The sun was getting low, dipping just underneath the treeline, behind the meadows that surrounded the west road. The traveler was already feeling hungry. She knew her usual appetite, but she tightened her belt and kept her pace. She barely afforded what she deemed as a week’s supply, and it needed to last. She flicked her fox-like tail and turned her attention back to the traveler in front of her.
Caravans, horsemen, and knights had passed her already. She didn’t have a horse to make the traveling faster, but her pace on foot had already surpassed the other travelers who were also on foot. All, except for one.
She was going to have to pass him eventually. He kept an inconsistent pace of being incredibly far too quick, or painfully slow. Watching him made her tail flick in an irritated manner all the more. She had to pass him. He was at another slow pace, so it had to be now.
“Here is another philosophical question,” he said. The black cat on his shoulder laid still, probably asleep. The man did not seem to notice, or at least not seem to care. “If a man who is poor wants nothing to do with a man who owns everything, does that mean that the poor man wants nothing to do with everything?”
She frowned, trying not to think about the man’s strange question. She quickened her pace and was quickly coming up behind him.
“And if you reverse the situation, if a man who owns everything wants nothing to do with the man who has nothing, does that mean he wants nothing to do with nothing?”
The cat yawned, and readjusted itself slightly to continue its nap.
“I agree, I agree,” Guy said. The man nodded furiously, and then put a hand to his chin. “But are they both foolish for doing so? Or is one of them more foolish than the other?”
She couldn’t take it any longer. She finally found the courage to walk up next to him on his left. Her legs were moving as fast as they could without breaking into a run, which didn’t seem like a horrible option at the moment.
He stopped talking almost immediately as she walked up to his side, and then as she passed him. She slowly raised a timid hand to push her red hair behind her ear as she silently prayed that he would stay quiet.
“Don’t talk,” she said, barely whispering. “Don’t talk. Just please don’t talk.”
“Oh, Creator preserve me.”
“I say, you look an awful lot like my friend, Cat, here!” he said.
“A… cat?” She stopped walking. The man skidded to a halt to avoid running into her. “Hear me, traveler. I’ve put up with a lot of your nonsense, but I am NOT a cat! Have you even seen a fox before?” She flicked her tail up and around her waist. “Do you not see my tail?”
The man raised his hands. “Oh… I apologize.” The black cat opened its eyes and stared intently at her.
“I mean no offense, small cat,” she said. “But you are not a fox, and I am certainly not a cat. Good day to the both of you!”
She turned around and stormed away, hoping that she left the man and his cat in her tracks.
“You know, you may have more in common then you think.”
She sighed. “I spent a lot of time and energy passing you, so it would be great if you wouldn’t.”
“I’m just saying,” the man said. “You both have tails, and those tails you both have are covered in fur. It’s more than I have in common with Cat, at least.”
“Alright,” she said. “I’ll give you that. I suppose most people do not have furry tails… did you honestly name that poor thing ‘Cat?'”
The man stuttered. “Perhaps… I thought it appropriate at the time.”
“You can’t name an animal after itself,” she said. “That’s just beyond the stupidity I would expect out of humans.”
“I suppose that would like naming you ‘Fox,’ wouldn’t it?” he said. She finally turned her head around, seeing that the man was giving it quite a lot of thought with his hand back onto his chin.
“I am not a fox,” she said. “I just share similarities with them. But yes, that would also be beyond normal human stupidity.”
“Interesting,” the man said. “What should I name you then, I wonder?”
She gasped in shock. “I already have a name, thank you very much! My name is Avery Foolhardy, so please spare me the indignity!”
“Avery Foolhardy?” the man chuckled.
Avery turned away and lifted more her red hair over her other ear. “Um… yes. That’s my name. What of it?”
“It’s just that,” the man said. “Avery is a boy’s name.”
“No it is not! Seriously, that’s what your going to make fun of?”
“I don’t mean to make fun,” the man said. The cat jumped off of the man’s shoulder and walked along side him. “I just thought it interesting.”
“Avery can be both a…” Avery started, but stopped herself. “You know what? Never mind.”
“You know, I’ve never met an Avery that is a girl,” the man said. “Do you think I could join you on this quest?”
Avery scoffed. “I stay on my own. Besides, the king only grants one wish. Only one of us can complete the quest and return to collect the reward.”
The man did not answer, so Avery assumed that she had deterred him. She sighed, and then looked out at the road ahead. Out of the corner of her eye, however, appeared a puzzled look from the man.
“What is your wish?”
Avery startled, and then adjusted her belt where her sword lay carefully in the scabbard.
“That’s none of your business!” she said. “I don’t even know you, alright?”
The cat meowed. The man gestured to the cat, as if it had said something to prove her wrong.
“Fine.” Avery rolled her eyes and turned to the man. “You first, then. What’s your wish?”
The man tugged at his white gloves. “Nothing in particular.”
Avery threw her hands up. “Oh, come on. Really?”
“I barely know you!” he said. The cat growled. “Hey, you stay out of this, Cat.”
The cat jumped up onto his shoulder and stared up at him with its large, green eyes.
“Oh… alright,” he said. His tone became cold. “My wish will reunite me with my family. That is all I wish to say about it.”
Avery’s eyes softened. “Oh, I’m sorry. I… well, most have pretty selfish reasons to go on this quest. I just figured you were the typical ‘treasure and wealth’ type.”
“If you fight for your wish, then isn’t it always going to be selfish?” the man said. He returned his gaze to the road.
Avery put her hands on her hips as she walked. “You’re a pretty interesting human, you know.” The cat jumped from his shoulder to her’s. It’s claws gripped onto her leather shirt to compensate for her smaller figure. Avery looked into the cat’s green eyes and scratched its head. It purred and settled comfortably on her shoulders.
“Avery Foolhardy,” the man said. His tone was no longer cold, nor carefree. It was soft, and respectful. “My name is Guy, and I would be honored to know you wish.”
Avery sighed. “I’ve come to the west road to restore my honor. And that is all I wish to say.”
Guy nodded. “Fair enough. And this is Cat, by the way.”
“You mentioned,” Avery said. “But honestly, you simply can’t name it that.”
“Very well, I shall endure to think of a new one.” Guy put his hand back to his chin.
The two continued to walk down the road.
“You know, I guess we could travel together. For now, at least.”
“Very well, Avery who is very much a girl and not a boy,” Guy laughed. “The pathway gets a lot less straight further ahead. I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to get around me there.”
“Right,” Avery said. “We’ll see.”
Avery put a hand to her stomach as she watched the sun go down.
“Hey, you don’t happen to have any extra food, do you?” she asked.
Guy patted the iron pot that he had secured onto the side of his belt. “Only a pot.”
Avery took a deep, calming breath before saying anything. “Alright then. This is going to be one interesting quest.”