[color=darkorchid]That afternoon in a small village called Batherton, there in the small farmhouse nestled beneath the barren apple trees, a young elf hastily checked her rucksack, making sure she had everything. Wait a minute, did I just say elf? Upon closer look, the neighbours tilling their gardens would have seen that she was too small to be an elf. Rather, she was a halfling. This became evident when a sheepdog tall as her shoulders walked up to sniff her face. He was as shaggy as shaggy could be, and was mostly white though with dark grey blotches on parts of his fur. Kinenda's mother had loved this dog ever since she raised him as a puppy a few years ago--she named him Rolf because that's what his bark sounded like.
"I can't possibly have you come with me, Rolf," Kinenda said to the sheepdog, rubbing the back of his neck as she spoke. She had donned her usual outfit that day, the simple mauve dress with the little shawl over it. Since the day was rather chilly, she had her traveling cloak on as well--it was made of a soft and snuggly material and a deep green in colour. But she didn't decide to put the hood up yet, so one could easily see the rosy headband she wore in her light brown hair, and the brilliant deep purple colour of her eyes became even more apparent. As usual when she was in a hurry, her face was a bit pinker than usual, deviating from the the normally light tan hue of her skin.
Kinenda's mother stepped outside the front door just as she was slipping her gloves on. This was Nuthatch the Bard, named so because of her peppy nature and peculiar ability to serenade the birds when out in the forest. As usual, she wore her patchwork-quilt dress of many summery colours, and she had a sunny smile on her face despite the cloudy weather.
"Well, my little songbird, are you just about ready?" Nuthatch asked her.
"[i]You're[/i] the songbird," Kinenda replied with a snicker. "I think I got everything all set. Now all I have to do is convince Rolf to stay behind."
Nuthatch glided over to Rolf, petting him on the head. Unlike Kinenda, she was tall enough to see over the top of his head. As she did so, Rolf whimpered, rubbing his face against the top of Kinenda's head.
"Aww, it seems he wants to come with you," Nuthatch continued. "I know I'm gonna miss him, but you know Rolf. Always daring to go on an adventure. 'Tis a shame I have to stay here for now to prepare for the festival, but perhaps our paths will cross one of these days. Perhaps we can send correspondence through one of my feathery friends. I'm sure Mortimer would love to visit you especially."
Out of all the birds Nuthatch was friends with, the one Kinenda liked the most was an owl named Mortimer. He was usually grouchy and impatient and liked to hive hoots of complaint about various owl matters, and for some reason he vented to Kinenda the most, probably because she was more his size. Plus Kinenda enjoyed watching him scare off other small birds. He played the part perfectly, given his large and gruff appearance, the horned gray feathers atop his head, his dark brown plumage, and his piercing golden eyes.
"That would be rather nice," Kinenda commented as she stuffed the last medicine bottle into her bag and hoisted it over her shoulder. When she did so, she uttered a cry of surprise and fell to the ground.
"Rolf!" Rolf barked.
"Gee, this bag's a bit heavier than it usually is," Kinenda moaned as she checked the bag to see if nothing was broken. In her final haste she moved some of her less valuable items to the larger sack she was taking. When that was done, using her telekinetic powers, she lifted the bag onto Rolf's back. Then she stood up and proceeded to tie it around him like a saddle.
"If you really want to come with me," she said to him, "you'll be responsible for this. Now, do you remember where Rensing is?"
Of course Rolf knew. Rensing was the place Nuthatch always performed at for the seasonal festivals held there, and Rolf always tagged along. She often performed at a few taverns there as well, knowing she would get a good audience. Kinenda, however, have only been there once or twice a few years ago. Hopefully she too would still recognise the place. So with a sharp whistle by Kinenda, Rolf ran off, darting down the path away from home and toward the village of Rensing.
Soon after, Nuthatch gave Kinenda a hug--no matter how old she was, she was still her precious daughter. As Nuthatch re-entered the house, Kinenda grabbed the last item she needed: her staff. Giving it a playful toss, she stepped off the patio and walked a little ways down the path that led towards the edge of town. Trees lined up all along the winding path, which skirted a hillside and sloped upward much of the way. Though the path was short, Kinenda was already out of breath when she reached the top of the hill.
At that present moment she stood facing a modestly sized mountain with smooth, rocky slopes. This was part of a mountain range that isolated places like Batherton from the main part of the Empire. Presently Rolf was running along a narrow trail that wound between two of these mountains, ending in the plains on the other side, but that was not the trail Kinenda was about to take. Instead, Kinenda tapped her staff once on the ground, then flung it to the side, holding it parallel to the ground. At the same time, she hopped onto it, landing with her toes resting on its woody shaft. The staff, however, didn't fall--it hovered in the exact same spot. But not for long--with the blue crystal sparkling in the sunset, it rose up higher. Kinenda balanced on this staff while in a squatting position, as she flew up and over the mountain. Though she could not see Rolf on the trail below, she trusted that he would know the way.
By the time Kinenda reached Rensing, the sky had become clear, and the sun had just barely set. She landed somewhere outside the main entrance to the village, hopping gracefully off her staff and shivering a bit because of the wind. Reaching into her bag, she took out a small bottle of perfume and sprayed a bit of it on herself--this would make it easier for Rolf to find her by scent when he came.
"Welcome to Rensing, child," a man standing at the entrance to the village greeted. "Running an errand, I suppose?"
"I'm not a child," Kinenda replied flatly. "And I am simply visiting."
As Kinenda expected, most of the folk wandering around Rensing were human, so it made sense that she was passed off as a child. Frequently she had to leap to the side to avoid people accidentally kicking her as they walked, especially when she wandered through the marketplace. Wandering through this marketplace was one of Kinenda's favourite pastimes, because she never had to buy anything, especially if she went at night. Since her size made it harder for the sellers to see her amidst the customers, Kinenda had an easy time stealing stuff. Though in this case, she didn't steal that much--a few nuts and berries, a small piece of cheese... Using her powers, she managed to pull a chunk off a loaf of bread, and a few coins out of shop tills. Hiding all the food in her bag, she exited the marketplace, heading for the inn.
At the inn counter, Kinenda had to stand on top of her staff in order for the man behind it to see her. She was already holding some money in her hand as she held out the other for balance.
"Ah, hello there," the man greeted. "I imagine you'd want a place to spend the night?"
"Yes, please," Kinenda replied, proceeding to hand him the money. "My luggage should be arriving as soon as..."
Kinenda turned around and saw Rolf's face outside the window near the door. Upon seeing him, she opened the door for him, though to everyone else it looked like Rolf had somehow opened it from the outside. Immediately he came trotting up to meet Kinenda. The man behind the counter sighed.
"You halflings and what peculiar animals you use to replace horses. I'm sorry, but the dog will have to stay outside."
"I knew you'd say that," Kinenda commented as she let her rucksack untie itself and rise up to her hand. With a snap of her fingers and a gesture backwards, Rolf ran out the door.
And so the man showed her to her room, raising an eyebrow when he saw Kinenda carrying the large sack all by herself (in reality, she was holding it up with her powers). Though it was a small room, to Kinenda it seemed spacious, and the bed nice and roomy. Kinenda sat on this bed for a while, munching on a bit of the food she had stolen. Then she heard a bark outside--Rolf was standind on his hind legs, his nose pressed against the window. Looking outside, Kinenda saw that it was raining all of a sudden. Fortunately, Rolf had a bit of roof to sit under, but he still felt kind of lonely outside. Kinenda gave him a piece of cheese, hoping that would make him feel a bit better.
A while later, Kinenda was in the lobby of the inn, enjoying a glass of wine before bed, listening to the thunder outside. While doing so, she caught snippets of a conversation going on in the next table over. Something about Dalmasca and his crusade, and the mystery as to why he was so obsessed with it. Kinenda had heard about how formidable and selfish Dalmasca was, but she never heard of him going on a crusade. What for? Why so soon? Something seemed ominous about all this--the lady in the next table made it sound as if something dangerous was about to happen.
[i]Hmm, I wonder if someone is threatening to attack the village or something,[/i] Kinenda thought. [i]If that's what it is, I suppose I should be on my guard. Therefore I probably shouldn't stay up too late tonight.[/i]
Indeed she didn't. It wasn't long before Kinenda was back in her room, huddled under the covers after a nice warm bath. As she drifted off to sleep, the main thing on her mind was Rolf. Why did that pesky dog have to come anyway? Oh well, Kinenda thought, if anything he was a bit of company--she just hoped he wouldn't get himself killed if this village really was in danger.[/color]