Poppy’s Soliloquies

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments…witnessed by an evergreen.

I have…

A blanket… a drab, brown blanket.

Weapons…my resources.

The clothing on my back…terribly boring.

Dinner stuff…even more boring than terribly boring.

A few gold pieces…quite exciting, but not exciting enough to do anything outstandingly exciting with.

*sighs*

Oh…I have a Moriel to keep safe.

The game of pluck and plunk must be exact.

So, everything else is gone.  All of it left behind.  The world is such an empty place, now.  I made a promise to leave what I have and so that promise will stay a promise.  I have ways to keep my promise by working around my promise.  No one will suspect.

To Arms and Bounty!

The evergreen appears unimpressed as the Halfling strides away with purpose.  

 

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments…witnessed by the slug stuck to the side of the rock she sat upon

I still have…

The blanket…still very drab

The weapons…minus several bolts

Dinner stuff…which seems out of place considering everyone prefers their fingers

A few gold…sadly, none to add to the few lonely pieces.

My clothing… with the unwelcomed addition of Gronk’s blood on my cape.

Moriel…quite unharmed, but quiet.  Perhaps the strange humans worry her.  

Affairs have been quite messy as of late.  Dwarfs bleed too much.

I must remember never to play with trolls.  I don’t much like them.  They throw my game off.  No clear shots.   Then of course, Gronk hogged the troll.  Then the tree became involved.  No one ever told the troll that an entire tree shouldn’t be used as a weapon.  You get too tired swinging it around and you eventually lose, as he did.   Moriel would have taught him that, and then she would have scolded him for yanking an entire tree out of the ground for the purpose of hitting Gronk with it.  A complete waste! I think that’s why she sat back too.  She was just too horrified at the tree being abused. I sat back for a while because Gronk was in the way.  No room to plunk.  My game was completely off.  The entire affair was so boring, and unfair I decided to let the dwarf have his fun.  I just didn’t play.  Then after Gronk was done, my cape got dirty.

I’ll have to tell Gronk that if he insists on bleeding so much, he needs to be more tidy about it.  Also, the one they call Banagher is very much out of place, kind of like a dirty dwarf in a dress shop.  I wonder if he knows that the game isn’t played with books…well I guess it could be if he was in a position to bonk someone over the head with it.  I’ll have to net an orc or something to see if he’ll use the book.  I’ll set a fine example with my Hittin’ Stick, we’ll have a fine time bonk’en and a bash’en.  Then we have the spirit worshipper, the one that gets a boo-boo on his ankle and chickens out of the orc game, and the one that stares at Moriel.  They all play differently, but I’m not sure they’ll win.  I shouldn’t complain since it gives me and Moriel more of a chance.  

And then to top it all off after dealing with dark caves and dirty, smelly orc dung, Moriel took me away from a potential prize!  A prize above all other prizes!  Better than a shimmering, pink fountain of fluffy, flowing skirts to call my own….

I could have had a star.  Well, not a whole star, but a piece of one.  But, that’s no matter, because a star’s a star and even a piece is a glorious thing!   Imagine, a star, just for me!  I’d tack it to a ribbon and wear it in my hair.  I’d glow!  Someday, when Moriel’s not looking, I’ll go back and find my star.  For now I’ll just have to settle for the same old, and getting older drab items in my pack.

*sighs*

Perhaps tomorrow things will show signs of improvement.

To Arms and Bounty!

Poppy hops from the rock and shuffles off, leaving the slug, as a slug should be, securely attached to the side of the rock, being unaware of anything except that it is content being stuck to a rock.

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments…witnessed by Gronk, snoring on a nearby cot

I still have…

The blanket

The weapons…I need a better crossbow. I have too many targets

Dinner stuff…plus a few spices

My clothing… counting the stained cloak

Gold!…I finally got paid!

A Moriel…who told me to go home.

I could have told her my home is cinder, smoke, and ashes, but even that wouldn’t be true because the cinders and smoke are all gone.  You figure the elves, being wise and all would know that dead ash isn’t home.  But, no, she sees a bunch of stone soldiers and tells me to go home!  Maybe she thinks ash is better than stone?  I’d rather be a stone statue than something flighty and forgettable like ash.  At times I’m not sure where her mind is!  She’s an elf who needs to learn that ashes can’t be anything, especially a home.  She is my home.

Now to focus on making history!  The archery contest is the road to glory and bright-sunflower, satin shoes!  Maybe a new cloak…I wonder if Itchy can get me some pink fur trim.

*Poppy takes a moment to study an unsuspecting, slumbering Gronk*

I wonder what Gronk would think about helping me with my target practice a bit while we travel.

Poppy lays back on her cot, her ponderings eventually turn into dreams of apple-juggling dwarves, the victory march of Poppy the Halfling Queen of Archers, and ashes.  Gronk continues to loudly snore the night away.

A Halfling with a rather large crossbow sits upon a tree limb, swinging her feet and humming a little tune while a battle takes a place below.

(Loosely apply the tune from “I Feel Pretty”)

I am Poppy, oh yes Poppy!

I am poppy, the Halfling crusade

I am Poppy, pluck and plunky

Won’t  ye come and play my game?

I’m alarming, but so charming

My sharp stingers are very real!

Ah…no running from my stunning

One plunk and you’ll hardly feel!

I am Poppy, oh yes Poppy

A bounty more until I get paid!

The Halfling finds a target and lets fly a bolt.  She wiggles and shimmies gleefully upon the limb as the bolt sinks into the targets back. Dismayed that her target did not drop she bites her lip, reaims and hums her tune a bit more forcefully.

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments…witnessed by a babbling brook

I have…

The blanket

Weapons…still the same old crossbow

Dinner stuff…still got a lil bit of that red pepper.

My clothing…dwarven blood just doesn’t wash out! *she scrubs at the stain more vigorously*

Gold…shopping here I come!

A Moriel…she almost shot a human who wanted to shoot her, but then I would have shot him first, any way it went he’d  of lost the game.   Human’s can be dumb.  I wish we got to play.

An idol…but he lost.

Xander was his name.  I thought I was the best shot until I met him so it was only proper that he become my idol.   I just wish he wasn’t so short lived so he’d have time to hear the tales sung about me.  Xander, one of the masters of the game, shot dead, through the eye, a lesson to me.  I will walk upon his footprints until I surpass them and take up his position as warder.  I will be the pinnacle of warders, not leaving footprints of my own since all they lead to is the ending of the game.  Instead I will be the warder legend, so fast, sure and true of aim even the mists will be baffled and awed!  I will be Poppy, The Halfling Crusader, The Warder.   Xander will be avenged, remembered, and his legacy shall be redefined so that the name Poppy will whisper through the winds and all will know it was he who inspired the legend.

Now to figure out who killed Xander.  Orcs can’t read or write. I know a couple of humans who can read and write and one in particular who decided to guard a smokehouse who’s capable of writing a note.  I’ll have to talk to Moriel to see whether or not I should shoot HIM through the eye.

*sighs*  

Well I guess that’s as good as it gets.

 *Poppy smoothes out the threadbare, mildly stained surface of her cloak, and tosses it around her shoulders.  She picks up her crossbow, poses like royalty about to shoot a shoot a stag and breaks her pose to grimace at her cape*  

Perhaps I’ll have time to get a new cloak before the archery competition.  I must look my best, legends should never have stains!

*As Poppy stalks off towards the camp, the babbling brook continues to babble about nothing even remotely related to the Halfing*

A crossbow toting halfing tip-toes out of the infirmary into the wee hours of the night before sleeping soldiers stir.

She goes directly to Xander, and stares at the fading embers.  Her toes skirt the perimeter of cooled ashes; she bends and scoops some into her hands, smears it all over her face and eats the remainder until her hands are once again clean.  Tendrils of smoke waft up towards the heavens, meshing with the last of the nighttime moonbeams, the hazy yellow light seems to encompass the camp.  

She breaths these words…

“All of you is a part of me.  I shall carry you always.”

The halfing stalks off towards the target range with an air of determination.

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments…witnessed by whomever she bumped into on her way to eat

I have:

A new blanket

A new clean cloak

A hat!…the most mysterious of floppy hats!

Dinner stuff

Knives…about ten nice sharp knives, very close and very hidden

Gold…I could have had more…much, much more, but I lost.   At least it was a play game and not the real game, so I have my life.

The El’Rashoud, The Desert Adder, a crossbow suited for royalty, once gracing royal hands, the most marvelously, stupendous of crossbows ever made, and now it’s come home to Poppy.

I was shaking so badly after I was handed The Adder, my pet.  I was so excited, too excited.  My game was ruined.  The last time I played pluck n’ plunk so bad was when I missed Jonquil La Minx, a live bounty, but I told him otherwise, aiming for his head, but shooting his hand instead.  He was so scared I had to bring him back to town with piss soaked clothes.  His fear kept him tame, so he walked.  But I missed on purpose, because he would have been a heavy one to drop n’ drag.

So I missed not once, but twice!  I lost gold and fame!  Everyone thinks I’m all pomp without a bite.  Oh…I bite…I bite hard…even harder now that I have my pet.  The tragedy is balanced by the gain of the Adder.  Perhaps this loss will benefit the future.  People won’t suspect.  Surprise is most often a winning element in the game.  I will regain everything, and more!  My song will be sung!

*Poppy brushes past a few more soldiers before entering the mess hall.  The annoyed soldiers turn back ready to clobber the self absorbed halfing, shake their heads, and figure why bother, she wouldn’t learn the lesson anyways.*

— 

In the mind of Poppy after a near death experience…

I think my guts are falling out.

I see blood.  It’s my blood.

I’m coughing blood.

Is the game over now?

I see Moriel.  She looks upset.

It must be because my guts are falling out.

She’ll eat my ashes of that I’m sure.

Have I really lost?

I’m coughing more blood.

I guess this is what happens when guts fall out.

Why hasn’t Banagher tucked them back in?

I can’t lose like this.

The halfing calls out remnants of words in between spasms of coughing…

“Banag…(cough, cough, hack)…lazy…(cough)…arse …(cough hack cough)…tuck gut…(cough, cough)….an sew me…(cough, hack, cough)…hurry, or I…(hack, cough, cough)…clok you (cough, hack, cough cough…).”

The efforts of speech and the pain soon overwhelmed the halfing, delivering her to a world of sleep where she dreams of a great win. 

The ludicrous ravings of a Halfling…witnessed by the feather bed she happened to be jumping on.

I have….a bed!  A real bed!

I have …a bed!  With a real feather mattress!

I have ….a room!  My very own room!

I have…a room!  A clean, fancy, room!

I have …a bubble bath!  A hot steaming bubble bath!

I have…a bubble bath!  A bubble bath I didn’t have to lug water up to, in the freezing cold, over and over again, and then heat it on the fire, over and over again, until finally I had enough to barely cover my frost bitten arse after I was too tired to carry more!  It was just there!  Waiting for me!

It’s about time I get some respect!  They must have heard about me.  There’s no other explanation for all this extravagance in the middle of a war. It’s only right that they give the rest of my party the same kind of treatment since they are in my company and all.  Just being around me they’re elevated to a semi-famous state.  They know I’m worth the trouble, especially after I almost died and came back to life again.  That in itself is an accomplishment of immortals.  Only an immortal can live after have her guts hanging out!  I’m a legend, more so than that rude little halfing, Peruppi the Puddle Paddler.  A dirty little creature she is jumping in muddy water!  And to think, she’s a legend!  Now I see the truth of things.  

I am Poppy!  Yes, I’m Poppy

I am Poppy, the Halfling crusade!

I am Poppy, extremely godly!

I am Poppy, an immortal made!….

*Feathers start to fly around the room as the mattress seams open.  Poppy is so busy singing, she barely notices the whirlwind of feathers swirling and spinning through the air, covering her and the room completely as she maniacally belts out her tune in the most frenzied of states*

Upon a soft feather bed a Halfling slumbers.  The fresh sheets and soft linens create a fluffy cocoon around her tiny body, with only her head peaking from the top, and her golden tresses spiraling around the pillow, creating an angelic facade. Her delicate mouth is curled into a delighted grin, and she is still, at peace and seemingly happy.  One such as this, so sweet, so innocent must dream of the heavens.  Shall we take a peak?

Poppy’s Dream…

A cloud of petunia pink swings too and fro, no grace, no rhythm, the movements are sporadic and random.  From a distance it resembles a church bell caught in a storm gale, except its pink, so very pink.  A closer look at the bell-like mass reveals the back of a halfling, inside an elaborate, yet gaudy gown.  An oversized, frilly, laced bonnet sits atop the halflings’ head and a humming is heard.  The pink leather shoes, built to be silent, make much noise with the skip, stomp, jump pattern the halfing seems to be fond of.  The surrounding wildlife is petrified into silence, watching in awe from a distance the pink flurry of movement and sound, and waiting for its demise.  How could the Halfling be so careless in such dangerous times?

About 100 ft ahead there’s a large puddle, blocking the path.  The Halflings frenzy intensifies and it seems to be picking up speed towards the puddle.  A soft giggling is heard, which evolves into a light hearted, almost maniacal cackle as the Halfling closes in the on the puddle.  With all its momentum the halfling leaps and lands directly in the center of the puddle.  Brown water splashes everywhere, and the dress takes on a copperish-pink color.  A happier halfling could not be found.

A screech arises from a nearby bush, a feral, golden headed form springs from the greenery and catapults onto the back of the halfling!  You hear “That was my dress!” echoing through the air.

Poppy finds herself in the middle of the puddle with a soggy gown in her hands.  She looks around and then up.  A translucent form, the one that had ruined the dress, was floating towards the heavens.  

Poppy’s eyes brim with tears, and for once in the Halflings short, dreadful life, she looks regretful.

Through a choked off sob, you think you hear the words “Peruppi, it’s okay, come back and get the dress.”

Poppy’s soliloquy of laments….as witnessed by the shadows of Harfur’s safehouse

I have my Adder…which nearly caught fire

I have my blanket…which I thought caught fire

I have my mysterious black hat….which I had safely tucked in my bag so that it wouldn’t catch fire

I have my Moriel…I saw her on fire, but oddly enough she’s not even singed.

I have my gold…good ol’ gold doesn’t catch fire…it just melts together and makes bigger gold

I have my pink dress….that was on fire, but isn’t burnt, but ended up getting an arrow hole in it that Banagher tried to sew, but did a dreadful job of it.

Banagher needs to learn to sew better.  He knows all that stuff from books, you’d figure something as useful as sewing would be in one of those books!  Aren’t books supposed to be filled with useful things?  I thought the whole point of reading was to learn to sew, knit, and be able to use big words?

I’m in a city, the most glorious of cities!  I want to shop.  I have gold so that I can shop.  But if I shop someone may cut off my hands.  It’s a dilemma.  I need my hands to use my Adder, but I need to shop so that I can be all that Poppy should be.  *sighs*  A dilemma.

Poppy continues chattering on about dresses, candy, and new hats late into the night….the shadows continue moving through the night as shadows should, finally casting the sleeping halfing into shadow promoting sleep.

A disgusted Halfling sits upon the dirty upstairs floor of the hovelish-hideout and grumbles under her breath.  

I don’t have freedom!

I don’t have shopping!

I don’t have pretty clothes!

I don’t have an entourage!

I don’t have a clean place to sleep!

I don’t have the back of a large elephant to ride upon!

I haven’t gotten anymore gold!

I haven’t found any clues or leads!

Worst of all, I haven’t gotten my cinnamon sticky bun!

The things I do have seem inadequate….the gold, the adder, the blanket.  Well everything except my most mysterious of hats.  Even my Moriel is inadequate.  She shakes with fear.  I will watch her closely.

The big city is not what I had hoped for.  Having to hide puts a damper on things.  Things just aren’t going according to plan!

I will have to find other ways around things.  I am Poppy, and where I am, opportunities materialize.

The Halfling eventually is lulled to sleep by her own words of self-praise and musings of miraculous events that she seems to think her existence alone generates.

A seagull perches upon a rooftop.  The seagull prefers this spot for his meditation.  All the other seagulls like to stick to the hoity-toity parts of the city.  But, there’s something about the aromas of rotting herring, garbage, and musty dwellings that gives the area a certain wabi-sabi.  That and the solitude of being the only other gull here, makes for the perfect meditative gull- trance.

The stench of freedom wafts up and pulls at the most mysterious of black hats that has suddenly appeared amongst the run down shingles.  

It disappears.  

Some excuses are yelled, the rumbling and tumbling of little feet on old boards is heard, and the most mysterious of black hats appears again followed by the head of a Halfling.

The seagull looks annoyed.

The hatted head drops back down the hole.  

More excuses are yelled, little feet bang, and suddenly the hatted head pops back up, followed by the rest of the Halfling, clad in black, a cape rippling in the breeze, despite the thick briny air.

The seagull takes a long exasperated sigh, one of those sighs that reflect wasted time due to others, but being powerless to correct the situation.  The seagull has seen many human-nuts running around the city in capes and all manner of disguises, thinking they can right wrong or make wrong.  He’s also seen them fall off roofs, blown up by mages, roughened up by authorities, and most of the time, whining in self-defeat.  Typically the seagull would just wait until the distraction goes away, they always do.  But, this is the first Halfling distraction that he’s ever seen, so since his meditative trance is already broken, he’ll watch the Halfling.

Poppy did a little jig on the rooftop to celebrate her new found freedom.  Not a soul could see her.  She was finally free!  She surveyed the area, and was happy that the rooftops were so close she could spring from one to another without issue.  She could go for miles in every direction!  This was her key to the city!

She started off in a random direction with hopes of gaining some useful information by eavesdropping or happening upon something exciting, but after almost a half an hour she started to get discouraged.  Conversations about feeding the kids, burying cousin Oliver, and who’s gonna clean up all that trash out there,  seemed to be the meat of conversations.  Poppy decided to head towards the market district.  She was sure she’d overhear something about the ships or the war, or something!

The gull circled above the Halfling wondering how much longer until she fell off a roof. At this point he just wanted to see who would get her hands.

Poppy, quickly started off towards the market district, before she reached the outskirts, something made her eyes pop open, her ears perk, her nose tingle and her mouth water…

Was it really?  It’s too much of a coincidence!  No…it’s not a coincidence, it’s because I’m Poppy and it’s what I wanted!

The gull looks down at the Halfling, as she takes off at a reckless pace over the rooftops.  The Halfling is singing an odd song as she leaps from top to top…

“I am Poppy, yes I’m Poppy!

I am Poppy the Halfling crusade!

I am Poppy, the only Poppy!

I am Poppy, on a sticky-bun raid!”

“What a loon!”  the gull caws.

Poppy stops abruptly at the edge of a roof and cautiously peers over the edge.

“Hot, fresh, cinnamon sticky buns….”she gasps.

She produces a wad of string from the inside of her cape, and a tiny crossbow, with needles as bolts.  She ties the string securely to the end of the needle and ties the other end to her wrist.  She waits until no one is looking, aims at the largest, stickiest bun on the venders cart and the needle strikes the target.

The gull watches in amusement.  

The sticky bun makes its way up the side of the building, dangling precariously from the string.  Oddly enough no one notices it.  The Halflings eager hands grab the prize and without bothering to remove it from the string she sinks her teeth into the hot, doughy, sweetness of the bun and trots back over the rooftops she came from.  

Perhaps Halflings do make better caped crusaders than the humans.  The prize is certainly right, the gull pondered as he flew off towards the sea.

These are the thoughts generated by the rapidly firing neurons of a panic-stricken, deranged Halfling…

Soldiers marching…soldiers are coming…

They’ll take my hands….

I need my hands….

Stupid gnome….it’s all his fault… backstabbing, pathetic, slimy creature…..Inferior species enslaving us superior Halflings…The conniving, underhanded slug slurp isn’t worthy of life…we need to use him…we’re going to use him…after he’s used up…  

I’m going to kill him.

I hear them….the soldiers…they’re almost here…

The gnome will die before I do.

Fight, hide or flee?  Fight, hide or flee?  Fight, hide or flee?  Fight, hide or flee?  Fight, hide or flee?

The rooftops…we could go to the rooftops….we have the gnome hostage…we could cut off an ear and throw it to the soldiers, tell them there’s plenty more where that came from.  We make the gnome call off the soldiers…

I hear their feet on cobblestones….I can almost hear their breathing….

They’re at the door.

I won’t let them have my hands.

In the hazy lamplight, the quiet calm takes a hold of Halfling eyelids, slowly making them droop, until they finally shut.  Her breathing slows and dreams sweep her away.

Boats burn brightly, a magical fire twisting over the timbers, licking the sails, possessing all that the fleet is, and was.  Poppy sits upon the edge of a crow’s nest attached to the highest mast of a ship edging away from the deadly inferno.  Her black-booted feet swing, bouncing off the nest, giving her short legs even more momentum as they go back and forth.  A cutlass, strapped to her side, equaling the length of her legs, swings dangerously about, almost matching the motion of her legs.  One wild eye stays focused on the fires in the growing distance, the other eye is covered by a black patch.  Strands of straw-like hair swirl about the most mysterious of black hats which sits atop her head.  A Ruffled white shirt, is tucked neatly into black breeches, a single red rose, tucked into the breast pocket is the only adornment.  

As if jolted, she springs to her feet, now standing upon the edge of the crow’s nest,  one hand stretches out to hold onto the mast, the other draws her cutlass.  She leans forward into the briny air, raises her cutlass to the sky, and pronounces….”I am Poppy!  Destroyer of evil, Ruler of land, air, and now sea!  Bow before Halfling pirate of the seas!  Arrrgh!!”

A disgruntled gnome stands upon the deck below looking up at the Halfling in disbelief.  He sweeps a low bow.

Captain Poppy looks pleased, but can’t help wondering why the sea smells like crap.  

The halfing paces the floor of the hideout, her full attention on the gold coin she’s spinning between her fingers.  The shiny yellow surface reflects into her wide, blue eyes, making them appear green, and adding to the wildness seen within.  From her lips tumble mumbled words, just loud enough for the coin to hear. ..

I have more of you…lots more of you.

You’ll never be alone…I’ll always have more of you.

Want to know why?

Tonight, I become a pirate.  Not just any old pirate, but the captain of a pirate ship! Alton, promised. Pirates eat their dinner from atop chests filled with the likes of you!

But to make you feel better, I’ll tell you a little secret…

You’re just like me, bright, shiny, and dangerous.

Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

The difference is there’s only one of me and many of you….soon to be more!

Do you know what that means?

You’re expendable.

You and the rest of your shinelings will be put to good use.

I have plans!  Many plans involving bright colors, frills and glittery stuff will come to fruition just as soon as we’re done here.  There’s an end.  It’s almost here.  I will live to see it and so will you!

But after…after it’s all done, you and the rest of the shinelings will be put to better use.

A day will come when I, Poppy, will stroll flowered lanes, twirling my umbrella, singing my song of triumph while passerby’s look on, too awestruck to even bow.

I will be a living legend.

The coin spins a final time before its flicked back into the purse with the rest and tucked securely inside the tunic of the Halfling. The coin continues on, just as a coin should, without any indication of being spoken to by a Halfling

“So the ocean doesn’t smell like crap” says the Halfling perched in a crow’s nest.

The seagull, having recognized the same Halfling that stole the cinnamon sticky bun from the market the other day, figured he’d perch upon the opposite mast to see what new antics the bugger was up to.  Of all places to run into the little bugger! The ocean was the last place!  She’s gutsy and gets around but still really dumb.  She probably can’t even swim!  The gull watches atop the tallest mast as the Halfling swings her feet from the side of the crow’s nest, talking to the wind.

“The ocean smells like salted fish” she concludes.

The Halfling sighs.

“I almost died today.  It was my second time almost dying.  Something always happens to stop it.  I have angels with me.  A fire angel saved me last time and this time it was a water angel.  Maybe it was my Ma or my Pa who sent them?  Maybe I have a life for every person taken from me in the village?  Or maybe it was the ashes?  I’ve eaten many ashes, which means I have many lives.  This makes me immortal.  It’s been proven twice.  I wonder how many more times I have?  Maybe it’s forever?  What will I do if it’s forever?”

The Halfling looks to be giddy and close to falling off the edge of the crow’s nest. Probably too much ale, thinks the seagull.  It’s been said that the little buggers like to drink and eat a lot. The gull watches on to see if she falls.

“Alive forever! The world would be blessed!” she stands tall and dances a jig along the edge of the crow’s nest, whooping and hollering as she goes.

The sailors look up and shake their heads; all thinking the poor Halfling’s fighting the madness.  

The seagull gets a little nervous and takes to the sky.

The Halfling catches a seagull out of the corner of her eye, and stops the jig to watch it fly.  It hovers close to the boat, tips a wing towards her, squawks and flies away.

The Halfling shrugs, makes mention of some “captaining duties,” slides down the pole, and skitters away to the lower decks.

Adept little fingers crisscross long strands of dog hair, making perfect little braids and tying the ends off with pink ribbon looped into neat bows.  The large dog listens to the Halfling prattle on about nonsense, letting the lesser of the two annoyances absorb her.  The dog has been trained to hunt, maim, and kill. Only the fiercest survive.  The dog is one of the few survivors.  Now this…  

I have a puppy!  The biggest bestest puppy ever and I’m going to take extra special care of her!

I have followers!  I am a godly icon!  It was only a matter of time.

I have new armor…a bit dull…they won’t let me paint it pink…but at least it’s well made.

I have my adder.

I have my hand dart guns.

I have poisons, paralyzing, and sleeping potions.

I have daggers.

I have a hitt’en stick.

I have my most mysterious of black hats…although since the followers have come along it doesn’t seem all that mysterious anymore.   I’ll change it a bit. (Poppy ties a piece of pink ribbon around the hat with a bow)  That’ll do for now, until I find a pink silk Poppy.  Only a pink silk poppy will do.

I have my blanket….same blanket….only had to replace it once so far.

I have gold and my special friend…all I need are shops!

I have my Moriel.

Tomorrow, I shall go out and greet my followers.  I will hire Banagher to write a book.  Not just any book, but THE book.  It will be a guide.  A guide to better living and righteousness and will live on forever, making the world a better place!  

Icky…I have so much to do and you can do it along with me!  I will not only be a legend…but a god.  I will be invited to sit next to Aluviel on the day of reckoning!  

The dog whimpers, surprising itself, since it hadn’t whimpered since it was a pup.  The Halfling didn’t seem to notice.  

Finally, the last braid completed, the Halfling settles down beside the dog, using the dogs foot as a pillow, and talks herself to sleep.  

In one swift, smooth motion the dog reclaims its foot and settles down in the farthest corner, away from the Halfling, and lays awake the night, too disturbed to sleep. 

Avoiding the edge:

The Halfling hugs and rocks back and forth with the crumbled elf.  The grief is once again drowned by rage.  A rage that dates back to her childhood, etched so painfully deep that it poisons the very spirit of the Halfling…  

Alone under the briar bush, the pathetic creature, painted from head to toe in ash, black spittle running from its mouth, holding its knees and rocking back and forth . Darkness blends the blackened creature with shadows of night.  Nothing disturbs the creature, the wrongness of it all still too fresh with the stench of burning flesh wafting towards the heavens.  Nothing left but the black creature and a belly full of ash.

Rage intensifies the gnawing disease which is revenge.  Gone is the lightness of heart she shared amongst her family, replaced by a harshness that will cause her to love very few in the coming years.  

Not the elf.  

This shouldn’t happen to the elf.  

She should not have to understand the Halfling.  

No one should have to understand the Halfling.  

The others search the area.  Sympathetic eyes pass over the two figures on the ground.  There’s nothing they can say or do.  It’s always the same when family, friends, love and life are destroyed. Always the same.

“They will die.” breaths the Halfling, in between words that tumble from her mouth to soothe the elf.

The Halfling shakes her head, realizing it’s not her this time.  She needs to be here for the elf.  She retreats to her safe place of ruffles, frills, and pink.  Once again she is consumed by the superficial.

Poppy whispers…

I have….a broken Moriel. 

The case of the stolen case in case you were wondering.

Tired of being ignored the Halfling sneaks by the group and conveniently finds herself in front of the cave entrance.  She smiles at the elf and dwarf guarding the entrance, skips right up to them with both hands behind her back, while singing a little tune.  They both seem slightly annoyed and look up to see what she wants.  Poppy just stands there, swaying to her little tune.

“Did you forget something?” asks the dwarf gruffly.

Poppy stops singing and looks the dwarf in the eye.

“Yes, I did.  I most definitely forgot something.” replies Poppy cheerfully.

Before the dwarf responds Poppy whips out both hands, armed with mini-crossbows and lets two darts fly, hitting both guards.  

“No need to get up, I can help myself.” she says, skipping into the cave.

Poppy becomes one with the shadows as she retraces the steps back to Leitus. No one sees or hears her.  She’s truly an immortal superpower (or so she thinks).  All she needs is a bit of fire.   Fire will do nicely.  A couple of side trips are taken off the path.

Arriving at the room of Leitus she uses extreme caution peaking around the corner.  The crazy old prune is in his chair.  He hasn’t moved and looks preoccupied.  The case is next to him.  Too close to him.  The fires are too new.  No one is alarmed.  He needs to be distracted.

It’ll take two bolts…two exact hits and one chance.  The prune is powerful and the Halflings not sure how her immortality would stand up to his magic.  So it’s one chance. She has to be her fastest.

She arms the Adder, cautiously peaks around the corner to make sure he’s not looking and aims.  The bolt slices through the rope and the body falls to the ground.  The prune looks startled and jumps from his seat.  He scrambles over to inspect, he’s armed.  Poppy scrambles around the corner, and bolts towards the case, letting another cross-bolt fly, and unbelievably, it slices through the second rope.  The body falls and hits the old prune, causing him to lose his balance and fall.  He lets out a wail as he goes down and Poppy hears voices, a lot of unfriendly, alarmed, shrill, voices.   She grabs the case, whirls around and streaks from the room, too concentrated on speed to look back.  At this point smoke has filled the halls, and she’s confident no one is following.  

Her feet pitter-patter around a bend and she feels a hand make a grab for her.  

“This way!  She’s this way!”Apparently the hand found a voice.

More feet, more angry voices, more yelling…the smoke starts to sting her lungs, but her little legs keep pumping through the passages.  She emerges from the entrance and starts yelling “run!” over and over again.  

Her pace does not slow until she reaches her puppy, volts onto his back and spurs him into reckless flight.  The others stare on in disbelief, and seem to come about when they hear the stampede that’s echoing from the cave getting closer and closer.

Poppy’s eyes glaze over as she starts to daydream…

Someone said “dragon.”  

Poppy murmurs the word, just to see how it rolls off her tongue.  Dragon.

It sounded right.  So very right!

Dragon!

She likes Tonka.  Tonka is a great puppy, but kind of annoying when she rips out her bows.  Tonka could always be just a pet…or a sidekick!  She’d even get her a hat!  Tonka would still have uses.

Imagine a dragon.  Who wouldn’t notice a dragon!  

A Halfling and a dragon…the team would be invincible!  We’d end the war!

It’s flying around enemy lines, but I’m sure it could be convinced if someone just spoke to it.  Or maybe it’s under a magic spell?  Surely the dragon couldn’t resist the most famous of Halflings who saved the Elven race from demise?  

Poppy snaps out of it and shakes her head a bit.  She strains her eyes to see if she can glimpse a wing, a snout, or perhaps even fire on the horizon, but all she sees are tendrils of smoke from goblin fires.

It just has to be a dragon, she whispers.  A dragon.  Why not get the dragon a hat too?

Poppy takes a minute to gather herself by a shrub.  

“So many are dead.  Why does everyone have to die?  So many good people are just gone.  Even the dragon!”

“I have a dragon tooth…  It takes up a lot of room in my pack, so perhaps I’ll get it made into a helmet.  I’ve seen people with the horned helmets before.   Surely mine would look quite fine with a dragon tooth!  It would be the most impressive battle hat around!”

“I still have Moriel…she’s stronger.  She’s finally becoming what she needs to be.  She’s finally starting to understand her place.  I’m proud of my Moriel.  Someday…someday she may not be mine anymore.  I see it happening.   There’s no stopping it.  Then what would I do?”

Poppy leans towards the shrub a little bit, as if telling it a secret…

“You know, death makes you enjoy life all the more. Not that I’m worried about dying…you know, being immortal and all.  Even if I did die, I wouldn’t be scared!  I’d just be following in the footsteps of most everyone I’ve ever known.  It’s not a big deal, death that is.  As long as I’m remembered.  That’s the important part.”

Poppy chuckles a little.

“I’ll have to buy some more bows and ribbon.” She mutters while tromping back to camp.

The shrub trembles in the wind.

—