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Chapter 1 - At the Crossroad

Wherein two of our protagonists meet. 


Whoever said third time was the charm obviously wasn't called Rosa Cerdos, she thought to herself. For the fourth time she found herself at the crossroad where the paths of her family homestead and the nearby village crossed with the King's Road. A magically enhanced causeway that lead straight to Splendor, capital of the Wold-Sea Empire, ruled by Sovereign King Adevald XII. She’d been here for an hour or so, dead set on traveling all the way to the city this year and starting her education at Bardic college. 


Except... 


She was already homesick and the idea of living among strangers terrified her. 


All she'd ever known was her family's farm, the woods and rivers beyond the fields, the village of Pinnacle, and the traveling troupes that made it to the area for seasonal work, little festivals and general mayhem. 


Everyone knew the woods were filled with monsters to slay. It was where her father had made his name as a small-time adventurer once upon a time. 


She brought her attention back to the King’s Road. She really should go, before darkness fell and she'd have to fend off all sorts of unwanted attention. 


Breathing in deeply, she lifted her foot to step unto the magically enhanced tiles of the road; the kind of magic that helped enhance speed and thus greatly shortened any length of travel time. 


She set her foot down on plain old dirt. Once she got on the Kingsroad she wouldn't be able to get off until Risban - the next big town over. From Risban it was a solid three day trek across the hills to get back to Pinnacle.


She lifted her foot again in another attempt to step onto the King’s Road. 


Who was going to milk Gertrude? Who would make sure the dire-goats didn't escape their pasture again? Who'd love on Ol' Fred, the one legged troll living under Granny’s Rock? Who'd bring Nana Nessy a few extra eggs when she always only bought ten to last her two weeks? 


Not Rosa. Nope. No, it wasn't going to be here. Not any more. She was going to Splendor to become an honest to goodness Bard; a magic-wielding musician. 


"You can do it, Rose," she encouraged herself. 


Thus caught in her own thoughts she missed the rapidly approaching shadow on the white ribbon of road that divided the landscape like a scar; rigid and discolored.

As Rose set her foot down onto the pale enchanted flagstones, she bumped into a heavy form. The magic of the road tossed both of them off, onto the opposite side of where Rose had started; an emergency measure. 


"I'm so sorry." Rose tried to make sense of the tangle of limbs, half of them hers, she was stuck in. Brushing hair away from her face she glanced at her victim. It was a tall figure, broad. Female, if the semi-exposed upper body parts were anything to go on. 


Rose swallowed and averted her gaze from chest to chin and dark soulful eyes, the grayish skin tone and tribal tattoos on arms, chest and face marking the other woman as a Highlander. 


"You're an adventurer!"


"I am." Bosra looked at where she found herself to be. Some trees. Mostly meadow. Shadowy pillars of smoke in the distance; a village. Must be in the Fair Fields area. "Who are you?"


"Rosa Cerdos. Rose." Rose sat up on her knees. "I'm sorry for knocking you down."


"Happens." Bosra looked at her fallen gear, then at the girl sitting next to her. Rose had fluffy hair and a cute nose. Large bracken-brown eyes that screamed innocence. Homemade dress. Violin case. "Only shit thing about it is the delay."


"Oh." Rose looks at her hands. "Were you in a hurry?"


"Nah. Just desperate for warmth."


Bosra watched as Rose's face scrunched up, making her look like a pupper. 


"It's not really cold."


"Slept on hard wet ground for three nights. All's I've got is wet," Bosra hoisted herself back on her feet. Inspecting her bow she noted it hadn’t taken any damage from the fall. Some arrows had spilled from her quiver. And the only semi-dry dress she'd left was now soaked for having landed in the only muddy puddle about. 


"I live that way. You could come home with me and have a rest. My pop used to be an adventurer."


Rose pointed towards her family home. The smoke stack was just visible in the distance, a few points North of the village.


"Why were you getting on the road?" Not that Bosra'd minded going home with the pupper, but Risban was just around the corner, and she'd the coin to enjoy all the town's amenities.


"Oh... I eh... I'm going to Splendor." Rose picked up her violin case and slung the bag with her spare undies over her shoulder. “I want to go to Bardic.”


"Going there too. You can come with me. Stopping in Risban though." Because Bosra was freaking tired of sleeping rough and living on soaked oats. 


Rose breathed deeply. Bit her lip for a moment. "That would be agreeable." This way, she wouldn't have to brave the multi-day journey all by herself. 


"Y'got your things?" Bosra hoists her own duffel up higher. 


"I believe so." Rose looked around one last time to make sure, something that had always come natural to her. "There's a stain on your bum."


Bosra's annoyance betrayed she already knew, making Rose's cheeks heat up.


"Come. I want warm everything." Bosra took Rose's hand and together they stepped unto the King’s Road. 

It was the most strange of feelings, being tugged in two directions at once. Yet as soon as Rose thought of Risban the tiles seem to pull away and she was carried forward on a swell; the road like an ocean and she carried on the waves. 


~

Three of Cups series cover
At the Crossroad episode cover
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Three of Cups

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Seashell Bear
What if life was an adventure? Rose has always wanted to be a bard. A musician who inspires emotions by infusing her song with just a thread of magic. The course seems clear. Attend Bardic College in Splendor, the biggest city in the Realm, and graduate their four-year course. It seems easy enough. Along the way to Splendor, Rose meets Bosra, a grey-skinned giant-kin woman who is leaving her adventuring days behind her. Most adventurers don't retire. They either die as heroes or become villains. She intends to enjoy the fortune she's made in the most luxurious place she knows, the city of Splendor. Valentina, princess, contemplates whether there is more to life than what she is accustomed to, when Bosra and Rose find respite to the coffee shop she spends her free afternoons at. One conversation leads to another, and before she knows it, she's encouraged to step out of her gilded cage. Until those who built the cage come to drag her back. A cozy fantasy story.
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