April 10th, 2002

Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

Claris Project Ch IV (first scene)

Donovan's claw dug so deeply into the tree branch that sap was oozing out around the metal. He hung precariously, about fifty feet in the air, surrounded to the point of suffocation by fat leaves that shone with dew, and more branches, each with an impossible number of twigs protruding from every side. The wood was slick with rainwater, causing Donovan considerable difficulty in his effort to gain a foothold on the branch directly below him. Ordinarily he would have simply let go and flown, but he did not even have enough space to spread his wings. Some ways below him, Leliel was in a similar situation. Unfortunately, she lacked the advantage of having a metal claw attached to one hand, and so was clinging desperately to the mossy, mushroomed trunk.

After their initial re-appearance, she had slipped from Donovan's grasp and fallen down through the tree, managing just barely to grasp a branch long enough to secure herself against the trunk.

They had been trapped in the tree for what seemed like hours, judging by the light fading around the tree. Donovan guessed that it was early evening on this world, and it had been mid-afternoon when they had first arrived.

Every idea he thought of for escape seemed too risky, but at last he decided that breaking every bone in his body was preferable to staying in the tree for the rest of eternity.

"Leliel!" he called. "I have an idea!"

"Do you really?!" she answered. "May I ask what it is?!"

He ignored her cheek and said,

"Make you way towards the egde of the branches and jump! Use your wings to break the fall!"

"You know, Ireul," Leliel said, "at first I thought your questionable mental stability was just a front, but now I realize you really are insane! What if I get caught in all those twigs? Or fall before I can jump?!"

"We don't have a lot of choices here," he said. "Come on, even if we fall, we won't die!"

"We'll just be grotesquely disfigured!" she said. "Sounds good!"

He growled in his throat.

"Look, I'll go first and then I'll come help you."

"Help me?!" Leliel cried. "How are you going to help me?! Ireul!"

He dislodged his claw from the branch and grasped it with his hand, scooting over the slippery wood until he reached its edge.

"Can't ask God for help, that's for sure..." he thought. He tried to keep his fingers from trembling as he inched closer to a jumping point. At last he pushed off from the branch, diving out of the tree and into the warm, misty air. He spread his wings as he fell, beating them furiously until he was able to hold himself aloft. He hovered by where Leliel still clung to the tree.

"C'mon," he said, slashing at the leaves with his claw, causing the branches in Leliel's immediate vicinity to shudder violently. She swore at him.

"Damn it, Ireul! Stop it!"

He poked his head through the leaves, frowning at her.

"We don't have time for this."

"Don't you think I know that?" she snapped. "Upsetting the tree is not the way to fix the situation!"

"Alright, I'll make it easy for you," he said. Donovan's eyes hardened and chilled, and the suddenly the world as Leliel perceived it shifted. She saw not the twigs and branches and dew-drenched leaves, but instead a field, calm and peaceful and open. Donovan was holding his hand out to her, waiting. She moved carefully towards him, as some part of her still knew that this was merely Donovan's elaborate illusion, but it soothed her nerves nonetheless. The illusion dissipated when she felt his hand in hers and he pulled, extricating her from the tree. He managed to hold her long enough for her to open her wings, and then she flew alongside him.

A light mist enveloped them, moistening their skin and dusting their wings and hair with tiny droplets of water. They flew until they reached the base of the tree.

"Any idea where we are?" Donovan said.

"Not in the slightest," Leliel replied. "You?"

"I'd have to say no," he grumbled.

"I wonder if the boss realizes how unstable that machine is," Leliel mused. "We could be anywhere, you know... We could be on a planet populated entirely by gigantic, flesh-eating monsters. Or rabid lobsters."

"He doesn't like being called that..." Donovan said. "Besides, I like gigantic, flesh-eating monsters."

"But he's not here, is he?"

"You've obviously never had to deal with him when he's pissed off," Donovan said.

"I've never done anything that would incite him to become pissed off," Leliel said. "Not to his face, anyway."

Donovan had no answer for that, so he turned to another problem. "Where do you suppose Shateiel and Lucius got off to?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "That's actually what I'm worried about.. given the chaotic tendencies of the machine, they could both be on entirely different worlds."

"Fuck," Donovan said.

"Basically."

"Well, let's get out of here first," he sighed.

"Which way do you think 'out' is?" Leliel spread her arms wide, gesturing to either side of her body. The forest stretched out in both directions, vast and endless. Donovan wavered, irritated by having to shoulder the responsibility for the decision. Thinking that staying uselessly by the tree trunk was almost as bad as being trapped in its branches, he finally chose a random direction and started walking. Leliel shrugged and followed.

---

Leliel always calls Donovan by his real name... which is, of course, Ireul. Just in case you were confused. (she also never calls Shamshiel, Lucius. She doesn't understand why they felt the need to pick 'human' names, which is why she doesn't have one)
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    can't think of any song that would fit the tone x_x