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      Vote for Valucre [June]   05/16/2017

      Voting for the month of June is open on TopRPSites! Vote for Valucre daily and help new members searching for a place to roleplay discover the same joys you have in Valucre. You can vote daily, so make voting for Valucre a habit. Discussion thread
Fruitsnacks

Reconnected

40 posts in this topic

TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

Seven years.

It was almost easy to forget there had been anything other than the log cabin, the stirring wilderness, the gentle trickle of the Day River. That there had ever been more than just the two of them, that they had known anyone beyond the cities and villages a day's journey away. The only thing that kept them tied to that distant past was their non-negotiable evening routine of praying to their gods.

To their family.

At times, Grani resisted the idea - all of that had been so long ago, Brandon wasn't even certain if his nephew even remembered them, knew that it all wasn't just some legend he passed on to the young centaur. It was difficult to remain devout when those you worshiped were silent, bore no face, and remained wholly unknown to the rest of the world. In truth, even Brandon was beginning to doubt, to wonder if Odin still listened. At the very least, he remained certain Sigyn hung upon every word she could grasp from her distant grandson, whether or not the boy's words doubted her very existence. Whether they listened or not, though, it was their duty to always reach out to them, and Brandon made sure to impress this upon his nephew. True, it was next to impossible anything would ever come of it, but the continued presence of their prayers was the only thing keeping that tiny flame lit.

Thankfully, most days it wasn't an issue. Life was quiet enough that the routine was at worst a tedious nuisance, but something that still helped to pass the time. Before the sun set, Brandon kept the both of them busy with a wide array of activities. He did everything he could to keep Grani's life enriched, not only through homeschooling but also through physical labor and training - and indeed, it had come to do him a bit of good, too! Their rustic, survivalist lifestyle developed a once frail, skin-and-bones coward into a man of fair build and calloused hands. In no time at all, his old clothes had grown too tight and he'd needed to update his wardrobe, which was just as well anyway in the name of trying to fit into this new world.

Of course, no amount of muscle Brandon might hope to develop would ever compare to his nephew's potential. The boy was, after all, a son of legends, a demigod who was sure to see and, if the old tales were to be believed, even surpass his father. Even without Brandon's help, Grani would grow stronger by the day... One day, he hoped he might finally introduce even a single Golden Apple tree to their home. Then, truly nothing would be left to stand in the way of Grani's destiny.

But these were all distant and lofty dreams, things which idled in the back of his mind. In the here-and-now, there was only the water within their well and the vegetables upon their garden and the wood beside their hearth. It was high time Brandon began to prepare the evening's stew... Standing up from his desk, he turned to fetch their pail and set about the remedial task when something caught his eye. He paused, a moment's hesitation wondering if he dared to look. Surely, he was mistaken? Warily, he turned his head to find their single dresser neatly arranged against the wall. Set atop its polished surface was a pair of relics, each held within elegant sterling silver mounts. One seemed little more than some kind of polished stone, its true potential really only realized when it was in use. The other was far more beautiful, and ten times more eerie - a single eye suspended in preservative fluid, all contained within a glass orb attached to a thick and sturdy bronze chain.

The eye was fully red, sclera and all, save for the pitch-black pupil. Or... it usually was, anyhow. Brandon blinked, rubbed his eyes, then forgot what he was doing as he rushed to pick up the odd charm. His lips parted, a disbelieving breath escaping him as he beheld the miracle before him, mundane as it may have been to unknowing witnesses. What, after all, could be so special about an ordinary eye, its only peculiarity the vibrancy of its blue iris?

"V-Vali..."

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

"Mroooow..."

The scrawny little girl sighed, reaching over to scratch her belligerent cat behind his ears. "I know, I know. It'd be a lot easier if you could fish like those big wild cats..." Listless brown eyes shifted to find the makeshift fishing rod she'd fashioned from a stick and some string - not even the slightest hint of a bite. Her stomach growled, demanding something other than strange berries and dried seaweed for nourishment. How long had it been since their last proper meal?

It had been days, at least, since they began to drift down this river. Along the way, they'd found their fair share of tourists, but none of them were very charitable. Some discarded scraps were the best they could scrounge together - for better or worse, it was a diet Minnow had been used to, once... Actually, she couldn't quite remember it any other way, although she swore there had been a time where she'd eaten from a proper plate piled high with fresh, warm meat and seasoned vegetables. The half-memory of it was enough to make her mouth water...

As the curious little pod rounded the river bend, a small log cabin came into sight, drawing the tiny girl's curiosity. Careful to not tip Quincy off-balance, she adjusted her position so she could lean a bit forward and squint her eyes. She could just barely make out a pair of figures, one inside the house and another outside, but it was all still too far away - and she herself far too hungry - to really decipher much about them. She could, however, vaguely make out the presence of a garden! Her spirit lifted, waving her hand to the cat accompanying her. "Look, look!" she urged in a hush, as though someone might overhear her. "Do you see that? Food!" Turning from the edge of their pod with a restored sense of purpose, Minnow took to the controls, engaging the pod's propulsion and steering modules. "There's only two of them," she mumbled, already plotting out how she was going to get her hands on those vegetables. "Living way out here, they gotta expect to lose just a couple veggies here and there to the wildlife, at least!" With a chuckle, she turned a wild grin to her cat, though she wasn't going to wait on any answers before guiding Quincy towards the river's bank. "So what say we pretend like we're wildlife, huh?"

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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grani_13_by_dragonslover1-daldfu9.png

#Grani Slejpnerson#

The young boy was officially thirteen now. Thanks to his odd genetics, mixing jotun blood with cambion, he was actually growing about as well as a human would -- except that he was, overall, larger. Few 13-year-olds could boast being taller than most adult humans, after all. Anyone would confuse him for an adult based on his height alone, though granted his face was still very young and rounded.

But no one would ever confuse him for a human. From the waist-down, Grani was, in fact, a horse. More specifically, he was a centaur through hybrid means -- his father was Slejpner, the 8-legged horse from Norse mythology, and his mother had been a cambion, a human-demon hybrid. His own conception had been a twisted miracle, or so he was led to believe. By now he could only vaguely remember his home or the people around him. He dreamt of long, black hair and crystal blue eyes, though he couldn't be sure that wasn't just him dreaming of a female version of his uncle Brandon, who shared those features.

Grani had been told a great deal about where he came from and the people therein. His grandmother was Sigyn, goddess of fidelity. His grandfather was Loki, god of mischief. He had two human-formed uncles, Narfi and Vali, and two monstrous uncles, Jormungandr and Fenrir. He had two aunts, the half-dead goddess Hel, ruler of the realm of the dead, and Theys, another human-shaped relation. It seemed strange to Grani, having to be told which of his relations were shaped like humans and which were not, as if having animals in the family was common. His father, after all, had been a horse.

He was told he was technically a prince. This didn't seem right; from what he could recall, he'd slept on hay like any common horse. If he'd been kept in a stable, how could he be called a prince? Unless he was prince of the horses, that is.

He snorted, annoyed, even as he kept up his chores. He'd recently hunted a deer, so they had plenty of meat remaining, but this home was in constant need of care. Since Grani practically couldn't get tired, he just handled most of it. Brandon did whatever he could to ease the boy's load, yeah, but by this point the centaur had everything covered. He could even pull a plow by himself, when before they'd had to work as a team.

Grani had hated that, feeling like an average horse in a harness. Still, to get the garden going, they'd needed to do it.

Unaware of what was going on inside or further upstream, Grani continued his task of chopping wood and piling it up, readying an extension to their (rather pitiful) wooden fence. While he was going at it, he paused, catching a scent on the air, something human. He didn't see anything right away, but his ears flicked and angled about, listening for any telltale sounds, even as he went back to chopping, his messy black hair all but floating with every motion he made.

Edited by Dragonslover

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

For a short while, Brandon was frozen in place, transfixed by the oddity in his hands. His fingers trembled, carefully raising the charm closer that he might better study it. What was causing this phenomenon? Vali's eye had taken to the red-and-black coloring he'd grown accustomed to the moment Lady Eir encased it in the charm. All these years, Brandon presumed the Jotun hues a natural reaction to the solution suspending it, but here it was the same, normal form it'd been when it was still attached to Vali, despite remaining within the charm. What, then, did this mean? His acute mind went into a frenzy of theories and conjectures, as it usually did when presented with a puzzling proposition.

Any sort of environmental influence could be immediately ruled out - the eye had remained unchanged for seven years, and thus had lived through plenty of seasonal, meteorological, and magical fluctuations alike. The only possible significant change that could have occurred recently might be Grani entering prepubescence... Brandon's knowledge of Aesir and Jotun physiology was severely limited, but though he supposed such a connection was possible it didn't make much sense by any stretch of the imagination. Unless, perhaps, it was responding to a presence of specifically Aesir or Jotun magic? Lifting his face to peer through their kitchen's window, he observed Grani outside with a slight furrow to his brow. If his nephew did have some sort of innate magical evolution, he certainly hadn't demonstrated any of it yet. And yet, if none of these were the answer, Brandon had to consider that the cause of the eye's transformation didn't have anything to do with Valucre at all. Which meant...

...but...

He looked down to the eye, then clenched his eyes shut and held it to his chest, biting back the welling emotions he'd thought were long gone by now. "...I h-have to be certain," he whispered, wholly unsure if he was speaking to himself or to the eye in his hand. To Vali. "I can't distract him with this until I am sure you're... y-you're really..." He found himself unable to finish the sentence, and again looked down to the strange charm. How would he even begin looking into it? ...Well, that question was answered almost as soon as he'd asked it. Looping the necklace over his head, he tucked Vali's eye safely under his tunic, resolving to address the mater during their evening prayer. For now, he would have to pretend everything was normal... a task that was sure to prove difficult for him, as even still his hand trembled as it retrieved their pail from its place in their storage closet.

Lady Sigyn will know what to do.

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

As Quincy neared the river's bank, Minnow's view of the stranger in the field grew better... and all the more peculiar. Slowly, her eyes began to widen, her knuckles growing white from how harshly she gripped the edge of her pod. She couldn't recall the last time she'd been this excited! ...Well, maybe that time they found half a roasted hen in that tavern's rubbish pile. But, this was way better than that! There, before her eyes, she was beginning to make out portions of the stranger's body she hadn't deciphered before - equine portions! This man was a centaur!!!

"Do you see that?!" she whispered in an excited hush to her cat. "I've never seen one before! I... I think I read about them, though? Where... ?" Before her mind could wander too far, the tiny metal implants in her forehead sparked, giving her a sharp jolt. She winced in pain, then turned a somber look down to Quincy's luggage compartment. "I'm sorry, Bingo," she whispered. "I'll see if they've got any tools after I snatch us some food, okay?" She tried her best to put on a cheery disposition, despite the sadness in her smile. "Then I'll be able to get you all fixed up!"

She hadn't the slightest clue - not consciously, anyway - that the spark had merely been her subconscious trying to banish memories too painful for her to endure. She was, however, perfectly content to leave it at that, returning her focus to the problem before her. "Now... how am I gonna get our hands on those yummy veggies?" Wild eyes flickered back and forth across the plane before them, right up until the moment Quincy lightly bumped against and nestled into the river's muddy and inconsistent shore. The centaur seemed preoccupied with his duties, and the person inside hadn't moved since she first spotted him. Still, there didn't appear to be much opportunity for her to sneak up, not while the centaur remained outside - the land surrounding the house was wide open right up to the river's bank, her pod only barely concealed by the gentle variance of the brush between them. The surrounding forest, though... Her eyes drifted to the tall, wide trees, and the mess of shrubberies tangled among their roots. It would be a good hiding place, if she could get there. Then, she'd be able to simply wait until the centaur went back inside... which, she hoped, would be much sooner rather than later!

Her rudimentary plan in place, she nodded, murmuring a soft "Okay!" to herself and her cat. Turning to regard the small creature with a smile, she put a finger to her lips and whispered, "Shhh! You stay here, okay? I'll go get us some food. Quincy will keep you safe until I return - promise!"

"...Mroooow... ?"

After giving the cat a soft pat alongside a hushed giggle, Minnow carefully crawled out of her escape pod, watching the centaur for any sign that he might have detected her - not that she could have seen much of anything, anyway, short of him fully turning around to look in her direction. Laying flat upon the ground, she used the unruly grass for makeshift cover - a feat made considerably easier thanks to her tiny size. As far as she knew, all she had to do was stop moving if she saw any indication she'd been detected, then continue on her way once she thought the danger had passed. Making it to the forest's edge would be a long and tedious trek, but she was determined! She was sure she'd make it... if only because she had no idea just what she was up against.

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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In the years since they'd been here, there'd been a few intruders, a few thieves, a few violent protesters. For reasons Grani couldn't fathom, some people would rather take than ask for something, and some viewed him as some sort of monster. Both were incomprehensible to him, who'd been raised with the utmost freedom and acceptance. He saw nothing weird about himself, and had no reservations about sharing. As it turned out, he didn't need to eat -- well, not as frequently as Brandon needed to, anyway. Most the food they grew, hunted and consumed was for Grani's uncle, not himself. He merely ate because he liked the taste and the feel of a full belly.

Thus, he thought it was just plain odd when people stole. The concept itself had been hard to grasp the first time "stealing" had been mentioned; how can you take what someone else didn't even need and had plenty to spare? He understood it now, of course, but it'd taken quite a while and a very long conversation for him to get it. Thus, whenever Grani caught a thief, it was his duty to stop them. (Personally, he'd rather just let them take whatever they wanted; he and Brandon would be fine regardless. But his uncle had impressed upon him that it was important to stop the thieves, so that's what he did.)

At present, he was unaware that one was approaching. He heard his uncle's voice, ear flicking to the cabin, drawing his gaze there as well. He was mostly listening to see if Brandon was trying to get his attention -- or if he was just talking to himself again. Brandon did that a lot. It was while he was focused on Brandon that he heard shuffling somewhere nearby and turned to look. It stopped the moment his attention shifted, which meant "stalker". Whether it was animal or human or anything else has yet to be seen.

Grani chose to chop the last bit of wood on his pile then, spearing it into the stump, before gathering up a few armfuls to transport it, putting on an air of carelessness. He didn't think he was a good actor, but then, it never mattered -- animals wouldn't notice and thieves would jump at any chance to get what they wanted. One of his loads was dropped on the porch, in a pile of such logs, and the other was brought inside. "Something's out there," he informed his uncle, hooves clomping on the ground. "I'm gonna go catch it."

And he knew exactly how to do it.

Edited by Dragonslover

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

So distracted was he with his thoughts that Brandon nearly smacked right into Grani on his way out. Thankfully, he pulled himself from his thoughts just in time to avoid actually bumping into the young (but by no means small) centaur, though it took him a moment to realize what his nephew had said. "Huh? What?" he murmured, blinking and looking up to find Grani's eyes. "Out there... ?" Leaning slightly, he peered passed Grani to the surrounding fields, but try as he might he couldn't quite discern anything out of the ordinary. That was often the case - even as young as he was, many of Grani's senses were simply better than his own. At times, it proved rather frustrating... but, Brandon never let it bother him, or affect his relationship with Grani. He'd always known Grani was destined for greatness, and that his development would never be so simple as a human child.

Returning his attentions to Grani, he nodded, then turned to withdraw back inside their home. Discarding the pail beside the door, he set about retrieving Krystalldottir, preferring to be ready just in case things turned worse than they expected. "Were you able to see what it was?" Turning a smile, he suggested, "Maybe it's a rabbit? That would make a really nice addition to our stew!"

The chilling experience with Vali's eye still weighed on him, but this new distraction did wonders to help Brandon bury the topic for now. While others might have been in a panicked worry, his and Grani's lives were quiet and peaceful enough out here that any activity was, at worst, "interesting." Anyhow, Grani was more than capable of taking care of any trouble that might have strayed their way, and Brandon had improved enough over the years to be able to assist if needed.

Indeed, Vali would have been proud of the capable person Brandon had become.

 

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

The scrawny girl held her breath until at last the centaur began to move again. Heaving a sigh of relief, she watched as he finished whatever he was doing and headed towards the house. That was her chance! Not wasting another moment, Minnow scampered the rest of the way into the forest and ducked behind a tree. Back pressed against its trunk, she took a moment to catch her breath, a hand lifting to idly rub at the metal studs in her forehead. "Whew... that was a close one!" Luckily, though, she hadn't been spotted - or so she thought - so she took the moment to relax and figure out her next move.

Wriggling around in her spot, she poked her head just enough out from behind the tree to survey the garden and accompanying house. Sure enough, the garden was loaded with vegetable plants - carrots, tomatoes, celery, radishes... Minnow licked her lips, her mouth watering even more so now that the food was in sight. Her stomach growled its starved protests, provoking a soft patting. "C-Come on, quiet down," she all but whimpered to herself. "You'll give us away... !"

She wasn't sure how long she'd been resting, nor staring at the garden, such was the severity of her hunger. When she returned her focus to the house, however, she couldn't see the centaur anymore. Had he gone inside? How long would he be? She bit her lip, then turned to look longingly at the garden. She could be quick... She'd be gone before he came back, surely! Her knees trembled a bit from the internal struggle between hunger and self-preserving foresight.

With her, self-preservation rarely won out.

Taking a deep breath, she bolted, bee-lining straight to the nearest tomato plant. She couldn't wait to sink her teeth into that juicy fruit!

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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"Somethin' alive," Grani answered his uncle's query. "And I think it smelled human." Well, human insofar as Grani knew them. From what Brandon said, the humans of this world looked, behaved, and seemed to be exact replicas of the humans from his world, but Grani had a hard time thinking they were just the same. Didn't different worlds mean differences were inevitable? Whatever, he guessed. He rubbed at his nose as he turned back to the door, adding, "S'not a rabbit. But I'll geddit anyway." Rabbits were a little hard for him to catch, anyhow.

When he was younger it'd been easier, but he was a lot bigger now. Yeah, he could move faster, but he wasn't as agile and couldn't fit so easily through the trees. More often than not, he didn't even bother chasing rabbits anymore.

Before leaving out the door, Grani snagged his axe -- the one outside was for chopping wood, but this one was double-bearded, hefty, and designed for. . .well, mostly intimidation, honestly. Grani could fight with it, but he'd never really had to. Most people either ran off screaming or passed out as soon as they saw him coming at them with this axe. Other than slaughtering a few deer and boars, it never really saw action. By this point he only ever wielded it to avoid a fight, rather than win one.

Inside the house, the clomping of his hooves was hard to mask, but once he was out on the grass again, he could be nearly silent. He stalked around the house, going the long way, to come to the forest's edge -- if it was a creature he'd heard, it would be after the garden. If it was human, who knows what it wanted. . .but it was a starting place all the same. It'd taken long enough for him to get this far that he didn't see the girl sprint for the tomatoes, nor was the garden in sight from his position.

He stalked closer, though he didn't lean down -- put too much of a strain on his muscles. His harness helped with that, but Brandon had warned him not to test its limits. If he popped the stitched or tore the leather, for example, it'd be really hard to fix. So for now he just moved slow, axe at the ready in case it was a wild boar -- at least, until he clearly smelled a human in the air. Ah, so it was a thief -- or a vandal. He got one hoof around the edge of the cabin, peeked around. . .and saw what was possibly the tiniest human he'd ever seen (aside from children).

"A girl. . ?" he muttered aloud, for a moment so surprised by the diminutive size of her that he spoke without thinking, forgetting that she could actually hear him.

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

Despite his best efforts, Brandon simply couldn't banish Vali completely from his thoughts. Sure, he was able to put it from his mind for a time, but inevitably a new question would wander across his consciousness and he'd find himself distracted again. Had Vali left Jotunheim? Was he okay? Had he died? Did he return home? Had he already been home, and he just never knew? No, that couldn't be - if he were back in Asgard, Lady Eir would have arranged some way to retrieve Vali's eye.

Assuming there was a way to retrieve it. At the time, they were only concerned with moving Grani to a safe place where he could be raised - they hadn't really thought about any sort of return trip. Maybe the Aesir had been trying to reach them, and couldn't? Maybe something was wrong? What if they needed their - well, Grani's - help, but couldn't ask for it?

...No, no. Odin and Thor were still there, and Sigyn and Frigga to help with magical needs, and even Amora was helping out in what ways she could. He was being silly and irrational. There was no need to rush to brash conclusions based on extremely limited information.

"Ah, okay. Well, good luck!" he replied, lowering Krystalldottir and relaxing a bit as Grani retrieved his ax. It wasn't until Grani was headed back outside that Brandon realized just what his nephew had said, and enough alarm flooded his head to push thoughts of Vali momentarily aside. "W-Wait, human?!" Now much more alert and actually paying attention to what was going on, Brandon rushed to the door, Krystalldottir held tight in his grip. In truth, he still had his reservations about Grani being as aggressive as this (appearances aside, he was still a child, Brandon had to constantly remind himself). With literally zero personal experience to draw from, Brandon often floundered on just how much free reign he should give his nephew, or how strict he should be. (And in all honesty, it was rather difficult to lay the law down on someone two to three times your size. Grani's toddler years were... testing, to say the least...)

Typically, it ended with Brandon warily watching from the corner of the house, close enough to leap in if he needed to but far enough to let Grani feel in control of his own choices. He would let Grani make as many of his own decisions as he could, and would only step in if Grani was putting himself or others at risk. Unfortunately, Brandon got the feeling this would be one such occasion where he might have to intervene, as human visitors to their home were rarely peaceful. How could they be, when one of the home's occupants was what most of the surrounding cities and villages would consider a monstrous beast? It broke Brandon's heart to think it, but it was the truth.

He tried to think positive. If their visitor meant harm, they'd surely have attacked by now, right? It was as this thought crossed his mind that movement caught the corner of his eye. His gaze snapped to the activity, then blinked in surprise at what he found. It was human, alright, but couldn't have been more than a mere child. They were tiny, scrawny, filthy - chillingly reminiscent of how he'd been as a child, in fact. "Huh?" he muttered, for a moment simply befuddled by the presence in their garden. But, then, he remembered Grani had an ax, one which he was sure to use if he felt threatened (as unlikely as that may have been, given their visitor's minuscule stature). It'd be best if Brandon stepped in and got to the girl before she saw Grani and freaked out, and in turn freaked Grani out.

"Hey!" he called to the tiny person, waving to get their attention and lacking the foresight to consider how he was coming off. His impression upon them was made obvious soon enough - his voice captured their attention, and a moment later they were breaking out into a run. "N-No, wait! Stop!"

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

A sense of victory coursed through her veins as her spindly fingers closed down around a bright red, ripe tomato. It seemed luck was with her - the plant was perfect for the picking! The fruit snapped easily enough from its stem, and popped smoothly into her mouth. The very first bite exploded with moist, vibrant flavor that practically made her weep from its delicious taste - her stomach, altered to the presence of food, roared with a renewed force, begging for more, more, more! Minnow was more than happy to oblige, reaching out to snatch more tomatoes off their twisting vines. She piled as many as she could into the crook of her arms, pleased by a job well done.

"Hey!"

Alarm shot through her. She looked up in the direction of the voice, eyes wide. She'd been spotted! What was worse, he was waving a sword at her! Well, luckily, she was fast - she'd be out of here in no time!!! She turned heel to do just that, only to have her dread sink even further. It seemed the worst possible scenario had occurred, leaving her smack dab between both residents of this little riverside abode. What was worse, even the centaur was armed! And he looked way, way bigger from here... Her body trembled with fright, but her feet knew exactly what to do.

There wasn't any time for stealth and evasion! She turned and bolted straight towards the river's bank, where Quincy was waiting for her. "G-Go, go!" she yelled at the machine, waving an arm above her head. Something sparked and jostled about in the pod's storage compartment - in her rush, Minnow had forgotten Quincy couldn't start up remotely without a fully operational Bingo. Well, that made her speed all the more important! She picked up the pace as best she could, not daring to look back for an instant.

If she did, she might see something terrifying enough to give her nightmares for a month straight!

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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Scrawny, skinny, starving -- it was fairly obvious at a glance that the girl was in a bad situation. It actually made Grani feel kind of bad; they were completely self-sufficient out here, but she clearly was not. From this distance he could even hear her chewing, having plucked something out of the garden already -- a tomato, he guessed by her placement. That sucked. He liked tomatoes best of the garden's yield.

He was frozen in place as he digested the scene, trying to think if they'd ever had a. . .visitor. . .before that'd been so hungry they went straight for the food. Unfortunately this meant he was frozen in place, arm and axe raised above his head in a pre-strike pose. He had no intention of throwing a blow, of course, but she didn't know that. A second later and both of their attention was snagged by his uncle, and Grani gaped at the sight the man made, waving his sword as he rushed over.

Sure enough, the girl flipped, spun around, spotted Grani, then dashed away from both men towards the river. For a moment Grani was going to just let her go -- eating a single tomato wasn't a big deal -- until Brandon called for her to wait. It was actually kind of funny to the centaur, and he chuckled as the girl sprinted at top speed. Guess he had to catch her, then.

He dropped his axe and broke into a gallop. Easily catching up with her two-legged run, he made the split-second decision to play a bit. Matching pace with her, he said, "Nice day for a run, yeah?" He was grinning, though only because this whole event felt ridiculous. Unburdened by comparison of his uncle's constantly overworked mind, Grani could simply enjoy things like the feel of the wind and soft ground underhoof.

And chasing after tomato thieves.

Edited by Dragonslover
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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

He'd grown rather nicely over these past seven years - no one could deny him that. A rugged life out in the wilds (on top of raising a half-horse child) had his body working more per day than he'd worked all his life leading up to the war. He'd added a full four inches to each bicep, and no less than fifteen to his chest... which, given where he'd started, unfortunately still only put him just barely above average for a human male his height, and still yet miles behind his demigod nephew. Even the length of his legs couldn't compete with a preteen horse, so by the time Brandon had reacted to the situation, set off to a run, and dashed maybe seven feet from the house, Grani was already upon their young intruder.

Why me? he caught himself thinking in exasperation, still trying his very hardest to close the distance between them. He of course didn't need it answered - he had all the answers he needed, as sour and unsatisfying as they were, and had long ago gotten through the injustice of it all. Or, he thought he had, anyway... As pained as he was by the thoughts, he was surprised to be hurting at all. Perhaps, he really shouldn't have been surprised - he'd resigned himself to the notion that Vali had passed along, either at the hand of a Jotun or his own, and in turn processed that grief.

But now, there was a very real, tangential possibility that he hadn't passed, that he'd simply been away all this time.

...Why didn't you come back to us?

He shook his head and bit back his tears. Gripping Krystalldottir tight, he forced himself to yet again re-focused upon the situation at hand. There would be time for all his new questions - and their respective answers - later.

 

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

The little girl yelped at the voice beside her. The sudden presence startled her enough to disrupt the panicked rhythm of her feet, one toe colliding into the back of her calf to send her crashing to the ground. By now, her body had re-trained a new instinct - rather than throwing her hands out to catch herself, she twisted around and hugged her right hand close to her chest, her left arm protecting it from her inevitable tumble. She just sort of let it happen, focused more on directing the impact to her sides and back - anywhere but her precious hand! The tiny bolts in her head sparked slightly, banishing away the slightest wonder of why she valued an appendage she could easily repair.

She'd reached maybe a third of the distance towards her pod by the time she fell, not quite in range of Bingo. To make matters worse, she dropped nearly all of the tomatoes, at best bruising from their crash to the ground and at worst bursting beneath the centaur's hooves. Those same hooves posed just as much threat to her, and she knew it! Before she'd even finished falling, she was curling into as tight a ball as she could muster and crying out loud, "S-Sorry! I'm sorry! Please, don't hurt me!!!"

The scrawny girl had managed to get herself so worked up, she'd never really processed what the centaur had said in the first place. Something about running? He was probably upset that she'd tried to get away! Now, she was really in for it! She was so stupid to think she could escape! Why didn't she just give in the minute she was caught?! At least then, maybe he wouldn't have trampled her to death, or chopped her to bits with that ax, or restrained her so that other guy could run her through with that sword... !

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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Considering it'd been so long since he'd been around someone his own age -- he guessed -- Grani kind of wanted to play with the girl. Too bad she was as clumsy as they came; a simple comment from him and she was tumbling along the ground, stolen tomatoes flying everywhere. Though he stopped as fast as he could, it was hard to avoid trampling things with his hind legs and he ultimately crushed two of them like that. Another one was smooshed under the girl as she rolled, leaving a bright red stain on her clothing.

Though it was sad for him to see the tomatoes go, it was still ridiculously funny to the centaur. That is, until he heard the girl begging not to be hurt. Now his brow furrowed, realizing for the first time that she wasn't just spooked, she was terrified. It dampened his spirits a good bit -- he certainly couldn't play when his prospective playmate was so scared.

His shoulders slumped and he backed off several steps, both feeling and looking hurt. "I-I wasn't gonna hurt you," he told her, his voice sad. Feeling incredibly dejected now, a complete flip of the previous moment, he gave the fallen tomatoes a last, longing look before he dragged his hooves back towards the house. Let her have them, he didn't care. He sniffled and rubbed at his nose as he left, passing by his uncle along the way, figuring the other man could deal with the girl now. She was clearly too scared of him, anyway.

Everyone was scared of Grani, and he just couldn't comprehend why. Yeah, he was the only centaur he knew, and he'd been warned many times that people could be very prejudiced, but. . .that didn't mean he understood it. Maybe the problem was his excitement? He had a bad habit of instantly liking something or having an idea and acting upon it without thought. Chasing after that girl had been impulsive. He chided himself for it as he went, feeling a little too close to tears for such a silly thing.

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

Brandon was too far away to clear up the situation transgressing between his nephew and their strange visitor. His heart sank as he watched Grani's dejection set in - the sink of his tail, the droop of his ears, the gloom of his face pulled at every one of his heart strings, and he silently cursed himself yet again for not being faster. Maybe if I had been there--

His thought cut short with a sharp memory of Asgard.

What could you have done? They're Aesir warriors. They would have killed you before you so much as got their attention.

...But, maybe if they'd killed be, that would have been enough to stop it?

He tried to give Grani a reassuring look as he passed, but the centaur was likely too shut down in his self-chastising to notice. For now, Brandon determined it'd be best to let Grani retreat into the house and try to comfort himself while he saw to the stranger. Brandon would need to calm her down before they had any hope of engaging Grani more positively - the next exercise in the seemingly endless journey to get Grani properly socialized with and used to mortals.

Finally coming to a stop beside the cowering girl, Brandon crouched over to at once catch his breath and offer the girl his hand. "Hah... A-Are... you... all right... ?" he managed between gasps for air. He tried his best to look sympathetic to her situation, hoping if nothing else she'd be too flustered to try running off again.

 

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

The intensity in her eyes shifted as she watched the centaur's reaction to her words. Mostly, it was confusion that altered her gaze - he was... backing down... ? Gradually, she emerged from her tight curl, trembling eyes staring after the strange creature as he retreated back towards the house. Wasn't he going to punish her? Wasn't that what he was supposed to do?

When she noticed the other man had reached her, her panic nearly swelled up again - this time, however, the situation had quieted enough that she actually heard, for the first time, what was being said. More confusion wrinkled her expression, her brow furrowing as she warily eyed the man's hand.

Am I okay... ?

A tiny spark flickered from her temple, causing another pained wince. The verge of a memory faded away before she'd had a chance to even recognize its presence, and just like that it was gone, leaving her in a strange, blank state.

Looking back up at the man, she slowly nodded, then gathered herself into a sitting position - subtly edging herself a bit away from the offered hand. Still, she was smart enough to recognize there was no getting out of this now, and that if she wanted to keep up the current trend of not getting beaten up she'd better get to apologizing. Adjusting upon the ground again, she shifted so she was sitting on the flats of her shins, then planted her hands upon the ground before her. "I'm sorry!" she cried out as she bowed low. "I was hungry, and I saw your garden... I couldn't help myself! Please, forgive me!"

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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In the cabin, Grani plopped down on the ground beside their little table, folding his arms over the wood and resting his head there. His large equine half made this position easy, which was half the reason there was only one chair in the home -- the other half being it was ridiculous to even consider making one capable of holding up the heavier body of a centaur. He'd been too big and dense to use furniture like chairs and beds for a few years now. Like his father, Grani's body was hard-packed muscle, and like most immortals from Yggdrasil, everything about him was more dense. Not that the young boy knew all that; he only had the most fractured memories of his time in Asgard.

From the time he was old enough to trot, it'd been bathed in fire and blood. His memories were largely screaming and grasping at blue eyes, or hugging skirts of gold and green. Not much of a childhood, really.

His time here on Valucre was better by leaps and bounds. Though his uncle often seemed despondent, Grani was grateful to him -- and for this life. The only thing still lacking, eight years later, was the social aspect. He didn't mind digging his hooves in the ground to plant vegetables, didn't mind stalking the forests for meat, didn't even mind working out his growing muscles with constant woodwork. He just wanted one. . .friend. Honestly, Brandon was a fairly good teacher but not much in terms of entertainment.

The funniest thing Grani could remember was when they were traveling along a cliffside during a rainstorm, looking for shelter. Grani had slipped a hoof, and in the scrambling to keep him from falling, Brandon slid down the muddied cliff to land in a thick layer of mud below, thoroughly coating himself. It'd taken Grani a few minutes to stop laughing from that sight. . .and then he'd jumped down, splashing mud everywhere and adding to the chaos. Though he still chuckled when thinking of it even now, the sad thing was how circumstantial and rare the event had been.

Though Brandon had tried to amuse Grani on a few occasions, his uncle was just bad at it. No, the only time Brandon was "funny" was when it was an accident. And it left the poor centaur starved for entertainment. He had to make his own fun. With this girl, well. . .he'd had a chance to finally find himself a playmate.

Instead, he'd scared her half to death. So much for that plan.

He huffed, the air making his bangs flip upwards before settling in an even more disastrous way. This day was abruptly one of the least enjoyable in his recent memory.

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

Now standing beside the stranger, Brandon got his first good look at her. She was a tiny thing, with scrawny little limbs and a dirty face. Actually, if he squinted his eyes, she kinda reminded him of himself. In fact...

His heart skipped a few beats as he eagerly took a closer look - but a wave of relief... or, perhaps, disappointment... settled him back down when he found the color of her eyes. Brown. Nothing like ours...

It was only after he'd gotten through his initial impression of the girl that he noticed the hand she'd planted on the ground, issuing a new onslaught of questions. His brow began to furrow out of confusion, and when he realized his expression was upsetting her further he quickly waved his hand. "N-No, don't worry about it! Really! Ah..."

Slowly, he turned to look over his shoulder back towards the cottage. Somberly, he thought of his nephew, only imagining what the young boy was doing to himself. Turning back to the little girl, he tried to offer as kind a smile as he could muster, crouching low to place a hand upon her shoulder. "Listen... It's alright. We understand, really. Why don't you come inside and..." His eyes fell to her hand, so many things teetering upon the tip of his tongue. "...tell us about yourself. You know... where you come from, where you're headed?"

Lowering his hand to take hers, he rather insistently helped her to her feet, nodding towards the odd machine parked on the river's edge. "Bring your things inside and we'll get you settled in, okay?"

When he was confident the girl had accepted his offer and wouldn't run off, he turned around to head back to the house, his pace quickened so he might have as much time to prepare Grani as possible. It took him only a few minutes to reach the cottage, where he immediately found Grani leaning against the table inside. His mood instantly fell - it truly pained him to see the young centaur in such a state. Well, if he was lucky, this was sure to help things! After laying Krystalldottir back upon her stand, he crossed over to Grani, foregoing the chair to sit cross-legged beside him. "...Hey, Grani," he replied, a hand reaching out to tangle its fingers in the base of his mane. He sought out the places he knew to be most effective in getting the boy to calm down, mostly around the base of his ears, then transitioned to a soft pat of the boy's shoulder. "I know that was rough for you, but... Well, how would you like another try at making your very first friend? Would that be okay with you?"

 

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

She dared not budge from her bow the slightest bit, not until he commanded her otherwise! The silence stretched on for what seemed like years, but finally the man spoke up with an... oddly timid voice... Still trembling, she warily lifted her eyes just enough so she could look, really look at him. He seemed plain enough. On his own, he looked rather strong, but he paled in comparison to the centaur. In the back of her mind, she started wondering what sort of relationship could possibly have brought these two together, but any questions she might have formed were snuffed when she felt his hand reaching for her own.

Her instinct was to squirm and struggle to get away, but he wasn't letting go, and wouldn't leave her be until she was upright again. The oddity of it all sealed her lips shut, mind racing from possibility to possibility as she wondered what the man might be up to. Even then, never in her wildest imaginations had she thought he would invite her in! At the sound of it, she suddenly looked up at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. A part of her screamed that this was just a trap to get her to go inside their house - the rest of her drowned that out with the desperate churning of her empty stomach. Her expression furrowed, her arms coiling protectively around her mid-section, but at last she nodded, the hunger compelling her to a single answer. "Y-Yes, sir..."

As soon as she could, she turned and ran back to her pod, so frantic to get back inside that she practically vaulted the last few feet. Her landing was abrupt enough to startled her cat from its momentary slumber, the wild activity in her brain sending the tiny robot in the back haywire. "I-I know, I know! It's naive and stupid! But... But, they have food! And... And a place to stay... !"

The cat, at least, seemed perfectly fine with the decision. Whether it really knew what was going on or not, it had grown tired of laying around inside Quincy, opting to expertly leap its way out of the pod and onto the river's soft bank. "Mmrrrroooowwww..."

Minnow sighed, then maneuvered her way around to Quincy's trunk to find Bingo. It didn't take long for her to fish her old, tattered satchel out, peering inside with a warm smile at the little spherical robot inside. "You can come inside, but stay in here for now, okay?" she whispered to her little friend. "I don't wanna freak them out... !"

Throwing a few other tools and supplies into her bag, she pulled Quincy further onto the riverbank to a more secure position, then made her way to the cabin and its odd occupants. The closer she drew, the worse her heart raced, until she was upon their doorstep and swore both men inside could hear it themselves. "C-Calm down, Bubbles!" she softly chastised the fluffy cat at her feet, then took a deep breath and knocked on their door. "Umm... H-Hello? I... I have my things... May I come in... ?"

"...Mrrroooww?"

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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For a few moments, even after Brandon began petting him, Grani was still just. . .sad. Yeah, sure, the petting was comforting, and he ached to make a friend at long last. But at the same time. . .what were the chances that particular person would ever look at him without fear? His heart constricted, his eyes filling. He was doomed. When Brandon asked him to try again, Grani's brilliant response was an all-too-equine snort. His head sank further into the ring of his arms, the meaty size of them hiding most of his face.

Then came the knock at the door. His sensitive ears had heard the girl's approach, as well as something. . .smaller? Something four-legged judging by the barely-perceptible gait on the grass. Along with the girl's voice, he heard a meow, and smiled into his arms. A cat. How quaint. Animals didn't tend to fear him, at least. Still, animals were hardly what he was looking for in a friend. And by now he'd already given up on making any friends this day.

By the time the door would've opened, Grani's gaze had turned to the wall beside him, his fluffy locks hiding what parts of his face his arm's couldn't. Not because he didn't want to see the girl -- or her fear -- again. Honest. Rather, he was doing it so she could overlook his presence altogether. It was for her benefit.

Really.

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TUu1ZiT.jpgǂBrandon Armickǂ

It took a great effort to maintain a positive outlook when Grani got like this. While Brandon realized he could never really know what Grani was going through, he knew enough from his own ostracized childhood to have an idea of the young centaur's distress, to feel a great deal of his own sorrow in the face of Grani's. With a strained smile, he gave Grani's shoulder a final, encouraging squeeze before standing up to go answer the door. "Y-Yes, just a moment!"

Brandon took a deep breath at the door, taking the time to calm and steady himself. Look at me, welcoming our very first guest into our home! he thought, admittedly a good bit excited despite all of the evening's events thus far. It wasn't too long ago I'd have run the other way in cowardice. An errant glance regarded the mysterious charm hiding beneath his shirt, his hand instinctively lifting to gently lay his fingertips against its smooth contour.

Vali would be proud of me, wouldn't he?

Shaking the thought away, he finally put on a bright smile and opened the door. "Hello!" he replied, doing his best to seem chipper. "Please, come--ahh!!!"

Just then, a small, grey blur darted past his feet, nearly causing him to topple from a mixture of panic and imbalance. Wide-eyed and ready to defend his home, he spun around to find the thing, only to freeze in stunned uncertainty.

Ahh... P-Please don't... be upset... !

 

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NJKqn7o.png+Minnow+

The young girl nearly shrieked as Bubbles took off into the home. "N-No, Bubbles!" she cried, darting past the odd man in the doorway to chase after her cat. Her clunky boots clomped across the wooden floor as she bolted, wholly focused upon the belligerent feline, only noticing the table at the very last moment that it entered her periphery. Quickly stumbling to a halt, her hands had to reach out and grasp the back of a chair in order to keep herself from plowing right into the furniture. Her voice caught in her throat, terrified that her cat had just ruined any chance she might have had at being welcomed here.

What was more, her prosthetic hand was now front-and-center for all to see, its aged metal glinting in the cottage's soft light.

Now full-on trembling from head-to-toe and acutely aware of how the man behind her stared, she slowly withdrew her hands from the chair's back, swallowing in a desperate attempt to recompose herself. "U-Um... I'm s-s-sorry, Sir," she squeaked at the centaur before her. "Ah... we... c-can leave, if... if w-w-we're b-bothering y-y-you... ?"

Silently, she cursed and screamed at the cat, unaware her erratic thoughts were causing Bingo to rustle within her satchel. Out of all the places... You HAD to choose THERE?!

Bubbles was totally unfazed by any of it. Rather, the cat was quite content in its perch, curling up upon the centaur's back and wrapping its tail snug around its body. In it's opinion, this was both the perfect time and spot for a nap. "Mroww..."

Edited by Fruitsnacks

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