That night Lydis enjoyed talking to the other merchants from the Caravan. A gloomy dwarf whose only interest was her weapons, a few human children who loved her hair, and a rare mixed elf. After eating her fill, a nearby guard showed to the room assigned to her. It wasn't big but it wasn't small either. Just enough space to fit two queen size beds side by side.
As she was taking her things out and laying them in the small dresser on the side a knock sounded on her door.
"Can I come in?" It was Marlov.
"Sure." The next moment the door slid open and revealed Marlov holding a ball of pink fluff.
"I believe this is 'Valfafer' right?" Marlov held up Valfafer with both hands so that he faced Lydis. She turned around and squinted at Valfafer, as if really questioning if it was him or not.
*sigh* " Yes, it's my dog." Valfafer began to squirm wildly, his excitement and relief at not having been thrown out was immeasurable. Valfafer was about to say 'Master!' when he realized that there was someone else with them. Swallowing his pride and ego Valfafer yipped excitedly, trying to jump out from Marlov's hands.
"Looks like he really missed you." Chuckling, Marlov placed Valfafer on the floor and he instantly zipped towards Lydis for fear of her changing her mind. Valfafer began to rub against Lydis and raced around her legs, eager to show his love and appreciation for his master.
"Is there anything else you needed?"
"Nah, I just came to return this guy. We'll leave before dawn tomorrow so make sure he stays inside with you. If we leave him behind we won't be able to go back."
"Thank you. I'll keep that in mind when letting him out."
"Goodnight Mr. Gunner."
"Please, just Marlov is fine." Lydis smiled and nodded her head. Marlov waved his hand and left the small room.
Valfafer stopped rubbing Lydis's legs and began sniffing the rest of the room. His attention elsewhere. Lydis sighed and went back to her bed, still sorting out the things in her bag. Near the bottom of the bag another unfamiliar object rolled out. With one from Nova and Amber Lydis could already guess who the next gift belonged to. A small box rolled out tied closed with a white string. She picked it up and gently pulled the white bow apart.
Slipping apart easily the white ribbon fell to the bed. Lydis opened the small lid to reveal a pair of small opaque marble ear studs. A little letter fell off the lid.
"Lydis, by the time you read this it means that you've left the camp already. I'm not sure what to say but these next few years will be tough for you. Don't get conceited about your talent, there are children who have trained their whole lives for the academy. Don't get into trouble. Respect your teachers. Most importantly, make some good comrades. There's never a better time to forge lasting bonds than when you're little. When you arrive in Caratas go to the academy immediately, no other stops allowed. Meet with someone with the pen name 'Haven'. They'll be your guardian until you get settled into the academy dorms. Make sure to wear the earrings I got you at all times. Be safe. Don't cause trouble. Above all else, don't forget about your family at the camp. We'll always accept you if you happen to fail somewhere else. With much endearment and sorrow of your absence, Zai."
Lydis refolded the small letter and laughed a bit. Valfafer raised his head and turned towards Lydis.
"What's so funny master?"
"Oh nothing. Zai's just too difficult to talk with I just expected a short and unemotional letter but, surprisingly he can get pretty talkative…" Lydis flopped onto the bed, her eyes staring to sting. She focused on staring at the ceiling. Quickly she covered her eyes with her arm, warm stains appearing on her sleeve.
"Master?" Valfafer walked over towards Lydis. The ledge of the bed was only about a foot and a half off the floor but he could make it if he jumped. Rearing back a little Valfafer attempted to jump onto the bed. Most of his upper body landed on but he had to kick against the bed to climb the rest of the way. Once he was fully on the bed Valfafer leaned over Lydis's face, a single stray tear caught his eye on her cheek. Although Lydis had been mean and bullied him Valfafer still cherished her.
When they first formed the contract she ignored him most of the time but he always managed to find a bowl of food left out for him. She would play with him calling it training or exercise. When a supply delay had happened there was always half of her food for him. Although she never said or did much directly, Lydis did care for him somewhat. He found great joy in knowing that his seemingly indomitable master was actually scared of lightning. It had been stormy week and on the worst day there was a thunder storm. Only he knew about it since she had curled up with him, clutching his fur the whole night.
Valfafer brushed against Lydis and nuzzled her arm with his nose. A bit reluctant Lydis didn't move but she eventually caved. With one arm wrapped around Valfafer and the other over her face Lydis found the softness of the bed comforting. The presence of Valfafer was alleviating the pent-up stress as well as the pained feelings she had since leaving the camp.
In reality Lydis was just as sad to leave as she had been excited to travel into the outside world. When they first set off her eagerness had overshadowed the sorrow in her heart but, after reading Zai's letter the feelings rose up again. A sharp pain in her chest which made it feel like her heart was being clenched by an invisible hand. Cheerful memories with them over the last two years resurfaced like bubbles. Though she seemed to be mature at times she was, after all, only a ten-year-old child.
The rest of the night was uneventful. Lydis soon fell asleep, curled up with Valfafer who was also sleeping. Later in the night someone had come in and put her feet onto the bed as well as placing a blanket on them.
The next day it was already noon when Lydis woke up, the sunlight filtering in through a covered window to the left of the room. Valfafer rolled around lazily. Somehow during the night, he had ended up on top of Lydis, his body sprawled over her chest. Slowly he rolled over and his belly landed on Lydis's face. The sleeping Lydis took a couple of breaths before finding it hard to breath, like something was suffocating her.
"!!" Lydis shot upwards gasping for air. Valfafer was thrown off from her. Lydis looked around the room and- "Gaah!" She quickly covered her face with her hands.
When he was rolling off her Valfafer's claws had snagged the edge of the curtains, pulling them open. The sunlight pierced Lydis's eyes and flooded the room as well.
"Valfafer! Close the curtains!" Although he was still groggy he knew that the situation was caused by him so he got up and pulled the curtains closed with his mouth. Soon the room returned to it's faded yellow color. Lydis rolled over and sat up, yawning while stretching her arms upwards.
Valfafer bent low and raised his back legs, stretching his body as well.
Someone knocked on the door. Just by the smell Lydis knew that it was some type of food but currently her room was a mess. Things were strewn everywhere from her tussling around in her sleep. Ui was still in it's ball form in a corner.
"Wait!" Lydis piled the things on her bed into the small drawer and used one of the many hair ties scattered on the bed to pull her hair back into a messy ponytail. Valfafer also helped by rolling various things on the floor to her. It only took them about a minute to finish cleaning.
"Come in." The door slid open and Marlov came in carrying a tray of steaming food. In his other hand was another tray with two bowls marked in red lettering the word 'pets'.
"How are you today Lydis?" He tapped the floor twice and a small table popped up from the ground. Setting one tray on the table and the other on the floor, it looked like Marlov was used to doing it.
"I slept much better than I did the first few nights."
"Ha ha! That's true!" When Marlov turned his back to go into the hall for something Valfafer took this chance to make a dash for the food. He gobbled at the warm meat hungrily. Last night he didn't eat anything since he was outside in the forest when Lydis was eating. Lydis began eating her soup as well. The bread on the side smelled like sweet honey, a smell that tickled the nose. The soup was tasty as well. Smooth and creamy, it tasted like chicken and mint mixed together. The chunks of faded orange and yellow were just the right amount of mushy and freshness.
Marlov came back in holding a tray of sweets and a drink.
"Want some?" Marlov looked at Valfafer who was too engrossed in eating to bother hiding. Valfafer looked up and saw the sugar covered sweets and his mouth began watering. He hadn't had sweets for so long! Lydis had banned the other squad members from feeding him sweets when he vomited on her from too many sweets. Now it was only once or twice a month. Valfafer gave Marlov the best puppy eyes he could, he bent his ears downwards and whined slightly.
Marlov chuckled and placed the sweet tray on the table. He reached into his pocket to pull out a small bone shaped doggy treat. In the middle was some bacon surrounded by the other grains. Valfafer got up and began wagging his tail excitedly.
"Sit." Valfafer sat.
"Lay down." He did.
"Roll over." He rolled all the way into the wall.
"Up." Valfafer bounced up on his hind legs, trying to get the treat. Satisfied Marlov let the treat go and Valfafer gobbled it in a second.
"Ha ha, he's pretty well trained!" Lydis rolled her eyes at Valfafer. She had though that there was a bit of a 'Wolf Lord's Pride' left in Valfafer but seeing that just now diminished any thoughts completely. She continued to eat her bread.
"When you've finished eating just place the trays in the ledge over there." Marlov pointed to an indented ledge in the wall. Above it labeled 'trays/dishes'.
"Okay. Thank you for the food." He grinned and just as he was about to leave, he stopped in the middle of the doorway.
"I almost forgot. We'll be arriving at Caratas tomorrow morning. Make sure you're prepared."
"Thank you Marlov." He left the room and they continued eating. Valfafer was licking at his water now, small drops getting caught by the tray under it. They continued in silence for a bit before Lydis gave Valfafer a suspicious look.
"Lay down." He reacted before thinking. Now he was laying flat on the floor, his belly pressed against the ground.
Lydis started laughing at Valfafer. She had never though to make him do tricks before like that.
"Heh… Looks like my last day on the caravan won't be boring after all." Valfafer braced himself for Lydis's torment, the day had only just begun.
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