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Title: A Vagrant's Sogourn, 1/?
Author: Topaz Tsubasa
Rating: T
Genre: General, Heartwarming(?), Drama
Word Count: 2,000-ish so far
Setting: Takes place 1-2 years before Heat Dissension. Be forewarned, not only do headcanons abound—they practically frickin' run the place. A little bit of clarification: King Payne isn't on the throne any more, relations between the Fire Kingdom and the Earth Kingdom has eased up enough for a trade route, and Sam has already put herself through college. That makes her 21, by the way, since during the time of the story Sky is four years old, and now he's turning ten.



Sam Clearwater held up the glassy rock so it glinted in the sun and smiled. Ironically enough, despite her being in the Fire Kingdom, the tiny piece of volcanic rock had no business being in the hilly grasslands she was treading through. Volcanoes were more the Earth Kingdom’s territory, since after all, one had to be very in tune with the earth in order to anticipate any eruptions. It meant she was getting close to her destination.

Sky always did like his peculiar little rocks, the rascal. If only he could be more mindful of where they went.

She couldn’t have been more than a half-hour’s walk from the little village where Chester and his family stayed. Cheerfully humming one of her favorite tunes, Sam picked up her pack, splashed her face with the remains of her water sack, and resumed walking.

It was a shame this world didn’t have the same degree of technology as the one she grew up in did—granted, some very advanced things did exist, like airships and automatons, but luxuries like cars were such a rarity that the likelihood of her being able to hitch a ride was nonexistent. Besides, outside the military and especially advanced places like Carciphona and the Kingdom’s capital, cars were limited to only one model from her standpoint—a beat up, 1950’s era pick-up truck.

Sam cast a mildly troubled look at the rock she held between her fingers. Beat up as they were, those trucks provided so much help for the occasional village or town blessed with one that their use were usually divvyed up between the entire town. For a world that had access to helicopters and dual-nature weaponry as well as magic, that was a little much. She’d been debating for ages whether bringing some schematics for more things from her world would actually help give the villages some more convenience or just add to the luxury of the rich.

It was part of the reason why she wanted to see Chester and Julia, actually. As a fellow water mage, Chester was someone she looked up to, and Julia’s quiet, knowing presence would definitely help her fill in the blanks if Chester’s charm fell short. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason why she was visiting them. If Sam was going to hitchhike with two caravans, camp for three nights alone, and walk for a solid week the whole while, just to show her friends a piece of paper, she’d have just stuffed the blueprints in the king’s face and been done with it.

Sky’s tenth birthday was coming up, and she couldn’t just not celebrate it with him. Had it been any other time, she’d have mailed him a present, but that couldn’t be the case for now. Michael was busy doing whatever it was he was doing, shuffling between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Kingdom in that old (not very coveted, but don’t tell him that) pick-up truck of his, and Jake was caught in negotiations for his new bar, on top of having to deal with ineffective new staff for the castle’s military.

That left Sam as the only one in the trio to ‘represent’ them at his birthday party. Two weeks ago, she cleared out an entire month of her schedule, and then set out to the eastern countryside six days ago. Her feet were killing her, not to mention her calves screaming at her to let up on the brisk pace she needed to keep in order to make good time.

Which was why Sam was so happy to see the volcanic rock Sky had most assuredly dropped. Already, Sam could recognize the tree lining she was nearing, and she knew that beyond that, it was a mere five minutes before she got to the first house.

Sure enough, eight minutes later she was standing in front of Chester and Julia’s cozy home, and the door flew open, a short figure barreling through.

Sky effectively knocked the wind out of her with his tackle-hug, his flushed face looking up at her in excitement. “Sam! What’d you bring this time, huh?”

“A knuckle-sandwich, if you don’t let me breathe any time soon, kiddo,” Sam said with difficulty.

With one last squeeze, Sky let go, and his wide, innocent eyes coupled with his delighted smile prompted her to ruffle his curly hair with a gloved hand. He was just too cute, she mentally gushed, no matter what age he was.

Her machinations turned his smile into a pout, and the sheer adorableness of it all threatened to turn that mental gushing into reality. Sam settled for an impish grin.

“You’ll just have to wait until it’s actually your birthday to see,” she said with a flourish. She bent to pick up her bag yet again—that thing was too damn heavy to keep lugging around—but to her surprise, Sky took it and started walking back to the house before she could even say a word.

Sam couldn’t help the little squeal that shot past her lips. Sky was turning into such a little gentleman! If he kept that up, there was no doubt in a few years that the ladies would be all over him. He was a pretty-boy through and through.

Crossing the threshold and closing the door behind her, Sam was surprised to see a very pregnant, very not Julia red-haired woman strewn across the couch. She gave Sam a jaunty wave. “Hey, Sam. I told them you were coming.”

Her jaw dropped. “Erika? What are you doing here?”

“This is my mom’s hometown. I figured it’d be nicer to settle down here than in the capitol, so I asked Otto to give me a ride.” An uncharacteristically soft smile came across her face that Sam was sure wouldn’t have been half as beautiful without her motherly-radiance.

Sam shook her head, removing her jacket and placing it on one of the hooks next to the door. “Amazing. So you’re on first-name terms with Captain Loftybreeze?”

Erika snickered, a good dose of her usual self coming back to her features. “Captain Lightgale hates that nickname, and he’s a perfectly nice guy once you get past all the roughness.”

First giving Erika a kiss on the cheek in greeting, Sam settled onto the loveseat across from her with a relieved sigh. “He shouldn’t—he earned it fair and square. And I don’t know how you can say that. The only thing he cares about more than his beloved airship is his ‘goddamn tea’.”

Of course, it was the moment that Sam let a swear loose that Sky stumbled into the living room, giving her a wide-eyed and oddly excited stare.

“No, you can’t repeat that,” she told him sternly.

Sky pouted, moving to squeeze into the loveseat with her and pulling up the footrest so they both fit into it better. Unfortunately, it meant Sam had to crane her neck a little to be able to see Erika’s face, but that was alright. She got cuddle time with Sky this way.
“Where are Chester and Julia?” Sam asked when Sky had made himself fully comfortable.

“Mom’s talking with the mayor about either getting us a better school or setting up transportation to a better one somewhere else,” Sky grumbled, fingers fiddling with her hair.

Smirking, Sam asked, “You don’t wanna go to school?”

All she got from him was befuddling silence—not even his trademark reproachful look, which he gave either her or Jake whenever they got too obnoxious.

“It’s not that,” Erika piped up for him. Casting a sympathetic glance the little boy’s way, she continued, “This project of hers is taking up a lot of Julia’s time. She’s in negotiation with the leaders in the area about building a campus where kids around here can get a decent education. It means she’s not home all that often, and when she is, she’s off to talk to the mayor about what to do with the children in the meantime.”

Sam let out a low whistle. “Your mom’s up to some important stuff.” She gave his shoulder a good rub. “Sorry, kiddo. What about your dad?”
More silence. Damn.

“He’s doing ‘important stuff’ too,” Erika said a little sadly. “They’re thinking of setting up another trade route between the Fire and Earth kingdoms so that trading from the south end of the Fire Kingdom would be easier. And sure enough, Chester is heading that project too. If Chester’s project makes it, getting building materials for Julia’s school would be a lot easier.”

It most definitely would. The left-center of the Fire Kingdom was mountainous, and the ancient tunnels running through the mountains to get to the valleys in between were impractical for trade since they were built by dwarves, who were considerably smaller than normal humans. It was also impractical for other things, so the capitol of the country was very defensible, but it meant that the bulk of trading took place somewhere else—in Carciphona, up north.

However, Sam knew for a fact that getting around the mountains was a huge pain, and if Chester could somehow set up a route through the Taurus River in the south, getting building materials from the Earth Kingdom to the east side of the country would be a synch. Connecting the dots, Sam realized that was probably why Michael was travelling to the Earth Kingdom so often. He served as an extra voice of negotiation from the capitol alongside Chester, who knew the river to the south better than anyone.

Yup, Sky’s parents were doing very important things. The problem was that poor Sky was left behind in the meantime.

Sam frowned, pulling the boy into a hug and placing her cheek on top of his head. “So Chester’s not even here?”

“He’ll be back for my birthday,” Sky mumbled. “But he has to go again right after.”

Sending Erika a troubled look, the other woman returned it with a resigned one. “It was actually a relief for Chester and Julia that I came here. I babysit Sky while they’re gone.”

But with that baby, they both knew that the set up wouldn’t work for long. Which meant…“I’ll help too.”

Sky’s head whipped up in surprise, and Sam smiled down at him. “You’re gonna need someone else to be around when Erika has the baby, right? I’ll talk to Julia about seeing if I can extend my stay.”

Searching for jobs in the capitol could wait. What mattered was the little boy sitting next to her barely holding back the tears as he squeezed her, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! This is gonna be awesome!”

“You’re welcome,” Sam puffed, trying to scooch away so she could get some air into her lungs. Thankfully, Sky let up a bit. “Why are you so excited?” She asked in a more normal voice.

The reproachful look was back. “Nanna’s house stinks. And it’s really far away from here.”

At that, both Sam and Erika burst out laughing. Sky’s Nanna was the sweetest old woman in the world, but the fact of the matter was that you could smell her house before you walked into it. A kid like Sky would hate a place like that.

Calming down, an idea popped up in her head. Right now, Sam was tired, but she figured she had enough energy left in her to do this. “Hey guys. What do you say we make some cookies?”

Delight overtaking both pregnant woman and little boy, Sam knew she’d made the right choice in bringing ingredients for multiple confections was a good idea.

Half an hour later, Erika was thanking her for her genius with chocolate all over her face, Sky was pouring over his picture books on the floor, and Sam couldn’t help falling asleep with a belly full of warm cookies.
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