though. Which meant even as Boy really, really didn’t want to take small, careful steps towards the Hellbeast with his hands held out to the side to prove he carried no weapons, he did it.
“Nice horsey, good horsey. Remember the apple? Nice, tasty apple wasn’t it? Much better than eating me. Want a… uhhhh...”
Shit, he didn’t have another apple. All he had was.. half a candy bar?
“....how about a candy bar? Ever try chocolate?”
The kelpie hissed at him again. Not even a proper hiss, it was just some boring whistling air without any proper words. The Hellbeast looked like it had stuck its face in a lawn mower before eating it, so maybe it was full of too many holes to talk properly. That’s if it actually was as intelligent as Liu said it was.
“This is sort of a one-time offer you know, I can’t get any more of these right now. I can bring you a hamburger I guess. Some bacon? Who doesn’t love bacon. Bacon is almost better than murder. Which means the best bacon comes from a murder but if you murder me then you won’t get any bacon at all.”
He was babbling but it seemed to be working as he edged closer. It stank of rotting fish but a nice breeze kept it going in the other direction and Boy blessed all his lucky stars. He held out the last two sticks of his kit-kat.
“One little bitty axe that has to be a little annoying by now, for some nice yummy chocolate. And bacon. I won’t forget to bring you bacon tomorrow.”
It was the most disgusting sound ever, a wet sucking slopping sound as the hatchet chose this moment to slowwwwwly disengage from the goop making up the beast’s neck. Or as the beast chose to let go of it because it had a supernatural control of it’s goopy form which made more and less sense..
All Boy knew is that the sound was just as disgusting as the rest of it, making him wince away and nearly lose his fingers as the Kelpie lunged forward to take the candy bar from his hand.
Three things then happened at once- Boy fell backwards onto his ass, the Kelpie lurched forward with its mouth wide open, and three rapid gunshots cracked through the air. Hellbeast rocked backwards onto its tail and Boy scrambled to his feet in such a hurry he nearly fell over a second time..
“I FUCKING TOLD YOU!”
Liu shrugged. “Don’t forget the hatchet.” He continued to aim down the barrel of his pistol just in case three bullets to the face wasn’t enough of a warning for the Kelpie. He didn’t put it away until Boy grabbed the oh so important hatchet and fled to a safe distance.
“Fuck you Liu.”
Turned out Liu was correct about the intelligent part, as the whole team found out in the morning when the Kelpie showed up for breakfast and refused to leave without the promised bacon.
Did you know Kelpie’s could take on a human form? Boy didn’t. Masky didn’t. Liu did but then Liu could be one hell of a snarky bastard who refused to share information until it was blatantly obvious. A shared family trait for the Woods when you thought about it.
“It’s a Kelpie. That’s what it does.”