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Chapter 3: Shifting Intentions by Shadewrecker

Soon enough, the length of rope was stowed away in Kayah’s pack and the dirty, bleak slum architecture began to turn to lush, green fields. Gadley Plain. To Kayah it was the only solace from the cramped and claustrophobic tunnels that were the southern slums she lived in. Finally, she and the otter that was trailing her were able to take in a big breath of fresh air. “Why do you think that guy ambushed us?” asked Zeke as he stepped up to Kayah’s side. The lynx ignored him for a moment to take a sweeping look at the plains in front of her. It was out here that the wild Goar that she occasionally brought back to her brother and sister lived. Ever since their parents died, she had worked non-stop just to put food on the table. It was tough work with all the tracking, trapping, and killing, but it was what she had to do to keep her siblings fed. “Uh, Kayah? Are you still mad at me?” asked the otter, waving his brown paw in front of her face. “H-huh? The assassin? Ugh, beats me,” she responded, stepping to the side so as to not be so close to her self-proclaimed ‘boyfriend.’ “Hold up, assassin? How’d you know he was an assassin?” exclaimed Zeke. Surprised he hadn’t caught on himself, Kayah indulged the otter’s questioning for once. “The sigil on his coat. Well, that, and the coat itself. I don’t know the guy personally, but I’ve run across one or two of those snooty bastards while hunting bounties,” she explained, running a paw-finger up and down her face where her fresh scar was. “Lucky you. Hey, you think that’s why? The bounty thing, I mean. Maybe he’s out for it too and thought he’d get rid of the competition!” exclaimed Zeke. Hearing that, Kayah bit her tongue. “If that’s the case, then we’d better get a move on,” she said, keeping her sudden fear out of her tone as to not give the otter any leeway. “Where to, my love?” he asked, sidling up to her with newfound pride from his idea about Syn. “You’re not going anywhere if you’re gonna be acting like that!” shouted Kayah, before shoving the otter away. Not taking the loss, Zeke instead dusted himself off, kneeled in front of the lynx and said “To where shall this humble caravan be journeying next, Your Royal Highness?” in his most sarcastic tone he could muster. “Andea,” Kayah responded, taking the aromatic complement much more favorably. “Then to Andea we go!” Zeke shouted eagerly, throwing his arm around her shoulder like they were best buddies. Rolling her eyes, Kayah began her trek down the path. Her previous thoughts were vindicated. This was gonna be an agonizingly long journey.

And long the trek was. Zeke and Kayah journeyed along the road for what seemed like hours, stopping occasionally for Kayah to scream at Zeke or to have a small snack of bread or jerky, but otherwise continuing uninterrupted. That was, until they reached a damp and muddy crossing. “Why are we here? Isn’t this the Miasma Swamp?” asked the otter, his arms placed behind his head. “The only other way is through Vele, and it just so happens that going through the swamp is faster,” explained the lynx. “Goddess, I dunno. This place is just… eerie,” mumbled Zeke. Kayah smirked. “What, are you scared?” she mocked. “Scared? N-no! Just a little on edge,” he responded. The lynx laughed and stepped forward into the wet and misty swamp, with the otter quickly following behind her. “Careful, this is where the Gargantles make their nests,” explained Kayah, pulling her boots in and out of the marshy mud as she and her companion trudged through the swamp. Light seeped in through the half dead trees, creating a ghostly glow throughout the bog. Zeke analyzed his surroundings, turning from side to side, as if he was expecting something. “What are you looking for?” asked Kayah. The otter stayed silent for a moment, dragging his tail through the water. “Nothing. It’s just… I haven’t seen this much water in years. I’m really tempted to dive right in…” he stated. Kayah’s muzzle twisted in disgust, just as a booming roar filled the two furs’ ears. Right behind the lynx was a massive crocodilian monster. Moss had grown over its rough hide, and it’s black, beady eyes exhumed menace from the top of its enormous maw. Kayah gasped and drew her axe, surprised, but ready to fight. “Watch out for its teeth, Zeke!” she shouted, but Zeke was nowhere to be found. The lynx groaned and backstepped, avoiding the Gargantle’s crashing bite. She swung her black-bladed axe, embedding it in the beast’s nose, yet eliciting nothing more than a slight growl. It bared its teeth and prepared to kill, only for to Kayah jump to the side, grab her axe and whack the monster in the snout, pushing it back enough for her to get the upper paw. “Bit tougher than I’m used to, but nothing I can’t handle,” she said, ducking under its fierce bite and thrusting her weapon into its soft chin. The Gargantle let out another roar, stopping the lynx’s advance for a moment, but not long enough to keep her from ripping out her axe and preparing to strike again. Out of the blue came Zeke, swiftly emerging from the water with a splash and impaling the massive crocodilian beast through the head with a swift stab of his spear. He flew through the water like a fish and through the air like a bird, ending the scuffle in one fell swoop. “Whew! The water around there was deeper than I thought it would be, but it looks like we made it out okay!” he shouted cheerfully, wiping a bit of mud off of his forehead. Kayah attempted to speak, but found herself unable, her eye twitching at the thought of what she had just witnessed.

The lynx stomped her way through the muddy water with her head turned towards Zeke, ready for answers. “Where did you learn how to do that? And what took you so long?” she spouted, angered at the otter’s poor timing. “I did a lot of fishing when I was a kid. It helps to be a good swimmer when you’re snatching fish with nothing but your teeth. It also helps to be an otter, but that’s beside the point,” he explained, brushing some gunk off of his slick, brown fur. Kayah laughed heartily as she climbed over a rotted, fallen tree trunk. “You? Fishing? Where are you gonna do that around here?” she exclaimed, before Zeke used his spear to pole vault over the trunk. Unluckily for her, his webbed paws hit the water with enough force to splash the muck-filled water all over the unsuspecting lynx. “Agh! What did you have to do that for?” she cried, shaking the water out and starting to pick pieces of the swamp gunk from her leather armor. “Aww, come on, Kayah, it’s just water! It’s not gonna hurt ya!” chuckled Zeke, playfully slapping the lynx on the back. Scowling at the gesture, Kayah kept marching on towards the exit, fully ready to ditch the murky bog.

Even before the two left Miasmal Swamp, the sun had already begun to set. Fir’s sunsets were certainly a sight to behold, but it wasn't exactly the best time for sightseeing. “We’re setting up camp here,” said Kayah, pointing a paw-finger at a small clearing of land in front of them like she was an authority on the matter. After gathering a bit of firewood and opening up the bags they had been carrying, the two travellers sat down across from each other, with the fire in between. Stretching and breathing a sigh of relief, Kayah pulled an apple-like fruit from her bag and prepared to sink her fangs into the juicy treat. “Ocera,” said Zeke, startling the hungry lynx and leaving the fruit hanging mere seconds from her maw. “What?” she asked, understandably confused at the sudden comment. “Ocera. It’s where I was born. That’s where I fished,” he responded, flicking his seashell charm with his paw. “Ocera’s a port city up north, right? I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s bustling,” Kayah said, wiggling her tiny tail and yawning. “The best fishing docks around, and ocean as far as you can see. I’d like to go back some day, but my parents would kill me if they saw me,” continued Zeke. The otter took a break from ogling the lynx sitting in front of him to stare off into the distance, almost longingly. For Kayah, it was a welcome sight to see him not utterly infatuated with her for a few moments, but his apparent nostalgia perked up her curious side. “I’ve known you since my parents died, so that’s, what, eight years? Why’d you end up here?” she questioned. “Eight years ago I met the love of my life, so that sounds about right,” responded a smug Zeke. Growling at the comment, Kayah kicked the firewood to stir the fire. For what seemed like an eternity, the scarlet flames flickered and crackled between the two in their quietness. “I came to the capital after my parents kicked me out for being a deadbeat. I loved to fish, but they always told me I’d make a great accountant, or something stupid like that,” explained the otter, breaking the silence. Hearing this, Kayah sighed and reminisced about her own parents. “So I guess that’s why you have such an affinity for water, huh?” she noted, causing the otter to grin proudly. “Ha. You have no idea,” he said, confidently. The lynx merely laid back and rolled her eyes. “You’ve been awfully interested in me lately, Kayah. I like this new side of you!” exclaimed the otter as he laid down next to his object of affection. She gasped and quickly scooted away from him. “I am not interested in you!” shouted Kayah, rolling over in the grass to a spot in the dark. “You can’t escape it, Kayah! You know you love me!” laughed Zeke, as he put out the fire and prepared for bed. “Just you wait... Someday… I’ll get you to admit it,” he muttered, closing his eyes and setting his head down on the soft grass.

Kayah awoke rather calmly, only to realize that Zeke’s arms were cozily wrapped around her. “W-what the hell? G-get off of me!” she screamed, shoving the affectionate otter away. “Aww… you were really soft…” he whined, rolling away and yawning before picking himself up and sleepily dusting himself off. Unlike Kayah, who was up and ready in 30 seconds, Zeke was still rather woozy. As the lynx sharpened her axe, Zeke pulled out a striker and an odd-looking toothpick, much to Kayah’s dismay. “Ugh, could you do that somewhere else?” she groaned, taking notice of his antics immediately. “Whaaat? I use it to wake up…” he mumbled, taking the toothpick between his teeth and lighting the crystalline substance that coated it. Following that was a sharp pain and a quick burst of energy, instantly waking the otter up. “Whew…” muttered Zeke, trying to brush of Kayah’s disgust as he put his wake-up drug away. “I guess that stuff's a heck of a lot cheaper than the coffee they sell in the Upper City… Whatever…” the lynx muttered to herself as she put the finishing touches on her beloved axe. After that, the two packed up their bags, stamped out the smoldering remains of the fire, and finished an early morning snack. “Are we ready to leave, my love?” asked the otter, placing his arm on Kayah’s back and giving her a romantic look. The lynx merely grumbled and stood up from her perch she had been sitting on. “Let’s go. Andea’s not gonna come to us, is it?” she said, ignoring his affection and preparing to finish the journey.

The rest of the way was rather uneventful for the two, at least, compared to the scuffle with Syn. Kayah picked some berries, Zeke continued to hit on her, but the hours that passed did so with little violence within them. After a bit more chit chat and embarrassing remarks, the busy trade town appeared on the horizon. “There’s our stop,” noted Kayah, hitting the oblivious otter on the arm with her elbow. Zeke, who had been walking along with his arms folded and daydreaming, finally perked up. “Lucky bastards, aren’t they? Without the Magistrates breathing down their neck, they’re flourishing,” he muttered, letting the lynx lead him into the towering pedestrian entrance. “Wow, this place is a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” said a speechless Kayah, as the two entered the busy central square. Before she and her adoring otter companion continued, Kayah took a good look around the town. In front of her was the main street, and from it came countless pedestrians and carts. To the side was another exit, this one taking in carriages from Vele and other smaller settlements. Although it was late in the evening, the town was still as bustling as ever. “It’s not much bigger than the Upper City. Haven’t you been?” asked Zeke, swishing his long, flexible tail around casually. “Not in a long time. Have you?” she responded. The question was certainly expected, but Zeke still found himself snickering at it. “I stumbled my way into the Upper City when I first got to Landalsta,” explained the otter. She didn’t want to come across as curious, like she did in the outskirts of the swamp, but she couldn’t help listening to his story. Learning more about Zeke wasn’t exactly her first priority, but she figured the casual talk wouldn’t hurt her. Just… just as long as what they were doing wasn’t permanent. “And?” asked the lynx, careful not to let him read her intentions. “What do you think happened?” responded Zeke, chuckling at his past self’s apparent misfortune. “I was shooed away like a Erfly and thrown down to where you guys were,” he continued. As Kayah and her unwanted admirer strolled by all the stalls and stores lining the packed trading town, she placed her arms behind her head and let him know of the plan moving forward. “We’re gonna stay here and refill our supplies, stay at the inn, and relax,” she explained, walking backwards. “You sure seem to have this whole thing all planned out. Are you going to be this confident when we’re actually going through with it? Kidnapping a dragon is no small feat, you know,” said Zeke, testing her. “Of course I am! I’ll do whatever it takes to get my brother and sister a better life! I’ll kidnap a thousand dragons if that’s what I’ve gotta do to fix all this!” she exclaimed, still walking backwards. In her outrage, Kayah tripped on a stray brick in the paving and fell backwards with a thud. “Whatever you say, my love,” said Zeke, rolling his eyes and offering a paw to help. The irate lynx ignored his gesture and picked herself up, continuing down the road to her next destination.

With newly filled bags, Kayah and Zeke arrived together at the inn. Off to the side was a small bar with a few people sitting down and drinking, which Kayah paid no mind to. She never had money for alcohol, and, to be frank, even if she did, she wouldn’t bother. “Welcome to the Crooked Door, I guess, it’s 3 Lans per person, 2 if you’re with a small child,” said a rather uninterested red panda girl. She couldn’t have been older than 12, and was holding a lollipop in her paw like it was a cigarette. “What?” exclaimed Kayah. “That’s exorbitant!” The lynx searched the folds in her armor, only coming up with two gold coins. “Dammit, I’m short,” she said. Zeke put a paw on her shoulder and placed four Lans on the counter. “Zeke, no, you don’t have to-” Kayah tried to say, but was cut off by Zeke putting his paw on her muzzle. “Alright, your room is Number 19. I hope I don’t have to explain where that is, you two look smart enough to find it,” said the red panda clerk, sticking the sucker in her mouth smugly. Kayah stared at the otter angrily, then sighed and made her way up the wooden stairs.

The second Kayah made it through the door she stomped her paws on the floor. “Why did you do that? I didn’t need your help!” she exclaimed. “I dunno, it looked like you did to me,” responded Zeke. Kayah groaned. The room they had gotten had a single bed. “I’m sick of you and your wisecracks! You’re always following me around, being such a sugary sweet nice guy and swooning over me like a moron!” yelled the lynx. At this point, Kayah was fuming, but Zeke had yet to lose his cool. “Do you really think I like you because of your looks? I mean, you do look pretty nice… but that’s beside the point!” said the otter, shaking his head. “What I’m trying to say is that I like you for you. You’re strong, confident, and you’re driven. You’re everything I wanted to be when I was a kid. When I first came here, I was timid, scared, and lonely. It’s why I let my parents kick me out. You were an inspiration to me. Even if you didn’t know you were doing it, you’ve helped me become a stronger person. You... you make me happy, Kayah,” explained Zeke, pouring out his heart and soul. Kayah was left without words. She loosened and removed her armor and got in bed facing toward the window: away from the otter who had just given her a heartfelt speech. Her still-wet scar tinged a little from resting her head on the pillow, but it was a small price to pay to not have to look at him. Zeke slid into bed right next to her, but when he put his arm onto her she pushed him away. “Leave me alone, I’m pissed off right now,” she said, muffled by the feather pillow. Zeke sighed. “Was it something I said?” he asked. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself,” responded the lynx. The otter squinted. “How come?” he asked. Kayah paused. “Because I’m letting an idiot like you get the better of me! I… I don’t have time for love! I don’t have time for any of this! But… What I’m feeling… says... otherwise...” she exclaimed, putting her paws in her face in shame of her inner feelings. Zeke started to open his mouth, but stopped himself midway. She was having trouble, and if there was ever a time to leave her alone, it was now. Kayah and Zeke fell asleep facing away from each other, but in both of their hearts, they knew they had gotten ever so slightly closer.

Zeke awoke with a yawn, but when he moved to get out of bed, he was surprised to find that this time, it was Kayah who had HER arms around HIM this time! Elated, he rubbed his muzzle up against hers and sliding out of the bed with glee. “I’m dreaming… I’m dreaming… this can’t be real!” whispered Zeke, getting a sudden burst of energy from the unexpected act of comfort. The otter stretched his arms, bent his knees, and sluggishly pulled his long, torn pants on. He jumped when a voice came from behind him. “What happened last night never happened. You got that?” demanded a woozy Kayah. The lynx rolled out of bed, hitting the floor with a clunk, but was completely unfazed. “Ehehe, yes ma’am,” giggled Zeke, giddy with love. Kayah rolled her way over to her armor and began gearing up, taking special care not to look at the otter on her way there. When she WAS ready to face him, she gave him a nice fist in the gut. “Never. Happened,” said Kayah, sternly. The otter gladly took the punch as cost for such a nice hug. After recovering, Zeke stretched once more to get the pain out of his shirtless stomach, and was all better within a few minutes. “Ahhh.. that sure was a good night’s sleep,” he said, gazing at the simple, unimpressive inn bed. “Definitely the best bed either of us have ever slept in. Sleeping right next to the love of my life was a treat as well…” muttered the otter, rubbing the back of his head and blushing slightly. Kayah rolled her eyes and unlocked the door, unaware the otter following her had forewent the striker and wake-up drug.

Back out on the streets, the two walked by many a shop, several of which the two had stopped by the day before. Every store had a fur displaying their unique talents: A baker using his fire Sign to heat the oven, a toolsmith magnetizing metal straight to his paws, a nurse tending to a patient with a healing Sign, and even a fur with the same Sign as Zeke turning a waterwheel. The town of Andea was like a well greased machine, each person a contributor to the greater whole. It certainly was a sight to see, but the two’s stop here was nearing its end.

After exiting the trade town, Kayah and Zeke strolled by the farmlands on the edge of Andea, which not only fed the entire population, but left enough to send off to Vele, Landalsta, and even Ocera. Past that, they made it to Fovenn Forest. “This place is really peaceful,” Kayah said, listening to the chirping of the small flying beasts that made their home in the forest. Her ears twitched a few times, scanning for any signs of predators. “You don’t think there’s monsters here, do you?” asked the lynx. Zeke twiddled with his seashell necklace before putting his arms behind his head. “Nah, nothing but small stuff here. Right now it seems like just the Buzzles are out,” he said. A few of the small, feathered lizards nested on Kayah’s head, to which she shooed them away. “Heh he, don’t worry, they won’t bite,” laughed Zeke, showing up Kayah in knowledge of wildlife for once. “Fovenn is nothing like the Darkshade Woods,” said the lynx, staring up at the brisk, fluttering canopy as it let the sun shine through. “Really? The northeastern woods were a lot like this, actually,” explained the otter. The two used their time in the forest to relax and take the edge off after two (arguably three) stressful battles. Soon enough, though, their calm, subtle stroll through Fovenn Forest was over. On the other side lay the Coresti Sands, a somehow small but seemingly unending sea of sand at the bottom of Calesca. “Here we are, Coresti Sands,” said Kayah, paws placed on her hips. Zeke, on the other paw, felt uneasy. “Goddess, that looks… dreadful,” he said, starting to get worried. “Aww, is our little otter longing to go back to the sea? Too bad, tough it up!” shouted the lynx, slapping her partner on the back playfully. She took a swig of water from her flask to hydrate, but also to hype her up. “It’s into the desert, then we’re off to kidnap a dragon!” shouted Kayah, acting unusually enthusiastic as she placed both paws on the otter’s back. This time it was an unwilling Zeke being pushed, and pushed Kayah did.

Chapter 3: Shifting Intentions


Chapter 3 of Chosen of Fir Gaiden: Blood, Bonds, and a Bittersweet Promise.

Submission Information

Literary / Story