In the moonlight, the waterfall appeared to glow silver. Flowers bloomed everywhere, and the trees towered majestically over the secluded jungle palace. Standing on the roof of the glimmering, white harem, the lone Nekonikai female gazed at the beauty surrounding her.
How many times in the last month had she dream walked here? What was it about the jungles of Liira that called to her so loudly? Aside from these occasional unplanned trips, she’d never even been anyplace less civilized than a small town in Jemreth’s Reach.
Swishing her fluffy, light brown tail, she inhaled deeply. Over the rumble of the waterfall, she thought she heard footsteps. Her cat ears twitched towards the noise, which had come again, from the other side of the harem.
“Who goes there?” called a loud, female voice. Busted! Probably a guard.
She carefully walked over to peer down at the speaker. Her heavy black leather boots gave her plenty of grip. Raising her delicate hands over her head, she showed she was unarmed. “I’m just passing by. I love moon gazing from this spot. It’s got the best view of the waterfall…”
The speaker was indeed a guard, an elfin woman, in leather armor with an arrow notched on the moon gazer. “How’d you get up there without being seen? And where are you from? The closest village is several days from here!”
“I live in Rethkai, Kaolin. I’m not hurting anything, I promise!”
The guard let fly an arrow. “Liar! That’s on the other side of Kesseth! And you didn’t explain how you got up there!”
Two more female elfin guards joined the first, swords drawn.
The arrow went whizzing past the Nekonikai’s ear. “I’m not a liar! I just don’t think you’d believe me if I told you!”
“Get down here right now and answer my questions!” demanded the woman menacingly.
Somehow, the woman on the roof didn’t like her odds against three guards in physical combat. A shudder ran through her body. “Sorry, I can’t. It’s time for me to wake up. Maybe next time!”
The guards glared and frowned. “Wake up…?”
Cheerily, she waved and vanished, leaving the guards staring at the empty space where she’d been standing moments ago.
“Iridethia Lexi Tempest! How many times have I told you not to go out without asking first?” demanded the tall, sturdy, white furred Nekonikai male glaring down at her.
“But Seth…” Iridethia whined. “It just happened…”
Seth glared at her with his vibrant green eyes. “Little sister, I did not raise you to be so reckless! Be truthful, you were in danger, weren’t you?”
Iridethia gulped a little. “Not really…the guard just fired an arrow or two. No big deal.”
“Thia!” Seth snarled. “You KNOW that any wounds you get when dream walking transfer over! You could have been killed! If I hadn’t had the foresight to link your dream walking self to my consciousness with magic, I’d never have known to wake you!”
Iridethia propped herself up in her bed, silver eyes stormy. “I had it under control! You worry too much!”
“I won’t always be around to wake you, sis. Please don’t risk your life like that!”
Seth growled, knuckles tight on his clenched fists.
“But…I don’t plan for these things to happen! I was gonna sing them a lullaby if they kept being unreasonable! Honest!” Iridethia pushed back the covers and sat up, bare feet on the floor. Her baggy gray pants and white camisole clung to her slim figure. “Thanks for the assist bro. I owe you. Now, please leave so I can get ready for work…”
Seth sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fine, but we are going to have a serious discussion when you get home tonight. I have something important to tell you.”
Iridethia stood up and hugged her brother tightly. “I’ll be home before moonrise. I’m sorry for worrying you. I know we’re all we have. I’ll be more careful. I promise.”
Seth hugged her back, squeezing tightly. “I love you Thia. Now get ready for work while I fix you something to eat.”
Iridethia stepped back and saluted smartly. “Aye, Captain Seth Tempest!”
Shaking his head, Seth left the room, and Iridethia was left staring at the hardwood floor. It refused to reveal the secrets of the universe to her, so she wandered over to her closet to get dressed for her job at Lorelei’s Music. It didn’t take long.
Dressed in a gray tank top, black cargo pants, and her clunky black leather boots, she appraised her reflection. Adding pigtails and glittery white eye liner seemed to help, although her dark violet hair seemed far too short to her. It only came down to her elbows when in pigtails. She wanted it past her tail, but couldn’t figure out a spell to accelerate hair growth. Her silver and crystal sword amulet hung just below her throat, reminding her that magic wasn’t all fun and games. That sometimes one must use it to protect and defend.
The smell of bacon and eggs wafted to her nose, and she grabbed a dark gray hoodie off her dresser. Clomping down the stairs to the kitchen, she eyed the food on the table hungrily. Seth was an awesome cook.
“Go ahead and eat.” Seth encouraged her, not even turning around from where he was making pancakes at the stove.
Not one who needed to be told twice, Iridethia plopped down in her chair and dug in. Within five minutes, she’d devoured nearly everything on the table. Using magic, even for dream walking, always made her extremely hungry. Pushing back from the table, she sauntered over to the fridge and grabbed the lunch she‘ d prepared the night before.
“I’ll see you tonight, Seth.” Iridethia kissed her brother’s cheek, and flew out the door to catch the city bus to work.
Lorelei’s Music was an eclectic music shop that sold recordings, music boxes, sheet music, and instruments. For the last season, Iridethia had been working there. As an added perk, she got a discount on voice lessons from the lead vocalist of Rage’s Inquiry. They were a local band that sang rock ballads.
“Morning Thia!” called a perky young wolf girl. Her shaggy brown hair was in a pixie cut, and her amber eyes gleamed with cheerful glee.
“Morning Reni! What’s new?” Iridethia called cheerfully, making her way through the aisles to the back of the store.
“I got a date with that hot elf guy from Feral Woods Theater Guild. His name is Jake Kemithial. We’re going to a concert at Moon’s Edge tomorrow night!” Reni exclaimed, brimming with excitement.
“That’s great!” Iridethia said, smiling broadly. “You’ve been crushing on each other for the past six months. It’s about time!”
Reni blushed happily. “Go anywhere last night, Thia?” she asked slyly.
Iridethia looked at her friend with wary silver eyes. “How could you know that?”
Reni smirked. “You have the faint aura of magic glowing around you, and smell of tropical flowers.”
“I went to that waterfall in Liira again. It’s so beautiful…” Iridethia said, sighing dreamily. “Too bad those guards finally caught on to me being on the rooftop. Next time they might not miss.”
Reni frowned. “Guards? Where, exactly have you been going? I thought it was just a scenic overlook?”
“On top of a jungle palace harem…” the Nekonikai girl said sheepishly, ears drooping.
“THIA!” Reni exclaimed. “You really do like to live dangerously, don’t you?”
“Not really. I mean, usually I don’t run across anyone in my travels…”
“Ha!” Reni snorted. “Except the time you stumble across a heist in progress, and then there was the raiding party, and let’s not forget the war reconnaissance group that almost tortured you for information on enemy troops…”
Iridethia seemed to wilt under her friend’s reprimanding stare. “But those were isolated incidents…” she began unconvincingly.
“You’re a trouble magnet, Thia Tempest. Make no mistake. One of these days you’re going to get dragged into something and Seth won’t be able to rescue you.”
Iridethia stared at her friend. “You sound like my brother…” she muttered.
Reni stuck out her tongue and rolled her eyes. “I’m just being reasonable, unlike you. That’s all.”
The bell on the shop door rang, and the two girls put their conversation aside to assist a group of customers. It was a busy day at Lorelei’s, and Reni didn’t get another chance to preach at Iridethia before she got off work. All day long though, Iridethia was mulling over the worry of her friend and her brother. Was she really that reckless? Surely they were just overprotective? A nagging feeling in her chest made her think, perhaps they had a point. After all, if even her magic agreed with them…then maybe she was overlooking something important. Maybe she really WAS a trouble magnet…