Greenglade: Part Three
"The first thing we need to do is focus our mind entirely on our magic," Alex said, his blue eyes wide as he addressed Lae. "So stop thinking about Jinny for a moment and relax."
Laerya tried to do as the Christmas Zafara instructed: she lowered her shoulders, loosened her limbs and breathed in, attempting to clear her head.
"I want you to try and summon your light magic."
Lae held her hands out, watching them. She felt faint energy coursing through her arms down to her fingertips, but only a tiny light sparked. She looked disappointedly at Alex.
"Don't worry, we're taking things slow. I expected that."
Oh, you did, did you? Lae thought grumpily, wishing she could impress Alex with an amazing display of light magic.
"Try clenching your fists tightly, but keep your arms loose," Alex suggested.
"How am I supposed to do that?" Lae asked, but she did as she was told. She clenched her fists, but her arms tightened as she concentrated. Nothing happened.
"Put your arms by your sides, relax them," Alex said patiently.
Laerya narrowed her eyes, wondering how this would work. She kept her arms low and her fists clenched, yet still nothing happened, not even a tiny spark.
"Make the magic flow, like you're breathing it." Alex, meanwhile, had his arms by his sides, his fists clenched with spheres of light emanating from them.
Lae barely suppressed a scowl. She inhaled and exhaled and thought she could feel the energy in her arms again. Without really thinking, she raised her arm. As she did so, a burst of yellow light flashed in her hand. Squeaking with surprise, she stared at her hand, now enveloped in light.
Akorri gasped from his spot on the rock.
"Well done," Alex praised, smiling encouragingly, "You've managed to create some light."
Laerya couldn't help feeling annoyed by his comment. She managed, did she? "I didn't even think about what I was doing," she said, pushing her unwelcome thoughts aside. "It just happened."
"If you're blessed with magic, it should be as natural as breathing," Alex explained. "Like there are techniques to perfect breathing, there are techniques to perfect magic."
Before Lae could say anything in response, a white Kyrii walked quickly towards Alex, brushing past her. Jinny glanced worriedly from Akorri to Lae before addressing Alex. "One of the Vesiers is angry," she reported, her long ears twitching.
"I'm on it," Alex replied, "Thanks for letting me know, Jinny."
The Kyrii hurried away, wringing her hands as she walked past.
"The Vesiers?" Lae asked, frowning in confusion. "Who are they?"
"A group that lives on the outskirts of Greenglade," Alex said, suddenly looking tired; his wings lowered as he ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "Their leader, Tayheir, isn't really friendly with us, so the group doesn't venture here often."
"Tayheir's kind of grumpy. Some think he's creepy, but I'd say he's just unsociable. He's not much older than you or Akorri." Alex nodded to the Xweetok perched on the rock. "He seems too young to lead, but he sure has a head on his shoulders. It's wasted potential, really. If he was nicer he would fit right in to Greenglade."
"Why do you need to know if a Vesier is angry?" Lae's curiosity peeked as Alex explained who Tayheir was.
"They tend to... antagonize us if they're angry."
"In what way?"
"Nothing too harmful, they just run around the village acting stupid. They basically storm around in a huff, snapping at anyone who gets in their way. There's nothing I can do about it." Alex frowned. "There's nothing I want to do about it. Jinny just finds it difficult to cope with, so she tells me. I think that helps her."
Laerya tilted her head to the side. Who was Tayheir, and why was he so unfriendly? What were his issues? She couldn't help thinking that there was something mysterious about the character – this mystery compelled her to find him, to seek him out and discover his secrets. Such a nosy creature she was, a quality criticised many times by her friends and family, yet it was this nosiness that drove her in life. She smiled at her curiosity.
"Shall we continue training?" Alex prompted.
Lae blinked as she realized she had not spoken for several minutes. She peered into Alex's face, and thought she saw understanding hidden in his eyes. "No," she said, causing Akorri to groan, "I want to go find Tayheir."
"Why, exactly?" Akorri grumbled as he hopped down from the rock.
"I think maybe I'll be able to stop the Vesiers from causing trouble here," Lae replied. "You're welcome to stay behind, if you like."
Akorri winced as if he had taken a blow. "I'm going with you," he said, his eyes lowered to the ground. "I don't want to see Tayheir, but someone needs to be with you to stop you from doing anything foolish. If your family knew you were in trouble, they'd never forgive me for not protecting you."
Laerya sighed deeply, slight frustration rising inside her. "You know it's more than that," she murmured, folding her arms. Why couldn't Akorri just admit to his feelings? Was friendship that difficult for him to express? "There's no need to use my family as an excuse, Akorri."
Under the Cybunny's calculating gaze, Akorri's ear twitched wildly as he spoke. "I'm... not..." His voice faltered as Laerya turned away, too impatient and irritated to listen to him.
"Where exactly would Tayheir be?" Lae diverted her attention to Alex.
"I don't know what good would come of your visit," Alex said, "But I can see you're bent on going, so I won't stop you." He pointed to his left, firing a beam of yellow light. "Follow this light and it'll take you to him."
"Oh wow, that's so cool!" Lae took a moment to stare at the light path. "Will I ever be able to do that?"
"Maybe." Alex took a step back, as if he suddenly remembered an urgent appointment he had to attend to. "Be careful with Tayheir, he's prone to lashing out." And with that, he spread his wings and flew off, leaving Lae and Akorri alone.
"Well." Laerya stared once more at the ray of light, thin and precise; magical, yet natural. "Let's go."
"Haven't we always been told not to follow the light?" Akorri asked as he and Lae started down the lit path.
Lae clicked her tongue at him. "Don't be silly, this is good light," she said.
"I suppose you know what bad light looks like?" Akorri's tone was incredulous and mocking, reminding Lae of what he had been like before their first adventure together. She felt her patience waning as her eyes narrowed.
"Shut up," she muttered. "If you're going to be like this, please leave."
"Are you doing this just to annoy me?"
"Why are you with me if you're only going to make my life a misery?"
"I'm not trying to make your life a misery!" Akorri's voice was so strangled that Lae turned to look at him, her blood freezing as she saw the furious expression on his face.
"I'm sorry," she apologized without thinking. She wanted to see that glare wiped from his face, she wanted to see his normal serious expression. The last time she'd seen Akorri like this he had been about to fight dangerously.
Akorri jerked his head towards the light, a signal that Lae ought to keep walking. She turned away and followed the light again, not even bothering to wonder if she was right to apologize or not. She felt Akorri's anger burning her back.
The strained silence continued until the light thinned out. Lae had been so focused on the light that she didn't take stock of her surroundings until Akorri cleared his throat. She looked up – the trees were darker here, more gnarly, the leaf-strewn ground crumbled under her feet as she walked. She wasn't sure if she was imagining it but she could sense an ominous tension here, one that had nothing to do with her and Akorri.
Without warning a burst of fire headed straight towards them. Lae felt herself barreled to the side, falling to the dry ground with Akorri's hands on her shoulders. He hastily released her and she sat up, watching the fire hit a tree – Lae waited in horror for the forest fire to start, but within moments the fire extinguished itself.
Lae cautiously looked at Akorri, seeing the red Xweetok panting with shock and fear. "You saved my life," she murmured. If Akorri hadn't pushed her down, she would have...
"No, I didn't," Akorri grunted, his tail bushy with alarm. "That fire isn't dangerous."
"It's not?" Lae stood up and dusted herself off. "How do you know?"
"The trees would've caught fire otherwise," the red Xweetok explained. "This was just a warning."
Lae felt uneasiness crawling inside her, threatening to develop into something worse. She didn't want to feel fear. Explorers never felt fear. And yet, as she looked at Akorri, she realized he hadn't known the fire wasn't dangerous until it hit the tree. He'd been quick; he'd tried to save her life. With this knowledge her anxiety lessened, but it still hung there, waiting to manifest itself in a stronger, more harmful emotion. "You do keep me safe," she said.
Akorri didn't say anything. Lae wondered if it was because he couldn't find the words, or if he thought he didn't need any.
"Who are you... and what are you doing here?" a voice hissed close by, chilling Laerya's heart. The hiss was laced with hatred and cold. Lae willed herself not to turn around, not to look at the voice's owner for fear of what she might see. She knew she had to turn. Biting her lip, she rotated her body slowly, pink eyes wide with apprehension.
A fire Hissi stood before her, his head covered by a brown cloak, his wings wrapped around him like a blanket. Laerya stared into his thin yellow eyes peeking from the cloak and was amazed by what she saw there: a knowledge of which she could never access, knowledge of a different side of Neopia, knowledge of the many hardships of life. His eyes betrayed his experience; he looked very young in body, not much older than Lae, but his bitter eyes bore wisdom that only came with age – or so it seemed.
"Who are you and why are you here?" the Hissi repeated, his long tongue snaking out as he spoke.
"You're Tayheir... right?" Lae found it difficult to keep her voice steady. The Hissi put her completely on edge.
"How do you know who I am?" Tayheir's voice was barely more than a whisper, yet it carried audibly to Lae, magnified by her dread.
"Um... Alex told me who you are..." Laerya could barely keep herself talking.
Tayheir's gaze raked over Lae and Akorri, full of contempt and loathing. He unfolded his wings, revealing a dull gold necklace. When he next spoke, Laerya shuddered, and though she'd heard these words many times before, they had never quite chilled her as much as they did now.
To be continued....