Torch in the Darkness: Part Three
Art by ellbot1998
I sighed as I leaned my chin on my wing. Ever since Cerulean had left, I had felt so... Bleak. Indeterminate. Distant.
Our household was quiet, other than my activities. Every day seemed so meaningless and dull. There was no one to talk to. How could I have craved being alone so long ago?
His absence was the biggest thing to talk about since the disappearance of the local Huntress, Chix. It still went unexplained. Her body was never found. Most assumed that she either returned to the Distance somehow, too terrified to hunt again, or that she starved within two days and she was washed away in the rain.
But Cerulean had carried off my heart with him. And I could tell his heart still belonged at home.
A single diamond-shaped sapphire was sitting alone on the table.
For a few more days, we traveled in relative silence. When I explained to Faith about having to run from Xweetoks, she nodded quietly, not acting very surprised at all. For such a noticeably-sensitive creature, she didn’t let that bother her at all. When I first heard the story, I was pretty rattled. Back then, I was a little shaky at times, but I wasn’t nearly as bad as Faith is now...
The provisions that Rubia had given me gradually depleted. Faith caught a minor cold at one point, which I had managed to suppress with medicinal herbs before it got bad. She was like a shaky glass in a plush room: no matter how fragile she was, she couldn’t break.
And too, there was the problem of her secret. I knew that she had one; I could detect things in other creatures well. I guessed whatever she was hiding was related to her feelings of insecurity. I was being kind enough to her... Why in Creation could she be afraid? Did something happen that I didn’t know about?
Despite me physically leaving, I felt like I had left a part of myself behind. It was the colossal chunk of me that loved Rubia; the portion of me that was still curled up, asleep, in the leftmost bed of the bedroom. I had faded out of the lives of those who had been around me. Now, the only person watching me was Faith, and I was a different person to her than everyone else.
Only Faith and I knew where we were. Only Faith and I knew that we had, so far, traveled a few thousand bounds east. I recalled Tor, the fatherly Lupe back home, first telling me that a bound was as distant as ‘most creatures could see in front of themselves clearly’. That meant, despite our awkward relationship with each other, we were managing.
“Faith, wake up! The den is starting to flood!” Cerulean awoke me with a start. My eyes snapped open and I realized that, indeed, some rainwater was accumulating in the lower section of the burrow. Of course, it just so happened that the lower section was my section.
“Why wasn’t it flooded when we found it?” I questioned as I shook out my fur, only to have it drenched by midnight rainfall.
“I don’t know. But I could’ve sworn this den looked different from the outside yesterday,” Cerulean mumbled as he inspected part of the entrance. “A chunk of wall is missing! I guess it collapsed a few minutes ago. It was pretty old when we came across it.”
I probably would’ve agreed verbally, had I been able to get around the lump in my throat that was present due to the secret I was keeping. I quickly nodded instead. I’m done for if he finds out.
“Are you alright? You look like you’re sick.”
“I’m wet. That’s all.”
“Are you sure? I could make you some medicine if you need some. A person I know taught me how to treat things like that a long time ago, and I have a book on herbs and berries, too.”
“I-I’m fine, let’s fix the den,” I stuttered.
“After you tell me what you’re hiding.”
My eyes met his in as though they had ran into each other; his eyes becoming frustrated at the collision, trying to attack mine; and my eyes were attempting to back away from the situation. More than ever, I was scared to the bone--no, I was scared beyond the bone. My very soul felt like it was quaking.
I was far from my home, and I wouldn’t fit in any longer anyways. I was currently a misfit in a world that I had hardly scratched the surface of before. And now, my former rival was pressuring me to tell him my secret, only for him to, most likely, physically ruin me afterwards. The edges of my vision grew dark, and I was starting to feel dizzy.
“You’ll hate me if I told you. It’s not that I’m trying to bother you by this, but I just don’t think it’s something you need to know. And trust me, you don’t want to know.” I said it shakily, despite my efforts to be strong. Cerulean’s confidence was unfazed.
“Listen, Faith. I know that you don’t want me to know what this secret of yours is, but you admitted that you had one. I promise I won’t tell a soul. It’s just that, the way you’re acting about it, I doubt it will be very good for you if you keep it to yourself, and I’m the only one here to talk to right now. I don’t know much about you yet, but what I do know is that we’re the only two Xweetoks who are like this. You might grow to be an important figure in my life after time, and I don’t want you to go insane. So, how about you tell me who you are?”
Cerulean knew it. He didn’t know who I was, but he knew I had been lying about it. But he was hardly mad that I had lied, and wanted me to tell him my secret only for my own sake. He cared.
My own sake... He cares... I wish I were on his good side!
“Do you really want the truth? If I don’t hurt myself by keeping it in, you’ll hurt me if I let it out.” My fragile voice went slower with every word. Cerulean had acted very trusting to me, as though it meant something to him that I was a Xweetok, too. If that was true, maybe he wouldn’t end up mad after all.
What was I thinking?! If he had any feelings for my former self, they were all hate! He was asking me to tell him for my own sake, but that was Faith he was speaking to, not Chix.
“N-no! I won’t tell you anything!” I spat. “It’s none of your business!”
“In the same way you are, Cerulean.”
I had understood the meaning of part of what the Creator had told me merely a couple of days ago. I was trying to discover the meaning behind the fact that I was and wasn’t familiar with her before the mission.
But some instinct that I had had told me that even though she was unusual in the same way I was, Faith was also different from me. If one were to look deep into her eyes, they would receive an odd vibe of worry and fear. The fact that she always seemed to be trying to keep down some lump in her throat only added to my suspicion.
“Listen, I’m not going to get mad at you or anything!”
Faith sighed, and looked as though she was forcing herself to calm down and stop fretting.
“It’s... personal, okay? Just cut it out.”
I stared at my forepaws in embarrassment.
“I won’t try it again. Let’s fix the den. Then, before we go back to sleep, I can give you a little more details about the mission.”
Faith’s gaze wandered up to meet mine.
“Okay. How about you get up in that tree and search for a dead limb? While you’re up there, I’m going to find some hard soil.”
She didn’t speak a word, but clawed her way up the oak I had pointed out anyway. She’s upset.
Boy was I right.
On the inside, I felt bad. I had been curious, and trying to help her. But maybe it really didn’t mean that much and it wasn’t important. Maybe she was just naturally flighty and afraid of things.
Still... I have my doubts. I can’t say that I know more than one Creator’s Child other than myself, but from what I know, we’re pretty confident in ourselves. If Faith were one, she should be looking healthier.
But I guess that we’re all different.
“The Creator herself sent me on this undertaking. She told me that we had to cross the ocean, defeat an enemy, and come back. She also told me that I would come across a companion. When she talked, she referred to you as a ‘she’, and told me to give you the key. That’s about all that she told me about the mission, other than that I would return to my homeland by trust alone.”
So, he must have hallucinated up this ‘Creator’ of his. How does he have proof, anyways? I thought, having recovered from Cerulean pressuring me. Around him, I felt like I was walking on a tightrope. But still, I had a little bit of arrogance left in me from my past...
“Did you see her?”
“Yes, you wouldn’t believe how beautiful she is until you see her!”
“Does she come where you live often?”
“Huh? Oh, no. I came to her.” When he said that third sentence, I snorted.
“Are you sure you didn’t think her up?”
“It wasn’t just a daydream; she really did appear to me!”
“In a couple of fantasies, that is.”
“Well, even if you do think she was a figment of my imagination, keep in mind that us foresters have kept legends of her long, long, long before I set foot here!”
“In that case, I’m assuming that you stayed up too late one night, and so she appeared to you with the aid of that.”
“STOP TRYING TO DEFY THE CREATOR’S EXISTENCE!”
“She’ll punish you sooner or later.”
“I think a figment of your imagination would have a hard time doing that.”
Cerulean growled deeply.
“Something’s up with you. Just tell it to me straight.”
“I used to be a Huntress by the name of Chix, but somehow, I changed completely.” I immediately regretted my words. I covered my mouth in horror. How did I let that happen? Ugh, forget it. It’s over, Chix.
My eyes filled with tears, tears of anger and hate. I was on the edge of the metaphorical cliff.
“You stopped short the lives of many of us foresters, you sent the lives of those foresters’ families careening downhill, and you devastated the friends of those foresters... I’ll cooperate with you for the rest of this stupid mission, but after that, you really have it in for you!”
I flinched as I felt a slash on my side. Apparently, I was already in for it.
“Can this argument end already? Really, we’re saying pretty mean things to each other, but you just went as far as letting your claws do the talking.”
“Faith... That wasn’t me.”
My eyes widened, and then I jerked away as I was slashed again. I saw Cerulean’s form yowl in the moonlight and he zoomed out of the den. My legs propelled me from the burrow to where our common enemy was a few feet outside the den, and I pounced on him.
I found myself spread on top of Cerulean who was sprawled on a birdlike form. The brown Lenny turned his head upwards.
“Good grief, there’s two of you!” The Lenny who apparently went by the name Rachroth scowled as he looked up at Cerulean.
“Not another word out of your beak, you grubby chunk of poultry!” Cerulean spat and his teeth took a harsh grip on Rachroth’s leg. He screamed and attempted flying off (with my fellow Xweetok), and would’ve succeeded had I not allowed my fangs to take hold on his other leg. He couldn’t hold up us both. We had him figuratively cornered, as both of his legs were held down.
“Let me go!”
“No, not until you tell me why you tried murdering us both.”
“For one thing, I was only after you, Cerulean. As for your question, that is privileged information. Good night!” He said as he twisted as best he could to allow his beak to meet my forehead very harshly. My paw shot up to my injury before I blacked out.
To be continued...