A Summer of Service: Part One
The eventide Aisha shifted in her seat as her older sister, Amorine called her daughter to her. She rose to her feet, Amalia held in her arms. Adam looped his arm around his wife's waist and looked down fondly at her and their daughter. What a quaint family scene they made, Nisha thought, not unkindly.
Adam looked up at Nisha. "It's time for us to go."
I wish I could go with you, Nisha thought with longing. She flicked her ears at the quickly becoming familiar tread. She felt a mixture of feelings as the elderly boy Ixi stopped in front of Amorine, holding a pitcher of iced tea.
"You're leaving already," the Ixi said, his face crestfallen.
"Yes, Grandfather. We need to get back," Amorine said, kissing the Ixi affectionately on his grizzled cheek.
"Very well. Though, come back soon."
The young family of three boarded their Eyrie cab. Now, only Eirikur Snow and his youngest granddaughter, Sainisha Snow remained. The Ixi walked back into his shack without acknowledging Nisha's presence. The Aisha sighed in resignation. Nisha recalled the conversation that she and her sister had had earlier that day.
"You've always been Grandfather's favourite, you know," Nisha said.
Amorine's purple eyes darkened. She looked at her hands, unable to meet her sister's gaze.
"Yes, I know, Nisha," Amorine said in a low voice.
"It's not your fault, Amorine. I've no idea why you're his favourite but I suspect it's because you're his oldest granddaughter," Nisha said with a shrug.
"Try and give him a chance, Nisha, please. I'll try to work on him."
"Fine, I'll try but only because you're asking me."
Nisha shook her head and frowned. After being separated from her sister for ten years, she loved her sister dearly and did her best to please her. Unfortunately, at times, that was far easier said than done. Spending an extra day with her grandfather was one of those things. She decided to just grin and bear it.
The next morning, Nisha awoke early, surprised to find her grandfather was still sleeping heavily in his hammock. It was highly unusual for the elderly Ixi. Nisha had gotten her habit of being an early riser from her grandfather. Mina, his Seti, looked back at Nisha with concern in her brown eyes.
Nisha shrugged her shoulders helplessly. "Mina, I don't know what you want me to do about it."
After turning away from the Seti, Nisha looked out of the one small window in her grandfather's shack. She had noticed almost immediately that strong light had not been streaming in. Now she could see why: it was downright gloomy outside, highly unusual for Mystery Island. The small area of sky she could see was almost black, full of dark clouds. A steady onslaught of fat raindrops fell to the ground, turning the already soft ground into unappealing guck.
If there was anything that Nisha hated more than sun, it was rain. She sighed in resignation. There was no help for it. Her grandfather took a daily walk to the marketplace to get supplies he needed since he had no storage space in his minute living quarters. The walk normally took an hour in each direction.
If Nisha wished to eat that day, she would have to make the walk herself. So, taking a deep breath, the eventide Aisha stepped out into the weather. The rain soaked her instantly and the humidity made her feel like she was trying to breathe water. She took high steps, disgusted by the gooey mud sucking at her legs. She was exhausted by the time she reached the marketplace and the worst was yet to come.
To Nisha's great surprise, a good number of merchants were there, selling their wares as if it were any other day. They were protected, either by shades or by wooden shacks. Nisha went to the merchants who her grandfather frequented but they refused to sell to her. They only dealt with natives, they told her. Besides them, the pickings were slim.
Most others hadn't shown up due to the rain or else they didn't have what Nisha sought. Coming to the realization that she wasn't going to be buying anything, she headed back to her grandfather's shack, completely despondent. As she came upon the clearing, wet, muddy and hungry, a flash of movement caught her eye. Her grandfather's shack was not the only one in the clearing. Eirikur Snow had neighbors: a pair of Kyrii siblings.
The younger sibling, a camouflage Kyrii named Brogan, had opened the door to his shack as Nisha passed. Seeing her, in her current state in the rain, he beckoned silently to her. Nisha readily accepted. Brogan offered Nisha a wooden bowl filled to the brim with Bludberries. The Aisha's eyes widened and she eagerly took the bowl.
Between them, including Stramberry, Brogan's Slogmok, they made short work of the small red berries.
Comfortably full, Nisha smiled and dipped her head gratefully to Brogan. "Thank you so much for sharing with me. Now, I really must get back to my grandfather."
Brogan smiled broadly at Nisha. She opened the door, dismayed to see that it was still raining. Nisha high-stepped through the mud as the rain poured down. It was only a few moments before she was back out of the weather in her grandfather's shack. She was very surprised to see him still in his hammock.
As Nisha shut the door, she saw the elderly Ixi roll over to look at her through dull blue eyes. Mina had leapt lightly to the floor as her owner moved, her gaze searching Nisha's. Not being able to stand the look she was getting from the Seti but not quite sure what she could do to remedy the situation, she looked up at her grandfather.
"Have you just been lying there all day?" Nisha questioned her grandfather.
"You're an observant girl, Sainisha, but don't state the obvious," Eirikur Snow huffed.
Nisha turned away, unwilling to let her grandfather see how hurt his words made her feel. She really was trying to get to know the old Ixi better but he just seemed to rebuff her efforts. She sighed, heading for her own hammock. At least I'll be going home tomorrow, Nisha thought, drifting off to sleep to the sound of rain pouring down outside.
The next day, the sun was back, though grey clouds still loomed. Nisha's grandfather still lay in his bed. Nisha could give him one day but more than that was a little much. She rose from her hammock and checked her grandfather's forehead.
"No fever," Nisha murmured to herself.
The elderly Ixi's eyes snapped open. "What are you doing, girl?"
Nisha stepped back quickly but her grandfather didn't do anything else. She twitched her ears, at a loss as to what to do. Her grandfather wasn't ill but he was staying in bed and not eating. Had Amorine and her family's departure affected him that much? She couldn't bring Amorine back but she also couldn't leave the Ixi in his current state.
Yet, what could Nisha do? She hardly knew her grandfather. What would move him? She had to try something.
"Grandfather, you have to get up. The sun is shining and it is humid as ever. I know that your daily walks are something you look forward to. So, let's go," Nisha said, in an as upbeat voice as she could manage.
The Ixi had turned his back on his granddaughter and his only response was a flick of one ear. Nisha had known at the outset that patience would be key to dealing with her grandfather. So, she tried a different tack.
"Even if you don't care about the walk, we all need to eat. You have no supplies here, Grandfather," Nisha said.
The Ixi hadn't moved. The Aisha had no idea whether she had gotten through to him or not. She was at a loss. Suddenly, a slight nudge made her look down. Mina looked up at her encouragingly, waving her two-pronged tail.
Of course! Nisha knew what to say next.
"Very well, Grandfather. You don't care about the walk, you don't care about yourself but what about Mina? She is your Petpet and she depends on you for her welfare," Nisha said.
Nisha thought to say that her grandfather didn't care about her but she had decided against it. She wasn't sure of the reaction such words would garner. Anger, perhaps? What Nisha feared most was that her grandfather would not react, confirming the thought that he didn't care about her. A shiver ran down her spine and she pushed her thoughts aside.
They certainly weren't helping the situation. The Aisha noted with relief that the Ixi was beginning to stir. She watched in silence as her grandfather got to his feet, grabbed his hat and put on his boots. As he prepared to leave, Mina pranced delightedly beside him, waving her tail and looking up at him adoringly. The Seti was very pleased that her owner was finally doing something akin to his usual routine, even with a gray muzzle it didn't stop her from acting like a young Petpet.
Nisha couldn't help but smile as she watched them. It was clear that owner and Petpet cared deeply for each other, with frequent glances between the two. She stayed out of their way as they walked past for the door. She heard the steady clump of her grandfather's boots and then he paused.
"Girl, after all of your supplications, you're not coming to keep an eye on your old grandfather?"
A welcoming bark from Mina accompanied Eirikur Snow's words. Nisha flicked her ears in surprise and smiled to herself. She stepped outside, closing the door behind her. Her grandfather huffed, already walking away down the path, walking stick in hand. Nisha had only been on the walk once before with her grandfather but Amorine and her family had also been there.
Now, it's just the three of us, Nisha thought to herself. Nisha had to move quickly to keep up with her grandfather. He was elderly but still spry and fit from his years on Mystery Island. The Ixi didn't address Nisha at all. In anyone else's company, Nisha was just fine with silence but, in this case, it just felt like her grandfather was ignoring her.
The eventide Aisha tried to tell herself that her grandfather wasn't much of a talker. Yet, she recalled that the Ixi had kept up an almost steady flow of conversation with Amorine and Adam. Thinking on this, Nisha couldn't even muster up a word to say to her grandfather. The Aisha was very relieved when they finally arrived at the bustling marketplace. She could almost not believe the ease with which her grandfather slipped through the crowds.
Eirikur Snow moved steadily, with purpose. The merchants were warm with the Ixi and they haggled readily with him.
"Eric, do you know that an Aisha has been following you? She came yesterday, claiming that she was your granddaughter but I didn't believe her. The only grandchild I know you have is Amorine," the merchant said.
Eric Snow didn't glance at Nisha.
In response to the merchant, the Ixi shrugged his broad shoulders. "I have two grandchildren. The Aisha would be Sainisha, my younger granddaughter."
That was all that the old Ixi said on the matter. Nisha looked away, hurt beyond words. That's when she saw the flash of movement. It was so quick that she almost missed it. She saw the tufted white tip of a tail skirting around the corner of the merchant's shack.
Forgetting about her grandfather, Nisha followed after the white tail. The rustling of nearby foliage drew her on and she made a grab for the pet before her. There was a struggle but Nisha held on to the thick neck ruff that she felt. To her great surprise, the pet she grabbed took flight. They flew through the thick growth of Mystery Island for an indeterminate amount of time.
They only stopped when Nisha's foot snagged on a vine. Both pets were sent flying into a clearing where they were greeted by squawks of surprise and outrage. Nisha rose to her knees and looked: into the sharp, hardened face of a red Eyrie. She could not read the expression in the Eyrie's amber gaze.
The Eyrie's gaze never left Nisha's face as he spoke. "Blanca, who is this?"
Nisha looked away from the Eyrie to look at whoever he was talking to. She saw a young white Eyrie, slightly younger than she was and guessed that this was the pet that brought her. The white Eyrie glanced at Nisha then looked calmly at the red Eyrie.
"I don't know who she is! She grabbed me while I was in the marketplace. I panicked and flew back here," Blanca said with a shrug.
Nisha watched the red Eyrie study Blanca in silence for a moment before turning his gaze back to Nisha, "This is what I get for letting Blanca go on her own for the first time. She clearly isn't ready. Now, explain yourself."
Nisha rose to her feet, her ears barely reaching the red Eyrie's beak. She focused her blue gaze on the Eyrie, gathering her thoughts.
"My name is Nisha Snow. I am seventeen years old. I've been visiting my estranged grandfather here on Mystery Island. We were in the marketplace when I noticed Blanca. She was acting suspiciously and I followed her. I did make a grab for her, we struggled and here I am," Nisha said clearly, spreading her hands in a helpless gesture.
"So, you suspect Blanca of foul play is what you're telling me? What do you plan on doing with your suspicion," Roger asked.
"I'm not sure. If at all possible, getting the problem dealt with. No one deserves to be stolen from, even if she is inexperienced."
At this, the red Eyrie bristled and his gaze hardened. Rumbling growls and threatening hisses sounded through the small clearing. For the first time, Nisha felt like she was in danger. She took an involuntary step backward. With a firm flick of his tail, the red Eyrie silenced his flock.
"Since that is your choice, Nisha Snow, we have no choice but to keep you here, indefinitely," the red Eyrie said.
"What?" Nisha gasped in shock.
"Blanca will care for you."
"What? Roger, why do I have to do it?" Blanca exclaimed in outrage, moving forward to confront the larger Eyrie.
"You brought her here, Blanca, so she will be your problem," Roger said.
Blanca glowered at Nisha as Roger began to turn away. Nisha was in shock at what had just happened to her. She swayed on her feet and might have fallen had Roger not swiftly turned back and extended a wing to steady her.
"Let's get you into the shade. Blanca, get Nisha some water," Roger ordered the white Eyrie.
Blanca did not look pleased but did as Roger bid. Nisha was surprised that Roger was so concerned about her. She had not expected that from the hardened Eyrie. It surprised Nisha even more when Roger sat beside her in the shade, his tail curling behind her. Though, other than that, he didn't acknowledge her.
Roger stayed until Blanca returned with a halved coconut shell filled with clear water. He watched Nisha drink greedily from the cup, some of the water dripping down her chin. With a glance at Blanca and a twitch of an ear, Roger padded off. Blanca sat a little way from Nisha, glowering at her. After Nisha finished drinking, Blanca took the cup and stalked away.
To be continued...