Querencia

Adreal: a shapeshifting, half adopted, talented, pirate, who gets into minor trouble more often than she should. However despite her mischievous and pranker side, she is loyal and a natural leader at heart. She gets a new job looking after and training a new cabin boy who she slightly dislikes, but deals with him nevertheless. The world, well worlds, she lives in are various planets throughout the galaxy where aliens, humanoids, and hybrids are an everyday sight. PS: The title, Querencia is a spanish word that means ‘a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn' or ‘A place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs.’”

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5. Walk

POV: Seth C

We strayed from the path eventually. Adreal said she knew the forest well. 

"I see you got a new sword," I noticed.

"Yeah, Dante made it. It's good," she returned.

"Can I see the whole thing?" 

"Sure," she unsheathed it to reveal, to my surprise, a black blade.

"Wow, that's cool."

"Yes, it is," she replied, "It's carbon steel, so very light and strong. And you? I see you've found some new toys," she nodded to the pistols holstered on my belt.

"Yeah, plasma pulse pistols," I noted.

"Yeah, I can see that." Silence followed for a bit.

"Adreal?" I inquired.

"Hmm?" 

"Do you remember anything else? From before?" 

"No, no, I'm sorry," she looked down, "What was I like? Before everything happened, I mean," she hesitated, "What were we like?" 

I chuckled, "You were about the same, personality-wise: stubborn and brave, but you couldn't change form quite yet. Us? We did what we had to to stay alive, but we were a team, a pretty damn good one at that too," I smiled at the memories that flooded my mind, "We were...close. Really close," my smile faded, knowing she didn't remember. We came to a spot where a large tree had fallen over a small waterfall. Adreal proceeded to walk across it then sat down in the middle. I followed in pursuit.

"How close?" She asked, "Friends? More than friends? What?"

"Definitely more than friends," I smiled again and a corner of her mouth turned up, but quickly disappeared.

"I wish I remembered," she said softly and looked down at her hands. They were still wrapped in tape and the blood had mostly dried. That would be painful to take off, "How did, no, how do you feel about me now?" she glanced up back at me.

"Well, I, uh..."

"C'mon, spit it out," she smirked, but it was gone too soon and turned back to a solemn face.

"I kinda...sorta...maybe...well, I actually do... like you way more than I originally planned," I sputtered out. Her expression remained the same, and she bit her bottom lip.

"I was afraid you'd say that," she stated, "I'm sorry I don't remember."

"It's not your fault," I reassured.

"I know," she pulled a knife from her belt and began carving something into the tree's bark. I watched the scratches evolve into a tree of it's own. A tree with no leaves, only branches, and a circle surrounding about three quarters of the way around it. In the open space, the branches were made into birds. Eventually she leaned back to lay on her back looking at the sky, or what she could see of it through the treetops. 

"It's beautiful," I admired the carving.

"Thanks," she continued gazing up. She was beautiful. Her green eyes and reddish hair glinted off and on in the ever-changing sun beams being bent by the moving leaves. She sat up and pointed to the sky. A black hawk encircled us.

"That's Akos. We better be getting back soon," Adreal changed into a hawk herself and flew up to, I guess, tell Akos that we'd be heading back. She came back, transformed into her previous self, and began tearing off the tape from her bloodied knuckles. I felt look of worry cross my face as she winced in a bit of pain. She ripped off the tape along with the dried blood still clinging to her skin.

"Stop, stop your hurting yourself, A,"

"It's fine."

"No, it's not. Cut that out," I was only part elf. I had no actual power to help the pain. She just rolled her eyes, "Why don't you just turn into a mage and just heal yourself?" I inquired.

"I don't know. I guess it gives me a sense of mortality," she replied and I laughed through my nose.

"I still don't understand how your mind works."

"My mind is a terrifying place. You'd lose your mind trying to understand mine," her face remained emotionless as she ripped the last bit of tape off. "Alright let's go. Akos said we're all meeting at the bar in a bit to discuss the '"future travel,"' she stated. 

We walked off the tree trunk and onto solid ground. A put two fingers to her lips and let out a long, low, whistle.

"What are you doing?" 

"Watch," was her only reply. After about ten seconds two huge elk emerged from the woods surrounding us.  Well I assumed they were a type of elk. Besides their antler tips, which sparked with glowing embers, fire-like glowing eyes, and horns on their faces, they were mostly like elk. One began to lead the other and A walked towards them. As they met, the leading one extended its neck and nuzzled A's arm. She smiled softly and pulled an apple from her bag, sliced it in half with a knife, and fed each a half. Then she climbed on the leader's back, "C'mon, what are you waiting for?"

"I, uh, nothing," I walked up to the other one and did as Adreal had. I've done some crazy things in my life, but fire-elk riding was definitely a first for me. 

Thankfully I made it out alive and at the edge of the forest, we dismounted, and before departing, the one Adreal was riding bent its front knee, bowed, and let out a low call. A frowned, "Arre mor," she replied softly- it means thank you in our native tongue. The language is one thing that has stuck with her for all this time; it drifts in and out of her speech. The elk departed.

The rest of the way back to the hotel was silent.

*POV: Adreal*

After changing into a black tank and gray cargo shorts, I strapped on my sword, a few knives, and the left shoulder guard. I headed downstairs and to the 'lobby.'

"Leaving again, A? You're hardly back," Keva was sitting at  the front desk typing away at a projected computer. She whisked a piece of her short cherry-red hair away from her face.

"Yeah, meeting at the bar," I replied, "How's work been?"

"Boring," she smirked. "Damn!" I saw she wasn't typing, but playing a game, of course. I shook my head and began to leave. "See ya!" she called after me. 

I turned my head back and waved bye. Walking out, I crossed paths with a dark elf who looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows and smiled. Taking no particular note of him, I turned right and went around the back of the building towards the bar. I rounded the corner, out of sight. Immediately I was blocked by an arm in front of my face. The elf stood in my path. Dressed in a black hoodie, jeans, and boots; he was tall, slim, had a perfect chiseled face, double rings in his ear, light gray skin, black hair cropped close at the sides and spiked up top. His eyes were blood red and a couple dark red streaks ran vertical across his left eye.

"Hello, darling."

I threw a punch; he caught my fist. No one catches punches from me. "Ooo feisty," he taunted.

"Get the hell away from me."

He tsked his tongue, "Now, now, no need to be like that. Just trust me,"

"You're a dark elf. There's no way I'm trusting you!"

"Shame. Nevertheless, think as you wish."

"What do you want?" I growled.

"Ah, yes. Business. I need a favor. I'll make you a deal. If you do me said favor, I'll make sure you live and I'll even save your, ah, friend. You see, they've got a fine price on both your heads."

"Sorry, I've got a strict 'no deals with the devil' policy," I rebounded.

"Oh, ouch. You know that not all of my species is bad," he leaned his arm against the wall above me. Good, leaves the right side open for escape and his stomach open for attack. My fingers found their way to a knife at my belt.

"So I hear you're a good fighter?" He quirked an eyebrow.

"I'm alright," I shrugged. My hand closed on the knife's handle.

"From what I've heard, you're more than alright," he nodded to my knife, "but that doesn't matter. You want to do this or not?"

"I don't even know what your 'favor' is!"

"You're going to help me kill someone. Easy enough. I'm sure you've seen the guy."

"Why do you need my help? You could probably kill  him just by showing him your face," total lie this elf was actually really hot, unfortunately.

"Ha. ha. Very funny. Now, as I was saying you've probably seen him. Never shows his face, gray skin, and's got a nasty electron pistol. Familiar?"

"Yeah. Does't seem too easy though."

'Hmm, we'll see. Well as it seems, you need to get going. Don't want to miss your meeting, now," he started to turn away, "Oh! Almost forgot," he reached into his jeans' pocket and pulled out some black and silver card, smaller than my palm than my palm, "Here," he shoved it into my hand, "don't let anyone know you have it except the boy and your partner. Keep it safe. You'll know what to do," with that, he walked away. What the hell just happened?

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