Tapestry of Horror
Round 5: The Grand Finale
you were Ach'M's opponent?" Chordata's heart pounded rapidly in her chest. Hearing those words from anyone else would have meant nothing, but from her valiant and caring Quincy
" his voice trailed, eyes closed and shoulders sagging. Chordata glanced down at the dingo's hand that was still firmly clasped in her own. Imagining those hands coated in the amphibian man's blood seemed almost implausible.
"I, uh, didn't intend for it to end like it did," Quincy answered, "It was a
an accident, you could say."
"It was an accident that he happened to have a knife wound straight through his heart?" Chordata's sharp tone caused the man to flinch.
Her icy blue eyes stared at him like daggers, forcing his gaze to slide away, "I
I didn't know he meant that much to you."
"He didn't!" she swiftly defended, her voice growing louder, "That's not the point! Why didn't you tell me?"
The man took a step back, letting go of the woman. Ears pinned back and hands raised in defense, he said, "I d-didn't want you to be upset. The tournament was already stressful enough--"
"I found out anyway! And in the worst situation at that! It would have been a lot easier if you would have just told me in the first place!" The sound of her voice rang out through the nearby tents, sending curious eyes in their direction.
Quincy's voice quivered as he stared down at his feet, "I-I know, I'm
"You can be sorry all you want, but that's not going to make this any better," Chordata lowered her voice, but her words remained as infuriated as ever, "I don't even understand why you would have to go out and kill Ach'M at all, as pathetic as he was! You could have defeated him some other way without much trouble at all."
"I-I wasn't... exactly myself at the time
" the dingo's voice was hardly audible, any spirit he had in defending himself long gone. He nervously rubbed a spot on his chest stained with blood.
"Oh, give me a break! Just how out of it would you have to be to kill someone in cold blood?! That amphibious dweeb was hardly threatening, I pummeled him myself on more than one occasion. It wasn't difficult for me, so I find it hard to believe that you'd need to resort to murder to win!"
The man did not argue. He did not even look up at her.
Chordata felt her cheeks burning and her breath quicken in pace. She looked down at her own cloven hoofed feet and felt her fists trembling. Closing her eyes, she took a deep, shaky breath. When she reopened them the corners were filling with tears.
"I'm sick of everyone lying to me around here. Sick of all this pointless crap we keep doing. Sick of all this fighting. Sick of people like you!"
Quincy's snout raised and he stared at her in disbelief. His dirty brown fur almost seemed to fall pale. He weakly parted his jaws to speak, but nothing came out. His own eyes began to turn watery.
"You're just a murderer," she spat, her words barely escaping between her jittering breath, "I'm just a murderer. Everyone at this Spirit-forsaken place is a damned murderer!"
With a whimpering sigh, Chordata turned her back on the canine man. Quincy could not bring himself to follow, though Chordata felt his sorrowful gaze glued to her as she walked away. She felt her gorge rise, the nausea causing her to stumble and lurch with every step. She shoved her way blindly through the tent fabric and hay mounds, boxes and confused bodies, not caring who or what was in the way.
She pushed her way through more obstacles and into a near-empty tent, its only occupants a few spare hay mounds. Her red hair fell in her face but she did not bother to brush it away. Wrapped in her misery, she paid no regard to her surroundings. A loose rope, abandoned on the floor, tangled itself around her hooves as she walked past.
Chordata soon found herself tumbling onto the dry, dusty earth with a painful groan. She attempted at pushing herself up, but with her breath knocked out of her, she promptly collapsed. Her heavy wheezing slowly evolved into quiet sobs. Her body shivered, so much so her tries at untangling herself went to no avail. In a pathetic image of defeat, she curled up with her face in her hands and wept.
"Let me help you with that," a soft, feminine voice spoke from above.
Chordata hesitantly lifted her face, her blue eyes hardly visible between the mascara-blackened streams of tears that streaked down her cheeks. A blurry figure bent down beside her. Wiping away the mess with her bandaged arm, her vision cleared and Chordata quickly recognized the assisting woman. Tall, with pale blue fur and forest green hair; she recognized her instantly. It was Ach'M's adoptive mother.
Choking between her sobs, Chordata could not reply. However, the one-eyed woman did not need one. She reached down and began to untangle the heap around the goat woman's legs. After just a moment or two of fiddling, she pulled away the frayed rope and set it aside.
"There, that's better," she said, turning back to the crying woman.
Chordata continued to wipe away her tears. Coughing and sniffling, she avoided looking at the elderly woman. "Thanks," she muttered, her voice still shaky.
"It's alright to cry, you know," the woman replied with a tired sigh, "And you're never too old to do it either. I should know
She turned away, resting her large fluffy hands in her lap. Chordata fidgeted in the following silence. She half expected the woman to get up and leave, but she never did. Sighing, Chordata's posture relaxed and she carefully stretched out her legs. She rested back on a stack of hay, her head hanging.
Not looking over, Chordata uttered a long-needed introduction, "My name's Chordata, by the way. Not... 'Goat Lady', as you've probably been taught."
The green-haired woman let out a tired laugh at the mentioning of her amphibian son's nickname. "You can call me Nippy," she replied with a feeble smile.
Chordata finally looked over, strings of red hair still lying across her face. She hastily pushed them back with a claw. "If it's an apology for the other day that you want, then
I'm sorry. I guess."
Despite the awkwardness of her tone, the goat woman's words were genuine. Nippy's single, bright green eye stared at her for a moment, the emotions within difficult to read. "You aren't to blame. You weren't the one who
who killed him," The pain still lingered in her face from the memory.
No, but I liked the man who did, Chordata kept the thought to herself. Rethinking her situation with Quincy only brought her emotional turmoil back to life. Suppressing her feelings of betrayal, Chordata quickly changed the subject, "I'm sure you weren't as bad of a parent as I said you were. To be honest I don't know how you dealt with that goof."
A smile slowly drifted back onto Nippy's face, as if she were recalling pleasant memories. "I suppose a mother's love sees past any flaws."
Chordata's lips fell to a saddened frown. She rubbed her still-singed arms, her eyes looking off to the side. Nippy seemed to sense her discomfort. She momentarily opened her mouth to speak, but changed her mind. After another period of silence, the older woman finally cleared her throat and proceeded to return to her feet, "I heard the ringmaster is holding a show soon. I best go and
find a seat."
With no further comment from the goat woman, Nippy hesitantly turned away toward the exit.
"I was an orphan too," Chordata said suddenly, her voice heavy with emotion. Nippy paused and looked back, her long bangs covering her eye patch. Her one good eye glowed brightly in the darkness of the tent.
"I chose to be one, unlike most people," Chordata continued, looking down at her fidgeting hands, "I just wanted to be alone. I didn't think I needed a parent to watch me. Or anyone else for that matter."
Nippy listened as the young woman spoke, her voice quivering. Sniffling, Chordata held back her tears as she said, "I.. I don't know if I like being alone anymore."
Nippy peered down at her with a nurturing gaze. Her large fluffy ears fell to the sides as she suggested, "Then maybe you should change that."
The thought tossed around Chordata's mind. She felt her chest tighten as a flood of memories swept over her, which she quickly shoved away. When she finally returned her focus to the towering figure, her response was thick with doubt and regret.
"I don't know if I can."