“A purple store?” Tiga asked incredulously.
The shock Tiga felt to her eyes with the bright colour was evident in a raised eyebrow and crinkled nose. They had arrived in the village next to the lake and that’s when they had come across the general store. It was simple enough in design, made of planks and a shackled roof. However the entire thing was painted the brightest purple Tiga had ever seen.
“Yeah, I mean, why not?” Cagar answered grinning. “It stands out doesn’t it?”
“Yup, who had the idea to paint their store purple?” Tiga answered, staring at the building. “Are they secretly a unicorn or fluffy purple monster?”
“It’s owned by a couple I know, my sister and her husband to be exact. It’s my sister’s favourite colour, so they said ‘Why not?’ and here they are, with a purple store.”
“Why not? Well, it’s hideous for one thing and no one in their right mind would have it all purple. Purple accents maybe, but this is just… urgh.”
“Indeed, you truly think that?” a female voice asked beside her.
Tiga turned to look at the woman beside her and shrugged nonchalantly.
“It’s just my opinion, but yes,” Tiga answered honestly.
Tiga noticed Cagar glaring warningly at her in the corner of her eyesight, but Tiga was used to being glared at. The woman was beautiful and regal and even with her brow furrowed towards the store she looked youthful. Her stomach rounded through her clothing and her hands patted it subconsciously.
“I guess, it does stand out a… well a little too much,” the woman spoke.
“A nice stripped back wooden look with a nicely painted sign and the place would look ten times better,” Tiga continued, watching the woman’s face. “It would be a lot less doll house looking.”
“You’re right, and with a little one on the way, we don’t want people to think we’re childish,” the woman agreed.
Cagar nudged Tiga in the shoulder and lent in to whisper something.
“Hey, stop being mean about their store. It’s been that way for ages,” Cagar whispered.
“You know what, it’s time for a change and your idea is wonderful. I’ll have to speak it over with Jay but I’m sure he’ll agree,” the woman said smiling happily. “My name is Yuna-”
“-This is Tiga, she’s visiting and I’m taking her to see Bodach,” Cagar said, almost cutting her off.
“Oh dear, I hope he didn’t attack your chickens! He’s had a fear of them ever since Mrs Jerns hen attacked him,” Yuna spoke, her voice filled with concern.
Tiga laughed and casually laid a reassuring hand on Yuna’s arm.
“No chickens were harmed, I assure you,” Tiga said, grinning. “It’s a much more serious discussion.”
Yuna paused to look Tiga over, taking in the small frame and tussled short hair. Tiga watched her frown appear once more as Yuna grabbed gently at her shoulders.
“You’re hurt! Cagar, why aren’t you rushing to have her wounds treated?” Yuna said, glancing across at Cagar. “Come inside, Tiga, and we’ll treat your wound immediately.”
Tiga was rushed inside and her legs elevated, before she could voice her thoughts on the matter. Inside the shop, Tiga was happy to find it much less purple. Products were organised neatly on shelves and the wood was polished to perfection. Tiga sat on a cushioned bench at the back of the store and Yuna rushed to a cabinet and began sorting through medical supplies. Tiga stayed still, afraid to move in case she put something out of place.
“Relax, Tiga, you look like you’re a statue,” Yuna said, smiling. “Now, Cagar, help Tiga into the back room. We’ll need some privacy to treat this wound.”
Tiga was once again moved into an adjoining room, which she walked to, even though Cagar was willing to help her. Yuna ordered Cagar from the room and began tending to Tiga’s wound on her thigh.
“How did you manage to get such a deep wound?” Yuna asked, dabbing the skin with a disinfectant.
“I took a tumble down the mountain and a… stick pierced me as I fell,” Tiga lied casually.
“Well there’s no branch pieces in the wound and it looks quite clean. Did you tend to it a bit before coming here to the store?” Yuna continued.
“A bit of a washout. It honestly doesn’t hurt much,” Tiga answered.
Tiga frowned as she said it however. It truly didn’t hurt much at all, merely tingled as Yuna dabbed disinfectant on it. It had hurt like hell before crawling into the cage and her pants were hardly bloodied. Either Tiga was tougher than she had thought, or something was wrong.
“Jay!” a male yelled, entering the room.
Yuna acted quickly as the door swung open and tossed a blanket to cover Tiga’s legs. Yuna stood and approached the newcomer, who urgently swept the room with one glance.
“Yuna, where is Jay?” the man asked stepping forward.
“Have you never heard of knocking, Ethan?” Yuna asked sternly.
“I’m sorry if I was rude, but the situation excuses my manner,” the man answered. “Now tell me, where is Jay?”
“Jay is out back, chopping firewood,” Yuna replied, frowning. “What’s the matter?”
“I must see Jay, you cannot help me.”
“I’m here Ethan,” another male voice joined in.
He was tall and held an authoritative presence from the moment he had entered. He wore a loose tunic that was open at the chest and sweat glistened on his brow. A short beard ran down his jaw line and his brown hair was trimmed short on his head. He still held an axe in his hand, resting on his shoulder as if he’d just finished slicing down on a piece of wood.
Tiga awkwardly pulled the blanket further over her legs, as the newcomer glanced in her direction.
“Perhaps we can discuss whatever’s wrong in another room,” the man spoke quietly.
“Jay, it requires great urgency, Bodach’s farm is in danger,” Ethan spoke, following Jay from the room.
Tiga grabbed for her pants but wasn’t surprise to find Yuna grabbing them away. Tiga opened her mouth to explain but Yuna silenced her with a wave of her hand. Yuna crossed over to a chest and pulled a clean pair of breeches from it.
“Wear these. Don’t want you getting infected by the dirt on these ones,” Yuna said, shaking the offending pair of pants.
Tiga nodded in appreciation and pulled the pants over one leg and then the other. She slipped her feet into the boots and almost tripped over her own feet as she sprinted to the door. Yuna followed more slowly and they walked in to find Jay buckling his sheath onto his hips.
“There’s been an incident, Yuna. It sounds pretty serious so I’ll go with Ethan and Cagar to check it out with a couple of the men,” Jay spoke quietly to his wife.
“Very well, I’ll prepare some lunch for you,” Yuna replied, turning away.
“No need,” Jay answered, laying his hand on her shoulder. “We need to leave immediately, and we’ll be far too busy to worry about our stomach.”
“You can’t work your best when you’re hungry.”
“Yuna…” Jay said. “I love you and I’ll be back later.”
Yuna tilted her face up as Jay bent slightly to kiss her, his hand cupped on her chin. He then turned to pick up a large double bladed axe and lifted it to rest on his shoulder. He motioned for Ethan and Cagar to follow him as he opened the door to leave.
Yuna glanced across at Tiga but Tiga was already walking forward to follow the men. Tiga wasn’t about to be left behind, especially once they had mentioned the sorcerer Bodach. Bodach was her most likely lead and to be honest she was curious as to what was happening.
“Wait, Tiga,” Yuna called after her.
Tiga paused, glancing quickly between Yuna and the exiting men. She sighed quietly with impatience, particularly since the men made no action to wait for her, and turned to Yuna.
“I’m fine to go, Yuna. I’m able to look after myself,” Tiga said.
“At least take a weapon with you, it’s probably going to be dangerous,” Yuna answered. “Can you wield any sort of weapon?”
“A hunting bow will suit me fine,” Tiga said, rolling her shoulder.
Yuna turned to a large flat cabinet in the corner of the room and opened the two wooden doors. Rows of swords, bows and quivers, filled with arrows, were hung from leather straps on the back of the cabinet. Yuna ran a hand over the pummels of the swords and then to an intricately carved bow. She unstrapped it and a quiver of arrows and turned back to Tiga. Tiga checked the arrow tips by running a finger over them and found them to be sharpened expertly.
“Will that do?” Yuna said with a slight smile.
“It will-“ Tiga began.
“It won’t do at all,” a male interrupted from the doorway.
Tiga spun around to find Cagar standing with a serious look in his eye. Cagar stepped forward and picked up a medical pack that had already been prepared.
“You will stay here, Tiga,” Cagar stated firmly.
“Like hell I will!” Tiga answered, her eyes narrowing.
Tiga’s arms crossed and stood straight, although her small frame was hardly imposing. Cagar waved a hand in dismissal and turned to Yuna.
“Keep her here,” Cagar ordered. “She’s not used to the land, thus putting herself and the group at risk. I don’t want her getting hurt.”
“Talk to me directly, you sour old man,” Tiga snapped. “I know how to handle a bow and I adapt to mountains and forests extremely well.”
“Hunting doesn’t count towards dangerous situation experience. You’ll get hurt.”
“I will not get hurt. You don’t even know what the situation there is. I can help, and you have no say in the matter! You are not one of my parents, so stop acting like I’m your responsibility.”
Tiga pushed past Cagar, swinging the quiver strap over her head and settling it on her back. Cagar sighed aloud, raising his eyebrows and shrugging at Yuna. Yuna just smiled back at him serenely and shrugged back. Cagar turned quickly and hurried after Tiga.
“Wait a sec, I have to show you the way,” Cagar called.
“I knew you’d come around to my point of view,” Tiga said, waiting while leaning on a roof support outside.
“I still don’t agree,” Cagar answered. “But I’m not going to force you. Besides I’ll be there to protect you anyway, which I feel is my duty since watching you stumble down the hillside.”
Tiga shot him a warning glance and he shot her a grin in response. They then began jogging to catch up to the rest of the group, as they had wasted enough time.
The closer they got to their destination, however, Cagar’s pace increased until he was running. Tiga kept pace easily, but felt uneasy the closer they became. The air became thicker and thicker with the suffocating smell of smoke. Tiga tried to push the thought of her nightmare of the whispering smoke to the back of her mind, and continued moving up the mountain. But as they reached the top of the mountain and surveyed what was supposed to be a mountain paradise, the horror all came flooding back…