GGCE 22 – Reunion

The old man pulled out an age-worn smoking pipe as he pulled tobacco to pack in it. “Hey, Gramps. Fresh blood?” A younger human approached him with a hoe on his shoulder while gesturing with his head towards the leaving girls. “Yup. Want to bet they’ll get knocked around?” He lit the pipe with a small fire conjured on the tip of his index finger. But before he could take a drag, he looked over to the field where the two girls wandered off too and dropped his pipe. The two men looked on in sheer shock as the ability of the white-haired girl as she was like an angel dancing the ballet of death while the fire-haired struggled to keep up.

The whole ordeal that should have taken longer than thirty minutes if the new girls didn’t get injured, was being tidied up after only five minutes. Not a single boar escaped their claws. Out of all of them, Navara only managed to pluck five boars from Avery’s greedy hands while the rest of them laid strewn across the edge of the field. Their final moments full of despair of somehow meeting death herself. “Hmm! That was a good stretch.” Avery said as she stretched her muscles. Blood stained her blade which was stuck blade first into the soil, left to sit there as it’s master looked over her handy work.

“You could have at least gave me some face!” Navara whined as she looked at her boars, they were just runts. “You totally did that on purpose!” She stomped her foot and pointed at her white-haired companion while pouting. “Yup!” Avery agreed with a beaming smile that shook the fox-girl’s heart. She wasn’t sure to laugh or cry – so she did both while looking to the sky. “Such a cruel person…” She murmured as Avery patted her shoulder “I look forward to the meal, hehe!”

The two farmers looked at each other before deciding they should just pretend nothing happened.

. . . .

“You girls take care now! haha!” The old farmer they had met earlier waved as him and a large group of other farmers left the girls were they sat by a large firepit. The sun was setting and they needed to back up their tools. Their wives and children were still here though to clean up the plates and take away the food scraps before more animals came to pick at them. “Thank you for the feast.” An older woman with hair almost as white as Avery’s approached to two as they leaned against a tree on the edge of the forest.

“No problems!” Navara chuckled awkwardly. She wasn’t use to so many humans thanking her for anything. She waved her hands around to try and dismiss their gratitude, but the lady only smiled. “Its been a while since there were so many boars killed in one day. Normally, only the rookies fresh of their mother’s milk come around. When it happens, we usually end up having to patch them up. Today’s feast was a nice change of pace.” She bowed her head. She was one of the lucky few that aged gracefully with the wrinkles around her eyes not so deep.

The laugh lines around her mouth were deep. She came off as the merry grandmother everyone wanted and those around her called her “Grandma Sanzin”. “Miss Sanzin, please, my friend Avery did most of the work.” Navara said, directing the attention to the Goddess sitting to her left. “Again, please call me Grandma Sanzin. And of course, I heard that she did.” Grandma Sanzin turned to Avery who kept silent but had the biggest grin from watching the awkward fox girl all afternoon. “Just something to stretch the muscles, Grandma Sanzin.” Avery replied softly.

“Well now that it’s getting late, I better get back to the village before it gets too late. Us old folk don’t have the energy we use to.” Grandma said. “Navara, walk with me. Avery told me early you’re a fox-kin from the lands of beast-men. I’d like to hear some stories from your people. Very few of the folk here come from aboard.” Avery nudged her. “Go on, you didn’t have to cook anything so you got to do something.” The fox-girl only flicked her ear at her in annoyance before getting up to accompany the woman back.

Avery had a purpose to running her off. The feast was now being cleaned up, but she was a ways from it by the tree line. She was already feeling lonely once the fox left, but when she ate and laughed with the natives… She felt old memories from the game world surface. From the countless nights she spent beside a fire with her friends. Times they fought over food and the times they cried over it. Plenty of those memories surfaced when she watched these people eat the animals she killed.

It was different from when she did bounty quests in the game. In-game, the animal would just pop into a black mist to reveal drops and that was the end of it. In this world, none of that happened and they had to harvest the animal itself. Of course, they also had to take both upper canines of the boars as proof of subjugation. What should have been a half-hour quest all around, turned into nearly five hours as the farmers and their families came to help them. Since they didn’t need anything aside from the fangs, they gave them the boars since there were so many of them.

The valley itself was peaceful and quiet, birds sang in the tries behind her while a cold silent breeze brushed by, she closed her eyes once the last family left. The canopy of the oak tree she rested against made a wonderful shaded area for her to nap in as the rest of the fields basked in the fading orange sunset. Workers milled about as they finished up the rest of their work before hiding back to the several scattered villages that rested amongst the fields.

Maybe it was a happen from the days with Eos was a game, or something else, she began to fall asleep for a nap after that satisfying but taxing banquet as she enjoyed the atmosphere. That was until she heard the rustle of leaves and the protest of small branches under the foot of something or someone heavy coming from the forest behind her. Her eyes opened as she turned to look only to come face to face with a lion-sized grey wolf.  Avery stiffened up in surprise. She expected many a wolf or a deer – not a lion-sized wolf.

Both the snow-white haired maiden and the grey shagged wolf stared at each other in silence. Seconds slipped by before one of them spoke. “Fenrir…?” Avery asked. She did not feel an ounce of malice from the over-sized wolf, but instead, feelings of her old life surfaced. She could feel that joyful front she had put up over these past days crumble seeing a familiar face “Yes, I am your Fenrir, master.” Fenrir replied with a deep and respectful tone. What startled Avery was how worn his voice sounded. “You’ve aged…” She muttered, unsure of the situation now.

“I have. That is the law of mortals in this world, we are born, we grow, and then we die. It is the cycle of life, one I believe you are familiar with.” He said as he lowered his head along with his front legs into a regal bow he had done countless times before. “Was he… trying to be mean…?” Avery thought as she felt his word slice her heart. The tears she had been holding up slowly began to seep from her eyes, like two streams of glistening anguish.

Was it words of hate? Words of admonishment for dying? She wasn’t sure what to think before she realized the full scope of his words. “You knew I… died?” Her eyes looked at the old wolf in awe Fenrir had seen the expressions on his Misstress change. Of all the things he felt when he first saw her, he felt betrayal. Betrayed that she seemed so happy out here. So carefree like before, but when he said those words… He uttered them against his will.

He saw how quick she crumbled and felt ashamed that he would say such a thing to her, even if they were veiled words of hurt. “I …” He shut his mouth and assembled his words carefully. Things he never had to do when he was just a simple AI, not the wolf with free will like now. His vocabulary had grown and his temperament had changed, but he was still the wolf this woman had raised with so much love and care. When his dulled eyes peered into her beautiful golden eyes, his childhood flooded him.

“Yes..” He muttered weakly. This woman had been his mother, his friend, his first love, and his first heartbreak. Yet, even now, he couldn’t bear to see her cry after so many millenniums. She was just a mortal in an immortal body. He didn’t understand any of that until this world that was created for her had become real. What was love? He didn’t understand until he loved another mortal wolf. What was heartbreak? He never knew until he watched generation after generation of his children die along with his love.

Then he understood how much he felt for his Mistress. How great those days were. The emotions were there, only blockaded by the digital realm. He was not as smart as he was before either now that he wasn’t connected to the streams of information, but in exchange, he was real now. “Do you hate me…?” A weak voice leaked from Avery as kneeled on the floor before him so they were eye level. Fenrir never broke his bow.

“I have thought long about that.” He said, having a small act of childish immaturity in his dying heart and left her in suspense. He regretted it immediately as he watched her face twist in despair. ” And I do not. I feel betrayed you left us. I feel despair that I could not help you, and I feel saddened that you did not look for me.” He said as he softened his gaze. Then his Mistress clung to his face, his head embraced by his “I’m sorry…” She whispered as she clung to him tightly. All the words he had, everything he wanted to talk about just came pouring out then.

The moment she had departed from them and her parents left her avatar in the pond in front of their home. How eventually, the world slowly became depopulated with the other players migrating to the next big thing. He spoke about her parents always visiting the village and interacting with the NPCs and implementing different AIs, none panning out like how he did. At first, Avery was shocked by how far he was aware of his surroundings. Then it turned to happiness to know that the days they spent together didn’t fade away with the game world.

He talked about how he spent years walking around the mountain, protecting her grave until the day the world ended.

Not in the way of fire and brimstone, but just darkness. One day, the sun went down and never came back up. The moon never came and the stars didn’t twinkle. He didn’t know why and all his systems were cut off. He never knew how many days or years went by. It was all just a mass of darkness where every step could be the last one.

Eventually, the sun did rise. Not from the west, not from the east. By from his Master’s grave like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Yet when he found his way back, she was still in the pond. Athena and Ha’vie both were now conscious. The world became real with every step, he felt the warmth of the earth and the dirt between his paws. “From there, the world became what it is today.” Fenrir finished his tale as he glanced to the sniffling girl next to him

How long has it been since they had sat like this? He thought as he looked away. They sat only a few trees deep in the forest with a wonderful view of the valley from here. They both watched as the golden rays of sun began to fade. “Are the other two here?” Avery’s voice perked up with more life in it. “Athena is out… Doing some things and Ha’vie… Is going through her rebellious phase.” Fenrir answered as vaguely as he could. How could he tell this wonderful woman that her dragon is building a dragon cult that worships their mistress and the youngest of them was spitting on her name?

“Just tell me. If they’re here, I at least want to know how they’re doing. If they don’t want to see me then that’s fine – so long as they’re living well.” Avery huffed. “Well…” Did he really have to break the news to her? “How about this… Did you come this way to visit or will you be sticking around?” She could see he looked like he was gnawing on something nasty so she’d deal with him first. “I came to be by your side again, where I belong.” She could feel the resolution in his voice. “Do you have a family?” Avery asked as she got up and gestured for him to follow as they parted from the serene forest that was now slowly basking in the shadow of the mountain.

“Please, sit on my back, you’ll be more comfortable.” Fenrir said. Avery was more than happy to take up his offer as she easily mantled onto his back. “Only great-great-great-grandchildren. Currently, the pack is in its thousand-and-forty-two generation. “He said proudly.” So there are thousands of your little pups running around?” Avery perked her eyes as they made their way through the fields, startling a few passing patrols who kept their distance from the pair. “Not exactly. My offspring have only been able to inherit my deceased mate’s regular wolf blood. So they’ve all lived normal lives. The pack is no larger than forty wolves with some tens of pups.” Fenrir said.

“So about the two girls who aren’t here right now?” Avery asked once they passed through the village where Grandma Sanzin lived in. They didn’t seem too surprised by Fenrir as they only said “Ah, so you have a mount.” or “What an old wolf, I wonder what species…” But none approached them as they saw Navara try to politely escape from Grandma Sanzin’s house. “What girls?” Fenrir asked knowing full well what she meant. “Athena and Ha’vie little white, or I guess we should be calling you Big Grey now.”

“Please don’t…” The wolf sighed and resigned himself to breaking the news “Ha’vie doesn’t want to be connected to you to which you’d have to ask her. Athena… Er… Is starting a dragon cult that worships you.” Avery froze after hearing that. “Why do I have a cult…?”

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