Thancred wasn’t sure how long he had been living - if this can truly be called living - in this place. Long enough that gallivanting naked about a forest - full of chocobos, and where had he heard of one of those? - was beginning to become routine.
Which was, of course, the problem. Considering the nature of his... departure , he should be feeling a certain sense of urgency. As it was, he had made very good friends with a nutkin, and had become quite skilled at fishing.
He may still be in shock. Perhaps it was for the best.
There is a settlement in the forest that Thancred does his best to avoid, for two reasons. The first, of course, being the embarrassment of a first meeting while injured and unguarded. The second, and far more practical, being that he has no allies. Well, aside from the nutkin.
He’d remembered that some Ishgardians had made an outpost around Abalathia’s Spine, an area where wild chocobos frequent. They hunt chocobos, among other things, to breed them. Which makes things easier. Ishgard would likely be indifferent to a known fugitive running about the godsforsaken wilds.
That night, he puts to use his makeshift dagger. He had never skinned an animal for garments before, but he was becoming increasingly open to new experiences.
Thancred begins to make a game of getting as close as he can to the encampment without causing a scene. Even during the day, he can listen in without too much trouble. With his new armor, he blends in well enough.
He is able to put a variety of things together, each with varying amounts of interest.
The people of the settlement, in addition to hunting chocobo, also do battle with a beast tribe. They call them many names, “Gnath” being the most consistent of them. They are buglike creatures, roughly half the height of an adult elezen male.
The Gnath, in turn, do battle with Ishgardians and with dragons. How industrious, Thancred thinks. They probably have a god, too.
Thancred categorizes this information as not of interest , and keeps listening.
The area opposite the forest has little covering, so Thancred is only able to explore at night. At least his night vision is improving.
There’s a light coming from Tailfeather. A sentry. Not a very good sentry, of course, but few could match a guild-trained rogue in subterfuge. He could probably make it in and out without too much trouble, and with much more clothing. The thought of stealing sits ill with him, so he moves on.
Thancred checks in on the Gnath colony as much as he can. See how things work. Survey crystal movement. Not that he could do much of anything, but, well. Old habits die hard.
Tonight, the colony is as busy as ever. The Gnath don’t seem nocturnal, so they likely work in shifts.
Nothing out of the ordinary, so he makes his way back to his makeshift camp. He takes a different route than usual, higher and closer to a complex of caves.
Thancred notices the smell, at first.
It’s awful , enough to make him stagger, but not unfamiliar. In fact, he is becoming increasingly familiar with the smell. The smell of the colony. The incense burning all around and throughout.
There’s a cliff, to his left. To his right is a relatively flat plane. So where - ?
Then, he hears a sound.
He kneels and peers over the cliff. The smell gets stronger, but so does the sound.
Chittering. Different from the sound of the Gnath colony, less rhythmic, but unmistakably the Gnath.
The colony, for its size, is the only one Thancred has found. So why were there Gnath here?
He comes back the next day, to the same spot. Or near there.
The smell is the same. Stronger, maybe. The sound is stronger, too.
He kneels and peers over the side of the cliff.
Far below, insect-like creatures move about.
From this height, the Warrior would have told him, everyone looks like bugs. The Warrior isn’t here, though, and Thancred knows enough about this land to know what a hideout of bug-like creatures means.
Later, in his own makeshift hideout, he realizes that these creatures are very likely not called Gnath. The Warrior had often told the stories of the beast tribes of Eorzea, and as a scholar Thancred naturally took interest. The Eorzean beast tribes usually had an odd one (or ten or twenty) out, and were very skilled in creating busywork.
He hoped the beast tribes of Dravania were similarly inclined.
Thancred approaches the not-Gnath settlement at dawn, after a night of hunting. He may have prepared too much, but you can’t be too careful, surely.
He takes a breath, and moves forward. Here goes nothing.
There are two Gnath guarding the back entrance (or what he assumes to be the back entrance) of the camp. They notice him immediately, but do not draw their weapons. They seem rather alarmed, in fact.
Too alarmed to speak, if their clicking is any indication. He wonders if he had the wrong idea.
Thancred clears his throat. “Yes, hello.” He says, and nearly winces at the sound of his voice, rough from disuse. “I wish to speak with the Gnath.”
“We are the Vath,” says one of the Vath, in a tone suggesting Thancred had made a mistake.
“Then I wish to speak with the Vath,” says Thancred, a little helplessly. Parley was his forte, at one point, but never with the beast tribes. That was usually Yda and Papalymo’s tactic, he thinks, and quickly pushes the thought aside. He gestures with some of the meat he’s carrying. “To trade.”
That seems to have gotten their interest, tilting their heads this way and that, clicking. One standing by the entrance says, “A hunter! You wish to speak with the Storyteller.”
“Yes?” says Thancred.
This seems to be the right answer, as one of the Vath guides him to the middle of the encampment, to a small stage. On the stage stand more Vath. The guard who brought him says something frantic to one, likely the leader, who nods.
The maybe-leader steps forward. “Welcome to our hive, hunter. I am the Vath Storyteller,” says the Vath Storyteller. “Your arrival is unexpected, but not unwelcome. You bring to us such great offerings, what would you have in return?”
“I, ah,” Thancred says. There is a great deal he would like from the Vath, so much that it might require twice the hides he brought. He supposed he’d have to start somewhere. “At the moment, I would like to speak with you, if I could, about this land.”
“Only words?” says the Storyteller. “Surely you would want more for such delicacies.”
“For a start,” Thancred says.