The Cowardly Girl
Deep in the core of the arid Skarch desert, inside the wandering Nomad Camp, lived a young dracnari girl. From a very young age, the girl was deeply interested in wakabi races, even travelling all the way to the Wakabidrome every day to watch the jockeys steer their prized birds on the racetrack. Every day, she would watch the saddled wakabi in fascination as they sped across the tracks, leaving behind a trail of smoke and feathers. Every day, the girl sat on the sidelines and watched as eager adventurers walked up to the countertop to place their bets on the racing wakabi.
The little dracnari girl wanted to bet on the wakabi too. The little dracnari girl could not afford a promotional ticket.
Every day the girl would go home and beg and plead to their parents to buy her a promotional ticket. Until eventually, one day, they relented. On her ninth birthday, the little girl was elated to learn that she had received five Wakabidrome tickets as a birthday gift from her parents!
Her steps light and full of merriment, the young girl skipped to the Wakabidrome, tickets clutched in her little clawed hands. As she reached the counter, however, her joy began to be mixed with dread and apprehension. The brown-furred form of Nookie Longpaws loomed behind the counter, his dark eyes cold and intimidating.
"H-hello..?", asked the girl quietly.
"What do you want, little girl?"
To the little girl, his gruff voice seemed frightening, his looming form menacing, and his demeanour unfriendly and forboding.
Crowds of potential bettors began to push and shove behind her.
"What do you need?", asked Nookie again, more loudly this time. "Tell me now or move out of the way!"
"..nothing.", replied the girl softly as she turned back to her home, nervous tears falling down her face as she clutched the tickets in her now sweat-drenched claws.
"I will bet on the wakabi another day.", thought the girl to herself. "One day I will gather the courage to do so."
And so every day the girl walked to the Wakabidrome, hoping to place her bet. But every time she reached the counter, her hands would shake and her mouth would go dry.
Perhaps another day...
A long time passed. The little girl grew up and passed through the Portal of Fate. She forgot her family and her home, starting a new life in the Free City of Gaudiguch. She eventually found a new family, married and had children of her own. She forgot most of her old life, but every time she would walk past the Wakabidrome, she would suddenly become filled with a mix of eagerness and dread.
As more time passed, the girl - now a woman - came to be known in her city as an accomplished playwright, and then a writer, and then an esteemed Sealbearer. She came to be known all over the Basin of Life for her accomplishments and her accolades.
One day, the woman walked into the Wakabidrome, her gait calm and self-assured, her clothes fine and fashionable, her claws clutching five Wakabidrome tickets.
"Madame!", exclaimed Nookie Longpaws as he stood up in respect at her arrival. "What brings you to the Wakabidrome? What can I do for you?"
The dracnari woman looked down at Nookie, at his frail, weasel-like form, his darting dark eyes, and his nervously twitching tail. He did not look at all intimidating. She should not be at all intimidated by him.
And yet, looking down at her shaking claws, cold as ice and yet drenched with sweat, she knew that she was.
"N-nothing..", said the woman as she turned around to leave. "Nothing at all."