A Life Less Ordinary: Chapter 2
By Sulia Serafine
[This is a Protector of the Small fanfic, all credit goes to Tamora Pierce. I'm broke, so you can't sue me. I've only read The First Test, but as I read the others, the story will fit into place with them. Well, it won't really, but it'll be as accurate as I can make it. I usually don't write fanfics of this style, so forgive me if I relapse into my angst/action Gundam Wing things again. 11-11-00]
"Oof! Get off, you're crushing me! Who would've thought a girl could weigh so much!" Joren exclaimed.
Keladry growled. "I'm not anywhere near you. What are you talking about?"
It was pitch black wherever they had landed and neither of them could see a thing.
Joren shifted around. He was definitely sure whatever was on him was living…
"Oh, Gods…" he murmured with a certain nervousness in his voice.
Keladry crawled toward his voice, feeling around. She touched his hair. "Stay still and keep quiet."
"Well, duh, I'm not dumb," he snapped and let out a deep breath. He whispered, "Just what is on top of me?"
Keladry tried to adjust her eyes to the darkness. When they finally did, she gulped. Joren sensed her action.
"What?" he whispered fiercely. "What is it?"
She shook her head. "All you need to know is that this is all your fault. I told you not to chase after it."
"Could you stop being self-righteous for one damn minute?!" he yelled. Then he gasped. The thing on top of him stirred and he distinctly heard a yawn from somewhere around him.
In fact, yawns came from everywhere around the two Tortallians. Keladry and Joren paled, but neither of them noticed in the darkness. They did notice the bright yellow eyes opening in the darkness.
~A few seconds later~
"AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" the two humans screamed as they ran out of the cave. A bear looking animal with bigger ears and larger, sharper paws sat back on its haunches and watched them run with confused eyes.
"What in the world was that?" Joren yelled. "Where are we?"
"How am I supposed to now?" Keladry yelled back. Her heart was racing. Joren wrinkled his nose at her.
"Great. I'm stuck with the lump in who-knows-where, without my sword- without anything! Even a clue!" He threw up his hands and started cursing to himself. Keladry calmly folded her arms and took a look around them. As far as she was concerned, the countryside around them looked a lot like Tortall. Yet she knew it wasn't Tortall.
"The fall into the Earth pretty much proves that," she murmured to herself. She tried to grab onto some sanity and checked her belt knife and the pouches at her waist. She had venison in one pouch, just for emergency. "Thank the Goddess," she whispered. "Joren, what do you have?"
"Enough money for food and a water-skin. My belt knife got ripped off in the cave back there and my sword was lost in the fall." He patted his sides. "And maybe a match or two. I don't know. I suppose you don't have anything useful, you being a girl and all, probably packed some girly things."
She once again suppressed the urge to hit him and cooly replied, "I have some venison to last today and maybe tomorrow morning if we ration it, then some flint, my dagger and belt knife."
His eyebrows rose in surprise. "What do you know. The Lump might actually survive," he scoffed and started walking off aimlessly. She went after him.
"Do you even know where you're going?"
"No. Why, do you?" he laughed derisively.
"We fell into a hole in the ground because you wanted to chase a purple furball. Does it look like either of us has any sanity left to know where to walk?" she replied in a monotone voice.
Joren smirked, and glanced back at her. "What do you know. The little girl can make a joke."
Keladry stopped in her tracks. He realized she wasn't following him anymore and turned around. "What?"
"You would think after four years, you would just accept the fact," she said rubbing the side of her head where it had struck the rock. She shook her head and glared at him, keeping her expression cold and unmoved by emotion. "I'm not going to quit. I'm not going to be driven out. I'm going to train and earn my way to knighthood just like you and any other boy, and there's no changing that. Stop making it so hard." She winced when she felt blood trickling from her scalp where the rock had hit. "This isn't some kind of war we're fighting. It's not girls versus boys. It's just equality."
Joren looked at her with a rather bored expression. "Are you done now?"
She rolled her eyes. "Why do I even bother?"
They started walking again, a healthy distance from one another. After an hour, it started to get dark. Fortunately for them, they could see a town up ahead. They hastened their pace and made it before it got too dark out to see.
A few men were hanging lanterns on tall poles with the use of long sticks with a hook at top to hold the lanterns. The light spread over the town, so many people still lingered outside. Most of them were neighbors talking to one another and groups of friends. The merchants had already closed up their stalls and shops. Those doors were locked and bolted, while the taverns and inns were open to all.
A plump, but cheery looking woman stepped in front of the two teenagers. Her cheeks were pink and rosy, and her apron was crisp and pressed. "Now, what are two youngin's like you doing out here by yourselves? I swear I know every child in this whole town and I have never seen you before."
"We fell-" Keladry started to explain their story. The woman looked kindly enough, and Keladry abhorred lying. Joren swiftly kicked her foot. She stifled a cry of pain and annoyance as Joren stepped up to the woman with a charmingly fake smile.
"We're passing through, m'am. Unfortunately, our map got lost in the woods and some beasts scared off our horses." His expression fell appropriately according to his words. "Could you tell us where we are? You have been so kind to even talk to us strangers."
Keladry gaped at him. The woman however, laughed heartily and pinched Joren's cheek. He smiled politely, although he glared at her as soon as she turned and called out to a tall thin man standing at the door of a tavern. "Jodus! Look at these youngin's! Aren't they precious, charming children? Unlike you! Haha!"
"I would hardly consider myself a child," Joren said through gritted teeth, but too quiet for her to hear.
"Well!" The woman turned back to them. She put her hands at her hips, arms akimbo. "You're in Freilan Town! What are you, brother and sister?" She leaned forward with widened twinkling eyes.
Keladry looked over at Joren with disgust. "Joren? My brother?!" she thought.
"Cousins," Joren said with a wide (but fake) grin. He chuckled softly. "Ugh," he thought. "Cousins is bad enough."
"Why, you must be from one of those rough working families," the woman went on. "Your little cousin wearing pants and all." She eyed Keladry sympathetically. "Don't worry, though. You poor things. You can stay in my tavern with me and Jodus tonight, provided you can put up with our rowdy customers!" She laughed again, happy and cheerful. She motioned for them to follow her inside. "Come on, now. I'll let you have a nice warm meal and you could tell me about yourselves! I just love meeting new people!"
"Thank you for your hospitality," Keladry said. She elbowed Joren in the ribs as soon as they were inside in the loud bustling tavern so she couldn't see. She glared at him. "What are you thinking, huh?"
"What?" Joren elbowed her right back. "You want to tell her we just fell into a huge whole in the ground after some purple dog thing talked to us? We'll sound like we're mad! Now, just do as I say."
"I won't lie," she said sternly.
"Who says you have to? Just let them come to their own conclusions."
She folded her arms. "I always knew you were deceitful and sneaky, but to be so… so comfortable with it! What kind of knight would you be?"
He waved her off and started following the woman again. They sat down at a table stall where the woman was bringing some warm bread and soup. "Here you go. By the way, I'm Ida Leafson and that's my husband Jodus," she pointed to the tall thin man serving drinks at the bar. "Now, you just stay here and eat all of this right up. And don't you worry about everybody around you. They're all rowdy alike, but they're harmless. Well all love a little dancin' and nippin' before midnight! Haha! And if some mean person does bother ya, tell 'em Ida is going to quit their tab!" She started laughing and walked away to tend to other people.
They ate in silence, watching all the people around them. Young lovers sneaking kisses in the corners and other couples dancing in the big space between the bar and the table stalls. And a few men having drinks and getting harmlessly drunk. Another man, with a snowy white beard and a pipe was telling some adventuresome story to a group of men, because he swung about his cane in quick movements to emphasize his actions. Keladry smiled. She'd never been to a tavern before, although she was quite sure that the taverns in Tortall couldn't possibly be as lively as this little place in who-knows-where.
"I would hardly call myself a child," Joren said to himself, finishing his soup and glancing around at the beautiful girls around him. He wanted to get up and pick out one for himself. He was seventeen, after all, and they looked not more than two years older than him. Keladry yawned. She shook her head and called his attention.
"What are we going to do? There's no such place called Freilan so far as I know. And although these people could pass for Tortallians, they just aren't. That's plain enough. And they can't be Tyrans or… or Gallians or Carthakians…" She paused. "It's like we've been thrown in a different world."
Joren reluctantly ceased his observation of beauties and looked back at her. "We've gone insane. It's as simple as that. And if you'll excuse me, Lump, I'm going to join my madness." He stood up and caught the eye of a girl with curly blond hair. "Besides, what else can we do? Tell them we're from the Palace of Tortall and expect them to believe us? I say we just take the free food and beds from Ida and Jodus for tonight and just see what happens tomorrow. We're bound to figure out a way home eventually."
"How can you be so… so calm?" she asked, irritated.
"How can you be so rigid?" he retorted and took the curly blonde with him to the circle of dancers and musicians.
Keladry groaned and leaned back. "All I ever wanted was to become a warrior… And prove myself to everyone. What did I ever do to deserve this? Stuck with Joren of all people in a strange land with weird animals…" She folded her arms. "I'm going to find that purple furball and make it send us back."
She let out a deep sigh and settled in a comfortable position to spend the rest of her knight watching the people around her. She could hear the stories of the men at the bar and the conversations of neighbors about their harvests and their children's weddings. It was almost like any Tortallian tavern.
But it wasn't.