Beautiful Chaos: Part Six
"Hullo, Darigan! It's nice to meet me. It's not? Well, it's not nice to meet you either. Go away." Cedrik turned his nose up in the air and turned away from the trees, muttering under his breath as he walked away. "So rude. Hey, a Mortog!"
The red Draik bent down to scoop up the large rock that was sitting in the dirt and patted it softly. "What's your name, little fella? Mine's Leo. No, that's not right. What is it? Gosh, how weird, I can't remember my own name. Well, Leo's a nice enough name, I'll have that one." The rock didn't move, but he didn't seem to notice. He stroked it absentmindedly while wandering around, feeling that he was supposed to be somewhere doing something important, but couldn't for the life of him remember what it was. Shrugging, he picked a random direction and started walking.
"We've been walking for hours and we're no closer to Cedrik or the Citadel!" Leo grumbled, as he noticed the faintest rays of the rising sun coming over the hills. "We've walked in circles ALL NIGHT."
"That's not a very positive way to look at it," Milo said, stretching up on his toes and yawning loudly. "Ya could look at it that at least we're still alive."
Leo rolled his eyes and gestured over the hills with his wand.
"At least we'll be able to see where we're going soon. You can't even begin to imagine how much I've missed that big bright sun. How much further to the Citadel, Chen?"
The Darigan Kacheek glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled gently.
"I know you miss Cedrik, and I promise we're going to do everything we can to find him. But asking me the same question every ten minutes and getting the same answer back each time won't help him at all. Now, come do something useful and clear a path through these bushes. I think there's something on the other side."
Grudgingly the Lupe obliged, dragging his feet on the ground as he shuffled over to where the Kacheek was pointing. He raised his wand and muttered the incantation under his breath and the bushes were blasted out of the way. Under the lightening sky he looked through the tangled mess of leaves and branches and saw on the other side the path they had lost so many hours ago.
"Finally!" He leapt through the clearing and onto the path, feeling as though he could kiss the earthen ground. "Blessed sweet paths!" He hopped around, springing off the floor happily, enjoying every bounce on the hard dirt ground.
Milo and Chen exchanged amused glanced before following him through the bushes.
"We were lucky; I expected... that to end much worse. Still, take it from me. Don't stray off this path again. No matter what happens, we stick together and we stay on the path. Agreed?"
"Oh good, the river's just up there. Come along!"
"And I'm telling ya, Morty, this mirror of mine, he's just so rude! And depressing! He always makes my guests sad so they've basically stopped visiting me at the Castle, I have to travel all over to see them. It's a pain in my behind, I tell you. But get this, I make it snow when I sleep. I always have, it's a terrible bad habit and it annoys everyone at the Castle, but I just can't help it. And my friend Cedrik, he's my best friend you know, he thinks it's hilarious but he also thinks I do it on purpose just for a laugh, but I don't, I really don't mean it, it just happens..." Cedrik held his rock securely under his arm as he wandered aimlessly through the woods, trying to remember just how he had ended up there. "Hey, look! A path! Maybe that'll take us to Faerieland."
"Well, there y'are! Behold- the Citadel!" Milo gestured widely with his arms at the giant mass of floating rock that they had ended up on. "That's the market place down there, and up over that hill is of course Lord Darigan's chambers, and you see this path here? That'll lead you right down to the village. So, where you headed?"
"I'm not sure..." Leo mumbled, glancing nervously around the dark place. "Darigan's chambers, I guess. I sure wish Cedrik was here. Where will he end up, do you think? Do you think he's...?" The Lupe trailed off, looking worriedly at Chen. She smiled reassuringly at him.
"Cedrik's a smart guy, right? And you two look like you get into trouble on a regular basis. So he can probably hold his own and will eventually make it out of the woods. If he doesn't end up here, once you've finished your errand you can head back that way and see if you can find him. But I'm sure he's fine." The Kacheek smiled kindly at him and reached into her rucksack. She pulled out a small object and pressed it into his hand. "Keep this on you. It brings good luck, and I think you might need some. Be safe, don't stop and sightsee. Good luck."
"Wait- you're not coming with me?" Leo asked in surprise, looking down at what she had just given him. It was a small golden coin with strange symbols on it, none that he had ever seen before.
Milo shook his head.
"This is where we leave ya, mister. We've got some business here anyway, but even if we didn't, nobody makes trips to His chambers unless they really need to. Sorry, old chap, but ya're on your own from here on in." The Meerca shrugged at him, patting him on the back. "Ya'll be alright. Just don't talk to anyone and stay on the roads. I wouldn't put it past ya to get lost in here, and we won't be there to get ya unlost."
"I... well, I truly appreciate your help, both of you. If Cedrik was here he'd say the same. I'm going to the chambers and then I'm going looking for him, I will not return to Meridell without him. You've got us... me this far, I'm sure I can manage the rest. Thank you again, and I hope your business goes well." Leo nodded his head at his two unlikely companions and they returned the gesture. He held his bag tighter in his arms and turned to walk away. He didn't hear the Darigans mutter behind him.
"He's never going to make it through there, is he, Chen?"
"Nope." She sighed, as they turned to walk in the opposite direction. "May luck be with him."
"Look, Morty, a river! Don't know why that's so fascinating, but it is. Do we have time for a bath, do you think? Yeah, I think we do. Waheeee!"
As Leo the Lupe wandered down the streets of the Darigan Citadel, he held his coin tightly in one hand, turning it over every so often and glancing at it. It was pretty in a rustic kind of way, and it was old, certainly. What the symbols meant he had no idea, but he liked the coin and thought it was a sweet gesture from such a brutal looking Darigan.
'Appearances really are deceiving,' he thought with a smirk as he flipped the coin in the air. He glanced over his shoulder once more before striding forward with a quicker pace. The Citadel was dark enough during the day; he didn't want to still be trekking once the sun had set.
The hours slowly passed and he felt his energy depleting as he marched down the winding roads, ignoring the residents who poked their heads out of their windows curiously to watch him walk. He ignored the way they looked at him, the way they nudged each other and the way their eyes followed him all the way down the road.
Yawning exhaustedly as the sun slowly set over yet another crazy day, Leo grunted as he heaved his backpack up into a more comfortable position. He felt his feet dragging as the Chambers loomed ever closer, and when he approached the dark wooden doors he could've kissed them.
The moon was high in the sky and shone dimly as he raised a hand and knocked loudly on the door. Waiting for a response, he slumped against the old wooden frame tiredly, fighting the urge to close his eyes and curl up right then and there. He hadn't slept in two days, his feet were sore and he had lost his best friend somewhere in the woods. He was not a happy little Lupe.
Rubbing his eyes, he shook himself awake and stood in front of the door, knocking on it loudly once more. He took a step back as the big wooden gates slowly swung open and he gazed down into the fire-lantern lit corridor.
He lifted his head higher in the air and stepped inside as the doors shut silently behind him.
To be continued...