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Amber slowly stirred in herself awake. The last thing she remembered was Axel laying her down to rest in the bed he had let her use, but judging from the light pouring in from a window next to her it was morning now. Or at the very least, daytime. With half a mind to simply nod off again, she rolled over in bed to find Armeria smiling down at her from her perch on the windowsill. "Good morning Amber." She said in her usual monotone voice.
"Uh-huh." Amber nodded drowsily, slowly realising she was too awake now to go back to sleep any time soon. She slowly pushed herself upright and rubbed her eyes, allowing them a little time to adjust to the daylight. "How'd you sleep?"
"I don't sleep, remember?" She said, turning her head to the side in an attempt to convey the confusion that her voice could not.
It took a while for Amber to respond, finding herself a little muddled after what must have been the most restful night she'd had in ages. "Right, sorry." After stretching her arms over her head, Amber got out of bed and had a hugged her tummy. Her new pajama's where just as soft as she remembered, and she allowed herself a moment to just enjoy their feel against her skin. "Have you seen Axel or Zeke yet?"
Armeria hopped of her perch and landed on the bed. "No, but I think their awake." The tiny familiar raiser her arms at Amber, wanting to be picked up. "I've heard someone walking around all morning." After another stretch, Amber picked up her familiar and held her against her tummy like a stuffed toy.
She emerged from the bedroom a second later, peering down the length of the house to find Axel working on something in the kitchen and Zeke sitting on the table behind him. The floor creaked just as her foot hit the carpet of the den, and Zeke turned to great her with a big grin on his face. "Hi Amber!" Axel spun around as well, in the middle of devouring a hastily made omelet as Zeke's wings appeared and he sprung into the air. "How'd you sleep?"
"Fine." She smiled, peering out the large bay window overlooking the town. "What time is it?"
"Little after ten." Axel said, swallowing the last of what must have been breakfast. He opened his mouth to say something else, but suddenly stopped and stared at her.
Amber didn't notice at first, but drew back a little when she finally looked back at him. "What?"
"You have orange eyes." He said flatly, as if she'd never looked in a mirror before. "I never noticed with your glasses on."
Amber reached up around her face, just now realising that she'd left her glasses on the nightstand back in the bedroom. It was just a passing thought, but it still didn't really explain why he was suddenly so interested in the color of her eyes. "So?"
"Well. Your name's Amber and you have orange eyes." He said with a shrug. "Just thought it was kind of cool." Amber couldn't tell if he was trying to make fun if her or not, but Axel continued on before she had the chance to really think on it. "Anyways, uh... I'm in a bit of a rush today. Dad wanted me to help him with something, and I'm kind of running a bit late." He wiped his mouth, then took half a step towards the door. "Want me to make you anything before I go?"
Amber thought about it a little. She'd liked the food he made when they had eaten out back in the swamp, but in thinking about it she remembered that she'd already made plans for that morning. "No thinks, I'm meeting Shelly later today at that Harbors place."
Axel seemed to anticipate that answer, and after a moment had his shoes on and was standing in the foyer. "Ok, have fun." He opened the door to leave, and Zeke flew outside just as Axel poked his head in one last time. "I don't really have much worth stealing, but remember to lock the door before you go. Ok?"
Amber nodded, then watch through the bay window as Axel and Zeke descended the stone steps to the road and headed into the city. After standing alone in the den for a moment, she decided to get changed and start her day as well.
Shelly waited next to the Café she had planned to meet Amber at that day, rocking back and forth on her heels as she kept a lookout. Crouched down next to her was Carra, teasing her dog Chico with the ends of her long red pigtails.
Shelly glanced down one of the side streets, just in time to see the person she was waiting for wonder out from around the corner. "Amber!" She called, waving to her to draw her attention. She waved back, and Carra slowly picked up Chico and held him against her chest. Shelly tried her best to ignore her friend's defensive behavior, eventually pulling her up front once Amber was close enough to talk. "Hope you don't mind, Carra wanted to come too."
Carra sunk her chin down over dog's head, shyly looking at Amber over the top of her glasses. "Hi..."
It seemed to take a second for Amber to remember her, but she smiled none the less. "Sure, I don't mind."
Shelly nudged Carra with her elbow as the trio set off, as if to say I told you so, and stepped out to lead them all to a table. A waitress brought them all a glass of water, and as they waited for menus a slightly mischievous smile grow across Shelly's face. "So?" She asked, expecting Amber to know what she was talking about. "Did Axel give you any trouble?"
"No..." Amber shook her head, but was unable to hide the slight flush in her face. Shelly rested her chin in her hand, waiting for Amber to continue. "Nothing happened, really."
"I see." Shelly said, failing to hold back a small smile. It was getting really easy to tell when she was lying, and she suspected that Amber had realised it too. She waited for a moment, but was unable to hold back her curiosity for very long. "C'mon, please tell me?"
Amber sighed, but evidently thought it best to play along. "OK, I fell asleep on the couch and he carried me to bed. That’s all."
"Aww, that's sweet.” Shelly cooed, leaning back in her chair. "See? I told you he's a good guy." Amber nodded, desperately hoping she'd be able to change the subject somehow. Thankfully, the waitress returned with their menus shortly after, and any questions disappeared as the girls remembered how hungry they were.
Amber quickly glanced over each of the items, each looking incredibly good if the pictures where to be believed. So much so that it made it difficult to decide what she wanted to try. Before she realised it, Carra and Shelly had both placed their order, and the waitress was looking expectantly at her. "Uh, I'll have this..." She said, pointing to a picture without really looking.
"Brownie mountain, good choice." The waitress announced, scribbling down the order on a notepad. "Anything to drink, hun?"
Amber glanced down at the menu again, picking the first drink she found. "The hot chocolate."
With a small nod, the waitress departed, leaving the three of them alone to talk. "So? What do you want to talk about?" Shelly asked, resting her elbows on the table.
It took barely half a second for Amber to think of something. "Was your brother still mad at you?"
Shelly went rigid at first, but realised that this was Amber's way of getting back at her for asking about Axel. "He was, yeah. But I waited until dad got home before I went inside, so he didn't say anything." Amber withdrew a little, and Shelly took a moment to rethink how that sounded. "It's not that he's mean, it's just annoying when he fusses over me."
"What'd he say?" Carra asked, trying not to be left out.
"Nothing." She shrugged, a little annoyed that Carra was playing along as well. "Dad told us to forget about it, as long as I didn't do it again." She sounded as if she was reading aloud out of a book, a particularly boring book.
Amber giggled, feeling like she'd gotten back at Shelly enough. "What about the rest of your family?" She said, trying to change the subject now. "Is your mom a guild member too?"
Carra suddenly choked on something, and Shelly froze. It didn't take long for Amber to realise that she had asked something she shouldn't have, but by then it was too late to take the question back. "Well, she was..." Shelly mumbled, beginning to fidget in her chair. "My mom died a little after I was born. Dad said it had something to do with an old wound opening up when she was pregnant with me."
Carra glanced back and forth between Amber and Shelly, apparently unsure of how to resolve the conversation. "O-oh..." Amber stuttered, regretting now that she had ever opened her mouth. "I-I'm sorry..."
Shelly perked up instantly, trying to shrug off the topic like it was nothing. "It's ok, you didn't know." Amber smiled back at her, but it still didn't change the fact that she looked guilty about bringing such a thing up. "I think that's why Leo worries about me so much though. Everyone says that I look just like her." A slight flush grew on her face, something Amber couldn't remember seeing from her before, and her voice became hushed. "Dad's even called me by her name a few times too."
Despite Shelly's attempts to brush it off, Amber still felt bad about bringing up a topic like that. After all the stuff she’d had to resolve yesterday, stumbling upon this made her feel worse. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up something bad."
Having gotten over the initial shock of the situation, Shelly shook her head. "I said it's ok, you couldn't have known." She sunk back in her chair, and the tension of the situation slowly began to dissipate. "Most of us have lost someone. Dad says that's just how the world is for mages."
The waitress returned from the kitchen just in time to stop the conversation dead, something they all were pretty thankful for. "Alright, yogurt sundae with gram crackers for the redhead, peach donut trio for you, and that leaves a big ol' brownie for the new arrival. And drinks for each of you." She said, handing out a plate to each of them. "Alright, enjoy girls. Let me know if you need anything."
"Thanks." They all said together.
Carra started first, taking one of her crackers and handing it down to Chico, lying at her feet. Her dish looked like a large bowl of yogurt, topped to the brim with various cubes of fruit and berries. Shelly was next, taking a big bite out of what looked like a pink bun. Her face lit up as she ate; anything peach flavored was her favorite. "C'mon, you'll like it."
Not wanting to fall behind, Amber scooped off a small bit with a fork and bit into it, after which her face lit up with a huge smile. She slid her hand up over her mouth, trying to hide her amazement from the others. "It's so good." She thought aloud.
Shelly chuckled a little, noticing a small smile on Carra's face as well. "They make all this stuff from scratch too. We'll have to bring you back some time to try something else." Amber took another bite and nodded her head in agreement. Carra slipped Chico another cracker as Shelly finished her first donut, but before starting her second she tore off a small piece and offered it to Amber. "Wann'a try some?"
"Yeah." Amber said, forgoing any attempt to hide the giddiness in her voice.
She practically inhaled the piece, liking it just as much as she had her own meal. Shelly laughed again, and a playful look returned to her face. "Careful, you'll put on weight if you eat too much."
Amber stopped instantly, becoming slightly self-aware of the big smile on her face. She flushed red, and shuttered slightly at the thought of gaining a few extra pounds. Carra looked between the two of them again, then said. "But Shelly, you eat here all the time."
In a total reversal, Shelly's face turned red, and she slowly crossed her hands over her stomach. Amber began to chuckle as well, not even mad about Shelly trying to tease her. "What about you? If you eat nothing but yogurt you'll never grow any taller." Shelly shot back. Carra slumped her shoulders, but despite this they all began to laugh together.
After a few minutes the trio had finished their meal and paid the bill, and where now looking to continue with their day. Just as she stood up, Amber felt a dull ache in the pit of her stomach. It was uncomfortable at first, but not enough so to cause her to complain. "So what do you guys want to do now?" Shelly asked, hanging her book bag over her shoulder.
Amber was too distracted by the pain in her stomach to think of anything, so she simply shrugged. "I don't know."
"How about the library at the guild?" Carra suggested.
"Sure." Amber nodded, slowly slipping a hand over her aching tummy. Carra hopped up and nodded as well, with Chico waiting by her feet.
Shelly smiled again, but took half a step in the opposite direction from where Amber thought the guild was. "OK, you two go on ahead. I've got a book to return, so I'll catch up in a bit." The three girls nodded to each other again, then Shelly took off in a different direction as Amber and Carra headed for the guild.
It wasn't long before Harbors Café was out of sight, but the dull ache in Amber's stomach had slowly been making itself worse as time went on. She watch Carra's pigtails bob as they walked, and thought it might be a good chance to get to know her better, as well as take her mind off the developing stomach-ache. "So, Carra; where do you live?"
"Down the street from Shelly." She murmured, speaking barely loud enough to hear. "There’s an apartment building at the corner of her street. I live on the third floor."
Amber didn't remember seeing that, but at least Carra was opening up to her a little. A lump formed in her throat, which she swallowed away to carry on a conversation. "Do you go out on jobs too?"
"Not really, I just work as a waitress." She sunk her head down over Chico's, seemingly for comfort. "I don't like doing something where I could get hurt." Amber smirked to herself; with the way her own first job had gone, staying home and working risk free sounded like a wonderful way to live.
"You're a mage though, right?" She asked, sort of wishing Carra would ask her something too.
"Yeah. But I'm not like the others." She seemed somewhat somber in admitting it, and began an explanation before Amber could ask. "I can't run fast, or lift heavy stuff. All I can really use is Archive Magic." With a wave of her hand, a blue holographic display no bigger than a piece of paper appeared before her. "I use it to keep track of what people order back at the guild. But it doesn't really help me fight or anything."
"I-I see." Amber stuttered. She didn't know what to say to follow that, but decided it best to simply move on after a moment of thought.
She was about to ask another question, the lump in her throat returned just as she opened her mouth. It made whatever she was about to say come out as a gurgled hiccup, and she suddenly began to feel nauseated. Carra stopped as well, spinning around to investigate the strange noise Amber had made. "What was that?"
Despite it taking much more energy than it should have, Amber shook her head to try and not raise concern. It didn't help much however, for she had to catch herself on the wall of a nearby ally when she began to feel dizzy. Soon something welled up from the pit of her stomach, filling her mouth with a bitter sting. After a moment of unsuccessfully fighting the feeling back, Amber dropped to her knees and vomited in the center of the ally.
Having returned her book, Shelly now jogged down the street to catch up to her friends. While they had been poking fun of each other for most of the morning, Amber seemed to be enjoying herself despite all the drama she'd gone through over the past week. At least, that's how it appeared to her.
After passing Harbors, she carried on down the main street hoping to spot Carra and Amber again. It was getting to that point in the day where the streets where filling with venders, causing Shelly to wonder if she'd be able to see the others in the crowd. Suddenly, she felt a tug on her sleeve as she passed by another ally, stopping and spinning her around all at once. Carra stood next to her, clutching Chico tight against her chest. "Oh, hey." She said, looking around for their other companion. "Where's Amber?"
Carra shuddered, slowly turning around to point at a nearby building. "T-there..."
Shelly followed her gesture to find Amber curled up in the fetal position against the wall. She seemed bothered by something, judging by the grimace on her face, and upon a second glance she found Carra seemed upset as well. After a quick look around, she bent down and rested her hands on her knees. "Amber? Is something wrong?"
"I feel sick..." She moaned. Pointing towards the entrance to a nearby ally.
Shelly was confused at first, but the smell emanating from the ally in question was enough of a clue to let her figure out what had happened for herself. "How bad is it?" Amber shrugged, hugging her stomach tighter. "Can you stand?"
"Are you asking if I can, or if a want to?" Amber moaned, trying and failing to lighten the mood.
Shelly giggled a little, then slowly lifted one of Amber's arms up around her shoulder and pulled her to her feet. "C'mon, if you're sick we should probably tell Jaina." Amber groaned at the idea, but if Jaina had a way to stop the aching in her stomach, she'd be willing to put up with just about anything right about now. Somehow sensing this, Shelly glanced at Carra watching them from the street. "Can you give me a hand?"
She nodded silently and put Chico down, but before she could do anything Amber pulled herself off of Shelly's shoulder. "Its fine, I can walk on my own."
Carra glanced back at Shelly, who had a somewhat perplexed look on her face. "Are you sure?"
While it was true that standing on her own feet made her stomach turn inside out, Amber didn't like the thought of relying on them for something like this. Carra and Shelly where both younger than she was, not to mention smaller. What was their plan, carry her all the way through the city to Jaina's hut? Besides; if she needed to throw up again there'd be no chance for them to get out of the way while carrying her, and Amber didn't think she’d be able to live with that kind of embarrassment. "Just, go slowly... Ok?"
Far on the outskirts of the city, Jaina was in the midst of her daily, lonesome routine. She'd spent most of the morning harvesting vegetables from the garden next to her hut, and had already filled an entire bucket full of them. Not a bad job, considering she only had a single arm to work with. Upon sitting up to rest for a moment, she glanced down the road that led to the guild, and subsequently the city, to see a small group of people approaching.
She wasn't accustomed to visitors, in fact she actively discouraged the townsfolk from dropping in on her, but after squinting her single eye to see thought the harsh sunlight, she realised that she recognised her visitors. All where members of Blazing Soul; Shelly, Carra, and the new arrival Amber. She wasn't surprised to see the three of them together, even this far out of town, but the pace at which they were moving indicated that whatever they were coming here for was urgent.
Shelly was the first to arrive, opening the gate to Jaina's garden to allow the other's to pass. Carra followed second, carrying the dog that was always following her around against her chest, and finally Amber. Who, by the looks of it, wasn't having a very good day. "Where's the fire, girls?"
"Jaina, Ambers' sick." Shelly explained. "She threw up in town."
"Oh?" Jaina said in surprise. "Never took you for a drinker, new girl."
"I'm not..." She groaned, apparently not in the mood for humor. "My stomach just hurts."
Deciding that jokes could wait until later, Jaina slowly rose to her feet and beckoned the others to follow after her. "Well, come on inside. I'll have a look at ya." She led them around her hut to the door, propping it open with her back. Shelly helped Amber inside and sat her down on a small couch, but just as Carra was about to do follow, Jaina stuck out her peg leg to block her. "Hold up; the dog stays outside."
Carra seemed suppressed by this. "Why?"
"Because I'm a doctor, not a vet. And I don't want dog hair on everything." Carra seemed saddened at the thought of leaving Chico alone outside, but Jaina ruffled her hear in an attempt to cheer her up. "Don't pout, he'll be fine. Only dangerous animal out here is me."
Carra nodded slightly, but it was clear that she didn't like the idea. Begrudgingly she let Chico down on the outside step of Jaina's hut, then sat down next to him in the doorway. Jaina grunted a little, but didn't have it in her heart to ask any more of them.
Slowly spinning around, Jaina walked through the chaotic mess that she called her living room, past Shelly and Amber, and through another door in the back. She returned a moment later, and handed a small cup filled with a clear liquid to Amber. "Aright, drink this first."
"What is it?" She asked.
Jaina huffed, a little irritated by Amber's suspicious tone. "Water. To get rid of the taste." Amber took a quick sip, then gulped down the rest in a single go when she confirmed what it was for herself. Jaina leaned back on a desk on the other side of the room, patiently waiting for Amber to finish. "So, what'd you do?"
Next Chapter – House Call