Chapter 3 of Battle For The Blue Wilds takes us to the precipice of the adventure, and before you know it — Nikki jumps in.
We were surprised to see Nikki take charge. He's been unsure about his new situation, hesitantly navigating his way around Melia, and shyly admiring Shalonie from afar. But the moment he senses danger, he doesn't hesitate. He doesn't ask for permission. He just acts. We dare say, he even demonstrates some natural leadership.
We hope you enjoy this week's chapter which you can find below.
And while this chapter is quite short -- next week's chapter is turning out to be a long one!
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the Nikki chapters or anything else Of Cats And Dragons-related in the comment section. We love to hear from you.
They Stood Like Queens, The Silverbells
Nikki Deldano hadn't found Shalonie's silverbells, but it hadn't been for lack of searching. He had spent the better part of the day hiking the hills, and while the elusive trees hadn't made an appearance, he'd found other things: a spectacular waterfall, three interconnected stalactite caverns, a wide underground lake, and a gryphon nest atop a rocky outcropping.
He'd also caught a glimpse of distant castle ruins when he'd climbed the tallest tree he could find. That needs exploring.
Nikki imagined that Shalonie would enjoy climbing through the ruins, and that — more likely than not — she would also enjoy telling him the history of the people who used to live there. He had no doubt she knew their history. Is there anything she doesn't know?
He smiled as he remembered the girl discussing the proper pruning of dormant grapevines with the governor of Litrania. Don't think he expected her to know about shoot-training and canopy management.
The young Deldano admired the nimbleness of Shalonie's mind and her vast understanding of a myriad of subjects. It's all practical for her. Farming grapes or deciphering ancient texts. The joy of knowledge. And she's beautiful.
He didn't think he liked anything as much as Shalonie liked learning.
I like running. He thought of the early mornings he spent on the Melian beach. And sword practice. It occurred to him that his favorite activities were far from Shalonie's intellectual pursuits. She'd probably be happiest with a scholar. Though that Ferthan fellow was annoying the kak out of her.
He tried not to snicker when, upon entering the camp, he spotted young Ferthan Vendthas sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of his giant Hold Dragon.
Salthain, still in his golden dragon form, rested his massive head atop his folded front claws and listened to his charge reciting something epic and lengthy in Melian. The dragon's eyes were half-closed, and he let out the occasional snuffle of encouragement.
Sometimes those Sundragons remind me of dogs — enormous, magical, hyper-intelligent, courteous dogs.
Nikki knew better than to bring up his dragon/dog comparison to a Melian, but he was eager to tell Shalonie about the castle ruins.
As he dropped his small pack, he noticed the mouthwatering scent filling the camp. Roasting meat. Wild boar, Nikki guessed, wondering if perhaps Omen had returned and started cooking for the group.
A newly built firepit dominated the center of camp. The circle of rocks housed a solid-looking spit upon which a hefty wild pig turned and turned. I wonder where Omen learned how to cook. He never worked in a tavern, and he's probably had servants his entire life.
Sundragon Geryon, still in his human shape, and Hold Lord Moyar, no longer in his silver armor, tended the fire and the roast.
"You've been busy," Nikki greeted his companions. "Smells great. If you want, I can work on a sauce," he offered, as he perused the camp supplies set off to one side. "We've got red wine from Luthalti, and I saw some rosemary on my way in." Still can't believe I'm in the company of Sundragons and Melian Hold Lords.
"I sent Kalfin and the scholars to forage for mushrooms. Halger and Magrim are fetching more water." Geryon waved his hand in the direction of the closest stream. "I was rather hoping Omen would return to take charge of the cooking."
Moyar made a mock offended sound, which drew a chuckle from Nikki. Moyar didn't seem to know what to make of Omen.
It occurred to Nikki that nobody — not Shalonie, not the suitors — had brought servants along on the trip. Hold Lords, Hold Lords' sons, governors' sons, important scholars — all willing and able to set up camp and get their hands dirty.
That's Melians for you. Inborn sense of responsibility.
"No slight to your roasting skill, Lord Moyar," Geryon said affably. "But Omen's cooking is something to behold."
"Yes, divine, awesome, amazing," Moyar remarked. "Followed by a number of needless suffixes that the cats insist are properly conjugated words."
"So, they're not back yet? " Nikki asked absently as he tried to make the choice between a more full-bodied wine from the Luthalti Valley or a starker red from the hills of Meribrock. Never could buy such fine wine for the tavern. And now I'm cooking with it. He smiled to himself.
"Omen and his lot probably won't return for a while," Geryon suggested. "Devastation is looking for someone for Lady Avarice, so I doubt we'll see him any time soon." He looked around as if just noticing something. "I actually thought Shalonie was with you."
Nikki nearly dropped both bottles of fine wine. "You mean, she isn't back yet?" Worry slipped into his stomach like a cold knife.
Geryon stood. "I'll take to the air," he said without further discussion, moved to an open patch of ground, and shimmered into his golden dragon form. He let out a musical roar, summoning Salthain to follow him.
Any other time, Nikki would have marveled at the mighty dragons taking off into the sky.
Moyar let out a sharp whistle. "I'll get the others."
"I'll go back to where I last saw her." Nikki hurriedly grabbed his sword belt and weapons and dashed back into the woods.