Possessed: Part Six
I yawned and opened my eyes, glancing over at Faith's empty bed...
...To see nothing there. I realized that I hadn't awakened inside the lodge. Where the heck am I?!? I thought.
It was a place that I could only recall being in three times. The round wall of the far larger-than-life room was softly glowing with many, many torches. That, however, was the last thing I noticed.
The Creator was the first.
"You are dreaming, Cerulean."
She looked as serene and calm as always. Not a single detail about her had changed: not the mysterious glowing circle on her forehead, not her unusual coloration, not the way she scooped me up and looked at me right then. It was no normal dream. I was self-aware and could feel. I would probably be basking in her attention if it weren't for my personal confusion.
"Cerulean," she whispered to me as she held me closer to her face. "Faith needs you."
"I know she does, but she wouldn't forgive herself if I came within ten bounds of her."
"I am familiar with who the magician is; she would never be able to bring herself to hurt you or Rubia, let alone through such a trusted friend. Go after Faith, both of you. She is headed for the top of Cloudpoint. Do not turn back once you have found her, no matter what."
"Who is the mage?" I asked. It was too late, however. The Creator blinked and I was in my bed again. I growled to myself, but quickly shook my anger away, instead being deflated at the thought of being cross at my mother.
Rubia raised her head and shook her wings as she always did when she woke up, and then she slithered out of the room. She brought in some bread and jam from the furnace, we had our breakfast in silence, got some more food cooking and then I told her about my dream. She jerked back in shock.
"Faith can't go to the top! They say that a monster lives there; how far up Cloudpoint was she?!"
I had honestly never seen Rubia look so startled.
"We were maybe three-quarters up when we talked. Rubia, you aren't one to believe in monsters."
"Well, of course I don't believe in any old monster, but nobody has returned from the top of Cloudpoint since a local went up there and vanished. Monsters are the only explanation. We just can't let Faith go up there, Cerulean!"
"Then let's go. Now."
"Yes. No time to pack. Let's make this quick."
"Where the heck am I?!?" I shouted. The whiteness burned my eyes--not the whiteness of snow. I was used to forests and icy plains. But I wasn't used to space-age technology and the stark purity of shining steel... At least, not anymore. My heart raged with a tempest of frustration at finding myself lying in a humanoid position in a bed.
This isn't what I'm used to calling a bed. This is an upright metal base, with sterile sheets and a firm pillow on top. This is the tiny medical unit of a Hunter ship. I thought I would never set foot in a spaceship again! This isn't supposed to happen!
Indeed, the room was miniscule. The bed was set against the wall. A single side table was right by the bed, and the floor was barren so that the bunk's occupant could get up. I took note of a compact first-aid kit on the table, and that was all there was in the unit. I growled to myself at noting a sheet pulled over most of my body, with one foreleg hanging over it and my head poking out.
I've been in Hunter medical rooms before, when I was called Chix. Even though I never felt claustrophobic when I was so tall, now I'm cramped. How does anyone live in such a closed-in atmosphere which isn't earthy? I don't even know how I endured this! I feel so imprisoned in here!
For a moment, I sat there in silence, irked. And then, my interest received a jolt. There were voices out there. I couldn't make out any of them, but they were there. Curious, I jumped down from the bed, tossing the sheet to my side about to enter the other room, but then...
"Chix?" a green-striped Hunter asked as he opened the door. "Chix, where... Ah..." He furrowed his brow in confusion before he spotted me in front of the door instead of on the bed.
Something about him struck me as familiar, not to mention the fact that he knew my former name. My ears twitched with realization as I noticed his trademark square glasses. My face flushed hot with impatience.
"I'm sure that I've already told you to not call me that," I scolded, trying to be strong. Would I have a chance to get out?
"But Chix, it's your na-"
"No. It's not."
He crossed his arms.
"Look. Be realistic. Fate or whatever you think you are is just an alias. Why do you need one, anyways?"
"It's Faith, not Fate. The name was given to me by someone who cares about me more than you do. I accepted it because Chix is, to foresters, the name of a tyrant who terrorized them all and took away their family. That tyrant was me. It isn't an alias."
"Chix! You were never a tyrant!"
"I was a Hunter, and that's worse than any crime a forester ever committed."
"You know we aren't hurting them."
"Oh, I know, all right. You're doing worse than hurting; the captured ones spend their days in a dull, sad silence. They have people to talk to, but since nobody can talk, there's no point in that. And what of those who are left behind? They are forced to adjust to life without their loved ones. In fact, the lives of foresters revolve around running from you and all the other Hunters who ever set foot in Creation. They would have more time and room to live if you weren't after them. Of course you're tyrants."
His eyes widened in disbelief after not saying anything for a full half-minute.
"I'm taking you back, Chix," he firmly ordered.
"It's Faith, and I'm not going back. Ever. Again." I wiped away his command like it was grease in a dish.
"You just aren't the same person that you used to be."
"You know what? You can't tell I am glad that even you realize that. Ever since I realized that woodlanders do have lives, I wanted to become one of them in place of just another Huntress. The knowledge that you realize I'm different has satisfied my ultimate goal."
"Please, tell me you aren't saying these things..."
"Oh, of course I am. Who are you, anyways? Your name has faded out of my memory, thankfully."
"THANKFULLY?! It's Engar, Chix! Intao and Pyke are in the other room. Tell them I'm not crazy, and that it's really you. They think that I should stun and display a real person like you."
"That last sentence is hypocritical. Every catch you make, you ruin lives. They're real people. Anyways, I guess those two deserve to know," I said as I walked around his legs. In the ship's entry, a purple Huntress was standing next to Pyke.
"Chix! How did this happen to you?!" poor, gullible Intao exclaimed. The ivory Hunter, however, harrumphed.
"Engar's lost it. You're just another forester," Pyke remarked.
"But Engar's always right," Intao whimpered.
"It's scientifically impossible to transform a large creature into a smaller one," he claimed.
"Guys. It IS me. I am Chix... Or rather, I was."
"...Was? Oh Chix, this is terrible! We need to get you back somehow!" Intao snatched me up into a hug. I didn't complain; when you can't be with your friends, bond with your enemies—and I wasn't sure if the mage could get through Hunter armor. The last time someone had hugged me was the day before I headed for Cloudpoint's summit.
"No. I never want to be a Huntress again. My name is Faith now, and I would appreciate that you put me back in the wild now."
"WHAT?!" Intao dropped me in shock.
"No real Hunter would want to live in the wild." Pyke raised his eyebrows.
A window in the room caught my eye. The ship was still parked in a landing site. Thank goodness.
"Please. Just put me back."
"Why? You'd look awfully great in a collection," the white Hunter remarked again.
Intao was horrified then and there.
"You can't do that to a real living being! Faith wants to be outside!"
At least she accepted my new name.
"This may come as a shock, but all foresters are real living beings," I said.
"How do you know?" Pyke remarked.
"Look. I've met people in the woods who are kind and skilled, and every other quality we can have. They have as many emotions and desires as we do."
"I say we let her go," Intao kindly suggested. "Even if she wasn't Chix, then she sounds like she was right."
"Intao! Don't!" Pyke shouted as she carefully picked me up, opened the door, and put me in a layer of sleet. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I bolted. Pyke's feet began pounding into the ice in a running rhythm, and I forced myself to accelerate. As a whip of lightning lashed next to me and melted a trickle of snow when he managed to get close, I took a mental note that he was using his paralysis blaster instead of his net cannon.
I let loose all my speed and every drop of energy in my body. This was Pyke, the best Hunter I had ever known, not to mention the most unforgiving. Intao, you kind soul. One day, may the Creator have mercy on you and make you into a true Xweetok.
I zipped to and fro among the pines. Pyke was gaining. I got closer to a colossal ledge of Cloudpoint, and I realized that I had a single choice. It was the same choice a fledgling had when leaving his nest.
Jump or die.
I hurdled myself over the cliff, extending my arms as I freefell. Of course, I then realized the consequence, which should be obvious. Not even the mage could save me then.
All night long, we had traveled. Traveling by twilight was always a good strategy; Cerulean and I hadn't seen a single Hunter the entire time. We would stop, eat and rest for an hour before we would carry on with our steady walking/slithering every now and then.
Neither of us said a single word, except for when we desired to lie down for a while. Finally, dawn broke. We were both worn from the trip, and had made it well over three-fourths of the way up Cloudpoint. I looked up at the blaring crimson of the sunrise. Cerulean did, too.
"Rubia, why did the Creator decide that the sky should be red in the first few minutes of day?"
I glanced at him, smiling. He had the strangest questions sometimes... No matter how much he grew, he would never lose the tendency to be curious about things we never knew the truth about.
"I don't know."
And then, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a figure falling from a relatively-distant cliff. I gasped and began to slither forward with all my might, before lashing into the air and beating my wings with the strength of a thousand Hunters. Taking a split second to glance sideways after hearing a second set of wings, I took note of Cerulean having followed me into the air.
Getting a bound closer to the freefalling creature, my heart lurched in horror. Either Faith had thrown herself off the jutting tor, or the magician had made her do it. I smashed my wings against the air even harder, knowing it was her.
My midsection lashed around hers, and I coiled midair around the girl. Of course, I didn't strangle her, but my hold was tight enough to keep her from falling. Her eyes were wide with fear as I carefully descended to the ground and let her go.
Cerulean and I both opened our mouths to speak, but then Faith bolted from sight at a speed that rivaled that of a skilled Hunter. I sighed.
We can't even get close enough to explain.
To be continued...