Amaranth | A Piece of the Heart [Pt. 1]
~ Part I: After the Storm ~
With a yawn, Amaranth awoke, eyes bleary with sleep as sharp little claws kneaded her side. It took her a moment to truly recognize what this peculiar sensation was – but, the message being sent was heard loud and clear as soon as a demanding mewl broke the air. Of course it was Beowulf who roused her, eager to be fed… and, given how early it appeared to be, the sun just barely creeping over the horizon, she was certainly under the impression that it was not yet time for him to eat. Frustrating as it was, though, she couldn’t help but to smile upon this realization, if only for a moment; the lycore was a clever little thing, attempting to double dip when Übermensch had almost certainly told him no more than once before his consulting her – but, even so, he was not clever enough to fool the red lon, even at her most exhausted.
Gently shoving the needy kitten to the side, Amaranth at last mustered the strength to sit up. Her back hunched awkwardly forward; her eyes squinted as she spoke, vision blurry in the absence of her glasses, “No, Beowulf. You know it’s not time yet.” Despite protest, the lycore cub persisted, eliciting a groan from the sleepy pouflon; even in her active resistance to the nagging feline, the red lon’s tone sounded very much defeated as she repeated, “Beowulf, no. You can’t make me. Go on, now. Shoo.”
All of this effort to no avail.
It was a keen pair of ears that picked up on this struggle from a nearby hallway. Nudging the inn’s old, oaken door open with a soft creak, a white pouflon entered the room with an amused look on his face as he at last bore witness to the peculiar scene. He appeared to place something down, (Amaranth couldn’t quite be sure of what without her glasses), before speaking, “I suppose you’re awake now, hm?”
The red lon blinked whilst staring in her partner’s direction, before groping about for her missing eyeglasses and placing them quite imperfectly upon her face. They were tilted to the side just a tad, giving her a rather humorous look as she spoke, her tone somewhat confused, “Übermensch? You’ve already gone out today? It’s so early… Whatever were you out there for?”
Giving her a curious look, the white lon chuckled, “We were going to see the Heartwood, were we not?”
“Ah, yes! The Heartwood!” How could she have forgotten? Perhaps the source of her forgetfulness was all of that cider the local inn had provided the previous night… or, maybe she was merely wrapped up in a dream, the memories of which had since slipped away like the finest of sand as she came to her senses. Whatever the case, though, the red mage had been remarkably excited to see the enormous arbor ever since she and Übermensch had first approached Firsden. What a grand impression it made! She could still see the gentle giant in her mind’s eye as she clumsily rose to her feet – how its branches reached ever higher towards the vast, snowy skies; how the gentle swaying of its leaves made it almost appear as if it was waving, welcoming visitors of all sorts, from a distance…
Übermensch continued, gesturing towards the raggedy garment that Amaranth was currently wearing, “Well, I noticed that your old coat was getting quite worn–” The red lon had to agree with this point. Certainly it was comfortable, to say the least, but it was no longer effective whatsoever in repelling the elements. During their travels to this location, her knees had a tendency to knock together, and she could distinctly recall losing most all feeling in her hooves by the time they got to the inn… “–It’s the dead of winter outside. Even when the sun, it’s well beyond frigid. So, I decided to go out and grab you something just a tad warmer, just in case. Wouldn’t want to get caught off guard by another blizzard, now would we?”
Alas, much to Amaranth’s disappointment the day previous, unnaturally harsh weather conditions had taken shape throughout the long hours of the night, turning to dust their plans to witness Firsden, (and by extension, the Heartwood), in all of its illuminated glory. Howling winds and hail the size of pine nuts pelted all who dared to weather the storm, whilst the would-be guest of honor, St. Veti, was nowhere to be found. All had seemed lost, for a time, and the situation considerably dire – though, for once, Amaranth hadn’t taken it upon herself to get involved in whatever disaster was befalling the land of Bellacoste this time, as much as she may have wanted to assist. From college, to curses, to dimensional rifts literally ripping the sky in half, she'd undoubtedly dealt with enough up until this point – and, already made weak by the blistering cold, she’d opted to remain inside – sleeping through the storm while somelon else dealt with the crisis for once. It was by no means such a bad idea, either, seeing as crystal clear skies now gave way to bright beams which painted the wooden structure with a healthful glow. Such a sight brought a sigh of relief to her lips – a sort of peace derived from knowing that the world could right itself without her. It was always great to feel important of course, and always a joy to feel wanted – but to constantly have the impossible expected of oneself? Why, that was almost never all it was cracked up to be. Sometimes it felt good to be small...
...Not that she was bound to feel small for long, of course – seeing as when Über at last pulled out that new coat, (from what her eyes could now recognize as a rather stylish bag), Amaranth once again felt as if she were of the greatest importance. Lined with warm furs and stitched together by hand, it was quite clearly of high quality – though not so much so that it felt overdesigned, or gaudy, just how she liked it. The red lon almost choked up at the sight of it, slipping on the new garment with only minor difficulty after wobbling to her feet. “Oh, Über, it’s so beautiful…” Though overjoyed, her once bright and happy gaze soon drifted to the ground, as if a wave of dissatisfied thought had somehow washed over her, “I wish there was something more I could do for you. You know, with the holidays and all.”
Her burdened conscience was not long after interrupted by a gentle hoof, lifting her chin up to its proper posture. “Listen. You already do plenty enough for me.” Übermensch sighed. “Gifts are just… things. It’s not about the what, but the why. You know this.”
Exhaling, Amaranth gave a nod. Yes, she knew it. Of course she knew it. She’d had it repeated to her time and time again. But, even so, the good old ‘it’s the thought that counts’ argument wasn’t quite enough for her this year. As it were, Über’s response did indeed offer her a bit of security, but it failed to purge her mind of the thought of what a proper gift for him could be, if anything. As the couple prepared to take their leave of the inn for the day, (after feeding Beowulf, who refused beyond all reason to tag along for fear of getting his paws wet), the red lon continued to ponder, her many thoughts rolling about like marbles in her skull.
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