The Messenger: Part Three
“In this land of sections lost, tombs may seem the smartest choice, but beware of ghosts and things unkind, or you will be lost, too.” Rasala took a deep breath, the sun just as hot in this desert as it was back on Mystery Island. “The Lost Desert. It’s much... browner than I thought. I never realized there was so much sand here!”
“Well, it is a desert, dear,” Athiene chuckled softly, as the two trudged slowly into the village. It was hard to walk in the thick sand, as it was hot and so soft that Rasala’s paws continuously sunk low in it. She was quite relieved when they made it to Sakhmet, although she was also rather unnerved when they stopped by the Food Stall to get a drink and found that almost everything was made of sand.
“This place is strange,” she said as they wandered through the shops, and Athiene smiled, stopping every so often to buy a gift for someone back in Brightvale.
“Each culture is different,” she said, and Rasala shrugged, supposing she was right, while still thinking it was odd to sell foods made of sand. “So what does the rest of this riddle say?” the Blumaroo asked after buying a book to read on the ship; it was a story about a Mynci in the desert, and Athiene promised to lend it to Rasala when she was done.
“Fire melts, air takes away in great flight, land houses, water creates and destroys royalty,” Rasala recited, knowing the strange sentence well. “Obviously it has something to do with the elements, but I am not sure what. I haven’t seen anything yet, though.”
“What about Osiris Pottery?” Athiene suggested after a moment. “They use fire and water, at least.”
“Maybe,” Rasala said, her voice heavy with doubt. “But fire hardens clay, not melts it.”
“Well, we can always go and see,” Athiene suggested again, and Rasala agreed, seeing that her friend seemed keen to visit the stall. They made their way over, their paws burning on the hot ground, and Rasala could not help but think of home. She missed it already, more than she thought she would, and she was quite thankful that she had met Athiene while waiting in line for the ship as they left, for she knew she would be very lonely without her. She smiled to the Blumaroo as they entered the stall, and allowed her friend plenty of time to look at the pottery. Not that it was much of a problem to do so, of course; the pottery was gorgeous, and Rasala herself left the shop with a small pot shaped like a pyramid, as she thought it would look rather nice in her room.
After they left the pottery stall, the two decided to venture away from Sakhmet, as Rasala didn’t think she would find what she was looking for there.
“I was thinking that maybe it had something to do with tombs, you know?” she explained to Athiene as they stepped back onto the hot sand. “I mean, that’s part of the first riddle, so maybe it’s something in there?”
“I don’t think you are allowed to take anything from the tombs,” Athiene said with a concerned look on her face. She winced slightly on the sand, though Rasala found that she was getting used to the scalding, as it was similar to the sand she walked on back at home. “And I don’t think Taelia would ask for something you cannot rightly take. If the item really is in the tombs, then I think it best that you just forget this whole adventure and believe it was nothing more than a dream, Rasala.” She was very serious, and Rasala nodded slowly, not wanting to give up on her quest, but not wanting to upset the old Blumaroo anymore.
“It was just a thought,” she said timidly, stopping for a moment to see where they were. “I mean, maybe it has nothing to do with the tombs at all.” She looked to Athiene for a response, but didn’t quite get one as a huge gust of wind sent sand swirling around them, momentarily blinding them both in a dusty cloud. “Ugh, this sand isn’t exactly like the sand at home,” she said as she coughed from the sand. “On Mystery Island the sand doesn’t fly at you.”
“Fly?” Athiene asked then, and Rasala noticed the curiosity in her voice.
“Yeah, you know, what just happened,” the Wocky responded as she shook out her fur. “The wind flies up and sends clouds of sand at you... that doesn’t happen where I’m from.”
“Oh no, dear,” Athiene said as she slowly bent down to the ground. She looked rather fragile while doing so, and Rasala wondered for the first time how old she was. “I understand what just happened, and what you meant. I simply wanted to draw attention to the simple fact that this sand, well...” she stood back up with a pawful of sand, and let it drizzle from her palm. As a slight breeze came by, it whisked the sand through the air, and Athiene smiled. “This sand flies with the air.”
It took Rasala a moment to understand what it was her friend was saying, and once she did comprehend, her eyes grew wide and her tail began to swoosh.
“Do you think that could be it?” she asked gleefully, bending down low to study the sand like it was some puzzle of its own.
“Well, it flies in air, and melts in hot enough fire,” Athiene said as she pondered the question more, “and it is housed on the land. I just don’t understand the part about royalty.”
“Water creates and destroys royalty,” Rasala repeated quietly, sounding each word out slowly. She drew circles in the sand as she thought about the last part of the riddle, and then started to draw a picture of a royal family, to try and help her piece it together. She drew the king, the queen, a prince and a princess, and when that was finished, she started to draw the royal castle. She started with a tall tower, and just as she began to trace a flag on it, it hit her. “Castles,” she said suddenly, and she looked up at Athiene, who looked a little startled. “Sand castles. You need water to pack the sand so you can build it, but a wave can come by at any time and destroy it, too!” She stood up, and smiled widely at the Blumaroo. “You figured it out!”
“Well, I only connected one piece of it,” Athiene said modestly, and Rasala laughed. She took the small pot she had bought in Sakhmet and filled it to the brim with sand, hoping that was enough. Then, she and Athiene made their way carefully back to the ship, where they spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the sun.
“How lucky it is that Brightvale is the last of your three lands!” Athiene exclaimed happily as she and Rasala ventured into the lovely land. She had been talking non-stop about her home since the Wocky had told her that that was where the last item was, and now the Blumaroo took Rasala by the paw and led her into the city. “Two heads are better than one, but wiser is better when it comes to pleasing wits. How brilliant, how absolutely lovely.”
“So you have the day to help me figure out what the item is?” Rasala asked her as her first glimpse as Hagan’s castle came into view. It was massive, and quite gorgeous, and right away Rasala could see why Athiene was so proud of where she called home.
“Oh of course I do!” Athiene replied, dragging Rasala to the Fruits of Brightvale shop. “This place has the finest fruits,” she boasted, and then she took Rasala inside to look at the exotic foods. They were certainly interesting, and the Wocky had a wonderful time picking and choosing which ones she wanted to try. “So tell me the rest of the riddle. This is my home; I might be of better service when it comes to figuring this one out,” Athiene said to her after awhile, and Rasala rolled her eyes as she picked her final fruit.
“Athiene, you’ve been a terrific help,” she said with a smile, and she went to the front counter to pay. “Seeing clearly is important, but sometimes vision is second to beauty. Spilling juice may not help, but it never hurts to try.”
“Sorry?” the clerk at the counter said as he rang in the price of the fruits, giving Rasala a quizzical look. The Wocky giggled a little to herself, and then shook her head.
“Sorry, I wasn’t speaking to you,” she said politely as she handed him the neopoints she owed, and then she collected her fruits and looked at Athiene, who was deep in thought.
“Vision second to beauty,” the Blumaroo mumbled as she tapped her chin and closed her eyes.
“Do you think you might know, Athiene?” Rasala asked hopefully, and the Blumaroo seemed to snap out of her daze at the question.
“I might,” she said with the hint of a smile, “but first, we eat. These fruits are wonderful, but you need to eat them when they are fresh to get the most of their flavours.”
“But what about the riddle?” Rasala asked, clearly upset. She was so close to finishing her dream now, and she did not want to wait any longer. If Athiene knew where the next item was, she wanted to know, too, and right away. However, the Blumaroo insisted that they first eat the fruits they had just bought, and so Rasala, rather sulkily, sat with her in the grass and ate. The fruits were quite delicious, but Rasala had other things on her mind now, and she could hardly enjoy them. She ate them quickly, and then waited impatiently for Athiene to finish. Finally, after what seemed like ages, the Blumaroo sat back against a tree and sighed in contentment, the fruits she had picked gone.
“Weren’t those delicious?” she asked, and Rasala nodded shortly, her lips tight. “Now then, onto that riddle of yours. The only place I can think of in Brightvale where beauty trumps vision would be the Glazier’s shop. His stained glass windows are lovely, but you can’t see through them.”
“Stained glass?” Rasala repeated, thinking about the riddle. “Spilling juice may not help. Spilling juice usually leaves a stain. Athiene, I think that’s it! Can we head over there now?”
“Yes, yes, I suppose so,” Athiene said, looking like she was ready for a nap. Rasala huffed a little and stood up, carefully yet hurriedly pulling the Blumaroo to her feet. Then, they made their way quickly over to where the Glazier did his work, and when the shop came into view, Rasala squealed.
“There it is!” she exclaimed excitedly, rushing forwards and leaving Athiene to follow behind. “I have been waiting so long for this, and now, here it is. The final item is just behind those doors! Come on, Athiene, we have no time to waste!”
“The ship doesn’t leave for hours, dear,” Athiene chuckled as she made her way gracefully over. “No need to hurry that much.” Rasala did not listen to her, but rather rushed inside as soon as Athiene was near the store. She expected to see dozens of beautiful windows displayed on all of the walls of the shop, catching sunlight and resting peacefully against nice displays, but she was quite surprised when that was not the case. Instead, the shop was empty, and when Athiene entered a moment later, Rasala turned to her with shock and disappointment in her eyes.
“Where is the glass?” she asked concernedly, and she jumped as a male’s voice answered her from behind.
“‘Fraid we’re all sold out at the moment,” the voice said, and Rasala turned around to see the Glazier leaning on the shop counter. “Won’t be able to finish any more until tomorrow some time.”
“Tomorrow? That’s too late; the ship will be gone by then!” Rasala shrieked, frustrated tears welling in her eyes. She was so close to completing the task, completing the dream, and now it was all going to end. She simply could not handle that idea, and before she knew what was happening, she had burst out crying in the middle of the shop.
“Goodness, is she okay?” the Glazier asked in surprise, but Athiene only nodded and took Rasala by the shoulders.
“She’ll be okay,” she replied calmly, and then she softly led Rasala outside into the Brightvale sun. “Don’t worry, dear, all hope is not lost.”
“Yes it is,” Rasala sobbed, tears matting her fur. “I’ve come so far, and now it’s all going to be ruined!”
“Oh no, it’s not,” Athiene said rather firmly, and Rasala looked at her through blurry eyes.
“It’s not?” she asked, and the Blumaroo smiled before taking Rasala’s hand and leading her into the village of neohomes that sat at the edge of the city. The small houses were very quaint, and after awhile Rasala guessed where they were going. They weaved in and out of streets until they came to one especially adorable house, the house in which Athiene resided. The two went inside, and Rasala sat at the kitchen table while Athiene put on the kettle and then disappeared into another part of the house. “Athiene?” Rasala called after a moment, when the kettle began to boil. The Wocky stood and made her way over to the doorway of the kitchen, and peered out into the rest of the house. “Athiene?” she called again, and she jumped when the Blumaroo appeared down the hall.
“I have something that may help,” she said quietly, and Rasala saw that she was holding something behind her back. She walked up to Rasala and smiled, and then pulled her paw from behind her. In it was a beautiful stained glass window, the glass different shades of pink and red, the window formed into the shape of a heart. “I was given this window many years ago,” Athiene told her, admiring the piece, “as a present. It came straight from the Glazier himself, when he was just starting out in that shop. I want you to have it; it completes your quest, and you won’t have to miss the ship when it leaves.”
“Oh, Athiene,” Rasala exclaimed quietly, looking at the window. “I can’t take this; it’s yours, and it obviously means a lot to you!”
“It does,” Athiene replied, nodding slowly, “but so do you. I am quite fond of you, Rasala, and I truly wish you the best. I can’t finish this quest with you, however, and so if I can give you a piece of me to take along, well, that would make me very happy. So please, take it, and find Taelia. Give those items to her and complete the task.” Rasala smiled, took the window in her paws and held it gently. For a moment she just stared at it, and then she embraced Athiene, so happy to have found such a wonderful friend. She had what she needed now, and she could finally finish her dream once and for all.
To be continued...