Hot Herb Tea and a Happy Ending: Part Nine
“For the sake of my friends, I am fearless...” Torich read aloud as he scratched the inscription in. Everybody bowed their heads solemnly. A short-notice meeting had been called to hold a ritual.
“It’s a fine throne. Such a shame Cerulean will never sit in it. I always knew that someday I would inscribe something in it; but I had thought it would be when I was old and he would become master of the house, not when he was caught and we were putting it out as a memory.”
“I’m sorry. This never should have happened to you; you should’ve had a companion for as long as you lived.”
As the ceremony closed with a silent prayer to the Creator, the group of foresters left, departing one group at a time. Finally, the muscular yellow Lupe bowed to me. He looked solemn and deep, with those great dark eyes of his.
“I hope the mourning isn’t too bad. I suppose I should leave you in peace now, you look like you’re about to double over in tears. I’m sorry and goodbye for now,” Tor bid me as he slid out the door. As he was exiting, I buried my face in my hands and heaved a final sob.
Fake, of course.
Cerulean coming and then being caught could be portrayed as a punishment for me leaving my family to go far away and “see the world”. After all, it was a bringing of incredulous depression. However, the Creator wasn’t exactly forgiving to incredibly evil Neopets, but she wasn’t cruel. She would never torment an enemy, only punish him or her, and she would still regret doing even that.
Cerulean had to be alive. He had to. She wouldn’t have it be any other way. After it could be confirmed that all who attended the departure ceremony had long left and were lying in front of their fireplaces at home, I took a basic leaf shawl and secured it around myself.
One last deep breath was all I did before flicking the door open, as a gush of wind and rain struck my face from outside.
I woke up and rose from where I was at the foot of the tunnel.
At least, I tried to rise.
For one thing, my leg still hurt maniacally and I collapsed once more. For another, a huge, warm mass subdued my back before I could even try again. Too confused to remember all that much, I spilled it out.
“Don’t even tell me what’s going on.”
“No, Cerulean. You must know.”
The voice was rich, deep, echoing. It rang throughout the room, passing over my ears several times as it bounced off of the walls. When I realized that the object atop me actually was moving like part of an actual creature, I connected this fact with the booming tone, and realized that I must have been with a larger-than-life-can-imagine forester.
“Lift your tail or whatever that is off of me, it’s uncomfortable!”
“That would be my paw,” the mystery forester said as the weight was lifted from my back. The voice had definitely been feminine. She slid her foot away and picked me up by the sides. I closed my eyes out of fear. When I opened them, I flinched out of the giant eyes boring into me.
“You’re a healthy one. I say, you all are, but you are especially. That would be the fact that you have me as a mother.”
My eyes widened.
“Are-are you the Creator?!”
“I raised the trees on this continent. I brought forth rivers, and let a new life live. Can I be any other?”
“I can’t believe it! I thought you were out to get me!”
“No. You are one of my children, and my servants, the dust pixies, will protect you. You must go back to Rubia. She needs you.”
“Mother, what about the time Evre, the pixy that always comes to me, led me directly into a trap? Did she make a mistake, or did you want to be rid of me then?”
“Hasn’t it occurred to you that, if you didn’t make that step into the sand pit that changed it all, Rubia would never have accepted you, only left you to perish running? You need to use more sense, more often, though. In place of running because of not knowing what to do, you should have thought of what you could have done. Rubia is mourning at her loss of you. You need to go back. But you need my magic. If you don’t take it, you may never walk unassisted again.”
A thunderous rumble came as the Creator flopped over on her side. She grappled around for a few moments (I guessed she was partially blind) until one of her digits found me, then she picked me up and clutched me deep in a fine patch of her fur. As I gradually fell asleep, I felt energy, a pulsing energy reach out to every corner of my body...
I yawned and opened my eyes. The den looked like a room in normal forest houses (dirt room with wall torches), so I had forgotten the divine presence I was in. My broken limb worked well when I got up and walked in a few circles to warm myself up, but then it hit me. The previous night had all been a blur, but now the info relayed back to me, in a swarm that blew my mind.
The dust pixy that warned me of danger twice and made a decision that caused Rubia to accept me saved me a fourth time. She had introduced herself as a slightly hyperactive Evre after she had snuck up on Chix and knocked her out and she brought me to the Creator’s forest. I never had any idea that each of the miniscule Ogrins that saved me was the same one. I seemed strangely close to Evre.
The Creator had confirmed that I was one of her children. She was oddly solemn, but still affectionate towards me, healing me with her sacred magic. She had made me after all! Now, the only thing left was to find out the purpose. It was noticed that I was awake.
“Rubia needs you. Go back,” she commanded. I forgot about discovering why I was created, instead being cloaked in visions of a mourning Rubia. My mind was set on getting back.
“But how do I make it out of your personal forest?”
“There is no clear way in or out of my personal forest. You’ll find yourself back when you least expect it.” She cradled me in one of her large, curving, blunt claws and set me facing the exit.
“Don’t worry about being tired going up the slope. You have my magic inside of you.”
I started up the tunnel, all four of my legs functioning perfectly. Magic supported me. The Creator’s voice interrupted me.
“Cerulean, look at me.” Already, I was a few bounds up the slope. But I stopped and looked back. For the first time, I had a full view of my mother. Everything hit me! It all made sense!
What I had known about her from Rubia’s legends was affirmed: She was a giant, winged being, sitting at the bottom of the slope with her tail covering her paws. But her creating me, the reason she chose to be hidden from most foresters, it all came together!
The Creator was Xweetok, through and through!
She was mostly brown and tan, with a blue-green stripe running down her back and an equally-colored mane. Her eyes were calm, set deep and a glistening yellow tone. Shining, ornate wings sprouted from her back. A round and hollow golden crest stretched across her forehead.
“I can’t help what I am.” The words flowed gracefully and quietly (at least for a being that size) out of her (proportionally) small mouth.
“Well, I guess this is good-bye,” I said as I realized the Creator’s long wish for others to understand what it was like, to be of the same species as the ones who had betrayed the Mother eons ago. She had been hiding for so many ages in her cave, too ashamed to show the foresters what she was. Out of philosophical loneliness, she made me, so there would be two of us.
“I don’t believe in good-byes. We are bound to see each other in the coming weeks, months, even years. Even if we aren’t, then we can’t really be sure of that, can us?”
“In that case, um...” I didn’t know what to say other than some sort of farewell for the time. “I’ll see you when we need to.”
“One last thing: In one of the days to come, Chix won’t be coming back.”
She buried her head in her fur and appeared to gradually settle down in sleep. The winding slope loomed before me, but I charged all the way up. It wasn’t as long as I had imagined, and the magic the Creator had allowed me guided me every step of the way.
At the top, I halted and looked around. The forest was unchanged. She hadn’t given specific directions, but still, I burst out in a pulse of speed, the ground almost moving on its own under my constantly-flying legs. I blinked once, and when I opened my eyes, I was in the original woodland and could feel the rain again.
I couldn’t wait to tell Rubia! I was alive, I had been to the home of the Creator, I was one of her children and she was a XWEETOK! As she had said, Rubia needed me. She had been waiting for me for years!
I ran past Tor’s house, through the Blank, around the groves where we would pick berries, and straight through the bushes around our house. As I sat on the doorstep, remembering the first time I had done so, I held my breath. Finally, I opened the door.
As the wind and rain pummeled me, I held my shawl tighter to myself. He couldn’t be dead. Not Cerulean. A sigh escaped my lips as my eyes darted around.
“Rubia? What are you doing? I thought you were in mourning.” My head lashed around, coming face-to-face with Callie. In one hand, she held a lantern. In the other, she had a basket, halfway full of herbs.
“He can’t be alive. Bronco saw Cerulean trip and break his leg, all the while squinting as though his eyes were full of water. Nobody with a broken leg and eyes full of rain could have made it through an attack like that. You’re just letting it out. You’re wasting your energy.”
“No!” I yelled, refusing to accept the truth. “You don’t trust the Creator! She would never be as cruel as to give somebody one of her Children, only to take it away!”
“Just because Cerulean was POSSIBLY a Creator’s Child doesn’t mean he’s immune to the Xweetoks. Is there anything I can do to help you through? I know it’s hard for you,” she insisted.
“NO.” With that last burst, I slithered towards my own house as fast as I could. All the way, I called Cerulean’s name; but no matter how much I did so, he never answered. Finally, I threw my front door open with Callie at my heels.
“You see, it’s impossible for him to be alive! Tell me one way that he could still be with us. Can’t think of one?”
I threw my head on the table.
“I’m sorry! I was just really, really hoping he could have escaped somehow! I-I-I-” Somebody in Cerulean’s throne that had been set out during the ceremony interrupted me.
“Fancy meeting you here.”
Cerulean was sitting there, with a mug full of hot herb tea in one paw. He was just sitting there, as if the whole thing had never happened. Sitting there and drinking tea. I practically bored a hole in Callie’s face staring at her.
“I told you so.”
“And so then, she told me to go. Not to get me away from her, but for me to come to you. So, I ran back here. The last thing she told me was that one day, Chix won’t be coming back.”
I inhaled a deep breath.
“Do you believe me?”
“Cerulean, I’ve been clinging to every word you said, every accompanying gesture you made. Of course I believe you. Did she give any reason for the dust pixie pointing you in the direction of that trap?”
“She said you would never have taken me in if I never were hurt like that.”
“I knew it. I knew it all along. But... what are those on your back?”
“What on my back- Whoa,” I said, looking over at two long wings protruding from my back. Each was about as long as my tail and the feathers gleamed as a pure white. Rubia slithered close to inspect them further.
“And the next Xweetok to receive my magic will grow wings,” she echoed.
We sat for several awkward moments.
And then we doubled over, laughing.