He's going down a little dirt path that he found, low shadowy trees all around with their gold-edged lacy leaves and sunlight overhead. The weather is always fantastic in these islands, so far. He's kind of happy with things, kind of bummed Vriska didn't come with today because it's a neat find; that path is certainly not boar-made, there's too much space between the trees and bushes for them to be forced to follow the same road until the earth looks it.
He might find people at the bend of the path, a village even!
What he finds instead is a weird little roly-poly animal, curled into a wheel of slate gray, fleshy bits and fat little limbs and a shiny, lacquered, segmented shell on its back, and its butt looks kind of furry.
He'd swear there's stuff painted on it, though, lines and designs in jadeblood greens and his blue.
The thing isn't very big, not even as big as his torso, and it's not moving, so he crouches beside it and knocks his knuckle on its shell.
There's a gleep! and then the thing unrolls, and he finds out the end he thought was the butt was the head.
There's tiny, mostly-red horns emerging from a mop of moss-green hair, and tiny little kitten-clawed sausage fingers scrabbling in the dust, and the hugest eyes he's ever seen, set in a round-cheeked, gaping little face.
He's found a baby.
-- ectoBiologist [EB] has opened memo HOLY WOW A BABY on board Adventure Time for Assholes --
EB: guys i found a baby!
EB: like a *troll* baby
EB: or a whatever we're now baby.
EB: it's got like a shell on its back and itsùmonjù
EB: chewing on my pants hehehe, okay i'll pay attention to that little rascal for a minute.
EB: brb with more exciting discoveries!!
-- turntechGodhead [TG] has joined the memo --
TG: spoiler john its a trap the baby is a bait b some monsters lure c about to go facehugger on your ass and hollow itself a nice nest out of your chest cavity d all of the above run while you still can
TG: johnny john john
TG: you asshole if you get eaten at least give us gps coordinates so we can loot your corpse
He puts his PDA back in his pocket and goes about trying to get the baby to spit out the end of his pant leg, which is dusty and stiff with sea salt and generally not good for baby consumption. The little tyke seems determined. Flop it goes, on its side, roly-polling again -- this time around his ankle, and its tiny kitten-claws and myriad of needle teeth sunk determinedly in blue cloth. John is now the owner of a creepydorable shackle.
He frees himself with the cunning application of the tail end of his windsock hood, ticklishly trailed across a fat little cheek and then danced just out of reach. The babynsect flips on its back and tries to grab up at it, but its shell is round enough that it can't balance for long and quickly flops back on its other side, where it proceeds to start sniffling heartbrokenly.
John will deny it later on, but he flails a little. "Aw, no, no, here it is, you can chew on it if you want to, mm nummy windsock, blue is the tastiest color isn't it, come on, no crying--"
The baby blinks its enormous, alarmingly wobbly eyes at him -- they're an odd silvered sage green -- and accepts his offering with a squeak that he chooses to interpret as a laugh. The little brat played him. He laughs, too, and risks those clawed fingers and toes to go tickle its belly.
This is a well-fed baby. He wonders if it has a mom or a lusus or anything (and also if it's a boy baby or a girl baby, because he really can't tell at all. It's naked, but also all curled up!) Be a bit of a crime to leave it alone in the woods, though.
He's careful when he slips his hands under its arms and lifts it. It doesn't squirm, just stares back and keeps patiently shredding the end of his hood into a mangled, drooly mess. Its legs are still all curled up, like a kitten carried by its mom, it's horribly adorable.
When it yawns John sees needle fangs an alarmingly long way down.
"You're cute," John proclaims. "If creepy. Somehow the creepy just makes you even more cute. Is it a baby power, I wonder?"
"Put em down right the hell now or I'm cracking your skull and making delicious puree out of your brainmeats."
Whoops. Good job with the situational awareness, John. He cranes his head back and around a bit, grins his most harmless smile at the young lady standing behind him. She's kinda goldenish-gray skinwise and in somewhat battered work skirts and also brandishing a log big around as his thigh.
"Hi there! Big sister?" he asks, lowering the baby back down on the ground. "You're much too young to be that kid's mom!"
Scoff, scowl. Argh. She'd have bought it from Dirk! Or Jake, even though he'd have sounded even cheesier saying it.
"I am not kidding, I will crack your stupid horns off and use them to hook your guts and pull them right out!"
John pouts. "My horns are not stupid, okay! They're badass, and ... also a right pain in the ass to sleep with; but still. And I'd step away if I could, she won't let go of my clothes!"
He tugs, to demonstrate. The front half of the grubbaby is lifted right off the ground, and it squeaks happily without loosening its jaws.
The young woman still looks tense, and that log has got to be heavy. He shuffles to sit on the ground, softens his voice a bit. (He can be right sensitive when he wants to avoid getting brained, okay.) "I didn't want to hurt her, I just found her alone on the path and wondered what happened, alright? You can take her back, if you manage to get her to let go."
The young woman growls, circles her slow, cautious way around to John's side. "Her, her, her, you sound like a goddamn creep -- are you trying to jinx em?"
Blink. "Em? Jinx? Wha...?" he asks, and then he forgets, because the baby is on all fours and butting his knee with its little horns and he can see the drawings on its back now, and ooohh. Okay, that's a bit unexpected. Maybe it shouldn't have been. He taps a very light knuckle against the fancy curlicues of a particularly elaborate Breath symbol on the first shell segment, grins. The second segment has Life and the third one has Space, which he dutifully admires as well, but his fingers stay on the blue of his symbol, rubbing slowly back and forth. The paint isn't smearing, feels almost like nail polish. "Huh, that's pretty. I've never seen it drawn like that."
He looks up to grin another harmless grin at the young woman and she's frozen, staring at him, mouth fallen open a little.
"Your head," she barks, but her voice shakes. "Turn your head. I -- I have a log."
Ooookay. "I noticed! It's a very nice log," he says cheerfully, "very, uh, hefty!" and turns his head, craning his neck -- she shakes her head quickly, wrong direction, so he turns to face the baby once again. The woman's breath hitches.
The baby chirps and waves a kitten-clawed hand at him in the universal signal for "up now, elevator slave." John pinches his lips. On one hand, the mother might brain him with a log if he obeys. On the other hand, the baby might cry if he doesn't. Dilemma.
The log is drooping some, and the woman looks lost as anything. Maybe now she's gotten a good look at his face she can tell he's totally trustworthy! Yeah, and Vriska's momcestor has a ship to sell him for cheap, hole-free.
She mumbles something he can't parse; he tilts his head. The baby whimpers and claws at his knees -- ow ow ow -- as it scrambles over them and tumbles in his lap. Whoops!
"What color is your hair!" the woman snaps without warning, and then flushes an embarrassed yellow.
"Uh... Black? Is that a trick question? I mean, uh, Vriska didn't get me with hair dye again or something and I didn't notice, did she?"
Okay now she's going ashy gray, this can't be good. John -- gently as possible -- moves the baby off his lap and turns on one knee to catch her in case she faints, holy wow she's totally swaying a little.
Her eyes fall to his chest and she swallows. John blinks down at his shirt, blinks back up.
"... my lord heir?"
Blink -- oh! Oh. "Oh. Heir of Breath. Yeah. Hehe. I should have gotten used to it with the consorts but it's always weird when people know about me." He ruffles his hair once again, a little awkward. It's one thing getting that reaction from sentient-ish, waist-high salamanders, and another to get it from otherwise normal, not game-built young women.
She stares for another minute or twenty, and then she slowly raises a hand and pinches the bridge of her nose. "... I just threatened the Heir of Breath with a log."
John tries not to laugh for about two seconds, and then he gives up and cracks up in a major way. "You kind of still are!" he points out in between two giggle fits. The baby has rolled into a circle in the hollow of his crossed legs and is squeak-laughing along, all limbs kicking happily.
The log drops hurriedly. So does the woman, on her knees, and ouch, that kind of impact has got to hurt a bit. "My lord, I--"
John flails. "Waugh! None of that, no no no, it's weird and all and I'm gonna get a swelled head and then my hood won't fit and it will be terrible."
On her knees in the dust, she gives him a slow, slow blink. "I... can see how that would be. Erm."
John tries to look earnest all of two seconds, and then he starts laughing again. "Wow, this is awkward. Okay! Hi, nice to meet you, my name's John."
"Ah -- I -- it's a honor, I--"
"Your name's not Honor, is it?"
Aha! A scowl, finally. "You're kind of a brat, aren't you."
John would protest, but he's afraid she'd go all scared and awed again, so he shrugs. "... Mean, but basically accurate, I guess, heh. Sorry?"
A long sigh, smoothing a dusty skirt down her thighs, and then she braces herself, squares her shoulders, and says, "I'm Kaleo, my lord. This is Eri. And yes, ey's my child, honestly!"
John chuckles. His hand has somehow landed on soft moss-green hair. The grubbaby butts its little head against his palm when he stops petting. It's almost more like a kitten than a kid, the way it behaves. Man, now he wishes he'd seen what Vriska was like as a grub, or maybe Karkat, see if that comes from their side or what.
"Damn, she's way too cute. It should be outlawed."
"Ey's a girl then?" Kaleo asks tentatively, a hand coming up shyly to scratch at the base of her own stiletto of a horn.
John stares, baffled. "What, you don't know? But -- uh. I don't know! I just thought... She looked like a girl to me." He peers down at the grubbaby. It still looks androgynous, actually, but. He's not sure. Pings him as a girl, is all. "How can you not know?"
"Ey hasn't had eir's first molt yet, stupid, how the heck -- ugnh."
Oh yeah, he supposes with the weird mess of innie-outie they have now it'd be especially hard to know which was which that early on.
He tickles Eri's fat little belly. She scratches him kicking, raising white lines on the side of his hand, getting a few drops of red blood to pearl out. "Heh, you little wildcat." He grins, leans in to make funny faces, blow air at her nose. She flails all her limbs, mouth wide open to squeak back a challenge, chest swelling in to take in enough air for a good baby yell. "You're the cutest little wildcat, you escape artist, wait 'till you grow up, you will charm everyone, you'll --"
Oh. Something's happening. Something weird. Something...
"You will dance with the breeze and race the storm to port, and you'll always sail back home, you'll... travel so far, speak to people none you know knew existed and bring back the tales, you will sing and dance and laugh -- and you will hope, Eridi, that one gift you always had."
He straightens up slowly. Everything's buzzing.
"You should add a Hope sigil on there," he hears himself saying, from very far away.
"My lord?" Kaleo breathes out. He doesn't answer. It's right enough.
His pocket pings him.
"Uh -- sorry, one minute." John ruffles his wings and mantles them awkwardly. What the heck are they doing out! Okay, so uh --
-- gutsyGumshoe [GG] has joined memo! --
GG: Well, John? Have you found the baby's mother yet?
EB: oh. yeah.
TG: aw poo vantas minor was already freaking the fuck out trying to figure out what to feed it if you had to bring it back
TG: he was all JEGUSFUCK IS IT INSTINCTIVE IT HAD BETTER BE INSTINCTIVE ALSO I AM NOT GLANDFEEDING IT shit was hilarious
TG: also if anyone with nubby horns asks yes laying eyes on a hungry abandoned baby will totally get your mammaries to start gushing the magic juice right on the spot and yes the traditional collecting thing is actually a bucket
EB: hehe. but of course, who doesn't know that? :B
EB: uh, actually, the mom found me first.
EB: with a wooden log.
GG: Anyway, get yourself back home, young man, it's time for dinner.
GG: If you managed to get yourself killed, try to clean up before getting back here or dad might well ground you for your own good for the next three centuries. :B
EB: urgh. yes, yes, nannasismom.
TG: you guys family relationship is the weirdest and i say that as a guy whose bro is literally also his dad
EB: incest: it's what's for dinner.
EB: suddenly i remember exactly why i am called back home and seriously wonder if i shouldn't just go native, the locals are friendly! logs notwithstanding.
GG: John. Imagine me harrumphing here.
EB: yes, yes. going now.
Kaleo's still kneeling here, with little Eri who he didn't notice crawling out of his lap trying to make her way up the slope of her mother's thighs, and she stares half-fascinated and half uncomfortable as hell.
"Um. It was really nice to meet you!" He stows his PDA away again. "But now I've got to go, Dad's waiting on me for dinner."
John gets up, bats some dust off his knees, eyes the chewed-up end of his windsock hood. He decides to throw it over his shoulder and ignore it until it fixes itself somehow. "Err, so, your village's nearby, right? Maybe I'll drop by one of these days."
"It -- it would be an honor, my lord."
John can't help but grimace at her tone, at her posture, all stiff.
And then she squares her shoulders and tosses up her dagger-horns. "... If... if you can be convinced to behave. That is."
Hee. "Man, that sounds pretty hard. Depends, will you have a log at hand again?"
"I'll be the bestest guest ever."
He manages solemn for a short while. Kaleo gives a long-suffering sigh and a half-serious jaundiced look. John laughs, grins at the two of them, and then his pocket is beeping at him again, so he pets the grubbaby's hair a last time and gathers the wind and lets the world fall away under his feet.
He keeps hearing Eridi laugh for miles and miles.