I couldn’t help but smile as Axel and Kiimi raced off to the next stall excitedly, tightly holding each other’s hand.
“I’m so glad you’re both safe now” Darrow sighed relieved as Atani hurried to stop Axel from damaging some of the traders wares.
“Thank you for everything Darrow. None of this would have happened without you and Atani.” I murmured gratefully, hugging him tightly.
“Dunno bout that lass” he blushed embarrassed as they excitedly raced to the next stall.
I smiled warmly as he led the way to catch them up. Atani grasped my hand warmly as we followed the excited children as they bounced in front of a game of skill.
“All you need to do is get the balls into the net. One ball for a sweet, four balls for a small teddy, 7 for a larger toy and a special prize if you can get all the balls into the net. A super rare book worth several thousand denari” The trader boasted.
“A book?” I asked intrigued, Axel and Kiimi roaring with laughter.
“Yes ma’am. No-one has ever managed to get all the balls in the net yet” The trader grinned smugly.
“Can I play?” Kiimi begged.
“How about all three of you play?” Darrow winked slyly making me blush embarrassed.
“Alright, Kiimi then Axel and then me” I grinned as they silently begged me with big wide eyes.
They both cried out excitedly, turning to the trader expectantly. He was already counting out the little foam balls for Kiimi. Kiimi and Axels smiles faded uncertain as he flicked the game on and the net began moving seemingly erratically. Determined, they tried their best. Axel sighed frustrated as he only got three balls into the net. He smiled appreciatively when the trader passed him three sweets as Kiimi still struggled to pick a teddy, her face lighting up as Axel sighed to his mother about wanting the little pirate bear. My heart swelled when Kiimi tapped him on the shoulder and held the little pirate bear teddy out to him. He blinked shocked as I shared a warm smile with Darrow and Atani.
“So you never forget your little sister loves you” She grinned broadly.
He broke into a wide grin, pulling her into a tight hug. I jumped as the trader held the balls out to me, completely forgetting I had planned to play too. Smiling, I played with the little ball in my hand carefully judging its weight seemingly ignoring the net as it bounced about. A crowd gathered impressed as ball after ball carefully slunk into the net with seeming ease. I jumped as they roared cheering when the final ball sank into the almost overflowing net, the trader staring gob smacked.
“I’d normally ask what cheat you used but you don’t look one to cheat” He murmured impressed.
“I have an eye for distance” I grinned unrepentant as Axel and Kiimi stared impressed, members of the crowd eager to play too now they saw it was possible to get all the balls in.
“Now we need another special prize” His friend grumbled as he reluctantly passed the trader a small seemingly ordinary wooden box.
“Maybe you can strike up deals with other stall holders, promote each other and things” I suggested as I took the box intrigued.
“Knew it, what you sellin?” The trader’s friend snarled suspiciously
“I sell books and translations in the local book shop” I smiled ruefully as Darrow guffawed, urging us onwards as Atani waved at us excitedly from a nearby stall.
Kiimi and Axel raced over, bombarding her excitedly about how I had won the impossible game. I stared awed by the variety of fine jewelry, smiling sadly as I stroked my fingers over a locket identical to one my mother wore in a picture.
“Let’s get you two home to bed” Atani smiled as Axel and Kiimi both yawned broadly, laughing as they both protested declaring they weren’t tired despite clearly being exhausted.
I couldn’t help but smile as I followed them back towards the butcher’s shop, Darrow swinging Kiimi into his arms as she began to fall asleep as she walked.
“I’ll just grab some clothes” I murmured to Atani as we went to pass the bookstore.
“I’ll make you some cocoa and settle her into bed, don’t you worry” She smiled warmly, a weight seemingly lifted from her troubled mind as she hugged me tightly.