Kindness Is Not Weakness
A small cart was pulled down an idyllic countryside road; the grass flats surrounding the cart were lush, vibrant, and spotted with flowers of all colors. The trees nearby bore fruit, adding a sweet scent to the air, and the distant hills added shape to the horizon, allowing for the golden rays of the morning sun to creep through, creating strong beams of light. At the end of one of these light beams was a man holding the reigns to a small donkey that pulled his cart. The light rested upon his chest as the ambient light filled the wrinkles on his face so no shadow could hide, giving him a more youthful look that better represented how the man felt. Although his body had aged, his muscles were not what they used to be, but they were still strong with the endurance of a hard life hidden beneath every callous and every scar. The man chewed on fresh seeds as he made his way to town; down the road, he spied three individuals walking towards him; he smiled, waving his hand, he called out.
The sun started to pick up heat as it rose into the sky, no longer caressing Dolor lovingly, now attacking it like a child jabbing the side of a nearby adult, trying to grab its attention. Down below in the grass laid the body of an old man and the seeds that he chewed upon. Standing on the cart were four individuals that sifted their hands through the seed that lay in the back of the cart. A stout Dwarf leaned against the cart with his staff in hand as he watched his partner; a satyr, search the pockets of the old man. Meanwhile, an elf woman was pulling fistfuls of seeds from the bags and screaming in frustration as her partner sat where the old man sat, a human; he took in a deep breath and raised his arms to the sky to welcome the rays of the sun.
“It truly is a good morning.” He said as he let out a deep sigh.
“Travis, I swear to the divine, if you don’t do anything to help, I will goddam cut you.” Said the elvish woman as she continued her frantic searching.
“Calm down, my love, we got stitched for information. The guy who dropped the hint is probably far out of town by now.”
“Don’t call me love.” She said with a swiftly drawn knife pointed at him. “I will add more scars to that lump of flesh you call a body.”
“You need to calm her down, Travis; you know how Val’ea gets when she thinks there are magic items around.” The dwarf said as he moved away from the cart.
“You wanna be next, Gorn?” Her eyes darted between the two of them as the knife danced gently in her hand.
“Gorn, will you please relieve my beautiful partner of her anxiety?” Travis asked as he looked at Gorn.
Gorn sighed; he raised his staff and cast a simple spell which seemed to have no effect.
“Sorry, love, but the fact we ain’t seeing anything sparkle means this was a stitch-up. No hidden magic items here.” Travis said as he smiled at Val’ea.
Val’ea’s eyes calmed down, and her breathing slowed. She seemed to freeze for a moment before taking a more relaxed stance.
“I am sorry; you know how I get when I get the urge. I do hate my ancestry sometimes.”
“I don’t.” Travis said as he grabbed Val’ea around the waist. “You Elves know how to have a good time.”
Travis and Val’ea laughed softly before groping one another and making out in the back of the cart.
Gorn looked at his partner as she was looking up at the other two with a face of disgust.
“Shae, find anything on the old man?”
“Nothing, well, unless you include the small pouch of coin he had.”
“Does it cover the cost of the tip?” Gorn asked genuinely.
She counted the coins, juggling the pouch occasionally as she went.
“Maybe. I mean, like, close enough if you ask me. Plus, now we have a cart filled with seeds, so that is a thing I guess.”
“Oi, you two, quit it. We have been stitched up; what are we going to do now?” Gorn called out as he stood next to Shae.
Travis pulled back from Vae’ea and looked around as he licked his lips.
“How about we go forest, trade the seeds with the local Cappy, get what we can from them in the way of healing items, then use them and our ability to murder to take whatever they have left?”
Everyone looked to one another, then with a short and sharp laugh, they all hopped into the cart and whipped at the donkey that strained to take them off the road and towards the sparse forest on the outskirts of the town.
Meanwhile, in the deep of the forest, the small tribe of Cappies were still sluggish from only just waking up. The forest gave them a fine shelter from the bulk of the sun that tried to get through to them. Instead of the harsh lines, they got soft beams that were controlled by the leaves on the swaying branches of the still trees. The light gave a comforting warmth, while the cool breeze that rolled between the trees stopped them from overheating. The slow river that ran through their forest gave them ample space for growing their food and some of the ingredients that they needed in making their medicinal agents. Those they can’t grow, they find arriving by the animals they have befriended to aid them. Small rodents arrived with nuts and ground-growing fungus; larger animals stripped bark and pulled flowers from plants that grew much too high for the smaller animals to reach.
Through the woods, the sound of a cart echoed softly as a tired donkey followed the windy path that set forth towards the Cappies. The Cappies themselves could hear the coming cart, so they prepared their goods for trade so as to not waste the incoming trader’s time.
“Good morning!” Travis yelled with a raised arm and a large smile. “Beautiful day for it, isn’t it?”
The Cappies smiled, returning the wave and hailing good mornings in response.
Travis leaped from the cart as the others started to pull the grain from the cart. A few of the Cappies ran off, while a couple even dove into the water and disappeared upstream.
“I hope we didn’t scare them off. I am Travis.” He said as he placed a hand on his chest. “Those behind me are my friends, and we are here to trade some seed.”
One of the Cappies walked up to the donkey and started to pet her; despite her anxious mood, she appeared calm from sheer exhaustion.
One of the Cappies approached Travis and smiled as they looked up at him.
“I am Tor Eem; I am what you would call the leader of this little tribe. What kind of seed did you bring for us today? Because we recently had to let go of a large store of seed, and we are looking to replace it.”
Travis knelt down to look the Cappy in the eye while laying a hand on his shoulder.
“Listen, friend, I will level with you. I don’t actually know what we have in the cart. I just snatched what I could in the markets this morning with the hope that it would be something that you were after. We are in a desperate way for healing tonics and salves. Sadly, the act of hunting monsters in this area has taken a toll on those still at home.”
“That is terrible to hear; I am sure we can work something out for you. I mean, that is the least we can do for those who put their lives on the line to kill those that may kill us if given the chance.”
Tor Eem walked over to the cart to sink his own fingers in the grain. He closed his eyes, and with a sad heart and tears falling from his face, he placed a blessing on the seeds.
Travis looked to the others as they poorly hid the laughter that hid behind their toothy grins.
“These are Solet seeds. Very tasty, especially to you humans.” They said, gesturing to Travis. “It is quite valuable, and very actually grow it around here. I would say that we have the biggest stores in the area.”
“Well, maybe not; whoever grew these clearly had quite the patch.” Gorn added as he took the final sac from the cart. “Do you think there might be a trade for these goods?”
There was a long pause as the small party looked around, confused.
“I am sorry, but what?” Val’ea asked as politely as she could.
“Well, the thing is that we know we are the biggest farmers of these seeds in the area, as we are the only farmer of these seeds in this area. Meaning anyone who rolls into your town with a cart full of these seeds came from here.”
Tor Eem looked around at the small party with sadness in his eyes.
“Please say you did not kill Thomas; we were quite fond of the old man; he had the best vegetables in the area.”
The donkey called out, and Tor Eem’s eyes welled up even more.
“Yes, we love you too. You were a noble steed for Thomas.”
The small group looked at one another, confused.
“It is quite simple; Thomas only left with this cart not too long ago; he traded with our early morning people who are currently resting. There is no way that he could have made it to town to sell and have the buyers come straight back. Especially with Thomas’ little Emily.”
“Hey, this is not no Emily, she is our donkey, and she does not have a name.” She said as she stepped in front of the donkey.
“Give it up; we can speak with animals; there is no mistaking that that is Emily. Even without her speaking to us, we would have known. Thomas had a very rustic look that no one else managed to maintain like he did. Please just leave the cart and goods, and leave our forest.”
Tor Eem started to head away from the cart when Shae laid the tip of her spear down into the soil in front of him.
“I think we will be taking what medical supplies you have gathered here, then we will take whatever else you have lying around.”
Tor Eem walked around the spearhead and walked off without a word. She looked to the others for confirmation; Gorn stepped forward and grabbed Tor Eem’s arm, spinning them around so they could look eye to eye.
“Listen here, fur ball. We are taking what you have, and there is nothing you can do to stop us. So load the cart, or there will be blood.”
Tor Eem looked up as a bird called out over the sounds of Gorn’s brutish slurring.
“You didn’t even give him the decency of a burial? You have brought much sadness to our tribe this day. Please leave.”
Travis spat the hulls of seeds that he had started to chew on.
“Oh wow, these are really tasty. We should take a bag for us.”
Tor Eem looked back at the group as they stood relaxed behind the tense Gorn. They laughed and joked with one another as Tor Eem watched Travis with angry eyes as he spat hulls from his mouth messily.
“Are you listening? Or do I need to teach you a lesson in respect?” Gorn grabbed Tor Eem by the throat and started to squeeze.
Tor just stood there as the air in their lungs quickly disappeared. The others watched from behind, laughing.
“Man, these things are even softer than I thought. Why don’t more people pick on the Cappies?” Val’ea called out mockingly.
Suddenly without warning, an enormous wolf took hold of Gorn’s arm and pried his grip from Tor. The others in Gorn’s group raised their weapons as they checked their surroundings for more wolves.
“Listen here, all of you.”
Tor could hardly be heard over the screams of Gorn, yet they still spoke softly and with a calm that could cause envy in those who meditate.
“There is a reason that we can live here in peace, and that is because we make it, we take it. Wherever we travel, we do not stay unless we can make ourselves safe because with safety comes the ability to care for those around you.”
The group were barely listening as they watched as an enormous pack of wolves appeared from the trees.
“I have never seen a wolf pack so big.” She said as the Cappies caught her attention once more. “If you help us kill them, we promise not to hurt you.”
The Cappies stood in silence.
“We speak to the animals; what part of that don’t you understand? We as a race may not be capable of defending ourselves, but our friends are more than capable of killing those that dare threaten us.”
There was the sound of yelping, and the wolf that was on Gorn limped off whimpering.
“I thought you lot were supposed to care for all creatures. So you can’t hurt us, or you will be going against your very nature.” Gorn said as he limped to his friends.
“You really are stupid. Us killing you is us protecting our friends; if you had died before today, Thomas would still be alive. The next best thing we can do is to avenge him. So, in the nicest way possible, please prepare to die.”
The small group screamed as the wolves closed in as an unstoppable wave of teeth and claws.
By late evening Thomas’ cart was returned to his farmstead, where a teary-eyed woman fell to her knees as she watched the Cappies bring it back with his body lying in the back of Emily’s cart. They stayed with her to help her bury her husband; they sold the seeds and provided her with the money, along with money from healing products that they sold in the market. Emily was put to bed in the stable by the Cappies, but Thomas’ wife was the one to give her a blanket, and it was Emily who immediately took it off to wander forth and lay by Thomas’ graveside. The wife followed behind with the blanket and laid in the crook of her belly as she mourned her late husband.
The Cappies slowly departed, leaving a pack of wolves to surround the farm. Over the next months, a small group of the Cappies returned daily to help Thomas’ wife with the farm, maintaining it and helping with the crops that he grew.
Down on the road where he fell, he was remembered by the Cappies making a small stack of stones with seeds lain across it, to which they would place the seeds daily to allow Thomas to enjoy the birds that benefited from his shrine.