Amaranth | A Piece of the Heart [Pt. 2]
~ Part II: The Heartwood ~
A deep breath of fresh, crisp morning air filled the red mage’s lungs as she, at last, took in the sights of Firsden. It was a lovely little place, the chill of winter aside; the sun had risen quite a ways past the horizon by now, warming all who tread below just enough to avoid serious discomfort, and the streets were once again full of life as the Ursuki resumed their previously delayed celebration. The effects of such a substantial snowstorm were still quite evident, of course; upon roofs and along various roads stood valiant Bellacostians, shoveling snow out of the way of passersby and freeing various homes from the heavy burden that their foundations carried. All things considered, though, the damage was indeed quite minimal on the whole, and didn’t seem to at all impact the merriment that persisted all around. It was an incredibly welcoming and infectious atmosphere – so infectious, in fact, that the previously unsettled Amaranth couldn’t help but to feel quite in the spirit of things herself, her once average stride becoming a trot that soon outpaced the meandering Übermensch. The red mage even playfully called out to him from behind, “What? Can’t keep up with me today? That’s a first!”
Without a doubt, that lively tone of hers was music to his ears. The white lon smiled, and shook his head – swiftly making an effort to catch up and then some. A bit of ribbing was tossed in, just for funsies, “Hah! You’re going to have to go a bit faster than that to get rid of me!”
Walking speed aside, it wasn’t long before they arrived at the ancient evergreen. Were this to be any other city – particularly those crowded, noisy, labyrinthian settlements manufactured by pouflons – one would expect to become certifiably lost rather quickly without a map; however, when it came to Firsden, it really didn’t matter what pathway you took to get to the Heartwood in particular. Just about every route, every twisting path, every narrow passage and alleyway led right back to this magnificent work of mother nature’s majesty, remarkable in a variety of ways. From its age, to its tremendous size, the Heartwood was a thrilling sight to behold; Amaranth herself, being quite the botanist on her own time, was enthralled by this massive tree, which she had only before seen from miles upon miles away. The red lon’s gaze creeped from the base of its trunk to the canopy high above, still bright and viridescent, even in the deepest depths of the winter months. Upon placing a hoof against the megaflora’s rough exterior, it almost felt warm, like a creature time forgot – forever alive, and yet forever asleep…
“Wow…” she breathed, “Stunning... Truly stunning.”
That was when she saw it: something fluttering down, having peeled away from the Heartwood. Coming to rest upon the ground in plain view, this small patch of bark seemed to carry with it an incredibly peculiar essence – almost magical, in fact, if Amaranth had to categorize it. Years upon years of her life had been spent studying various enchanted items, cursed artifacts, you name it – and this practice had honed her senses when it came to detecting traces of arcane power. The tree itself, of course, was bursting with magical energy; this was a given – one to be expected, even. She could tell, even being near to it, that from within radiated a power unlike anything she had ever encountered before… However, she would not have expected such traces to cling even to the outer bark of the tree, to linger upon that which should, in theory, be dead.
Whatever the case, though, it didn’t seem to be an object with a dangerous magical energy; instead, it seemed quite the opposite. It seemed like good luck – like something she should keep. The only question was, what would she even be keeping it for? It was just a piece of bark, from what she could tell, which wouldn’t be good for much of anything outside of potions perhaps. In fact, she was about to turn to Übermensch, to tell him of this strange discovery, when she noticed the distinct, perfect little heart shape that sat at its center… and this sparked an idea – one that Über couldn’t know about, at least not yet. After a quick glance in his direction to ensure he wasn’t looking, Amaranth went ahead, stashing the Heartwood piece in her saddlebag for safekeeping. In the end, if it was truly the thought that counts, then she had a feeling she could make it into something worthy of presenting to her beloved partner, yet – and she swiftly became lost in thought regarding the possibilities...
“Well? How is it? Everything you thought it would be?”
Amaranth blinked, swiftly snapped back into reality. Apparently, Übermensch’s voice was, at present, the only sound capable of cutting through the rather raucous noise of surrounding celebration, which was otherwise effective in drowning out just about everything else of note. Upon turning her gaze back to him, that familiar, earnest smile she so adored greeted her, painting the white lon’s face in a warm glow; surely, Über had posed such a question to break the silence – one that the red lon’s mindful meanderings had generated – in the least obtrusive way possible. Now, it wasn’t as if Übermensch judged her for zoning out; Amaranth was well aware of this fact. If one were being realistic, he did that quite a bit more himself than she ever did – but, even with that being the case, she did indeed fault herself for failing to be present in the moment, in favor of simply contemplating the future. She had a terrible tendency to fixate on such things… How embarrassing!
“Ah! Yes, yes – it’s everything I thought it would be and more.” The red lon sighed, returning a sheepish smile as she nudged him, a gesture effective in brushing off any remaining awkwardness. “What do you think, huh? Was it worth coming out here?”
Übermensch nodded, without any hesitation; Amaranth’s heart promptly melted, blush dusting her cheeks just barely visible through her crimson red fur.
“Of course it was worth it, Amaranth. It’s always worth it to spend my time with you.”
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