Natalie and Janus Subigo stood in a grassy clearing outside Brittleleaf Copse with several machines which they had set up for their endeavour. Natalie was leaning over one of two chargers, making sure the circuitry was fixed in place. They both wore heavy work boots, comfortable trousers and a large overcoat concealing a large range of devices. Natalie also had a rifle at her back with a strap running across her torso and Janus had a pistol holstered on his belt.
Fields of wheat and corn covered the open plains where they came from and the gentle breeze was relaxing and calm.
'This is the home of Stalvulpes.' Said Janus, looking at the copse.
'Yes.' Replied Natalie.
'Are you sure you want to go in alone? It looks... spooky.' Continued Janus. Natalie closed the panel she was working on, turned to him, and gave him a quick kiss.
'Don't worry sweety.' She Said. 'I've done this before, Diogeni are stupid and gullible, it will take a few minutes, then you can come in and help gather the stones, if I don't go in alone he might not trust me.'
'Alright.' He said with a fragile smile. 'But be careful honey.'
'I will. But when we're done here we'll be rich.' She said with a grin. And with that she set off into the copse.
Natalie reached into her coat and activated her mechanids, they sprang to life and marched into the woods, guarding her flanks. She pulled out a small monitor and tried to identify what wildlife was lying in wait for her.
She wandered forward, staying aware of her surroundings. Most creatures fled before her mechanids could see them, but she suspected mostly small animals here. Before long, she came to a clearing within the copse with a large rock jutting from the ground at the far end. On top of the rock stood a large fox, with tensed muscles barring its teeth.
'Stalvulpes.' Natalie called out, but the fox stayed silent and stared her down. 'Stalvulpes, I've come here from Lauralwood. The land there has died, people have taken deistones from the land and the trees have blackened and everything has stagnated. I've come to humbly ask for your help. If you have any deistones to spare, perhaps we can bring Laurelwood back to life, so that things can return to the way they should be.'
The fox jumped down from the rock and slowly started to walk around the circumference of the clearing.
'You think I don't see that stick at your back? Do you think I don't know what it is? It contains a deistone, why not use that?' Asked Stalvulpes.
'This is my livelihood.' Natalie replied.
'How many excuses do you think the fly has for the spider? Humans always argue about bigger pictures and many diogeni fall for this sophistry, but I do not. The immediate leads the way to survival. I know what I see in front of me and I don't know if your intentions are honest but I do know the consequences of what you ask.'
Natalie became anxious and a cold fear took hold. A crunch came from her right, she turned with surprise and then looked at her monitor, one of her mechanids had been destroyed, and for the other she saw a set of teeth baring down on it before another crunch was heard. She reached into her coat and activated her chargers before drawing her rifle. She swiftly took aim at the fox and fired.
The shot hit Stalvulpes square in the shoulder, the incendiary shot burst on impact setting him on fire and he squealed with pain. The hum of strained deistones came from behind Natalie and Stalvulpes saw the two chargers entering the skirmish.
With an unspoken command a heretrix shot out from the treeline and into the spokes of one of the chargers, there was an ugly crack and the charger veered into a tree. The other charger headed straight for him. He concentrated, a strong wind with great speed blew through, putting out the fire on this shoulder as a stag appeared to block the second charger and it cried out in pain as the prongs pierced it's flesh.
Natalie took aim once more but was startled by a sharp pain in her ankle, she looked down to see a snake sinking its fangs into her. She looked forward once more and revealed a look of panic as the charging diogeni leapt to seize her throat.
Meanwhile, Janus paced back and forth, fifty feet from the perimeter of the copse. He saw the chargers roar to life and speed off between the trees. He became more and more anxious with each passing moment. Before long, he heard a single crack of a rifle, he tensed up and then took a deep breath, feeling relieved, he thought that must mean it's over. It was time for him to help with the aftermath. He took a few steps forward when a daisy popped out of the ground in from of him a few feet away.
His mind churned to make sense of what he saw and what it could portend, but he could not have guessed that such an innocent flower could symbolise a terrible omen.
Moments passed and something caught his eye in the copse, there emerged a creature, a large fox dragging something into the clearing. Janus fell to his knees as he realised it was his wife in the jaws of the beast.
Stalvulpes re-positioned himself behind the corpse and locked eyes with Janus and he began you feast on his prey. Janus was beside himself, horrified, but unable to look away.
When the fox had had his fill, he dragged the body back into the woods and Janus sat, dejected.