The young vivari woman wandered through the woods aimlessly. The steady thrum of her paws on the damp forest grasses seemed to echo in the vast, empty wood.
Not even the song of night-dwelling birds could be heard as she advanced, her only guide being a gut feeling, a pull that seemed to resonate from deep within her.
The full moon shone bright above, silvery light cutting through the canopy and illuminating a path. Her path.
She needed to follow it. She had to.
Because then, she would find her true purpose. The real reason why she had been born in this time and place. The answers to all of her many questions would finally be revealed.
She tilted her head back, feeling the cool silver touch of the moon on her cheek, a maternal caress that could never be delivered from any vivari.
Her hair drifted up as she let out a sigh, closing her eyes briefly, before determination surged through her, pushing her forward.
Her breath seemed to speed up in time with her gait, a deep, primitive desperation, forcing her to run, bound through the forest as she dropped onto all fours. Her claws threw up dirt and grass behind her as she leaned forward, knowing that her time was limited.
The blue glow of celebloom flowers reminded her of this as they opened up beneath her. She didn't have the time to think about how strange it was that they were not already in full bloom in direct moonlight, or why they wouldn't have closed when her paws brushed them aside.
Nevertheless, she forced herself to keep running, though her limbs and lungs burned from the effort. She could feel the seconds ticking down, but she couldn't stop now. She was almost there. She could feel it, she just knew that it was right infront of her.
Every muscle in her body ached, crying out for her to stop, give them a break from the seemingly fruitless effort she put them through.
She must have been running for well over an hour now. Or maybe only a minute. It was impossible to tell.
And then it was there.
Everything she had been looking for, right in her reach.
Jaws parted to let out a strained cry, she leaped forward, arms outstretched to grasp what she had been seeking.
Vira shot up in her bed, grasping her bedsheets and tearing holes in the thin quilts. Her heart was racing, her breaths shallow and hot, lungs aching from the rapid intake of air.
She forced herself to slow down, eyes darting around to observe her room, as if something had changed. But everything, of course, remained the same.
Letting out a sigh, she forced herself up, pushing aside the worn bedspread and sliding off of the mattress.
Seeing the faint orange light of dawn seeping through the window, she stretched her legs, and hopped over to her dresser, quickly stripping off her nightclothes and replacing them with a soft, black silk dress.
She glanced at herself in the mirror, looking over her outfit. Everything fir perfectly, the simple lace complimenting her dark, olive-tone skin. Her golden eyes stood out, practically glowing, though one was covered by her wavy, dark blue hair that seemed to have a sheen of silver to it.
Her hair was incredibly long, spilling over her shoulders in messy waves, and dropping to the ground unceremoniously as she ran her hands through it, trying to collect it.
A thin black loop of string dangled from her lips as she struggled with her locks, eventually managing to gather it in a long, tight braid.
With her hair out of the way, she was able to get a better look at herself in the mirror. A soft brown fur covered her arms and legs, which each ended in a badger-like paw, large brown, animal-like ears sitting atop her head, much unlike their furless cousins, the materialistic race of humans.
A long, bushy tail wrapped around her curved legs, the tip twitching slightly in approval.
Throwing one last glance at her reflection, she hurried off to the stairs leading out of her room, the sweet smell of cooked sugar leading her down.
Just as she thought, when she arrived downstairs, she was met with the face of her father, Apollo Amberthorne, assisting his wife Vivienne in the kitchen.
Apollo was tall, and fair skinned, brown hair dipping down just above his jawline. His eyes were dark blue, each as deep as the sea, and soft as silk. His chin was covered with stubble, skin otherwise soft, as most vivari were. His arms and legs were covered in the same brown fur that was presented on his daughter's body.
Vivienne wasn't quite as pale as him, her skin shining tan and golden. Her eyes shone like emeralds, green and bright, full of joy and youth, even in her older days. Her hair was black and long, the tips fading to gray and curling around her hips, a stark contrast to her pale, cream colored fur.
They laughed, playfully bickering over what to do as they cooked. The slightly spicy scent of crescentis peppers, along with what seemed to be red wine, and a mix of herbs she couldn't quite place.
Vira greeted them, brushing a strand of hair out of her face, only for it to fall back into place.
Vivienne glanced back at her, a soft, genuine smile gracing her features.
"And to you."
"Took you long enough."
Was Apollo's reply, shaking his head, and smiling despite his tone, a light mirth brightening his gaze.
"I know, father. I am a heavy sleeper."
Vira laughed, looking over his shoulder to watch him delicately slice the apple he had been peeling.
"Those dreams have been plaguing me again. The ones in the forest, with the celeblooms."
She mentioned, moving to sit down at the small wooden table they had situated near the kitchen.
"Did you, now?"
Apollo sighed, glancing at her and pursing his lips, eyes cold, and unreadable.
"It's probably nothing. That forest is where Celenus created the vivari. Your spirit is young, and wild. It yearns to return there. But the village is safe."
He began plating the simmered fruit, pouring a sweet-smelling syrup over the plate.
"We have food, here. Livestock, fresh water, and trade. What more do we need?"
"I know. You say that each time I mention my dreams."
Vira huffed, shaking her head.
Vivienne let out a breathy laugh, walking over and setting a plate infront of her.
"If you'd like a more adventurous answer,"
She began, sitting down next to her.
"Repetitive dreams have been known to be prophetic. Messages from the gods."
Apollo scoffed, sitting down with his own plate.
"And what would the gods want with the vivari? We are small, and peaceful. We could provide nothing that is truly fit for the gods."
Vira sighed, lazily poking at the chunks of fruit infront of her.
"That is a fair point. Even if something deep inside of me would like to believe that I'd been chosen for some grand crusade. It would at least make life much more interesting."
She scooped up a few crescentis seeds, the sweetest part of the fruit, and shoved the spoon into her mouth.
"That would be more trouble than it's worth."
Apollo warned her, sighing.
"What little relations you would have made along the way...They could be shattered in an instant. No vivari has ever taken up a weapon. Danger would lurk in every corner. You could not afford to give anyone your trust."
He growled, flattening his ears.
Vivienne cleared her throat, giving her husband a swift kick under the table, before the smile returned to her eyes.
"Which isn't necessarily the truth. Often times, people are a lot more trustworthy than you believe."
She glanced at Apollo, eyes hard and determined, as if daring him to speak.
"Thank you, Viv."
Vira smiled, getting up to collect their plates.
"I haven't any idea what I would do without you."
"Probably run off to the forest, and get yourself killed."
Apollo sighed, looking defeated.
"Then I suppose I should be glad that you're here to stop me."
"And as you should be. You've been blessed to be born in this place, this time. We're flourishing."
Vivienne reminded her, with a short flick of her tail.
"Will you be a dear, and deliver our eggs to the baker? I hear he is beginning to experiment with his recipes, and he will need all he can get.
"Alright. I'll see you two tonight."
Vira smiled, rushing out the door before they could question her.
She circled around their house, jumping the fence that kept their chickens in, and making her way to the coop.
In the henhouse was a wall of cubbies separating the nests, a bag of grain hanging on the wall, and a metal bucket, that she picked up, near the entryway.
Glancing up at the rafters, she caught sight of nearly every hen staring down at her, eyes glassy and judging.
She murmered, scooping up a handful of grain from the bag that hung on the wall, and throwing it out into the yard.
On cue, each of the birds jumped down, racing outward to feed.
Vira scoffed, poking her head into one of the cubicles, and reaching in to grab the eggs lying there.
She went along the other nests, collecting all of the eggs as she did, while ignoring the single brown hen that remained on her nest, eyes never leaving the vivari.
Throwing one last glance at the feeding chickens, she smiled, holding the basket tight and cautiously unlocking the gate just wide enough for her to slip out.
The walk to the baker's lot was short. Their village was small, but many vivari would often live on the same lot, with their ever-growing population.
As she opened the door, she was immediately hit with the smell of fresh bread, and the sounds of a busy kitchen. The scent was unique, a warm, buttery smell complimenting the celebloom spice she knew he must have used.
The baker called, poking his head out of the kitchen.
"Good morning, Thompson."
Vira replied, placing the basket of eggs on the counter for him to collect.
"How're your new recipe's coming along? It certainly smells wonderful."
Thompson set down his knife, rinsed off his paws, and dried them on his apron as he walked forward, taking the basket and transferring the eggs to his own container.
"It's going incredibly."
"I'm glad to hear that."
Vira picked up the basket, turning to leave again.
"See you at the festival tonight?"
Thompson grinned, waving.
"Of course. And tell yer' parents I said thank you for the eggs."
Vira nodded, rushing out the door to return the basket.
She set it on her doorstep, stopping for a moment to contemplate actually walking in, but deciding against it. She'd much rather explore the forest at the edge of the village, much to her father's displeasure.
Maybe...Maybe I will find something today. Those dreams can't be nothing...They're too vivid.
She told herself, straightening up her dress and slipping through the small crowd of vivari to exit the village.
The forest immediately brought her peace, though her curiosity still probed eagerly at her heart, prompting her forward.
The ground was just as damp as it was in her dream, the combined scent of rain and plantlife drifting up to greet her.
The few spots where the canopy broke through were dry, warm from the bright sun that gave Vivarian lands their heat.
She glanced down at an unbloomed celebloom flower at her feet, nudging it with the tip of her paw, only for the spines to stiffen.
Defeated, she sighed, moving to press her back against a tree, and sink onto the ground.
"If it truly is a sign from the gods...I wish they could be a bit more clear with what they want from me."
She murmured, eyes fluttering closed.
Her sleep was dreamless, enveloping her in a calm, peaceful feeling.
When she awoke, she was met and with the sight of a pale gray insectoid, uncomfortably close to her face.
He had green fluff covering his chest, and fuzzy green antennae. His eyes were, not unexpectedly, a bright, emerald green.
Vira screeched, punching him in the face, and kicking him in the chest when he recoiled.
She sprang up, muscles twitching in preparation to run.
The insectoid jumped--or rather, fell-- off of the branch he was hanging off of, scrambling up.
"What in Alteria was that for?"
He shouted, using a fist to rub his forehead, where Vira had hit.
"What do you expect me to do, you maniac?!"
Vira cried, tail lashing in annoyance.
"I was only checking your vitals, you appeared dead and cold lying against that temptress."
The insectoid replied, dusting off his fluff.
Vira pushed herself off of the ground, still quite angry with him.
"Do you normally check one's pulse hanging upside down in a tree?"
She grumbled, flattening her ears.
"And what is a 'temptress'? This tree is a royal willow. And I, of all, should know, as I live in the town right outside of this very wood."
The moth looked unimpressed, nodding toward a low hanging branch that dangled near Vira's head.
Four pale pink buds, with green at their tips had been growing along the branch.
At the very end hung a bright pink bloom, yellow specks of pollen floating down to coat a white and gray leaf which held an uncanny resemblance to a common moth.
Vira turned back to the other, showing clear confusion.
"You insectoids refer to this...As a temptress?"
Looking embarrassed, the moth lowered his antennae, avoiding her gaze.
"It hasn't anything to do with the appearance of the plant. It gives off a scent that is quite similar to...F-for lack of better term...Ph-pheremones."
He answered wings fluttering a bit as he wheezed out the last word.
Deciding it best not to pry, Vira shook her head, with a sigh.
"What might your name be, stranger?"
She asked, looking him up and down.
Seemingly pleased by the change of subject, he answered quickly.
"You may call me Mana. And you are?"
The vivari stated simply, with a subtle shrug of her shoulders.
She glanced up at the thick canopy above, managing to catch a glimpse of dark orange skies.
"It is growing quite close to moonrise, it seems. I must be off now, Mana, my people are beginning a weeklong ceremony on this night, and I cannot be late. Follow if you'd like, frankly, I could care less."
With that, she left the insectoid, making her way back to the village.