Here’s the deal: I’ve been working 60+ hours a week + family obligations. The next chapter will be delayed. This chapter needs more editing. I have a bank of many, many chapters (14), so this will not be abandoned, but I need time to fix everything after my awesome editor tells me I’m a shitty writer. Anyway, sorry for the delay. (Both present and future)
“Melsy! I missed you so much! Where have you been?!” She smiles at me while I run up and hug her. She is nice and warm and soft. When did she get so soft? Her scales are hard. Oh well, I can ask her about that later.
I can see my children racing to greet me. I bend down and all of them tackle-hug me. I can feel the soft bearfolk fur snuggling into my face as I hug them all. I missed you all so much! I hug them tighter and close my eyes in happiness. They make a weird, startled noise and struggle a bit, but I hold tighter. Finally, they relax, and I open my eyes.
Seems that girl from before is now snuggled in my arms and making a fairly cute cooing noise. Her feathers sure are soft. Looking at them in my half awake stupor, I notice they glow a little, ah, I see, it seems there are runes on each one.
Wait, wait, I know I must have been dreaming, but why is she in my hammock with me? I look up through a gap in the cloth above us, it seems it’s still dark outside. Well, she appears to be happy, and I have no reason to kick her out of bed after pulling her in. I suppose I can go back to sleep and sort it out in the morning.
Good night, strange girl.
* * * *
I wake up, and find that same girl sprawled on top of me, matching quiet breaths with mine. The sun appears to be just over the horizon, as the sky is dyed orange. I adjust my legs to avoid the oncoming cramp. As gently as I did it, it still jostles her somewhat, but she quickly snuggles back in and I hear her rhythmic breathing continue.
Ah, what a cute kid. I hope she told her parents where she was. Although, there aren’t any homes up here in the trees. I suppose they just find a branch or a set of leaves to sleep under, or in. Maybe there isn’t much of a family unit because of that lack of a barrier between families.
As she’s resting almost entirely on me, I realize how light she really is. Despite her wings each being at least 10 feet long when spread, and the strong muscles attaching them to her back, I can’t believe she weighs any more than a hundred or so pounds. Even though, she doesn’t stand much taller than 4 feet or so tall. It’s a bit weird when I think about it. Does that mean they drag on the ground if she lands on a flat surface? I didn’t really pay attention last night.
Well, anyway, I’ll give her a few more minutes before I try to slip out of the hammock unnoticed. That never works, but it won’t stop me from trying. Besides, children sleep harder than adults. Well, specifically, after having children, any nearby movement tends to wake such a person. It might just be a parental thing.
After several more minutes, I begin my escape operation. I actually feel somewhat regretful over it, as she’s quite warm and comfortable. No way to avoid it, though.
Crap. She’s awake.
She yawns. Watching her, she rubs her face in the hammock a bit before looking back up at me, bleary-eyed. I smile at her as she drops dead asleep back in the bedding, then shuffles a bit to get comfortable.
Well, whatever. I pull out my last Lillia fruit, then carefully cut it in half with a rune-made air knife. I need to save some for tomorrow again, just in case I can’t find any food before then. I’m really hungry though. I’ve been doing this for the past three days. Normally I eat three or four of these a day, minimum.
No use in grumbling over it. I slowly eat the fruit to savor its taste. It might just be my own bias, but I think these taste even better than the enclave fruits.
I’d like to say that I enjoy watching the sun rise through the leaves of the Gaia Tree, but honestly, it’s just a blob of light. It isn’t harsh or blinding like the sun around Earth. It’s diffuse here and it’s fine to stare at it as long as it isn’t high noon.
Regardless, it’s a beautiful scene to watch it slowly light up the leaves from an orange hue to brighter and brighter until everything is nearly glowing in greens and browns from the canopy around.
“I guess I should get moving,” I say to myself, before verifying I have everything I need in my bag. Well, minus the hammock and tarp over it. I guess those might be victims of good will. I can’t bring myself to wake her. I can always make another one. I need to get some food, anyway.
I look around to confirm there isn’t anyone to say farewell to, when I notice that elder from yesterday approaching. I suppose I should say something before heading out then.
“Merry rousing. You eat?” She offers me a large nut of some sort. It’s almost as big as a basketball, and has a shell like a coconut.
“O-oh, may I?” I feel a bit desperate, but I try my best to hold back. Hah, the saliva is gathering in my mouth.
She hands me the nut; since I hear sloshing inside, I carefully cut a hole in the top angled like a cork with another blade of air. It’s very heavy overall, but the liquid inside doesn’t feel like a tenth the weight.
I pull the cork out, drink the insides, then eat the flesh of the cork. It’s delicious. The liquid is a bit like mushroom soup; thick with umami. The flesh has a bit of that flavor, but a texture closer to a sharp, hard cheese, and a flavor that more resembles sourdough bread.
After the taste, I carve the nut in two and sit down to continue eating.