Noon neared in the Forest of Life as Drabe circled a patch of recovering forest. The young trees already stood taller than him, and the vegetation around the ground had long since sprouted. Seeing the destruction that glum day left him aggrieved, but the once charred and bare spot flourishing again made a smile bloom across his furry face.
"What's that? The Caretaker is close by?" Drabe heard a soft female voice ask. It seemingly emanated from just within the older forest, and he didn't recognize it. He also sensed something strange, but not malevolent.
The curious caprine paused and turned in its direction. A thicket of tall grass nearby rustled as someone waded through. From it emerged a petite human girl whose teal eyes scanned her surroundings. Her skin seemed pale compared to many humans, and her light, wavy blonde hair reached past her waist. She wore a collared blue shirt beneath a deep green sweater, and below that a black skirt over purple leggings and black shoes.
Drabe's focus shifted to the emerald winged insect resting atop her arced finger. He immediately recognized it as a breed that sprayed poison if threatened— a poison toxic to creatures, and likely more so for humans.
"Careful with that!" he shouted, pointing at her with his wooden, gem tipped staff.
"Hm?" she replied, his warning catching her attention. She watched Drabe scuttle towards her. "This must be the Caretaker."
Halting before the girl, Drabe noted her slightly pointed ears and the now stronger feeling from a moment ago. His empty eyes focused on the bug still atop her finger, as did she.
"That insect sprays poison if provoked," Drabe explained.
Smiling, the girl rose the insect closer to her face. "Thank you, sir, but I assure you she won't hurt me. We've already befriended one another."
Her response addled Drabe as much as it intrigued him. "Befriended?"
"Yes, I can communicate with the animals in both your world and mine," the girl explained, her eyes trailing off with a frown. "Well, save for mollusks."
Her response fascinated Drabe. As far as he knew, humans possessed no extraordinary abilities. In addition, no creature he knew could converse with animals.
His discovery left him craving more. "Can other humans do this?"
"I've yet to meet anyone else who can," the girl explained, watching the insect take flight. "Farewell, friend."
Drabe watched as well before facing Dawn, more inquiries on his mind. "My name is Drabe. I am the Caretaker here in the Forest of Life. Yours?"
Eyes shutting, the girl placed a hand upon her breast. "I, am Dawn, child of Mother Nature. I've ported my code to Perim to explore and meet its denizens. I'm not real interested in the game."
Drabe firmed a hand on his chin. "Yes, I've heard of this Mother Nature before. Is she your kind's leader?"
Dawn folded her arms, "not to my people, but she should be."
Drabe remembered to check the position of Perim's sun. A hand shielding his eyes, the OverWorlder reared his head and found it peaking in the clear sky. He'd planned to meet a fellows tribesman for a package.
He faced Dawn, whom he met eyes with. "I must meet with one of my tribe-mates. Would you care to join?"
"Certainly," Dawn smilingly agreed, following Drabe as he turned and began for his destination. The human hadn't much else to do anyway. She also hadn't established a rapport with any creatures yet.
Drabe lead Dawn past the regrowing land. Glancing over to the area, the human sensed the remnants of puissant negative energy that once lingered here. The feeling made her cringe—what could have caused this?
"What happened here?" she asked Drabe. The OverWorlder gazed with her.
"This area was destroyed by four of your kind," he explained, a dreariness in his voice. "They'd stolen Sonic Charges from the Kiru City arsenal and destroyed it, and other locations throughout the OverWorld, for scans."
Dawn gasped, stunned that Chaotic players could sink so low for scans! "That's appalling! Please tell me they were arrested!"
"I heard your CodeMasters caught up to them," Drabe replied, facing ahead. A pause fell between the two. "I'm sure not all your kind are like that?"
"No, of course not!" Dawn assured Drabe. While she felt many players lacked respect for Perim, she doubted most would destroy locations, especially for scans. Moving up beside Drabe, she comfortingly placed a palm on his taut arm. "Oh, I can tell it was a dreadful sight."
Drabe exhaled, his sunken head rising. "Yes, it seems both our worlds share much in common."
"Like good and evil?" Dawn guessed, receiving a nod from Drabe. "Sadly, you are correct."
"Now then, do you possess other powers?" Drabe asked, switching subjects.
"Why yes, I can read peoples' auras," Dawn explained. Grabbing Drabe's palm, she held it in her own and placed her other hand over top. "Yours is bluish gray, with a hint of red. It makes sense, considering your past hardships and losses. I hope you won't need another tattoo."
Drabe's ears perked—it appeared these auras also told of peoples' past. The tattoos Dawn hinted at each symbolized a fallen comrade—a tribute to those lost in a seemingly ceaseless conflict. He too wished he wouldn't need to add another.
While an incredible gift, Dawn revealing such personal information concerned the OverWorlder. Another paused occurred before the Caretaker spoke. "Dawn?"
"Yes?" she replied, letting another winged insect land atop her hand.
"I can tell your heart is in the right place. But be careful with who's past you reveal here," he insinuated.
Dawn considered Drabe's advice as the insect flew off. She'd admittedly grown used to peoples' negative reactions when describing aspects of their auras, but she didn't recall anybody becoming physical. In a place like Perim, however, such a response didn't sounded far-fetched. She recalled trying to read the aura of a blue skinned, Merlin-like OverWorlder who flew overhead during her previous journey. Somehow unable to, and possibly sharing a gaze with him, he may have known and preferred not being read.
"Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to disclose such things," she admitted, feeling a tad of shame.
Drabe grinned as they approached a dirt trail leading through the Forest. Never before had he encountered such a player, both in behavior and talents. He'd long wished to learn of humanity, and rapidly acquainting with Dawn, he saw a chance to answer his plethora of questions. Her powers and their potential use in certain hands, however, troubled the caprine.
"So, what else is there to learn of Perim? I've yet to journey past this location, and most players bend facts for gossip it seems," Dawn inquired, her eyes on Drabe. It seemed both could learn from each other.
"There are many things to learn of the OverWorld alone," Drabe stated as they traipsed down the trail. Above the canopies, a certain winged OverWorlder soared past. "Where to begin?"