Lota sat inside a tavern in the center of the village of jonga, the roars of laughter and merriment went around the room. Everyone was mourning the loss of Lexus' King and Queen. But Lota could bloody care less. Her gloved fingers tightened around her tankard. They were celebrating the memory of good times and prosperity. She finished her drink and slapped a few coins on the counter top.
She stood up and walked out. Her sluggish limbs not wanting to obey as she made her way towards the east part of town. She hadn't been out hunting in days, she really needed to go. Earn some more money to buy supplies and food. She stumbled her way out of town and made her way out into the country side. The sun was setting and for once it didnt comfort her. She was rather disgusted by it. Others could be happy and continue to live on, despite their kingdoms lack of stability. Lota could not.
She saw her home, it was far off of the road. It sat next to a massive oak tree. It was her fathers land, and down below the tree held by the roots was the tomb that held her great grand father and the rest of their clan. She spied the fire light inside and knew her grandmother was still awake. Her grandfather would still be out hunting, but Grenna-Lus was still awake awaiting her return. Lota had vanished at dawn and stayed out the entire day.
She flopped on the ground next to the roots where a dozen little dishe's holding candles that were burning for her father. She dipped a finger in the wax and traced the symbol for their clan on her forehead. She looked up at the sky as the stars began to appear and twinkle above. Lota finally allowed herself to cry, the tears came first, sliding silently as the pain burned with every moment that passed. She wept, and her shoulders wracked with sobs. She cried out in agony for her father. "No! No you cant be gone!" Lota cried, "Come back to me Father, I cant live without you!"
"Lota?" Her grandmothers voice came from the doorway. Lota curled in on herself and continued to plead for her father to not be dead, to not be the marble dust that lay in an urn. She cried and her grandmother pulled her up softly. Lota clung to her grandmother with an intense grip. "Come along, let's get you cleaned up."
Lota laid in her fathers bed as she listened to her Grandmother walk around doing her morning routine. This was the last day she would be here, after this Lota needed to begin her chores again. She needed to tend her garden and go out hunting to survive. Seeing as Lota had no intention to marry right now she needed to live on her own two feet. She was in serious denial, but today she decided she would see her grandmother back into town and to the trade center where her grandfather would be waiting for her. They would return to the kingdom and Lota would be alone once more.
She got up and swiftly cleaned up from sleep. Lota chose to forgo her leathers today and wear the dress her father had bought her the day he died. He'd gone out and purchased her a buttercup yellow dress that would highlight her golden eyes. She tugged her long braids back from her face into a tight bun. The braids kept her hair tight and kept so it didnt interfear with a hunt. But today it was better up away from her face. She secured her waist cincher and tied her maiden sash about her waist. She followed it up with the emeralds of her family. She wanted to show her grandmother she could do this, she could live alone.
Lota exited her room and smiled as her grandmother looked up from the kitchen. She set a cup of tea down and Lota settled at the kitchen table. "Thank you." Lota smiled.
"Aye, will you be okay love?" Grenna asked. "I can stay, a few more days if you want."
"No, I can do this." Lota said. "I'll tend the garden tonight, replant and in the morning I'll go out hunting, bring some more money in." Lota said. "A good hunt will calm me. It's almost autumn, I can get one good harvest for winter and go out for a full winter hunt."
"Are you sure?" Grenna asked again. Lota slid her fingers over her grandmothers.
Her grandmother stood up and dissappeared into the guest bedroom. She returned with a small box covered in sea shells and pearls. "This was your mothers, before she left she asked us to hold this for you, until it was time to see it." Grenna said. "I taught you all the tings a woman needs to know but there are things a mother should share. Now that she cant I think it's time for her to speak to you."
"So she was bonded to father." Lota rubbed her temple. "Is it her who died?"
"I an only assume so." Grenna looked utterly broken as well. After all Gundar-Lus was her only son. Lota touched the box and looked down.
"I will open it later tonight." Lota said and stood up, her insides churned seeing something her mother had left behind. She knew her father had decided to keep her here. Her mother was a political figure and needed to return to the kingdom. She knew her father had loved her deeply and the only reason he remained here was because he wanted to keep Lota out of the light. They had been the perfect family, her father had doted on her, taught her how to manage her dual elemental natures. He taught her to hunt, to garden, to listen to the earth, to control the plants and the water. He taught her manners, he taught her how to react in court, how to handle people. Her father had been her life, her best friend, and now he was gone. He'd regaled her tales of her mother and she thought one day she might meet the woman she had vague memories of. Now she was gone and the regret ate at Lota like a missed hunt.
Lota got up form the table and tucked the box in her room before she grabbed her shawl and followed her grandmother out to the small cart that held the luggage. Lota climbed up and took the reigns while her grandmother settled next to her. The soft lines of her youthful face reminded Lota that she would never really age, more life her father had missed out on. She flicked the reigns and the golden mare tugged the cart along. The air was crisp and warm with mid morning light.
Lota drove the cart into town and in towards where the trading post was. She spied her grandfather, Junso-Lus. He was a large man, rugged with rust colored hair, his pointed ears flicked out from his curly short hair. He looked up his long coat fluttering as he moved towards them. Two men followed carrying massive pelts and crates of salted meat. He jumped up onto the cart and jerked her into a hug. "Good haul in these woods Lota!" He chuckled. "It'll get better once the frost comes in. Lots of winter feed here."
"Yeah, the ridge by the swamp is the best." Lota chuckled. Junso laughed fully and cupped her face.
"Gonna miss you sweet." He said kissing her forehead. "You gonna be alright?"
"Yeah." She smiled even as inside she wanted to scream.
"Well, write as much as possible." Junso said.
"Come up to the kingdom in the spring so we can visit." Grenna said.
She watched as her Grandfather settled in the seat and she recieved a tight hug from her grandmother. "Good bye love." They said to her.
"Good bye." Lota watched as they headed out of town and she waited until they were at the gate before she stopped waving. She looked to the board next to her that stated the hunting rates, now was almost into the season when big money would come for the bones and a cut of the meat from hunts. She could sell the bones and pelts, all she needs is the preserved meat and the money to make it through the winter on her own. It just seemed so pointless if she wasnt spending Yule and the harvest with her father.
"Finally going to do something with your life?" The shrewd voice of Nora-Lupe made Lota bristle. She wanted to turn around and throw a good jibe back at the tiger shifter. Instead Lota took a paper detailing the rates for trade. She turned on her heel and made for the village exit. "Youre going to have to now that daddy isnt around to look after baby Lota now."
Lota felt her eye twitch as she clenched her fist. She heard the people over bythe entrance as someone arrived but Lota had whirled on Nora, her short hair cropped close to her head. She cradled a huge pouch of coins, no doubt home from her hunt. But Lota would to better, she always did. "I wonder if you'll make it through the winter without daddy to walk you back from the pubs." Nora chidded, "Now we can get to his hunting land, it's all ours now."
Lota flicked her hand out and vines shot from the ground, wrapping around Nora's leather encased legs. Lota walked forward and snatched Nora by the tunic. "Keep it up cat, I might just decide you need a good kick." Lota hissed. "Dont dishonor the dead."
"Like your father had honor, he ran off form the kingdom." Nora sneered. "Coward, and a traitor"
Lota's fist swung before she realized what she was doing. She felt Nora's nose cave under her knuckles. Nora hissed and flicked out a set of claws but another vine caught her. Shouts echoed as the other villagers realized Nora and Lota were fighting again. Lota didnt care, the boiling upset feelings over her father had spilled over. She snatched Nora's hair as a solid punch connected with Lota's jaw. Shaking the punch off Lota unloaded two quick punches to Nora's face before she head butted her. Nora crumpled and Lota gave her a swift kick to her ass. It sent her sprawling. "Get going feline!" Lota hissed. "Talk about my father again! I'll kill you myself!"
"This isnt over mixed breed." Nora hissed before she took off through the group of people. Lota dusted off her dress.
"Oh you want a rematch, come at me when I'm armed you little tramp." Lota growled. "Make my week so much better I really want you to. The village could do without one cat, I'm sure."
Nora took off again, and Lota shoved her way back out to the road the took her home. She wanted to relax, and mourn in peace. Perhaps open the box her mother had left. That was until she heard hoofbeats behind her. She tilted her head and saw a fairly large black horse. It's rider was swathed in armor, his white hair coating his head softly. He stopped next to her and tugged down his scarf. He was attractive, as he moved. "Ma'am, I'm looking for the archive tree, is that around here somewhere?" He asked.
Lota pointed back to town and to the north side. "You looking for something?" Lota asked. "It's a little late in the season for travellers."
"I'm looking for someone who lives here." He said.
"Name?" She aked.
"It's a matter of urgency, a Royal order, top secret." He said, then nodded to her. "Thankyou for your assistance."
Lota waved him off and continued on home. His horses hoofbeats faded and Lota was once more at her home. She clenched her fists and forced her feet to carry her to the door. She bypassed the house and looked at the garden, it needed picked, she hefted up a basket and took her shoes off. The earth breathed through her with joy. She smiled at how relaxed the earth made her feel. Perhaps she could do this. She spent hours picking and tendiong the garden. It was early afternoon when she saw the man again, he was rising his horse intent. He stopped at the road that led down to the cottage. She froze, he was here for her. Visitors only ever came when they wanted her stake in the hunting. Mad she'd stolen their kill before they made it.
Royal orders for her. She felt her heart sink and she turned, she needed to defend herself. Without time to run in and grab her bow and dagger she took off towards the forests, a shout rang out behind her and she kept going. She needed to get to the swamp, she could hide there.