468 Harvest Fair part two
1100 hours Haven, Nix's Horse Ranch
"Nix?" A dark woman holding a spear peeked around the corner of the stable. Her black hair was cut short and she held an ornate helm under one arm. A bright smile formed on her face when she saw him, he was hard at work, mucking out a stall. "Don't your ranchhands do that?"
"Hey!" Nix felt the same warm feelings he always had in Sharl's presence. "Haven't seen you in a while. Did Floyd come?"
Sharl shook her head slightly and lay her equipment on a bin before wrapping up the Inferno leader in a hug. Her normal reservations always faded around him. "Did you miss me?"
"Yep," he admitted. "Did you just get here?"
"Stopped by the temple first to talk to your dad." Sharl stepped to one side when he grabbed the handles of a wheelbarrow and started heading toward the gate. The large pile of manure on the other side caused her to decide not to follow. "I'll just wait here."
Nix chuckled while tipping the cart over. "Everyone says that. Let's head up to the house, I need to get cleaned up."
Sharl smiled and waited while he put his tools away. She stowed her spear and helm and then fell in step with him. "Ronnie's been helping me at the hive. I'm going to head over there after saying hi to everyone."
Nix didn't comment, she'd been gone a long time. Helping Floyd had been her choice but one that Nix believed was the right one. The Serpent Clan and Floyd's personal growth had grown substantially through her efforts. This left her place in Haven deserted, her younger sister had been taking care of things while she was gone. "Ronnie has many talents."
Sharl's full lips showed the beginning of a smile. The Inferno leader would never say anything bad about her sister. Instead of being jealous, she was thankful. That steadfast backing caused Ronnie to become more reliable. "I hear you kicked Khione's ass."
Nix shrugged, he didn't remember large portions of it. The Dread Beast form came with a lot of drawbacks. "We discovered she uses Avatars. If we want to kill her, we'll need to draw the real Khione out."
Sharl nodded. She had heard about the fight from Pon. If her Avatars were that strong, then how stronger was the real thing? "How's Shae?"
"Busy..." Nix shook his head slightly. The salamander was helping all three dragons in their Nurseries. "She should charge them day-care rates."
/Inferno: Nix: One extra for lunch, Hyai.
/Inferno: Hyai: Okay Hun.
/Inferno: Chiba: Me too!
/Inferno: Pon: I could eat.
/Inferno: Nix: Denied.
Sharl stepped into the house when Nix held the door for her, two women were sitting together at the kitchen island. Ronnie had already told her that Raine had somehow managed to get a pass into Haven. Sharl smiled fondly at Hyai and waved from the entryway. "Thanks for having me."
Hyai returned her smile and waited while the guest came in. "You shouldn't stay away for so long." She hugged her tight and gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek.
Nix waved to Raine who had remained seated. "What's for lunch?" Whatever it was smelled good, there was a large pot on the stove and from his vantage point, he could tell that the oven was on.
"Roasted Chicken and wild rice soup." Hyai gestured for Sharl to take a seat. "Donri brought a bunch of chickens from Colonial. Looks like he finally going to settle in Haven."
Nix didn't comment, he hadn't heard the official reason for why Donri left his Seneschal position, but he had the feeling there was some scandal involved. After the battle for the Cai'Song artifact, Donri claimed a large plot of land in Haven but had left it undeveloped. "He going to take up farming? We could use more farms."
Hyai nodded in agreement. "Looks like it."
"Do I have time to clean up before lunch?" Sharl noticed that Nix was already moving toward the downstairs shower.
Hyai pointed her up the stairs. "Use the upstairs bathroom, Hun. Lunch won't be ready for at least an hour."
Pon sat quietly on the back of his old brown mare. He'd been given the horse by Nix. Although not fast, it was perfect for getting around the farm. The large barn that they'd built housed the brewery, outside of it were a half dozen large grain silos. "You here Sem?"
The door to the barn opened wide in answer as the blonde officer peeked her head out. "Just got back a few minutes ago."
Pon nodded. They had both been spending a lot of time in Virtuna researching how to make beer. They decided to mirror the old German brewers which followed Reinheitsgebot; a beer purity law that stated only hops, barley, yeast, and water can be used to brew beer. "Where we at?"
Semmi motioned him inside, waiting while he dismounted and climbed up on the platform that was just inside the door. The large open floor of the barn was filled with closed wooden barrels. "Mälzen."
Pon brought up his land management hud to check on harvest progress. The two of them hired a family of farmers from Colonial to bring their crops in. Mälzen or Malting was the first step in the beer-making process where crushed barley is soaked in water to germinate. "We keeping the kiln temperature low for this batch?"
Semmi's pretty eyes sparkled with humor. Pon had given in to a lighter beer for the first few batches but she knew his preference. "The Grünkern is already roasting, I set the kiln temp pretty high."
Pon's old face lit up. "Nothing like a dark beer!" As the malting process continued, the saturated, unripened barley or Grünkern would then be dried and roasted in a kiln. Darker malts were a result of higher kiln temperatures.
"It won't be ready in time for the fair. We'll go with our golden draft." Semmi favored him with a smile. "Think Nix can make me a pair of overalls? I always wanted some."
Pon covered his amusement with a cough, imagining the tiny blond in a pair of farmers overalls made his entire morning brighter. "I'll make him do it!"
Semmi nodded in agreement. They could always ask Rico, but for some reason, they both preferred Nix's work. Perhaps it was due to their loyalty, the Inferno leader was making her harvest dress even though he was busy. "Not until after the Harvest festival is over, he has enough on his plate."
Pon shrugged, the dress tailoring process only took a few minutes of his time. Unlike brewing, it was instantly automated into the end product by game mechanics. Processes like farming, horse ranching, and breweries mirrored real-world mechanics. Although the field management for their farm was game enhanced, the rest was a result of their hard work.
"Buzz..... Buzzz" The miniature air elemental sang softly to the bees hovering around her. As if understanding, they created enough space for her to fly through. Her dragonfly wings buzzed softly as she hovered a few feet off the ground while her tiny companion sat comfortably on her shoulder. "See? They are friendly."
The crowned gecko didn't comment, its dark eyes darting everywhere. Initially, when they first came here together, the bees had swarmed them. He used his ability to show them why that wasn't a good idea. Ronnie had nearly banned him after that.
"You guys staying out of trouble?" Ronnie spotted the spirit companions coming toward her. She was standing next to a white wooden box approximately a meter across. "Seen my partner?"
"Yes to both." Wilo pointed down the long line of white boxes. "She's hiding behind the bee boxes."
Ronnie's sharp eyes spotted the ducking Ain'Dhassi ranger before she could make her escape. "Come on, Bali. It was one tiny sting!"
Bali peeked up, it was obvious she was still retreating. "That really hurt! I don't like bees."
Ronnie bit her lip to keep from smiling, surprisingly she had found the tiny rangers weakness. "You were only stung because the King scared the crap out of them. This time we'll be careful."
Bali stepped out into the aisle. "Fine... Where are my kids?"
The dark archer pointed north of them. "Picking strawberries... hopefully, they are gathering more than they are eating." The Trams were part of Haven now, Ronnie recruited them to harvest the strawberries and blueberries for Sharl while Bali helped her with the honey. "Got a date yet for the festival?"
Bali's pale face blushed slightly. "Yes. I'm going with Gil."
Ronnie nodded happily. She approved of the turtle titan. His obvious good nature aside, when push came to shove, Gil could handle any trouble that faced him. "That's a good choice."
Bali didn't comment, the turtle Titan had asked her out of the blue. She suspected that Ronnie put him up to it, but perhaps she hadn't. "You going with someone?"
Ronnie nodded. "I'll find someone suitable."