"Stop!", Anastasia shouted loudly and silence reigned over their side again,
"first things first, how do we stop the bleeding, have any of you any ideas?"
The children looked at each other unsurely. This was the first time they were confronted with such a situation, a wounded person, they weren't doctors so how were they supposed to know how to treat him?!
"I-I, know some stuff!", unexpectedly it was Jafar who was the one to break the silence. He didn't like Panda, but he wasn't a dick or an idiot. They were still classmates, and in such a situation it would be morally wrong to put petty grudges above each other's healthcare,
"My older brother's often get into some fights and I learned a thing or two from them. I-I need some bandages or strips of clothing.", of course medicine, alcohol and sterilised bandages would have been even better but considering their situation, they had to work with what was available.
When he approached Panda, Vincent's outfit fell into his eyes.
"This stuff, I think it's good! I think if we cut it up, it can hold up more pressure on his wounds!"
"Good! Let's do it quicky, Vincent take off this jacket, now! Tony, bring me the axe!", she gave out orders and the others did as they were told.
Gorst who was observing them from the small distance, still tied up, cried out loud when he saw what they were doing:
"No! Please, have mercy! Not my leather armour! I hunted down the materials myself, first class mature Gnarsch leather! This is basically half my entire fortune! Pleeeeassse!", but his pleas were ignored and left unanswered. They had more important things to consider right now than the crazy blabbering of an old guy.
Vincent just silently handed over the leather and remained still. There were no words that needed to be exchanged between the both of them.
Tony returned and Jafar took the sharp axe and grinded it slowly against the leather. It wasn't the best tool to cut up stuff but it did the work. The armour was indeed very good and resilient, he needed a couple of minutes till the first strip was entirely cut off and another 15 minutes to gather enough for his work. He couldn't make the bandage in one piece, so he tied the several strips into one long strip. He tested it and pulled on every connection to make sure everything was fixed and then bound it around Panda's waist as tight as possible. Around midway-through, he pressed another small bundle of clothing against the wounded spot and bound the bandage against that bundle, to further increase the pressure on Panda's wound and keep the blood from flowing out.
All this while, Claire had gotten herself back on track and told the others about how they had arrived at the bandit camp and what they had witnessed there.
The narration sounded creepy and otherworldy. Slaves in wooden cages suffering from malnourishment, a three-headed dog and a old man who treated bloody wounds with his saliva? Was this a badly set-up story or what?!
Claire knew that especially the part with the three-headed monster dog made her sound crazy enough, so she stressed it out repeatedly and swore that everything was what she had seen and experienced. Charlotte supported Claire everytime, even though she hadn't seen the dog herself, everything else was definitely true.
But when she told them that their professor had been killed, it sent everyone present straight into sorrow and anguish. There was no reason for her to lie, and everything considered it was also plausible, sadly. But what this meant was that one of their last straws leading to survival just broke apart. How were they supposed to get back home without any guidance of a mature person? Should they rely on Gorst? That Janus-faced person?
When they came to the part with Panda, Claire lost her voice and didn't continue. She clenched her fists when she looked at Panda on the ground next to her.
She blamed herself for his demise and misfortune. She had insisted to keep going forward and neglected the danger that they had been in all the time. Now Panda was the one to pay the price for her mistake.
"Don't, it was all my fault.", Vincent told her weakly. He was good at reading people and knew what was going through Claire's mind right now.
"I supported your decision even though Panda was against it all the time. If I had made another choice then he ... he wouldn't have ...", even he had to close his eyes for a moment. He didn't want the others to see tears pouring out of his eyes.
The rest stayed silent at this. They had never expected that things would turn out this way. They only recognised now, that they had heavily underestimated the risks involved in this 'mission'.
Tony was shocked and happy at the same time. He was happy that his brother was out there but alarmed that he was stuck in some cell and treated like a prisoner or good. He didn't want his brother to end up as a slave sold to some person.
"What do we do now?", Craig asked worried.
Good question. Nobody had a good answer to this.
Anastasia saw everyone's depressed moods. She didn't want to change the topics, but they had to move on now. It was important for their survival:
"We talked with Gorst about this and he said he knew the way if we went further south of this place. Now that Panda's immediate problem is taken care of ...", she gulped down her saliva. Actually Panda was still in a live threatening situation. She couldn't imagine how it had been possible to walk with such a wound all the way back to them. It was obvious that the severe blood loss and bad environmental conditions could kill Panda, but they didn't have any solutions for now. They might just have to pray and hope that he stayed alive until they found some real help but ... it was impossible for her to tell this to the others right now. It would only make them feel even more bad.
"Maybe there are other people there who can help us or call for some emergency doctors. I don't know. But we need to move immediately. Time is pressing for us. And for Panda. So, let's get mo-...", before she continue though, Sieg suddenly interrupted her all of a sudden:
"We can't! We can't go there, we need to take another route!"
"What?", Anastasia was confused. Wasn't he the down who had proposed the idea in the beginningt
"I-I ...", Sieg started stumbling when everyone was staring at him. He actually talked more to himself and thought it outloud. He didn't want to dispute with someone but now he managed to do the exact opposite.
"This is an important point Sieg, if you have something to say then do it!", Anastasia told him straighforwardly. Time was precious, so they needed to act fast.
He took a deep breath and recounted what Claire had experienced in the mansion:
"You said there was a dog, right?", he left out the part about the three heads,
"That means they might have more of them or that the dog is specially trained. Like the scouts in TV shows or the police. They might have already started looking for us by using the dog's innate ability and some scent we left behind. If we're just running on a familiar path they already know then it ... it might be just a matter of time until they find our tracks and catch us."
An eerie wind flew above their heads. His explanation took some seconds until it sank in the children's minds and slowly but surely realisation dawned upon them:
"He is right, we can't go there."
"But what else can we do? Won't they catch us either way then?"
Even Anastasia had no solution for this now. If they really had a special kind of dog that could chase them all the way down here, it didn't matter which direction they took. They were children after all. It was impossible to outrun adults, if they knew which specific direction they would take.
Just when everyone was slowly sinking into depravity, Sieg quite voice sounded out again:
"I ... I think there is still another way left!"
The others all looked at him hopefully. Right now it didn't matter what it was, they needed to put everything in their power to save their lives. And Sieg's next words could be the make or break factor in this. Or rather live or death.
"I don't know how much we can trust Gorst on this, but he said that east of this place the Maze Fog is going to appear soon. It might not necessarily teleport us to another place but the fog, depending on the amount and density could cover our scent and figures while escaping! Even if they have hound dogs, it might give us an advantage when fleeing from them!"
This time every bodies sunken faces lit up like fire! They needed something they could cling on. Something that gave them hope to continue forward. Something that gave them strength and a sense of security. Otherwise it could make them insane knowing that all hope was already lost! Especially for children their age, security was essential for them to think and act confidently. Gratefully, they all looked at Sieg in a completely new light. While everyone else had been lost in discouragement and depression, he had remained clear-headed and thought out a reasonable plan for their escape. It didn't matter if it worked or how high the chances of success were. At least it gave birth to rays of hope in their hearts.
Anastasia was also really thankful, for a moment she had nearly let go of any optimism towards their future and just drowned herself in pessimism. Sieg's words were like a life belt thrown out in a stormy sea, and pulled her back towards reality. Their lives weren't lost yet, they could still keep fighting and struggle!
"Thanks Sieg, I also think this plan and direction make sense. If anyone else doesn't have anything else to add, I suggest to move out now, as soon as possible!"
"I have something to add little miss!!! Are you kids out of your damned minds?! Volunteering to go straight into the Maze Fog?! Have your souls been sucked dry by the fiends of the devil realm?! This is the most stupid thing I have ever heard in my life!", it was Gorst who couldn't keep his mouth shut any longer. He understood that it would be difficult to escape from the three headed dog, but he would rather offer up these damnable children to the Boss and plea for mercy on his part than to walk straight into the Maze Fog! He heard enough to know nothing good would come out of underestimating this mysterious force of nature. Only the gods could force him to step into that danger!
Just when he was about to continue blabber in his efforts to persuade the children, a disastrously loud shout came out from the forest's north side:
"I WILL SKIN YOU ALL ALIVE!!!!!"
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