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Star Crossed Chapter 4

Chapter 4: A Fox with a Mission

(Music “13_no~nbiri” Kitz Playlist)
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A fox with a mission

As Kitz in his fox form padded along secretly and silently behind the traveling group with Minara and Amaroth walking slightly behind Drake, Thane, and Grumble, Kitz’s mind wondered. During the long days of travel, he kept thinking back to the town of Crossroads and of all the strange and wondrous things he had seen there and of all the people he had helped and things he had seen and done in only a single week. He also found himself shivering slightly as he thought about ‘Little Lonely’, He deeply hoped that he had done the right thing for her. The memories of Crossroads and the excitement of being out in the world on his own swirled in his mind, and he could remember every detail. He thought then back a few days to his first morning in Crossroads and of the unusual events of the days that followed.

Kitz crept, skittered, and sometimes ran through the early morning streets and alleys of the busy town of Crossroads. He was always careful not to become a victim of one of the many sets of wagon wheels or heavy sets of booted feet that seemed to be moving all over the streets and alleys. Kitz was amazed by all the action and wondered why every one of these humans seemed to be in a rush for some reason or another. This morning, when he started his curious explorations only a few hours before, the streets had been totally empty. Abandoned with not a single wagon or street shop to be seen anywhere. As soon as the sun came up, the entire city seemed to explode into a perilous sea of dangerous swinging doors, booted feet, wagons, horses, yelling, running and by Kitz’s best description complete pandemonium.

Everywhere Kitz turned in the previously quiet township was filled with people, some of which who would kick him or worse and others of which would look at him oddly. Now and then someone would quickly throw something on the ground for him to eat. Kitz always tried to oblige them by picking up and eating or at least carrying off whatever they threw him as quickly and as safely as he could. Soon after, he would usually do his best to bring the gift givers back something if he could, though of what kind of gift to give a busy merchant Kitz did not know. Usually, he resorted to doing them simple favors like finding something that they claimed to have lost or driving a few extra customers their way with various Fox antics that Kitz knew would draw people’s attention. He did most of this without the merchant’s knowledge. He mused many times that this method defeated the purpose of giving a gift in return, but it satisfied him so he went on.

It was only an hour into the morning light, and Kitz found himself hiding among a few barrels next to a wagon wielding street vendor. He found himself wondering when this cover too would be picked up and moved to give way to the river of commerce around him. When that happened, he knew he would have to scramble to yet another safe place. Kitz by this point couldn’t even tell where he was, all the landmarks he had noted now looked completely different with people everywhere he saw. He was still determined to explore despite this. ‘After all what’s a few townsfolk to someone that is going to help fight giants soon’, Kitz thought silently and with no small amount of pride.

Kitz quickly decided that he would have to move from this spot before it moved from him. So he watched and waited and eventually he saw it. An opening in the crowd, but he knew it wouldn’t last so he bolted as fast as his legs would carry him. He skittered and slid around two sets of booted feet that suddenly stepped into his path. He dashed to his right then leaped ahead to avoid the path of a surprisingly swift moving horse and wagon. He stopped and tumbled reversing his direction suddenly to avoid running directly into an armored steel leg. This went on for thirty or so seconds more as Kitz dashed this way and that to avoid being crushed, kicked, or stepped on. He imagined that he must look like a swiftly thrown orange furred rubber ball bouncing through a maze of moving walls to anyone that happened to be watching him. Finally and at long last Kitz slammed rather painfully into the wooden wall of a side street building at the end of his latest dash to avoid the kicking boot of yet another seemingly angry merchant.

Kitz stayed still and panted for a second lying on his belly and scooting behind a crate to avoid being seen for a moment. He was ever aware of the noise, all the motion was dizzying, and his nose really couldn’t help much either with all the new smells around him, even his tail hurt slightly. It was a dull pain like something was holding onto it, and it was a feeling that he only just now noticed as he was catching his breath. Kitz paused to glance back towards his tail then and panicked. Behind him was a large brown droopy eared monster of a dog towering a number of feet over him. It had his bushy tail in its mouth and was holding onto it firmly with its almost lazy looking jaws. Kitz began to run in place scratching furrows in the dry dirt at his feet and violently thrashing his captured tail trying to escape the dog’s jaws. Despite his best effort he couldn’t escape making a series of angry sounding whines, then suddenly he felt the pressure from his tail go away, and he bolted immediately. Unfortunately for him he was far too focused on escaping and moving away from the offending dog to plan which direction he would go if he did escape and so when he managed to run he ran right into a crate only a few feet away from where he had been. Sparks of dull pain erupted in Kitz’s head, and he felt himself wobble back and forth then lay down now seeing stars from the sudden unexpected impact.

A few seconds later Kitz felt a gentle pinching pain in the back of his neck, and he now felt as though he were flying. As the dizziness wore off a few seconds later and Kitz came back to his senses, he found himself drifting lazily through the air with gravity pulling at his hanging feet. He realized that he had instinctively curled up slightly for some reason and upon looking around and up slightly, he realized that the dog that had his tail was now carefully carrying him by the nape of his neck down the alleyway. Kitz was offended at first thinking that even the animals still insisted on treating him like a child, and then a disturbing mental image came to mind. It was of a smiling dog wearing a bib looking down on himself with an apple in his mouth surrounded by lettuce on a dish.

He let out a small yelp of worry then and decided that he didn’t mind being a puppy for a few minutes. The dog carried the small fox like a pup down the alley about 50 feet then went into a small hole in a fence there and into a small garden area. Kitz could hear the sound of a young girl’s voice from somewhere nearby in the direction of the house. The dog then took him to the back of the garden to a small area of thick brush and scooted under the brush with Kitz. A few seconds later Kitz found himself sitting in between three little puppies just like the one who had carried him but a tenth the size. The mother laid down snuggling around them as the other puppies immediately started to chew on his ears and tail. Kitz sat still unsure what he was supposed to do and slightly worried when the mother dog gave a gentle bark and a short questioning growl.

To Kitz’s surprise, he understood it but barely. Most hengeiyokai learned to speak to one another in fox form in the same manner as most canines. To Kitz, it sounded like the mother said. “You bad rabbit…No run Eat now.”

It was clear to Kitz that the dog, like many animals, wasn’t too bright. Also like most animals, however, Kitz was happy to be fed rather than eaten. Kitz sat awkwardly looking around for food as the puppies around him all pushed and shoved past him to press against the mother dog’s belly. When Kitz did nothing, the mother dog growled expectantly looking at Kitz before lying on her side completely. When Kitz began to hear the chorus of suckling noises he realized that these puppies were still very young and with great worry he realized what she wanted him to do. He hesitated and thought to himself that he couldn’t and that it would be very impolite for one his age, not to mention humiliating. The dog then growled again this time more forcefully.

“You eat…or trouble!”

Kitz didn’t want trouble and also didn’t want to risk breaking his cover or being mauled by a spooked mother dog by taking his humanoid form and casting a spell. So he wrinkled his nose and closed his eyes smacking his lips in distaste and very slowly and with a slight wince began to scoot forward to where the other puppies were lined up feeling very wrong in what he was about to do. Drifting on the wind outside the thicket was a quiet and slightly sad sounding female voice then suddenly from nearby. As Kitz heard the sound, he stopped right where he was perking his ears to listen.

“Missy girl! Come here. Missy? I know you're back here. Come out girl. I need to talk.”

Immediately the mother dog who was apparently Missy jumped up pushing the now complaining puppies off of her gently as she did. Kitz was relieved and seeing an easy opportunity to get out of this awkward situation waited a few seconds then bolted out of the thicket and to the fence. He got there just in time to see Missy leaving through the hole in the fence that they entered. He heard a gentle female crying from just beyond the fence and despite the sudden urge he got to investigate the little girl, Kitz turned and ran to the opposite fence and jumped up onto a small dog house that he guessed was Missy’s. From there he leaped with all his might to barely clear the top of the fence. He landed in the alley on the other side and stopped to observe his surroundings. He was glad to be out of that awkward situation without having to hurt or scare anyone or having gotten himself hurt. So before something else could add to his confusion, Kitz headed off further into the town now only using the alleys that were mostly abandoned.

As he passed by four dirty looking men sleeping in a pile of garbage on the edge of an alley overlooking a busy street, he noted that one of them asked a merchant who was passing by for spare coins. Kitz seeing an opportunity to help someone immediately set off to find the men some food. He didn’t have any coins to trade, but he had other things from home that he thought would be a fair trade for a little food. He found what he was looking for at the back of a baker’s shop nearby. A few golden brown pies in tin plates sitting just inside a slightly open door near a wood burning oven while the Baker was in the front of the shop apparently talking with a customer. Kitz slipped into the building and took his humanoid form.

He crept quietly over to the pies and grabbed a small piece of slightly burned white wood that looked to be used for taking pies out of the oven he carefully took and lined up four pies on the piece of wood and placed it on the floor. He then sifted through his pouches and pulled out a few tiny green gemstones that he knew held value to humans. He thought about it and left two of them where the pies had been on the cooling rack. He then took his fox form again and cast a quick spell that would allow him to color an object or shape with magic. He left two slightly scorched imprints of his front paws next to the gemstones. He then grabbed the board holding the pies and dragged them out into the alley.

He stopped at the door to look both ways. When he saw no one coming, he dragged his purchase off towards the nearby alley where the four men were. When he got to them, they all sat up as if suddenly awake and smelling the air. They all watched in varying states of surprise and disbelief as a little red fox dragged up a wooden cooling tray with four large hot apple pies on it and stopped in between them. The little fox then let out a series of excited barks looking to them all and almost seeming to smile. He then trotted off back down the alleyway as the dirty men rubbed at their eyes and blinked many times before moving closer to the center of the alley to investigate what they assumed was a mirage of their hunger. When they found the pies to be real, they all began to eat seeming very happy all of a sudden. Kitz glanced back happily as he rounded the corner to continue his explorations.

Kitz wandered and explored nearly all day trying his best to leave a wake of smiling people in his path as he did. He avoided the busy streets at all costs until it got near nightfall and most people began to disappear back into their homes once again. When this happened, and the streets were once again a safe place for him to walk, he began to search for the landmarks that would lead him back to the Inn where Minara and the others were staying. He knew that Minara might get worried and come looking for her new pet if he stayed gone too long. It was a few minutes after dark before Kitz managed to find the right road, but he now trotted along towards comfort, food, and hopefully more smiling people.

He had been trotting along trying to be as quiet as he could for about two minutes before he stopped at an alleyway for a moment listening as he thought he heard something out of place. A second later he heard it again and this time it sounded like an angry scream coming from somewhere nearby. Kitz immediately began to move down the alley in that direction not thinking it too late for one more outing before returning to the inn. Once he got about 200 feet down the alley, he heard where the yelling had come from very clearly when an angry young female voice erupted from a window on the second floor building to his right.

“Fine! Well, why do you have to bring them back here?”

Kitz ducked down next to a small water chute leading to the gutters of the building on the roof just above the second floor. He sat on the ground and stayed still as he listened as a young boy’s voice responded in dejected tones.

“It’s because they are my friends.” The female voice came again a small bit lighter but still almost a yell.

“And what am I?”
 
“My sweet, cute little wife to be I hope…” Came the boy’s voice again in slightly confused tones. For a moment, there was silence then before the girl spoke again quietly this time.

“You should go…” The boy’s voice was very quiet then as he spoke. Kitz could hear footsteps coming from the window above.

“Tabitha…I love you…Why are you like…” His speech was interrupted then by a sudden popping sound of flesh on flesh as Tabitha’s voice rang out again.

“Don’t touch me, Samuel!” The response was immediate then.

“What?! What in the hells was that for?” There was about thirty seconds of silence then before Tabitha spoke in low confrontational tones again.

“That was for making me cry!”

“Making you cry...when? What did I…do?” Came the dumbfounded response from Samuel right away. Kitz thought he heard a sniffle from the window then, and a moment later he heard Samuels voice again. This time, it was Samuel’s turn to yell, and he did so with expertise.
 
“Ok, you win! As usual, blame me! Punching bag Sam! It’s all my fault when things don’t go as perfectly as you dreamed them to! She could blame Mishakal for a plague or a bad harvest, but she chooses to blame me! I guess since I can’t provide more than three gold coins a week, which, by the way, takes a lot of work! Your welcome, I’m not doing well enough to deserve a life with both friends and the women I love!! I have to pick one because there isn’t time for both together! Well, Sweetheart! I’ll be at Damean’s house if you need me!!”

Immediately after, Kitz heard stomping sounds followed by a slamming door. Kitz was shocked at the intensity he had just heard in the young couple’s words. He had seen such arguments from afar back home in Wyvernwood though he had never been close enough to listen in to what was being said. He knew that according to both Kurzit and Rhiana that lovers sometimes fight about silly things. Kitz, from a very early age, had decided that it was some kind of sport or game to those involved, but now seeing it up close it didn’t seem very sporting at all. Kitz couldn’t even decide what it was that these two were fighting about. Just then the door to the building opened up a few feet from Kitz, as Kitz suddenly froze. Samuel emerged with a sad look on his face and wiped an eye. Kitz barely heard him whisper to himself obviously not realizing that anyone was listening.

“I love her too much for this…”

He then shook his head and stalked off down the street and around the corner unwittingly leaving the door slightly ajar as he did. Kitz waited and watched him go then a few seconds later began to hear sobbing from upstairs where Tabitha was obviously crying. Kitz felt bad for the both of them as he thought about it. To Kitz, love had always been a way of life. He had always wanted to do more for those he saw in Wyvernwood but never before had he felt strong enough to make a difference. ‘That, however, had been the old child Kitz, not the new adventurous grown up Kitz.’ Kitz found himself thinking then. Words from above him brought him from his thoughts then as Tabitha was now kneeling at the window and sounded like she was praying.

“Please, Gods above, anyone, whoever is listening…Please…I love him too much for this…how can we both be happy? Show me what I’m not seeing.”

As Kitz listened to the quiet prayer from just a few feet below, he decided that he was listening when she asked and that the door was left open seemingly by chance. He knew that he could be love’s warrior as easily as anyone else. Furthermore, Tabitha’s prayer had just given him a great idea as to how he could talk and still keep his disguise. So Kitz slowly crept into the house through the slightly opened door. The house was a very simple and quaint building with three simple rooms on the bottom floor including a very drab kitchen, den, and washroom. Kitz crept slowly up the stairs noticing that there were a few out of place and very expensive looking landscape paintings on the walls going up the stairs.

As he got to the top of the stairs, he paused spun then lightly barked in casting for a brief moment it took to coat himself in harmless magical flickering purple flames called foxfire or Fairy fire as he has heard Thane call it once. He walked into Tabitha’s room and stopped for a moment stunned at the riches that covered the walls there. To Kitz, it appeared that he had just transcended the gap between peasant and princess. The room was about twice the size of the living room downstairs and extravagant paintings, and art pieces of all sorts covered the walls. In the middle of the room was a large circular curtain shrouded bed with flowing sheets of silk, plush blankets of cotton with gold trim, and even a small mirrored rim running along the of the curtains rail on one side. A grandfather clock made of dark wood stood ticking away next to the door, and all the furniture was black oak. Even the rug on the floor was velvet colored and looked very expensive as well.

Kitz stole a glance across the hall to see a small room with a small shabby looking old bed, a small feathered blanket, and a single three door set of drawers. Kitz guessed that might be Samuel’s room and immediately knew what was happening despite his lack of experience with these kinds of things.
Before he could distract himself with too many thoughts Kitz walked into the room in fox form and sat at the foot of Tabitha’s bed right behind the still praying girl at the window sill. He was wreathed in Foxfire and tried to put on his most impressive stance. Finally seeing that Tabitha wasn’t going to notice him soon enough if he waited, he quietly cast another spell, a minor magic called a prestidigitation that would make a small noise and solve another problem he had just thought of as well. A small breeze emerged from where Kitz stood as two tiny glowing illusory fairies appeared and floated above Kitz’s left shoulder.

Immediately Tabitha turned around to see the fire coated fox and the two spots of light standing in her room. She let out a light gasp and stood up in surprise. Now that Kitz got a good look at her, he could see that she stood about 5’ 8’’ tall with a slightly heavy build compared to some of the women he had seen at the bars. She had pale skin, brownish red hair down to just past her shoulders, light brown eyes, and a very attractive and curvy body as well. As he often did, he imagined her with little fox ears and a tail and marveled at how pretty she was. She wore a blue silk gown that fit her perfectly, and her hair was slightly tangled as though she had ruffled it up recently. She had a small red ribbon placed in her hair that was currently tying it up as well as an expensive necklace with a blue gem in it and one simple slightly dull looking golden ring on her right hand.

Kitz stood proudly looking up at her from a few feet away trying to put as much of a smile onto his fox face as he could without showing teeth. Tabitha stood motionless for a few seconds looking about the room before turning her head slightly to the side as she spoke in slightly uncertain tones.

“Hello, there little, uhm, Fox thing?” Kitz immediately yipped once and excitedly spun in place as the little balls of light hovering next to him swirled and moved rapidly leaving shimmering, sparkling trails of solid pink light behind them as they did.

When they were done with their quick maneuvers, the words ‘Hello to you as well Tabitha’ could be clearly seen written in intricate cursive slightly over and in front of Kitz’s head.

The words shimmered there for a few seconds before fading away leaving only a little red fox wrapped in purple dancing fire that was now very slowly fading away. Tabitha’s mouth opened a small bit, and she stared for a moment with wide eyes.

Seeing her uncertainty lingering, Kitz thought quickly of something that he thought would set a girl's mind at ease and had his magic write again. ‘Your eyes are as beautiful as a moonlit forest’, Kitz winced inwardly wondering how many reactions she could possibly have to that statement. He had read it in a book of love poems once, and he hoped that it fell within the realms of a simple compliment.

He knew from living with and watching others that compliments usually had a positive effect on most girls even under strange circumstances. Tabitha relaxed a little and gave a light half-hearted and a still confused smile then.

“Thank you? Little talking fox. Wait, you know me?” Kitz wrote again then.

‘My name is Kitz and yes I know you. I’m here to help.'

Tabitha sat down on the window sill then and spoke on while feeling her head with the back of her right hand as though in slight disbelief.

“Well then, Kitz, Ok uhm.What are you and how exactly do you know me?”

Kitz took a few steps forward towards her then as the last of the foxfire faded away, and more words appeared. ‘I’m a fox spirit of course and today I heard the prayers of a fair lady in need, so I came, and now I’m here.’

Tabitha nodded slowly but still seemed unconvinced as she responded. “Ah, I see uhm eh, So how exactly can ‘you’ help me?”

Kitz had to admit that it was a good question. In truth, he didn’t know how he could help the distraught girl either. He cursed himself silently for not having put even a single second of thought into how before now. He quickly then wrote the only thing that came to mind that sounded good.

‘I am a spirit of love. It’s kind of my thing.’

Kitz would have hit himself in the face for the last part if he could have without ruining his act. Despite this, however, it seemed to work as lights of recognition lit up in Tabitha’s eyes and she smiled brightly and hopped down from the windowsill to take a step forward.

“So the gods sent you to help me with Samuel?”

Kitz thought about it for only a second and decided that it wasn’t completely a lie since he was actually here and nodded once up to her. As soon as he did she practically jumped at Kitz falling to her knees and hugging the small surprised fox tighter than he would have liked.

“Oh thank you! Thank you kind spirit for hearing my call. I don’t know what to do…”

She let him go and sat back still on her knees by the foot of her bed looking down at him as she wiped away the last of the tears from her earlier cry. Kitz composed himself backing up a few steps and shaking his right front paw lightly and looking at it closely to make sure that it wasn’t hurt. He felt his tail hit the blankets of the bed behind him then and glanced back to see that he had in fact backed himself all the way against the bed. He looked up and around the room then before his eyes locked onto a particular object he saw, and he decided on a plan. When he was younger and had bad days or got hurt, Rhiana would sometimes brush his fur with a small brush to calm him down and get him to talk about his problems. It had usually worked, and Kitz wondered if the same trick would work here on Tabitha. So Kitz jumped up onto the bed through the silk curtains and wrote in the air behind him as he did.

‘Come here and sit with me.’

Tabitha stood up and did so moving to sit on the bed well inside of the hanging silk curtains where the fox Kitz was now standing. Kitz wrote again then.

‘Now turn around and close your eyes’ Tabitha gave him a slightly wary look then but nodded as she spoke and did as he asked sitting with her legs crossed in the center of the bed with her back to Kitz.

“Ok, but why am I turning around?” Kitz slowly backed away from her and thought. After a few seconds, he wrote again in the air front of her.

‘Becouse it’s easier this way, Love is a mysterious force, and I would be much more comfortable taking my true form to talk with you about it.’ Kitz stopped then at the edge of the bed and watched her closely. From the sudden straightening of her neck and her body language, he could tell that she was about to turn around and look at him anyway, so he wrote again in front of her quickly just as the last words faded away completely.

‘And besides if you saw me in my true form I wouldn’t be able to help you anymore. It’s a rule of the spirit world, so if you would, please don’t look.’ Tabitha’s posture relaxed then, and she spoke again with a hint of wariness still in her voice.

“Ok, I guess, it seems like a weird rule but I guess I’ve heard of stranger things.”

Kitz quickly jumped down off the bed and trotted over to a nearby cushioned chair. He jumped up onto the chair and reached onto the vanity table next to it to pick up the silver hairbrush he had spotted earlier in his mouth. He then carried it around back to the side of the bed that he had jumped down from and jumped back up. He saw Tabitha still sitting just like she had been with her back to him. He crept up suddenly noticing that he was leaving small dirty paw prints on the bed. He was angry at himself for not having cleaned his paws before walking on the pretty bed sheets, but a few seconds later the magic of his prestidigitation had the prints on the bed and his feet clean once again. Kitz walked up behind Tabitha then and set the brush down to the side and peered around at her looking for any sign of her turning around.

He noticed that her eyes were closed and thought for a few seconds before deciding it was a good idea. He sat down and slowly took his humanoid form behind her before settling in sitting with his legs crossed only an inch or so from her back. Tabitha then shifted her sitting position slightly to get more comfortable and touched one of Kitz’s legs with her back. She pretended not to notice, and Kitz whispered from behind her.

“Playing it safe by closing your eyes. Thank you, Tabitha, I appreciate that.” Tabitha seemed to turn her head to the side slightly then still looking away.

“You can talk?” Kitz chuckled slightly then as he picked up the brush and whispered back.

“Of course, All spirits can” Tabitha nodded then and shifted uncomfortably again and stopped in mid shift as Kitz slowly began to as soothingly as he knew how brush her hair with the brush and his hands. After a few minutes of this, Tabitha was visibly more relaxed, and Kitz whispered again continuing to brush her hair.

“So, tell me more about your problems with Samuel.”

Without more than a moment's delay, Tabitha began a flood of explanations about her and Samuel’s history together and of their various problems as friends, companions, and finally lovers. Kitz listened intently and thought about the seemingly endless and if he could understand her right ever growing list of complaints about their relationship as friends and companions. After a while, she started spouting off things about intimate situations between them as lovers as well. During this Kitz just carefully kept brushing her hair and rubbing her shoulders hoping that the dumbfounded, confused, and sometimes slightly entertained looks on his face wouldn’t be apparent in the movements of his hands.

After what seemed like well over an hour to Kitz she finally took a breath and asked what he thought about it all. Kitz only ceased the gentle back scratching that he had been giving her at the time and took a few deep breaths. Despite his distraction with many of Tabitha’s more risqué topics over the last hour, Kitz had been listening. To him, it seemed that almost every one of the couple’s problems came back to a difference in wealth. Tabitha seemed to like the royal treatment with ballroom dancing, luxurious baths, and being waited on or served. Samuel, on the other hand, liked earning his own way with barroom revelry, swimming by the old river mill, and providing for his fellow peasants.

Just about the only thing that they had in common according to her was that they desperately loved each other and met at an old bridge south of town, where she had fallen into the river, and he had rescued her. After another short moment of thought, Kitz took a shallow breath and whispered from behind her.

“Well, Tabitha it seems to me that your problems are smaller than you make them out to be…” Tabitha shook her head then and retorted.

“No, they are not, it’s hard to live with him like this. Why must love be so cruel as to two people so different?”

Kitz whispered again. “Why should love be anything but what you make it?”
 
“Because, wait, what?” Tabitha’s words came out in accusing tones that faded into a confused question as she turned her head and almost looked at him with her eyes closed. Kitz thought about it as quick as he could and tried his best to keep up with his original line of thinking continuing to whisper gently to her again.

“Love is a gift, not something forced on you…If you're in love then, well…” Kitz really didn’t know where he would go with his argument but said the first thing he could think of and hoped for the best.

“Well, if you're in love then you can’t be afraid of new things. You have to be as strong for him as he is strong for you.” Tabitha looked directly ahead again speaking as she raised her arms in a gesture of frustration.

“I’m not afraid! And I can be as strong as him. I just, doesn’t it have to work for him the same way?” Kitz nodded to himself and whispered again.

“Yes, it does. What you think he needs to do for you that he doesn’t.” Tabitha was silent for a moment before speaking again calmly folding her arms over her chest.

“Well, for a start he could at least pretend he’s affianced to a noble women sometimes. He could dress better when my family is around, he could accept some of the gifts I want to give him, like a bed made of something other than straw or maybe live in the home my father has offered us. I just want him to be a little more comfortable. He can still do what he likes. Life would be better for us both if he weren’t so damn stubborn. He could learn to read proper and freedom doesn’t mean dirty either.”

Kitz continued talking quietly to her for about another hour coaxing as much information from her as he could. After that hour, he once again took his fox form and told her that he would have to think but that he would visit her again in the morning. She agreed and thanked him and the gods again for hearing her prayers. Kitz then left her house making sure to shut the front door completely as he did.

Over the next two hours or so, Kitz made a brief appearance at the inn that Minara were staying at then wandered the nighttime streets of Crossroads looking and listening for signs of Samuel. After an hour of wandering the dark and empty streets, he found what he was looking for. From behind a small house near the center of town nestled in between a locked up blacksmith and a tailor’s shop Kitz heard the sound of wood being chopped and a voice that was unmistakably Samuels.

“One hundred and three! There now only eight hundred and ninety-seven to go and I can make an extra coin to bring home. Maybe if I do it in a single night, then it’ll make a difference to her.”

Kitz emerged from around the corner to see Samuel standing warily by a small stump next to a few large piles of uncut logs. On his other side was a smaller pile of stacked logs cut into fours. He was leaning heavily on a fence and had an axe at his side. Kitz could hear Samuel panting slightly, and it was clear that he was tired. None-the-less not knowing how he would react Kitz stayed hidden for now. A moment later Samuel stood tall once again, picked up another uncut log from the pile and placed it on the stump. He hefted the axe and swung continuing to split the logs as he had obviously been doing. Kitz marveled at his devotion realizing that he, in fact, had not gone to his friend’s home after the fight but had instead already set about trying yet again to impress Tabitha in some other way.

Knowing what he did and from talking to Tabitha however, he knew that he would have to talk to Samuel to make this work. Not knowing exactly how to approach him he figured that Samuel seemed to be a reasonable boy and that he wouldn’t panic and attack the first thing that he saw that confused him. Kitz was wrong. Kitz walked out into the open and barked. When Samuel stopped to look Kitz’s way Kitz spun and twirled as he cast his spell of writing in the air. As soon as he did Samuel yelled.

“Deamon Fox! Here to mock me are you? Sargonis Take you!”

By the time Kitz had registered that his plan of introduction had already gone horribly wrong, Samuel had already turned the axe head to the side, and a swung it low in a golf swing at Kitz. Kitz made an awkward yelp and a squeaking whine as he was struck by the flat of the axe and sent flying through the air to land about 10 feet from Samuel in a heap with a pounding headache and numbing pain in his right side. Samuel immediately stalked forward as Kitz struggled to stand wobbling back and forth. Upon seeing Samuel once again towering over him, Kitz quickly wrote in the common tongue in front of him with his spell, but Samuel simply waded through the writing with a laugh.

“Ha! Nice try! But I can’t read your curses, so they can’t hurt me.”

Kitz quickly realized all over again another problem he would have with Samuel was that he couldn’t read. He recalled Tabitha mentioning something about him needing to learn to read. As quickly as he could, Kitz ran then. He scampered around behind a few trees as Samuel followed. When he found a fence blocking his path, he turned around and did the last thing he thought he would have done. He changed back into his humanoid form right there in front of Samuel, as Samuel ran up to him axe ready to swing and stopped.

Kitz immediately held his hands out in front of him as he looked up at Samuel and spoke.

“Wait Samuel! Tabitha! She, I’m a friend. Please don’t,”

Kitz’s words were cut off by a sudden pressing of the flat end of Samuel’s axe to his neck. Kitz sat still then with his neck being pressed tightly against the fence by the blunt end of an axe and struggled to speak. After a moment, he simply relaxed against the wall and put his hands up in surrender looking up at Samuel. Seeing this, Samuel smiled down at him and then scowled as he spoke.

“Lycanthrope huh? I’ve heard of your kind…Why did you mention Tabitha?”

 Kitz spoke slightly strained then by the axe head to his throat. “I’m here to help her and you.” Samuel raised an eyebrow then.

“Help us? What makes you think we need the help of a monster like you?” Kitz wanted very much to site the part where she slapped him in the face a few hours before but knew that making a man with an axe to your neck mad was not the best choice, so he responded quietly.

“She feels the same way about you as you do about her.”

Samuel eased his posture slightly then and pulled the axe a few inches from Kitz’s neck as Kitz instinctively felt his neck for injury. When he found none, placed a single finger on the axe to push it away from him. As he did, Samuel gave a sudden jab forward with the axe pushing Kitz’s finger back into his chin and spoke a quick few words before pulling the axe back again.

“This stays right where it is. Now you were saying?” Kitz winced crossing his eyes briefly to look at the sharp edges still only about a foot from his exposed neck. He gulped slightly with obvious nervousness and looked back up to Samuel.

“She uhm, she loves you very much…and she wants to, uhm, make you happy.” Samuel scowled then.

“And what does a lycanthrope know of love? I hear you eat your children and tie your women to trees, so they don’t kill you in your sleep.”

Kitz couldn’t help but give a wide-eyed and hurt look up towards Samuel. Samuel stared at Kitz then for a moment before pulling the axe away from his neck and letting it hang at his side looking down at Kitz as if considering. He spoke before Kitz could then.

“You're no lycanthrope. You're too much of a wimp to be one of them.” Kitz’s look went from one of hurt feelings to one of anger, and he stood up quickly and spoke with narrowed eyes.

“Ok, fine make fun if you want to, but I came here to help.” Samuel rolled his eyes as he turned around to walk back to the pile of uncut wood.

“Of course you did.” Kitz gave a slightly confused look and went on after a slight hesitation.

“Ooook? Well, just in case you care, in my opinion you two need to share a little more of each other’s lifestyle if you're going to be together.” Samuel looked up then and nodded putting a piece of wood on the log.

“Yeah, I’ve been telling her that for almost a year now, but her highness doesn’t want to get her hands dirty.”

Kitz chimed immediately then, “And you don’t wanna get your hands clean?”

Samuel narrowed his eyes at Kitz then and swung the axe down hard chopping the uncut wood piece in two with one swing before leaving the axe in the stump and walking to stand a few feet from Kitz. He put his hand to the side of Kitz’s face touching the fur and seemed to examine him. Kitz’s look became one of extreme annoyance as he gritted his teeth and growled slightly. After a few seconds of that, Samuel stopped again and looked Kitz right in the eyes.

“I’m not a noble, I earned what I have, every bit. I won’t take handouts especially not from her. If she wants to be a rich spoiled little brat, then that’s her choice!”

His eyes softened then as he looked down and backed away from Kitz speaking again in more saddened tones.

“But I can’t provide for the rich Tabitha. So, she’ll just have to make do being provided for by someone else.” The last few words were low, and Kitz could hear the sadness building in his voice.

Kitz knew right away that he had just struck a chord that Samuel felt. As Samuel grabbed another piece of wood and placed it on the stump, he turned to Kitz, who was standing there thinking still. He spoke again in calm remorseful tones.

“Oh and I don’t know how much it cost her to hire the wizard that made that disguise, but it’s a good one, tell him nicely done for me…”

Kitz gave a momentary look of confusion before realizing what Sam thought was going on. Deciding that it was easier just to go with it, Kitz nodded and walked away. As soon as he got around the corner he began to cast a curative magic for his ribs bruised by the axe swing. When he was done with that, he took his fox form once again and walked away to think about what he could possibly tell Tabitha in the morning.

The next morning, Kitz awoke a bit before dawn on his pillow next to Minara. He was careful to creep out without waking her and headed through the early morning streets to Tabitha’s home. He had thought about it a lot last night and had finally come up with an idea that might work for them. Kitz arrived at Tabitha’s house a few minutes before the first rays of morning sunlight hit her window. He used a minor spell to lift himself to the window on a pillar of wind and landed just inside her room. He waited for a few moments being careful to make a little noise. Eventually when she didn’t wake, he decided that he would leave a note with his idea. He did, taking his humanoid form for a moment to retrieve some parchment from his backpack and then left in fox form once again shortly after. His note written in his own elegant cursive read.

‘Dear Tabitha, Samuel loves you very much and wishes to be a provider for you, but cannot provide for you as well as your rich family can. The only problem between the two of you is that money means a very different thing to each of you. For you it is a way of life and simply the means of getting what you need to be comfortable. For Samuel, it is a source of pride or, in this case, lack there of. He wants to be able to support his wife to be himself and take care of the one he loves. He also doesn’t feel that he can do this to your liking without pushing away his closest friends and forsaking the gritty lifestyle that he enjoys on the farm. He works tirelessly to impress you with how much he can provide but compared to your families wealth it is not enough.
I have an idea that might appeal to the both of you and will certainly help, but it will require a sacrifice on your part. Speak to your family about using some of your wealth to start a business that the two of you together can run. I believe he will do whatever it takes to turn a profit and impress you if he is given a chance as he would then be earning the money for you. I suggest stables as horses are most elegant creatures, and almost everyone needs one. It is a trade that can be easily learned and it will require hard work from both of you. Good luck and I hope this suggestion helps both of your love shine even brighter in the future.’

Kitz went about his business for the rest of that day and into the next. It wasn’t until the third day at around noon time when he stopped back by Tabitha’s home to see a number of merchants loading up wagons with a lot of Tabitha’s paintings and furniture while she stood with an uncertain look by the door. After a few minutes, it seems that they had finished, and the lead merchant walked over to hand Tabitha a rather large pouch full of coins. Kitz quickly realized that she was selling the things from her room. He hoped for both of their sakes that he was right about his observations of Samuel. Despite his nervous hope, Kitz decided to watch to see what happened the rest of that day. He followed her to and from around town and to a few shops. At each place, she would buy a few things then move on.

Finally after a few hours of such running around, she stopped before an old warehouse and walked inside. Kitz took the opportunity to sneak inside as well using an old unlatched window shutter on the building’s side. Once inside, he understood. The warehouse was part of a larger plot of land with a small fenced in field. To Kitz, it looked to be a place designed to house cattle. Tabitha began to straighten up the place and after a few minutes, a number of rugged old men arrived with 15 horses in tow. She paid them each from the pouch of coins she had gotten earlier and led the horses to the small fenced in area. Kitz immediately realized that this place looked like the beginnings of a ranch more than stables.

He kept watching and about an hour later a most unexpected guest arrived at her door. As she swung wide the doors to her new warehouse, in strode Amaroth all clad in green and with his single horse pulling a large cart full of feed, saddles, ropes, and other horse related equipment and tools. Kitz ducked and was careful to stay completely hidden relying more on his ears to hear what the two were talking about. Kitz hoped that he wouldn’t be mentioned by either of them and much to his relief, he wasn’t. Amaroth spent a few hours teaching Tabitha about how to care for horses and giving her business advice as well flirting quite a bit Kitz noticed with slight annoyance at Amaroth.

After the few hours had been up and Tabitha had taken many notes on Amaroth’s words, she gave him a few coins, and he gave her a small stack of books and was gone soon after. From the conversation, Kitz quickly learned that Tabitha didn’t just plan to sell horses, she planned to breed them. Kitz was a little dumbfounded as to how exactly one went about such a profession, but decided that it wasn’t worth the concern that his young mind had over the issue. It was about nightfall when Tabitha returned to the warehouse one last time and this time had Samuel in tow.

Kitz listened as she explained to Samuel that she had sold the things from her room to buy this place and these horses for them to work with. At first, Samuel was concerned and accused her of being crazy for risking everything for such a venture. Then when she pointed out all the work she had done in a single day to get the place ready for him to see, the conversation became much lighter. Kitz saw the pride in Samuel’s eyes at his hardworking wife’s bold plan, and he knew that this had been a good idea. Sure enough, the young couple spent most of the night talking, expressing their love, and plotting as to how to make this whole thing work. By the end of the night, the two lovebirds were sharing a bottle of fine wine in crystal glasses at an old wooden table surrounded by saddles, troughs, and horse feed.

It was ironic to Kitz at how well rich and poor did blend together as he watched them. By the end of the night, Samuel had promised to buy back every piece of her old room one piece at a time with the profits that he was sure they would make from their new business. Kitz couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride in himself at what he had helped to arrange. He set off that night back towards the inn where his unknowing companions were staying wearing the brightest smile he had ever worn. He knew that with the blessings of love upon them, together they would always prevail.

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