Perpetual War: Chapter Four – Competition

A friendly competition between comrades. This is the final night before Natalia’s first mission as a gamayun. The final night before she sets forth on her fight for survival at a chance to see her home that is terribly far away.

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Perpetual War:

Chapter Four – Competition

In these trying times where the magical realm is difficult to grasp, only the strongest and fittest have been given the gifts to access that plane of existence. In the magical trinkets that each esper carries is a gift from their respective nation. Derdainia was the first to structure itself in this new world order, focusing their attention on a select few individuals instead of spreading their limited supply of artifacts among the masses. This system has been refined further through the three main divisions of espers that stand within the ranks of Derdainia. The Domovoy who bring their intellect, the Vukodlak with their strength, and the Gamayun with their precision. There are other units that support these main three, but the true gem is within those that stay close to their Father. The Besomar, a class of espers that even few Derdainians know exist. And at the heart of the Besomar is the Azhdaya.

-Ondel Huvez of House Zelterion, Espers of Coronam

The shadows of a pair of fish swimming through the river went on for a ways before they vanished from view. The clean, clear water of the river flowed with a gentle serenity that filled the clearing with peace. A white owl hooted from its perch high up in the trees. Fireflies dotted the air as they buzzed around searching for food in the growing darkness. The final rays of sunlight were quickly being replaced by the first moon’s silvery rays that pierced the gaps between the thick clouds.

The bed of grass she lay in by the river’s edge felt cool to the touch. Natalia felt her stomach grumble in hunger which caused her to frown. She reached for the nearby pack for another ration bar and came up empty. “Great…” She sighed and rolled back over to rest up against Revu who was curled up. “We both ate all the food I had. I suppose we should go back to the camp for an actual meal.” Her eyes looked to the stars past the branches and clouds. Time seems to have gone by so fast…

She reached a hand into her pocket where the envelope with the mission details still sat. “So, me and Orsolya alone on the Union side.” She mumbled and began to brush Revu’s feathers. “It’s a shame that we have to split up to support different lacespauts before we can go off on our own.” She snuggled up closer to Revu. And I have to face the trenches for the first time alone.

“Don’t you think you’ve been out here long enough?”

Natalia looked up to see Orsolya standing on an incline leading down to the riverside. A pack was slung over her shoulder and her free hand was on her bony hip. “Halcyon Gojsa!” Natalia exclaimed and shot to her feet with a fist over her right breast.

“I thought I told you to call me Orsolya.” Orsolya waved her hand, “Now then, why are you out here anyways?”

“Well it really is nice out here.” She lowered her hand, still unsure what to do in the presence of the older woman. “It’s quiet and peaceful.” She mumbled.

“I can see that.” Orsolya made her way down the dirt path towards the bed of grass. Night flowers bloomed on the edge; their dark blue petals seemed to glisten with every passing ray of silver moonlight that made its way past the thick branches. She stopped a few feet away from the huddled form of Natalia. A nervous smile crossed her lips at the golden glare of Revu. “You’ve been out here for so long, I figured you might have gotten hungry.” Orsolya lowered herself to the grass with cross legs, the pack set before her.

“You brought food?” Natalia replied, squeezing her stomach as it tried to grumble in protest. The smell of soup tickled at her nose.

Revu inched her head closer to Orsolya, eying the pack with curiosity.

“Yes, plenty to eat, so you’ll have the energy needed to beat Vakhno.” Orsolya loosened the string at the top of the pack. “It’s starting to get late and we still need to travel out to the meeting spot.” She emptied the contents of the pack onto the grass. “Now sit up and eat, else it’ll get cold.”

Natalia felt her mouth water at smell of the soup coming from the pair of canisters set out on the grass. “Wow, you brought so much!”

Orsolya nodded her head. “Of course. I can’t have our newest gamayun starving on the job.”

Natalia began to step forward before pausing. She gently bowed her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? For what?”

She looked back at Revu who still sat in the same spot looking on with curiosity, “I’m sorry for lashing out at you. Not everyone understands my bond with Revu and it’s wrong for me to expect them too. It’s just, finding out she wouldn’t be with me this next mission…”

“There’s no need to apologize, I see now the close relationship you both have. I’m honestly envious of you two. I’ve seen others make bonds with all sorts of other animals. All I got was bitten by a dog I was trying to pet.” Orsolya settled down on the ground.

“Well it was still wrong of me to act out, as you are my superior.”

She brushed her black hair back and met Natalia’s light blue eyes. “We’re both gamayun and esper. I’d say we’re equal enough.” A smile crossed her lips, “Now are you going to sit down and eat or continue yapping on about the past?”

“Yes!” Natalia eagerly sat down opposite of Orsolya. She began to reach for the cannister laid out for her before she heard a low chirp.

Revu pushed her large beak into Natalia’s lap. A purr emitted from deep within her throat at the gentle scratching across the top of her head.

“You should know there are disadvantages for having a bond like this.”

“What’s that?”

“They’re always hungry and will get in your way until you feed them.”

Orsolya noticed Revu’s golden eye staring at the food between the two of them. “I can see that.”

“However, I can’t imagine a life without her.” She ran a finger along the top of Revu’s beak down towards the sharp tip. “And now after my test, I hate the thought of leaving her behind.”

Orsolya nodded in understanding, “She’ll be safer here though. And you’ll have me by your side. Between the two of us we’ll come back in one piece.”

“What about the trenches?”

She shifted slightly until her legs were crossed. “It’ll be hard, but you have an entire lacespaut to depend on for help.”

“I suppose that’s better than nothing.” Natalia gently squeezed Revu, “Did you by chance bring her food?”

“As a matter of fact, I did.” She reached to the side of the pack for a pouch and offered it to Natalia. “I didn’t know exactly what she ate, so I got whatever the handler suggested. I hope she likes it.”

Taking the pouch, Natalia glanced inside and saw black worms. “Yes, she’ll like them a lot! Thank you.”

Revu lifted her head slightly with a click of her beak. Rising up a bit more she caught sight of the pouch.

“I’m not hand feeding you, now go eat.” Natalia placed the pouch to the side. She sat back up with a sigh of relief at having the weight of Revu’s large head gone.

Revu took short steps to get closer to the pouch and descended upon it, eagerly sticking her thick tongue towards the worms.

Natalia caught sight of the disgusted look that crossed Orsolya’s face. “You look ridiculous!” She began to laugh.

“It’s… it’s,” Orsolya turned slightly to try to avoid looking at the volferd. “Never mind! Let’s just eat already.” Orsolya took hold of one of the cannisters and handed it off to Natalia.

Natalia took it and the offered spoon. Unscrewing the top, she looked at the red liquid with different chunks of meat and vegetables floating within. “The meat seems bigger than normal. Did a supply caravan arrive while I was out here?”

“It sure did and some fresh biscuits to go along with it.” Orsolya said, handing a pair of biscuits to Natalia. She brought the other cannister close to her, unscrewing the top before eagerly plunging her spoon into the soup.

Eating the first spoonful, Natalia hummed in delight. “Wow, this tastes great. I can’t thank you enough, Orsolya.”

“I’m glad you’re liking it so much.” Orsolya smiled, dunking a biscuit into her soup.

With a smile, Natalia took another spoonful. I never want this moment to end.

The reticle of the scope was aligned over the target. The night breeze came softly to Natalia’s ears, the light of the crescent moon penetrated through the scattered clouds. She slowed her breathing, and time seemed to freeze. Her finger rested over the trigger. The wooden frame of the rifle against her shoulder was a reassuring comfort. She squeezed the trigger slowly; the metal piece moved toward its position. The trigger clicked into place; the explosion of the bullet’s release from the barrel punctuated the quiet night air.

“Excellent shot! Looks like a bullseye,” Vakhno exclaimed.

Removing the empty shell from the rifle’s chamber, Natalia pushed the bolt back into place and peered through the scope to see four holes near the center of the wooden target in the distance. A fifth hole was squared in the center of the target, a splintered crack going up to the top. She felt a crease in her lips. Moving the scope to the left she glanced over the other two targets and felt her smile diminish. Did I lose?

“I wonder if she beat your score, Vakhno,” Orsolya said.

“Hmm, I think she might have! She really is a skilled shooter!” Vakhno chuckled.

Natalia rolled onto her side and looked up at the two gamayuns. Vakhno with binoculars in hand while Orsolya stood to the side with crossed arms. “You two do like to talk a lot. Do you know that?”

“Just keeping the night lively,” Vakhno said.

“And too busy complimenting your opponent,” Orsolya retorted.

“Well, it’s true!” Vakhno laughed. “I heard Natalia was a good shot from Kadir, but it’s a lot more impressive then I imagined it’d be.” He offered his hand to Natalia.

Taking Vakhno’s hand, Natalia rose up to her feet and shifted her rifle over her shoulder. “It isn’t that big of a deal.

“Isn’t that big of a deal?” His smile brightened in the dim light. “The speed you fired those shots and to get them all centered is incredible!”

“See? Too many compliments, you two are supposed to be competing,” Orsolya said.

“You’re just upset that I’m not talking about your shooting.” Vakhno waved his hand and began to walk out towards the targets. “Let’s see the score, shall we?”

“What’s there to talk about?” Orsolya asked, following behind. “I already won.”

Natalia paused before following them. She looked back to see Revu sitting curled up on the ground nearby, watching with a curious golden eye. “Stay there, girl,” she commanded. Turning she went after the other two, trailing behind them at a slower pace. She unhooked the canteen from her belt, licking her dry lips. The other two’s conversation became muted as she took a long gulp of the cool water within the canteen. I wonder what Kadir and Baranfel see in their poison. What does it taste like?

“Did you hear that Natalia?”

“Huh?” Natalia stopped and looked up to see a smile on Orsolya’s face.

“That liar admitted to having lost to me last time!”

“Uh, sure?” Natalia looked past Orsolya to see the targets far closer now, Vakhno speeding up his steps to get closer to them. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand before sealing the canteen closed and hooking it back onto her belt.

Orsolya sighed, “You weren’t listening at all. That just figures.”

“Sorry.” Natalia replied, walking past her.  She could just barely make out the five holes dotting its surface. Excitement and nervousness welled up in her as she looked to the other two targets, trying to see if she had done better. The crunching of the dead grass beneath her grew louder as she sped up. The crisp, cool air forgotten to her. The gentle breeze of distant clicking and fluttering of insects became just a buzz at the back of her mind.

Vakhno stood before the three targets with hands on his hips. “Not a bad night for some friendly shooting. It’s cool, and the first moon is giving plenty of light.” Vakhno inhaled before letting out a deep breath. “It’s nice that the clouds lightened up a bit to give a view of the stars.”

“Yea,” Natalia replied absentmindedly, her fingers becoming preoccupied by her glove’s strap which had gotten loose. She looked from target to target, squinting to see each hole in the dark wood by the glint of the silvery moonlight.

“Well, what’s the verdict, Vakhno?” Orsolya asked, coming up last behind them.

“I think it’s quite obvious.” Vakhno replied, stepping toward Orsolya’s target, the center one.

“It is obvious, but I want to hear it from you, my dear.”

A shifting cloud gave a better view of the target as Natalia took a couple steps forward. She frowned at the sight of three of the five holes sitting within the center bullseye of Orsolya’s target.

Vakhno chuckled, “Of course.” He stepped over to his target on the left, fingers tracing the bullet holes. “That you won, but I think we all knew that would be the conclusion, you are the Halcyon here.”

“You say that now, but by tomorrow I know you’ll be talking all sorts of things.” Orsolya crossed her arms.

“Someone’s got to keep on challenging you, else how will you ever surpass the old man?” Vakhno marched over to Natalia’s target. He ran a hand along the top of the target, his finger pausing along a crack in the wood. “Wow, was this here before?”

“It wasn’t.” Natalia squeezed her hands together as she stepped to the side to get a better view of Vakhno’s target. He’s more centered then me, I’m sure of it. I lost!

“A tie!” Vakhno ran a finger around the bullseye in the target.

“Really?” Natalia turned in surprise.

“How interesting,” Orsolya smiled.

“Yea, I would have won as my five shots are more centered and you have two outside the middle ring. But you did get a bullseye, unlike me.” Vakhno shrugged as he turned around. “Guess we got to go another round just the two of us to see who gets second place.”

“I feel like speed should count, as I did fire faster than you.” Natalia pointed out.

“A fair point, but that’s not part of this game,” Orsolya mused.

Natalia shot Orsolya a scornful look before turning away with crossed arms.

“Well, I must concede to that point.” He bowed slightly. “I do, however, insist to another round for good sportsmanship.”

“Alright, fine, another round.” Natalia replied, walking over to her target to rip the wooden plank off the post and pick up a fresh one stacked nearby. I actually almost won; I can do this. At least beat him! She nailed the scrap wood to the post and burrowed an offered black marker from Orsolya. She drew a makeshift circle with two more circles within its shape, before creating a small dot in the center. Handing the marker back, she turned and started heading back.

“I think it’s a bit hotter all of a sudden.” Orsolya kept pace with Natalia, trying to meet the girl’s eyes with her own smile.

“Hotter?” Natalia looked over to Orsolya’s keen eyes.

“Oh, you know, the sudden heat of competition.” Orsolya grinned. “I enjoy watching it, especially between two gamayuns. It’s been six months, when Vakhno joined…” She slowed slightly in her step as she thought for a moment before catching up. “I believe it was Stervok who challenged Vakhno.”

“Who won?”

“Me, of course!” Vakhno laughed, having caught up to the two of them.

“I feel like it wasn’t you who won,” Orsolya replied.

“Not a very confident answer, sounds like you don’t remember.” Vakhno grinned.

“No, actually I think I’m starting to remember. Something about you getting punched for bad mouthing his mother.” Orsolya returned the grin, “I assume after you lost to Stervok.”

Vakhno shrugged and strode forward to take position besides the pile of sandbags. “Details, details. We should change the subject to something more important.”

“Oh, and what would you like to discuss?” Orsolya asked, stepping to the other side of the small shooting ditch.

Natalia stopped between the two of them, “You two really do talk a lot.”

“I was thinking we should discuss our missions.”

“I thought we couldn’t talk about them?” Natalia asked.

“You’d be right. Vakhno is just a nosy fool.” Orsolya replied and waved her hand to the ditch, “Now, how about you go first, Vakhno. Else we’ll be out here all night.”

“Nosy makes it sound bad,” Vakhno began to climb down into the ditch, pulling his rifle from his shoulder before handing off his binoculars to Orsolya. “I like to think of it as being inquisitive, sounds far more positive.”

“Big word for a fool,” Orsolya muttered with a shake of her head.

“Natalia, you said speed should count, well we can for this round.” Vakhno laid on his side to reach into a pocket for a stopwatch. Tossing it to Natalia, he turned back to his rifle. Lying against the wall of the ditch, he brought the scope to his eye. “Shoot fast and true.”

“Sounds good to me.” Natalia fists tightened. Can’t lose to him here.

Vakhno shifted in his position and took a deep breath, calming his senses. “Ready with the clock, Natalia?”


Orsolya raised the binoculars up to her eyes. “Will we get a bullseye this time Vakhno?”

“I believe so,” Vakhno smiled and pulled the trigger, the sound punctuating the air.

Natalia pressed the button and looked to Orsolya to see a smile on her lips.

“And there we go. Four more to go,” stated Orsolya.

Laughing, Vakhno pulled the lever back to release the empty shell. “We can’t talk about the details in our envelopes, but what about the part before?” He pushed the bolt into place, lined the reticle, and pulled the trigger again.

“The trenches?” Natalia asked, “I’m curious about that too.”

“Well, Orsolya, know anything we don’t?” Vakhno released the second shell, locked the next into the chamber, and fired.

“What more do you want?” Orsolya watched Vakhno release the third shell into the air. “We’re going to support some lacespauts with our talents.”

Fourth round in the chamber, Vakhno lined up the shot and fired, quickly releasing the shell, “Yes, but is there a goal in mind? Or we’re just standing around?”

“Hopefully it is just standing around.” Natalia murmured. She watched Vakhno align the fifth shot. Her hand drifted to her braid draped over her shoulder. She clicked the stopwatch at the release of the final shot.

“What’s my time?” Vakhno replied, turning to his side to look up at Natalia.

“Twenty-eight seconds.”

“With twenty-five points.” Orsolya replied, lowering the binoculars to look over to Natalia. “Four shots were centered with one being a bullseye, but the fifth didn’t make it into the center ring. Still a much better score then the last round. I hope you’re ready Natalia.”

Vakhno let forth a whistle and climbed out of the ditch to step to the side. “Apparently last round was just a warmup for me. You nervous at all for next time, Orsolya? Just behind by six points.”

“You’re getting closer, but we’ll see if it stays consistent for next time.” Orsolya replied.

Natalia handed the stopwatch off to Vakhno and climbed into the ditch, taking the rifle from her shoulder. Focus on the target. She laid out and positioned her rifle on the sandbags.

“Well, what’s the goal, Orsolya?” Vakhno asked.

“I honestly don’t know much, just that there are reports of Yenvark planning to start a fall offensive before the worse of the winter solstice shows up.”

“A fall offensive, not really a surprise. But, why send us?”

“It’s so we can help defend until a squad of vukodlak show up.” Orsolya raised the binoculars up. “Fire away, Natalia. Let’s see you take second place.”

Her eyes were closed as she extended her reach to the distant target. A warmth grew through her arms down to her fingertips and into the rifle itself. Focus on the target. Energy surging from her heart, she opened her eyes.

A strong pulse took grip of her senses as her senses awakened further. Her vision became clearer as a tint of red filled the corners of her vision. The air itself seemed to become still, every sense on overdrive. She squeezed the trigger and felt the release of the bullet cause a recoil in the rifle. Muscles strained in her arms as she kept the rifle almost perfectly still, the bolt handle already getting pulled back by her hand as the bullet hit the target. The first shell was flung into the air and reached the dirt as the second round was fired. She squinted her eyes, forcing herself through the pain of her racing heart. The third shot was fired to release the shell before the second even touched the ground. Each bullet releasing faster than the last until she abruptly came to a halt on the fifth with a satisfied smile. The adrenaline in her body vanished in an instant as exhaustion took hold of her. “Score?” she mumbled unable to keep her head up, slumping forward to rest against a sandbag.

“Zero if you ask me, for cheating.”

“No cheat.” She rubbed at her sweat covered face. “Did I cheat, Revu?”


Vakhno looked over at the volferd’s head poking up from the huddle of feathers. “What?”

“See, I didn’t cheat!” Natalia laughed and turned her head to meet Vakhno’s eyes, a look of confusion visible on his face. “I just used my talents available to me. She yawned, closing her eyes. “Though I might have gone a little overboard.”

“It’s still cheating! This was meant to be a friendly competition.”

Orsolya laughed, slapping Vakhno’s back. “You’re just upset ‘cause she beat you!” She handed him the binoculars, “Just see for yourself.”

Vakhno brushed her hand off, “Yea maybe a tad.” He stated. “But that’s fine, I’ll just remember friendly games can include any dirty trick.” He looked through the binoculars. “She got twenty-seven points with one being a bullseye.” Lowering the binoculars, he walked over to Natalia to offer his hand.

“Time?” Natalia asked in an exhausted tone, looking up to see his hand. She took it with a whimsical smile.

“Nine seconds,” He returned the smile, lifting her up to her feet and supporting her around her shoulders. “However, based on your exhaustion, if this was a real battlefield, you’d be helpless to defend yourself. So, I think that deserves a penalty, right?”

“Well,” Natalia ran a hand over her forehead and closed her eyes to try to regain her composure. “I guess you’re right about that.”

“Then a tie once more. Seems fair right, Orsolya?”

Orsolya laughed in reply, “A tie, seems fair to me.”

“A tie!” Natalia felt her knees give out as she began to drag Vakhno down. “Give me another chance, I’ll show you a tie,” she growled, before a dizzy spell hit her. “Just give me a second to catch my breath.”

“How much blood did you use?” Vakhno asked, trying to support her dead weight.

“No,” Orsolya sighed. “It’s not just the amount she used, but the range.” Orsolya stepped forward to take hold of Natalia’s other arm “You reached out to focus on the target, didn’t you, Natalia?”

“I did,” she replied.

“That’s over four hundred meters! Are you insane, Natalia?” Vakhno asked.

“Just trying to win.” Natalia stepped out of the trench with the help of Vakhno and Orsolya. “You can let go of me.” Natalia pulled from both of their grips and found the nearest patch of grass to promptly lie down on.

Vakhno stood over her, “You’re going to sleep here? Why don’t you let us carry you back to your tent?”

“I just need a few minutes to rest,” Natalia replied with eyes closed.

Orsolya settled down a few feet away with cross legs. “Don’t worry about her, Vakhno. I think the fresh air will help her more than some stuffy tent.”

“This is not how I expected the night to go.” Vakhno looked to the cloudy sky, the moon visible in its brilliant silver glow.

“I had fun,” Natalia said.

Vakhno looked down, admiring her form lying peacefully in the grass. “It’s been interesting. What do you think, Orsolya? Will we be returning here in one piece to do it all again?”

She ran a hand through her hair, coming up with a gray stand that she twisted between her fingers. “This operation is no different than any others in the past. We get it done and we’ll be back in no time.”

Natalia gently rubbed her chest at a flood of emotions. But it’s my first.

“I wish I could say more to you, Vakhno. I am quite in the dark as to why we’re needed in the trenches. All that Kadir told me is we’re to head in and provide help until vukodlaks show up. Then we’re to set off on our mission.”

“Do you know which vukodlak squads?” Vakhno asked.

Orsolya released the strand of hair into the light breeze. “No, I shouldn’t even be telling you that they are showing up at all. You know how important it is to keep esper movements a secret.”

Vakhno simply nodded his head in understanding. “What about Ishtal, Stervok, and Lovkin? I tried talking to Kadir after the briefing, but he brushed me off.”

Orsolya shook her head. “They’re out there still alive, it’s all we can hope for.”

He nodded in understanding, “I’m going to head off and get some sleep. I wish you two great fortune in Father’s light.” Vakhno set off back towards the encampment in the distance, hands stuffed into his coat pockets.

“The same fortune to you as well, Vakhno!” Orsolya called out. With a sigh she turned her attention back to Natalia.

“What are the trenches like?” Natalia asked.

“A place of horror and death,” Orsolya replied before lying back in a bed of grass. “There is nothing positive about them.”

Natalia opened her eyes to the stars shining brightly behind the thin veil of clouds. “That’s what I was afraid of.” She lifted her head to look over to Revu who still sat huddled, patiently. “Revu, come here!” she called.

Revu let forth a high-pitched chirp before stomping over with swift talons, throwing dirt behind her. Stopping before Natalia, Revu offered her head to the girl’s hand.

“How long will it be before I see her?” Natalia asked, gently running her hand along Revu’s beak and down to her neck.

Revu closed her eyes and purred in delight at Natalia’s touch.

“It’ll be weeks. It’s all dependent on how fast we find our target. Do you remember the details?”

Natalia moved herself to get closer to Revu. Curling close to the volferd, she basked in the warmth of the black feathers. “You know, I’ve looked over the letter so many times and yet I just can’t remember it. It’s like my head is filled with too much to take it all in yet.”

“That’s how I was for my first mission, I thought for sure the anxiety would kill me.” Orsolya rose up into a sitting position once more. “You’ll get past that eventually and thankfully you’ll have me by your side once we set out past the trenches.”

“The Glodan Plains, right?”

“Yes, we’re to move far past Yenvark lines and attempt to sneak into their main encampment where it is believed that the head observer, Maxwell Lépurc resides. We’re to assassinate him.”

“It sounds so easy when you say it.” Natalia replied. She sat up to lie against Revu’s side. Her hands still weaving through feathers to scratch Revu. The volferd moved her head to place it in Natalia’s lap.

Orsolya smiled, “It does sound easy. Unfortunately, it won’t be.” She brushed her hair back after a breeze passed by. “The Glodan plains are vast, and we only have an estimate on the Union’s main camp’s location. The plains themselves are called that, but the region is far more diverse then just tall grass. We’ll have to deal with treacherous terrain torn apart by the war as well as Union forces. You experienced what it’s like to be on your own during your test. This time, though, help is not coming for us. If we get wounded, we must deal with it together.”

“How are we even going to sneak in and kill him?”

“Once we find the main camp, we’ll have to lay low for a while and observe. As the orders details, we are to only assassinate the target if an opportunity arises. Otherwise we report back and perform any further directives given to us before returning home.”

“It’s crazy to think that this is all really happening. That we’re setting out tomorrow.” She gently touched her forehead to Revu’s. “It feels so unreal.”

Orsolya rose to her feet. Her gloved hands squeezing together. “It’ll happen quickly. Just focus on each step. Tomorrow you’re off to the trenches to help a group of soldiers. The fighting there will be much different then what you are used to. It’s fast and brutal. Don’t depend on your rifle’s scope for much of it. Make sure you survive that before you worry about the next step.”

“You’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right.” She offered her hand to Natalia. “It’s starting to get chilly, I’m going to head in. You should too, it’s important to get plenty of rest.”

Natalia shook her head, “I’m going to stay for a bit longer.”

Orsolya watched Natalia look back down to Revu. “I understand, don’t stay out too much longer.”

She listened to Orsolya go, the crunch of the dry grass becoming more distant until finally it was gone altogether. Natalia wrapped her arms around Revu’s thick feathered neck, gently squeezing. “I’m going to miss you so much.” She pressed her head close, feeling the vibrating purr of Revu. Turning her head, she caught the eye of one of Revu’s golden eyes looking back at her. “I don’t want to go. I just want to go back to the countryside and run and play like we both used to.” Tears crept at the corner of her eyes which she fruitlessly tried to wipe away. “I’m scared.”


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