The After Effects

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The Tiny Human

After a long night of tending my many blades, I found myself wandering the streets of Everest.

The interaction with the stranger at the bar had left me in a sour mood. Covered from head to toe in my gray cloak, I couldn't help but find the stormy appearance of the morning fitting.

People filled the streets and sidewalks, rushing to their work. The town bustling at the early hours of the day.

Thankfully, no one seemed to notice me and I was wandering around with no troubles.

Eventually, I ended up in front of a cloth's store that looked like it had just opened. I do need clothes, I sighed as I walked in.

The door rang as I pushed it open, alerting the shop keeper that someone was here.

"I'll be out in a second." A sweet voice rang from somewhere around the shop.

I decided to browse, mentally sighing at the bare options. Why are there so many dresses and so little shirts?

"Hello." A small voice squeaked from beside me while tugging on my cloak.

Jumping, I turned and looked at the tiny human next to me. Maybe around ten years old, the small girl smiled up at me. Her white hair was pulled into a wild braid, which matched her strange gray eyes. A faded pink dress hung off of the girl, showing that despite her family's job, she couldn't afford much better.

"What's your name?" The little girl asked, her gray eyes sparkling with excitement.

Despite my mood, I couldn't help but smile at the adorable girl.

Crouching down, I reached for the girl's soft hands and answered her. "I'm Ivy. What's your name?"

"Harper..." She beamed at me. "I like your hair." The girl reached up and tugged on my braid.

"Thank you. I could say the same about your hair." I mirrored her actions and tugged on her wildly braided hair.

"You're really pretty." The girl complimented me but before I could respond, a loud gasp could be heard.

I turned to see an older looking woman emerge from a door, in her hands a basket of clothes. The woman's curly black hair was graying slightly and her brown eyes were widened in shock. She had the same nose as the little girl, but that was where the resemblance ended.

"Hello." The woman said, shock evident in her face. "Who are you?"

"I'm looking for some new clothes," I told the woman as I straightened from my crouched position.

Coming around the counter, the woman grabbed for the little girl and, bending down, whispered into her ear. The little girl nodded her head and disappeared out the back door.

"I'm sorry about my rude behavior." The woman apologized as she set the basket of clothes down. "I haven't seen Harper approach or talk to anybody in years."

Strange... I stared at the door that she had left through.

"Why?" I asked.

The woman stopped folding a shirt as a haunted look passed over her face. "Vikings." She said simply. Which was all she needed to say.

An emotion I hadn't felt in a while suddenly tugged at my heart. Empathy? Pain? Indignation? That poor girl...

"My sister, her mother, died trying to protect her, but it was for naught." The woman said. "I found her on the edge of the Black Forest four days after my sister died and she hasn't spoken since." A look of disdain crossed the woman's face as she focused intently on picking some dirt off of a dress. "I've been stuck with her since she was eight."

A slow burn of rage boiled in my stomach as I once again silently cursed at the Vikings and their awful ways. And also because it was evident that this woman didn't appreciate nor want her niece.

"But enough of that, what can I do you for today?" The woman shook her head and gave me a pleasant smile.

"I require some more travel clothing," I emphasized the word as I frowned at the selection of dresses.

"Well I don't have much of that nowadays." The woman contemplated. "You could browse in the men's selection if you don't want the dresses." She suggested.

Taking her suggestion, I floated over to the men's section which was slim pickings, but better than the horrible and heavy dresses that filled the other half of the shop.

"If I may," I started well looking at a plaid shirt that had caught my eye. "Why have women gone back to wearing dresses? Before the Plague, everyone mostly wore jeans and shirts."

The woman smiled softly. "Ah well, I imagine that because of the old ways we're forced to live in, women have gone back to old fashion. Thankfully it is not those dreadful layers that the 1800s had."

I chuckled. I would never wear a dress ever again.

Picking up the black and white plaid shirt along with some new pants, I floated back to the women's section to pick up some, hopefully new, undergarments.

"Is that all for you?" The woman asked while I dug around for my coin pouch.

I nodded and handed her what was owed. Due to the rarity of the plaid shirt, the total was rather expensive.

"Thank you." I smiled at the woman, who said goodbye and returned to getting the shop ready for the day.

As I left the shop, I heard running footsteps approach me.

I tensed briefly before I realized that the footsteps where way to light to be male.

"Hello again." A young voice floated up to me as I turned my head slightly to see Harper walking beside me. She beamed a smile up to me and I couldn't help but feel a sort of protectiveness of her.

"Hello." I smiled down at her. "Shouldn't you stay with your Aunt?" I asked the girl.

She shook her head, causing her white braid to hit her cheek. "No, Aunt Diana said I could explore the city for the day. Mind if I explore the city with you?"

Her polite and sweet voice had me answering immediately. "I would love it if you explored with me." An idea came to my head suddenly. "In fact, I know someone that you would love to meet."

Her beaming smile dropped and she stopped in her tracks. "I don't like meeting people." Her gray eyes almost glazed over as she stared up at me, something like fear coating them.

"Oh no, you've got me all wrong. We aren't meeting someone, we're meeting something." I crouched down in front of her and took her shaking hands.

Harper seemed to take a sigh of relief. "Okay." She nodded hesitantly, fighting the emotions that threatened to take over.

The things this poor girl has gone through...

I stood, keeping my right hand in her smaller, left hand.

My heart wretched as I heard her take a deep, shaky breath when we started moving again.

By the time we reached the stables, Harper's hands had stopped shaking and she seemed better.

"A barn?" She asked, confusion causing her to tilt her head.

"Yep." I popped my lips before leading her up to the door and into the stable.

Thankfully, the barn was empty except for Ragnar and the Royal Horse. I watched as excitement took over Harper's features.

"The one in the corner is mine." I pointed to Ragnar's huge sleeping figure in the far stall.

She squealed with excitement as she ran towards his stall. His head suddenly jerked up, panic causing him to jump slightly.

"Easy boy," I said as he peered over his stall door to Harper's small form.

Realizing he was okay and was about to receive pets, he hung his head over the door of the stall, right into her face.

"What's his name?" She asked in amazement as her small hand reached his huge nose.

"Ragnar." I watched as he closed his eyes, loving the attention.

"He's so pretty." She breathed.

Ragnar's eyes shot open and he huffed at her. Apparently not liking being called pretty.

She chuckled and became absolutely lost in him.

The smile on her face made my heart feel warm. She's happy and for some strange reason, I want her to keep being happy, if only for a few hours.

I won't let those Vikings ruin another person, not like they did me. I can't let them ruin any more people.

With a plan forming in my head, I smiled as Ragnar tried knocking Harper off her feet... A smile nearly splitting Harper's young and beautiful features. At least she smiles. That's a start.

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