Erestel could feel her temper surge and start to boil her blood a little at being launched into the sky in the manner Andrea gripped her throat, but her body tensed and froze. This soft body was in a vulnerable position, and she was forced to do nothing other than be at the mercy of this woman and do nothing than hope she wouldn’t bite harder. Erestel was level-headed enough currently to realize she deserved this, even, but she didn’t need to accept it. If Andrea would have given her a little more wiggle room beneath her claws, she might be able to reach the raven skin in one of her pouches.
However, when Andrea stopped flapping and dropped like a stone in midair, Erestel liked the lurching feeling in her stomach. She gained far more speed than a raven could in flight, which would have been almost fun if she hadn’t been forced into it. It wrenched her forward into a mixture of fear, anger, and thrill, and she wasn’t sure which one barreling around inside her would win out. Her expression steeled for another roll, refusing to give Andrea the satisfaction of her unease, but her stomach was doing somersaults as they spun and dove. It was hard not to get physically ill right then and there, but two things happened then. They barreled through a tree and then hit the ground in a skid on her backside. She felt her breath catch and heart race.
Erestel looked dazedly up at the sky and several moments passed in a haze before she realized her survival instincts had taken hold, reverting her to jaguar form. The back of her mind screamed to lash out in anger, but she forced herself to analyze her present situation. They had the advantage of strength on their side, and she had no experience to grapple with anything resembling those terms. It made her feel like an insect on the edge of a heel, and it was impossible to miss the icy glance she gave as she lay there. Had she been human then, her cheeks would have burned red, but her tail thumped this way and that in aggravation, an unconscious effort she tried to conceal immediately. Her white teeth were clenched and bared in a grimace over the pain of the landing, but she adopted a purposeful expression and looked around as she let her form melt away. Erestel curled her body up and settled back into her spot without a word. She refused to give them the pleasure of seeing her hurt, and kept silent with a hard look of stone as she picked up the rum bottle from where it lay on the ground.
Erestel was careful not to snap words at them while still infuriated, but she clenched her jaw so hard it throbbed. It wouldn’t do any good now, and she wasn’t dead set on dying either. Besides, she didn’t want to expend the energy. At least not now, but it could wait.
At Andrea’s question, a wicked, derisive smile grew across her lips. If she was smug before, it was nothing compared to this moment. A roguish look of satisfaction lit up her face, more than happy to allow Andrea to see how she screwed herself royally for that stunt. Erestel remained silent and let the woman stew between one another for several moments, taking long, obstinately unhurried drinks of rum happily.
“I don’t know how to put this nicely, so I won't,” she started evenly, but it quickly turned. “You have some nerve,” a sharp hellfire to her voice. Erestel shook her head in disbelief, and tittered mockingly. “What makes you think I would just give you what you want after that?” A spiteful fury burned in her amber eyes, as if almost daring Andrea to try that stunt again, intent to make her suffer. It only made the skinwalker push harder. “You know what your dragon curiosity sounds like? Not my problem,” she determined in calm ferocity.
Erestel stood up and started to stalk off without another word, bottle of rum still in hand. She raised it in the air a little, as if to say thanks for the consolation prize. After several long moments she stopped a distance away, sighed, hung her head a little, and muttered curses under her breath as she turned back around. There was a different look on her face this time, a sense of disgruntlement. Erestel returned back to her spot, sat down, and leaned forward in interest.
“Look, I’ll make you a better deal.” She looked from one woman to the next, prepared to level with them. “It’s evident you want to know where this dragon is fairly bad, and I’m certainly not inclined to part with that information for free, which leaves you at an impasse,” she reasoned. “I have a bit of a problem now too. I can’t exactly go back empty handed.” Erestel held a quick hand up to pause their protests, in case they thought she was going down the same road she tried earlier. “Now, I can’t trust either of you further than I can throw you, her even less,” she said coolly as she gestured in Andrea’s direction, “but it would sure as hell make it easier to con the bastard out of his bounty money if it looked like I didn’t come back empty handed.” That sly smile returned to her expression a little, a devious gleam in her eyes.
“If you help me with this, not only will I tell you where it went, but I’ll show you. Maybe help you wrangle it, if that’s what you’re after,” she suggested, “and just to drive a harder bargain, if it goes well, I’d even part with some of the bounty and a few bottles of druid wine, if you’re interested. Not to mention you’d be able to find out who is holding such a grudge.”
Erestel hoped Amelia wouldn’t be able to resist the last part about the alcohol, and she settled back into her spot comfortably and studied both women. They could stand to gain a lot, which was part of the point. Her idea would force a lot of trust on their end that didn’t exist in order to collect the bounty. More so, it was bad for business to come back empty handed. It was a bit vain, but she had a reputation to maintain. Worse came to worse, she obviously could go back empty handed, but it would cause a lot more problems than it was worth the effort. Of course, this plan could too, but she was willing to risk the odds it might not. Erestel stared at them for a moment longer before her eyes flicked from the near empty bottle, and back up again.
“Look, though, I swear if you give me even one hint of trouble, I will heave you off a bridge and it will look like a bloody accident.” It was a hyperbole, and she kept her tone slightly sardonic, but at least now there would be no mistaking where the three women stood on trust. Maybe she did have a death wish today after all, she mused internally.