“Hey. Hey kid, wake up.”
Nate swatted at his face as something sharp poked at it, “Go away.” He mumbled.
The poking continued, “Nuh uh, if I’m awake, no way you get to sleep in.”
Nate swatted again, this time opening his eyes to see who was intruding in his room to- wait. He looked over to see a small purple creature staring at him. “You know, you could at least sleep nude and keep things interesting.”
“Ah!” Nate yelped and sprung back, getting caught in the blankets and tumbling to the floor in a pile.
Zericho broke out in laughter, “What’s wrong with you kid?”
Nate slowly picked himself up off the floor, untangling himself from the blankets, “Nothing, I just… forgot about yesterday for a second.”
“Oh, okay. Anyway, get your stuff ready, that brothel owner told me our entourage should be here soon.” said Zericho.
Nate picked up his pack. “I think her name is Mona. And our what?”
“Well technically it’s my entourage, but yeah, an entourage. What? Did you think that they’d send someone as important as me out on the road alone?”
“Do you know who it’s going to be?”
“Nope, no idea. But they should be here in a few minutes, so hurry up.” Nate’s stomach made a gurgling sound, and Zericho smirked, “There’s also food downstairs.”
Nate blushed, “Okay, well give me a few minutes to get ready.”
Zericho looked him over, “Why? You’re already dressed. Boring by the way, sleeping in your clothes.”
“Just go okay? I need a little privacy.”
Zericho sighed, “Whatever, I’ll see you down in a few.”
“Oh!” Nate called out just before Zericho was about to close the door.
“How’s your arm?” He asked.
“Uh… fine. The healer said I was lucky, he said it could’ve been a lot worse.” Zericho said. “He also said that it was lucky that I hadn’t gotten some kind of infection.”
Nate smiled, “You’re welcome.”
Zericho seemed slightly confused, “What, you mean you think that’s because of you.”
Nate smirked, “Well I did it for a reason.”
Zericho looked over his arm for a moment before shrugging uncomfortably, “Whatever.”
As he trudged down the stairs, Zericho made a note to set Nate up with an actual healer at Pjakes, maybe something useful would come out of it.
Nate made his way down the stairs a few minutes later, entering the main room that made up the bar and show room, although he was glad to see it had seriously thinned out; most everyone had likely headed home after a night of ‘fun’, only a few people were scattered throughout.
Towards the center of the room, Zericho and Mona were seated at a table that seemed to have various breads and cheeses on it, likely discussing matters about the trip over breakfast. Nate quickly made his way over, wanting to know what the trip they were taking would entail.
“Good morning. How’s it going?” He said as he sat down, grabbing himself a plate.
“Hey kid, I was just asking about our supply situation while we wait for the bodyguard.”
“Bodyguard? So it’s just one?” Nate asked as he began to pile food on the plate.
Mona nodded, eyeing Nate with disdain, “Yes, a large party would only serve to attract attention.” She turned to Zericho, “Just rest assured; I have chosen the best my prince.”
“I’d expect nothing less from one of my loyal servants. Now supplies, we were just…” He sighed, slumping back in his chair “narrowing down the list.”
Mona looked at him piteously, “My prince, I know someone of your standing is used to, and should have access to, luxuries. But with such a small party, you’ll only be able to take the essentials. And look at it this way, the trip will only take two days at most.”
“True… it’s just that someone of my position shouldn’t have to suffer like this. I mean if it wasn’t for one of your wonderful boys last night, I’d be practically inconsolable.” Were his mouth not full, Nate would have gagged; Zericho turned to look out the window, “This is another thing Osmodai will have to answer for when we stop him.”
“Just another among the long list, my prince.”
Nate swallowed his food, “Not to be rude, but what exactly are we taking? I mean, I still have my pack, so I can fit some stuff in there.”
“Mona has the list right there.” Zericho motioned to Mona, who had a piece of paper in her hands.
Mona looked over at Nate, “I wrote it up last night, it’s just enough for three people to make the journey.”
“Can I see?” He asked.
Mona scoffed, “Please boy, I doubt you can even read.”
“I can read fine,” Nate said, mildly offended, “Could I please see it?”
Mona glanced over to Zericho, who quickly nodded in confirmation; she sighed slightly and handed the small sheet to Nate.
“Thank you.” Nate said, and quickly began browsing the paper, “Okay yeah, this makes sense. But um… I’m low on medical supplies, could I ask for a few things?”
Mona seemed taken aback, “Wait, you mean you’re a healer? The why was the prince in his state when he came here last night?!”
Zericho seemed to consider the situation for a moment before stopping Mona, “It’s a really long story, let’s just say he doesn’t work like normal healers. Just humor me, and give him some things.” He looked back at Nate, “But nothing weird!”
Nate smiled, “Okay, sure, I’ll just need a few rags, uh… what’s the strongest alcohol you have?”
About an hour later, Nate had long since finished his list, most of his requests granted, although he was refused any sharp objects, Mona secretly fearing he might use them as weapons against Zericho.
The traveling companions were waiting for the bodyguard to arrive; who was already a few minutes late. “Hey Mona!” Zericho called out, “Where’s the giant lug we ordered!”
Mona peeked out from a backroom, where she was apparently having some of her ‘employees’ gather the soon to be trio’s supplies. “They should be here any moment, my prince! I promise.” She ducked back inside.
“Yeah they better.” Zericho muttered.
Nate glanced over at Zericho, “Can I ask you a question?”
Zericho looked over at him before shrugging, “Sure, only if I get to ask one though.”
Nate considered this for a moment, “Sure. Okay, those things on your back are wings, right?”
“Hm?” Zericho moved the appendages to glance at them, “Yeah so? Oh, and for every question you ask, I get one.”
“Fair enough, especially seeing as you just asked one.” He smirked as Zericho cursed under his breath, “Okay, so, assuming they work, why didn’t you just fly yesterday?”
“Well that’s obvious, my arm.”
“What?” Nate asked.
Zericho smirked this time, “That was a question. And I meant that flying would’ve just made my arm worse, my back muscles would pull a little on my upper arm.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
“Now you have to answer two of my questions.” Zericho said, and Nate nodded, “Alright, first question, what about me do you find most attractive?” He grinned
“You heard me, just be glad I’m not counting that as a third question.”
Nate blushed, “Um… that’s a… really weird question.” He quickly looked at Zericho, “Uh… I like your eyes?”
Zericho smirked, “Are you asking me?”
“No, um, your eyes, they’re… different. Kinda spooky but in a good way, they’re a way brighter green then I’ve ever seen and the whole black sclera thing is neat.”
Zericho leaned in closer to Nate, grinning lecherously, “They’re powerful aren’t they? The kind of eyes that draw you in.”
Nate leaned back as far as he could, away from the purple imp, “Uh…”
Zericho moved a bit closer, to which Nate responded to by tipping his chair beyond its tipping point.
There was a loud thunk sound as he hit the floor, followed by raucous laughter from Zericho, “Man, you’re just falling all over yourself for me today!”
Nate rose from the floor and placed the chair back, still blushing “Very funny.”
“Yeah, it was! Now for my next question.”
Nate shook his head, “Nope, you asked two questions.”
“What?” Zericho asked.
“While you were… having your fun with me, you asked two other questions, so we’re even now.”
Zericho scoffed, “You’re no fun. Those weren’t real questions.”
Nate crossed his arms, “Fine, but only if this one isn’t stupid.”
“It wasn’t stupid.” Zericho objected, after all, every bit would help down the line. “Besides, my next question is a serious one.”
“I said okay.”
Zericho smiled, “Alright then, how much experience do you have-”
It was at that point the front door of the establishment swung open, stealing the duo’s attention.
“Mona?!” The one asking was a large green figure, with small tusks protruding from the mouth, covered in what appeared to be leather armor, judging from the shape of the body and face, Nate assumed this was a woman orc.
“Who are you?” asked Zericho.
She glanced over and snorted, “I assume you’re going to be the ones I’m guarding.” She removed a pack from her back and looked the two over, “A beanpole of a human and our esteemed prince, Mona wasn’t kidding when she said this was a special request. Name’s Chiboom.”
Just as Zericho was about to make a comment, Mona entered the room. “Oh Chiboom, there you are you silly woman, you’re late.”
“Sorry Mona, got caught on the bridge behind a trade caravan.”
Mona shook her head, “Well never mind that, I see you’ve already met our beloved prince and his… traveling companion.”
Nate waved meekly at the imposing woman. “Hi, I’m Nate.”
“And you already know who I am.” Zericho replied cheekily, seemingly annoyed by her flippancy.
“A pleasure.” Chiboom turned back to Mona, “So the three of us to Pjakes? That’s it?”
“That’s it? Chiboom I leaving you with the responsibility of our prince’s life in your hands.” said Mona.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it; take care of the royal brat or else the demons end up plunging the empire into a horrid fiery age, same as any children’s story. Honestly Mona, the message you sent made it sound like this would be a taxing job, you don’t have to worry.”
“You know I’m standing right here.” Zericho hissed.
Chiboom chuckled, “What, you rather me lie behind your back?”
Zericho glared at the orc who stood blithely, Nate decided to speak up, “So, Mona, are our supplies ready?!”
“Hmm, oh yes. Chiboom, seeing as it’s only a two day trip, you should be able to carry most of the supplies yourself, although the boy has offered to carry some.”
Chiboom looked over to Nate, “Not much of a contribution, but thanks for the offer.”
Mona laughed, “Oh… come with me Chiboom, the supplies are in here.”
The two exited into the back, leaving Nate and Zericho alone again.
“So what was the question?”
Zericho glanced up, “Huh?”
“Your ‘second’ question, you didn’t finish.”
“Oh that,” he waved it off, “I’m not in the mood right now, I’ll ask you later. I just want to get going now, hopefully Mona and… what’s her face, don’t take too long.”
Nate rolled his eyes, “Great, I can already see this trip is gonna be lovely.”
By the time the three had exited the city, Nate was already beginning to regret offering his help carrying supplies; his backpack already weighed enough with two large textbooks, the extra pounds only made it worse.
Still, he wasn’t going to complain, after all, Zericho was already covering that department. Apparently Nate had caught Zericho in a generous mood yesterday, or else his feet were still sore from then, otherwise he wouldn’t have asked to be carried after they hit about hour three.
“C’mon, this is your prince were talking about! It’s not every day someone gets honored with such an offer.”
“Then you’re about to witness an even greater rarity, someone turning that honor down. Why don’t you just use your wings?” said Chiboom.
Zericho sighed and quickly sidled up with Nate. “Think about it kid, I mean you did say it was important not to stress my arm.”
“Yeah, when it had a giant gash in it, you’re fine now.”
Zericho snorted as he used his wings to float above the ground, “You know, most people I encounter in this kingdom are far more affable then you two.”
“Most people I encounter are far less punt-able then you.” Chiboom answered.
Nate snickered as he imagined goalposts, “How many points do you think that would earn?”
Zericho swooped down to buzz Nate’s head, “It would earn you a lifetime imprisonment for assaulting the royal line!”
Nate swatted about his head, as if warding off bugs. When Zericho tried the same with Chiboom however, she took a more aggressive approach.
“Let me go!” He yelled as he struggled to free his leg, hanging upside down from the orc’s grip.
“What? I thought you said you wanted to be carried.”
Nate nodded sagely, “I do believe he did.”
Zericho struggled for a few more seconds before he came to a stop. “Fine, if I promise to stop, you’ll let me go?”
Chiboom sighed and loosened her grip, “Yes.”
Zericho quickly flew out of Chiboom’s reach, “Just make sure to fly low, we don’t want to attract attention.” She called as Zericho began rising.
“Fine whatever!” He flew down next to Nate, “She should just be glad I have a policy of not using magic on those under my payroll; can’t believe I got stuck with a female bodyguard, this is already a bad enough situation without something nice to look at.” He turned to Nate, “And you, I thought you were on my side!”
“Well maybe if you stopped acting like an entitled asshole I might.” Nate said.
“Hey, I have every right to be entitled! And I will have you know that I have a very lovely asshole, I’ve been told so many times.”
Nate facepalmed, “Why do I even bother talking to you?”
Zericho hovered next to his head, “Because you find me sexy. It’s alright to admit it, I mean you basically already did back at the inn.”
“Yeah, I’m just going to ignore you now.” Nate picked up his pace, and for the next few hours, ignored the prodding of an increasingly bored Zericho, and the fumes of an increasingly mad Chiboom.
It was at sunset that the three made camp, at that point it no longer made sense to continue on, Chiboom not wanting to use torches that might give away their location.
Instead Chiboom directed them off the main road and into the forest; there they found a clearing where they set up camp. Well Chiboom set up camp that is; Nate attempted to help but was eventually told to keep to simple tasks like collecting kindling, and Zericho lounged about on the side.
They quickly ate a meal of dried fruit and jerky, not much different from a snack Nate would have back home, but which Zericho labeled barely edible. It was shortly after the light had completely gone from the sky, and the stars came out in full that the camp was finally ready. A small fire, three bedrolls, and two tents, one large and one small; an incongruity Nate pointed out, to which Chiboom answered that Mona had given one for her and Zericho, and one for Nate.
“I don’t think she trusts you kid, not sure why though. Mona’s always been a bit off.” Chiboom said.
Nate just poked at the fire, it wasn’t like he would ever see the woman again.
“Well I’m the one in charge here, so I get to choose the bed layout!” exclaimed Zericho, as he marched around the fire.
“What’s that mean?” Nate asked.
“It means that Ms.Stick-up-her-ass and I don’t get along great, so you and I can sleep together kid!” Zericho quickly dived into his tent, with rustling sounds indicating that he was setting up his bed.
Nate looked over to Chiboom, “Are you okay with that? You are his bodyguard.”
She shrugged, “I haven’t noticed even the faintest hint of someone trying to follow us. I’m pretty sure the demons have no idea where the prince is right now. It’ll be fine if I’m not sleeping right next to him. The question is if you’re okay with it.”
Nate raised an eyebrow quizzically, “I’ve seen your type a thousand times kid, you let people walk all over you and ask for nothing in return. But even I know that eventually gets tiring. You obviously feel uncomfortable around the prince."
Nate smirked, “And you’re saying you’re just a cuddly little bundle of joy beneath that armor, right?”
Chiboom chuckled, “Fair enough.” She got up and stretched, “Well, I’ll retire to my tent then, you should too, just make sure to put the fire out first.”
Nate nodded, and after a few more minutes of poking at the small pile, poured a bucket of dirt they had collected over the flames.
When he entered the lantern-lit tent, he was surprised to see that Zericho had already set up his bedroll as well as his own. “Um, thanks for that.”
Zericho grinned, “No problem, kid.”
Nate sat down upon the bedroll, it being not much different then a sleeping bag he had once used. He kicked off his shoes, glad to have them off after the long day of walking. “Why do you keep calling me that?”
Nate looked back up at Zericho, “You keep calling me kid. You do realize I’m 19 right? You can’t be that much older than me, based on your voice you can’t be more than your mid 20’s.”
Zericho was stone-faced before he broke out in laughter, “That’s a good one kid! 20’s, right!” It took a few seconds for Zericho to compose himself, “Ahhhh, kid, us imps age differently then you silly humans. Last month I turned 85.”
Zericho nodded, “Yeah, big party too, you should’ve been there. You would’ve made an interesting addition at the after party.”
Nate sat there in silence for a few minutes after that, listening only to the sounds of the forest that surrounded them, a background to his thoughts.
Zericho broke the silence, “So what are you thinking about kid?”
“Well you definitely weren’t spending all that time thinking about how much more… experienced I am than you. What’s on your mind?”
Nate shook his head, “It’s nothing just… all this is so, surreal. I keep expecting to wake up, and part of me still hasn’t accepted that I won’t. I mean, this isn’t exactly how I thought I’d be spending this week.”
Zericho sighed, “Yeah well, that’s life. I didn’t expect this either, believe me.”
“Are you worried about him?” Nate asked.
“Your dad, the king. You said they had captured him, right?”
“Yeah…” after a moment of silence he shrugged, “Not really, Osmodai’s smart enough to know that for now, he’s more valuable alive then dead. Besides, he can handle himself.”
“Oh.” Nate shrunk into himself. “I am… about mine, I mean.”
“Why, were they in danger?”
“No, it’s just,” Nate sighed, “I’m their only kid, they’re probably really worried. I mean it’s been more than two days now.”
Zericho sat up and looked at Nate, “Relax, we’ll get you home kid.”
Nate lied down, “Yeah, I guess. I just can’t help but worry, ya know?”
“You know what would help relieve that stress?” Zericho asked.
Nate closed his eyes, trying to relax. “What?”
The was a rustling noise and something landed on top of him, causing him to shoot back up to see Zericho sitting on his lap, his eyes aglow.
“Having sex with me.”
Whee chapter 4! And we're almost to the sexy times! Please feel free to comment.
Written in cooperation with readasaur