She had left the group without a word, and was wandering in odd directions around the forest. She didn't even look like she knew where she was going. If Raelle was acting oddly before, this was downright confusing.
Suddenly, the raccooness stopped, and without even turning around to face Gavin, who was about ten yards behind her, spoke.
"Have you been following me ever since I told you not to?"
"What, just because I happen to be going in the same direction as you means I'm following you?" Gavin smiled as he closed the space between them.
Raelle signed exasperatedly. "Okay." She turned and faced him, glaring angrily. "You're the travelling treasure-hunter. You ought to know. Tell me where I can get this fixed."
Raelle held the Tanuki Amulet by its cord and dangled it in the air in front of her. Its jewel was no longer a brilliant green, but a murky brown.
"Whoa, I swear I did not do that!" Gavin said, backing up defensively. "It was normal when I gave it back!"
Raelle begrudgingly accepted Gavin's words as true, since his crying curse hadn't kicked in. "Well, even if you're telling the truth, it would be safe in Tanuki's temple right now if you hadn't come along."
"Maybe it's just dirty or somethi--"
"Anyway." Raelle interjected loudly. "Do you know where there's a village or something with someone who knows enough about spiritual matters to mend this?"
"Oh sure! There's usually a priest of something or another in just about any village. And I probably know nearly all of them." Gavin's eyes twinkled with pride, even though the circumstances he was in when he'd seen people of that sort were less-than-prideworthy. "I don't have a reputation as being the most famous treasure hunter in the world for nothing!"
Gavin was cut off by his transformation into a raccoon. Raelle snickered at him. "Oh good, I don't have to listen to you talk all the way to wherever we're going." She gathered his clothes from around his now furry body and lifted his bag. She immediately dropped it. Crap. Too heavy. She opened the bag. It was mostly empty; Gavin must have sold stuff off recently. But she saw something she recognized.
"Why do you have this?" Raelle asked flatly, touching the morning star she had left behind.
Gavin chittered something to the effect of, "Hey, it's an original weapon of a priestess of Tanuki. If you were just going to leave it behind, I figured I could probably make..." Gavin's words trailed off slowly as Raelle's face grew sorrowful.
Raelle slid the weapon out of the bag, letting it tumble into the underbrush, and hefted the bag onto her shoulders. "Lead the way, then."
They neared the village of Wystbough as the late afternoon's sun filtered through the trees. Gavin beelined for the door of the first food-serving establishment they saw, but Raelle stood to survey the town. It looked normal enough, especially compared to the villagers they had come in contact with most recently. Maybe that's what felt so odd about it. Raelle pushed open the door Gavin was scratching at.
It was a clean, cozy little tavern, and a few villagers sat at the bar discussing their days and laughing. A waitress came to the Raelle's table. "Travelling, eh? Welcome to Wystbough!" The waitress was cheery, almost annoyingly so.
Gavin jumped onto Raelle's shoulder to see what was happening. "Oooh! Is that your familiar? Cute!" the waitress squealed. Gavin chittered merrily as the center of attention.
"Yeah, you could say he's a little too familiar sometimes." Raelle grumbled as she shrugged Gavin onto the table.
The bubbly waitress was undaunted by the grouchy raccoonness. "So, what can I getcha?"
Raelle looked around blankly for any indication of what they served at the place. "Uhhh... beef... stew... I guess."
"Sure thing! Will you be reserving a room for the night? It's getting kind of late."
"Yeah, I guess..." The thought of a good night's sleep really sounded appealing, now that she mentioned it.
"Okay, I'll tell my brother. He's the innkeeper, you see."
"Right... good for you."
"Okay! One beef stew, coming up! And my name is Bri, if you need anything!"
"Sure. Thanks Bri."
As the waitress walked away, Raelle made a face. "Brie? Who names themselves after cheese?"
"Meh, she was a nice girl. It wouldn't kill you to be nice once in a while, too." Gavin squeaked in Raccoonnese.
"Haven't you picked up a curse somewhere where it would kill you? That'd be awfully convenient..." Raelle mused, folding her arms on the table and leaning her head against them. She closed her eyes for a moment, envisioning her duty over and the sweet stone sleep that awaited those favored by Tanuki. But it was one thing after another with Gavin, and the sooner she could get the chapter of her life that involved him over with, the better. She yawned. It was just all too complicated... It made her head hurt...
"Here's your stew!" Bri's enthusiastic voice woke Raelle from her mini-nap.
"Thanks." Raelle stared at the bowl blankly, as if she had forgotten how to eat, then shoved it over to Gavin. "You can have it. I'm not hungry."
Gavin shrugged. No use wasting good food. Especially when it would turn him back into a human. He merrily ate his fill.
Raelle allowed her daydreams to wander a little more before Bri was back.
"Okay, your room is going to be number three, and here's your key." Bri paused in thought for a bit as she set the key down with their check. "Hey, that rhymed!"
Raelle forced a smile as she examined the total cost of the meal and room. She stared into space with a worried look momentarily, but then brightened up and started fishing through Gavin's multitude of pockets for money. The food-laden raccoon didn't notice his possessions being raided at first, but as she brought the money out, Gavin's eyes grew wide, and he started sputtering at Raelle in anger.
"Sorry about that. He gets angry when I give away shiny things like coins. You know how raccoons like shiny things." Raelle grinned toothily, ignoring Gavin.
"Ohhh..." Bri said in understanding, taking the money from the raccooness.
"Well, I'll be off to my room now! Thanks Bri!" Raelle scooped up the flailing and clawing Gavin and his possessions and wandered off to Room Three, smiling mischieviously.
"Your room's number three... and here's your key... and my name is Bri!" Bri giggled at her own cleverness, and then set off to bus tables.
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