The wind whipped strands of Vivi's hair free from her braid. She squinted in the afternoon light at the gentle stream not far away from the barn roof that she and Owen had climbed upon, absentmindedly tossing around a rock in the palm of her hand. Finally, she pulled her hand back and threw it, watching with satisfaction as it clattered and splashed into the river. She tossed her head to Owen with a smirk. "Two points."
The half-elf rolled his eyes at her as he lay on his back, gazing up at the clouds passing overhead. "Two points?" he asked, returning the smirk. "Why two? That seems..." He paused, waving his hands about aimlessly as he searched for words. "...ambiguous. Why not go ahead and give yourself two hundred points while you're at it?"
Vivi smiled at him. "Because it went into the river. That's two points—getting it over the hedge was one point, and getting it to the other side was five. Did you even listen to my points system?" Her friend assured her that he most certainly had not, and she laughed in response, pulling her hand back and launching another rock into the air. It glanced off a tree and landed in the bushes below them.
Owen looked up briefly, then let his head fall back down. "I was going to say there was no possible way you could have failed to get it to the river, but I guess I stand corrected."
Vivi smiled as she gazed up at the sky. It was very cloudy today; white puffs drifted across the sky. The sun was only an hour till sunset. "You put way too much faith in me. Besides, you're one to talk—you could barely hit a barn door from ten steps away."
Owen grinned. "No true critic would ever get his hands dirty with the craft he's critiquing." He joined her in gazing up at the clouds. "Speaking of, what are we gonna do about dinner?"
Vivi put her hands behind her head. "I don't know. Find something in town, I guess." She turned her head to Owen, a mischievous grin spreading across her face.
Owen laughed and slowly sat up, his white curls falling down into his face. "Find something... or find something?" he asked, casually waving the hair out of his eyes.
Vivi grinned wider. "Do you even have to ask?" she replied, sliding down the barn roof without further explanation and landing in a haystack below it. She got up and dusted hay off her jacket, watching as Owen vaulted himself off the roof after her and landed gracefully in a crouch. He glanced up at Vivi with a smug smile on his face.
"Showoff," she laughed, sticking out her tongue at him.
The half-elf rose to his full height and dramatically took a bow. "Please. You flatter me."
Vivi rolled her eyes and turned to gaze for a moment towards the town in the distance. This was Sheo Caelora, an outpost in the far south of Uyalon, the Elven Kingdom. It was the place that the two friends and their shipmates for the past two weeks had called home, although home for them meant nothing more than a place to cast anchor. Vivi took in the scene for a moment longer; she saw some of the townspeople—most of them elves—moving to and fro in the distance, the sails of a little boat that had just laid to at the jetty by the tavern fluttering in the wind, the mast of their own ship, the Ajdaha, just barely visible behind the other merchant ships docked near the market, and a lonely wagon being pulled down the dusty road. Drawing a deep breath, she turned back to face Owen.
"What are you hungry for?" she asked with a smirk. "And more importantly: how are we gonna get it? The lawful way or the more fun way?"
Owen sighed deeply and looked up at the sky. "I would go for lawful," he answered, dramatically putting a hand over his chest. "Honest. My heart says yes, but—Alas!—my purse says no."
"Uh-huh." Vivi shook her head and started down the road towards town. "Maybe we can go to that tavern I saw..."
Owen snapped out of his dramatic lamenting and sprinted a few steps to catch up to her. "You know," he said with a glint in his eyes, "I feel you're not really appreciating the... deep emotional anguish these decisions are putting me through. To pay, or not to pay... that is a serious question indeed."
Vivi glanced towards Owen, then down the road. "I'll show you deep emotional anguish..." she leapt off with one foot and started sprinting off in the direction of the town, her footsteps fast and audible, "...when you lose!" Owen stopped for a second in surprise, then broke into a grin and sprinted down the road after her.
She knew from the start that Owen could very much win—he had always taken the lead when they'd had to run for their lives—but she ran her fastest anyway. The half-elf quickly gained speed behind her. They got closer to a cluster of buildings; they zipped past another barn and farmhouse and then continued towards the center of town. Owen was close behind her. The roads turned from dust and gravel to stone, and soon the tavern was in view. Vivi turned her course and nearly crashed against the corner of the shambled building, breathing heavily. "I... I win," she panted, smirking at Owen as he came to a stop right behind her, barely even out of breath.
"Ah, hubris!" he exclaimed. "I have been... vanquished. Defeated. Beaten. Humiliated." He grinned, casually leaning back against the wall. "Now what?"
Vivi, still breathing heavily, straightened and marched to the door to the tavern. She grabbed onto the handle and tossed her braid to the other side of her shoulder. "Now for some fun!" she whispered, and without looking inside, yanked the door open and gestured for her friend to take the lead.