Stories on the edge of familiarity

Evaluating Humans (from chapter 3)

(Neidim also gets his temporary name from the same story I swiped Adren’s name from. The character name Neidim in that story is the brother of the original Adren. Again, I wish I could tell you how wonderfully entertaining that is for me but, again, I’d be giving spoilers for this series. I’m almost wanting to keep these names, but I don’t think the name “Neidim” looks right. Will ponder.)

When Adren woke up, she went over the events of the previous day and decided to roll over and go back to sleep for a bit. After trying for longer than she had patience, she realized that she really had to go and meet Neidim, regardless of the fact that she wished he had not agreed to help her. She had never worked with anyone the entire time she had been searching for a cure, and now here she was with a gangly adolescent as her helper. He could find magical things, true, but was he even capable of doing anything without getting caught? And, if (no, when) he did get caught, would he be able to get away?

“The only thing he’s good at,” she said, her eyes still closed, “is talking too much.” After which she realized that she had just spoken to no one and hoped that this attack of verbosity would only be temporary. Something blowed air into her face, and she opened her eyes only to get a very lovely close up view of the unicorn’s nostrils. She let her annoyance be felt and gently pushed the unicorn’s nose out of the way as she sat up. Its mischievous mood deflated somewhat and it pranced away, stopping at the edge of the clearing to look back at her, head tilted to one side.

Adren laughed and beckoned for it to come back, which it did happily, pushing its nose into her chest until she fell back. When it was at its clearest, the unicorn became remarkably playful and usually would not leave Adren alone until she had joined in with its antics for a bit. Right then, it apparently wanted to stick its head so close to her face that it could breathe all over her. Not for the first time, she wondered what it would be like when sane again, and then she thought of what she had to do that day.
Keeping any emotions from spoiling the surprise, she reached up with one hand towards its throat and tickled it underneath its jaw. The unicorn jumped back, surprised. Adren let her amusement come through as she stood up and the unicorn waggled its head at her, but it was also feeling entertained. She got out her breakfast, leaving it all but chuckling at her.

More bread and fruit. Feeling Adren’s irritation, the unicorn tried to offer her a mouthful of grass, which she declined. Later that day, she really would have to go to a dairy and buy some cheese, even if it were only for her lunch, but only if everything went well. Only if Neidim actually ended up being helpful. Ugh. Adren finished her food slowly, then took a drink from her glass water bottle, also slowly. The unicorn nickered in response to her reluctance and felt mildly concerned, which made her realize how ridiculous she was being. She replaced the reluctance with confidence and determination, put away the bottle, covered her possessions again with branches and leaves, and cleaned up the fire. The unicorn followed her the entire time, purposefully getting in her way but, when she was done, the clearing looked as if it was entirely untouched.
“Goodbye,” she said to the unicorn and kissed it on the nose. It snorted in return, spraying droplets onto her coat, and pranced away. She rolled her eyes and headed towards the town.

A light breeze blew, just strong enough to cool the skin, but not so strong as to negate the warmth of the sun. Adren let the sensations of the forest soak in as she walked: the light of the morning sun, birdsong, the sound of the leaves in the wind and the feel of the soil shifting beneath her feet. It felt healing, this balance. Everything fit and had order, but that order brought about beauty and it baffled Adren that humans only sought to barrage the senses, as if they had no other example than their own to follow. She shook her head, trying to clear it of such thoughts. Why could she not simply enjoy the world around her, without having to compare it to anything else? As much as she wanted to focus on finding that cure and having to find it despite of humans and their corruption, why could she not pretend, at least for times like these, that they did not exist?

‘Because they ruin everything,’ she thought bitterly. They poisoned everything that they touched with their lies and violence, with their greed and their ignorance. If anything could possibly benefit them, they did anything, everything to make it theirs, to glean from it. Adren only had to think of all the scams and con artists she had come across in her search. At first, she had tried to treat them the way she would treat a magical creature, but even the ordinary people had fallen to similar vices. The stain was everywhere, and it did not matter if some had it lighter than others. They deserved nothing better than what they gave.

Not that Adren would simply forget about any kind of morality, it was only that, if she had to do something to a human that they, themselves would do and a magical creature would not, then she would do it as a defence against them doing something worse. Just thinking about all the times they had fooled or harmed her because she did not want to do what was needed to protect herself made her so angry.

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