A full days walk south of the Giant Tree (for a human)
Four humans milled around a small camp they had just finished setting up for the night. Three men and one woman, they chatted happily amongst one another as the sun went down. One of the men started a campfire and began to roast some small animal they had caught. Soon the scent of roasting meat rose into the air. The man cooking the meat was large; his ears were studded, and other than the top of his head, which was utterly bald, he looked unshaven. He banged two pots together to get his comrades attention and called out, Gather round the campfire boys and girls, grab a leg to munch, this things got plenty to spare. Sit down, eat, and Ill tell you all a little tale Ive heard.
The three other companions laughed and hurried over, pulling chunks of meat from the strange Felarian animal. Theyd probably have questioned the odd appearance of their dinner tonight if it hadnt have been what theyd been eating for the last few days. The group had met up in Negav a few weeks before, and had plenty of time since then as they traveled the jungle to get acquainted with each other. They hoped to find an easy treasure in the mysterious temple, enough to last them a few years. They were already over halfway there, and in a few days they expected to reach the Anko Bridge, the only way to get to the temple. One of the men was obviously a warrior, the sword at his side and his plates of armor a dead giveaway. For some reason, he never would tell them his name or anything about his past. So they just called him The Prophet, because of the seemingly supernatural way he could see attacks coming. The third male, Crespo, was apparently a scout, once again noticeable because of the binoculars around his neck, and the worn map sticking out of his pocket. The woman, Maria, had a wedding ring around her finger, as did the scout, and a bow and quiver at her back. Gol was their cook, and he was as good at it as you could find in Negav. He would brag, Show me a creature, and Ill show you a batch of me famous stew! But while he was an excellent cook, he was even better as a storyteller. He seemed able to pull a seemingly infinite number of stories, tall tales, legends, rumors, jokes, riddles, and even a few skits from his memory. Whether the stories were true or not, they were always entertaining. Hed always tell one of his stories over dinner, and tonight was no different.
Gol cleared his throat and his companions immediately shut up, looking attentively at the burly cook. Tonight, I have a fine story for you all. Just recently happened. Fresh out of the rumor mill, so to say. Just about a week ago, Buddy Holly took the Rosic Test. Wait; you look like you dont know what Im talking about. Buddy is the son of Eddie Holly. You know of Eddie dont you? Are you serious? All right, I suppose Ill have to start at the beginning than with some explanations. Come closer now, its starting to get cold, but the fire will keep you warm. Now, as I was saying, theres a small neko village far east of here, south of the Jewel River. Its within a few days travel west of the Topazial Sea. This is a fairly large village, though nowhere near the size of a city like Negav. The tribes known as the Rosic nekos, and its widely said to be the origin of the best music thats ever come out of Felarya. Of course, in order to keep up the high standard and reputation the village has, when young nekos reach maturity they have to pass a test.
On many worlds, in many cultures, youths are sent out into the wilderness by themselves. The goal could either be to survive for a set amount of time, or to bring back some prize that shows their valor, or that can assist the whole community. Felarya is no different. One well-known example would be the Crimson Maidens, but hundreds of tribes, cities, or sometimes, individual families follow this tradition. The reason varies as well, from religious reasons to pride to an excuse for using the youths as sacrifices to some of the bigger predators that may otherwise attack the entire community. But one side effect, no matter the superficial reason, is reducing the number of mouths to feed, and also keeping the family from becoming a tribe, or a tribe from becoming a city, or a city from becoming Ur-Sagol. But look at me, waxing poetic. I dont mean to be boring you, I mean to be telling a story.
The Neko tribe that Eddie and young Buddy lived in has such a test, called the Rosic test. Now, this tribe is one the Neko tribes that live on the ground, rather than up in the trees. See, they have a different way of protecting themselves. They use music. Of course, they can fight almost as well as the average Neko, but they only ever fight the deaf predators, or ones too hungry to care about pretty music. But most intelligent predators, and quite a few of the unintelligent ones too, would look for a different meal in exchange for a song or two. In fact, many of the local predators around the tribe would keep out the more voracious ones. They dont want whatever their favorite musician to become lunch! Its like the saying goes, Music soothes the savage stomach.
Now, the test for the Rosic tribe is simple. Go out into the jungle, either by yourself or with a band of friends, and look for a predator. Then, before being devoured, the troupe must use their music to prevent their imminent death. And as proof of their deed, the young musician must take a memento of the predator as proof. A nagas scale, a harpys feather, a notch off a mermaids fin, something like that. The youth comes back victorious and begins a career of musicneko for hire. Or, if the hapless neko cant make good enough music for the first creature they find in the jungle, they end up making a different kind of music in its stomach! In this way, the tribe weeds out the unskilled, and makes a reputation for itself among the nearby predators, or at least keeps them fed! Its win-win!
In the entire history of the tribe, Eddie Holly was the best guitarist to ever to be born. In fact, they say that this was evident as soon as he took his Rosic Test.
Young ones! Today is the day of your test! A venerable cat man looks over the ten Nekos who had finally reached the age of thirty, the age where all Rosic Nekos so into the jungle to finish their training. The age of the Sacred Rosic Test. Ten nekos who, by the end of the day, will either become grown men and women, or meals. The old cat man was Elv, the leader of the tribe and it was his duty to see off the trainees every year. He looked over the four men, and six women who would be tested today. In particular he looked at Eddie Holly. Eddies parents had gone out into the jungle only a few months after hed been born, and they had never returned. The only clue to their fate was a trail of slime with the fathers guitar stuck in it. And so the boy became an orphan, and it became the whole villages responsibility to raise him. As he grew, it became apparent to everyone that young Eddie had a gift. Unfortunately, it was apparent to the boy as well, and as he grew in size and skill, his ego grew just as much, if not more. But Eddie truly was gifted, and even though he disapproved of Eddies reckless behavior, anti social attitude and lackadaisical approach towards training, he couldnt deny his prowess with the guitar.
But now he was to become a man, along with his fellow nekos. But his pride had flared again, and unlike everyone else this day, Eddie had chosen to go out alone for his test, saying he didnt need any help. Elv tried to warn him, to tell him that assistance makes the test easier and more survivable. Nine times out of ten, younglings that go it alone never come back. Safety in numbers. A guitar alone will not stand. But the foolish boy refused to listen, saying that anyone else will only hold him back. He wanted to bring back a trophy of his own. Ultimately, it was Eddies decision. Even if he didnt like it, Elv couldnt do anything about it.
A cleared throat brought the old neko back from his musings. The ten nekos were all looking at him strangely. Eddie speaks up, Whats the matter Gramps? Getting senile in your old age? Finish your speech so we can get going.
Humph! Is that any way to speak to your elders? Why in my day, theyd take your tongue for such a smart mouth!
Yeah yeah, just finish up. Theres a pred out there just waiting to hear my beautiful music. Eddie crossed his arms and looked pointedly at the tribe leader.
Fine! You all have heard my speech many times. I say it every year. So, you know what to do. Go into the jungle. Find a pred and come back with the proof of your encounter. Everyone that comes back will be formed up into troupes and will begin to perform to gain money and diplomatic relations for our tribe. And dont worry; I have the utmost confidence in you all. I expect to see you all back here by sundown. Good luck to you all. Dismissed.
With that the assembled nekos bunch up into groups and go off into the jungle. All but Eddie, who went off on his own. He moved in the opposite direction from where the rest of his peers went.
Really, Elv thought. That boy is too much. Going south
Eddie confidently strode through the jungle, not even bothering to sneak or even be quiet. He couldnt wait to meet a predator, and finally be able to show his skill. He wanted to get the best trophy he could, and finally prove himself to all the adults in the village who kept annoying him to practice his guitar. I dont need to practice! He thought, Im already perfect! He would finally show his worth, by bringing back something really impressive. Hed get the best trophy ever, like a harpy talon, or a mermaid gill, or a naga tail. Those grow back if their cut off right?
He was so wrapped up in his visions of glory; he didnt even notice that hed walked out of the cover of the jungle, and into a clearing. What did catch his attention was when he walked into a large, soft, fleshy wall. He bounced back and fell on his side, just barely able to twist aside and avoid falling on his precious guitar. He sat back up to look at whatever he had run into, but he only saw empty space where he had been sure was a long, pale, oddly curved wall extending into the jungle in either direction. Eddie just shook his head and stood up.
That must be one of those dimensional quirks Gramps told me about before. Eddie murmured to himself as he brushed dirt off his shoulder.
Hey! A voice suddenly called out. A fairy zipped up in front of Eddies face. She looked young, and had blue hair that went down to her waist. It really helped bring out how red her face was. I was trying to get some sleep! I have a long way to go to get back home, and I wanted to sleep in today. But you go tramping through the jungle like a herd of tonnorians! I was going to be nice, and just wait for you to pass by, but then you come up to me and walk smack into my butt! How rude! The fairy looked Eddie up and down then. But I guess I can forgive you since your bringing me breakfast. She giggles impishly and licks her lips.
However, Eddie was much too busy thanking his luck to notice the little girls thinly veiled threat. He could imagine the look on everyones faces when he told them he had met a fairy for his test. Fairies were fairly rare around this part of the jungle, but Eddie had heard stories about them. Seeing one was considered an omen of luck among his people. Although if it was good luck or bad depended on how hungry the particular fairy was. Eddie tail twitched and he smiled broadly at the fairy in front of him. Youre a fairy! He blurted out.
The little fairy paused and laughed at the absurdity of the statement. She spun in the air and posed, Obviously!
Right, so you eat nekos dont you?
I might have every now and again, she giggles again. This was certainly an odd neko. Usually her breakfast would try to run away, or plead for their life. But this one was just smiling at her like hed won some sort of prize. Maybe he was one of those odd people who like being eaten. Shed heard stories about weirdos like that. She couldnt wait to brag to her friends about meeting a real live one. What were they called again? vobfiles?
So are you planning on eating me? he asked eagerly, his tail twitching madly behind him.
Im considering it, she replied, stifling another giggle. Do you want me to? She flew closer now, seductively rubbing her stomach. She slid her tongue across her lips and winked at him, now floating even with his head.
Eddies smile just widened and he pulled the guitar from his back. No. He began to tune it as the fairy sank a couple of inches, her face a humorous mixture of shock and disappointment.
She stammered back, What? But it sounded like you
Well, if you dont want to be my meal, why were you asking all those questions?
Im taking a test. I needed to find someone who would want to eat me, Eddie replied nonchalantly. Youll do perfectly. He plucked a string and frowned. He set to work tuning the guitar.
The fairy grew noticeably upset, not that Eddie noticed. She thought shed get an easy willing meal, and that maybe shed be able to play with her food a bit first. Oh? She said acidly, And just what are you supposed to do for this test?
The neko shrugged and plucked at another string. Meet a predator, dont get eaten, and come back to my village by sunset.
And what makes you think I wont shrink you right now and eat you up?
Eddie only gestures at his guitar, This is all I need to use.
The fairy peered at the instrument curiously, And just whats that? Do you think you can knock me out with a little wooden thing like that? The idea was laughable. It reminded her of the time a human tried to catch her with a small net. Hed ended up being her meal instead.
Eddie just laughed as if he found it as funny as she did. No, this is my guitar, not a weapon. Ill play a song for you, and if you like it then you let me go, and give me a piece of your wing as a memento. But if you dont, you can eat me, or whatever else you may want to do.
This really was a strange neko, seemingly fearless, and so demanding. Well, Ill play along with his little game, the fairy thinks, But no matter how well he plays, Ill definitely eat him afterwards. I can't give up my wing! I dont care about any silly songs, Im hungry and tired and hes just an annoying neko. Alright, she says aloud. She smiles sweetly, Play me a song.
Eddie smiles back, his tail twitching eagerly. This is going to be so easy. Ive heard stories about fairies. Theyre free spirited and fun-loving. Not to mention this one is so young. This will be easier than catching mouse people in a barrel, he thought. He spoke out loud, Tell me your name before I start. The song will be better if I knew a little about you. My name is Eddie by the way.
The small blue haired fairy bowed slightly, My name is Lucy, she replies back. Im a rain fairy from the Fairy Kingdom. I came this way to visit a friend of mine and give her a gift for her birthday.
Eddie nodded slowly, looking her over. After a moment he smiled again. Alright. I have it. I call this one Lucy in the Sky with Ascarlin.
Eddie played his guitar. He ran his fingers across the strings, and plucked at the guitar with his long nails. He played for about twenty minutes. But for Lucy, it seemed much longer. Hours seemed to pass. Finally, Eddie stopped and strapped his guitar to his back.
After a few moments Lucy gasped as if coming out of a trance. That
that was amazing, she stammered.
I know, was all Eddie had to say about that. Now, it looks to me that you enjoyed my song.
That was so amazing
Thats a yes, Eddie chuckled. Now then, I guess I passed my test with flying colors. So if youll give me your wings, Ill be on my way back home.
That snapped the little fairy out of her daze like a splash of cold water. Damn! She had wanted to eat him, but his music
his music was so wonderful. Now she couldnt bear the thought of eating him and silencing that music. But she couldnt give up her wings! That would leave her helpless, and she still had a long way to go to get home to the Fairy Kingdom. His music wasnt good enough that shed risk her life. She stood up and crossed her arms. Her size began to grow quickly and in just two seconds she was at eye level with him again, only this time her feet were on the ground.
Woah, was all Eddie could think to say.
I admit defeat. You are amazing Eddie. But my wings are important to me. Eddie looked at her inquisitively. You see, without my wings I cant change size, cast magic, or even fly. Id be helpless as a human. Is there anything else I could do instead?
Well, I need proof that I met you. And a wing seems like the most obvious thing to prove that I met a fairy.
Lucy snaps her fingers, What if I come with you? That should be proof enough right?
Eddies eyes shined at the thought of coming into the village with a fairy in tow. He could imagine the look on their faces already. He cleared his throat and tried to sound disinterested, but his madly twitching tail showed his real feelings. I guess that should work. Since youre not that big a predator, you should be able to come without any big fuss.
Lucy shrank back to about six inches and settled onto Eddies shoulder. Well lets go then.
Gol coughed a bit and took another swig from his flask before renewing his story. Eddie returned to his village with a fairy upon his shoulder. He was the first and only Rosic neko to bring back a whole predator as proof. And he was definitely the first to bring back a fairy. Unlike what Eddie thought, fairies are a bit picky about their likes. They certainly enjoy music and other revelries, but having done it for most of their lives, you can say theyve seen and heard it all. The next day the fairy left back towards its home, and Eddie wouldnt see her for a few years.
In the meantime, Eddie joined with a group of nekos who also survived the Rosic test that year. They were called Nekosmith, and through their travels, Eddies name would soon become a common name in Felarya."