Finding humans was the first part of the new challenge I had set for myself. In my old territory, I’d had an idea of where I could find human settlements. I had never visited them, preferring to hunt isolated groups of humans instead, but I’d kept a mental note of their locations so that I didn’t stumble across them accidentally.
Exploring without a map and with only a vague idea of the shape of the land is surprisingly difficult. I had a good sense of direction and excellent spatial awareness, meaning that I could form a mental map of where I had been and how all of the places I had visited connected, but I hadn’t explored enough of this new part of the world in order to know where there might be villages or towns.
I could guess at the layout of my surroundings based on my knowledge of where I had come from, fused with what little information I had gathered from Telan about geography. I knew that life on Danahar confined itself to great ravines, where the safety from the harsh weather of the world beyond them allowed it to flourish.
I knew that humans didn’t tend to settle near the steepest part of the walls, for the danger of rockfalls there was too great. I knew that they more often settled in the middle parts of the ravine, where the slope was not so great and they could easily build terraces to cultivate food so that they weren’t forced to hunt and scavenge.
I knew that the most likely place to find them was near the lowest part of the ravine, where water flowed down and formed rivers. Humans depend on easy access to water as much as they do on the consumption of nutrients. Indeed, they are primarily composed of water, as I learned when I first began analyzing their makeup, which is part of the reason I am so capable of imitating their physiology.
With this knowledge, I began my trek downward into the center of the ravine. For most of my life until this point, I preferred to cling to the edges of the ravine, where the steep cliff faces rose up into the unknowable distance and the non-human life ran rampant. Occasionally, I would venture further down the slope; I did this more often as my drive to consume humans grew. I had impressions of what the center of the ravine was like, gleaned not from the minds beings I had consumed, but from early half-memories formed before my mind developed into its present state.
I have no logical reason for my avoidance of the center of the ravines. I think that perhaps it springs from the instincts of my kind. Lesser members of my species do not hunt humans. Oozes move too slowly to catch a human aware of their presence, and they’re far too stupid to outthink or out-maneuver a human with any sort of wit. Indeed, humans, especially those with knowledge of magic, present the only real threat even a mundane ooze might encounter.
I thought that I had long grown away from any fear of humanity, learned or ingrained, yet as I travelled down the forested slope, I felt a distinct discomfort with my direction. I fought it down, knowing my willpower to be stronger than my inclinations, but the feeling did make me ponder aspects of myself I didn’t like to consider.
I consistently thought of myself as better than humans, and yet I relied on them to improve myself. I knew them to be weaker than me, but they had something I needed: their minds. My inclination toward hesitance as I descended deeper into the ravine made me question, for the first time, the wisdom of attempting to learn to be more like them. With more understanding of the humans would come, potentially, the sharing of more of their weaknesses. I was already witnessing this in my occasional experience of human emotions.
Despite all of this, I craved what humans gave me. I craved the intelligence I gained from consuming them and the knowledge I gained learning from and about them. I resolved to accept that I might begin to experience emotions, and that those emotions might be affected and warped by my origins. I resolved, simultaneously, to cast those emotions aside when they interfered with the goals I set for myself.
I came to an end to the forest. With a cluster of eyes positioned at the edge of my body, taken from the various humans I consumed, I looked out into the open space beyond. I immediately began to withdraw the majority of my mass further back into the woods, leaving only two eyes on a long tendril, with which I began to examine that which lay before me. I had found humans.
As they tend to do, the humans here had shaped the world to their desires. They had clear away most natural growth, for example, which is why the forest came to such an abrupt, clearly-delineated end. Before me, a long, flat expanse had been cut into the slope of the ravine, creating a place where the humans could plant a crop to sustain themselves. A multitude of these terraces transformed the side of the ravine into a series of steps, rather than a slope.
To my left, a stream had been diverted in its entirety, first to flow through a water-wheel and then to be spread out into veins which flowed through the crops. I marvelled at the human’s ingenuity. No other species on Danahar built structures like this, or brought the natural world under its command.
I formed my simulacrum within my main body even as I observed the town. I wanted to send it in to meet with them as soon as possible. I wrapped it in clothes and gave it a pair of eyes, making sure that they had come from the same human.
I snaked my observation tendril up higher into the trees, which both afforded me a better vantage point and made it less likely to be detected. The town pressed up right against the river that flowed through the lowest point of the ravine, and in fact, extended onto the other side, where another set of terraces had been cut into the sloped. The terraces held not just fields, but structures as well, formed of wood and stone, with roofs formed of what appeared to be thin sheets of stone.
Humans worked in the terraces filled with crops, with at least one human assigned to each, it seemed; or in some places, one human tended two smaller terraces. Paths had been cut between the terraces for ease of movement. Some of the terraces held neither crops nor structures, but instead, stands of trees, shorter than those that grew naturally, arranged in logical patterns.
When my simulacrum was complete, I dressed it in clothes gathered from the Roamer family. I made sure it wore pants and shoes and undergarments properly, and I covered the hands with gloves. I covered its head and face with a hood and mask taken from the Roamer females, though I made it appear physiologically male. I didn’t want the humans to question my appearance too heavily.
After my first, unsuccessful encounter with the Roamers, I had decided to prepare some answers for the questions they would be sure to ask. When asked about my origins, I would tell them I had become lost, and that I didn’t know where I was. I would say that the humans I had known had died. This was all just a variation on the truth, as, at the time, I was not a creative liar. In fact, I had no experience in that area.
With all my preparations in order, I withdrew my observation tendril into my main body and split my consciousness between my two bodies, with the plan set in my mind beforehand for my main body to withdraw further up the cliff. Then, with my simulacrum, I approached the human settlement.