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"I suppose we really shouldn't mess with these collars, if our departed friend is any indication."

The voice brought him sharply back to reality. He turned towards the newcomer who he remembered as Alice Blake.

"I.... It was an accident. He- he just tore it off. Terrible allergic reaction and...."

He gestured in the vague direction of the spot on Dallas' arm, not daring to look at him directly. He was rambling, spouting off what must have sounded defensive. But how could he feel so guilty over something that wasn't his fault? He had no honest answer, no rational explanation at all.

His voice caught in his throat and, more to look busy than anything, he turned away from Alice and headed to the nearest gnarled tree stump. Kneeling down, he used the sword to cut two distinct parallel lines into its severed rings. He justified this impulse as making a landmark should he ever return here, but just as quickly it hit him that he never wanted to come back to this awful blight of land. Not if he could help it.

Darren shakily made his way back to Dallas' blood-soaked body, knelt down, and gently closed the Texan's eyes. A foot away was his oversized cowboy hat, which he picked up and gingerly rested on the boy's face. He admitted that the resulting image was not as dignified as he intended, but he felt a small weight lift from his shoulders as he stood up and wiped his eyes and forehead. He took a great heavy sigh, and at last turned back to Alice. Before he could say anything, he heard a shaky voice coming from a nearby tree stump.

"H-hello? Whoever's out there, I'm unarmed and I'm going to stand up now. Please don't shoot."
V4: B106: Darren Locke - Gladius
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Orientation · The Felled Forest: South