After the Dance: Part Two
Callista stared at him for a moment. The shadow Eyrie seemed
friendly, not at all a threat or a spy. But still... she had to be careful. There
was no predicting what could happen next in the chain of events transpiring after
the incident at the castle.
Perhaps if she found out more...
"Allan is your name?" she repeated. "They call
me Callie." The Darigan Aisha was careful to use the nickname to mask her true
identity, just in case.
"I see." He fingered his bracelet nervously.
"What brings you here?"
"I..." The dancer paused. "I got lost and decided
to spend a few nights or more here while I figure out a way to get back from
D - I mean, from where I came."
"So... are you doing anything right now?" asked
the Eyrie curiously. "I was supposed to go down for a little archery practice,
unless you would want to sit here and talk about your lives and all that stuff
we'd normally talk about."
She shook her head. "I'd like to come down and
see you practice."
Allan nodded. "That's fine with me. Just be sure
to keep quiet when I'm aiming." His earth-brown boots made slight scuffling
noises as he descended down the steps. Callista lagged behind, lucky that he
hadn't asked what she looked like or what had been happening in the rest of
Meridell and Darigan Citadel... at least, not yet. She nearly tripped while going
down, being so occupied in planning what to do when the only other boarder began
to get a little inquisitive. Was she forever destined to live her life without
a real identity?
Callista was about to find out. The bottom of
her cloak spread out at her feet as she followed her new acquaintance into a
small door at the back of the inn.
"Where are we going?" she couldn't help saying.
"The backyard," said Allan with a straight face.
"August has been kind enough to let me set up a target for me to practice with.
I've tried shooting while blindfolded, hovering in the air, and flying upside
down. Well, it's only the first and second one that I've done right so far."
The shadow Eyrie didn't seem shy at all, much
unlike the Aisha. "Would you like a go when I'm done?"
"No thank you," she replied. "I was never good
at that kind of stuff."
Shrugging, Allan began to load his bow with an
arrow from his quiver. The bow was whittled very simply, yet looked quite strong.
Before Callista knew it, an arrow was sent hurtling through the cool afternoon
air and straight into the middle of the target.
She couldn't help but clap. "That was great,"
said the dancer, fiddling with a golden bracelet. "No, really, it was. Can you... "
"Score another target? That's a piece of cake."
He winked at the Darigan Aisha before getting his bow ready. "Oh... do me a favor
and help me get my handkerchief from my bag."
Callista obliged and undid the drawstring at
his pouch hanging from his belt. Tugging at a large square piece of cloth with
an embroidered, fancy 'D' at one corner, she waved it before him.
Allan gave her the thumbs-up. "Okay then... Blindfold
me, if you please."
His companion stared at him. "Are you going to
shoot that arrow blindfolded?"
"Yes, I am." Both of his eyes were now completely
obscured by his handkerchief. At first he didn't seem to be moving, but soon
a third arrow whizzed past and embedded itself with amazing accuracy. The shadow
Eyrie whipped off the cloth from his face and gazed at the three bullseyes he
At first he smiled. But as he started to speak,
it faded. "I just hope you don't think I'm a... a braggart. It's just that I always
go down to do a little bit of archery whenever I'm bored."
"Of course not, Allan," said Callista. "You don't
even have to boast that you are a great archer - you already are."
"You think so?" he said incredulously.
"Yeah," she answered.
* * *
Several days passed. Allan and Callista became
thick as thieves, very good friends despite the relatively short time they had
known each other in the inn. Even though the Eyrie got slightly curious every
now and then about why his new friend often kept her hood up, he thought nothing
more of it, wanting to be polite. However, one afternoon, his curiosity began
to get the better of him as they took a walk through the village.
The two friends sat down on the grassy field
together. "August hasn't called us in for supper," said Allan slowly. "I guess
we can't waste a great afternoon like this cooped up inside, right?"
Twisting her fingers a bit, she agreed. "Yeah... so... are
we going to watch the sunset or something?"
His eyes widened. "That's a great idea!"
But the sunset wasn't due till after a few minutes,
so the shadow Eyrie took this time to get to know his new comrade better. "Callie... I
don't know how to say this, but tell me a little bit about yourself. Since we're
becoming friends and all that... maybe we could swap a few stories while waiting."
"I love to dance." Callista blurted it out before
she could stop herself. But there was nothing wrong with admitting a love for
dancing, so long as she didn't admit that it got her into trouble with the guys
down at Meridell Castle. "And I take it that you like archery?"
"It's been in my family," said Allan proudly.
"I have a twin brother and an elder brother who are just as interested. My younger
sister isn't quite into the sport, but my parents are trying to get her to learn
as well. Has dancing been a tradition?"
The Darigan Aisha shrugged. "Not really. I just
thought it was fun. Then I decided to teach myself."
He grinned. "I'd like to see you dance sometime."
Callista's identical smile instantly faded. She
was not about to relive the moment of chaos at the castle. But she didn't want
to raise the Eyrie's suspicions by refusing, so she stood up, her silhouette
reflected amidst the crimson sunlight.
She tapped her tambourine against her thigh,
feeling its wondrous, jingling beat. At last, Callista felt the thrill of doing
what she did best - without anyone nagging her to do it for anyone. Sure, Allan
wanted to see her dance, but he wasn't exactly an evil overlord wanting to use
her talent for bad. Her cloak swept the grass as though a warm summer breeze
passed over the field. Even August peeked out from a window to watch the little
When that was over, she fell to the ground gracefully.
But her good mood was instantly shattered by the shadow Eyrie's next question.
"Why don't you lower your hood?" he asked curiously.
"Are you hiding something from me? If you think you're ugly - well, I've seen
uglier. No offense."
"It's not that," she said. "Please don't badger
me with such questions..." Callista hastily changed the subject after realizing
that she could barely create a good alibi. "Besides, isn't it a lovely sunset?"
"It sure is."
A new voice made both of them jump. The yellow
Lupe innkeeper was standing there with a broom in one paw and an apron around
"Supper's calling," he said. "The dining room
window's got a nice view if you two insist on watching the sun."
The Aisha and the Eyrie stood up and followed
August back into the inn. Over a dinner of steamed peas, potatoes cooked in
every conceivable manner, and green grapes, Allan kept on pondering the mystery
of Callie's hood. Why was she so secretive about her looks? Was there anything
about her she doesn't want me to know? Was she... some kind of wanted fugitive?
To the archer, the last possibility seemed far-fetched.
Still, he was itching to know what his new comrade was hiding. If she WERE a
fugitive, she would have chosen to stay in the forest instead of mingling with
the crowds. Or would she?
None of this made any sense, even when he offered
to help the Lupe clear and wash the dishes.
He spied the hooded enigma also assisting August
with the washing. "Callie... "
But she interrupted him first. "Allan, do you
read the Neopian Times?"
"What?" A large pan nearly slipped from his soapy
grasp. "Not all the time. Why? Are you some kind of celebrity in there or something?"
"Not really," she mumbled. "Do you know the Court
The shadow Eyrie stopped, drying up with a towel
before scratching his head. "Do you mean that Aisha who ended up mesmerizing
the castle? Yeah, I do. But why - "
She plowed on. "Is she evil?"
"Huh?" Allan shook his head. "To be honest... "
"Heads up!" August chucked something large and
hard towards him. Allan caught it nimbly. As he tilted it up to the light, Callista
could see that it was round and golden as well, in addition to being large and
hard, and strung upon a matching chain. It was a medallion, with a single letter
'D' engraved in fancy old script. There was an arrow at the bottom and a crescent
moon at the upper left corner.
Turning it over and over, the Eyrie called back
to the innkeeper. "Thanks for polishing it! At least I know my parents are going
to have a nice surprise when I give this back... "
The Darigan Aisha leaned over to see whatever
it was that her friend was holding. "What's the trinket for?"
"This was my father's," he answered grimly. His
voice suddenly became really serious. "To tell you what it has to do with me,
I'm going to tell you what I am doing here for quite a long time. But of course,
I want all this to be hush-hush. A guy like me wouldn't want so many guys swarming
around him as if I'm a little lost Puppyblew. August knows, trusty old bloke
that he is. Will you keep this all a secret?"
Callista twisted her paws around. "Maybe I could
help. Please do tell. I shall guard this secret with my life."
To be continued...