Silence had overtaken this area of the forest, as Keo peered toward the bushes, then back around to Ruby, his thoughts precise and calculated.
Couldn't be an ambush, or they would have jumped us already. Any wildlife would have ran as soon as I had moved... so either it was a very odd wind... or someone was snooping where they did not-
He was cut off by the sound again, this time being merely seven feet away, he saw the movement of a human form behind the thick brush. He would have only one chance at this, so he concluded it had better be good. Reaching the brush, as he slowly crept along on a hand and both feet, slowly drawing the saber. Turning his crouch back, he would go into a defensive stance, point of his well honed blade directed at the person in the landscape. As soon as he had done so, there was an arrow, out of the brush, aimed right at him. Slowly his eyes went wide, as he waited for either the attack to come, or the person to step up... neither of which seemed to be happening.
"My name is Keo, Apprentice Guard of Althena, I mean no harm..."
Swallowing hard, Keo kept his eyes locked solidly upon the dark area, struggling to see his "enemy". After a beat, a bright chuckle would be heard behind the darkness, as the arrow vanished, and a slight of frame figure stood slowly.
"So you found me... drop arms if you truly mean no harm. As one devout follower of Althena to another." The voice was light, the source obviously fairly young... and very... feminine.
Slowly Keo sheathed his blade, as he felt the solid weight of a small feline object land on his right shoulder. Ruby's voice wasn't far behind, as usual.
"Who do you think you are anyway?! Scaring us like that!"
A light laugh was the immediate response, as a young woman stepped lightly into view, allowing Keo the first look at her in the growing dark. She was tall, actually taller than Keo himself, with hair of a light brown, streaked with green. The hair was braided back in a casual ponytail, a green article of the forest holding it. She wore brown leather cloth on her body, leggings to tunic. In right hand, was the long bow in question, arrow still half knocked. Upon her slender form was an odd looking shoulder harness, which was supporting the quiver full of arrows upon her back. And before Keo could say anything to her, the young woman's soft brown eyes snapped from Ruby to him, as she spoke.
"I am called Tranquil, greatest archer in the plains. I can just tell you are delighted to have met someone as well renowned and famous as I, as my skills with the long bow are unmatched."
At the end of her little introduction, a smile lit up her young face, as bright eyes closed tightly. Tranquil extended the thumb on her left hand, while the right replaced the drawn arrow to it's brethren, and the bow was to be placed upon her back. All in one very impressive smooth motion. The long bow now sat upon the opposite shoulder of her arrows. Dusting off her hands, those darting hues would slide open, to see the reaction of Keo and Ruby. And boy, was it a reaction. Keo was blinking slowly, staring directly at Tranquil, a look of confusion on his face. Ruby, well, Ruby was giggling lightly, of course also being the first to speak.
"She kind of reminds me of Lemina!" Smiling, she glanced over at Keo, who shook his head slowly.
"Tranquil... never heard of you. How far does your fame go...?"
Immediately Tranquil became not so calm as the name led on, throwing both hands into the air as she glared at Keo.
"I am known all across the world of Lunar! How could you not have heard of me!?"
"Sorry, but I just haven't-" Before he could finish the sentence, Ruby jumped in. "Well, I have never heard of you either, so you can't be too important..."
Taking off from Keo's shoulder, she hovered about a foot in front of Tranquil, scanning her face. Meanwhile, Tranquil was developing quite a twitch above her left eye, glaring at Ruby. As soon as Ruby had finished her little face-place-scan, she chimed in.
"Hmmm... nope... never heard or seen you..."
"Well, what do you know, you're just a cat!"
Tranquil bowed her head slightly, as the glare was returned from Ruby. Who, as one would guess, hated being called a cat.
"Well, for your information, I AM NOT A CAT!"
Just as Tranquil was about to retort, her head snapping up, Keo finally stepped in. Putting himself between the two, an arm would have to be extended to the both of them, preventing the inevitable "cat fight" that would ensue.
"Hey, I think that is enough. It's getting pretty dark, and I think we should set up camp Ruby." He said it with as much seriousness he could muster, struggling to hide his smile, before turning his gaze back to Tranquil. "You are welcome to stay here with us, we can get a fire going and everything. It will be easy! We have a Red Dragon on hand and everything! Then you can tell us what you are doing around the Starlight Forest, since you already eavesdropped on my life story."
Smiling over at his new friend, then directing his gaze back to Ruby, he nodded slightly. After a few seconds of neither of them struggling, he nodded once more, and turned to look for wood to stoke a fire. Keo's walking away present, having the two girls he would be spending the rest of the evening with stick their individual tongues out at him in the same instant, then giggling at each other.
As soon as the wood was set ablaze, thanks entirely to Ruby's superheated breath, Keo took a seat near it with his back to a tree. To the left was a small clearing, where Keo's light brown eyes were focused. In that spot, through the trees, the light of the Blue Star shown bright as day. A slight yawn escaped parted lips, as he returned his attention to his new companion.
"So, you heard my story... what are you doing around here?" Keo asked with a curious tone to his light voice.
Tranquil, who was sitting cross-legged in front of another tree, yawned much larger, her bright teeth bared. Falling back, she would lay flat in the cool dirt, staring up at the trees. It was not until Ruby had landed casually on Keo's shoulder, that she finally answered.
"My family has roots traced back almost a thousand years, when my ancestors became the leaders of the Pao prairie tribe, back in the days of Dragonmaster Alex. Pao was lost long ago, during a raid. The survivors of Pao became somewhat nomadic, my family among them. For the next few centuries we traveled Lunar, setting up temporary homes in the plains. Which, as of now, is about two miles from here. You just managed to catch me in the middle of a scouting and hunting trip."
Getting most of it out in only a few breaths, Tranquil took a long inhalation of air. Sitting back up, she shot a quick glance over toward Keo, grinning.
"Like I said, I am the best shot on Lunar. I can even hit a flying red cat with one arrow, when it is trying to escape..." Turning her gaze to Ruby, she grinned even broader. "Wanna try it...?"
Ruby, still resting upon Keo, just stuck her small red tongue out at Tranquil. Meanwhile, Tranquil lifted her long bow from where she had placed it upon the ground, at the same time snatching up an arrow from the same area.
"Serious, try me. Toss a small rock into the air, I can split it in half!"
Keo shrugged lightly, not really caring to test her skill. Ruby, however, was a lot more... eager. Leaping from his shoulder, she darted to the ground, picking up a small stone in the cup of her tiny paws. Hovering about a foot above the ground, she turned to face Tranquil, a look of skepticism on her face.
"Okay then, prove it!"
Tossing the stone into the air, Ruby spun, bringing her tail around to connect with the rock. Immediately it soared into the air, as Keo followed it's movement with his eyes. From out of his full field of vision, he saw Tranquil move. Not ten feet into the air, Keo would see the arrow coming toward the stone, but it was off target, by a good deal. It missed, soaring far past the airborne rock, and into the trees. It's speed was very intense, over shooting the rocks velocity easily by twice as fast. As the rock reached it's midair peak, the arrow was still ascending, as Ruby leapt into the air, laughing.
"Ha! I knew you couldn't do it, I could have shot better than-"
She was cut off in mid-sentence as Tranquil raised her right hand quietly, silencing both Ruby and Keo, as Keo was about to tell Ruby to be quiet. As Ruby turned her attention back to the falling stone, she saw slight movement high in the trees, also noticing Keo hadn't been watching the rock at all. Coming down through the tree's, somehow narrowly missing every branch in it's rocketing path, the wooden shaft descended, coming down right toward the falling rock. As both Keo and Ruby watched in awe, the arrow came down at a higher speed than it had risen, nearing the stone almost too fast to be seen. At about two feet above the dirt, the wooden arrow and the granite stone met. As fast as the arrow was going, it indeed did split the stone in half, the arrow following through to impact into the packed earth about half the way up the shaft. Blinking twice, Keo finally looked away, locking his eyes upon Ruby, and being forced to stifle a laugh at her reaction. She had gone from hovering quietly, to gradually falling, mouth wide open. He continued to watch her until she connected solidly with the earth, with a small yelp of pain upon impact. Smiling, he turned his gaze to Tranquil, noticing the smug look on her face.
"Not bad, but I have seen more impressive things... anyroad, we really should get some rest. The hour is late..." To go with his own suggestion, Keo fell slowly backwards, tucking his hands behind his head. As soon as he had laid fully back, he felt himself beginning to doze.
Wow... I must have been more tired than I thought. That must have been magic she used with that arrow...
"Good night Ruby, you too Tranquil..."
Yawning a final time, he closed his weary eyes, and began to drift into a light sleep. Ruby curled up under the crook of his arm, and did like wise. Tranquil, however, did not drop into slumber so easily. Resting her back on the tree behind her, she stared into the fire for a few moments, before closing her brown eyes and waiting for the dark mistress of sleep to take her...
Jaide Minikus' Fanfiction