Backpack? Check. Notebook? Check. Pen? Check. She was ready to start the next chapter in her noble quest.
"Everything is all here, but I'm not going to last much longer out here without a good meal!"
Vida picked her satchel off the dusty ground and tossed it over her shoulder. She rose to her feet and stared across the wild landscape. The faint sound of waves could be heard crashing in the distance.
"No one eats for free in these parts though." she muttered, preparing herself for the challenges ahead.
Without hesitation Vida set off through the unkempt grasses of Annou. The wind played through the lavender leaves of the nearby trees and carried a comforting scent through the air. As it caught her nose, Vida swiveled her head and followed the aroma's trail. Hunger welled up into a low rumble, and she looked down at her stomach sympathetically. "Soon, old friend. Soon."
As she neared the edge of a rocky cliff side, she could see her prize down below. Wild fruit bushes awaited any adventurer brave enough to scale the unforgiving descent. Vida took a deep breath and stretched her arms across her chest.
"This won't be easy, but nothing worth having comes easy."
She lowered herself down, scaling the rocks with grace and finesse. No challenge is too great, no obstacle too difficult. Vida began to relax, and in doing so, miscalculated her next step. A rock slipped, and she felt herself begin to slide. Her surprise and shock were quickly replaced with steely resolve. She flung her satchel out and caught it on a protruding rock. Her trusty bag held her weight, and she sighed in relief. After securing her footing once more Vida freed her bag and tossed it over her shoulder, quickly making her way to the ground. Her boots sank into the soft grasses and she charged over to her prize. A low rumble shook the land, causing Vida to pause. She crouched close to the ground and watched as the low rumble rattled the blades of grass around her feet. A third rumble could be felt, this time much closer than before.
"It's coming for me." she whispered as she bolted to the bushes.
Vida greedily began to shove as many of the sweet golden fruits into her bag as she could. A fourth rumble shook the very fruits from the branches, and she slammed her bag shut. She could not yet see her pursuer, but she felt her time running out. Her eyes scanned the horizon and fixed upon a thorny thicket in the distance. Before she had time to think her feet were already carrying her towards it. As the distance closed Vida could see the brambles were razor sharp. Any hesitation she may have had faded as another rumble shook the ground below, disrupting her balance. Her brow furrowed and she accepted what had to happen. "Any port in a storm." she growled, covering her face with her arms and bracing for impact.
A booming voice roared through the air, filling all who heard it with fear. "What could you be up to with such a full bag, little one?"
Vida covered her eyes as a tendril wrapped around her ankle. She was dragged from the safety of the thicket where she slumped into a pile upon the hardwood floor of her family's living room.
"Vida," her mother began, "I understand how excited you are to go out in the mornings, but you really must check in before you do so."
She groaned, "Okay mom," and pulled a corner of the thicket, a scratchy woolen blanket, over her face.
Vida's mother rolled her eyes, smiled, and scooped up the satchel. "Vida, look alive and pick up all the goldberries you have sent across the floor."
Vida reluctantly pulled the blanket from her face and rolled onto all fours in mild protest. She reached for a goldberry, gently took it in her teeth, and brought it next to another one. Her pile slowly grew.
Her mother sighed. "The longer you take here on the floor is just the longer it takes you to get outside."
Those words propelled Vida to her feet. She scooped the goldberries as quickly as she could, and threw them into her satchel. Her mother nodded, handed Vida the bag, and motioned towards the kitchen. "Let us build a meal together that's more befitting of an explorer, shall we?"
Vida nodded furiously and ran the goldberries to the kitchen. She dumped them across the counter top and they lazily rolled across it. As her mother began to chop a few vegetable stalks, Vida found the cheese cabinet and pulled out the small end of a block. She brought it over and offered it up. Her mother smiled and wrapped the chopped stalks in a waxy cloth before slicing off some cheese and wrapping it separately. After re-packing her bag with a water bottle, new lunch and including a handful of goldberries, Vida was offered her bag back. She rushed over and held her arms out expectantly. Her mother sighed.
"It is a great power that is bestowed upon you, today. Use your adventurous spirit for good, and please, if you have any love for me Vida, stay out of trouble."
Her mother concluded her plea by lowering the bag down within reach. Vida nodded and the weight of the bag upon her shoulder eased her tension. That is, until she pushed the door open. Vida stepped out onto the porch. The warmth of the sun on her skin rekindled her spark, and the breeze seemed to tug her towards adventure. She took a deep breath and ran headfirst into the wind, making her way towards Loussa Farm.
Vida was nearly to her favorite spot. She began to climb a small hill as the bellowing of several capravult inspired her on. When she reached the top she sat herself down next to her favorite tree, the one closest to Loussa farm. Vida set her bag down, threw it open, and hurriedly pulled out her packed lunch. When she had everything ready, she plunked down into the soft grass and cast her gaze over the largest farm on Annou Isle. The barn was rather large, and the Capravult had all come to the closest fence near the pasture. In the distance a farm hand was making their way alongside the building. "Oh good," Vida whispered, watching the farm hand, "I'm not too late to see Drea!"
Drea reached the fence and began to busy herself with the opening gate. Vida couldn't hear the sounds of the complicated locking mechanisms, but her anticipation built up nonetheless. After what felt like an eternity, the long bar that held the fence's door was pulled back, and the door swung forward. Around forty capravult poured out of the barn, eager to play and stretch their legs.
The bipedal beasts ranged in height a bit, from five to six feet, and stood upright on their strong hind legs. A thick tail helped them keep balance as they launched around the pen as fast as they could, kicking up a sizable dust cloud with their large hooved toes. When the dust settled a bit, they seemed more calm. Several babies had grouped together to practice leaping and racing. A couple of young capravult, nearing adolescence, had formed a bit of a circle in the middle. They lowered their heads and shook their backwards swept horns at one another. Older capravult groomed one another with their tongues and dexterous hands.
These capravult were rarely without supervision, and Drea took notice of the behavior of these budding adolescents. She put two fingers in her mouth and a sharp whistle sounded across the pen. The adult capravult froze, raised their heads, and began to keep watch. The adolescents remained transfixed on one another's horn displays. Vida curled her toes in excitement and bit into a particularly juicy goldberry.
A beast about half the size of an adult capravult lept over the pen's fence with ease. Drea let out a sharp command, and it turned on a dime to charge towards the adolescent capravult. The adults looked on nervously and kept their space as two adolescents lowered their heads, bellowed, and charged one another. Before their horns could clash, the silver blur of a creature bolted between them and let out an unearthly shriek that commanded the attention of every capravult in the pen.
The adolescents suddenly found their competition to be the furthest thing from their minds as they bolted away from the shriek. Drea let out a call, and her zoa made it's way back over the fence, it's job complete. Vida pouted in disappointment. She thought today would be the day that she got a good look at the notorious silverwings that Drea had trained to intervene with capravult politics.
Vida finished up the last bites of her lunch and packed the wrappings away. She pulled her notebook out and opened the cover. She lingered on her page of traits every great adventurer needs. Vida cleared her throat and read them aloud to herself, "Valor, Pride, Friendliness, Truthfulness, Wit, Justice, and an open mind."
She flipped to a blank page, let her imagination run, and began to sketch what she thought the mighty silverwings could look like. After a few tries, Vida tossed her notebook beside her, leaned against the trunk of the tree, and closed her eyes. She focused on what it might be like to work with some of the zoa in her sketches, and when she opened her eyes again, she noticed that the sun had teleported across the sky.
Realization about what time it now was filled her with a panic, and she quickly shoved her last remaining goldberry and notepad into her bag. In her rush she failed to notice the commotion down below at the farm and the people that had gathered near the capravult pen. "Oh no, oh no, if I'm late again I won't be able to go out tomorrow!" she whined as she threw her bag over her shoulder and made her way down the hill towards home.
"I know!" she announced, her worried expression melting away into a crafty smile, "I'll take a short cut!"
Instead of going through town, Vida would cut around the outskirts. After all, the townsfolk were so chatty, and she was far too busy a person for idle nonsense. She furrowed her brow. It would be a longer distance, but with less distraction. She turned away from the town's center and took a calculated risk. The sun began it's descent, and hints of pink and orange tinted the fluffy clouds in the sky.
It had not yet grown dark, but the shadows of trees and buildings were beginning to stretch themselves across the landscape. Time was slipping from her grasp, and this called for desperate measures. All that stood between her and home was an alleyway between a string of shops and an apartment unit. She would usually go around the string of shops but her freedom was worth risking the narrow, dark alley. Vida nodded and ducked into it. The shadows swallowed her up and she made her way through the darkness with her hands outstretched.
The walls were cold to the touch and this alleyway even seemed to have it's own special kind of cool damp air. Vida wrinkled her nose as the smell of a large composter announced itself. Something crashed right next to her and the sound thundered through the alley. She let out a surprised squeal. Vida quickly coughed to try to mask the sound, but it was too late. A shadowy figure lurched from the shadows beside her and she fell backwards. "Just passing through!" she squeaked. Her voice was strained, hardly a whisper.
The figure hunched down, and as Vida's eyes began to adjust a little bit, she noticed the form looked extremely familiar. Her eyes widened and she scrambled for her bag. "Oh no, oh no, see, look!" she coaxed, reaching her hand into her bag.
She found the goldberry and held it towards the shadow. Vida heard the sounds of several loud, deep sniffs, and her face lit up with joy. "That's right, look, just for you!"
The figure stepped away from the wall of the alley, revealing itself to be a lost baby capravult. It looked towards Vida and pressed it's soft, warm muzzle into her outstretched hand. She giggled as the creature gently took the berry. "Do you like those? I hear your kind will eat just about anything though..."
The baby munched on it's treat and Vida reached her hand towards it's muzzle. The baby shied away a little and she withdrew her hand. "You're right, I should have asked first, and you barely know me! You know what, lets be friends."
Vida adjusted her bag, and the capravult nosed at it curiously. Vida smiled and took a step. The baby closed the gap. She took another and could barely contain her excitement when it followed. The pair continued down the alley for a few steps when the baby froze. It glanced behind and let out a fearful call. Vida turned around and noticed a figure pressed close against the ground. She could barely make out the silhouette, and it's enormous lamp like eyes held her captive.
It held itself extremely still. A primal fear flooded Vida. The tension was palpable and after a moment, she realized she had been holding her breath. The spell was broken when the baby capravult let out a fearful squeal. The figure hissed and began to charge. Panic seemed to flip a switch in Vida. She dug her heels into the stone walkway and swung her bag with all the force her body could muster. It collided with the shadow's face, and the thrashing of the beast caused the bag's strap to tangle around it. The figure hissed and sputtered. Emotion surged up in Vida's chest, and tears began to well up in her eyes. "You leave my friend alone!" she bellowed.
The baby capravult bellowed in turn, lowered it's head, and charged the shadow. Though it's horns were not fully developed, the impact was enough to startle the figure. It ran off with Vida's bag wrapped around it. Vida sniffled and wiped her face across her arm. She looked towards the baby. It watched the direction the shadow had run off in for a little while, then sniffed at something on the ground. Vida made her way over and scooped up her notebook. It's pages had been banged up, and the cover was scratched. She nodded in approval as she thumbed through it.
"Now it has the look of a book that has been on real adventures!" she mumbled, a hint of satisfaction in her voice.
She hugged the notebook close to her chest and the baby capravult came over to investigate. It sniffed at her hair, at the notebook, and finally nuzzled her hands. Vida reached forward, and this time the capravult did not shy away. She stroked it's muzzle a few times and smiled. "You know? You're very, very brave. That thing was scary, and you're just a baby!"
The capravult began to nibble at the pages of her notebook. She tugged it out of reach and continued her thought, "That shows true valor!"
As her eyes locked with those of the capravult, and she grinned. "That's it, isn't it? Your name was 'Valor' all along! Well, it's a good thing we figured that out so I know what to call you."
Vida wiped her face across her arm again and nodded. "Alright then, come on Valor, we have to get home so we can beg mom to let us go on more adventures tomorrow!"
She turned on her heel, and as she came to the end of the alley, the sound of Valor's footsteps beside her filled Vida with an indescribable joy. With care not to be seen, the pair made their way back home as the sun sank behind the cliff side.