Chapter 14

Nadie awoke to voices and, for the moment, had forgotten where she was. She shifted until her back was flat on the bed and she was looking at the ceiling. Hearing herself clear her throat she lifted herself up and rummaged through her pack for a pouch of premixed paste. She rolled a small ball from the larger portion and chewed it until her teeth felt clean. Nadie stretched every which way as she gargled with a powdered mix dissolved in water; after she was finished she discarded it in the chamber pot.

She emerged to find Farmon and Torsten starting a heated argument, but once they saw her they quieted. 

“I don’t wish to disturb anything,” she began but was quickly cut off.

“We didn’t wake you, did we?” Farmon raised a brow.

Nadie nodded, “Not at all.” She responded half convincingly. They really hadn’t woken her, she was only curious about what had sparked their argument. Before they could fuss over her she plopped herself down on a stump and placed her folded hands on the table. They gave each other serious glances in response to her intense stare.

Torsten loudly sighed, “We were just discussing the construction of Kid’s brace…”

Farmon interjected, “Materials, more specifically…” They both trailed off, hesitating to continue.

Nadie’s voice broke the growing silence, “What materials do you need?”

Farmon’s face flushed red, “Torsten is insistent on these here,” he violently tapped a list in the middle of the table, “But I think these would offer more movability.” 

“Think, ‘Mon, these are far more durable and could be modified.”

Farmon pointed to some of the materials, “Do you know how long it would take to get these? And even if we had them they are very tricky to work with.”

Nadie cleared her throat, “If the issue is obtaining materials, then let that not be considered a problem. Hand me the list.”

Farmon sighed in defeat and he slid the list over for her to read. She nodded until she reached the end, her eyebrow went up. “You have an interesting array. I assume some of these are for water and heat resistance?”

Both of them nodded, and Torsten chimed in, “I was very thoughtful in what parts I’d make from each material.”

Farmon spoke up, “The issue is that we are a mountain village and there is no where to get some of these, which is why I created an alternative list that would work…maybe not as well, but.”

Torsten stomped his foot, “No, it has to be these!”

Completely ignoring the two men’s rising voices, Nadie calmly asked, “Is it the ceadeus and tsukami parts you are worried about?”

Farmon nodded, “Those parts are especially hard to come by.”

Nadie placed the list back on the table, “Torsten, can you salvage the proper materials from weapons that used them?”

Torsten thought for a moment, “I’d need to see the weapon, but yes it’s possible.” 

“The only materials I lack from this list are akantor and daora,” she shook her head, “Akantor don’t reside in this volcano and I traded in my daora parts the last time I was here.”

Torsten smiled, “I still have the daora parts, so that leaves akantor…”

“I’ll bring what I have in my cart, you decide what you can use.” Nadie stood to collect her boots and coat and left them to talk among themselves. 

She breathed in the sharp, frigid air and watched her breath as it disappeared. The storm had passed and the below-freezing chill aside, it was a beautiful day. Both carts had taken damage in the storm and Farmon’s had toppled over spilling its contents in the snow. She pulled the cart right side up, checking for anything broken, but it had merely tipped in the high winds. Quickly she placed all his scattered belongings back on the cart and did her best to tuck the tarp under the heaviest parcels. Her cart was too heavy to topple. She carefully removed the ropes that kept her tarp in place and rummaged through fabric-covered weapons. Peeking through some holes here and there she removed a few and left the rest. She placed five weapons aside and hitched a large pack of ores and another pack of carves to her back and waist. After making sure they were secure, she carefully hoisted two weapons over her shoulders. ‘I’ll come back for you’ she thought as she left the other three resting against the cart.

Before she reached the threshold, Farmon opened the door and Torsten stepped out. He was ready to receive Nadie’s load, but she motioned to the weapons leaning on the cart so Torsten went to collect those instead. Nadie stomped her boots a good number of times before entering and made her way to the far wall to unload; her bags were quite weighty. Torsten followed, trying to not drag the three weapons as he walked. Excited, the two old men began to unwrap the weapons as Nadie hung her coat. Immediately Torsten set his sights on an ancient dragonwood longsword and studied it carefully; Farmon in turn studied the Ceadeed switch axe.

After hours of deliberation, going back and forth, and some experimentation both men agreed that they could salvage the materials needed from Nadie’s weapons. With her raw materials, weapon selection, and Torsten’s store, they had everything necessary, save akantor parts. Nadie felt very out of place as the two, lost in their own world, discussed the project through breakfast and lunch. There was little for her to do here and she had already decided on her course of action. It wasn’t until dinner that she made her plans known.

“I know where to obtain the remaining parts, it just might be a while to make the journey…longer than I had originally anticipated. Are the akantor parts integral in the starting process or can you begin without them?”

Torsten had already thought about how to work around it, “I can substitute some teostra and lavasioth parts for now and could still make a good portion of the brace before needing akantor parts.”

Nadie sighed in relief, “Good, then we have a plan…though I don’t know how quickly I can return.” The two men watched as her mind drifted off in thought. They glanced at each other, curious about what she was thinking about, but chose not to press the matter.

Farmon tried reassuring her, “It might be a week before we could even start making the brace since we need to extract the materials from the weapons. So you wouldn’t be holding us up…if that is what you are worried about.”

Nadie nodded, “No, it isn’t but thank you. I’d prefer to not be gone too long from…my hunting grounds…” and I am not sure how welcomed I will be upon my return…she continued in her mind.

The two men left her to her thoughts as they mapped out the stages of preparations. It wasn’t until Farmon slept that Nadie spoke. “Torsten, in the spring I traded something I didn’t think I’d need anymore but was wondering if you might still have it.”

Torsten sat up a bit straighter, “What might that be?”

She didn’t raise her eyes from the spot on the floor she had them rested on, “an ungus.” She paused briefly, “crudely made with red embroidery…slightly singed.”

“Ah yes,” he nodded “Aye still have that item.” As he tried to remember where he put it he added, “Don’t get too much demand for ungus these days…might I ask why you need it now?”

Still staring at the same dark floor she said only one word, “Amnokno…”.

Torsten felt ashamed after she responded, served him right for asking such a personal question. He couldn’t help but be nosey, after all a living legend was sitting at his table. He sighed as he continued to scour his boxes, “I’m sorry I should know better than to ask such a personal question.”

She smirked to herself but let it quickly fall from her face, “I have become quite the hermit in the past twenty years…I have journeyed long and far…a few times I thought I was done for…” How unlike her to feel introspective with someone who was more or less a stranger to her. “The longer I linger on the past decade the more I feel as though I’ve been…hibernating. It’s not until very recently I feel as though I’ve been able to move forward…emotionally…mentally. It is only fitting that this long-standing pilgrimage brings me to amnokno. I wasn’t ready for it until now, but it is something I need to do.”

Torsten had stopped to silently listen to Nadie as she spoke her thoughts. Amnokno was an ancient wyverian tradition adopted by hunters around the world for generations. Simply put, amnokno was a journey between two people, for a single night their two paths became one. It was deeply symbolic and was meant as a way to create unity by ‘wandering until one’. Traditionally amnokno was initiated by presenting an ungus to another person and was so sacred it was always understood that what happened during amnokno stayed there. With the new dawn what was spoken or done would disappear with the night. Hunters used it for many purposes, but most commonly it served to settle dissension with party members. It provided a time and a place to say their piece and settle rifts and nothing said during could ever be used against the other, as it was supposed to be forgotten. 

Nadie had experienced many amnokno in the past, but the journey she now sought would be different, it would be a journey of self-healing. Before she grew too emotional in her thoughts she shook her head to snap herself free. 

“I’ll find it, don’t you worry none,” Torsten reassured her.

“Thank you.” She stood quietly, “I leave at daybreak…” her words trailed off but she stood, unmoved as she cleared her throat. “Will you need to use the entire dragonwood longsword?”

Torsten was taken aback and had to think for a moment, “No, why?”

“It seems as though I will need a few pieces of it for my journey. Five rectangles about four by six by six should do. I can do with four pieces if five is too many.”

He looked at the sword, “it’s not too much, I’ll have it all prepared for you by tomorrow morning.”

She hadn’t meant for him to do the work, but he insisted and shooed her away so she could get sleep for her journey. 

She closed the bedroom door behind her and rested on the cot. Instead of lying down Nadie let herself sit in the darkness as she ashamedly re-lived an angry moment from her youth. Her hand rested over her forehead as though pained by the memory. Will I be welcomed? She closed her eyes and lay down, hoping she could at least sleep while there was a roof over her head.

Nadie sulked near a fallen tree with her back turned towards Adira, who was whittling a soft piece of wood. She could hear Adira’s knife cutting away, but was too forlorn to take much interest. The sounds of carving stopped and Nadie buried her head in her arms knowing Adira would begin to ask questions.

“Why are you sighing so much? You’ve been really irritable lately…” She plopped herself down right beside Nadie, right on queue.

Nadie shrugged but said nothing.

“Is it because you might be sent away to that reform place?”

Nadie shook her head and with a muffled voice uttered, “No…I don’t care where they send me…”

She could feel Adira shift her position, “Then what?”

Nadie lifted her head exposing her reddened wet face, she was trying to hold in her frustration but failed, “I hate my name!” She breathed out sharply, “I hate hearing it, I hate that it was given to me, I hate that…” she calmed down after her initial outburst, the act of finally voicing her feelings was enough to soothe herself. “I hate my name…do you know what it means?”

Adira shook her head.

“It means ‘nobody’. ‘Nobody’….as though I’m not even worth living…who would name someone that?” She buried her head in her arms again and could feel Adira’s arm press against hers.

“My…my name means ‘strong’…and I’m not…strong.”

Nadie lifted her head again just in time to see sadness wash over Adira’s face. She had never even considered Adira might have concerns about her own name. “You are strong.” Almost forgetting about her worries she turned her body towards Adira, “You are. You lost your parents and ended up in this tar pit and you make the best of it. You smile…and not a fake smile, a real smile, like….” she didn’t really have the words to describe Adira’s smile so she looked around for something to compare it to until her hands felt rays of warmth, “It’s like the sun…warm, bright, mmmm really big…” She scratched at her cheek trying to think of something else, “…beautiful. You are really strong, maybe not with muscles, but you are.” Her shoulders sagged, she wasn’t very good with words.

Adira started giggling, “Thank you…” They both looked to the sky, “What if you pronounce your name differently?”

Nadie squinted her eyes and furrowed her brow, “What do you mean?”

If it’s pronounced differently then….that in itself might give it a different meaning? Instead of Nah-dee-eh, how about NAYE-dee?”

“NAYE-dee….” Nadie said it out loud a few times, “I like it! What does it mean?”

Adira half smiled and shrugged, “I don’t know….”

Nadie smiled too, “I’m ok with that.”

Adira’s face contorted, “Though if you ever have to write your name then people will know.”

“I’ll just never write it down. And when I’m a hunter I can choose my own name…it’ll be an amazing name that means…something incredible. I’ll be a somebody…” 

She felt like herself again, thanks to her ‘sun’. “What are you making?”

Adira looked at her wood, “Oh! I’m making a felyne figure, I’ve always wanted a felyne companion.”

Nadie watched as she started carving again.

“Do you know how to whittle?”

Her face contorted, “O-of course.”

Adira shook her head and smiled, “Look, I’ll show you.”

Nadie opened her eyes to darkness and sighed. Naye-dee, Nah-dee-eh, it hadn’t mattered to her in so long. In her heart, she made peace with her name already. A name that, in so severely rejecting, spurred her to prove her worth in life but in the end became an identity she readily adopted. “Nah-dee-eh,” she uttered aloud. There was no animosity anymore. “My name…” She had used the pronunciation of ‘Naye-dee’ for so long she hadn’t considered ever using its original form. Even Nomad had always known her as ‘Naye-dee’, although he eventually learned the story and its meaning. 

Careful to not make a noise, she began her morning routine and once finished, packed her pouch. The rest of her supplies were organized into a different bag. Quietly she opened the door a crack to see if someone was awake, she preferred to slip out unnoticed. Nadie made her way to the table to find a neatly wrapped lump with an ungus laying on top of it. 

Nadie took the ungus and studied it in the dim light, it was as she had remembered. Torsten coughed in the corner and turned over, seeing Nadie by the table. Making sure to not disturb Farmon he got up and approached her.

“So you’re off?”

Nadie nodded, “Yes, thank you for finding this.”

He smiled and shrugged, “It’s the least I could do…it means alot that you are looking after Kid. He’s not mine, but sometimes I can’t help but think he is.

Nadie smiled, though she turned her face away from him, “Families are not always born from blood, some are made.” 

He nodded his head, “So true…oh, by the way, I made some meals for your journey. It’s not much.” He held out a platter with wrapped portions of various foods. “Got some cured meats in some…I didn’t think to label any so they’ll be mystery meals.”

She smiled again, Nadie could not help but imagine this was what it might feel like to have a father. She looked Torsten in the eyes and thanked him, still smiling. 

Quickly she donned her coat and boots and double-checked to make sure she had everything for her journey. Once satisfied Torsten opened the door for her and she once again stepped out into the frigid cold. Nadie waved to him and made her way to her cart, putting what she didn’t need in and taking a single weapon out. The sky was slowly starting to glow, sunrise would soon arrive. Nadie checked her compass and began walking; Torsten’s place was at the edge of town and it wasn’t long before she had walked far enough for the forest to have swallowed it. As she reached a smaller peak she stood motionless to wait for the sun to break past the horizon.

She watched as the sky grew brighter and brighter until the sun peaked. She smiled as it came into full view and the sky transformed in front of her. Nadie closed her eyes and let the rays warm her face, “Amnokno for the dead…I mocked the thought…look at me now, Adira.” 

As Nadie gauged the steep cliffs’ decline she experienced a fleeting moment of hesitation and was surprised to feel her heart skip. She smirked as she let her hand rest over her heart to settle herself.  ‘It’s been a while’ she thought as she placed a visor over her eyes. Removing a smooth sled from her back she clicked her boot into place and after taking a few deep breaths, launched herself down the cliffside. Nervously she weaved around rocks and trees, a little off balance from years of neglected practice, but after a few close calls, she began to rely on muscle memory. Quickly Nadie regained form and took control as she sped down the hill. With each obstacle avoided Nadie gradually trusted her body until she was able to dodge everything in her way without giving it much thought, allowing herself to enjoy the rush. As she zigged and zagged she felt as though she was fourteen again; fearless and full of life. 

Quickly her mind snapped out of that momentary carefreeness as she felt the ground underneath her tremble. Then she heard a distinct thunderous roar. Knowing what was behind her, Nadie pulled her arms tight and lowered her stance to keep some distance between her and the tigrex bounding after her. It would catch up at some point, but she studied her surroundings, deciding where she’d make her stand. She could feel the tigrex getting closer, but she still had time to scout an opportunistic landmark. 

The terrain zoomed by her, but she patiently waited and as the Tigrex was nipping at her heels, she found what she was hoping for. Swerving off to the side she aimed for a sharp incline, launching her into the air. Just as expected, the Tigrex followed, eager to make a meal of her. Wasting no time she freed her boots from the sled and grabbed the hilt of her weapon. As she fell downward the tigrex’s momentum made him an easy mark. She laughed, ‘just like old times’. 

The tigrex’s mouth opened wide, but before he could reach her, Nadie used the broad side of her switch axe to shift her direction. Hitting the tigrex in the face, she created an opening to mount the beast. Grabbing onto the ear hole and throwing her weapon to the ground, she unsheathed her hunter knife and stabbed vital areas. The Tigrex violently twisted and turned, doing everything in its power to jostle her to the ground. To no avail, the mighty creature tumbled to the ground, and Nadie effortlessly jumped to her weapon, which had stuck upright in the snow.

With a single motion, she freed her switch axe from the ground and started an onslaught of attacks; each swing leading into the next and finished with a massive explosion from the elemental build up. The tigrex was thrown from one side to the other. Enraged it let out a deafening roar and bound towards her full force. 

“Predictable…” She said to no one. Dodging at the last minute she waited for it to come at her again and when it did she ran up a rock and launched herself on the Tigrex again. After the second mount, the tigrex had had enough and quickly left the area as suddenly as it had come.  

Kid sat at the bed’s edge burning a call sign into his mind and doing some simple leg stretches. He was so used to his exercise regimen that it took little thought to accomplish them, which allowed him to use his mind for more interesting efforts. As he was about to turn the page a crash and hiss jarred him from concentration. He looked up in time to see Nomad waving a broom to Thunderclap and Mugen trying to keep Nomad at a safe distance.

Hisssss, move along you oversized static furball!” Thunderclap had gotten too curious about Nomad’s hut and stuck his head inside, breaking glass and knocking things over. “Git! GIT!” Pushing on the zinogre furiously with the broom Nomad moved in, past Mugen. Thunderclap was about to bury his head in something but was on alert as Kid slowly approached on his crutch. The zinogre simply stared at Kid, who had stopped in his tracks, and after a few moments, he snorted and meandered away from camp. 

“Good riddance!!” Nomad huffed, tail frizzed and fur puffed up.  Kid tried not to laugh, but in his attempt to keep quiet he gave himself away. “And I’ll wallop you too if you ever poke yer head where it don’t belong!” 

Kid nodded, trying to straighten out his smile. The mess wasn’t so bad, but before Kid could even attempt to help Nomad shooed him away. 

“Scat, this isn’t for you to do.” He looked to Mugen who started picking up all the items still intact. Nomad surveyed the damage and sighed, “Well that’ll teach me.” 

“Whaddahyah mean?” 

“I reckon he was going after some godbugs I was preserving, sniffed ‘em right out!” He put the broom head to the ground and started sweeping. I guess it’s true what they say, ‘when the hunter’s away, the companion will play’.”

Kid smirked and looked to where Thunderclap disappeared, “He didn’t attack though.”

Nomad stopped and rested his head on the broomstick, “Aye, yer right about that, could have been much worse.”

Still looking in the same direction, he smiled. That was the closest he’d come to Thunderclap; he didn’t even growl.

Nadie pulled herself erect after spending too much time hunched over. In the scuffle her bag’s clasp came loose, scattering some items around the area. “Rookie mistake” she scolded herself as she quickly checked her inventory. She sighed to the heavens, ‘just a bit of lost time, nothing to get frazzled about.’ Looking to the sky and then the landscape she gained her bearings and continued down the mountain.

She once traveled a different path that led to the same destination she currently sought. At the time she was still very much a child, hot-headed and lost. The secret Wyverian village allowed her entrance once, but she wondered how she would be received after…

Clenching her fists she cursed her past self’s foolish actions. “Adira, I am making amends in many ways.” It was becoming less strange to hear herself talk aloud. It almost made her feel as though she was being heard. “In my desperation, I did a foolish deed…they would have every right to deny my request.” She nodded her head as if to convince herself, “but I must try to set things right.”

Torsten and Farmon laughed together as they worked at disassembling weapons to salvage the parts needed. Two old codgers who suited each other in their oddities. Mostly reminiscing on old adventures, their perspectives were as biased as ever.

“No, no, no, that’s not how it happened at all. The Gigginox was facing me!”

“You have holes in your brain? It was clearly facing me! I know ‘cause I got the brunt of its spew.”

“It spews at both ends! Your side laid an egg sack, case in point, I got the head!”

The two ended the debate in laughter; just like old times. A full day passed as quickly as it had started and they proudly beheld their pile of usable materials. 

Farmon got up slowly and lightly stretched his back, “A few more days like this and it’ll be time for us to start, I hope you haven’t lost yer edge.” He taunted Torsten, who continued their jovial banter.

“I hope you can keep up, I’m as sharp as they come.”

Even though they were outwardly the same as they had always been, Torsten tried hard to keep from expressing a gnawing sadness. This would be the last time he and his friend would do anything together. It would be their last adventure.

Farmon, sensing a lingering tension, decided to face the facts. “You know, I’ve lived a long life filled with, well a bit of everything. Adventure, love, success, failure…friendship. If there is an afterlife, I think our partnership would be the only thing I’d miss.”

Torsten sighed, trying to look busy, but listened closely. 

“I’m sorry I left, broke up the business…the good times we had. I try to think why did I leave…and can’t come up with a good reason. I guess it was a lot of little things that built up and you were so stubborn.” He chuckled under his breath. “I lived a good life, but looking back, I would have preferred a life together.”

“Don’t, don’t torture yourself with ‘ifs’ of the past. You did what you thought was right.” He couldn’t think of anything to say, even though he wanted to say everything. “It would have been grand to have never gone separate ways, ‘Mon. We were always at our best together.”

Farmon smiled, “That we were, ‘Ten.”

They both stopped what they were doing to look at each other. They were old-fashioned men who didn’t let their emotions get the better of them, and with their word having been heard they simply smiled and nodded to one another. 

Night fell as Nadie set up camp. Still on the mountain, the weather was getting warmer. With another day’s fast travel she would reach the swamplands that surrounded this side of the mountain’s edge. After traveling through the swamp she’d have to go through the dead forest into an ancient forest, and from there, cross the sea. 

After eating her meal she took a piece of dragonwood and crudely sketched a scene from memory. It looked better in her head, but she continued until it was mostly similar. In the fire’s light she began whittling, thinking both of the lost item she was trying to replicate and Adira’s proficiency at woodworking. A soft smile slowly grew on her face and without realizing she began humming a familiar tune. ‘I can never replace what I stole…but I must try to make amends…even if there is no forgiveness to be found.’

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