Romancing the Thorn

“And then the mighty Paladin in his bright white shiny-whiny armor sweeps the beautiful maiden into his arms,” said a small cherub-like fellow with silver hair. Soulful gray eyes sparkled in the morning light as his tiny arms swung wide to either side of his chubby body. His spectacles slid down his browned nose as he continued, “He looks deep into her deep brown eyes and says -”

“Hold it there, Toadster,” Rhae said, her tail switching sharply, “Since when was any female so helpless? And aren’t Paladins too busy defending the people against the beastmen hordes?”

She sat on the dock, holding her fishing pole. Her long legs hung down to let her toes linger in the cool salt water. A fresh sea breeze caressed her ruby hair. The day was beautiful and peaceful, but Rhae’s dark eyes stormed as her cat-like ears laid flat.

“We don’t fight the beastie men all the time. Why would anyone else be any different? Besides,” Toadie pouted and tugged his pointy ears, “Don’t you have any sense of romance?”

“Romance? That’s dumb,” Rhae reeled in a fish, “I don’t have time for that.”

“Well, some-dumb day maybe romance will have timey-limey for you,” Toadie said as he sat next to her.

She gutted, cleaned and sliced the small fish. “I doubt it,” she grumbled as she tossed the slices in with her tackle.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Sardines from the harbor make good bait for deep sea fishing out on the eastern coast. You know that.”

“Yea,” Toadie said as he scribbled on a piece of parchment with his quill.

“What’s that?”

“I’m thinking up a new song,” he said, not looking up, “but it needs to be just righty-lighty.”

“And you’re using that story of yours to do it?” she asked, jamming a lugworm onto the hook.

“Yuppers. Why?”

“Nothing,” Rhae shrugged and cast the line, “What’s the song for?”

“Not what, but who,” Toadie said.

“Well who then?”

“If you’re fishing sardines for bait, why not just use a rig?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Rhae glared at him, “Besides this way I only take what I need. And who’s the song for?”

“Um, a girl,” he said, blushing a bit.

“You honestly believe she’ll like it?”

“You don’t?”

“No,” Rhae said, rapping the back of his head with her tail, “Write something real.”

Toadie rubbed the spot as he looked at her. “Some thing-wring really?”

“Do I stutter?” Rhae asked as she reeled in another sardine.

“Um, no.”

“Then make the song about how you feel instead about pretend Paladins and maidens,” she said, working the sardine with her small knife. Tossing in the slices with the others, she said, “Well that’s enough for now. I’m headed out.”

“Okies,” Toadie said as he helped her gather up her fishing gear, “Me go too.”

“What for?” Rhae asked as she stood up.

“Pretty-kitty, you’re a girl. Like it or not, you think like one.”

“And you want my advice, is that it?”

“Yuppers.”

As they walked past the fishing guild’s shack, Rhae nodded to fellow fishermen. On a good day like this, no words were needed. Everyone hoped for a good catch.

Toadie caught her tail in mid-swish, “I could’ve bought the bait-wait for you.”

She snatched her tail free and said, “You know I like doing things myself.”

“Yea,” he said and fell silent.

The silence lingered between them as they walked past the fish mongers, merchants and streams of other people. When they reached the city gate, Rhae stopped to examine her friend.

“You’re not yourself today.”

Toadie twiddled his thumbs, drooping his shoulders. She ruffled his hair, causing him to squeal. He brushed her hand away as he quickly retied the bright green ribbon.

“Wow,” Rhae said, scratching her neck, “Well, if it means that much to you, maybe I can help.”

“Thankie-hankies so much,” he cheered, jumping up and down.

Rhae sighed, “Well, who’s the lucky girl?”

His face turned crimson as he frantically searched the crowd. “Her,” he said with a sudden point.

Her eyes scanned the area in that direction. A small woman, slightly taller than Toadie, caught her attention. Just like him, this woman had a cherub-like body, pointy ears and pale skin with a browned nose. The woman’s red hair was lightly swept up in a circlet and the soft silk robes failed to hide her chubby figure.

“Her?” Rhae frowned as Toadie ducked behind her, covering his eyes with her tail.

“Yea.”

“What’s her name?”

“I don’t know,” he wailed, clutching her tail tight.

Rhae spun around, knocking Toadie over. “You don’t even know her name?” she asked.

Toadie simply laid there, shaking his head with his eyes squeezed shut.

“Well, before you do anything,” Rhae said, as she helped him stand up, “You need to go find out.”

He paled, “I can’t. Don’t make me.”

“You’re the one that asked for my help,” Rhae said, kneeling beside him to brush him off.

“Rhae,” he said, teary-eyed.

“Don’t Rhae me.”

“Fa,” he sang.

“Stop that and listen to me,” Rhae scowled, “You’ll never win a girl’s heart that way. Now get over there and say hi.”

Toadie shuffled through the crowd as Rhae shook her head. She found a place to sit. Too far away to hear anything, she could at least see them talking. Suddenly, Toadie took off running.

As he ran by her, Rhae asked, “Hey, what happened? What’s her name?”

“I got to get a nifty-gifty,” he huffed without stopping.

“Well, okay,” Rhae shrugged, “That was fast.”

Toadie quickly returned with an arm load of apples and a bouquet of red flowers.

“Now just a minute,” Rhae said, grabbing him, “What are you doing?”

Toadie unloaded the apples into her lap, his face flushed from the run. “Apple-dapple for you and itty-bitty flowers for her.”

“Oh sure,” she said, checking over the apples, “You love the girl so you bring her dead plants. Nice one.”

“I thought apples would be nice switchy-itchy from fishy.”

“They are, but I’m talking about the damn flowers.”

“Flowers no goodie-woody?”

“Well, some girls like them,” Rhae said and plucked one flower from the bunch, “But thirteen is a bad number.” Toadie nodded as she tucked the odd flower behind her ear. “Where’s your little harp and flute? Weren’t you going to sing for her?”

Toadie blanched, “I, um, sold ’em.”

“To buy the flowers?”

“Well, um.”

“Damn, she must mean a lot to you.”

Toadie met Rhae’s gaze and said, “She is the world unfurled to me.”

“Is that so?” she raised an eyebrow and bit into an apple, “Go tell her that then.”

He slumped and glanced over to the little woman. “Okay.”

Taking another bite, she asked, “What’s her name anyhow?”

“Kara-Tomo,” he said, sniffing the flowers.

“Toadie, relax will you? Just be yourself. If she doesn’t like you for who you are, then she’s a waste of your time.”

“I know,” he sighed.

“It would be her loss if she didn’t go for you,” Rhae added, finishing the apple and picking up another, “So get over there and show her what you’re made of.”

Toadie buried his face in the flowers.

“Go on now,” she said, nudging him with her hand.

She watched as Toadie walked over and presented the bouquet. Kara-Tomo giggled as she accepted the gift. As Toadie placed one hand on his chest and lifted the other, Rhae stood up. She moved in closer to hear his song.

“In your ruby hair, my dreams you bear. Your stormy eyes are the calm to my sea. It’s your silence that sets me free. Please, please love me,” Toadie sang.

“That’s a very-berry nice song, Toadie-Odie,” Kara-Tomo said.

Toadie bowed with a flourish, “I’m indebted to you, my pretty-itty lady.”

“Ah there you are Kara-Tomo,” said a small man with brown fluffy hair and built much like Toadie, “Sowwies I’m late-ate.”

“Hiyas, Melo-Polo,” planting a kiss firmly on his cheek, she added, “No worries, Toadie-Odie kept me company.”

“Thankie-hankies, good sir,” Melo-Polo bowed, “You are well known-own for your songs in these here part-marts.”

“Bestest wishes, Toadie-Odie, and good luck,” Kara-Tomo said with a wave.

Toadie waved back as the pair strolled away, hand in hand.

Rhae stepped up beside Toadie, crossing her arms. “I can’t believe she led you on like that. You even sold your harp and flute to buy her flowers. And that bitch had someone else already.”

Toadie sighed, looking at his open hand.

“What’s that you got there?”

Tears welled up in his eyes as he balled his hand into a fist. “Why does this have to be so hard?” he said, chucking whatever it was at the city wall. Covering his face, he ran out the gate.

“Poor guy,” Rhae whispered as she watched him go, “Well, guess I’d better wait for him to find me. He always does.”

Curious, she searched the tall grass at the wall. She found a large round onyx set in a plain silver ring. The fancy swirling initial carved into the stone looked more like an R than a K.

“Wow,” she said, slipping the ring on her finger. It was a perfect fit. “But why so big?”

She admired it for a bit then shrugged. Thinking he might change his mind and want the ring back, she tucked it into her pocket for safe keeping. Sad for her friend and angry with Kara-Tomo, Rhae headed through the gate to go fishing as planned.

* Inspired by Final Fantasy XI (FFXI), property of Square-Enix *

Archived on WordPress @ 12 April 2017

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