Following the final disposition of what the historians would later call the Buccaneers' War, the Pai-Lung Peistis took possession of the Island they renamed Yakisiamitsu, or Divine Windfall. The Viniterians who discovered the island had called it the Isle of Strange, as odd occurrences had befallen them since they had settled the island. In truth, the Viniterians had pulled one over on their enemies at the peace conference that settled the war by fighting bitterly to keep the island in the hopes that the Peistis from Pai-Lung would fight even harder to get it in the settlement in exchange for another island the Viniterians had conquered and wanted to keep. And so the Pai-Lung insisted on getting the Isle of Strange and the Viniterians played the reluctant barterer and surrendered the Isle to their enemies in exchange for a far richer, though far smaller, speck of land.
Not really knowing what they thought they had conned their foes out of at the peace table, the Pai-Lung immediately sent a flotilla of ships to their new possession to discover what it was they possessed. The first of the ships to arrive were loaded with several clans of their finest warriors who immediately scouted the island and got a little of the local history from some of the Viniterian merchants who stayed behind to try and make a little more profit from their new landlords. Aside from immediately realizing their Grand Admiral and his junta were had by the Viniterians, the only thing which the merchants told them that worried the new settlers was a tale of a shipwrecked Peisti who hid from the Viniterians somewhere on the island. Now the Peistis knew why the former owners of the island might have thought this stranger was a Peisti, with the stories all saying he had blue skin with tattoos all over him and wild black hair, but they also knew that no Peisti, no matter how young he or she is, will ever have black hair. Every Peisti ever born has white hair and none of the stories ever mention some of the other prominent features Peistis all are born with, especially pre-gills and webbed fingers and toes. So the new settlers wondered just what it was they had as a neighbor.
Despite the worry, and the speculation, created by these stories, the representatives of the Pai-Lung junta began setting up their local government and getting their new lands in order. For years after their arrival the stories of the stranger would warm the tavern halls and troubadours would make a good living spinning ever more fanciful tales about the Wild Man of Yakisiamitsu. Peistis who made their livings by farming the rich soil of the inner island would often come to town solely to hear such stories. One such Peisti was a young girl named Liani. Liani was from a small clan who had sent their youngest son to the island in hopes that he could make a better future for himself and his young wife there than he could back in Lung Da. He was given a large plot of land to farm upon arriving and within three growing seasons was able to buy the land outright, making him a wealthy man by many standards, though money was always tight. Liani was his youngest child and Najiro Tai-Fwei doted on her, remembering his own hard childhood as the youngest in the family. When he went into town to deliver his crop or to pick up supplies, he would often take her with him and watch her face in delight as she listened to the stories of the Wild Man.
Once home, she would often announce she was going hunting and disappear into the wilderness for several days. Najiro suspected she was trying to find the story hero she so admired, but after two decades on the island, no soldier, agent, or hunter sent out by the junta had seen a trace of the Viniterians' Wild Man, so he felt rather sure she would never find him. She was a sure shot with her bow and knew how to handle a spear better than he did, so he also knew she could protect herself from the various predators she usually hunted to excuse her trips into the wilderness. And the pelts she brought home often brought a good price, which not only helped out the family but raised her prospects for marriage when he told some of the fathers with young sons to find wives for about his daughter.
All of this went through Najiro's mind as he watched his lithesome daughter wave over her shoulder as she hefted her spear and adjusted her pack on her way up the path that led into the forested wilderness. Liani smiled back at her father and turned her bright green eyes up the path, her spirits soaring with the story the troubadour told the last night her father and she spent in the town. She was old enough to know by now that most of what the storytellers chanted so enthrallingly was pure fiction, but still...
Liani was a conscientious girl and always made sure she brought home at least one pelt worth the trip into the wilderness. With that in mind, she cast about the trail for tracks and after a couple of hours searching the brush, she came across a real find: a sabreclaw! Nobody in her family had ever seen one of those great felines prowling near their farm, so she was surprise to see its tracks so close to home. She knew her father could get a handsome price for even an immature sabreclaw, especially if the pelt had no flaws to it. The Wild Man almost completely brushed aside in her excitement, Liani set to stalking the great predator, her senses sharp and her mind processing all the information they could bring her. A tuft of tawny hair here, a pile of fresh spoor there, a disturbed bit of grass yonder, and she was sure she was nearing the feline. Just judging by the tracks she kept seeing, she was becoming giddy with the thought of how much her father could sell this pelt for. This sabreclaw's stride and the depth of the tracks were both telling her this was a large male. Liani was already envisioning the necklace she was going to make from the claws and foreteeth. Further and further into the forested wilderness she went, keeping to the trail left for her by the incredible beast.
It was late afternoon when she first began to think she might have made a mistake. Looking around as she rested and drank from her water skin, she did not recognize anything. She knew she had come far in following the almost straight-line path of the sabreclaw, but she had not realized until then that she was probably further from the farm than she had ever been by herself. Shaking off the eerie, lonely feeling, Liani took up the hunt once more, hoping to find the predator before dark. The tracks were very fresh and she was surprised she had not caught sight of the beast yet. The sun was nearing the tree line when she suddenly realized she was in trouble. The latest track she was looking at was a forepaw, its telltale deep gauges in the loam of the forest floor telling her it was definitely a sabreclaw. The problem was that the track was neither as big as the ones she saw earlier in the day nor was it as deep. She was now tracking a smaller feline, this one probably a female. The wind suddenly shifted, first coming from her back, blowing her scent ahead of her, and then rushing through the trees to her right. She lifted her head and drew the air into her nose and paled. A sharp, musky scent came to her, one she had only smelt once. The scent drew the memory of the village fair and the Viniterian hunter who had a cartload of sabreclaw carcasses strung up, skinned, and waiting to be sold. Below the carcasses were the pelts. The fur was so silky and alive and as she brushed her hand across them, the very same scent had wafted up to her nose even as the hunter yelled at her to get her grubby hands off his wares.
Looking around frantically, Liani could not see the beast she knew was stalking her. The scent coming in on the wind was strong and getting stronger. Peering into the night-dark forest, she could see nothing. Abandoning her hunt, Liani slowly backed down the trail she had been following, hoping to find a clearing to get her bearings and head for territory closer to home. Her father would be perfectly happy with some horned jarpits or talon-apes.
The young huntress had only gone perhaps fifty paces when she saw the sabreclaw that was stalking her. It was indeed a young female. It stepped boldly out onto the trail and growled menacingly, raking the loam with its six-inch long claws. Its fur was darker than that of the tuft she had found this morning and its eyes still had a faint tinge of blue to the yellow of a mature sabreclaw. This one was barely out of adolescence. Raising her bow and knocking an arrow, Liani took aim on the left blue-circled, yellow orb glaring at her.
She would later wonder if she ever got the shot off. The last thing she remembered was hearing a faint sound of fur sliding along a blade of grass before the sharp, stabbing pain slammed into her back. Her world ended in the pain and the darkness of falling night.
Liani's first sensation was pain. Her head was throbbing and there were sharp pains slicing up and down her back. She was sweating and it was stiflingly hot. She tried to open her eyes but simply could not summon the strength to make her eyelids move. She could tell she was face down on a hard surface covered in pelts. Sabreclaw pelts! The musky smell finally reached her brain and the silky feel of the fur under her cheek, her hands, her breasts, her... her breasts! Fear gave her the strength to open her eyes, if only to find out who had her naked and face down on a bed of sabreclaw pelts.
She saw the rocky walls of a cave and the flickering red-yellow light of a roaring fire. Her head was turned to the right and she was staring at the cave wall. She was too weak to move onto her back, and judging from the slicing pain, she really did not want to be on her back! Then she heard movement to her left. Her energy was already flagging, and she was not sure she had the strength to turn her head anyway, so Liani decided it was best to feign sleep until she had more information. She closed her eyes and tried the keep her breathing calm even as her heart began racing and the sounds of movement came closer.
Whoever it was thumped a piece of wood close to her bed of pelts and then she heard the sound of a dish being placed on a table. "Feeling better?" a rough male voice said in Peisti. It was not rough as if its user were harsh voiced, more as if the user never talked and needed a drink to moisten his throat. And sure enough, she heard him clear his throat. "Can hear your breath and heart. You be awake."
This only made Liani's heart thump all the harder in her chest. Marshalling her strength, the young Peisti levered herself up just enough to turn her head, only to gasp in shock at what she saw. It was the Wild Man! She was staring at a strange looking man with blue skin and elaborate tattoos covering his neck, arms, torso, and legs. She was sure he was covered from neck to feet, but his dirty gray short pants hid his body from thighs to bellybutton. His black hair was long and stringy and looked in need of a wash. As did his face and arms. Strangely enough, his hands looked as if he had scrubbed them well where they held a waterskin.
Seeing her gaze, he held out the skin, croaking, "Drink?" She almost pushed herself into a sitting position, but remembered her undressed state and she lowered her head, hugging the pelt that covered her more tightly around her body. His eyes widened and nodded. "Clothes," he muttered before rising and disappearing around a corner of the cave she had not noticed.
They were apparently in a fairly large cavern, as she was now hearing the echo of dripping water, the roaring of the fire, and the movement of the Wild Man and he shuffled back around the corner holding a large shirt and a pair of short pants that would probably come down to her ankles.
"Mine, for you," he rasped in Peisti. "Sabreclaw destroyed your clothes. Blood and rips. I magic these to fit you after you wear. Yes?"
It took her fevered brain a second to translate his imperfect Peisti before she nodded warily and claimed the clothes. She paused, trying to think of a good way to preserve her dignity and goad him into chivalry but he simple nodded and left her again. Liani struggled into a sitting position and slipped into the shirt, thankfully it was so big that it would not rest too heavily on her back, which was now screaming at her in pain. Trying to keep her back straight and her balance level as she tried to get to her feet, Liani slowly rose enough to slide her left leg, and then her right, into the short pants. Dressed and panting heavily, the now sweat-soaked Liani lowered herself down onto the bed again and collapsed onto her front, passed out from the effort.
Once again, her first sensation was pain slicing up and down her back. This time, it was not a steady feeling with predictable pulsing in time with her heart beating. This time it came from the air moving across her bare back and someone rubbing a cold something on her back that stung enough to add more tears to the ones the slicing had already sent trailing into the furs beneath her head. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists, sending her mind somewhere else so her body could endure. She tried to conjure the memory that would tell her what was happening to her but the pain was too much. All she could think about was that perhaps someone had kidnapped her and was torturing her. A sudden pricking and pulling was added to the slicing and stinging burn that was her back and she cried out wordlessly, unable to hold in the pain any longer. She felt another prick, this in her arm, and was soon floating peacefully into oblivion.
When next she woke, Liani was more aware of what had happened. She remembered the sabreclaws ambushing her, the male slicing into her back as he had undoubtedly pounced upon her even as she prepared to shoot the female. She wondered if she even got her shot off as she lifted her head to look for the Wild Man who, it seems, saved her from becoming the feline's dinner. The fire was still roaring in what looked like a natural chimney in the cavern this little cave was in. The bed she was laid out on was actually raised slightly from the rocky floor and looked to be made of some kind of wood, covered with a large pile of sabreclaw pelts. The air was a little musty and there was a faint odor of something rotten or decaying. There was also the scent of sweetgrass, probably an attempt to cleanse the air of the foul smell.
Liani slowly pushed herself up into a sitting position and buttoned the overlarge shirt she had put on ... last night? Yesterday? She was not sure how long she was passed out that first time. Or the second or the third. She wondered, with a certain amount of worry for her family's peace of mind, how long since she left home? Pushing the fur that had covered her legs away, the young huntress attempted to stand, only to wobble back down onto the bed as the cave started to heave like a storm tossed ship. Closing her eyes and breathing rapidly with the exertion, Liani muttered a curse upon the sneaky cat that had almost assuredly nearly cost her her life.
Then she heard the sound of movement from around the bend in the cavern. The Wild Man shuffled into the cave with a shy smile. He had apparently bathed and changed clothes since she last saw him, as he was wearing a pair of brown short pants and his tattoos showed vividly on his skin. They made him look as grand as any Admiral on Yakisiamitsu and she wondered if his tattoos meant the same things as her own pitiful markings which barely covered her shoulders and biceps. Someday she hoped to have markings as grand as the Wild Man's.
He noticed her appraisal of his tattoos and smiled, his eyes crinkling and his mouth creasing in ways which told her he did not do that often. "Peistis and their ink obsession. You like?" he said with amusement, turning around and showing her the full panorama of his body. "A kinswoman of mine did these for me over many centuries. You might say I was her first subject, though I hear your people have turned her into a wealthy and powerful woman these days for her skill."
His grammar was better, though his accent was still thick. It was almost as if he had not had to speak Peisti for a long time and it took him time to remember how to speak it. His voice was less rough as well. It was now a more mellow bass that was almost soothing to the girl as she gazed at the hero she never truly thought she would find. She was, in fact, speechless as she gazed at him.
"How is your back? Is there any discomfort beyond a little stiffness?" he asked solicitously, his eyes worried as he came to sit before her on the crude wooden stool placed in front of the bed.
Liani suddenly realized that her back did not hurt. As he said, there was stiffness and tightness to her skin, almost as if it had shrunk whilst she slept, but other than that she felt much better than she knew she should. Gaping at him in awe, she asked, "Did you magic me?"