As Catriona watched the fox chieftain, his wife, and their daughter sharing a family moment, the anger, anger that had caused her heart to beat against her breast like the pounding of drums, had stilled. Instead, she felt a tumble of emotions that had no name, at least none that she could grasp. She could only know them by their effects--her chest ached, and her head ached, and indeed everything about her ached, the scene overlaid with a vision of her own father, stern and unyielding, a god among men, a king.
I wonder how it would feel like...to be hugged by him--no. She cut that thought off at the quick. Such foolish flights of fancy were what led to scoldings by the very father she was thinking of. He had no tolerance for useless sentiments from her, and rightly so. No, it would behoove her better to put her mind to the mystery that was unfolding around her. They still hadn't received any answers from Rufus, and now that he was better, it was an opportune time for it. Look, even Penelope has a better grasp on the situation than you, she scolded herself as her sister asked the fox what exactly had happened to him.
The fox chieftain frowned, and there, the lord saw a ghost of the man she'd seen before, the one overtaken by rage. "I have no more of an idea of this than you do," he replied, voice clipped.
Meanwhile, Alois had approached Catriona for a question, "so like, I know got distracted with all the bandit slaying and civil war stopping but you don't think that the frogs and foxes know anything about...you know, what we were doing before here?"
The princess shook her head. "Perhaps..." and then turned to the others to speak. "Forgive me for interrupting, but," she paused here, her suspicion warring with her desire for answers, before the latter eventually won. "Do any of you know of the possible whereabouts of the Great Dragon?"
Urvan blinked. "I only know what I have heard, that the Great Dragon lies north of the Pelinna region."
Rufus shifted on his bed. "I only know of the tales. That the Great Dragon helped to found Histia, and fought against the goddess. Powerful beyond imagining, dwarfed only by the goddess Herself."
Catriona felt her heart sink. North of the Pelinna region...that description still left great tracts of land to explore.
The Frog Sage hummed, tapping his cane against the floor. "Ahh, yes, the Great Dragon. I was but a wee tadpole at the time, but I still remember bits and pieces." He smiled. "I visited Ithome once when they were in attendance. A great being they were, with wings so long that they could stop the sun from shining on a full city block." He sobered then. "However, I know no more of their location than you all do. Only that they are said to have retreated into the wilderness when the ways of men became too much for them."
"Thank you," Catriona said, wondering if the Frog Sage were really that old. If so, then he must have seen the Twelve Crusaders as well. She itched to ask about Augustus, but held her tongue. This was not the time nor the place for this. It was at that moment that she noticed Link's presence. She couldn't say how long he'd been there, but the man was more ghost than flesh sometimes, so she could be reasonably pardoned for her inattention.
Only then did she notice the pup at his feet. By the way Gamboge, Persimmon, and Licorice twitched, it was obvious that they had noted the creature's presence as well. It looked remarkably like the wolf pup that had led them to the fox village--ah. "Is that yours?" she asked.
Meanwhile, the leaders once more discussed the possibility of an alliance between all three groups, which Rufus approved. He also approved of the idea of having the hedgehogs take part as well. "They are brave," he said, "Not to mention, they also dislike the bandits and I have no doubt that they would fight alongside us. However, they are stubborn, so I am not entirely sure how willing they would be to compromise."
"I am sure they would see the sense of it," the Frog Sage assured, before frowning. "One last thing. Answer me this, and we shall leave you be. Can you swear that you have no knowledge of who may have murdered Cyrus? Glenn and Shiro both claim that it was a white fox."
Anger caused the fox's eyes to flash gold. "I swear by the spirits," he snapped, and then calmed. "That by my knowledge, it was not one of ours." Though Catriona could see no significance in his words, the Frog Sage did, if his reaction was anything to go by.
His face became grave, and his wrinkled brow furrowed further. "I see..." he muttered, before waving a hand, "Then we shall leave you." He left with the other frogs, pausing as he reached the blue frog eating...pizza. Leonardo must have spread his insanity some more. "Shiro," he said. "When you are able, join me outside with Glenn."
Urvan took that opportunity to leave as well. "It was good seeing you again, Chief Rufus," he said, before departing with the patrol, nodding at Tsetseg to follow them outside.
The only ones remaining in the room were Catriona, Penelope, Alois, Link, Sienna, and possibly Edrick, Ciela, and Gunther, as well as Rufus and his wife. The other foxes had left to resume their duties, Gamboge and Persimmon as guards and Licorice as Rufus's second-in-command, though Gamboge stopped once to beg a slice of pizza off of Gunther.
Catriona tensed, remembering her days back on the border, when, right before a battle, she would do naught but polish her sword, staring at her reflection on the surface. Back then, it had been a plain iron sword, its handle banded in leather and the blade chipped from chopping into plate armor. The air felt now as it did then, and as the weight of it grew heavier, her face grew colder.
And then Rufus spoke. His eyes had lost much of their softness, in fact, they looked urgent, helpless, and somewhat wild. "I must..." he took a deep breath. "I must warn you. I was not entirely honest earlier, but for good reason. This is a fox matter, but I have done you a great wrong, and you deserve to know if you are to head north." He took a deep breath. "I was there, the night that Inari's Beads were stolen."
It was the dead of night, and Rufus was awake.
He couldn't quite explain what woke him, only that he had an urge to visit the shrine. He had heard tell of headaches that plagued the other two tribes of the forest. Bandit attacks had increased, and he just felt...restless. Yes, that was the word. Restless.
Bypassing the trial, he entered the shrine through a hidden door that took him directly to the altar room. There, he prayed before the beads. "Inari, grant us your protection," he whispered.
"How foolish," a voice crooned, and he stiffened, turning to look behind him.
"I remember no more," he explained. "But what I do remember leads me to suspect..." he turned to Sienna, face grave. "There may be another fox out there," he continued. "One more powerful than any other I have met before. I do not know why they would have stolen the beads, but in the wrong hands, those beads can cause great damage. They are never to be used for the sake of a single fox, but for the entire tribe. That is what Inari taught us."
He looked at the others. "There will be danger, and I ask you to protect Sienna if it comes. She is young yet for a Protean, and still has much to see of the world. Yet, see it she must, if she is to grow." He turned back to his daughter. "Much as I want you to stay here, I would ask that you continue with these people. They are strong enough that I can trust you with them. However," he smiled wistfully. "Obviously, as a father, I would rather you remain here. So, if you truly wish to stay, then I will not say no."
The Frog Sage walked into the forest far enough until he was sure they would not be listened in on. However, he had not gotten where he was by being careless. "Aka, secure the perimeter," he ordered, before looking at the blue Protean in front of him, Glenn at his side. "Shiro," he said gravely. "I have a task for you that I cannot lay on any other. Glenn cannot go. There are people after his life, and I would protect him closer to home. However, you..." he stared at the blue-haired man. "You have already befriended some of the group, have battled alongside them. And you have more knowledge of the outside world than most."
He tapped his cane on the ground. "I will be blunt--I do not trust these foxes. Trickery has ever been their tool, and while Rufus is honest by a fox's standard, he is still a fox, and he is surrounded by ones more wily than he. The quest that the Galtean princesses are undertaking is a prudent one. I have sensed the stirrings of darkness in the forest, and had wondered if it came from fox magic, but if Catriona is to be believed, then there is another reason for it, and if so, we have need of the Great Dragon now more than ever."
The Frog Sage stroked his beard. "While I am too old to help them much, you are not." He nodded at Shiro. "Go with the princesses, help them, and above all, watch the fox. If I am right, Rufus will send his daughter or another fox with them. He will say that it is to see the world, but I do not trust his reasons. For this reason, I ask you to go with them."
He paused, eyes softening. "However, this is not an order. Shiro, you are one of my most trusted frogs, and you have been away for a long time. If you choose to stay, then I will not stop you."
Urvan returned to outside the village, where the bandits were being watched by a mixture of patrol members, foxes, and frogs. "Tsetseg," he said, finally, when they had reached a private area. "You have been with the patrol for...how long now? Long enough, anyway." He sighed. "While I have no younger siblings of my own, I always thought," he coughed in embarrassment. "Well, needless to say, we have all grown quite fond of you."
"Cop out," Hange muttered.
"Shush," Erwin elbowed her in the side.
"However, you have always been a wanderer, and I have noticed you growing restless as of late. While the Patrol is always on the move, we cover the same territory, and I know your feet must have started to itch by now." He chuckled. "Not literally, of course." The smile slipped from his face as he continued. "The princesses are on a noble journey, and I cannot in good conscience let them go any further without aid. So," he took a breath and crouched down so he stood at eye level with the bow thief. "If it's fine with you, then I'd like for you to go with them. You have already traveled alongside them when you got kidnapped before." His eyes glazed over with guilt. "You are not the only one I am thinking of sending, however. I have a feeling that this journey might just be the breath of fresh air that Adel needs. So if you wish to stay, then the Patrol would not turn you away."
OOC: Okay, the moment of truth! For three RPers, it's decision time!
Wind Rider, Saiku, and Skaia, it's time to decide if you want to keep going forward with your characters in the RP. If you are finding yourselves dissatisfied with your characters or the RP in any way, now is your chance to drop or change your character. Post with your decision, and skype me for any additional details.
For all others, post with your reactions and stuff.