The Adventures of Rivera & Ornianna #2: "The Coast"
We set off just before dawn as the chilled morning air swept through our small little campsite. Some of the ash from the previous nights fire sprinkled through the air while Ornianna jumped up onto the back of Zany. I strapped my leather armor on over the bandages and threw my fiddle on my back as we made our way through the brush.
I walked alongside Ornianna at a steady pace. We weren’t in a rush, but given our run in with the Orcs our guard was practically on full alert. We had been rather quiet after waking up that morning. Somewhere in the middle of the night we must have gotten cold because upon waking we were practically on top of each other with Zany curled at our feet. I struggled with being close to Ornianna for some reason, and I mean physically close. As she rode through the thinning forests she wore that same simple smirk she always had. I caught myself staring at her a few times as I wondered why she had been so kind to me since meeting.
I had never been to the coast before, but Ornianna seemed confident it was the place we were meant to be. “So what’s the coast like, Orni?” I asked as we broke the final tree line and entered into an open plain, not too far off from a road that ran alongside a river. We moved closer to the body of water as we broke our silence.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been there. I heard there might be some pirates though.” I looked at her confused, but I didn’t question it. We had both wanted a new beginning, so I suppose this was Ornianna’s just as much as mine. Orni looked over at me, laughing quietly to herself.
“What did I say? Laughing at me now, are you?” Ornianna and Zany came to a stop at the riverfront as she hopped down with a huff and a smile. I settled down on a small tuft of grass as Orni and her panther sat by the water. While Zany drank from the river, Orni washed her face and pushed her hair back. “We should be there after sunset, right?” The sun hid partially behind the clouds. Ornianna got up and walked towards me with a cheesy smirk on her face. She put her hands on my cheeks, turning my head to face her.
“You’re bad at lying.” She shook her head as I brushed her hands away. “I know when someone is hiding something. Do you feel okay?” I could see the concern in her eyes. She continued to surprise me.
“Are you trying to read me now?” I got up, running my hands through my hair. I let out a sigh and began walking alongside the road. “I’m nervous, honestly. Nova and I used to go everywhere together and then after she died I stopped travelling. I told myself I’d never get close to someone again and here I am running away to the coast with someone I met during a rebellion. I’m afraid of what comes next. I don’t like the unknown anymore, all it’s ever given me is disaster.” Ornianna grabbed me by the hand, spinning me around and stopping my pacing.
“Rivera. We found each other in a crisis and I helped someone in need the way I used to. You helped me the same way I helped you. You’ve got flair unlike anyone I’ve ever met, so you shouldn’t be afraid. When you get to the coast you’re going to figure things out. If you can’t, I’ll be there to help.” Ornianna smiled and returned to Zany, hopping onto her back and continuing along the road to the coast. I carried on along the way, and we walked like that for hours. Ornianna led the way with her panther and I walked behind them, watching their natural state as companions. There were birds circling above, occasionally diving into the river in an effort to catch a fish or two swimming down stream as the water rushed alongside our path. Orni looked back at me every once in a while with a smile, although we hadn’t spoken much since we stopped. The sun was beginning to set now, and Ornianna came to a stop. Zany curled up and Orni began to lay out a bed roll while I rolled up my pants and kicked off my boots, dipping my feet into the river as I sat on the edge. I had just spent the majority of our travel thinking about Ornianna, and that was strange to me. I watched her move and saw her as if she was a gift from the divine, every action carried with such grace and elegance but in a simple and charming fashion. Ornianna was by no means a work of art in any thing she did, but she had a big heart, a good smile, and a knack for adventure. I had thought she was just this cute girl who was good with a bow when we met back in Ginstock, but she had become so much more in a matter of weeks. Why was I thinking about her like that? It was strange, I hadn’t fallen for anyone since Nova’s death. I didn’t know what that felt like anymore. I stared deeply into the river as my reflection stared back, losing myself in thoughts of right and wrong. I knew any feelings I was developing for Orni would just complicate things, though.
“Hey, you okay?” Ornianna grabbed my shoulder, snapping me out of my own head and back to reality as I jumped a little. “I didn’t think you were so easily spooked.” She laughed and sat next to me.
“I’m not. You surprised me, that’s all. I just have a lot on my mind. Sorry.” I looked over at her with a reassuring smile.
“Wanna talk about it?” She leaned against me for a moment, her eyes a soft and calming green.
“No, that’s alright. I think I figured it out.” I stared at her for a moment, perhaps awkwardly long. We laughed together and got up, moving towards where we planned to lay our heads. Ornianna has started a fire and set our bed rolls close together as Zany was curled by where our heads would go. The Panther was acting as a lookout, the noble eyes in the dark for Orni and myself. My mind was racing and my heart was beating so loudly I thought she might hear it if she stood too close, and all of this was over this gnome I hardly knew. I threw myself onto my bedroll and tried to put these thoughts out of my head in favor of sleep. She settled in and we both drifted off to sleep.
I had been dreaming of the days back in the city I had spent with Nova playing music for crowded taverns and alone in the streets for our own pleasure. I saw her standing over me with eyes full of love. I watched as she began to bleed over me, a knife in her belly and sadness in her gaze as she begged me not to leave her. I promised her but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I looked up and saw the guard tower explode and collapse, and then I was caught in a free fall. I watched the tower falling around me while I grasped for a hand to help. Just as I was about to hit the ground I jolted awake in a cold sweat bringing an end to my nightmare. Ornianna and Zany perked up, their sense for the negative being stronger than anyone could have expected. Orni placed her hand on my back and pulled me in close, holding me as I gasped for air and trembled slightly.
“Hey, it’s okay Rivera. Whatever it was was just a dream.” She comforted me as I began to sob lightly against her. I hadn’t cried since Nova died and now that I had seemingly avenged her I was overwhelmed with sadness. I felt like I had failed her. She was the most important thing in the world to me and I couldn’t protect her. Ornianna sat with me until I was able to drift back to sleep. When we awoke, I found myself nearly snuggled up against her for comfort and jerked away, waking her up in the process.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to--” She cut me off with a smile and shake of the head.
“I noticed. It’s fine. I’ve always done what I can to help people in need, and last night you were in need.” She stretched and began to get her morning started as the sun was rising far off to the east.
“You’ve been helping me a lot lately.” I grumbled, helping Orni get ready to start traveling once more.
“Sometimes people just need help for awhile and that’s okay. Kindness doesn’t have an expiration date.” Her words stuck with me for the rest of our morning. Ornianna was unlike most people I’d met before in a refreshing way. We carried on for the rest of the day with an uneventful journey along the river as it grew wider and wider. Just before sunset our eyes lingered on the horizon as we got our first glimpse of a coastal city growing nearer. We excitedly pressed on as the city grew larger and larger as we got closer. A few of the folks who lived in homes on the outskirts of town were finishing up their farming for the day and wished us a good evening as we came closer and closer.
By the time the sun had set we’d finally made it to the coast.