“How’s this, Firebrand?” Nia flexed, posing magnificently before the setting sun.
“Yes, that’s perfect!” Firebrand shouted, jumping up and down in his excitement. “You’re really good at this, Nia!”
“Meh, I’ve seen better,” said Sieg. He was lounging against a log and cleaning his wakizashi, not even looking at where Nia was standing.
“Fight me, Sieg!” A pine cone found its way to the back of Sieg’s head.
Evelyn laughed from where she sat by the pile of sticks that quickly became the group’s campfire for the evening. “You had that one coming.”
“I never said I didn’t,” Sieg replied, rubbing the back of his head. He shrugged and put away his blade in favour of his flute. He’d barely put his lips to the instrument before he found himself attacked with another pine cone.
“Hey, what’s the deal, Nails?”
“Quit it with the dying cat noises!” Nia had by now completely abandoned her posing practice to join Evelyn by the fire and, supposedly, start making dinner. “You’ll ruin the stew with that racket.”
Sieg leaned forward and almost glared at the chef with his one good eye. “Oh, will I now? And just who, might I remind you, is the one responsible for procuring the meat for today’s meal?”
Evelyn raised a hand. “That would actually be me. You only got to finish it off because you snuck up before Nia or I could hit it again.”
“And to the victor goes the spoils, which in this case is bragging rights.”
The girls shared a look and rolled their eyes before returning their attention to the steaks frying on the pan.
“You wouldn’t have killed it at all if it wasn’t for me,” Nia muttered under her breath. Sieg still managed to pick up on the statement, however.
“Is that a challenge there, Nails?”
“Guys, stop threatening to kill each other!” Firebrand and Evelyn both shouted at once.
“Everyone was essential to getting the tusk raptalo-”
“Tusked buffalo raptor,” Evelyn corrected Firebrand automatically.
“Yeah, that. It’s not like this is a competition or anything.”
“Besides,” Evelyn added, dropping some tubers and wild vegetables onto the pan with the meat, “if you to have to fight, at least do it without weapons. If you feel like you need to prove something, spirits only know what, then go race each other up that big tree there or something. I’m not fixing either of you up if you decide you need to go breaking each other.”
Firebrand hesitated for a second, then resolved himself. “Me neither. We shouldn’t be fighting so much!”
Nia stopped glaring at Sieg and perked up. “A climbing contest sounds like fun, actually.”
“Alright, I’m game.” Sieg flashed his signature smirk, and then it faded when he saw Evelyn holding a hand out towards him. “What?”
“Hand over the climbing gauntlets. If you’re going to compete, we might as well make it fair, or we’re never going to hear the end of it and I want to sleep without shoving cotton in my ears for the next week.”
Sieg stared for a moment, rolled his eyes, sighed, then finally pulled the gloves out of his pack and handed them over to the half-elf. “Why you gotta take all the fun out of it?”
“Alright, I’ll play referee, I guess.” Evelyn crossed her arms and faced the tree. “On your marks!”
Sieg and Nia stood at opposite sides of the tree’s trunk, staring intently at it for hand and footholds. Firebrand walked around to the side opposite Evelyn. She supposed it was to keep watch on that side in case either of them moved around where she couldn’t see them.
Sieg jumped up to his nearest handhold and scrambled up the branches. Nia tried the same, but missed the first branch and fell on her backside. She recovered quickly and began catching up near the middle as Sieg found his side too dense for branches and difficult to move around on. The two were neck and neck for a short while, then Nia slipped. She caught herself, but had to take a moment to catch her breath. Sieg pulled ahead and was nearly at the top branch-
Only to find that Firebrand was already at the top.
“Geez, took you long enough,” he grinned, tail swishing with pride.
“Firebrand,” Evelyn shouted up at the happy catfolk, “what the hell are you doing up there?”
“Winning the race!” he called back with no small measure of satisfaction. “I’m good at stuff too, don’t forget!”
It was about then that Nia’s head peeked above the upper branches. “Aw, damnit!”
Sieg smirked. “I taught you well, Firebrand.”