Romantics

For the third time in as many days, Oriana woke up to the sound of singing.

This time, however, it was not birds. And she was neither glad to hear it, nor annoyed by it. She was simply confused. The events of the past few days were blurring together in her mind. Was she in the forest still? Was she at home?

No, she had left home. That much she knew. The sense of loss was still fresh in her mind, even in her groggy state. But she wasn't in the forest, either. Her pillow was not a rucksack, her bed was not the forest floor. And she was... moving?

She opened her eyes, but it didn't seem to help much. All that could be seen was a bright, blurry light. She blinked a few times, alarmed. This feeling was familiar, like when Naomi had struck the market with lightning and blinded her. Had she lost her sight?

She was happy to discover, after blinking a few times, that was she simply facing the sky, and her blurred vision had made the sun's light seem alien to her. Her sight was just fine, if a little darker in the left eye for some reason. Assured of her ability to see, she sat up.

Or would have, if she wasn't tied down.

A moment was passed struggling against her bonds, but she couldn't even wiggle. Whoever had tied her up had gone to extreme lengths to make sure she didn't escape. She couldn't even tilt her head away from the light.

"Hello?" she tried to yell, but it came out more like a choking cough.

Somewhere beside her, the singing stopped.

Oriana would have jumped in fright if she could have moved at all; out of nowhere, a beaming face popped into her field of vision. It was dirty, though not as much as the child she had met in the market. And that was where the similarity ended.

This face belonged to a girl who must have been at least two years older than Oriana, a girl who had a smile like a crescent moon, impossibly wide and the brightest white, and most importantly, a shimmering golden right eye! The left one was covered with a brilliantly decorated royal purple patch, covered in yellow stars and suns and moons. It looked like it was made out of a wizard's hat from a storybook.

The face belonged to a Romantic! The caravan must have belonged to a group of them, and they had turned around to pick her up! That was why she was moving.

It wasn't until then that Oriana realized someone had pulled her patch up from around her neck where she had left it days ago, and had covered her left eye with it. She could still see through the patch, but she probably looked just as much like a Romantic as the girl did to anyone casually watching. When they found her they must have assumed she was one of them and put her patch back on for her.

"Yer awake!" said the face, glee pouring from every symbol. The impossibly wide smile got even impossibly wider.

Oriana tried to ask a question, but could only make another dry sound.

"Oh, right! I'd imagine yer awful t'irsty."

The face disappeared again, but not for long. This time, it brought a skin of water with it, which it poured into Oriana's mouth. She drank easily half of its contents and cleared her throat at least four times before she felt able to speak. Even then, it was more of a croak.

"Why am I tied up?" Oriana asked. The face, this girl, didn't seem to be unfriendly, so she couldn't understand why she felt the need to restrain her.

"Are ya tied up?" the girl said, puzzled. She poked around a bit and looked back at Oriana. "Nooooo. Haha, ya got me!"

Oriana returned the puzzlement in kind.

"Oh. Can ya not move, den? Must be in worse shape den I t'ought. Here." The girl reached one hand behind Oriana's head and lifted it. Oriana expected to be immediately halted by her bonds, but her head raised easily with the girl's help and she was finally able to see the rest of her body.

The girl was right. No bonds anywhere. Why couldn't she move, then?

"Ya must've been in real bad shape if ya still can't move after t'ree days."

"Tree days?"

"Yeah," said the girl, holding up three fingers for Oriana's benefit. "One two t'ree. Thuh-ree."

Oriana gave a weak giggle. "You talk funny."

"Do I? Maybe yer right. I t'ink ya sound pretty funny yerself. Where are ya from anyway? And how'd ya get on da Cynic side of da mountain?"

It hit Oriana just then. Three days? She had been asleep that long? It took her a moment to realize the girl was waiting for an answer, and in her haste to get one out, Oriana ended up lying rather obviously.

"I... climbed the mountains and... got lost," she fumbled. "And sick! I can't even remember where I'm from anymore."

"Climbed da mountains!" said the girl, incredulous. "Yer tougher den ya look! Climbed da mountains! Well I'll be!"

Oriana blinked. She couldn't believe it. At five years old she would have seen through that lie. She suddenly knew why Naomi never wanted her to use just her right eye.

"Can hardly believe it," the girl went on. "How long were ya out dere, den? Must've been a week at least!"

"Two," Oriana tested. "...and I fought a bear."

The girl's eye looked like it was going to pop out of her head. "Fought a bear! T'under 'n' lightnin'!"

Oriana giggled before she could help herself. This was just too easy.

"With my bow," she elaborated.

"Really? Never seen anyone do anyt'in' useful wit one a dose, but I s'pose dat's a pretty big target. Still dough, two weeks in da mountains? Yer tougher'n me."

"But you're still standing and I can't move," Oriana said. "So I think you win."

"Dat's true, ain't it?" the girl realized, beaming. "Me name's Wrench, by da by. What's yers?"

"Wrench?" Oriana was sure she had misheard.

"What, yer name is Wrench too? Never t'ought I'd see da day!"

"What? No! My name is Oriana," she sputtered.

"Oh, you was playin' a joke on me, eh?" 'Wrench' said, grinning.

"No, I was asking why your name is 'Wrench'," Oriana explained, beginning to get exasperated. This was almost as bad as the Cynics. Almost.

"It's Wrench 'cause I'm Wrench," she said with a shrug. "Guess I just picked one up when I was a kid and never put the t'ing down! Name kinda stuck."

As if to demonstrate, she pulled her other hand into view, revealing the handle of what must have been the biggest wrench Oriana had ever seen. It was easily as big as Oriana's whole body! Had the girl been carrying that thing around the whole time, with one hand?

"I think you could fight a bear," Oriana boggled, taking in the girl's namesake.

"Maybe," Wrench said, turning her head to hide the smile the compliment that had garnered. "Me mudder won't let me try, dough. Says da bear'll probly hurt me."

She turned back to Oriana and winked. "But me fadder says I'd hurt da poor bear."

Oriana giggled again, though with considerably less energy. She'd only been awake for a few minutes, but it felt like a long day. Wrench seemed to notice her blinks were getting a little longer than normal.

"Hey, get yerself back ta sleep if yer tired," she ordered. "Ya need yer rest if ya want ta get up on yer feet again any time soon."

Oriana seemed to be trying to fight it, though. She had so many questions! "But...!"

"No buts, ya stinker! Get ta bed and we can talk more in the mornin'."

Oriana couldn't have argued more if she'd wanted to—the next time she blinked, her eyes simply didn't open again.

The End

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