Styx: 031

Rachel went still. «What do you mean? I'm a human.»

The bunny woman's eyes narrowed. «I've met humans. They may make the occasional flashy nima display with their fancy toys now and again, but nothing like what happened here. Whatever you did had to have been felt halfway around the world. Drawing off the nima storm last night was unnerving, but it saved my bacon and I could accept it might be just a weird phenomenon of the Deadlands. But the amount of nima I felt this morning, and and then it just disappears? And in its place is a human girl? That had to have been several orders of magnitude more nima than were in the nima storm. You could destroy a small country with that. So what are you?»

Snake? Rachel thought to herself. You in there? Nothing. Well, she guessed there wasn't any harm in telling the bunny lady about it. Plus she'd rather not be on the receiving end of that massive hammer. «Maybe you were sensing the snake? There was a ridiculously large snake here until recently.»

The woman's eyes widened. «The world snake was here?! Where did it go?»

«Um.» Rachel wondered desperately if she could get out of range if she just threw herself backward and trusted to the loose sand to keep her momentum going. Though given how the bunny woman jumped into the depression, that might not be helpful in anything other than the immediate short term. «Uh, I guess I might have kind of eaten it?»

«What?!» shrieked the woman, crouching and tensing as if she were about to attack.

«No no no, wait wait! I don't think that was the right word! Look, the snake asked me to, and I don't really understand it, but I guess maybe I absorbed it or something? It said that I had a, uh, hole inside me? That I'd need ridiculous amounts of—nima? Is that the right word? I don't really understand, but the snake said it would be a passenger, I think.»

«So you're hosting the world snake,» said the rabbit woman, in a tone of voice that clearly communicated she didn't believe a word of it. «Right. If that's true, then you're clearly dangerous. I'm really sorry but—»

«I helped you!» yelled Rachel, scrambling backwards as the bunny lady tensed to swing.

Ahhhh, sighed a voice from deep in her psyche. I think I have your basic pattern memorized. Please do not be alarmed while I deal with this nuisance.

Without her volition, Rachel straightened up and her vision suddenly shifted, color leaching from the world even as the sunlight brightened and the details around her jumped to a shocking level of clarity. She could practically count the individual hairs on the bunny lady's ears.

«I am here, prey. You wish to challenge us?» Oookay, so having words come out of her mouth that she didn't say herself was way more freaky than having a giant snake communicate with her thoughts.

It was evidently discombobulating to the bunny lady, as well, because she let go of her hammer and launched herself backward in an awkward jump, barely managing to right herself as she skidded to a landing in the soft sand further up the slope.

Bear with me, young one, said the snake inside her head. Are you alright? Your pulse is rapid.

"Yes," Rachel breathed, and felt an absurd rush of relief that it came out of her mouth. "I wasn't expecting you to…take control of my body like that."

Such things are not, hmmm, advisable very often, admitted the snake. But I will keep us safe, if you are willing.

Rachel steeled herself. In for a penny, in for a pound, she supposed. "Please."

Rachel advanced forward, an unfamiliar sway in her step. The bunny lady was crouched uphill, ears straight up in the air and her visible fur standing on end. She looked utterly panicked. Rachel stopped perhaps fifteen feet away, although she realized with some disquiet that she could sense the rabbit woman was well within her striking distance. She wasn't entirely sure how she knew that.

«We might be good companions to one another, rabbit. But if you threaten us, know this: to me, you are prey.» Without warning, Rachel's vision shifted once more, color streaming in as the little details faded to insignificance. The abrupt change made her stumble slightly, blinking.

The rabbit woman might as well have been made from stone. «Is the world snake gone?»

Rachel quirked her head. «Um…» Snake? she thought.

I am here. Pardon my earlier silence; my attention was diverted.

«No,» said Rachel, with a surprising rush of relief given how scary having her body controlled by something else had been. «But I'm the one talking to you at the moment. Um, I don't think the snake likes it much when you threaten me. Us.»

«…I gathered that.» The rabbit woman shifted her weight. «I—do you mind if I retrieve my hammer?»

«Oh! Sure! Just, um, please don't swing it at me.»

«…no. No, I won't do that.»

Rather than jumping, as Rachel halfway expected her to do, the bunny lady slogged her way through the sand, giving Rachel a wide berth on her way back down to grab her hammer. When she had retrieved it, she dragged it back up the slope with her, stopping a good ten feet away from Rachel and leaning against the handle with the head of the hammer in the sand at her feet.

«So,» said the bunny lady. «You really did…what, eat the world snake?»

Rachel nodded. «I don't really understand what it means, but yes.»

The woman dropped her head to rest on the back of her hands. «Ancestors,» she muttered. «This is a lot more complicated than I was expecting. I came rushing over here thinking there might be some crazy kami I could aim at the Sundas, and instead it's an ostensibly human girl who eats greater kami for breakfast. What the hell. Mani didn't give me any advice that applies to this one.»

«I don't know what Sundas or kami are, but I am human.»

«…whatever you say.» The bunny lady sighed. «So what now? What exactly do you want from me?»

«If it's not too much trouble, would you please help me get out of this desert? I'm looking for someone, and I'm pretty sure he isn't going to be in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and what's your name?»

«Bafubani.» It took Rachel a second to realize that the woman—Bafubani, that is—was answering her second question first. «And yeah, I guess I can get you to the nearest town. I think that might be Henka? This—person you're looking for. He anything like you?»

«Sort of? I mean, I don't think he's likely to have made any deals with giant snakes, but we're from the same place.» And if she was interpreting what the snake had said initially correctly, Xavier had indeed shown up in the same place as she did, so it was likely he'd ended up in this "Henka".

«Very well,» said Bafubani. «I'm not sure I can get you all the way to Henka, though. I have—something I need to take care of on the way. Although…» She gave Rachel a speculative look that Rachel wasn't sure she liked. «Maybe you can help me, in turn.» Bafubani shook herself, and stepped forward, dragging her hammer behind her by one hand. «Either way, we need to head this way to start.»

Rachel waited for her to pass her, wondering if the snake would weigh in on Bafubani's suspicious behavior, but it was silent. At least they were headed in roughly the direction that Rachel had started out, so perhaps her instincts were correct about where she needed to go.

As they neared the cusp of the depression, Bafubani's ears perked forward. «Huh. Looks like maybe you'll help me either way. How do you feel about Sundas?»

«What's a Sunda?» asked Rachel, but at that moment they crested the edge of the depression and she found herself facing a small army.

«Those are Sundas,» said Bafubani helpfully.

Thanks so much for clarifying.