A gust of wind through the tent flap extinguished the torch in Ondorus's tent, much to his annoyance. It was too dark to read without it, and keeping up a magical light was too tiring this late at night.
He rose from his chair, careful not to bump into anything as he walked over to where he knew the torch would be. A flash of lightning illuminated the room for just an instant, accompanied by a loud rumble of thunder.
What a nasty storm, Ondorus thought. I would hate to have to be out and about tonight.
Just as he managed to find the torch in the darkness and relight it, another gust of wind flung the tent flap wide open, letting the rain blow inside. Ondorus sighed and approached the entryway to his makeshift home, raising a hand to close it again.
Suddenly, another flash of lightning illuminated a large shape lying just outside his tent, blocking the way out. Confused, Ondorus approached the shape and placed a wary hand on it. He touched soaked fabric on… was it a body?
Ondorus rolled the shape over, and his torch cast the shape's features into light. It was a body, a person with long, gold-colored hair in a ponytail, pale skin, and the face of a female youth. She wore a long-sleeved, dark blue shirt, black trousers, and gray boots. There was a round, purple gem hanging from a string around her neck. Ondorus turned her head so that he could see her ears. They were rounded, not pointed like those of a dwarf or an elf.
"A human…!" the univir gasped. "How did you get all the way out here?"
The human appeared to be unconscious. Ondorus placed a hand on her neck, where he felt a weak pulse. It seemed that she was in very poor health.
The univir hesitated, loyalty to the settlement and its elder grappling with moral responsibility. Finally, he made a decision.
"I can't just leave you out in the rain," he sighed as he pulled the girl into his tent and closed the flap, loosely tying it shut.
Ondorus laid the human girl down on his bed and knelt on the floor next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder and calling upon the magic in his horn. Soon, a glowing light shone around the girl, healing her. Through his magic, Ondorus felt the girl grow stronger, and soon she shifted from unconsciousness into a peaceful sleep. The sounds of the storm seemed to be quieting, as well.
Ondorus stiffened slightly at the sound of Kuruna's voice. She would not be happy with him once she saw what he had done… Despite fear of the elder's temper, he rose to his feet and went to greet her as she came into his tent.
"Good evening, Kuruna," he said.
"Ondorus, I… Who is that?" the univir elder snapped, her light-blue eyes narrowing as she noticed the figure on his bed.
"Um… That's just…" Ondorus fumbled for an answer.
Kuruna gasped, taking a few startled steps backwards.
"That's a human!" she exclaimed. "What is it doing in the settlement?"
"She was injured," Ondorus explained. "I am healing her."
"Are you insane?" said Kuruna. "You must be. An injured human is a safe human, Ondorus. A healthy human will come back and attack us!"
"I couldn't just leave her out in the rain," Ondorus protested.
"Get rid of it!" Kuruna insisted. "Get rid of it this instant!"
Ondorus sighed. There was no arguing with Kuruna once she had made up her mind.
"Very well," he said, walking over to the bed and picking up the girl. She stirred slightly in her sleep as he moved her, but she didn't wake up. Ondorus cradled her in his arms, her head resting against his shoulder. Kuruna watched him, her eyes suspicious as he passed her on his way out of the tent and through the settlement's southern entrance.
"At least it is no longer raining," Ondorus muttered to himself. The clouds had dispersed, and there was now enough moonlight and starlight to see by.
"If only Kuruna were a bit more open-hearted," the univir said, directing his speech to the girl, although there would be no response. "Whatever happened between our ancestors and yours has long since passed…and you might not even be descended from the humans who live in the town, for all we know! …I'll just put you where you'll be able to find your way back to the other humans."
The only other monsters that Ondorus passed on his way were a few goblins, but they ignored him. He just hoped that they would continue to stay away from the girl once he had left her. It wasn't that he had any personal attachment to the human, but he didn't like the idea of leaving someone out in the desert. She looked to be just a few years younger than him—but that was judging by appearances and without accounting for univir longevity. Ondorus was nearing his hundred-and-fortieth birthday. This human was probably eighteen at the most.
Ondorus set the girl in a wide crevice in the canyon wall, arranging her in what he hoped was a relatively comfortable position.
"The bone bridge is that way," he said, feeling as though he should say something to help her despite the fact that she probably couldn't hear him. Maybe his advice would come through in her dreams.
"If you cross it, you should quickly find your way back to the human town," Ondorus continued. "I…wish you the best of luck."
The univir turned and walked away from the sleeping human, wishing that there was some other way and knowing that there wasn't. He didn't dare go any closer to the town, and Kuruna… Well, Kuruna was the way she was. He had done all that he could do, and so he returned to his tent in the settlement.
The sun rose over the desert, quickly reheating the sands that had been cooled by the night. The human girl still lay asleep in the crevice, having gone through the night unnoticed by any marauding monsters.
There were three flashes of light, the third of which completely obscured the girl from view, and then in her place lay a small wolf. It had golden fur, and there was a dark blue bandana around its neck. There was a round, purple gem on a clasp that was holding the ends of the fabric together.
The wolf stirred and opened her eyes, blinking in confusion.
She wiggled her way out of the crevice, sliding to the ground.
"What's going on…?" she muttered, looking back at the crevice, which she couldn't seem to remember getting into in the first place. The wolf glanced around, kicking at the sand and staring up at the rocky walls around her. Her teal eyes widened.
"Wait!" she exclaimed. "Where the heck am I?"
She turned and ran down the desert canyon, glancing around wildly for something familiar and finding none. She eventually reached a corner and turned into an open area, in which three large, decorated tents were set up.
"This feels like some sort of weird dream…" the wolf muttered to herself, staring at the tents.
The front flap of the tent directly in front of her, which had orange markings and some skulls on it, opened, and out came a young woman who was wearing long, flowing blue and white robes and glasses. She had very long white-blonde hair and a silver horn grew from the middle of her forehead. There was also a little red and blue creature hovering just above her shoulder. Her light blue eyes lit up as she noticed the wolf, and she eagerly approached it.
"Ah, a traveler!" said the horned girl in a soft, gentle voice. "You are most welcome here, comrade."
The wolf blinked, confused. "'C-Comrade'?" she stammered.
The horned girl smiled. "Oh, don't worry," she said. "It simply means we're cohorts-in-arms! Proud patriots! I'm Kuruna, the proud elder of Univir Settlement. My duty is to defend this land with my blood. What's yours, comrade?"
"My duty…?" The wolf thought, and a worried frown formed on her face.
What's my duty? I can't remember… Come to think of it, what's my name? Who am I? Where am I from?
"Is something wrong, comrade?" Kuruna asked.
"Yes…" said the wolf. "I can't remember…"
"You can't remember what?" asked the univir.
"Anything," the wolf explained. "My name… Where I'm from… My 'duty'… I don't know who I am."
"Oh my!" said Kuruna. "Do you mean that you have amnesia?"
"I guess I must…" the wolf said with a shrug, still trying very hard to remember.
"Hmm…" Kuruna thought. "I might be able to heal that…"
"Really?" the wolf gasped.
"The key word is 'might,' comrade," Kuruna said, smiling apologetically. "We univir are gifted with magic, one of the many things that makes us superior to the Hornless. However, a mind is a tricky thing to deal with. It may be wiser to let your mind heal on its own, and just wait for your memories to return."
"I see…" the wolf sighed, her moment of hope gone.
"But…!" Kuruna raised a finger. "As the elder of this settlement, I give you the permission to stay here until you remember where you are from."
"What? You would just let me stay here? Really?" the wolf exclaimed.
Kuruna grinned. "Of course," she said. "We monsters are all united against the savage aggression of the Hornless."
"The Hornless?" the wolf asked. "Who are the Hornless?"
The univir elder frowned.
"They are also called humans," she said. "We univir once lived with them, in a town that lies just outside of this desert. They ran my ancestors out of their town, forcing us to live in the hostile desert… Then again, nothing is more hostile than a human! Nothing! They are savages!"
With every sentence, Kuruna seemed to work herself up even more, until she was shouting angrily at the cowering wolf. Then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"My apologies," she said. "The actions of the Hornless are…unforgivable."
"I see…" the wolf muttered. Note to self: NEVER mention humans around Kuruna.
"Well, then, comrade…" Kuruna paused, and smiled wryly. "I can hardly go around always calling you 'comrade,' can I? Since you can't remember your name, what should we call you?"
The wolf thought. "How about… Michaela. Call me Michaela."
"Michaela. What an interesting name," the univir commented.
Michaela shrugged. "It was in my head, for some reason… I don't know, it just sounds nice."
"That it does," Kuruna agreed.
"Kuruna?" a voice called. Michaela turned to see that another univir was exiting the tent to her left. He had silver hair that was as long as Kuruna's and he was wearing blue and gray robes and glasses, as well. Michaela noticed that there were strange green markings on his face. Are they tattoos?
The univir walked up to them.
"I haven't seen you around here before. You are…?" he asked the wolf. His voice was much lower than Kuruna's, but it had the same soft gentleness that the other univir's had.
"Ondorus, this is Michaela," Kuruna introduced the wolf to her fellow univir. "Michaela, Ondorus."
"Welcome to our settlement, Michaela," Ondorus said.
"Thanks," Michaela replied.
"Michaela has somehow lost her memories, Ondorus," Kuruna explained. "I have decided that she will stay here until she remembers."
Ondorus frowned slightly. "I see," he said. "It is very unfortunate that you have such a condition."
Michaela shrugged. "Well, I don't remember how I'm supposed to feel, so it doesn't really bother me too much."
Ondorus smiled. "That is true," he said. "We always welcome travelers to stay in our settlement. However…"
He turned to the elder. "Just where were you thinking that she would stay, Kuruna? In your tent?"
Kuruna's eyes widened. "Oh… Um, well…"
Ondorus chuckled. "I'm only teasing, Kuruna. Worry not, Michaela, it will be simple enough to set up another tent."
"Ondorus!" Kuruna frowned, embarrassed. "Don't make fun of me like that."
She turned and glanced around the settlement.
"Now, where is Zaid?" she wondered aloud. "If we all put a hand in, this will take no time at all… Zaid!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming…" someone in the tent to Michaela's right called in response. Out stepped a young man with short, unkempt blonde hair, pointed ears, silver eyes, and green and gray armor-like clothes. His sleeves only covered his forearms, and were not attached to his shirt, leaving his black-tattooed upper arms visible.
"Hey, who's this?" he asked, motioning at Michaela.
"This is Michaela," Kuruna explained for the second time that day. "She will be living here, so we're going to set up another tent now. Michaela, this is Zaid."
"Nice to meet you," said the wolf.
"Another tent?" said Zaid. "All right, I guess."
Michaela was surprised by how quickly the construction of the new tent was organized and put into action. Ondorus procured plenty of quality cloth and rope to make the tent from, and everyone got to work. Unfortunately, Michaela's paws put her at a bit of a disadvantage when it came to construction, so she had to sit off to the side and watch. Soon, a wooly and a fairy joined the building crew, and a chipsqueek joined her in watching.
"I wish that I could do something to help," Michaela said to the chipsqueek. "I'm going to be living in it, so I shouldn't have them do all the work, right?"
"Cheep?" said the chipsqueek.
Michaela laughed. "You can't even understand a word I'm saying, can you?"
"Cheep cheep…" said the chipsqueek. "Chip chip cheep."
"Chirris says that she has never seen a wolf with your color of fur," Ondorus explained as he passed by. "It is rare for monsters to speak both their own language and the one common to humanoids. Kuruna, Zaid, and I know just enough of other languages to carry on basic conversations."
"I guess I learned humanoid somewhere along the way," Michaela said. "If only I could remember…"
"Oh, and don't worry about not being able to help," the univir added. "We are glad to help you, and if you truly desire to, then there will be plenty of opportunity for you to help around the settlement in the future."
Michaela smiled. "Thanks, Ondorus. I will help out, I promise!"
Ondorus laughed and went back to the half-finished tent. A few moments later, Zaid came over and sat next to Michaela.
"I'll just take a short break," he said. "Putting up a tent is hard work!"
It didn't look very difficult to Michaela, just time consuming, but she kept her opinion to herself and shrugged.
"Check out my beautiful silver eyes!" Zaid suddenly said, turning so that Michaela could get a good look at his face. "Amazing, right?"
"Um, yeah. I guess," Michaela replied.
"They're unique to my tribe," Zaid said proudly. "No other dwarves have our gleaming silver eyes!"
"You're a dwarf?" Michaela asked, surprised.
"Sure I am!" said Zaid. "What's surprising about that?"
"It's just that… Well, I've never seen a dwarf before, not that I can remember, anyway."
"And you probably think that dwarves are short and hairy with big, braided beards," Zaid said, frowning. "That's just an old stereotype! Most dwarves are normal height, and prefer not to have ridiculous facial hair."
I wasn't thinking that…but, okay.
"I stand corrected," said Michaela.
"Good!" said Zaid. "Don't forget what you learned about dwarves today!"
"I won't," Michaela promised.
"Zaid!" Kuruna called.
"Oops, got to go!" The dwarf quickly got up and went back over to the tent, which was just being tied down to the ground.
Michaela's tent was made of light blue fabric, with green markings around the edges of the door and roof. It was between Kuruna's and Ondorus's tents, up against the canyon wall.
"There," Kuruna said. "Michaela, come over and have a look."
Michaela got up, upsetting Chirris, who had been using her tail as a pillow, and walked over to the tent. Kuruna held the tent flap open, inviting her to enter. The wolf stepped into the tent. It wasn't very large, but it was nice inside. Someone had set up a brazier and a low table in the middle of the room, and Ondorus was still in there, setting up a bedroll.
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"It's great," Michaela said, grinning. "Thank you. Everyone, thank you." She turned back to the open entryway and the group of monsters that stood there. "For letting me stay, I mean. I'll make it up to you, somehow."
"There is no need for thanks," Kuruna said. "You are one of us."
They just accept me? Even though they don't know who I am? Heck, I don't even know who I am!
This is great…