We All Fall Down: Part Seven
I Know Where You Live
"Uh-huh. I'll be back in ten minutes. Bye, Cerulean."
I'd said that slightly less than half an hour ago. At least I took five seconds to give a farewell to my fellow Xweetok.
And after about two minutes of idle walking, a split second of realization that something had just cracked above me, too much of a moment of hesitation, and twenty minutes of screaming for help under the weight of a heavy limb, Siana was carrying me by the scruff of my neck after a good shot from her stun blaster.
I wished I could sigh. The stun blaster had numbed my mouth. I felt so stupid… everyone would surely stop and stare at the girl who'd been caught by an injured Huntress. Siana (who I still hated to death) was hobbling around with a hiking stick for support: one of her feet was in a mud-splattered cast.
Why'd she even come out to hunt if she's hurt? Is she overconfident? I have a feeling she doesn't just like to hike around…
"Quit your whining; you're lucky I'm not treating you like that Cerulean kid."
It angered me that she knew the name of who I'd just been thinking about. But I was infuriated that she called him a kid.
"He was so immature."
I felt my face burn. I wanted to defend Cerulean. But the stun blaster had coursed through my entire body, and I could do nothing except for inhale and exhale. My open jaw was good for nothing but mouth breathing. I hated mouth breathing.
Siana was calm on the surface: a lot like me, actually. I thought of my past self, stupid and annoying. But she was also something that I never was. I'd concluded many times over that I had been an absolute idiot, someone who kept piling burning torches around a forest and watching the blaze but ignoring the damage.
But Siana was a little smarter than I was.
She talked to me like she'd talk to an actual person (one she'd mock). Although her words enraged me, she knew that I had a spirit, and possibly that she was harming our spirits by hunting us down. Still, I wondered how she dodged the guilt.
"Anyways, as I was saying, think about how idiotic it is to scream when other people are having intelligent conversation."
I knew she was referring to Cerulean's cries of pain when she had broken his wing. My essence was churning in silent wrath, wrath restrained by my insensitive mouth.
Everyone was made of something: Siana was made of lust for corruption. It wasn't just the fact that she was a Huntress. I had seen her do something that no serious Hunter of her skill would even consider doing. She purposefully broke the wing of a forester who would be considered "valuable." The wing of someone made of reputation, concern and generosity. She knows she won't see Cerulean again until he recovers… Funny. Since I quit hunting, I've been seeing him every day.
And then we were at the Blank.
I felt bitter teardrops form a film over my eyes. I saw a fool's paradise, a vision of my two best friends snuggling me. But then I felt my heart run dry, my entire soul leaving my emotions behind with the knowledge that my feelings wouldn't be useful to anybody anymore.
The world darkened around me, and not because of that stupid stun gun. Shadows seeped in from the edges of my vision, preparing to join at the moment I plunged into that surefire eternity of silent, hopeless lamentation, when I was to fade into the rest of that world where nobody knew each other. The fate of the captured, to exist for the sake of being looked at.
Leaf-litter crackled beneath her boots again.
I quickly blinked the tears out of my mind to see that she had walked past a sleek camouflage Hunter shuttle — someone else's? — and was carrying me off into the other side of Deepwood County. I had some time left. My mind was telling me over and over again that she must have landed her own ship elsewhere. But my heart told me otherwise.
I knew I had a reliable hunch. Why had she passed her own ship by? There was no way she could think of getting more hunting done with one hand carrying me and the other clutching the walking stick.
I managed to sniff, beginning to hope that the stun blaster might wear off soon enough for me to try and wiggle away. Then I had an idea, one I should have thought of earlier.
I felt a small flicker deep inside of me, like a match had just been lit. A split second after that flame appeared, it spluttered.
'My messenger… I… I am sorry. Evre isn't around… I can try to possess you and see if I can get around that paralysis, but I might not be able to do it… Oh, I'm so, so sorry!'
I felt light magic pulsing in my limbs. Her being inside of me felt like her hands were on my shoulders or I was falling to a safe place. Her failure felt like I was in a candy store, but I was allergic to everything. The flame turned into a blaze as she tugged on my body like she would the strings on the puppet, but I was a marionette with tangled cords. She began to pull harder, but my stiff limbs wouldn't give.
'I'm so, so, so, so sorry! I may have to resort to bending the Circlet! Just give me a minute!' she pleaded.
Well, that was a first.
I made a mental note to ask Rubia about this mysterious "Circlet," but I disregarded it, knowing that I would probably never see Rubia again. But what if this worked…?
"Here we are," the Huntress said.
I squeaked as I was set down in front of a door in a tree: something no Huntress should ever have been approaching. She carefully bent over next to me on the doorstep and knocked.
'I don't know who lives here, Faith, but I must warn you… Since Siana saw the door, he can't be someone who prays to me—'
It was answered by a Creator's Age Xweetok with a brown-and-emerald pelt. Could it be… him?
"Hello, Siana. And you too, Chix."
'—or even believes in me.'
Through the paralysis, I managed to utter a very, very pitiful squeak.
"Your work here is done, Siana. And as I have promised, I will lead you to where the Hissi and other Xweetok live, and see if I can lure them out. They would both be valuable to any Huntress like you. Just… just give us a few moments."
"It'd better be quick," she sneered, "I'd really rather not be hiking around in this weather."
"Engar, you… you tyrant! You sniveling son of a… a Werhond!"
"Son of a Hunter would be a little too accurate to be an insult, wouldn't it, Chix?"
He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me inside — he always had been stronger than he looked.
'For the record, Faith, this is not my doing.'
'Well, it's pretty clear to me that being kidnapped isn't much better than getting caught, and you were probably trying to prevent this sort of thing happening when you bent the… circlet thingy.'
'Can you do me a favor?'
'Probably not, at least not until the paralysis wears off.'
'Don't talk about the Circlet. That's all I ask of you.'
The first room boggled my common sense. A small campfire was burning in a corner of it. Packed dirt doesn't catch fire, of course, but I was antsy at seeing flames on the ground. It was dim. Then I coughed. When was the last time he had cleaned the smoke vents? They were one of Cerulean's chores at home. We breathed perfectly fine, but Rubia had him do it once or twice a week.
Engar dragged me into the next room over. I could see nothing. A musty smell hung in the air. I was indelicately thrown to the ground, but experienced mild pleasure that he kindled hatred towards me.
I stared at where his voice was coming from. Not even the glints of his eyes were visible in that darkness. He couldn't see my face sizzling with heat and hate.
And then the stun wore off completely, and I gave him the slap which I'd originally intended for Amadeus.
"Ow… ow, Chix…"
I sighed. Although I'd caused him pain, I was getting homesick fast.
"Ow, Chix, that smarts…"
"Right, because I'm soooo sorry. What do you want?"
"Not much. Revenge."
'Faith, I can possess you now.'
I thought about it for a second. Engar said nothing, expectant.
'I'm eternally grateful for the offer, Creator, but I think I can handle this.'
I ran at where his voice was, but he heard me and sidestepped just in time. As I bypassed him, he punched me in the shoulder. Hard. I jumped onto all fours just in time to avoid losing my balance, and began to run at him again.
"Stop, Chix. Do you know what this is?"
I dug my heels into the ground when I was a foot away from him.
"No. A key."
"…How'd you know I was wearing a key? I mean, most people don't notice it…"
"I mean the key in my hand."
"This place is dimmer than you are. How could I have seen it?" I asked. After receiving no answer, I continued, "Well, what about it?"
"I've locked us in, and I have the key. Take one step forward and I swallow it." Typical diabolical villain...
"What's gonna stop me from breaking down the door, then?"
"The door itself, of course. When I got to this old shanty, I noticed that even if it's a bit moldy here and there, the doors sure are thick."
'You still there, Creator?'
'Yes, and yes, I could probably get you through the door if you've been keeping your claws sharp enough.'
'It's almost funny how he doesn't know what he's dealing with. I'm going to try getting out of this one myself, though.'
'Alright, but I'll go ahead and bail you out if things get dangerous.'
"So… Engar… You're saying that you'll just lock us both in? I thought you made a promise to Siana?"
I didn't realize my mistake until he gasped. He shoved me back with strength that rivaled Cerulean's. Only rivaled it, mind you. Then he quickly unlocked the door and locked it back as he slipped out.
I took a moment to assure the Creator that I was fine. Then I experimentally jiggled the knob. I tried using my own key in the lock, but it didn't work.
I decided to feel along the edge of the dark room for another door. I remembered Rubia lighting the torches of our new home when we moved in. But unlike our foyer, this was huge…
'Why does this remind me of our house?' I asked the Creator after a minute of walking without feeling anything besides the occasional bump or spot of mold.
'They could have been designed by the same person. Your home has some quirky rooms to it, and the proportions are off in a… similar manner.'
I touched something besides bare wall, and withdrew my paw in disgust. 'Mold! Rubia wouldn't tolerate this!'
'Not everyone has roommates to provide a nice home for, or even the will to clean for their own health.'
'I guess you're right…' I put my hand to the fungus again. 'Wait, this is a door! Don't tell me I have to touch it!'
'You have to touch a moldy door when you want to get through it, my messenger.'
My stomach lurched as I grappled around for the knob. After several tries, I discovered it near the top of the door. I felt angry at having to touch so much to get to the doorknob.
'This is a bit like a puzzle book – a rotting one that hasn't been opened in a very long time,' I noted as I swung the door open and slipped through.
'…And still has the answers at the back of it,' the Creator replied as I shuffled uphill through a narrow, steep corridor, my bare feet accumulating more dust with every move I made. 'You can go back and let me possess you and run you home. The choice is yours, but may I remind you that Engar mentioned something about a Hissi and winged Xweetok?'
"GAH! You're right! I need to get back and help them!" I yelped.
'…But then again, I sense that you're taking a shortcut home this way.'
'How? Wait, did I seriously just speak instead of using telepathy?'
'You really think that I can't detect the future at least a little bit? And don't worry, I hear spoken words.'
I felt my way through. The passageway ended after a few feet.
'This is bizarre! It's just like the hallway back home! It doesn't lead anywhere!'
'Psst. Above you.'
I jumped and touched the ceiling after a few tries. My hand came around a metal ring, which I instinctively grabbed and pulled down. Something scraped against the wall. I felt along its edges and found it to be a slender trapdoor. 'Thanks.'
'Once again, no worries. Well, actually, you need to worry about getting up there.'
'I got this.'
I put my paws to the walls and hopped up, digging my claws into the dirt. I clambered through the opening. My foot rubbed against the hatch again, and the wood fell off its hinges, landing on the floor with a thud.
'Right, I'd suggest you hurry,' the Creator advised as I broke into a run down a straight passageway.
'For Rubia and Cerulean's sake… you can go ahead and possess me.'
'Goody~! It's been awhile since I've had a chance to run.'
I felt my skin tingle with warmth, and then all four of my paws were suddenly thumping against the ground in perfect rhythm. I felt muggy air whip at my face as I realized how fast I was going. My feet would be so sore later. I was faster than Siana like this!
'My son's at stake here, Faith. You may miss a day or two in sleep later.'
'I'm worried about Cerulean too. I can afford to sleep. I know that I was dilly-dallying, and maybe I should have turned it over to you earlier. But I didn't know you could do this; there's no way Siana and Engar could top this much speed! You're practically covering a bound per second!'
'Yes… but they got the head start.'
The Creator dug my claws into the ground just before I smashed into the wall. I felt her twitch my mouth into a smile as she began viciously clawing at wood beneath us.
'Creator? You realize that this is another trapdoor, right? And the conventional way is quicker…'
My hand flipped a small metal latch. The door swung down, the Creator having me jump down on… paper. It crinkled beneath me, thick enough to break my fall. This room was clean. I was surprised by the lack of dust tickling my nose as I got to my feet. The Creator jumped down from a stack of books, the pages crackling with released tension.
'Faith, I wonder…' she mused as my hands picked up a book.
'What is it?' I asked as she flipped open the cover. 'This room is completely dark, you know…'
A flash of bright golden light fell across the page. I couldn't see the source, but then I realized that my eyes must have been illuminated. The book's title read in blocky text, The Maps to Everywhere. As the light died, the Creator apologized. 'Sorry for the eye glow. You might sleep for a couple of extra hours, my messenger.'
'No, no, it's alright! I so recognize this book! Rubia said she was lucky to find a copy of this after our old house burned down!'
The Creator put the book down and put her hand on the side of the room. She dashed, and actually did slam into the wall this time. I felt a doorknob in my grasp as my wrist turned, and I almost managed to get enough control of my body to gasp. 'Our bedroom! How?!'
'Yes, well, it clearly is your bedroom, and we just came out of the hallway that supposedly didn't lead anywhere, so…'
She briskly walked me around the fire pit and took me through the foyer, into the kitchen. Cerulean and Rubia were both there.
"DON'T ANSWER THE DOOR." The Creator let her warning ring for a second and she let me go.
I stumbled forward. The last thing I felt was Rubia guiding me to a chair before everything went black.
…I'd be in for a bit of a reckoning when I awakened.
I left Chix behind. Then I tossed the key into a corner of the foyer and got up the stairs.
"I'll go get them now," I chimed to Siana.
She narrowed her eyes. "Make it quick."
I went back down the stairs, taking the door to the left. I trotted to the end of the large room and felt around for the door to the corridor. But I didn't find it. But… The tunnel to the winged one's house! Chix has access to it!
Don't be stupid. She's not smart enough to find that… Yeah, I'll be fast enough getting to his house anyways. I'm coming, Cerulean. I've heard Faith say your name.
I know where you live.
To be continued…