Songs of Reamere: A Journey East (Oh god why is everyone so friendly?)

Published Apr 15, 2022, 4:02:55 AM UTC | Last updated May 27, 2022, 3:19:27 AM | Total Chapters 4

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Armand travels east to investigate a monster, and discovers self-esteem along the way

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Chapter 1: A Journey East (Oh god why is everyone so friendly?)

“I'm sorry?”


Inari didn't pause her packing, frantically throwing items into a bag under Parhelion's supervision.


“It's just that, you know, after everything we're finally getting a break, and Parhelion could really use it after that last battle against the Wra- against Senka”, Inari corrected, while Parhelion watched in amusement. “This vacation is really important to us.”


Armand flinched, feeling guilty, but didn't stop himself from asking, “And you want me to go check this out? Why me? I know Calnost is a much better warrior, and Nidavir a much stronger magic user than I am-”


“Armand.”


The gryph fell silent, and Parhelion crooned comfortingly. He looked to her, again wondering exactly why it was she didn't speak, and then turned back to her shapeshifting rider. The two of them had been instructing survivors of the Wraith's war for the last six months, and while Armand knew he was a good student, there were better. Inari seemed to sense his hesitation and doubt in the way she always has, and gently reached up to rest a small hand on his beak, him dipping his head to allow her.


“They're better in technical skills, Armand, but you understand people and stryx alike, and you know how to mediate and keep the peace. Yes, there is supposedly a monster, but I have a gut feeling that this will require a more personal touch, and that's why I'm trusting you. If there was anyone I'd want overseeing this situation, behind Parhelion you're the one I trust the most.”


His body flushed warm at the praise, feathers fluffing against his will, and he looked away, embarrassed.


“Ah, well, in that case.”


Inari's gaze was soft as she turned his head back to facing her, and Parhelion limped forward to preen the back of his neck, and Armand was once again reminded about the horrors the pair had gone through in the last battle, and how both of them almost didn't make it. He felt a flash of shame roll through him, and Parhelion nipped him gently before continuing her soft touch.


“I don't understand why you think so low of yourself, Armand. Yes, Nidavir and Calnost best you in the arena, but outside of that? The entire group looks up to you, and even those two come to you for help when they're struggling. You're selfless, and you put your whole being into everything you do, even if you're not good at it. And despite your best attempts at talking badly about yourself, you are still a talented magic user. Perhaps not so much a warrior, but everything else you're good at balances out. You're my first choice for this, and it's not for any small reason.”


Unexpectedly, Armand felt his throat tighten up, and he had to swallow a few times before he could choke out his gratitude. Inari always had a knack for seeing straight through him, and today would be no different, it seems.


“Thank you, master Inari.”


Her eyes softened, and she patted his beak a few times before turning back to her packing.


“You should go get ready, my dear. I don't think there's much you'll want to carry, but a nice hot meal would probably be nice, and perhaps see if you can acquire a waterskin. Tell the shopkeeps to put it on my tab, since I'm sending you out on this. Oh, and Armand?”


“Yes?” he answered, hesitating before leaving Inari's quarters.


“If this turns out well, I think you'll be able to consider yourself a graduate.”


Immediately he was flustered again, stumbling over his words.


“A graduate? But there's so much more I need to learn!”


“That feeling will never go away, Armand”, Inari answered, eyes twinkling, and Parhelion crooned out an agreement. “You'll never feel like you're prepared for this. Try to internalize that, before you let yourself circle again.”


“Yes ma'am”, he muttered, ducking out the large door for good and facing the city before him. He closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then obeyed Inari's instructions and headed for the local tack master for a waterskin. On the way a particularly large corva bumped into him, and he stammered out an apology as the stryx glared at him, his rider scowling as he turned his stryx away. Armand wilted after the interaction, head drooping. With the fish shortage, everyone seemed so.... cranky! Really, it was uncalled for.


His stomach twisted suddenly, reminding him of his own hunger, and he felt his mood drop even further. How could he judge them, when he was quite nearly in the same boat? In fact, if not for Inari's kindness today, he might not even be eating at all beyond when he could catch himself. And hunting was slim in the region, without traveling far. And he was supposed to travel in the morning, so if he had to hunt he would be getting a tired start to his journey, which would make him more likely to fail, and he would disappoint Inari and Parhelion's faith in him, and-


Without quite realizing how he got there, he was startled out of his spiral by the tack master's sign slamming off the top of his skull, an injury he rightly deserved. Wincing, he ducked under the sign and stepped back, looking behind the counter to see the leather master watching him with a wry look.


“Ain't paying much attention there, are ye son?”


“No sir”, he answered meekly, ducking his head down.


“Gon' start paying attention then, before ye start knocking down the whole street?”


“Yes sir.”


“Good”, the man answered, turning away and clearly dismissing him, and Armand cleared his throat to get his attention back.


“Actually, I was heading here. I was looking for a waterskin, for traveling? One that can be opened by myself.”


The man raised an eyebrow, looking him up and down.


“Oh yee? An' how do ye expect to pay for this? Stryx-friendly skins ain't cheap, ye know, and ye don't look too well off.”


Armand wilted, breaking eye contact with the man.


“Ah, actually, Inari requested that I put it on her account? She's sending me off on a task, and since I'll be traveling far she offered to cover the cost of my equipment.”


At the mention of Inari's name the shopkeep's demeanor immediately brightened, and his sudden bellowed laugh startled Armand into jumping back a few feet.


“Inari sent ye then? Come on, let's see what I can find for ye. Should have just said so right in the beginning, a friend of Inari's is a friend of the city. Here, here's a good one. Duck down, let me get the straps around yer head there.” Armand did as he was told, eyeing the fine leather being thrown around his neck. “Perfect then! Just gotta adjust the straps a bit for ye, yer a bit on the smaller side for a gryph. Now here's how ye open it-”


“Oh but this is too fine! I can't take this, I don't need something so expensive. Poor Inari wouldn't-”


“Inari ain't paying for a damned thing, this is a gift for her saving this forsaken city. Now put yer head back down before I grab one of those little beak nubs of yers and bring it down myself. Listen this time, hmm? This is how you open it, use yer thumbs to hold the bag down, and yer beak to flip the latch. To close it just draw it tight again and pull it back over the nub. Got it?”


Armand nodded silently, too stunned to argue, and the leather master nodded decisively.


“Good, now go on to whatever task she set ye on. I wasn't going to sell that anyways, not in these times. Ain't no one can afford that. But if yer really feeling guilty, return it afterwards, hmm? Only when yer done with it.”


“Oh, of course sir!”


“Good, now get going. Don't you dare disappoint master Inari, she don't deserve to be disappointed.”


“Absolutely not, sir, thank you so much!”


Armand left the shop in a daze, and to his surprise, he received the same treatment everywhere he went. As soon as he dared to mention Inari's name, a merchant was attaching a load of dried fish to his waterskin, with the excuse of “It'll go bad anyways”, and refusing to accept a dime of payment. And that night, at a local tavern, he found that word had traveled through Sol very quickly, and he was welcomed warmly by the bar keeper and given a trough of stew, though the woman apologized up and down for the fact that she had to skim on the meat. Armand was quick to reassure her that he didn't mind, and offered to pay her back on his return, to which she waved him off and refused to hear another word about it. Armand should have felt on top of the world with all this recognition, and seeing how everyone treated so warmly.


Instead, he felt dirty, like an imposter, and his guilt dragged him down into a dark, dreamless sleep.

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