“Mama…” the girl sobs through red and puffy cheeks. Hot tears and mucus blaze trails down her face and intermingle under her chin. Her threadbare linen clothes provide a feeble barrier against the cruel world as she clutches her sole comfort in life, a well-made, but well-worn stuffed panda. She is a pathetic sight indeed.
Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howls, but she makes no response.
Presently, three men approach along the road. They spy the form of the crying girl directly in their path and they begin to talk among themselves.
“How much do you think we could get for that one?” the youngest of the three asks, pointing.
The eldest shakes his head. “She’s practically skin and bones, she wouldn’t be that strong.”
“But she’s young.” The third points out. “There’s plenty of time to bulk her up and get her working.”
The older man strokes his beard, thinking, though his expression says he is still hesitant.
“Hey, gil is gil, man.” The first insists. “The likes of her ain’t going to put up much of a fight anyway.”
The bearded man moves forward. “Very well, let’s do it.”
Grinning, the young blonde moves forward confidently. “What’s the matter, little girl?” he asks as gentle as he can manage.
The girl doesn’t seem to notice as her body continues to quake with fear and despair. “Mama…” she whimpers.
“We’ll help you find your mama.” The older man assures, making his approach. “I promise.” He places his hand on her shoulder.
“MA~~MA~~!” she wails to the heavens above.
The man is startled by her outburst and blinks. When his eyes reopen, the girl is gone. The only evidence of her presence is the echo of her plaintive cry.
“What the…” the third man starts.
“NOT THE MAMA!” a voice calls from behind them. It is feminine and unquestionably young, but the tone, volume and energy behind it make it sound like a war cry.
Suddenly, a black dagger buries itself in the back of the young blonde man, just missing the bow strapped there. He grunts in surprise and reaches back for the grip only to find that it has dissolved into him. His veins become visible for a moment as malevolent magicks make their way through his system.
As the men turn, another dagger strikes its mark and the archer gasps as the dark energies damage his very soul. He collapses, dead before he hits the ground.
The third man throws a weapon at what he believes to the be the perpetrator.
“You’ve got throwing axes?!” the girl cries cheerfully, skillfully side-stepping the tumbling blade. “I want a throwing axe!” All traces of her sorrow are gone.
The man responds by tossing another that buries itself in the girl’s belly.
“I have a throwing axe!” she proclaims proudly. “Trade ya!” she announces, as another knife coalesces out of the aether at her fingertips. With a casual flick of her wrist, the solidified magic shoots forward with unparalleled speed to strike the man in the shoulder.
By this time, the older man has drawn his sword and is charging. The girl simply shrugs and suddenly, a pair of black, feathery wings appear between her shoulder blades. With a single flap, she is borne aloft and the sword cuts nothing but air.
“Come down here, coward!” he hollers up at her.
“I don’t wanna!” she calls back childishly as she nimbly dodges another axe. She returns the favor, but the axe man evades as well. The next one, however, she manages to catch. “Thanks! Now catch this!”
The idea implanted in his head, the man deftly stops the dark knife with only the fingers of a single hand. It matters not, however, and the magic seeps into him anyway. His eyes roll back in his head and he soon joins his companion on the gravel.
“You’re a monster!” the older man shouts, confident that his armor will protect him as he plans his retreat.
“May~be~ I a~m~!” a sing-song voice comes from behind him as the sizable blade of a sable scythe appears at his throat. “Bu~t” she coos “you’re dead.” With that, she draws the blade towards herself. It does not sever flesh and bone, rather it passes through as one might expect of a ghost. However, it leaves behind an unhealthy dose of profane force. Performing a pirouette in air, the girl smoothly turns the downward pull into an upward strike. This drives the toe of her weapon through her opponent, impaling him up to the heel. As his life fades, she releases the grips and allows him to fall. The weapon slowly returns to the aether that spawned it.
The girl hovers in place for a moment to admire her handy work. A manic grin covers her face and she is about to laugh when suddenly, she grunts and grimaces instead. “Owwie!” she whines, removing the axe from her gut. “Charon!” She calls. “Owie!” she points to the wound.
“Miss Anita.” A decidedly masculine, though quite monotone voice responds from a roadside tree. “Request: Return. Regret: cannot heal at range.”
“I know, I know, I know.” The girl says before appearing among the branches, beside the sentient scythe.
Meanwhile, the image she left behind continues to hover above the road. It duplicates the axe in its hands twice and begins to juggle idly before eventually fading from existence.
“Inquiry: No success?” Charon intones as it casts mending magicks on the wounds of its charge.
Anita shakes her head. “You heard them, they wanted to sell me.”
“Confirmation: Indeed. Statement: Third attempt today. Precaution: Must find before…”
“I know, I know, I know.” She interrupts.
“…” the scythe pauses for a moment. “Warning: Last heal.” It lets her know its reserves are depleted for a while.
The girl sighs. “Alright. I won’t fight again today.” She stares off into the distance for a moment before sighing again. “I suppose I should probably clean up a bit, shouldn’t I?” she looks down at the bodies below.
Anita drifts down to the road and grabs one of the dead men. She quickly teleports with it to a small, natural depression not too far away. She blinks back to retrieve the next, then repeats for the third. Once they are all out of obvious sight from the road, she searches them for anything of use. She finds a few daggers among their possessions, but they are common and boring, so she shoves them unceremoniously into her sack instead of adding them to her prized collection. There’s enough gil to get her a few decent meals in the next town and some rations, but nothing else catches her eye.
Eventually, she heads back to the tree to gather Charon and the rest of her belongings. A ways away from the road, she remembers coming across a small lake. The water is cold and she complains the entire time, but it serves well to get the blood out of her clothes. There is little she can do about the damage to the garment, but perhaps she can get it repaired in town. If not, at least she has her beloved clerical vestments.
The trees are thicker here, so she picks one and settles high in its branches. The jerky she took from the thugs is delicious and she eats her fill happily. Finally, she gathers her wings around her and curls into a ball at the base of a thick branch. She is asleep in moments.