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Ricken’s face turned crimson when Nowi slid her hand into his. He reflexively turned his head away from Nowi, not considering the fact that she probably couldn’t see he was blushing. …Nowi’s hand is so warm… It’s nice. I don’t feel scared at all now… Ricken was thinking about what that might mean when he heard Nowi. She sounded pretty frustrated with this whole test of courage, like she was ready to stop then and there if she could. “I think we’re getting close” Ricken said in an attempt to pacify her.
Dim light began to slowly stream through the trees as they continued on, Ricken was happy to be getting his sight back. The two moved through the trees, a structure coming into view ahead of them. “Do you see that Nowi? It looks like we found the town.” Ricken was excited again, maybe they could find something cool to bring back. Finally passing through the trees the town came into full view. It was just as the woman said, in ruins. Seeing so many homes reduced to nothing sent a shiver down him. Though the scene should have been eerie something about it was serene. The forest had claimed the houses from itself, covering them in vine and moss. Seeing man made objects intertwined with nature was strangely breathtaking.
Ricken caught the glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye; he was sure it was other children running by. “Hey, Did you see that Nowi?”
As they drew nearer and nearer to the light, Nowi began to make out silhouettes in the backdrop. The looked like houses.
“Do you see that Nowi? It looks like we found the town.” she heard Ricken say from beside her. Nowi silently nodded her assent. As they drew closer, Ricken was proved to be correct. They were houses, or had been at least. Now the window panes were shattered and vines had covered nearly all the walls still standing. Tiny flecks of ash were blowing through the air. There must have been a fire…..a fire did all this….how sad….
Something about the scene made Nowi’s heart heavy. She imagined that families had lived in these houses once. They had had dinner together in front of their fire places and everyday the children had run through the streets laughing and cheering. To Nowi, this village or the shell which remained after some tragic event, was the saddest thing she had seen in a long time. A picture of true loneliness. She tightened her grip on Ricken’s hand. Ricken felt real and knowing that he was there made her feel that much braver. I have to try and stay brave for Ricken and because of that lady at the stall. There is noooo waaayyy that I am chickening out of a challenge from her! But I think…mainly because of Ricken….. Nowi was confused, because when they had first started on their challenge, she had wanted to prove the mean lady wrong, but now that they had reached where they were going, she just wanted to help Ricken succeed.
“Hey, Did you see that Nowi?” he suddenly said, pointing to the right. Nowi was a little perplexed. See what I wonder? I wasn’t looking in that direction, but I didn’t hear anything….well nothing but that singing. What a nice song it is….like a lullaby. Waiiiit a minute…is it coming from over there? Turning to look in the direction of the music, she thought she saw the hem of a dress disappearing behind one of the ruined houses.
"No, Ricken…I don’t think I saw anything…..what was it? Also, you didn’t happen to see a woman at all…in a green dress?" She said, unable to keep the confusion out of her voice. She was sure she had seen someone, but she hadn’t heard any steps…and her hearing was usually exceptional.
Donnel placed his hands out as Nowi dropped the pouch in them. I hope she earned these honestly, he thought. I figured it would be best to trust Nowi. She seemed like a good girl… or woman… or manakete. Donny shook his head and shook the thought away before picking up his pot full of seeds and the pitchfork and strolling over to the counter. “This’ll be all,” he told the man, who seemed to be constantly eyeing Nowi.
The man named his price, which from Donnel’s past experiences seemed fair. He pulled out several gold coins and handed them to the shop keeper, who sighed and took them. “Alright ya got what cha wanted now scram!”
Donnel hurriedly picked up his things and bowed slight. “T-thank ya, sir!” he stammered before backing away and hurrying over to Nowi. “Alrighty I got the stuff. I think we’re ready to go!”
Nowi watched gleefully as Donnel made the transaction, imagining all the fun things she could do with that pitchfork. I could go play at farming or I could go fight some monsters…perhaps I could become a pitchfork knight? Having a pitchfork sounds like sooooo muchhh fuuuunn!
As Donnel began to hurry back to her, she only had eyes for the beautiful gleaming teeth of her new toy. They were so shiny, that she could see herself reflected in them.
“Alrighty I got the stuff. I think we’re ready to go!” she heard the farm boy say as he walked up to her side.
"Ok! Just hop on Donny! We’ll be back in a jiffy. Are you sure you alright carrying all those? If you think you can’t hold on and carry the seeds and pitchfork carefully. I reckon I could easily fit them into my mouth and doooooonnnnnttt worrryyyy I won’t swallow them or anything like that!" she said to him, as she crouched low, so that he could climb back on easier.
So this is my contribution to a collaboration with a friend. I am looking forward to seeing it in color! I tried to show the difference in personality between Nah and her mother Nowi and I am pretty happy with the results! I might color it myself as well…
Nowi hurried up to Gregor before demanding how to teach her to play card games. The man looked at her with surprise. “Oy, you no wanting to play with those guys,” Gregor said, shaking his head. “They no fun. They like to cheat and break rules.”
He glanced behind him towards the direction the men were playing. “Besides… those games are complicated… little girl like you would probably not like them,” he told Nowi. “If Gregor going to show you games, he show you simple games first.”
They needed cards though, and the only place he knew there were cards was at the table where the other soldiers were playing, meaning they would have to go back and ask for some. “oh boy…”
“Oy, you no wanting to play with those guys,” Gregor said, shaking his head in emphasis “They no fun. They like to cheat and break rules.” Well, one thing was for sure, Nowi didn’t like cheaters. If you play a game then you gotta play it fair and square….so what should I do…Well the game they were playing looked fun though…..more grown up….I wanna play grown up games too….I’m tooooootaaaalllyyy old enough to to play grown up games….900 or so years old enough!
“Besides… those games are complicated… little girl like you would probably not like them,” he said looking at Nowi. “If Gregor going to show you games, he show you simple games first.”
"Ooooohhh, I’m sure I would be fine with the harder ones….but I reckon out of us two you are the expert….so teach me, master Gregor in the art of the paper card game. Tee hee." she said giggling as she made a theatrical bow of thanks to Gregor.
She watched turn back in the direction of the card players, “Oh boy..” he said mournfully. I guess he is thinking what I am thinking….only way to play with the magic cards….is to get some riiiight? And who might we know that would have some of these treasures…..our old warrior friends.
"It’s OK! Greg’s I’ll just go barter them something in exchange for the magic slips of paper…..I reckon if I wasn’t a manakete I would have been a merchant….I can haggle like crazy!" she said beginning to walk back to the spot of her previous altercation, but making sure that Gregor was following her in case things went sour.
Marching up to the table of soldiers who were still playing their game, she put her hand in her pouch of shinies and pulled out one of her pretty stones and a toffee and slapped it on the table before putting a hand on her hip and grinning mischievously at the startled soldiers,
"Lookie here gentlemens! I have these here trinkets….quite valuable….A shiny stone polished by the sands of Plegia’s deserts. An authentic article right there! And a toffee from the street merchants of Ylisstol and I am throwing in the pretty shiny wrapper for free! Aaaaaaaaannnnnnndddddd in exchange for all these treasures……all I want is those magic papers you have there! So what say you?"
Ricken was happy to have his hat back, feeling slightly more comfortable with it on. He couldn’t really see where he was going so he was reluctant to continue walking blindly into the woods. Nowi didn’t seem to mind though and seemed content to drag him there if she needed to. Nowi turned to Ricken, telling him that she would protect him from the ghosts. Ricken did feel a lot better about the whole situation, knowing that Nowi wasn’t scared.
What happened next threw Ricken for a loop. Without warning Now leapt into the air, singing some sort of song as she did. Ricken could make out what was happening, but he did hear pained cry then a thud. “Nowi, what’s going on?” He finally saw a figure about his size in the low light, so he figured that had to be Nowi. He slowly made his way over to her careful not to trip and fall on anything. Ricken noticed something at Nowi’s feet, when he got close enough to see it he realized it was a man in a sheet.
"Erghh, What’s the matter with you kid!" The man growled, trying to get back up. The man stood on wobbly legs, still hurting from that kick. "I’m supposed to give you a little scare, not get attacked by some kid." The man slowly started walking towards the festival. "I didn’t volunteer for this." The man grumbled.
Ricken watched the man leave, waiting before he was out of ear-shot before he let out a chuckle. He had not expected something like that to happen, this was just one of those situations that happened once in a lifetime. “Wow Nowi! That was amazing. I didn’t even know there was someone behind us… too bad it wasn’t a ghost.” Ricken chuckled again. He looked around to see if any other costumed creeps had heard the ruckus, but he couldn’t see anyone. Ricken was feeling much calmer now that he knew the worst he would have to deal with is a man in a costume.
"I guess we should get going." Ricken said. He did his best to get his bearing, being a little turned around from the commotion from before. He started walking the way he thought was right, hoping the village was this way. The trees surrounding the two seemed to get more and more dense as they made there way deeper into the forest. It was Now getting too dark for Ricken to see. “Uh, Nowi… C-can I hold you hand? I can’t see anymore and I don’t want us to get separated.” Ricken was glad it was dark, so maybe Nowi couldn’t see he was blushing.
"Erghh, What’s the matter with you kid!" she heard the man say as he struggled back to his feet "I’m supposed to give you a little scare, not get attacked by some kid." She heard his unsteady footfalls drawing away with some satisfaction. "I didn’t volunteer for this." was the last thing she heard him say, before she and Ricken were alone in the damp forest once more.
Suddenly she heard a chuckle beside her. Did Ricken just….laugh? I thought he would have told me off for being mean to the man, but did he really find it funny…..oh well….hee hee….he certainly won’t be coming back again! “Wow Nowi! That was amazing. I didn’t even know there was someone behind us… too bad it wasn’t a ghost.”she heard him say, still laughing quietly. He seemed more at ease, which made Nowi relax even more, but she was still rather uneasy. He probably feels less scared, now that we know the baddies are just old men in bedsheets, but….for some reason….I still feel uneasy about this forest….oh well Nowi, remember you are a big manakete and big manaketes aren’t afraid of aaaaaanyyyyyythiiiiiiing!
Nowi let Ricken take the lead as they made it further and further into the forest. The darkness was getting thicker and thicker, even Nowi was struggling to make out anything but outlines. Poor Ricken will be blind as a…..what are those burrowing mousey things called…mules…now those look like donkey….right! As blind as a mole!
“Uh, Nowi… C-can I hold you hand? I can’t see anymore and I don’t want us to get separated.” Ricken asked, confirming her theory. She was still gripping his wrist, but happily slid her hand into his. Nowi was surprised. It felt kind of nice, sort of like she wasn’t alone anymore. She didn’t realize that her face had actually gone a rather bright shade of red.
Nowi began to tread more carefully, making sure she wasn’t walking into any trees. I wouldn’t want to make Ricken walk into a tree or something…..that would be a liiiiiittttllleeee painful and would probably mean I was a bad friend….but why does it have to be so dark in heeeeereeeeee? She sighed in frustration, after nearly tripping over for the third time.
"Riiiickeeeen…..this forest is getting on myyy nerves! It smells funny and it’s too darrk and my feet are starting to huuurt! Are we theeeeereeee yyyyeeeeeettttt?" she asked in a whiny voice, letting her frustration get the better of her. Thankfully it seemed that they had almost reached their destination, as light had begun to filter through the trees just ahead of them.
The woman behind the stall jumped when she heard Nowi’s dragon voice. Ricken did too, not that he’d admit that to Nowi. He didn’t expect Nowi to defend him just cause some lady laughed at him. Ricken was kinda happy to know Nowi cared about him enough to do something like this, he could feel himself blushing. Ricken couldn’t hide his crimson face before Nowi returned to him, stealing his hat and dragging him towards the starting area.
Ricken could feel Nowi’s determination, feeling a little more determined himself. Nowi turned to him with a smile, she told him she didn’t like how the woman laughed at him, and before she looked back in front of her he thought he saw her blushing.
Ricken was taken away from the thought when he noticed they were already in the woods. “N-Nowi! slow down.” He planted his feet firmly in the ground, slowing Nowi to a stop. “B-before we keep going… can I have my hat back?” Ricken said with a shiver. The mage was already a little uncomfortable, feeling like they were being watched.
Ricken looked around the forest, but the light was too dim for his eyes to distinguish anything other then trees. Ricken heard the sound of a twig snapping in the distance, like someone had stepped on it. Is that a ghost? Or a risen! No… this is just a game… right?
Nowi was still rather flustered so her pace was almost inhuman. She was almost surprised when she saw that they had reached the woods. It seemed like only minutes had passed since she had given that woman a good talking to. Nowi wasn’t scared as such, but she found the place unsettling. Jeeez…it smells like something died here….several times over. Or maybe it’s just full of a bunch of Risen thah haven’t taken a bath for centuries….Bleurgh. Good thing Ricken’s nose isn’t as sensitive, otherwise I would probably have to drag him to the finish…..heee hee
She was about to double the pace, when Ricken suddenly dug his heels in. Nowi was confused and rather reluctant to listen to her friend. She knew Ricken could get nervous rather easily, so she didn’t want to give him the opportunity to chicken out. The mage however seemed rather adamant. “B-before we keep going… can I have my hat back?” Ricken asked in a shaky voice. Nowi rather liked Ricken’s hat, she found it kept her ears warm. Her ears often got cold and if they got cold, then her hearing was worse, and she was certain she would need her hearing in this challenge.
"Buuuuut Riiickeeenn! I really, really, really, reeeeaaaalllyyyy like your hat! It makes me feel, I dunno……really mage like and smart and talented like you…..and besides…it keeps my ears warm!" she said almost pleadingly. It also makes me feel braver. Not sure why but it does. I am getting a weird feeling…..sorta like some creepy person is watching me. But…who wouldn’t want to look at a real life manakete? I am a dragon after all…..
Ricken was clearly getting nervous. He was cautiously checking out the surroundings. Nowi realized that he was probably nervous because he couldn’t see anything. Though she could see better than a human in the dark, the forest had little light, so she was trying to rely on her hearing instead. Suddenly she heard a sharp snap, sort of like someone stepping on a twig. Is someone following us? Well only one way to find out!
She pulled off Ricken’s hat and placed it gently back onto his head, before grabbing his wrist and beginning to pull him deeper into the forest. They walked along slowly, partly because she almost had to drag Ricken along behind her. “Ricken, don’t worry! I will protect you! Ain’t no ghost gonna hurt my friend!” she whispered to him fiercely.
Aaah, that bumbling oaf of a ghost really know nothing about stealth….I can hear him quite clearly…well I’ll show him who’s boss around here…hee hee…..juuuust a little closer……a liiiiiittlleeee closer…. Suddenly Nowi jumped backwards, twisting while she was still in the air to face the would be ghost while singing loudly and out of tune,
"Oohhh I heard a little ghost come tip-a-toeing byyyy
So being a niiicee manakete I tryyy
Too makee himmm feeeelll a welcome friend
But Nowi thinks ghosts are mean, so go AWAY! The end!”
The man with a sheet over his head was so surprised, that had no time to react before Nowi delivered a well aimed kick to the place where she thought it would hurt the ghost the most.
"My wounds are of little concern" Lon’qu said stubbornly out of habit, putting any weight on his leg would be a hard job, but this swordsman wasn’t planning on acting weak any time soon. Of course he wasn’t so dumb as to not get it checked out when they got back to the camp, but right now they had a task to deal with.
He walked (well, partially limped) around a little bit, trying to figure out where any treasure could be hidden, treasure hunting wasn’t usually up this swordsman’s street of expertise, he supposed he could just take the time to check every little nook, cranny and corridor around, but the prospects of doing that made him sigh heavily. Suddenly Nowi spoke up, suggesting the ledge the wyvern came from.
"Up on the ledge, tch, fine, let us go check it out, how are you to fly me up there, you can’t possible consider me riding you?" Lon’qu suddenly felt very confused about the situation, she was a dragon, but she was also a woman.. a young looking woman for sure, but also a woman.. "No, this will not do, you go up there yourself and see what you will find, I will stay here"
"Up on the ledge, tch, fine, let us go check it out, how are you to fly me up there, you can’t possible consider me riding you?" he said, before flatly refusing. "No, this will not do, you go up there yourself and see what you will find, I will stay here"
This made Nowi rather disconcerted. To go this far and miss out on the best bit….she wouldn’t let Lon’qu do that! Hee heee, I am more stubborn than Lon’qu……I guess I will just have to use force. Having made her decision she launched herself into the air. She hovered for a bit, before coming in in a gentle dive and scooping up Lon’qu. The swordsman was completely oblivious to what she had been planning to do and she felt him squirming in her front paws.
"It’s tooootalllyy ok Lon’qu…..seeeee you aren’t even riding me. Besides the treasure is like the beeeesstt bit! You wouldn’t wanna miss out now, would you?" she said with a toothy smile.
The flight was short and she reached the ledge in less than a minute. Gently setting down the swordsman, she landed and began to scan the surroundings for anything treasure-like.