Hot Herb Tea and a Happy Ending: Part Three
“Pansaru, I think we’ve all had it with you. You have been strict and unforgiving of mistakes, taking my role as leader of Deepwood County. Leave.” Torich rose and confronted Pans.
“Leave? This is MY abode. I do not 'leave' when some nimrod spontaneously orders me to.”
“I meant our County, not your house.”
“I am sorry, but for reasons that will never reach your ears, I need to stay right here. You, especially the ones who were paying the closest attention, have seen too much, so I’m also sorry that you will never leave this cruel trap of mine.”
“What do you mean by that?” I unsheathed my claws, revealing the aggressive side of Kacheeks.
“This meeting isn’t ending without me having some say in things.” Bronco the Mutant Kyrii got on four legs in preparation to strike.
“When you perform an action that makes others send you feelings of hatred, you are only digging your own grave,” Azra, a Shadow Eyrie, pointed out.
Hill twanged his jaw harp five times.
“I would never have made you my right-hand man if you didn’t use your magic to nearly slay me like that so many years ago.”
“Callie, intimidating me like that is the least-sensible thing you have ever done. Bronco, if you actually managed to hit me, you would bounce right off. Azra, go back to the darkness from which you hail, as you have no place in this world. Hill, Rubia is the only one who can translate you, so I assume you were trying to convince me not to do this. (Hardly a) nice try, but no. Tor, leadership is my rightful place. Prepare to see the evil that I came from!”
He raised his wings and shrieked, while a ball of void was materializing around him. As soon as he prepared to strike, however, there was a sound like thunder and a flash. The room was the same as before, minus Pans.
“What’d I miss?” Rubia barged inside, with somebody following her.
After confirming that I was, indeed, behind Pans’s house (sometimes telling tree homes apart is difficult) and calling Cerulean down, I slammed open the door.
“What’d I miss?”
“Well, Pans tried to use his magic, but I think something counteracted it,” Torich noted as he gestured to the spot next to him on the couch. I coiled upon it and listened further.
“Wait, he has magic? I studied, but didn’t learn, advanced magic with my parents. Could you tell what type of magic it was?”
“Dark. Pansaru has always tortured me. Nobody dared to oppose him, but I don’t blame anybody. He is one hundred times as powerful as all of us combined.”
“But... why does he hate us?” I inquired.
“Because, it seems as though he hates the Creator’s divine world. That is, for the most part, the extent of my knowledge, aside from the fact that he did nearly slay me once for the position as my right-hand man,” Tor said before falling asleep. Since I was the one closest to him, somehow, I could tell he was lying about the “extent of his knowledge” part...
“What do you think counteracted Pans?” Callie asked.
“I don’t know. It takes light to counteract dark. The way Tor was referring to him, his magic must be of high power. In this case, a reenactment of the scene might help us find something out. Since I’m a Hissi, I’ll be Pans. Hissi have large magic potential, so-”
“Okay, okay, I’ll give you more detail of the scene. Everybody remember what they said?”
Everybody nodded except for Hill, who strummed twice with his jaw harp. Callie told me what Pans said, and we began.
“So, this is the part where that blinding flash came?”
“Yes.” Bruno stepped up.
“Well, that was caused by the different types of magic cancelling each other out and being destroyed. Let’s start searching the room. Let me know if you find something that seems different. What we know is that it contained very high light magic.”
After some searching, Bronco responded, “This is the only thing that’s really different.” He peeled the sheet from Torich’s staff. Instead of being perfectly crystal clear, it was tainted with fog and looked very dull.
“Torich, wake up, something’s wrong with your staff.”
He awoke with an “Hm?” and said, “Well, of course something is wrong; the film isn’t there.”
I hastily wrapped it back on.
“Something’s still wrong.”
“Oh, you’re right. The magic is gone.”
“You knew it had magic?”
“Did I know it had magic? Of course I did, I’m the only one who actually knows what it is. I think it is part of a shed wing from the Creator. So, of course it is magical.”
“But I only found the piece draped on a tree branch! I thought it was a fungus,” Callie said.
“The Creator is generous and may have given us one of her molted parts knowing it would save us from him. If it weren’t for that, then the door wouldn’t be able to open and we’d never leave. Instead, Pans’s magic backfired and warped him away. Now, who says we start having these meets at my place?” There were murmurs of agreement around the room, but Azra interrupted.
“I think there’s something we need to do first. Rubia, let’s see this Xweetok of yours.”
I shifted a foot to the left, to reveal Cerulean, who had been cautiously watching the meeting from behind me.
I felt the gaze of the other foresters all around me. Rubia’s show of magical knowledge surprised me, but they found there was something they didn’t know about her. She had taken me in, and the others thought of that as a crime, so I saw why she explained before they actually knew about me.
“He’s not like the others,” a mutant Kyrii said.
“No, he isn’t,” piped a Kacheek from across the room.
“Since the Ancient Laws of the Creator note that the Xweetoks we’ve always known can’t fit into our houses, he must be from the Old Age. I propose that we accept him as one of us,” a yellow Lupe said.
“Th-thank you,” I muttered.
“His name is Cerulean. I think he’s supposed to be a Creator’s Child, but why would the Creator want a Xweetok?”
“Hmm,” the Lupe pondered, rubbing his chin. “Well, we probably should get over to my house. I’m rather eager to get out of this one. As always, we should travel in small groups. How about the three of us go together and discuss it on the way over?”
“ATTENTION, EVERYBODY! THE MEETING IS PAUSED UNTIL WE CAN ALL GET TO MY OWN TREEHOUSE! LET’S GO!”
The Lupe acted disturbingly used to doing that. The groups of chattering pets proceeded to the door and left behind us. A few feet of running later, the Lupe stopped in his tracks.
“Name’s Tor, short for Torich. Pleased to meet you, Cerulean.” He extended his paw. I shook it.
“He hasn’t had much social contact yet. When I rescued him from the pit-sand trap, he had gotten some of it down his throat, and he’s just started speaking today.”
“Mmm-hmm. Actually, it’s this way.” He gestured to the right. “We’re halfway there. In fact, there’s the Blank.”
“What’s the Blank?” I said my first sentence to Torich without stuttering. He came to an abrupt stop.
“He doesn’t know yet?”
“No. Since emotion plays a huge factor in the healing process, I didn’t want to slow him down.”
“Maybe after he meets everybody, we’ll tell him.”
“Tell me what?”
“Oh, Cerulean, I’m sorry,” Rubia said as the trees came to an abrupt stop. There were aged tree stumps everywhere: all but the very bottom parts of them had been shorn clean off. The ground was soft and tainted into dull purples and greens by pollution. The hardiest of the hardy plant species survived, but they lived off the cloudy water and were mutated to the highest extent. Puddles of sickly lavender liquid filled any depressions in the ground.
Thunder rumbled and rain poured down from overhead. I looked skyward and saw the storm clouds for the first time, because they weren’t visible through the thick canopy.
“But... why?” I questioned as we sped across one diagonal of the square lot.
“Cerulean, when we get to my house, I’ll tell you. But you won’t like the explanation.”
“Does this have anything to do with Xweetoks?”
Tor didn’t reply. He trudged on, leading us.
“So there’s something I don’t know about myself. I woke up here, in this forest where it’s constantly raining for no apparent reason. I find shelter and the pet at the door doesn’t let me in, because she knows something about me that I don’t, even though she hasn’t even met me. Later, I fall in a trap; she gets me out and takes me in THEN. Then she keeps the secret for about a month, a month according to herself. The least you can do is let me know what it is!”
“Not even I had to go through this when I was born. Believe me, Cerulean, we will tell you what it is. It was a story I cried about for hours upon hearing when it was first told to me. For you, it will be even worse. It’s something we won’t like, but all have to know.”
“Then why don’t I already?”
“I’m sorry, but none of us can help who you are, and when you hear just what that is, you aren’t going to like it one bit. You would have learned the story by now, but please just understand, I didn’t want to delay the healing at all.”
“All I know by the way you’re talking about it, I’m different from the others...”
“You are. Just fifteen more bounds, then we’ll be there.” Tor nodded.
“How long is a bound?”
“It’s as far as most creatures can see clearly in front of their faces.”
The rainfall poured on as we finished the run and Tor pushed his front door open.
The soft glow in his house made Pans’s seem relatively bright. The front room had four chairs leaned up against the wall, separated into pairs by a door. A giant hole in one wall had a mini bonfire burning. Small dips were carved into the ground.
“For years, I’ve provided shelter and food to any travelers who come by. In addition, I’m well known for letting soaked locals dry off when the rain is running fast and they’re running long errands. If you ever happen to pass by and want to sit by my fire awhile, just give me a knock,” he said as I settled down in one of the dips. Just then, somebody rapped on the entry.
Rubia slithered over to open it. The door squeaked as a Striped Kacheek, Mutant Kyrii and Baby JubJub came inside.
“Cerulean, meet Callie, Bronco and Hill,” she explained as the Kacheek and Kyrii sat down against the wall.
“Hill, why don’t you go make friends with Cerulean?” Callie (who was apparently the Kacheek) suggested. Hill hobbled over.
“Bronco, the day my child came to me, you had a gem that had fallen off replaced, didn’t you?” Rubia inquired. Although he didn’t know the day I first came, he nodded anyways. I looked at Hill.
“Hi,” I said. He just twanged his jaw harp.
Three more groups of two or three arrived. Most sat down in dips, but Torich and a few species like Rubia who would be uncomfortable in one took a chair. Tor’s one looked like more of a throne; the others were just leaf-covered dirt mounds carved so they had a headrest.
“Now that we’re all here, we can start the meeting again. I believe that it was Rubia’s turn speaking about her sightings, when we decided to transfer over here. Did you see anything out of the ordinary at all?”
“In that case, anybody who has not spoken about this yet should raise a paw and speak. Take turns, please.”
“I saw her once in at the eastern edge of our county, but they all check areas like that every once in a while.”
“A green one has hunted near my house a couple of times.”
“That’s all?” A chorus of “Aye” came.
“Good. Callie, as it’s your duty, would you please write these facts down?” Callie looked down to a leaf booklet she had brought and scrawled something in it.
“Now we shall move on to...” I remembered nothing more before falling asleep in front of the fireplace.
“WAKE UP.” Rubia jostled me. I sat bolt upright.
“It’s time for what you’ve been waiting for.”
To be continued...