Petpet Adventures: Reunited - Part Five
Folfeux trotted slowly after Kororr. The Dandan had miraculously remembered the way to the mountain lodge, but he seemed to be taking his time instead of mindlessly dashing about. Maybe it was the weather affecting him. Clouds were beginning to gather above them.
Malei walked behind her. He hadn’t spoken at all that morning, and one of his forepaws seemed to be a bit lame, but he still went doggedly on.
A Gikerot suddenly burst out of the bushes and looked at them. His eyes fell on Malei at the back of the party and his eyes widened with fear. He raised one paw and pointed it accusingly at the big Juma.
“You’re that robber!” he gasped. “The one that tried to kill the King. You’ve got that massive scar!”
Malei paused wearily and looked at him, turning his scar away. Folfeux stepped forward, her fur bristling, and this time he turned his pointing paw at her.
“And you’re that Juma he kidnapped two days ago!” the Gikerot continued.
“It’s rude to point,” Folfeux growled, batting the paw out of her face. “And do I look kidnapped to you?”
The Gikerot missed her last words as he backed away slowly. “They’ve been looking for you all over the city. I have to...”
His last words trailed off as he turned and bolted.
“Warn them!” Kororr shouted after him.
“Excuse me?” Malei snarled as he turned on the Dandan.
“I was just finishing his sentence for him,” Kororr said sheepishly.
“How could you know what he was going to say?” Malei demanded.
Kororr shrugged. “What did you think he was going to say?”
Malei couldn’t think of an answer to this and kept silent.
“Are we going to keep going?” Folfeux asked.
“If Kororr can remember the way.” Malei shot him a venomous look.
“Well, you couldn’t do any better,” Folfeux said caustically. “After all, you told me my parents were in Shenkuu city, but you were wrong.”
“They moved! How was I supposed to know?” Malei argued.
It was at this moment when Kororr interrupted their argument, like he had come into the habit of doing.
“It has come to my attention,” he said, “that you two don’t really like each other at all, yet you two are siblings.”
“Why’s that?” Malei snarled.
“Well, for a start, you two argue endlessly—”
“Siblings are meant to argue. They were born to disagree about everything.”
Kororr turned to face Folfeux. “You didn’t let me finish,” he said. “I was going to say that you argue endlessly for the stupidest reasons, and your arguments aren’t friendly sibling banter. They’re real. Why?”
The question hung in the air. Neither Juma was willing to answer.
“Exactly!” Kororr said. “You don’t even know each other.”
Folfeux looked at Malei, then quickly looked away as their eyes met. She thought she saw sadness and guilt in his eyes, but they had already been averted. Without a word he turned and walked away, as far way from them as possible while still being in sight. Folfeux let him go, suddenly losing the urge to fight any more.
She turned to Kororr.
“He and I had a bumpy start. I think you already know that we were stolen from our parents? But we only met just a bit over two months ago. And I had no idea about our relation. He was a thief, and I was a stray. It was only when I foiled his plans to steal something from the palace that he told me...”
Folfeux paused, remembering the turmoil she had felt when learning the news. The fact that he had been her brother, that he had known it, yet he had fought her. “I guessed that we were stolen, because both our pets were robbers as well. And now we know it’s true. It’s hard to get along with someone you hardly know.”
“But you and I get along fine?”
Folfeux smiled wryly at Kororr. “It’s easier to make friends with a stranger than try to string together a friendship from former dislike.”
Kororr nodded, and Folfeux realised that even with his odd behaviours, he was quite sane. He just preferred not to show it.
“Shall we continue?” the Dandan asked. “I’m sure that the Gikerot we just met will find a way to warn the petpets there that you have been ‘kidnapped’.” The Dandan raised an eyebrow. “I’m assuming that’s some sort of mistake.”
“Close enough,” Folfeux muttered, then she called over her shoulder, “Malei, we’re leaving now.”
He got to his paws and trailed after them.
It was extremely quiet as they continued on their journey, but Kororr seemed to be getting more and more excited, his ear pricked forwards and bouncing along more than usual.
“What is it?” Folfeux sighed finally.
He stared at her in surprise. “What?”
“Why are you so... happy?” the irritated Juma asked.
Kororr smiled dazzlingly. “Because we’re almost there.” He pointed to a peak just right in front of them them. “Right there. Ellyana and Gaefio are there with their pet.”
Folfeux stared at the peak, feeling elated. They were almost there! Then her face fell as she realised that it they wouldn’t be able to reach the top until evening. Kororr seemed to notice her expression because he laughed.
“Don’t worry. They won’t be going anywhere.”
Folfeux hoped not. She was beginning to feel extremely nervous.
Malei stopped suddenly and frowned at the bushes. Folfeux followed his gaze but didn’t see anything. Without a word Malei slipped away.
Puzzled, Folfeux turned to Kororr and gave him a questioning look, but the Dandan shrugged.
“No idea,” he said. “Want to see?”
Folfeux nodded and led the way after Malei.
Immediately the fur on her back stood up. The air fizzed with tension and she couldn’t see anything because her view was obscured by a maze of rocks. Her ears pricked as she heard raised voices, and she automatically steered herself towards them.
Something shifted above her and she looked up, but only saw the sky. Kororr put a paw on her shoulder and she jumped, but then relaxed.
“I saw something up on the rocks. A petpet. But not from Shenkuu.” Kororr’s voice was reassuring.
Folfeux looked up again, but still no sight of anything. She pressed forward.
The rocks rose higher and higher, until they made a crevice in the ground, the one Folfeux was travelling through. She could still smell Malei, but it was mingled in with other scents.
Then they rounded a bend and found themselves in a large circular patch of dirt, and Folfeux realised they must have been following a dry riverbed, which would have formed a small pool here if there had still be any moisture left in it. She did a three-sixty, and then realised that this was a dead end.
Almost as she thought this, a large black-and-white shape dropped down from the entrance and grinned.
Folfeux thought she recognised the tall Biyako from the raid on the palace. His scent came to her and she realised that it was the one she had found the day before. Then Malei slowly came down to join the Biyako and she realised that it must be Zariam.
Her eyes narrowed and drilled into Malei, who was doing a thorough job of not meeting her eyes. Instead he stared at his paws, and mouthed silent words to the dirt.
Fury flared up in Folfeux. She had been stupid to trust him! He had been setting her up for a trap. If he was really sorry he wouldn’t be standing between her and the entrance. Or better still, there would be no trap at all.
“I thought I could trust you to keep your word,” she snarled at Malei, who flinched. “And then you did this!”
“This was set up well before you even saw Malei,” Zariam said with a smirk. “He’s no longer the leader of our little group. He failed. And I’ve taken his place.”
Folfeux tensed as petpets came to stand at the edge of the dry pool, leering down at her. Most of them were petpets from other worlds that she didn’t recognise. A few were Shenkuu petpets.
Then a thought struck her. Why go through all this trouble just to trap her? Surely they could have done that before, at the port, or at her parents’ old house. It didn’t make any sense. Until she saw a familiar Gikerot.
Zariam obviously saw the recognition.
“Yes, we’ve had someone in Shenkuu to run up to those useless royal petpets and tell them that they sighted you on these mountains. They should be here very soon.”
Folfeux tensed. Beside her Kororr was staring curiously up at the assembled petpets, looking relaxed. What if he was working for Zariam too? She stole a glance at him, but then saw the tension in his muscles.
Zariam suddenly tensed and shoved Malei forwards. “They’re coming. Do your part.”
Then the Biyako sprang onto the the ground above and disappeared from sight.
For a crazy second Folfeux considered trying to make the leap as well, then realised that she’d hardly make it with more than a dozen petpets surrounding the edge. She wheeled to glare at Malei, and with a shock realised he was looking straight at her as well.
“Let me try to make things right,” he whispered to her.
“How?” she snarled, backing away.
She could hear hurried pawsteps and then loud voices. With a surge of hope she recognised Archilles’ voice and Kiya’s brisk tone, but then realised that all of them would be trapped by Zariam's petpets. Her spirits faded, and that was when a familiar Sandan rounded the corner and saw her.
To be continued...