Wild Wander | Maia
Maia was back in Goldfair again, after a week in Chrysanthos spent first delivering a message for a farmer seeking to defer payment on one of his fields due to an unfortunate flooding incident in the spring, then several days waiting on a reply. With her message delivered, she found herself looking again at the bulletin board in her favorite village, looking at the requests that various pouflons had published. From her perch on Maia's head, Taika pawed at one of the papers pinned to the board as it flapped in the wind, and Maia shook her head fondly at the ichigato as she fell, mewling in protest, only to be caught by the pouflon and resettled on Maia's back. "Stay there, you little rascal."
A familiar script caught her eye, and Maia found herself reading Amaryllis's request for more wanderberries. "If interested, see Amaryllis," Maia said quietly to herself as she read the final line. Gathering herself, she smiled and turned away, heading towards Amaryllis's cottage. It was always a pleasure talking to Amaryllis, even if the pippets were somewhat rambunctious. She only hoped that Amaryllis was awake, or she would have to come back later.
Her first knock went unanswered, but when she knocked a second time, she heard Amaryllis's sleepy voice call out. "Just a minute...I just got up...oh dear, please don't do that." The latter was said in a quieter voice, and when Amaryllis managed to open the door, the reason was obvious; a pitagon had a large wooden spoon in its mouth and was running around the cottage, avoiding Amaryllis with the grace and dexterity of a creature that is highly unwilling to give up its prize. Amaryllis herself was panting a little, apparently having chased the pitagon around before coming to the door. "...Hullo..." she managed, giving herself a bit of a shake. "Maia, wasn't it? What...what did you need?"
"I was actually going to ask what kind of wanderberries you needed," Maia answered with a smile. "Redwick, or Snowhurst? Or both?"
"Ah!" Amaryllis perked up. "Yes, yes! I uh...both would be great...if it isn't too much trouble...?"
Maia paused. "How soon do you need them? I could go to Snowhurst first and get those to you, and then head to Redwick for more," she suggested brightly.
"Oh, would you really?" Amaryllis looked absolutely ecstatic. "Are you sure? It's...a lot of traveling..." she added as she thought about it.
Maia laughed. "It's no problem, as long as you don't need them by tomorrow or something."
Amaryllis insisted on feeding Maia lunch before she left, as partial thanks, and then she spent an hour playing with the pippets and letting Taika have some quality time with other ichigatos. By the time she returned to her room at the inn, it was too late to start; she would have to set out tomorrow. At least it gave her time to get supplies; it wasn't dark out yet, so she visited some local shops and a nearby farm to get supplies for her Snowhurst expedition. She also made sure to pack her bags, since she wanted to leave as early as possible in the morning.
She didn't have much luck in Snowhurst, if she was being honest with herself. It was early summer, which meant that the deciduous trees of Snowhurst (those that existed, at any rate) were in full foliage, and the wanderroots blended in well with the rest of the evergreen forest. The easiest way to identify a wanderroot, unless you managed to catch one moving, was to find the berries first, since they were bright and easily visible if you got close enough. It was getting close enough without scaring off the wanderroot below that was the problem.
With no one to help, Maia found herself more often than not losing the fleeing wanderroot and only picking up fallen berries, which weren't of the quality that she wanted to bring back to Amaryllis. Defeated, she set up camp for the night in a small cave, lighting a small to keep herself warm and settling down to sleep after banking it, to ensure that it wouldn't burn out of control.
She had better luck the next day, although her results were still far from bountiful. She found several wanderroot resting together, and managed to snag several berries before the wanderroot noticed her presence and fled. This was the pattern for the better part of the next week, when she finally felt she had enough wanderberries for Amaryllis. Making her way back to Goldfair, she dropped off her bounty and took two days to rest before striking out for Redwick. It would take her a few days to get there, but there was no use in arriving tired out, not when she was tracking wanderroot!
As she approached the northern forest, Maia recalled that Raal lived nearby, and wondered if he might be interested in helping her out. Surely with two pouflons, the hunt for wanderroot would be much easier. Veering from her planned route, she sought out his small town, and landed in the square in the early morning, yawning mightily due to her early rising time. After looking around for a moment, she recalled the way to his rooms in the barracks.
Raal opened the door with an easy grin. "Maia! Good to see you! What have you been up to?" He stepped aside to let her in. Being a knight in training, his rooms were rather spartan and utilitarian, but it was comfortable enough, and he always had so many books on hand that it almost reminded Maia of Opal's tower, the difference being that he didn't have a whole library for himself.
Maia accepted a cup of mint tea and blew on it gently before taking a sip. "I've come from Goldfair looking for wanderberries. Do you know Amaryllis?"
He snorted. "Who doesn't? Wanderroot shouldn't be that hard to find, not at this time of year. How many do you need?"
"A lot," Maia sighed wistfully. Redwick wanderroot were in season, so to speak, which meant that Amaryllis was hoping for more wanderberries this time than her Snowhurst jaunt. "I was hoping you could come and help. With two of us, it'll be a lot easier."
Raal was quick to agree, particularly when Maia said that next time she was here, she would bring him more books next time she came through Redfair. They set out later that afternoon, armed with a cushioned pouch for the berries and some afternoon snacks.
"There!" Raal whispered, crouching low to the ground. Maia mimicked him, tucking her wings away for easier movement in the dense forest. "A pretty big one, too! I'll distract it while you get the berries. Ready?"
Their plan, however well intentioned, did not work very well in practice, given that even Raal's large frame didn't prove to be a sufficient distraction for the wanderroot. It noticed Maia picking berries immediately, and took off running, trailing dirt in its wake, while Raal pelted after it, Maia in hot pursuit. Eventually, they managed to chase it down, and Raal held it down while Maia carefully harvested some berries. She was careful not to take all of them, but she couldn't help but feel guilty as the wanderroot squinted at her. When Raal let it go, it raced off, and they didn't follow.
"Well, that was fun," Raal commented, and Maia shook her head. "Ready for another one?"
Maia laughed. Raal was always up for a challenge. Without answering, she bounded off into the woods in the opposite direction the wanderroot had taken. Raal snorted and followed, catching up quickly with his longer legs. When they found signs of another wanderroot, they spread out, coming at it from two sides. Like the first one, it uprooted itself and ran, but it was bigger and therefore slower than the other wanderroot, and Raal had no trouble catching it.
They continued in this same manner for about two hours before stopping for a snack. There were perhaps two hours left before sunset, and they were both rather worn out after chasing down a young wanderroot, which had been surprisingly sprightly. Normally they would have left it alone, since young wanderroot tended to have smaller berries, but this one was slightly older, and had decently sized wanderberries.
"Do you think you have enough wanderberries?" Raal asked as he chewed on a piece of licorice.
Maia hummed, opening the pouch to check. "I think so," she said, seeing that the pouch was nearly full. "This should help Amaryllis for a while. Besides, if we havest too many wanderberries there won't be any for the other mages."
Raal didn't have much time for many of the mages he'd met, since they didn't have much time for him. Asterfall mages were the worst, always thinking that because he was a country pouflon, and a knight-in-training, that he wasn't intelligent enough to understand them. He'd met some good mages, to be sure - Maia was nominally a mage, although she was still in training too, like him, and she was as nice as anylon could be. Still, he knew that she was right. Part of being a knight was making sure that every pouflon was treated fairly, and he knew that mages and their potions were also very important. Just because some mages were rude didn't mean they all were, just like some of the knights he'd met weren't really deserving of the title. "You can always come back if she needs more, right? Or she could ask someone else, if you're not there." Maia's frequent travels meant that in all likelihood that the next time Amaryllis needed wanderberries, Maia wouldn't be in Goldfair.
Maia nodded in agreement. "They're the best when they're fresh, anyway. Dried ones aren't as potent," she pointed out, although Raal knew little of how, exactly, potion ingredients worked. He'd found that she tended to assume that everylon was interested and knowledgeable about the same subjects as she was, which was nice sometimes, because she didn't talk down to anylon, but it was also sometimes a little frustrating, because she didn't always know how far to backtrack. She always hated it when she assumed she needed to start from the very basics, and it turned out she was wrong. Maia had been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior too often, and she knew that it was disheartening. Still, her heart was in the right place, and if it wasn't very important, Raal found it better to just let her talk. It was interesting trivia, if nothing else.
Stretching, they finished their snacks and packed up, making sure to leave nothing behind ("A good knight leaves no trace of their presence," Raal said, something he'd heard very often in his training). They'd strayed far into the forest, so it was some time before it was clear enough for them to sprout their wings and take flight, seeking out Raal's town. Maia would stay at the guesthouse for a couple nights before heading back, and she'd offered to take any messages and packages destined for Goldfair for a lower cost than the regular post, so she was waiting on those as well.
"Thanks for your help," Maia said again as he left her at the door of the guesthouse. "I really appreciate it!"
"Anytime," Raal said easily. "Don't forget my book next time you're in Redfair!" he added with a wink.
"I won't," she assured him with a grin. "Goodnight!"
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