Grace on a String
Stell and I didn’t take long in getting to the nurse station and from there we were lead to a supply storage area. Ms. Inova herself started telling me about all the things she was actually trained to do, like the fact that she could fence and work a bow rather proficiently as well as manage a small business. She was quite the handywoman when it came to all sorts of things, her training reaching back to when she was still a teenager and including plenty of little helpful hints. She could teach me pretty much anything I needed to know about her particular weapons, but unfortunately for me, there was neither a rapier nor a bow in the Supply Room at Joad’s Hospital. Instead, Stellara got a pretty sketchy looking crossbow and I got a longsword that was probably supposed to be used with two hands by a Sotan. Neither of us wanted unreliable weapons, so we started our journey by finding a small shop to trade them in at for knives. Of course, there weren’t many places willing to take the crossbow but the sword was well-made enough to get us a piece or two of decent steel.
After we got our packs squared away and set our knives on our hips, Stellara and I went to the local ‘Authoritan’ station, having left the hospital with no goodbyes. Anyone I would’ve wanted to see had already gone home by the time Stellara and I found clothes suitable for me and my tastes, so it was a bit of a bittersweet non-goodbye. Alone enough with only my talkative Partner by my side, we made our way to the Authoritan station pretty quickly considering the number of places we passed that were reasonably spaced out. It wasn’t that Rusval was small, it was just that the place had obviously been built from the ground up by a very anal architect with a thing for symmetry and ease of access. There were straights and side roads that all made sense and had signs clearly labeled on pretty much every corner, and every building was clearly marked or labeled as exactly what it was. That being said, Stellara has no sense of direction and I pretty much got us there based on her own directions and not turning around for no reason.
The ‘Armators’ were intimidating, but ultimately nice enough people. Stellara got a few glares that were eased when I stood beside her, but the woman had a habit of starting off in random directions when we were being led to our first waiting room. Then we were led to different interrogation rooms where we were separated. I wasn’t worried about much since I didn’t think Stellara and I were guilty of anything, so when I met the Armatura in charge of the case that got us questioned in the first place, I answered his questions to the best of my abilities and had no problem convincing him I was just some guy who swam out of a river. After that, he was honestly just such a friggin’ peach. I do mean that in a conventional way, too. Armatura Clarik was actually a person I wanted to get to know, so I asked him a few questions as he asked me some more, but then he turned into a dick and left without getting me the caffeya he’d promised. I was lead to another waiting room shortly after that, but I was honestly just frustrated and annoyed that I’d been honey-potted for no reason.
Stellara was led back to the same waiting room but with cuffs on her wrists that had to be taken off. She breathed a sigh of relief that had all three men in the beige, beige room blushing furiously before giving me the wrong smile to match the sound she’d just made. I felt dirty and I wanted her to feel dirty, but there was good in me that I wanted to shine. There was also Gatian, so I smiled back and beckoned her over, garnering jealous glares from the Armators. Stellara tilted her head like she had no idea what was going on and came over anyway, sitting close beside me. One of the fellows clad in red ceramic armor warned us against any funny business, but the woman in the black armor snorted, cocked her gun, and bantered a little with the other dudes. They didn’t really say much to any effect, but the message was clear; I wasn’t to do anything close to fun with Stellara unless I wanted to pay for it.
After a good while, Clarik came around again and asked about our whereabouts again, so Stellara and I told him the truth, which cleared us of guilt/suspicion for the time being. He then apologized for being a dick and sent us off into the early morning with nothing but lost time to show for our efforts. Stellara was excited to get started on the journey again but my spirits weren’t nearly as high. I’d assumed that everyone in Rusval liked River People, but apparently, there just wasn’t enough ambient love to get us any free supplies or anything. However, Tidrel was supposed to basically worship people like me so my hopes raised as we made our way out of town. Walking through the streets was an eyeful, to say the least, and in the daylight, I could actually see what was going on with the town.
The architecture reminded me of old Brooklyn for some reason, and for another odder reason, it smelled like Seattle without the smell of coffee and condescension on the air. The vibe to Rusval was lively, but I noticed that for a decent-sized town there didn’t appear to be anything to do for recreation. Every shop we passed was utilitarian in one way or another, serving a practical/pragmatic purpose. I saw exactly two luxury item-type shops and one of them was a jeweler. The other was interesting, but without any money, there was no point in going inside. Other than those two places most buildings in Rusval were either plain brick and mortar or a drab stone, City Hall notwithstanding. Stellara suggested we go there to pick up supplies, but the Armators in front of the place wouldn’t let us go inside since I wasn’t a native and Stellara was just a Partner from a different province. I found that to be racist and annoying, but I didn’t let it get to me since there was nothing I could do for it save for walking away.
After a few more of Stellara’s ideas bombed and failed miserably I took over the decision making and got us out of the frigging city because it was turning out to suck. With my Partner’s mood on the fall, I tried singing a favorite song of mine to lighten the mood. Sapphire’s rendition of Shiki No Uta needed music to go along with it in my opinion, but my efforts were appreciated by Stellara nonetheless. She asked me to sing something else while on the road to pass the time, attempting an old lullaby of her own. It was nice, but she forgot half the words while walking. Our journey had just started, so I tried to think of another song I was actually confident in singing for her and decided on one of my unknown gems. Cliquot by Beirut was made for a serenade, though I had to change some of the lyrics to be less… Well, gay, but saying that has such negative connotations. As it was, the song was sung by a man about his lover who is also a man, so a couple of pronoun adjustments were necessary in my mind. I was still sore from losing the friend I had in Valen ad was in no hurry to lose Stellara too, especially since she was the only person I was on speaking terms with at the moment. Honestly, Booksy, having to hide who I really was just… There’s not much more taxing than pretending to be someone you’re not, even if it’s not that big a deal.
To go off on a little tangent since this is my journal and I’m allowed to do this, it sucked to not be able to find a little more common ground with Stellara, especially since a couple of the Armators we’d seen had been kinda cute in a ‘Man-in-Uniform’ type of way. Not being exactly who I was didn’t happen to be anything new, but I had the strangest feeling that Stellara would accept whatever I told her. The problem was that I didn't trust the feeling as far as I could throw it and was wary of being rejected yet again by another beautiful woman that deigned it worthy of her time to help me. Not that I have a gender-based inferiority complex (Though I probably do), I just had problems with women that were nice to me, as in I hated letting them down. It usually ended with more work or a tongue-lashing/regular beating from Rachel in the past, but Stellara was just different. I felt like everything had to be perfect or she would eventually just give up and go back to whatever lay in wait for her, compensation be damned. The self-doubt and fear of being alone were common to Gage, but Gatian hated the weakness within and smacked my brain around until I shook the thoughts clear and picked up the journey with another song.
About seven hours away from Rusval, Stellara and I stopped to make camp just off of the road, about twenty feet into some tall grass. We didn’t have the tools for a fire and we only had one tent, but it was big enough for both of us and the bedroll could also be shared. My main issue with the small space was that my Partner was a very handsy bedmate. To be honest, I kinda got off on being groped even if she didn’t know she was doing it, but it still made me feel some kind of wrong. The morality of letting myself being molested by someone having a rather interesting dream wasn’t lost on me, but I also couldn’t find the right option. On one hand, I could wake her up and get her to knock her crap off, but on the other, I could let her do what she wanted and hope she grabbed my sausage again. Gage and Gatian argued about it, but in the end, I’m a respectable guy or at least that’s what I’d like to think. I maneuvered myself out of her grasp and faced Stellara instead of letting her big-spoon my handsome self, but that didn’t solve my problems very well. Instead of having my front bits fondled, Stellara hugged me close and kept me in place. One arm lay under my head and the other arm led to a hand that was firmly gripping my buns a little tighter than I was comfortable with. It was at that time that I tried to poke Stellara awake, but the gal slept like a dead rock on the outskirts of the universe. There was no waking her with pansy tactics.
Since I was facing her (And a little kinky) I licked her ear and tried to bite it, only to have her nuzzle me. It was enough to make me not want to hurt her out of sheer adorableness, so I tried tickling her sides which only got her to giggle a little at first. It didn’t do me any good when I started and it didn’t help anymore when she stuck her hands down my pants. I might’ve been bi, but I’d never enjoyed being a bottom, nor did I like anyone poking around the man-donut, so I panicked and thought of something that would wake any woman up, guaranteed. Sadly, it must’ve only been for Earth women since my false RDJ sighting had no effect on Stellara. Her hand started reaching further and further, so I tried licking her face, pinching her breast, and when both of those failed, kissing her. It’s always the last thing you try that gets results, though I can’t say how I felt about what I got. On the one hand, it was a nice, warm kiss. On the other hand, all it needed was an odiferous baguette and a twenty-year-old bottle of chardonnay to be any French-er. Maybe an order of escargot to top it off.
When Stellara was done kissing me back, I had to scoot away from her and pant as if I’d just finished having someone suffocate me with a pillow. Speaking of pillows, Stell’s pillowy lips and even softer chest filled my mind with thoughts of public indecency and forest fun, though my lower head wasn’t at attention because it lacked the oxygen to think. The second brain doesn’t generally need that much to get the job done, it was just that Stellara had carried on until I was about to black-out. I hadn’t pulled away prior to the spots because I was still seeing how I felt about getting kissed by a half-asleep stunner, but Stellara solved that for me by asking a simple question that I didn’t answer.
‘Were you dreaming of me as well?’
In the filtered light of the dual moons, each of their respective glows shone through and played on Stellara’s skin. I wasn’t sure if I was thankful for the sight or what, but I knew that such beauties were lost on so many people. The mild curiosity in her bleary eyes, the way the blue of the larger moon played with the reddish tint of the smaller, the way the light reflected off of her eyes, giving them such an otherworldly feel… I was in grave danger of leaping before I looked, knowing that I would come to regret making a decision while in the moment. Against my better judgment, I reached out and caressed her shoulder, just the two of us in our own private world. The tent was almost perfect for the mood, and I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere other than in front of my Partner. Especially when the howling started.
We’d slept with our knives under our one pillow so I accidentally grabbed Stellara’s. It didn’t matter because I didn’t even notice at the time, but either way, we were both up and ready to go in about ten seconds' time. The tent was large enough for us to both stand up and have a little leg room though space was the last thing on my mind. Part of me wanted to let the trained fighter handle everything, but Gatian and my inner White Knight told me to protect pretty lady, so protect I attempted. I didn’t even get to fully turn towards the ‘door’ before Stell used some freakish strength I never would have assumed she had to sit my ass down and make me stay put. She took her knife from me and gestured for me to stay quiet, so I did. More howling sounded closer than before. Whatever the creatures were, they didn’t quite sound like wolves or coyotes. The timbre was too dull for a coyote and too high to be a wolf, so neither made sense, and I wasn’t eager to find out what exactly was making the noise. I figured my time left alive was better spent looking at Stellara and her amazing ass, which made me feel better about my imminent demise. Then I thought about how I’d had the opportunity to tap that and had let it pass. Presto change-o, I had something to regret in my second set of final moments, but I didn’t get far into that specific type of despair because Stell decided to leave the tent and face whatever was coming at us.
I’d like to say I did the smart thing and stayed in the tent, but I’d also like to say that I did the dumb, brave thing (Because I actually did) and followed Stell out into the wilderness. The first thing that I noticed was that it had grown lighter than I’d thought, the light from the moons giving the forest an awesome glow that I totally wanted a picture of. Then I noticed that there were around a dozen sets of eyes peering at me through the undergrowth and darkness beyond the light and I just wanted to go home and get beaten by my wife. Ex-wife. I think it’s ‘Ex’ now, don’t you, J-Man? In any case, I didn’t get to be scared for much longer since Stellara shoved me back into the tent with force, making me like her a little less and love her a little more. I didn’t want to get eaten, but the fact that she was going to face our animal adversaries all on her own was pretty harrowing as well. I didn’t want to die and I also didn’t want Stellara to die alone. Without any training or superpowers, there was precious little I could do to help. The thought crossed my mind to sing a soothing song, but I wasn’t stupid. That kind of crap only works in fairytales and fantasy fics, and I was currently in neither. Or maybe I was? Shit, I didn’t know and I couldn’t pretend to, so I focused on the one thing I could and tried to think of a way for Stell and I to get out of the situation alive.
Well, maybe I was stupid because I certainly couldn’t think of anything that would save us both, or rather, kill one of us much less fast than the other. My Partner was the only one out of the two of us who could hope to get past the dog-things and she seemed pretty hell-bent on fighting, so I did what I could to back her up and sourced my earlier idea for inspiration. My high school's fight song was dumb when I learned it and it was sooo much dumber when I started singing it softly to Stellara, but she appeared to appreciate the moral support if the charming smile she wore was anything to go by. The howling picked up again and drowned out my song, so Stell stopped looking at the dandy-man and started paying attention to the danger-mutts again, the eyes having started moving in the shadows. My Partner dropped into a fighting stance and prepared herself for combat. Once the howling stopped in its totality, the skirmish was on.
The first creature came at her faster than I could follow, slowing down to make a lunge at Stell. She barely moved and its corpse impacted the ground a few feet away from where she was standing, no blood spilled or anything. At least, there wasn’t any on her blade. It took me a few seconds and another wolf-thing to realize that my Partner didn’t have the same vibe as before. Stellara was a warm, somewhat timid soul that needed to warm up to someone, but the woman in front of me? Cool and collected wasn’t the phrase for it. Stellara seemed to be doing what she was born to do, the grace of combat coming to her with practiced ease that I didn’t doubt had hurt to acquire. The reason I’d yet to see any blood fall hit me in the face like a brick; Stell was just striking that fast. It took three lives for the creatures to realize that attacking one-by-one was stupid, but attacking in pairs did them no better. It was a swift and brutal affair after it started, and Stellara didn’t appear to be any worse for wear. What worried me the most about seeing her like… Well, seeing her kill so casually was a touch frightening, making me wonder about what all exactly she’d been trained to do. It would make sense for her to be a bodyguard of some kind since she was a ‘Partner’, but only then was I coming to understand what that had meant for her.
I exited the tent to stand next to my newfound guardian. It was hard to look at her, let alone see her as the same woman I’d just shared a bedroll with. Stellara Inova wasn’t… She wasn’t the person I’d just seen, at least not in my eyes. When I finally summoned the courage to meet her gaze, I saw a sadness in her that burned to see. “Nature sucks.” I tried a smile, but it came off as weak.
She returned it, failing similarly. “... You feel differently about our partnership, yes?”
I looked into her eyes, colored more by the red light than the blue. It didn’t take me long to answer, but it was a question I considered pretty hard. “Yeah. I do feel pretty different about it.”
Stellara nodded and sighed, acceptance in her posture. “Then I will return to Rusval at your command.”
With her head hung and her eyes half-closed, she didn’t see my flick coming. “Yo, knock it off.”
She rubbed her forehead and gave me a puzzled look. “I apologize, I-” I stretched out my hand, aiming my middle finger at her nose. “I am… Sorr-” I flicked her nose. “-REE! Ow…”
“I’m not sending you off, goofball. Stop pretending like I’d do that.”
Stellara rubbed her sniffer. “... You’re not? But… I… You just seemed so…?”
“Repulsed? Scared? Disgusted?”
“Well, more scared than anything, but also disgusted, yes.”
I was about to answer her when some bug bit my ankle. I rolled my eyes because dramatic moments like the one we were having can be ruined by the smallest thing and rubbed my leg with my foot to scratch the itch. “Scared? Yes. Disgusted? By the loss of life and the need for it. Not by you.”
Hope entered her expression. “You mean… You are not upset that I emasculated you?”
I was hoping that the red moon would start shining brighter at any second. “I… I really didn’t think about it like that.”
“I-I-I mean, y-you could always… Start a fire?” She offered meekly. “That is a manly thing to do, is it not?”
I bit my lip and nodded. “That’s a great idea. Just need to know how now.”
“Ah. Um… Maybe you could...” Something bit my leg again so I lifted it to pat down the bite and didn’t feel a bump or anything. Stellara laid a finger on her lips, was just a really cute mannerism that I didn’t know I’d liked before then.
It was so hard to even be irked since she’d just saved my life via some super dope moves that I wanted to learn, thus I chose not to be and gave her a hug. “It’s fine, Stell. I wasn't’ exactly the manliest guy on Earth, so believe it or not I don’t have any hangups about being saved by the damsel.”
“W-Well… What if I were to be in distress?” She gave me a nervous smile.
I chuckled at the implication. “Don’t get yourself into trouble just so I can kinda-sorta save you, Stell. Let’s move camp and we’ll call it fair since, y’know, ya saved my life.”
Stellara smiled and gave me a surprise hug that wasn’t all that surprising. “Oh, I am so glad that my River Person is so kind! Thank you, Gatian!”
I hugged back, pretty disturbed about the implications she’d just laid out. It was clear that Partners had next to no rights in Avalesce, so I resolved to change that through my music. Once I figured out how to play something. And once I got my own instrument. And once I garnered a following. After all that, I would happily try to change the way the somewhat backward world worked if anything then for my Partner and her quality of life, even if I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that she was sane. After another quick assurance that I didn’t mind playing the gender role of the girl in the relationship, Stell and I packed up and moved camp fifty feet to the other side of the road, but unbeknownst to us at the time, we’d picked up a little tagalong and it wasn’t the fucking bug. Once we found another decent place to lay it down during the night, we talked about changing schedules when we got to Tidrel. We also started some innocent cuddling that got a little hectic when a small amount of light entered through the ‘door’ to the tent. Stell sat up before I did, but that’s because I had a heavy thing on me and I couldn’t get it off. Whatever it was, the thing was furry, slobbery, and friendlier than the town bicycle, so I patted its head a couple of times and didn’t panic because it wasn’t killing me.
Ah, just kidding, Booksy. Stellara peeled the thing off of me long enough for me to get a good look, and I wasn’t surprised to see a doggy-doge looking thing with its tongue hanging out of its mouth. Stell had it by its scruff and went for a knife before I said, “Woah, woah, woah! Stell, you can’t be thinking of killing this one!” I whispered fiercely.
She froze, looking ashamed and unsure. “... It was attacking you, Gatian.”
“Am I bleeding?” I asked testily.
“... Not that I see?” The thing barked after she spoke, whapping her with its tail.
I looked at the dingy fur covering his loins. “Well, if you don’t see it killing me, then let the little guy go, will you?”
She did as I asked hesitantly and the pup came back to me in the blink of an eye, propping itself up on my chest to get a better go at my face. Once it had gotten it’s affection out of its system, it turned to Stell and started all over again. My Partner was clearly uncomfortable and said as much. “Why is this creature licking me, Gatian? Is it’s saliva toxic?”
“On Earth, friendly animals lick you. It’s not tasting you, I promise.”
“... Why is this cassa friendly?”
“Probably because it’s lonely. Or it likes sexy people.”
Stellara tried pushing him away only to get flustered and start swatting him. “Stop! I am not your friend!”
“What if he’s a friend of mine?” I scratched his butt and he came back to me, laying on my legs.
“... Well, you do need a Companion…”
“Right? Let’s name him Felix!”
“... You want to name a wild animal.” Stellara said slowly.
“River People are weird, and so are you.” I looked at Felix, seeing a pretty happy pupper all things told. Its fur was a dirty tannish-brown that had obviously seen better days, but the little guy didn’t look like a common mutt or much like the other things that had attacked us. If I had to say, it probably was a puppy without much killing instinct going for it or something of the sort.
“Are you planning on keeping this creature?” She asked cautiously.
“Well, what’s the harm?”
“Feeding it. Caring for it. Fixing it.”
“You know, for someone so nice, you’re being pretty cold about this.”
“I do not understand your infatuation with this creature.”
“I’m infatuated with you, do you need to understand that too?”
“I already understand it, Gatian. I am a woman and you are a man.”
“What if I liked boys?”
“Do not be greedy.” She said, unamused. The tone she’d taken was the most severe yet, though still mild. “It is custom for a man and a woman to pair. The same-sex may marry, but choosing multiple-”
“Choosing multiple spouses something-something greedy. Yeah, whatever.” I rolled my eyes. “I like the dog, I want the dog.”
“This thing will not bring you any luck. Cassas are opportunistic creatures at the best of times.”
“Like when it took the chance to rip my face off and eat it?”
“The creature did not do that. Do not be dramatic.”
“I wasn’t being dramatic, I was being sarcastic. Seriously, what’s your problem with a pet?”
I nodded. “Yeah, an animal you keep for companionship?”
“Only River People do that, and their Companions are handpicked for them.”
“Well, what if I want to pick my companion?”
“... Do you wish you could have picked a better Partner?”
“I wish I had one that would let me keep this little pupper.”
She gave me a look. “I will not help it.”
“Aren’t you sworn to do whatever I say or something anyway?”
“No? I am sworn to protect and care for you. Not look after your things.”
“Huh. Learn something new every day. Seriously, how can you say no to this adorable widdle face?” I picked up the pup and wiggled him in front of Stell, the pup letting me do as I pleased.
“How can you say yes to it? They are food, not friends.”
“Well, maybe you’re food!”
“Yes, to them!”
Felix whined and started wiggling away from me over to Stellara. The Puppy Dog Eyes were in full effect, and I knew that I had to abuse them before her cold, cold heart stopped me having a pet altogether. “Oh come on, Stell! You can’t say no to a face like this!”
“I can and I have.” She huffed.
“Aren’t I supposed to be in charge here?”
“Yes, for the adventure and what may come after it. It is my sworn duty to protect you, and this creature is a literal cassa.”
“Well, what if-”
She gave me a look, snatched Felix by his scruff, then unceremoniously threw him out of the tent without a second’s hesitation. I stared at her and she looked back at me calmly. “That settles-” Felix came back in, tail wagging along.
We both looked at him as he yipped a couple of tips, looking back and forth between us. He settled on Stellara and started acting like the puppy he was all over again, probably thinking that it was a game. He lunged forth and bounced back a couple of times, nipping at Stell without actually coming very close to actually touching her. Her swats missed handily, which confused me a little. The disdain and, to be frank, hatred on her face was evident once I started paying attention to her, and I’d already seen her fight. If she really wanted, Felix would have learned a valuable lesson after the first missed nip. I watched them for a little bit, seeing Stell grow more and more frustrated while my short foray into animal behavioral studies (Brazil was great, by the way.) pretty much told me that Felix was a ninety-percent goofball, nine-percent runt of the litter, and one percent innocent, which was more than enough for me. After a few more minutes of watching them, I came to sit next to Stell and earned myself a look of pure irritation.
Instead of forcing him on her, I decided to try to ease my new favorite pup into her heart by doing a little sum-sum I liked to call ‘schmoozing’. Gage had no game whatsoever, but Gatian was the guy who was born with a silver tongue and the charisma to use it. The problem was that I was still pretty new to being Gatian and hadn’t had much practice. That being said, the only thing I could do to keep the pup I took such a liking to? Try to make Stell see what I saw. My hand went to her shoulder the first time one of her swats actually landed on Felix, bowling him out of the tent all over again. The little guy had spirit and spunk in spades, meaning that he wasn’t one to let a little smack ruin his fun. Stell, however, grew visibly angrier when he came back. As empathetic as I tend to be, I could practically feel Stellara getting ready to grab Felix and make him regret being a free spirit, so I gripped her shoulder a little tighter and waited for her to stop paying attention to the nuisance.
When Stellara met my gaze, I gave her the warmest, kindest, and most gentle smile I could conjure up with all the ‘Cool, Compassionate Guy’ mojo that I had. It was enough to soften her gaze, but not to stop her from smacking the taste out of Felix’s mouth when he bit her. She flinched at his whimper and had a hard time looking at either myself or the cassa when he whined. The cassa poked its nose back into the tent and looked around for a moment, shaking tremendously. My heart broke for the poor little guy so I went over to him slowly. He bolted, to make a short story shorter, and I couldn’t stop the guilt in my chest from throbbing. Nor could I stop myself from glaring at Stellara.
She looked at the ground. “... It was a potential-”
“It was playing with you.”
“Well, I did not wish to play. It should-”
“Inova, that fucking cassa was a puppy, aka a baby. If that thing is supposed to grow into a wolf-thing like the others, then I’d say it was barely a few months old. I understand that the pack of cassas was dangerous, but the puppy was not. A child just came to play with you and you hit it.”
I couldn’t see her face clearly since she let a glistening lock of her hair fall over her eyes. “We should sleep.”
I glared at her for a few more moments. “... Yeah. Guess we should.”
That was the end of the night's conversation, and Stellara’s turn of character was something I just couldn’t quite understand. Out of the thousands of people I’d met in my life, I would have pegged Stell as one of the top ten pet people in the list, but her interactions with Felix? Mostly appalling. Even my Dad who hates dogs probably wouldn't have reacted like she did. At least not to a puppy. I wasn’t upset over not getting a pet so much as Stellara having no compassion for the creature she’d likely just orphaned. It was almost as if she had no empathy whatsoever for a non-Human creature, which just didn’t sit well with me. Even as tired as I was, I couldn't sleep well next to someone who reminded me of Rachel. At least, not while I was trying to change myself.
After a long, sleepless couple of hours, I crawled outside the tent and sat down, hoping that Felix would come back. As it turned out, he was just on the other side of the tent, scared out of his wits, limping around. From what I could tell, he either had a broken or dislocated shoulder, neither of which would have surprised me. Having mostly worked with horses and other various equines during my few months in Brazil I had little to no clue how to patch the little fella up. I wasn’t sure if he could make it as he was and that just pissed me off to no end since he shouldn’t have gotten hurt in the first place. I beckoned him over with soothing sounds and gestures until he let me check his leg out. With next to no idea what I was doing since he was a canine, it took a sec for me to get my bearings with him and felt that his shoulder was just out of the socket. I was sure that I was about to get bitten for it, but I set his shoulder because it was the right thing to do, immediately being blinded by a flash of light.
The next thing I knew was that light hurt my eyes more than I thought it did. I knew that for sure. Something I was less certain of was what the hell just happened, so when I cleared the spots from my eyes I looked around for Felix. He was nowhere to be seen. Stellara was quite alarmed when she came out only to see that I was squinting, kneeling, and otherwise fine. Her first question was about my well-being and I wanted to spite her with my answer. It wasn’t in my heart since I was sure that our differences could be equated to a mix of culture-concerns and misunderstandings, so I told her the truth and downplayed the already insubstantial results. When she asked for a full explanation, I told her it involved Felix and explosions, which she assumed meant that he had passed gas on me and blinded me with pure [Hind-Energy], or ‘butt-ballistics’, as the Sotans apparently called them. Without a scent on the air, I highly doubted that it was ‘butt-ballistics’ and summed it up to magic dog do magic dog thing. I was soundly assured that there were no such things as magic cassas or magic animals in Avalesce for the most part. There were a ferocious few that dwelled away from civilization, but they were supposed to be hard to find, traveling in small cells to avoid being hunted down by bloodthirsty Pegasi, Naga, and fucking Minotaurs. The Human races didn’t really do the hunting thing, but the Humanoid races were all for it, apparently. As we talked, Stellara seemed to ease up and fall into a natural rhythm, probably helped along by my supportive attitude and willingness to let things go. I also wanted to learn more about the world around me and it wasn’t bad having a sweet-faced femme fatale learn me a thing gooder.
Dire wolves, bears, and sloths roamed most of the central continent freely under different names, but apparently, there were magical versions of each creature that were storied to live in stringent seclusion. There were only a couple that Stellara had ever heard of some surviving a sighting of, and one of them was called ‘Padfoot’. My Potter senses tingled and I had to ask if she was Sirius, to which she answered that she was. She didn’t know why the Padfoot had let someone live to tell the tale until I relayed Earth’s history of the creature to her. When Stell gave it a quick thought, she remembered that the explorer-guy had actually been eaten alive in his home shortly after finishing the description. That, in turn, was after a night at the tavern telling everyone who would listen that he’d seen a Magical Beast on Avalesch soil, which was truly how the story spread. That alone made me doubt the veracity of it, but then I doubted the validity of my doubt because I was on a different planet with different creatures. Hell, even Felix had some weird looking paws and eyes going on. His pupils had been shaped like a barbell with an especially thin handle and I’d found that odd at the time, but how unlikely was it really for animals from Avalesce to be so different from American fauna?
That thought scared me back into the tent where we found a fucking bright red lynx on my fucking pillow. I paused and Stellara did too. The cat stretched and looked at us. It meowed. On my fucking pillow. I gave Mr. Shitty Kitty a dirty look and went over to move his ass, but he started screwing around with me. After having my hand batted a few times, I realized his claws weren’t out and he was just looking to play. Even with exhaustion setting in I couldn’t turn that adorable little face down, so I screwed with the pussy until I could grab it. Having it in my lap was better than having it where I lay my head and the little fella didn’t seem to mind the change in scenery. Stellara groaned when she saw that I wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, giving me a frustrated look.
“What is your fascination with dangerous animals?” She asked irritably.
I passed her a sharp look. “What’s with you and not liking animals?”
“We need to sleep.”
I sighed and looked at the kitty. “Hear that, bud? She’s actually kinda right this time. Guess ya gotta go.”
“Aw.” He mewled.
The look I gave it was between astonished and skeptical, but Stellara confirmed my suspicions by saying, “You have got to be fooling me.”
I looked at her, then back to Felix. “Don’t tell me you talk, dude.”
“I can.” His voice sounded like a cat trying to talk, which made a lot of sense because he was a cat trying to fucking talk.
“... Were you the cassa too?”
Stell and I traded a look. If it could have been captured and captioned it most likely would have said, ‘The mutual look of denial’, and I would have saved it to my phone as a reaction image. “It is a [damn] ohsum!”
“Yeah, he’s pretty awesome.” I nodded along, looking at the sentient creature I’d been treating like a good kitty for the past ten minutes.
“No, ohsum.” Felix corrected.
“Don’t say much, do you?”
“No.” He mewled.
I looked at Stellara. “Can we keep him now?”
Stell glared at him. “Do not be useless.”
“Yes. Be useful.”
“... I dunno.” He licked his paw and rubbed his ear. In that order, of course.
“You ‘dunno’?” My Partner was already growing hotter under the collar.
“Uh… Why don’t you scout ahead of us from now on? We’ll be your friends and you’ll be ours.” I bargained reasonably.
Felix whacked me a couple of times. “I like friends.”
“So do we.” I grinned at him, a little happy to add another party member. Duos never did well in my experience, but three was always the magic number.
He kept whacking me. “Play?”
“Sleep.” Stell and I echoed.
“Aw… Okay.” He didn’t move, so I picked him up and put him between us.
With that, I had myself a Partner, a Companion, and a plan. It was looking pretty good from where I was laying, and if you disagree with that, then look at it this way; you’re a book. What does it matter?
No, wait, I’m sorry, Booksy! I didn’t mean it like that! Don’t go…
Ha! Can’t leave ‘cause you’re a book. Now I’m just wasting ink. Spilling my dirty, nasty ink on your virgin pages. How’s that feel, Book!?
Ah, it’s time to stop. Until next time, Booksy. Stay dry~
Support "A Bard's Tale"
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Rewrites in progress; Pm for specifics, otherwise enjoy!
Ringtail is the Panda, I'm just the guy that translates for him. Call me Ringo.
Ringtail takes donations of bamboo, eggs, chocolate crickets, and constructive criticism. Don't be mean; I hate swearing while talking to the little guy. Especially since the swear jar gets expensive and Ringtail's a cheap fucker.
Yes, Ringtail is endangered. No, he is not a pet, and it's demeaning that you would call a sentient creature such a thing, even if his sapience is lacking.
No, I, Ringo, am not a furry. Ringtail is his own fuzzball, I have skin and I like other people that have skin.
If you need to contact me or Ringtail, PM's and Discord are the way to go. Ringtail#4665
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