Celandine: Part Two
Lanshar blinked her eyes and suddenly everything was clear again. She was standing with a confused Para and a terrified, shivering Jedd on a grassy plain that stretched out endlessly before her. It was if the change of seasons had not yet hit this place. She looked up. Breanja floated overhead.
"Brea!" she called. "Where are we? What happened?"
Breanja fluttered down and landed gently beside her, her wings making a clump of wildflowers dance. "I'm not sure," she said. "I've never been good at transporting spells, and I was in a hurry. It looks like we might be near Brightvale."
"But why!?" cried Lanshar. "Why would you run away? He was attacking us in our home! We should have stood up for ourselves. What if he burns Luminescent down!?"
Brea looked down at the ground.
"I just wanted you all to be safe," she said in a low voice. She looked ashamed, and Lanshar immediately wished the words back in her mouth. It was that kind of attitude that had gotten her into trouble back at the Training School. The Darigan Aisha that had broke into their library was obviously dangerous. Breanja had only been trying to protect them.
"I--" Lanshar began.
"I've never been very brave, Lanshar," Breanja said in a small voice. Lanshar didn't know what to say. Para spoke up.
"Well, at least he won't find us," she said, looking relieved. She was standing by Jedd, whose face was buried in his paws, brown scarf tangled all around him. She patted him reassuringly. "There, there, Jedd, we're safe now."
He looked up. "But--but what about Rainne? Where is he!?" His voice was panicked.
"Ah!" cried Brea, her hands flying to her mouth, looking around her. "I meant to include the Petpets! Why aren't they here!?"
She slumped forward. "They must have been out of range. I'm afraid I've made a mess of things. I'm so sorry."
"It's ok, Brea. Buttercup will take good care of Rainne," said Para, looking at Jedd, "and of my Jonquil. They will be fine until we can get back," she added, with a nod. Brea's Petpet had lived in the wilderness of Faerieland long before meeting Brea and was quite capable of taking care of herself. She also had some powerful magic to rely on.
Lanshar felt almost a little guilty, not having a Petpet to be worried about like the others. That was another point Ryshu had wondered about; her lack of a Petpet. She told him that she didn't feel the need to have a small creature following her around, dependent on her. He had merely shook his head and said she was missing the point.
"Will she really take care of Rainne?" asked Jedd, looking doubtful.
Para nodded. "Do you think it would be safe to go back now Brea?"
"I don't know," said Brea, shaking her head. "Narcis... I've heard of him before. He works underground, doesn't he? Doing all sorts of shady jobs for anyone who can afford his services."
Jedd nodded, looking uncomfortable even at the mention of the Darigan Aisha's name.
"Narcis can be vicious when he wants to get his way but he is not needlessly violent," said Jedd. "I suppose he won't have any interest in our Petpets, now he knows his target isn't in the vicinity. But it’s good to know Rainne will have someone to watch out for him. He’s rather helpless."
"So, what do we do now?" asked Lanshar. A soft wind blew, carrying the fragrance of flowers and new grass.
"I--I can't transport again for some time," stammered Brea, coloring. Lanshar wondered how Brea, who was so powerful, could be so unsure of herself.
"I need to get back to the shelter," said Jedd. "Immediately. You're all welcome to come with me." And with that he turned and padded off.
"Jedd, do you quite know where you're going?" asked Lanshar.
He stopped and turned around. "Well, no. But the way I see it, if I stay here, I won't get anywhere. If I get started, at least I'll end up somewhere and that somewhere might as well be the somewhere I want to go. Or close to it. Or farther away from it than I was before... but there might be someone there to point me in the right direction."
Para laughed. "You'd be right. Let's follow Jedd. We're closer to his shelter than you think." She hopped off after him.
Lanshar found herself standing next to Brea, watching the two walk off, chattering, into the distance. She felt more than a little overwhelmed. This was not the quiet homecoming she had been looking forward to.
"Lanshar, I--" began Brea.
"We should follow them, shouldn't we?" interrupted Lanshar. She didn't want to confront Breanja right then. She could apologize to her later if need be.
Brea did not press the matter. "Para is likely to get us more lost than we ever could manage on our own, but yes, we should stick together. I want to see that Searex. If I can't help her, I know someone who can."
She walked after Jedd and Para. Lanshar stayed behind for a while, thinking. She felt a sudden tug at her neck and glanced down. The arrow on her Golden Compass was lazily spinning around and around. Lanshar sighed and decided she had better follow Para as well. She went off at a run.
Para lead them straight to shelter. It wasn't long before Jedd recognized his surroundings. It was easy going and he assured them that the shelter, though far, was not too far and that, though they would be quite tired out by the time they got there, they would be sure to find a nice place to sleep, as long as he hadn't forgot to close the windows, in which case the rooms were rather drafty. He told them that it was by the sea. The crisp, cool weather made for a nice, brisk walk, but Lanshar was worried by the sight of dark clouds on the horizon. Para, quite fond of Jedd already, asked him how he came to own the shelter.
"It was all luck, really," said Jedd. "I was taken in by the past owner after escaping from... well... where I was before and the owner was ready to retire. He asked me to take over for him, so I did."
At last, Lanshar could smell salt in the air as a breeze tumbled past. They walked up a steep incline and came to a quaint little cottage by a small cliff that overlooked the sea. The cottage was small and rounded, with a terracotta tiled roof and walls of crumbling red brick. The lights were on inside and smoke puffed cheerfully from the chimney. It didn't look much like a shelter, which she had imagined would be more like some sort of hospital. It looked much cozier, much more homey. In the darkness cast by the thick mass of clouds above, it was one of the most beautiful sights she could remember ever seeing.
"Why is there a fire lit?" she asked. "It’s not cold out."
"That would be Firestop. He's a Moltenore I found, loves sitting in the fireplace burning logs all day. When I first found him, he was in horrible condition, sick and all muddy, couldn't even light a match. Now he's a safety hazard. Makes it much too hot inside, I'm afraid, but some of us find it cozy," said Jedd. As he spoke, the sky darkened further. "Although now that he's better he'll probably be leaving, just when the weather is getting colder and we'll be needing him, wouldn't you know it--"
He was interrupted by a sudden clap of thunder and a torrent of pouring rain. A storm, blown in fast by the ocean breeze, was howling. They all ran towards the shelter, too late to avoid getting soaked. Para tumbled and rolled in a violent gust of wind. Lanshar grabbed her paw and pulled her along. On the shelter's porch, Jedd quickly unlocked the door and waved them inside. No one complained about the very warm interior, heated by a plucky looking Moltenore, dancing and singing in a large fireplace. They shivered and gathered around him for warmth.
Jedd hurried through the room and disappeared through a large door to the left, muttering something about towels.
Lanshar looked around the room once she was warm enough to be interested in her surroundings. The ceilings were quite low down, giving the room extra warmth and coziness. The room itself was not exactly square, or round, but randomly shaped, with walls appearing out of nowhere, bending and sloping at odd angles. There were large comfy couches covered in overstuffed, mismatched pillows and the floor was covered in an assortment of rugs. The firelight cast a warm yellow glow over the whole place and, despite its chaotic arrangement, it all looked rather nice.
Para, unheeding of her dripping wet fur, climbed up onto a bright purple couch that looked ready to burst from the amount of stuffing stuffed in it, and promptly fell asleep, snoring. Lanshar was about to chide her sister but Breanja tapped her shoulder and shook her head.
"She's so tired and I'm sure Jedd is used to wet creatures climbing on his furniture."
So Lanshar kept quiet and instead pulled a round, shaggy orange and pink rug in front of the fireplace and sat there with Breanja. They warmed their paws by the cheeky little Moltenore, who had regarded the visitors with some curiosity but had not bothered to stop his dance.
Jedd bustled back into the room, holding a tall stack of fuzzy, mismatched towels that almost brushed the low ceilings. He placed some carefully on Para, balancing the others with a practiced hand. Then he made his way over to Lanshar and Brea, handing them three towels each and saving the smallest towel on the bottom for his own dripping fur.
Brea dried herself, then Para, as Lanshar rubbed the soft towel over her wet fur. Para didn't even stir, Lanshar noticed with amusement. Once she fell asleep, even an army of parading Skeiths couldn't get her up. Lanshar offered one of her extra towels to Jedd, who was trying to dry his soaking grey fur with the one small, pathetic looking and now drenched towel he had allowed himself. The gentlemanly Acara accepted it with much thanks. Once done, he gathered the wet towels and hurried off through a door on the right side of the room.
When he returned, he said, "Feel free to pick any of the rooms on this floor to sleep in. They're not much, rather drafty, not very warm either... one of them leaks; oh, don't choose the fourth room on the left; that's the leaky one and certainly not the fifth room on the right, which has some ghosts in it... and--"
"I'm sure we'll do fine, Jedd, thank you," interrupted Brea, patting the fretting Acara on his shoulder.
Lanshar followed Breanja through the chaotic room to a large red door with a big sign entitled 'GUEST ROOMS' on it. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Jedd, still on the couch, looking through some large, heavy books and muttering agitatedly over them. Shaking her head, she followed Brea.
They entered a long, winding hallway with many doors of assorted sizes on either size. Brea opened the first door to her left, which opened to a small lavender room overloaded with pillows and cushions. Brea bid Lanshar good night, blowing some fire to life in a little fireplace in the corner. The next door was locked, but the one after opened to a round room with a big bed and, strangely enough, not a pillow in sight. She borrowed one from Brea's room, being careful not to disturb her. There was a lantern, which she lit to make the room feel warmer and to block out the darkness of the storm. She examined the ceiling for leaks and only then lay down to sleep on the overstuffed but comfortable bed.
Just as she closed her eyes, there was a whirring sound. She sat up, annoyed, and looked around. The room was empty. She glanced down at her Compass. The needle was spinning around and making that noise. She was about to throw it away in frustration but reasoned that Ryshu would not have given her a broken weapon.
But try as she might, she could think of nothing that would make the compass needle spin around like that. Maybe it doesn't point north, but where does it point? And why didn't it ever hold still? She wished herself back at Luminescent, where all the information she needed would be at her fingertips.
She put the compass underneath her pillow to muffle the sound, closed her eyes and went to sleep.
Lanshar awoke to a crash. It was early, the rays of morning only just breaking through the darkness. She leaped out of bed and darted towards the noise. She saw an open door along the hallway and rushed in to find Jedd surrounded by broken, mismatched pottery on the floor.
"She's--she's gone!" he said, wringing his paws.
To be continued...