A Fiery Friendship: Part Three
Flame was very good at picking up trails, thought Corran, even when no footprints were visible. This was a very good thing, as Corran had no such particular skill and without Flame would have been hopelessly lost. He and Flame had been trying to find their friend for two days. The Kyrii said he thought they were getting close. Corran agreed as soon as a meowclops jumped out of one of the bushes. After that point, the meowclops had apparently decided to follow them. Flame appeared to find this annoying, and kept muttering when the meowclops hopped between his legs.
A few short hours later, they came to a dead end. A large mountain with a huge roaring waterfall blocked their path. Flame cursed. “It doesn’t make any sense!” he complained. “They came here!”
Corran had nothing to say to this, so he just bent down to pick up the meowclops, who had been frolicking at his feet in an annoying fashion. He finally understood why Flame had thought of the petpet as a nuisance. Flame turned and walked away and, after he had taken one last glance at the waterfall and the archway, Corran followed him.
Wait, an archway?
He turned around hastily and blinked, then tapped Flame on the shoulder.
“Whut is it now?” Flame asked somewhat irritably. When Corran failed to respond, he turned around, giving his friend an odd look.
“Was that there before, Flame?” he asked, referring to the archway, which seemed to have appeared out of thin air.
The Kyrii gave him a perplexed look. “Scorch, what in the name of Fyora are you talking about?”
Corran frowned. “Don’t you see the archway?”
Flame narrowed his eyes skeptically. “Erm... I don’t see anything.”
If Flame was trying to make a joke, it wasn’t very funny. What did he want him to do, walk over there and show him?
“Here,” he said, and handed the meowclops to the Kyrii to walk over to the arch in the mountain, only it was gone. What was going on?
To his great surprise, Flame gasped, “Scorch,” he said to Corran, “I think I see it now!”
Corran was very confused. How could-
His thoughts all seemed to stop suddenly. He looked from the mountain, then to the meowclops. Could it possibly be?
He took a step toward Flame, and touched the meowclops. The archway immediately reappeared, just as he assumed it would. He turned to give Flame a confused look. Flame just shrugged.
“We should probably go inside,” suggested Flame. Corran followed him.
Once they had entered, an extraordinary sight met their eyes. They were in a spacious corridor, which looked as if it had recently had occupants. A mug was tipped over on the floor, there were a few scattered blankets and a wooden chair, and the remains of a fire lay on the stone floor.
“Well?” Corran looked at Flame.
“Yep, this is the place.” He bent down by the ashes and touched them. “Still warm,” he muttered. “They were just here.”
“They might still be,” said Corran, looking around to see if - aha. “Look over there.”
There was a narrow tunnel on the right side of the room.
Flame shook his head in disbelief. “This can’t be happening; it was supposed to be an easy assignment. Just talk to the Kacheek, convince her that it’s just some wild petpet, and come home, Torak said. As if!”
While his tone suggested he was irritated, his eyes betrayed him. Corran could tell he was excited about the whole thing. He was worried, of course, for Torch’s safety, but excited still.
“You reckon we’ll run into anybody?” he asked Corran as they walked down the tunnel.
“I don’t know,” replied Corran. “Perhaps.” Corran stepped on something pointy, and crouched to pick it up. He recognized what it was immediately.
“Well, I’ll be a Mynci’s uncle!” exclaimed Flame. “It’s his drackonack tooth.” Torch had drilled a hole through it and put it on a string after he killed the petpet. He was very proud of it, because it was the first he had ever caught, and he never took it off.
“At least we know he’s here.” Corran slipped the pendant into his pocket; Torch would kill him if he left it there.
If Torch was still alive, that is. Corran shook his head, he would have to work on keeping thoughts like that out of his head. Of course Torch was okay; he was a tough guy.
Corran and Flame stopped simultaneously as the sound of footsteps echoed around them. Both of them quickly turned and hid behind a large rock. A Scorchio holding a spear came stomping down the tunnel. He passed by them without glancing back and continued on. Trying hard not to make a sound, the Kyrii and the Kougra slipped out of their hiding place and walked forward.
After they had walked just another short distance, they heard more noises, of a different sort. Someone was talking. Corran looked ahead and saw a very small arch off to the side. He motioned for Flame to follow, and then tiptoed over. Making sure he was safe behind a pillar, he peeked inside.
There were several pets in the room: the Scorchio they had seen earlier, a mean looking shadow Wocky, a short but very muscular Lupe, and, to their great surprise, the masked mystery pet they had met near the glade. Flame raised his eyebrows and Corran shrugged, then he leaned forward enough to hear what they were saying.
“...can’t take chances like that, Mordock, you know what’s at stake here,” the masked one was saying.
“Well, what would you prefer, we’ll never get in at that hour, they have all of their guards in the towers facing the main road,” the Lupe argued.
The masked one only laughed. “Who said anything about the main road?”
Corran didn’t hear the rest of the conversation; he had just spotted Torch. He was sitting over in a corner, tied head to toe and gagged.
Torch had also spotted them. His eyes widened and he tilted his head. Corran made a shushing motion by putting his finger over his mouth. “We’ll get you,” he whispered. Apparently Torch could read lips, because he nodded. Just as Corran and Flame walked away, though, they heard a very loud crash.
They ran back quickly. Torch had completely lost his mind, thought Corran. The bandits had made a very careless mistake and not tied up Torch’s wings. It was a very bizarre sight. A Shoyru tied to a chair, flying up in the air and knocking things left and right with his feet. He was probably laughing, but because of the gag in his mouth it was hard to tell. The bandits were running around in circles trying to catch him.
It was all too much for Flame to take, and he was soon cracking up. Until a bandit jumped out from behind him, that is. He quickly recovered from his laugh attack and kicked the bandit into a wall. Now completely inspired by Torch’s stunt, Corran and Flame looked at each other, nodded, and joined the chaos.
If he had been reading about it, instead of actually being involved in it, Corran would have found the fight ridiculous. Now free from his gag, Torch continued to fly through the air merrily as he sat on his chair, laughing and kicking and knocking things over as he taunted his attackers. Meanwhile, the masked one was barking orders from the corner, but the noise of swords clashing and tables falling blocked out his voice completely. Trying to make himself noticed, he stood on top of one of the few remaining tables and yelled at the top of his voice.
As soon as Torch saw him, he flew in that direction and sent the bandit soaring into the air, whooping as he did so. It appeared that the three of them recognized that it was as good a time as any to make their dramatic escape. With the confusion of seeing their leader fly through the air, and the adrenaline still rushing as they swung their swords at nothing, at first the bandits didn’t notice that they had gone.
Running as if their lives depended on it, which wasn’t much of an exaggeration, they exited the long tunnel, ran through the room, and out of the arch with the bandits close behind them. Torch of course, was giggling the whole way. Apparently very enthused and hyper, he grabbed Corran and Flame by the scruffs of their necks and flew high into the air away from the bandits. Corran laughed along with Torch, happy to be safe in the air. Flame didn’t like it as well, though. He must not have liked heights very much, because he was shrieking like Darla, a little Usul girl from Corran’s mountain village, after she had fallen off a Uni’s back.
Laughing even harder at this thought, he enjoyed the view as Torch carried them back to Meridell Castle.
To be continued...