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Chapter 1-9

Page history last edited by Anonymoose 11 months, 2 weeks ago

A morning hike through a strange world. My thoughts on doing so had changed dramatically over the past few days. it must be the power of reliable company. Not necessarily good, but if I had to be honest, she was reliable. I hadn't gotten lost, starved, dehydrated or hounded by anyone else. I couldn't say the same for the sexual harassment, but I figured that out of everything else it was the lesser of evils. The lizard, who preferred to be called a salamander, traversed over and around the forest floor with a skip in her steps, bursting with enthusiasm that she couldn't contain. I was, however, getting the impression she was not capable of restraint. She had been making progress since our first meeting to keep her attacks rare. That may only be because she was busy walking backwards and waving her arms in large sweeping motions as she excitedly regaled me with stories of her previous adventures.

 

     “A couple years ago I got hired by the Duke of Balcetia. That's a little swampy place far, far faaaaaaar~ southwest of here. Anyway, I was paid to bodyguard him during some civil war he had been fighting. One of those fat nobles who didn't fight himself and paid others to fight for his king.”

 

     “Why was there a civil war?” I interrupted. Rosette's expression went blank, and she stopped in her tracks. Shaking my head I took the hint, “Okay okay, I get it. That isn't the important part of the story. Go on.”

 

The more she talked the less touchy and feeling she got. Having her talk my ear off was the only way I'd get some semblance of peace compared to my other options.

 

Her expression returning to its jovial state; she did just that, “It was a rough spot; all his counts had rebelled. He only had the knights from his own lands, and he was outnumbered five to one. None of his allies wanted to help him put it down either, but he was a stubborn guy. Maybe he was just stupid and three stones of pride in a one stone bag... Anyways, I took the job because those odds told me there was going to be a good fight or two.”

 

     “You choose to fight on the losing side.” I asked, dumbfounded, "For fun?"

 

     “Half right. There were a lot of fights. But none of them were any good. Take this one count of his. Big man. A very big man.” She extended her arms as wide as they'd go to the side and up. “A very large fat man, nothing but fat and muscle. They called him the Rook. Don't remember what his name was. The rebels  had the Duke holed up in his castle. Everyone was chomping at the bit and wanted to end it fast, so they attacked instead of waiting. They send this guy up onto the wall, and everyone's scared spitless of him. I was paid well, so I stood up to him. He made some crude jokes about my appearance, puff out his chest to make himself scary, very boring stuff.” Stopping her story she turned around and leaped right back into my face and excitedly continued, “He had this big axe; the head of it was huge; with the shaft it was as big as he was. I'd never seen a man try to swing around something like that before, so I got excited.” She stopped to stifle a laugh before going on, “He couldn't swing it, more like he'd drop it. Nothing but reach and hoping to catch anyone with it and crush em.. Not like I was going to fall for that. Way too slow. That's not fighting, that's treating soldiers like wheat in a field.” Pulling her sword out she mimicked something like a baseball player readying a swing, “So he misses, and I step up,” Swinging the sword like a bat and wearing a huge smile she reaches her punchline, “So one swing and the belly of his armor caves, in and he goes down for the count. I was disappointed, so I tried taking it out on the guys behind them, but they all ran.”

 

     “You're telling me you won the battle?” I asked skeptically.

 

     She thought about that for a moment, “I guess I did. None of his men wanted to fight after that. Their discipline of the men under all the other nobles crumbled and they were like chickens with their heads cut off. They all started running away when I chased them screaming, 'Monster! Monster!'” She impersonated the terrified men with a mocking voice, hands clutched in prayer, knees together and shaking her hips from side to side. “The Rook was the leader's champion, right hand man. They lost a lot of will to fight after that. Giving up after all that. There were a few more fights after that. Everyone just ran from me though, so I didn't have any fun.”

 

Fun. She used that word so lightly; a battle with the lives, pride, honor and livelihood on the line for hundreds and thousands of men, to her it was nothing at all but another chance for personal enjoyment. A pretty little girl like her, a small little girl like her who wasn't much taller than five and a half feet. She couldn't weight much more than one-twenty, yet drops a man gunning for seven feet tall and weighing almost three times as much, and he wasn't a challenge for her at all. If you ignored her below the knees, the forearms, her tail, her ears, her eyes and her teeth you could have mistaken her for just some other simple girl, A pretty girl, but a girl nonetheless. What gave her that kind of strength and speed? There wasn't a wasted ounce of fat on her, nor was she rippling with muscle. Just a well toned, lithe and feminine body. A red-headed gym bunny with a tan, not anywhere near the impression of a warrior in a hack-and-slash beat-em-up video game. Were there no laws at work in this world? Did they choose to ignore common sense?

 

     “After that, I got bored. A friend told me to try my luck further north. To here. Frontier country. A wild and lawless land. I thought to myself, 'how romantic'... I think the real reason was because quite few people were angry with me after that whole war business. She worries too much, but girls do that when they are expecting, so I didn't want her to get gray hairs on account of me.”

 

     She paused for a second, and I had to interrupt, “I haven't met many monsters, so I can't say anything about all of them, but most of them so far seem to attack humans on sight. I can guess monsters aren't that well received. How did you even end up getting hired?”

 

Reaching to small leather bag tied to her waist, she untied it and tossed it toward me. I opened it and revealed a weathered slip of paper with strange markings on it and something that I couldn't confuse as anything other than a signature. I studied it for about half a minute, but it was Greek to me. I couldn't make heads or tails of it, so I slipped it back in and handed it back to Rosette.

 

     “I still don't get it,” I confessed.

 

That caused her to actually stop in her tracks and stare at me with the most astonished look on her face. Her expression was one of shock and bewilderment.

 

     Feeling a little out of place I squirmed a little under her gaze, “What does it say?”

 

     “You can't read it?” her voice was muddled with a tone that was asking, 'what is wrong with you?' “You talk all fancy like, but you can't read?”

 

     “Yes, I can read but not whatever this is.”

 

     “But you speak it just fine.”

 

     “I said I wasn't from here.”

 

By the expression on her face I saw that the gears in her head were trying to turn and make sense of what I just said. It was safe to assume that she was still not putting one and one together that I wasn't just foreign to this country but foreign to this entire world. I failed to explain it before; I wasn't entirely sure with whatever scope and breadth of wordily experience she had that she could even comprehend other worlds.

 

     “The Free Ports guilds. I'm a member to one of em.” She must have got the hint from my raised eyebrow that she had to give a full explanation. “The Free Ports are a bunch of cities on the coast way far south of here. They don't care much about the politics on the rest of the continent; they just want to make money. Even if I'm a monster, I don't just go around attacking every man I meet, even so, I got a license to work and be a sell sword like anyone else.” Taking it out again she points to the scrawling on the bottom, “See? A cardinal signed that, and this one here is from the mayor of Zelice; no one can stop me from going anywhere a human would want to go if I show anyone this.”

 

     “So they sign this because they earn a commission off each job you do?”

 

     Rosette's eyes lit up, and she grabbed my hands in hers, and she jumped up and down with excitement, “Maybe all you did was just hit your head, you are smart whenever you fancy, aren't you? You figured it out, and I didn't have to say a thing.”

 

She pulled me in closer and pressed up against me. My heart nearly blew something. It still wasn't getting used to this kind of physical contact with this girl.

 

     “I put all the money I earned in the guild bank that friend of mine runs. She lends out that money which people need,. Lots of people rely on what I help put in”

 

     I completed her point for her, “And no more money to borrow and finance... whatever it is they do.”

 

     “You really are smart. Really smart!”

 

     “At a very low interest rate too I'd bet.”

 

     Rosette tilted her head in puzzlement, “Inter rest?”

 

     “When you pay back the money with a little extra. The cost of getting all that money at once.”

 

     “Nah, she lets people borrow it; if they don't pay it back in time, she charges a fee that gets bigger the longer they don't.”

 

     “I think that's the same thing.”

 

     “No no. The Church doesn't like anyone making money like that for nothing. Being monsters, the two of us are on thin ice already.”

 

That reminded me of how things worked for a long time back in the middle-age Europe. Maybe this world had more in common with my own than I dared hope. The one to one ration of language wasn't the only thing which is mirrored. Given how archaic everything was here, perhaps it was just another version of my own world trapped in the past. Perhaps I didn't have to fear that I was somewhere completely foreign and alien. That didn't explain why the written word is different, but through luck and coincidence English, or whatever language they called it, that was coincidentally the same.

 

     I felt a tug, and my hands were pulled forward and held between Rosette's warm breasts. I seized up at once while she spilled her heart out, “You've given me what is yours, and I'll give you what is mine.” My sword I'd gifted her rattled in its scabbard on her back, and she looked up at me excited, “My friend takes care of everything I've earned; I got a lot. I can bill everything on the guild. We could buy the largest house on the nicest shore. We can go everywhere and anywhere. The best adventures and travel whenever. And when we tire, a small little castle to call our own is waiting for us to return to."

 

My head was spinning now, unable to calm my heart that was bouncing everywhere in my chest and sinking to my stomach. I didn't know what to say, so my heart took over, “You don't understand money at all do you?”

 

     That wasn't the response she had been expecting; she could only let out a short, “Huh?”

 

     “I mean you can't just buy those kinds of things right.” I backtracked when I figured out where the misunderstanding might come from, “I mean you don't; she really shouldn't try to bribe me with those kinds of things right? That isn't really what you want right?”

 

     “Bribe?” She trailed off letting that word sink in. Then focused her gaze back on me with another one of her big smiles, “I knew it! You really are the best! Of course love cannot be bought. So long as it's the two of us nothing else matters!”

 

She threw her arms around me once again and leaped onto me. I spun around in place and had to regain my balance quickly because of the girl who was hanging off me with all her weight. She was laughing joyously and planting kisses on my cheek.

 

     I tried asking several times what she was doing and she eventually relented to say, “You really are a kind man. You really do care about me don't you? You really do right? You care for me than anything else?” Letting go she grabbed me by the hand; and calling back over her shoulder at me to, 'come on,' we ran through the forest. Why? Maybe that's just what she wanted.

 

I didn't understand her at all. Time and time again I seem to be running into little tests and traps this girl has set up, and each time I bumble over them only to find myself in a much worse situation than if had I just fallen into them. I was trying to dodge the question each time; but it seemed instead of disarming the situation, this girl kept falling deeper and deeper in love each time I opened my fat mouth. I was still at loss at what to do with this girl. There were equal parts terror and admiration for her in my gut. I was hardly in a position to offer anything, let alone myself, when I didn't know who I was or where I was from. So far from home, I didn't know the first step in getting back. If I kept her nearby, I'm sure I'd be much safer. I still didn't know who she was; but in that time, if my own mind and heart got sorted out, maybe I just might-

 

My own train of thought was cut short when the two of us emerged from the forest. At long last the sun shone overhead without a tree to block it. The uninhibited sunlight stung my eyes as they slowly adjusted. When I could finally see again, I saw fields, vast fields of pasture, farmers fields filled with crops and little hamlets scattered over the plains and meager hills before me. It was the outskirts of civilization. I noticed Rosette had stopped pulling me, but she had still not let go of my hand, and when my daze and astonishment had faded, she grinned and continued to pull me along our way.

 

She seemed never to tire, but I was certainly different. No attention was paid to my hoarse cracking throat, as I become increasingly winded and exhausted from the quick pace we made as the two of us dashed between fallow fields, ripe for planting in the spring season. She was in a hurry, that much I could tell. What I couldn't figure out is why she was in such a hurry. It was still the middle of the day, and the heat didn't help my exhaustion at all either.

 

When I felt like I was getting ready to die we finally came to a stop. My hand was freed, and my arm, feeling like it had been nearly pulled from its socket, cried in relief. I doubled over, holding myself up with my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath. In front of us was a dirt road in between the fields. Coming around the corner was an old man in typical peasant farmer's attire with a cart and horse. Standing tall, Rosette brazenly waved her arm at him and pointed to the rear end of his cart as he slowly lumbered toward us. He nodded, and Rosette leaped up on the edge of the cart. I watched astonished at the scene. Just how did this girl, a monster, get that kind of calm reaction? Then I got a good clear look at the milky eyes of the old man. He was nearly blind, and that explained that.

 

     “Laven! Hurry or you'll get left behind!” called out Rosette slowly moving away.

 

I had completely spaced out as I watched the cart slowly pull away. Cursing underneath my breath, I broke off into a jog and grabbed onto the back of the cart and threw myself on, Rosette laughing away at the whole affair. The old man was listening and had his own little chuckle too. I hope he didn't get a chance to look back, or the monster he seemed to be mistaking for just another girl might cause a scene.

 

All my work to get my breath back had been wasted; but from one of her traveling bags, Rosette produced a water skin and shook it enticingly in front of me. My instincts got the better of me, and I eagerly extended my hand to receive it, but she pulled it back out of my reach. Without saying a word she pointed to me, closed her eyes and opened her mouth. I bit my lips and let out a sigh, but I had no choice and complied as I was starting to feel light headed from dehydration.

 

I heard the sound of water sloshing next to me, but I hadn't even tasted a drop yet; I thought perhaps I was being teased again, but before I opened my eyes something soft pressed up against my lips, and a flow of water rushed into my mouth. I nearly choked but managed to swallow it all without getting it into my lungs. The surprise caused me to fall on my back; my legs still hanging off the edge of the cart. I only coughed a couple times and opened my eyes to see the salamander girl hovering over me with a mischievous grin. Before I was able to scold her, she leaned back and took another long swig from the skin and collapsed on top of me and pressed her lips against mine and force-fed me another mouthful of water again. I didn't cough or almost spit up this time; my cheeks felt flushed and red, and I was still a little upset. Before I could say another thing, she sat back up immediately, crossed her legs and sat stoically on the cart, scanning the area, looking oddly out of character and professional.

 

When I sat up I spied a couple walking along the road, bundles of sticks being carried on their back; they watched the two of us with curious and cautious gazes. They continued to watch until we were some distance away, and they carried on their way. From then on, Rosette did not make another move on me, nor did she meet my gaze. She continued to stand on guard. It was such a shocking reversal of what I had come to expect from her. Even for such a whimsical girl, there had to be a reason. When I thought back on it, her guild license; she said she wasn't just like any other monster throwing herself on any man. I think I was starting to understand what was going on. Being caught being flirtatious and lewd with a human would cause a great deal of trouble.

 

     "Something's changed," Rose mumbled underneath her breath.

 

I had spent so long lost in thought that I had not noticed the cart come to a sudden stop. Looking over my shoulder, a stone wall had snuck up on me that extended far in each direction, the gate looming in front of the cart. A few words were exchanged between the old man and someone. That voice made its way to the back; two men wearing leather armor, iron helmets and held spears very cautiously, their knuckles white from gripping their weapons. One man was short and fat, the other tall and skinny; both were rather unappealing in appearance, with bad teeth and an equally bad smell. They weren't the most shining example of a town guard, so I assumed they were, that I had come to expect.

 

     “And your business here?” said the fat one rather rudely.

 

His voice was a little hoarse and croaked a bit; he was afraid that much for sure. After watching what Rosette was capable of, it would take a few dozen of these guys to begin causing her a little concern if she or they decided to get violent.

 

     “Business. Resting in town for the night. Buying supplies and going beyond to the coast south.” Rosette’s voice was calm, practical and professional. She also produced the guild document for them to inspect.

 

The two of them looked it over and appeared like they'd never seen anything of the sort before. They handed it back carefully to her waiting claw before turning their attention to me. They had very dubious expressions on their face.

 

    Looking at each other, the skinny one jogged off, and the fat one rudely pressed on, “Why you heading to the coast then?”

 

     "I wintered here," she grumbled and became increasingly frustrated at the cold shoulder we were receiving.

 

The smell off his breath was horrid and a little much for me; it forced me to look away, looking right into Rosette's eyes, a glimmer of her usual self hidden behind that business face of hers. Imploring, begging me to go on.

 

     I decided to ad-lib, “My family from the Free Ports is surveying the local area. Deciding if they're going to invest this far north. I'm returning home now, and I'm not too happy with the rude reception.” I wasn't going to score any points being timid now.

 

     The fat man rebounded onto his heels; he was terrified, and putting up a strong front seemed to work, “Well, sir, my apologies... but... a monster for a bodyguard-”

 

     “Now you're telling me how to do business too?” I cut in with faux anger. I leaped down from the edge of the cart; I could feel Rosette almost reach out to stop me, but I was too into it now. “The best that money can buy for their son. I don't tell you how to go about your business; but when you get into a state of mind like that, I have to tell you that you'd best mind your position.”

 

The fat guard, now that I was towering a good head's height above him, felt the pressure now. He looked up at me then back to Rosette before backing down and taking a few steps back. He pulled at his collar with his index finger and was sweating.

 

     I pressed on with the attack, “Maybe I'll bring this up when I do get inside. I'd hate to send word for—”

 

The skinny guard came rushing back and exchanged a few whispers with the fat man. Quickly they waved to someone up in the gatehouse, and the doors to leading into the town were swung open, and the two guards nervously returned to their posts. I climbed back onto the cart and entered the town, the large wooden doors swinging closed slowly behind it. I exhaled heavily and threw my head back. My heart was beating fast, and I was sweating a bit now, too. I felt something soft and scaled on my hand. Rosette was making a brief comforting gesture; she gave a wink and a quick smile out of the corner of her mouth and mouthed, 'good job.'

 

We rode the cart until Rosette jumped off, and I followed suit. The cart and man carried on without a care, no need for payment, nor did he stay for a word of thanks. I thought it was an oddly kind gesture, but it wasn't as odd when I noticed why Rosette had suddenly leaped off the cart. All around were the stands for a market place; but no matter where I looked, not a soul walked the streets. I tried to ask her what was wrong, but the sound of hooves and boots on mud and the clink of weapons sounded behind us.

 

Emerging from the alleyways were heavily armored and armed men on foot and horseback; they approached and surrounded the two of us standing in the middle of the abandoned streets. I watched as the shutters of the houses surrounding us filled with many shy and frightened eyes watching what was happening below. They did not draw their weapons, nor did they close in uncomfortably close, but they did cut off escape in any direction. A man in elegant white robes rode forward and dismounted alone. His hat was gilded; the hem of his robe trailed in the mud, but he didn't have a care in the world about that. His eyes were locked on to the two of us. His face was young, his eyes were naturally squinted almost shut and he wore a creepy smile from ear to ear.

 

     “Welcome welcome,” he said. His voice was equally creepy, and I had no feeling for it other than disgust. “Welcome to Brun. I'm sure the people here seldom see a sight like this in all their days this far north. That's both you, and I mind you. A guilded monster and sympathizer.” I watched as the man's eyes finally opened, a dark brown, almost black eyes, “And the inquisition.”

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