The beasts snarled and advanced on Nenshe. He had several bite and claw marks from where they’d torn into him from ambush, but he was strong and sturdy enough that a few beasts with the advantage of surprise couldn’t take him down — it also helped that nothing ever seemed to truly surprise Nenshe.

Occela covered his flank via her spirit-twin, though she stood well behind him and out of reach of the creatures. Nenshe was occupied with preventing the beast’s advance, and Occela did everything she could to make it easier for him, and swatted down one beast that tried to circle around Nenshe.

She’d hoped that the otherworldly nature of her other-self would be enough to drive the creatures away, but they seemed unnaturally strong-willed. In spite of that, one had fled from its wounds, and another lay unmoving on the ground — which left three of the things to threaten the two of them.

“Three to two- er, three, I guess. Better odds, but still not great,” said Nenshe.

Nenshe needed a distraction — Occela pushed her other-self to strike at the beast nearest Nenshe, and willed that it grab the creature around the neck. The thing lashed out in response, but it had difficulty sinking its teeth into Occela’s semi-solid spirit-twin.

Nenshe slipped out of reach of the creature’s jaws as it snapped and snarled at him. Occela thought she heard him mutter “thanks,” but it was hard to hear it over the din of the beasts — and she was unconcerned with his gratitude. He struck down one of the creatures that tried to charge past him to get to Occela.

Quietly, she said, “cooperation is gratitude enough.”