Inexorable: Part Two
The crisp evening air seemed to flow deep into Ryddle, refreshing
him and bringing a clarity to his thoughts which he hadn't experienced in ages.
Just an hour or so earlier, he had been looking drearily out of an upstairs window,
utterly depressed. Of course, it had been raining then. Now the weather was at
perhaps its most beautiful stage, that brief period when the rain has ceased but
the end has not yet come; pearly beads of rain rolled tremulously down blades
of grass; everything was cool yet deliciously still; color itself seemed enhanced
beyond any the eye could see, for every tree, every bud, every solitary blade
of grass was green with a force of life which not even imagination could replicate.
Ryddle was almost surprised, but not quite, to
find that while he had been shivering earlier the biting chill had now left
the air, and the lack of warmth was comfortable. A perfect day for flying.
He braced his legs on the windowsill, talons
raking gouges in the polished wood. Under usual circumstances, he might have
been more considerate of the new paintwork. But the servants could always redo
that one window, and hot rage directed at Sylver still coursed through his veins.
She had no right to treat Flytta like that. Everyone else in the family seemed
to recognize the grey Wocky's shyness; why couldn't she?
Concentrating his anger and frustration into
a textbook launch, Ryddle pushed off, away from the house, away from Sylver,
away from everything. For a moment he froze in the air, high above the ground
and already several yards from the exterior wall of the house, powerful wingstrokes
yet to gain dominance over gravity. Then that nerve-racking second was over.
He soared out over the forest, moving through the air with practiced ease.
After all, he thought, if he was going to be
a failure in everything else, he might as well be good at what Eyries were made
He knew he was being ridiculous; he was fair
when it came to schoolwork, good at avoiding the attentions of Sylver (although
that was more practice than natural ability), and an excellent gamer. And yet
it often felt to him as though all his accomplishmentsalbeit minor oneswent
unnoticed. No one ever pointed them out. They dwelled on his faults, every little
imperfect twist of his character.
Were they right?
Ryddle's sharp eyes scanned the trees beneath
him. He was on the lookout for a particular spot: a little patch of willows
and elms by a pleasantly gurgling brook. The problem was, it could be exceedingly
difficult to recognize things from as high above the ground as Eyries had to
fly. A Pteri or Poogle might be able to skim the ground like a swallowand
Ryddle could, toobut when you were an Eyrie you had to be careful about
things like that. For a Darigan, he wasn't particularly large; all the same
his wingspan was impressive, and he wasn't interested in crashing into any trees.
Suddenly he whirled on one wing, reversing direction.
Something had caught his eye. A whitish glint somewhere many yards below. It
was small. In fact, he probably wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't been near
the place where he guessed the peaceful clearing to be, paying scrupulous attention
to every rock and root on the forest floor.
Yes, it was still there; no trick of the light.
He hovered for a moment. He would most likely just be disappointed if he stopped
to examine it, he knew. But after a moment curiosity won over, and he folded
his wings into a near-perfect dive.
Pride flitted someplace inside him as he landed
smoothly, barely making a sound in the soft bracken. Ryddle didn't focus on
it, because the glint was directly in front of him.
It was remarkable and unremarkable at the same
time. On the surface, all it looked to be was a flat white-yellow stone, polished
as smooth and reflective as glass. It almost reminded Ryddle of something from
the sea, like the glass Phantom would bring him that had been smoothed by the
salt water until it was a thing of beauty, perfectly and soothingly smooth.
He scooped it up with one set of talons. The
stone was surprisingly heavy. Nothing happened, and there was no trace of the
eye-catching glow it had held from the sky.
With a shrug, slightly embarrassed that he had
stopped over so trivial a matter, Ryddle flew off again.
Ryddle's call was cautious and quiet, sounding
pathetically childish as it echoed in the huge marble hall.
When there was no response, images began to rush
through his mind. There had been rumors of Meridell's army marching through
all the land, slaying those who supported Kass. What if Phantom's letter really
had been a dire warning, and Sylver and Flytta were dead?
He rushed frantically into the kitchen, Sylver's
abode. She wasn't there. Neither was Flytta. What could have happened? "Sylver!"
His sister emerged from the living room, looking
hassled, irritated, and worried. In one hand was a dishcloth. Although anyone
else would dismiss this as a minor detail, Ryddle was instantly alarmed. Sylver
neveras a rule and in practiceremoved cooking or washing utensils
from the kitchen. She even denied Flytta and Ryddle the privilege of taking
snacks up to their rooms. "Is something wrong?" he asked, feeling a little abashed
at his desperation a moment before.
"Something wrong?" she replied, looking distantly
preoccupied. "No, not really. It's just the Neopian Times…" She gestured with
one round paw toward the living room.
Ryddle brushed past her through the doorway.
Flytta was draped over one of the black leather couches, staring glumly at the
newspaper. She looked up at the slight sound of Ryddle's talons on the hardwood
floor, and for a second or two her eyes betrayed alarm. It disappeared quickly.
"Bad news?" asked Ryddle. A sense of looming
dread was building up in him.
"Hmm," muttered Flytta. "See for yourself." She
pushed the Times onto the coffee table with as little movement as possible.
Ryddle snatched it eagerly. It was strange how,
even expecting to see something horrific, Ryddle would have given anything to
read it. He didn't have to read very far. The headlines read, "War in Meridell
Reaches New Heights: Kass Attacks the East".
He dropped the paper onto the coffee table. "What's
so terrible about that?" he said.
Flytta opened one eye. "Never said it was." Then
she closed it again, still draped over the couch, and to all appearances fell
into a doze.
Realizing that he could expect no information
from that source, Ryddle sauntered back into the kitchen. Sylver was there,
washing the dishes just as she normally would, but something about her expression
looked agitated. "I don't get it," Ryddle burst out. "Why are you both so upset?"
"Come on, idiot," Sylver hissed. "War in Meridell?
Kass's army attacks the East? I wouldn't exactly call that wonderful news."
Ryddle shook his head. "We support Kass, Sylver.
He's not going to do anything to us."
"If you say so," she murmured, looking unconvinced
and not meeting his eye. "By the way, you never did eat your dinner. Both of
you stormed out before I could serve it." Ryddle winced at the resentment in
her voice. "Would you like it now?"
"OhI'm not really hungry. Maybe later?"
Ryddle began to edge subtly out of the kitchen. He was hungry, actually, but
with Sylver's mood the way it was at present, sitting and eating alone in the
same room with her did not sound very appealing.
"Well, fine then, Your Majesty." Sylver angrily
turned the water off and fluttered to the table to pick up the plate of food
that sat there, rapidly going cold.
Wondering hopelessly what had offended her this
time, Ryddle backed out of the door. "Just going to take Tyger out," he explained
His trip up the hall stairs was slow, hampered
by disturbing thoughts. First the Neomail from Phantom, then his sisters' nervousness
about the war, and now this. Sylver was so difficult. Most of the time she was
nagging continuously, but now and then she would turn right around and act victimized,
unfailingly stirring a sense of guilt in the offender.
Tyger seemed to be expecting him. The Gruslen
bounced happily up and down on Ryddle bed, making odd growling noises that might
have been interpreted as laughter. Or maybe purring, like the sound that Angelpussesor
Angelpi? Ryddle wasn't suremade when they were happy.
"All right, Tyger," he said quietly, herding
the petpet off his bed with beak and legs. Tyger didn't need a leash; he had
never displayed any signs of runaway intentions. He continued to herd his Gruslen
down the stairs, and his mood were lifted by Tyger's carefree high spirits.
All that mattered to him was food, warmth, and going outside. What a blissfully
Ryddle opened the door, smiling slightly at Tyger's
excited scrabbling. It was a good thing Sylver wasn't here. She would have delighted
in criticizing Ryddle's carelessness. But after all, it was only a door.
Then the Eyrie's annoyance and depression faded
to nothingness, and he gave a glad cry. "Phantom!"
To be continued...