Rose of Mideel Chapter 16

A Quiet Meeting

By Chocobo Goddess

A small village, so small it didn’t even appear on the map.

Aerith liked towns like this; they spoke of big families who’d known each other for generations. There were fields that had been tended since before the big cities, streams that still ran clear from the mountains, and it seemed they were preparing for some sort of festival. She reined Deicacos over to an older man who leaned against his fence and watched her approach.

"Hallo!" he said, smiling pleasantly. He wore homespun trousers and a vest of the same cloth. His undyed-cotton shirt was rolled up to his elbows, exposing muscular forearms. He seemed to be a part of this place, as much as his cottage was. "Now, a stranger come here? Unusual, that."

"Hello yourself, sir." Aerith nodded from her chocobo’s back. "Could I trouble you for a drink? My canteen ran out a few miles ago, and I noticed you have a lovely stream flowing here."

He gestured toward it with one hand. "Missie, the water is not mine, though it passes through lands that I care for. Take what ye like, and give yer great black bird there a draught, as well." He said "bir-rud" and "mi-yen", lending his speech a soft rhythm.

She dismounted and led Deicacos to the edge, letting him drink as she refilled her canteen. The water was sweet and cold, just as it should be. "My thanks, sir."

He shook his head. "Challam is my name, Missie, ye are free to call me such." He patted Deicacos’ shoulder affectionately. "Ah, good bird, would be great to have ye now to break the earth. My sweet yellow Nitta has harmed her wing, and she cannot pull the plow." He sighed, shrugging with the resignation of one used to making the best of a bad situation. "So? I will not plant Gysahl greens this year. I will have to wait for thaw, and plant a late crop of Milimett greens instead, it seems."

"You have an injured chocobo?" she asked.

"Oh, aye." He motioned with his chin at a small barn behind the house. "She’s in there now. Why, Missie, ye know something could help her?"

"I can certainly try. What happened?" She peppered him with questions as he led her there. It appeared that the bird had slipped in mud during the harvest, and since then had favored the wing she’d fallen upon. Aerith followed him into the dim barn. Motes of dust sparkled in the sharp sunbeams that came through the boards, making the air seem golden and magical. The yellow chocobo stood dejectedly in her stall.

"There she is, Missie. She has not been well enough to work, and I think she misses it. My wife and I, well, we love her like a pet. The poor thing." He reached in and stroked her feathers wistfully. "Nitta," he called softly, "Ye have a visitor."

Deicacos crooned. The yellow head perked up, the female’s light blue eyes brightening. "Wark?"

He puffed his feathers a bit and pranced in place, tossing his head and snorting. He looked very impressive indeed. He reached his head over the stall door and nudged her beak with his.

Aerith patted him on the shoulder. "Goodness, we all fall in love very quickly, don’t we? Be patient, you. She’s hurt, can’t you see?"

He hung his head and chirruped.

Aerith laughed and opened the stall door. "Hey, there, pretty girl. What happened to you?" She moved to the yellow bird carefully, but with confidence. Nitta responded to her authority and shifted to give the girl better access to the injury. "Oh, your friend is right; you poor thing. Let’s see what I can do, okay?"

Nitta rubbed her head against Aerith’s shoulder. Aerith giggled. "Hold still, pretty. Here…good girl." She held her hands over the wounded wing, barely touching the feathers. Murmuring a few words under her breath, she felt the Planet’s energy fill her and collect in her fingers. A pale green glow surrounded her hands. With a motion, she directed the glow into the damaged places, healing and soothing bruised flesh and broken feathers.

Challam looked on in wonder at the young girl as she healed his chocobo. He hadn’t thought any of her kind were left…this was a pleasant surprise, it truly was. And such good fortune, too, just before the festival! He waited until she seemed to be done, then cleared his throat.

"My lady, would ye join my fine wife and I for our evening meal? She would be fair glad to meet ye." Could it be that she does not know what she is? Of course, she must, or she could not weave the Planet’s magic so.

Aerith nodded at the invitation, not sensing his internal questions. "I would be very pleased to, if it’s no trouble. Are you certain?"

"Certainly. Ye may put yer friend in the stable beside Nitta. They do seem to have some interest in each other." He chuckled. "On second thought, mayhaps we should put him farther away?"

Deicacos snorted indignantly. He walked deliberately to the empty stall and waited. Aerith hugged him and began to remove his tack. "Fine, then, just be a good bird, right? I don’t want to come out here to scold you, now." She stepped back to let him shake out his feathers and grabbed a bucket of grain and a handful or two of greens. "Here you go, Sweet."

The older man nodded sagely. "He would be fierce to anyone else, I think, but he loves ye."

"He takes care of me, as surely as I him. I’m glad to have him." She couldn’t keep the sadness from her voice. How long, now? Two months? And I still miss Sephiroth.

The rueful tone was not lost on Challam. It was obvious to him that the poor girl had had her heart broken, sometime recently, it seemed. Putting some cheer into his words, he smiled knowingly and said, "Well, come inside, Missie, and tell us yer name. My fine wife, Lerna, will be just about finished of cooking our dinner."

Aerith gave her chocobo one last pat and followed the farmer. As he disappeared into the house, she looked up at the sky, where a few white stars were just coming out in the twilight. My Friend, she thought, at least remembering this time that she would hear no answer, You are beautiful tonight.

The cool evening breeze lifted the ends of her hair and ruffled the hem of her skirt. Not far from the house, a small building caught her attention. It was a cottage, with whitewashed walls and a slate roof. Out in front there stood a sign that read,

'5 Room Cottage
For Rent
See Hon. Msr. Challam'

A soft smile tugged at her lips. She decided to ask Challam if this town needed a healer. Perhaps she could find a place to settle, after all. With one last look at the darkening sky, she hugged herself and went into the warm yellow light of the kitchen.

Chapter 17

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic