Spotty First Impressions

January 19, 2017:

Nerina goes camping to get away from the world and finds an unexpected visitor at her campsite - and my what big teeth she has. (Part 2: Second Impressions: Fire Bad)

New York Campgrounds


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The warm crackle of a fire illuminates a small natural clearing as a cold evening breeze blows between bare treetrunks. Nestled off the beaten trail of any pre-cleared campsite, its cherry glow is shaded from the prying eyes of park rangers but not fully buried in true wilderness. A couple hills away from a real campsite and a short downhill walk to a stream, it's sensibly chosen but discrete - coached on the warmer eastern side of a gentle slope and even furnished with a little bark-and-branches shelter.

Navigating her way back to the campsite alone, a young blonde sweeps her hand-crank flashlight in front of her to keep her steps on sure footing. Bundled up as best she can be with hoodie tight and windbreaker fully zipped, there's still a little color missing from her face as she steps over a fallen log and makes her way home with a bundle of branches tucked under her arm. She smells like spring water and dirt - with plenty of the later already clinging to the fabric of her sweatpants. To the fallen thistles and loose debris of the woods, its puffy cotton is like a blank canvas in a paint factory.

The scent of fire and smoke drew her attention. The quietly slinking form moves stealthfully, at home in the branches of the trees even if these are not the species of trees she is used to from the jungles of her home. he has learned to adapt to a multitude of environments; the change has necessitated that, and her wanderings have reinforced it. Most likely the first hint one would have of her presence is the quietude of other natives of the forest; she is a large predator species, after all, and they don't want to draw her attention. But that is a subtle cue, one most bipeds would miss. A more definitive sign might be if she manages to project a shadow against the moonlight. But most of all is when the large clouded leopard leaps down from her arboreal perch and pads into the fitful circle of the small, sheltered fire's light, her amber eyes glinting with reflections as she wuffles, sniffing at the trail of the human girl curiously without approaching directly.

Nerina's scent leads away from the fire to the south and sharp ears would catch her returning from the same direction. Burdened by thick boots and free from any conscious urge for subtlety, her own tracks are clear and distinct - human, in a word.

The young fishwife pauses for a moment in respect to the sheer stillness of the woods around her. Her eyes and flashlight sweep from side to side as she listens, waits… and then shrugs, continuing on. The beam of her flashlight crests a ridge a scarce few moments before the girl herself enters view of the campfire.

The feline figure's eyes glint back that flashlight's beam as she watches the human girl approach, tail swishing back and forth. It would be nigh impossible for most humans to realize she's agitated, but she is. The fire was left unattended, and that's an insult of epic proportions to such a creature of nature and the natural world. But she hasn't - just yet - extinguished it. That's not as easy to do without thumbs, and she hasn't changed. Yet.

The fishwife pauses as her beam reflects off bright eyes and the leopard's yellow clouded figure is silhouetted by her campfire. It's not a freeze or a stunned gasp but rather confusion as the young blonde raises an eyebrow while studying the creature large enough to maul her in two or three good swipes.

"Leopard?" She murmurs strangely before resuming her approach. The flashlight is angled down to avoid beaming the great cat directly and Nerina's formerly-straight path develops a small bend to avoid challenging it too directly.

The cat is a pale shade, more greyish with hints of tan, than anything truly yellowish, but her eyes are a deep, burnished amber. She eyes the fire with a glance, then watches the woman approach. She doesn't hunker down or take a pre-pounce position, just watches. Then she lifts a paw and swipes at some dirt, pushing it at the fire. It's not enough to put it out, but it should be enough to make it clear that would be her intent. She can smell the fish on the woman, and her tummy rumbles slightly. Not too loudly, though.

While she gives the animal a small berth Nerina approaches without any outward signs of fear or hesitance - her eyes flit to the cat's as she draws close. "Chto ty zdes' delayesh'?" She asks in naturally-flowing Russian.

The fishwife frowns lightly at the dirt flung at her campfire before she drops her bundle of branches and flings one into the blaze, rekindling its light. The leopard receives a lightly scolding look before she wanders over to her shelter and drops heavily to the ground in front of its entrance. Reaching for the thermos at her hip, she unhooks it and takes a drink.

The feline tilts her head, watching Merina avidly, but visibly shakes her head from side to side as the girl talks to her in Russian. She has heard the language before, but has not learned it yet. She bats her paw at the dirt again, as if to shuffle dirt over the fire, waiting for a reaction or response. She is rather curious about the girl's lack of fear; most are terrified by her presence.

Most teenagers also don't go camping alone in the dead of winter and the blonde nearby exhales heavily once she finishes her drink. Scooching a little closer to the flame and crossing her legs, she holds out her hands to banish the cold paleness gripping her fingertips.

"Heh, <you and me both, Spots,>" she continues in her native tongue, looking back at the feline. "<No dirtying the fire. I need this for warmth.>"

Still not understanding the woman, the leopard pads around the fire and sidles closer to her. She can see the woman is cold, seeking warmth. Her solution? Warmth, naturally. She pads over and somewhat unceremoniously flops herself over the woman's lap. Big. Cat. But she is warm, like an electric blanket. With no batteries. Alert amber eyes glance upwards, mobile little ears flicking.

Nerina looks over as the cat approaches, curious and with a little wariness finally sneaking into her eyes as its head draws near at eye level… and then the cat lays down.

"Oof!" the slender fishwife whines, her crossed legs spread flat under the cat's weight. She looks down and blinks at the sand-like coat of fur now covering her lower half, then shakes her head and laughs in disbelief. It's a light, melodic sound, and a grateful smile anchors itself to the fishwife's lips as she runs her fingertips through the feline's fur. By human standards her fingernails could use a trim, but for this task they might be just the right size.

The cat starts to rumble out a pur at least as massive as her big body, as she stays draped over the woman's lap. She is warm, and shares that warmth unstintingly. She is heavy, well-muscled, but she's not nearly as big - or as heavy - as most great cats. She's just a lot closer than any other clouded leopard has any right to be. She also offers a big, gaping yawn. My, what teeth she has. But then she just burrows in closer against the other woman, butting her head against the blonde's chest.

Nerina meanwhile is more on the small size of her species and the slender body buried under her layers of winter wear ravenously soaks up the leopard's warmth once it penetrates inside. Seeing the yawn start, she turns her head away and holds her breath while waiting for it to pass. Hunching forward against the cat's head, the fishwife wraps her arms around it in a loose hug and continues gently scratching, reaching up to get its neck and beneath one ear.

"<My you warmed up to me fast,>" she muses. Somewhere in the back of her mind she's supposed to be frightened and confused by the predatory cat's behavior, but alone in the woods, Nerina's simpler needs are winning out. "<It's cold out here even with all that fur isn't it? You're no polar bear.>"

Polar bear, no. She's no polar bear. But somehow the leopard doesn't seem to be bothered by the cold. And her breath is not nearly as foul as one might expect. In fact, it's … minty fresh? She welcomes the hug and more scratching, and snuggles up to keep the woman warm, even if she cannot understand her. As long as the fire does not spread or endanger the forest, she can wait to reveal other things, and work out communicating. She does need to remember to go find her satchel later, though. It's not as if she's overflowing with resources to replace her clothing.

Nerina's hand begins to wander as it plays in the leopard's fur, digging up more purrs with its nails while the fishwife nestles into the big cat in her lap. Crossing the species divide, the blonde biped yawns as well and blinks heavily as she rests her head against the leopard's coat. Her eyes drift shut and for a little while at least, the cat has a new piece of furniture to enjoy.

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