BANG! CRASH! The night had fallen. In the far outreaches of the Minnaluna Archipelago, that tended to happen suddenly and loudly. The light between the thick trees of the dense forest disappeared completely. The usual sounds of the day stopped almost instantly. Here and there, a last Jorble could be heard, uttering a final peep before some shuffling sounds indicated also these colorful birds had roosted for the night.
This part of the land was extremely wild. The vegetation looked almost primeval, growing thick and lush in the warm, damp climate for hundreds of years undisturbed, untrodden. Almost all of it was uncharted territory, home to the most fantastic of beasts, and home to many creatures of mystique and fantasy. No one had ever seen the creatures said to roam the dense groves and wide plains, but that didn't stop anyone from making up the most fantastic stories and renditions. The vast lands were on the charts as a large white splotch, officially documented as Nezinoma Salis, although under the mainland Minnaluna population it was more romantically known as the Forgotten Realms.
Not much was known about the vast expanse of land. What was known was that it was similar in size to the Minnaluna mainland; if not even larger. What was also known was that it was inaccessible, and uninhabited. Or at least, that last was assumed, since no proof was ever found to prove the opposite. Still, history told of civilizations having lived and thrived in Nezinoma Salis, before some sort of disaster apparently wiped them out. The reconnaissance water-planes of the Minnaluna Meteorological Institute had reported spotting what seemed to be leftovers of settlements when flying over the land. It was also because of those reconnaissance flights that the people of Minnaluna knew the Nezinoma Salis held vast stretches of dense forests and groves, as well as large, wide plains, mountains, valleys, and of course beaches and bayous since it was surrounded by the ocean.
But the knowledge stopped right there. If there were tribes or civilizations living in the stretches of the Nezinoma Salis land, they remained hidden and sought no contact with the Minnaluna mainlaind. And no one seemed to particularly mind or even care about it. The general train of thought seemed to be; we have all we need here, if there are tribes there they apparently have all they need there, and what doesn't seek contact with us, cannot fight us.
But... if no one lived in the vast lands of Nezinoma Salis, then where were those voices coming from? In the deep darkness between the trees, after the sudden and loud nightfall, voices rang out. Female voices. Arguing.
"Are you sure this is the right way to get home?"
"For the hundredth time; I'm positive! Alright? Will you stop griping about it already?"
"I'd say I have all reason to! You know how fast it gets dark! I kept telling you we shouldn't have gone into the woods that deep! And now we can't even see our paws before our face! You'd better had known darn well where you're leading us!"
"Look, just shut up, okay? For the last time; I'm positive this is the right way. I've been here so often I know this place like the back of my paw."
"Fat lot of good that'll do us. You can't even see the back of your paw in this darkness."
A small light bobbed into view. A lantern? No, on closer inspection, it was a flame. A flame... that floated in the air, without any means of support. And wrangling their way through the dense growth of the forest, following the floating flame, were... two creatures, the two females who were arguing with one another.
They more or less looked like the mainland Minnaluna felines, those elegant quadruped felines known as Flamelins. Except larger, about a time and a half as large. And where the neck and head were supposed to be, these creatures had... a torso like the mainland Minnaluna humans, from the waist up, but covered all over in the same fur as the quadruped bodies they were attached to. The head that crowned these torsos, however, again were much like the heads of the mainland Flamelins, except for the fact that from the top of the head, the fur growing there was much, much longer, and often of a contrasting color, like the head hair of the humans.
History and tradition was not all wrong. The two females were Mry; a species said to have evolved from the first mixing of the humans and quadrupeds common to the Minnaluna mainland. No one knew if the tales about these creatures were true, as no one had even seen them. But they were real, alright. And still arguing.
"Why do I have the feeling you're only leading us further astray?" said the one who had been questioning the way they were going, a female covered in sleek, dark honey-colored fur, which darkened into a ruddy brown on her four legs.
Her long hair, however, was of a much brighter red color. She carried a long, slender bow made of wood, and a quiver of arrows was slung across her back, over a small short-sleeved leather-like vest that covered her upper chest, breasts and midriff.
"Because you're a cantankerous wench?" the second one, whose fur was a deep dark storm-grey, crisscrossed with many thin stripes of an almost silvergrey color, like bolts of lightning, answered with a half-sneer.
The hair crowning the head of this second female was as long as that of the first one, but tied into a ponytail, and of the same silvery tint as the frilly stripes in her dark grey fur. She also carried a long bow and a quiver of arrows, and under the vest she was wearing also was a leather belt, at about the position of the waist of her humanoid upper torso, holding a sheathed dagger and a couple of pouches. At her somewhat snide answer, the first female let out a growl.
"Okay, I've just about had it, Skyfire! This is the last time I let you lead me into these woods after sun-high!" She pushed her way over to the base of a gigantic tree and settled down on the squishy cushions of moss between the enormous tree roots. "I'm not moving another step from this spot! You obviously have no idea where we are, or where we're going, and I'm not going to trudge around in circles any longer!"
"Will you just grow up?" said the second female, aptly named Skyfire after the lightning-like pattern in her fur. "Just try and stay positive, like me! We'll be out of here and back in the valley before you know it! My nose tells me it's not far anymore to the edge of the woods."
"Your nose is a big fat liar," the first female, whose name was Sunfire after the flaming color of her hair, huffed. "We are no closer to the edge of the woods than we are to the Sand Shores. I'm staying here until Sister Sun has traded places with Sister Moon, and if you know what's good for you, you'd stay here until then too."
It was obvious she was not going to budge. With a sigh, the dark grey female turned and also stepped over to the tree, snapping her fingers to make the floating flame follow her.
"Fine, have it your way. I can't leave you here by yourself, it's not safe to go through these woods all alone. But I still say we might as well keep going because it's not far to the edge of the woods anymore. If you would just be a bit more positive..."
"If I hear you say that word one more time..!" the honey-colored female growled, pointing at the dark grey female's face with one of the branches she was collecting to build a fire with. "I swear I'll rip off your tail and strangle you with it!"
The dark grey female just smirked and remained silent, concentrating on lighting the stack of dead branches. When the fire was going, she took off her quiver of arrows, leather vest and belt and lay them aside after pulling something from one of the pouches on her belt. It turned out to be strips of meat. She handed a few to the honey-colored female, who accepted them with a grumble, chewing on them while she took off her own quiver of arrows and leather vest.
After some time, the honey-colored female Mry named Sunfire stacked a circle of stones around the fire and added several thicker branches to feed the flames for the rest of the night. Then both she and the dark grey female Mry named Skyfire wrapped their vests around their quivers and used them as pillows as they settled down for sleep, curling up much like any quadruped feline did. Soon after, the only sounds were those of the fire crackling, and the calm breathing of both female Mry.
Well, at least it was positive that some sort of tribe lived in the vast expanse of the lands of Nezinoma Salis.