A Summer of Service: Part Three
"Blanca is wrong! I certainly wasn't contemplating escape," Nisha said forcefully, glad that she didn't have to tell Roger what she had been doing.
Roger shrugged his shoulders, "Mind telling me what you were doing, then?"
Nisha hesitated, unsure how to reply. She didn't have to when Phoenix reentered the clearing. Everyone in the clearing turned to look at the fire Eyrie. In one massive paw he held Brogan in a firm grip. The young camouflage Kyrii put his small hands on the large black paw, struggling to free himself... until he saw Nisha.
That's when Brogan relaxed, a broad smile on his face. Nisha was horrified that he had been caught and that he made it so obvious that he knew her. Nisha could only imagine how Brogan's capture would complicate matters for both of them. As Phoenix had entered the clearing, Roger had risen to meet him and he didn't miss Brogan's look of delight aimed at Nisha. The red Eyrie cast a sharp glance at the eventide Aisha.
Feeling like she had a rock in her stomach, Nisha went to stand beside the Eyrie leader. Roger turned his attention back to Phoenix. His piercing gaze was level with Brogan but the young Kyrii didn't flinch. Roger waited for his subordinate to speak.
"I found this interloper near the stream. I questioned him but he didn't answer any of them," Phoenix said, disgust clear in his voice and in the look he gave Brogan.
"It's because he can't talk, not because he's being insolent," Nisha said quickly, taking a step forward.
The eventide Aisha looked first at Phoenix, then at Roger.
The red Eyrie flicked his tail toward Nisha. "Then talk."
"His name is Brogan Callaghan. He and his older sister, Aifric are neighbors to my grandfather," Nisha said.
"What is he doing here?"
"Come to find you," Bicker growled.
Nisha didn't answer for a moment, unsure what to say and almost immediately realized her mistake when Roger joined his growl to Bicker's. Nisha looked at Roger, her blue eyes wide with alarm. She had never seen the Eyrie leader truly angry: fur fluffed out, wings flared, beak parted and tail lashing.
"No, Roger. I have no idea what Brogan is doing here. I don't know if he was trying to find me or if he just wandered onto your territory. I haven't seen anyone other than you and your flock for the last month," Nisha said, watching the Eyrie leader carefully.
As Nisha spoke, Roger slowly calmed himself down, seeing sense in what Nisha said. He turned his amber gaze to Phoenix.
"Roger, let Brogan go, please. He can't tell anyone about you or your flock," Nisha said.
As the Aisha spoke, the Kyrii shook his head vigorously, backing up what she said.
"Very well. Phoenix, escort him off our territory," Roger said.
"He can find his own way back," Nisha put in.
"I don't care! I want to make certain that he leaves."
Nisha watched as Phoenix turned to leave, keeping his firm grip on Brogan. As he was taken away, Brogan waved cheerfully to Nisha and, despite herself, she smiled and waved back. As the fire Eyrie and camouflage Kyrii were lost in the undergrowth, Manny, Scorch and Brownie came back. They had brought back a small catch, just enough to feed Roger, Bicker and Blanca. Nisha filled her friends in on what they had missed.
"So that's what you were startled by, not a Chuchuana," Scorch said accusingly, looking hurt.
"What would you have done if I had told you the truth," Nisha asked.
The three Eyrie exchanged glances, tails flicking in unease. Their silence was enough.
"Exactly. You don't know what you would have done. I didn't want Brogan to be a prisoner like me," Nisha said firmly.
Scorch sighed. "You're right."
"I hope you don't lie to us, again," Manny said to Nisha, gaze dark.
"I hope I don't have to," Nisha said simply.
~ ~ ~
A week after Brogan had been brought to the clearing, Nisha's plight remained the same. I am sick and tired of this heat, she thought. Even in the shade, there was no relief. When I regain my freedom, I will never come back to Mystery Island! With a breathless huff, she rolled from her back to her stomach, watching Manny and Scorch play fight as Brownie sat beside her.
The brown Eyrie was far more interested in the tussle than the eventide Aisha. Nisha was not used to so much inactivity. She stayed in the clearing and went to stream. If she had to stay in the clearing for another day she would go as mad as Eliv Thade! Suddenly, Sky burst into the clearing and Nisha sat up quickly as she saw an all too familiar Kyrii burst into the clearing after him.
Brogan! No, it couldn't be! What? Before Nisha could process his presence, the next pet to step into the clearing with Roddy froze her stiff with shock. He was the last pet that Nisha ever expected to see.
While Roger walked over to confront this latest interloper, Brogan dashed over to Nisha and tugged on her hand. The little Kyrii had to keep tugging as Nisha seemed to have lost the ability to move on her own. As they moved haltingly forward, Manny, Scorch and Brownie trailed hesitantly behind. Nisha halted at Roger's shoulder.
Roger turned to the Aisha with a growl. "Nisha, do you know this trespasser?"
Nisha didn't look at the angry red Eyrie, though she could understand why he was upset. After all, with her arrival in the clearing, there had been far too much upheaval in his territory. No, Nisha's gaze had locked with this new stranger, whose eyes were the same color as her own.
"Grandfather," Nisha said in a low voice.
For once, Nisha couldn't read the expression in the elderly Ixi's eyes. "Granddaughter. I don't know who you are, but I've come to fetch my granddaughter. She has been gone far too long."
Roger glowered at Eric Snow, his tail flicking with agitation. He had never been addressed thus. There was a heavy pause. After a month of living in the red Eyrie's flock, Nisha could tell Roger was thinking, even though his hardened expression never changed. Everyone was looking at Roger now, waiting for him to speak.
Eric Snow looked challengingly at the red Eyrie leader and Nisha wondered what would happen if Roger refused to grant her freedom.
Finally, Roger spoke. "Why should I let you go?"
Eric Snow snorted. "To get us all out from underfoot. I've been that boy's neighbor for years. He'll cause you nothing but trouble. As for the girl... she's family and she'll be missed. Speaking for myself, I'm older than you and your flock put together. An old, cantankerous Ixi is no use to you."
Abruptly, Roger turned his back on Eric Snow. The Eyrie towered over Nisha but she didn't back down.
"You will tell no one of my flock," Roger said.
It was an order. Nisha took a deep breath.
"No," Nisha said with a slow nod.
"Then you all must leave, now," Roger said with a dismissive flick of his tail.
Over the last month, Nisha had come to realize that thievery was the way life was for Roger and the other Eyrie. Under the circumstances, Roger was a firm, though fair leader. There was nothing Nisha could do to change that. Nothing could be gained from exposing them. Roger had moved next to the edge of the clearing, sweeping aside large ferns to the jungle beyond.
Eric Snow moved stiffly past the Eyrie, Brogan pulling on Nisha's hand. Nisha walked out of the clearing at long last. Roger took up the rear.
"I thought you said we could go," Nisha said, looking back at the Eyrie, a slight note of alarm in her voice.
"That's right. Since my subordinates couldn't do the job properly, I'll just have to get rid of you, once and for all," Roger said.
"So... you're taking us to the border and making sure we leave, right?"
The group of four walked for Nisha didn't know how long. Then, abruptly, they came upon a rundown shack.
"This is the edge of our territory. From here you are on your own and don't come back," Roger said.
"We won't," Nisha assured the red Eyrie.
Roger's amber gaze bored into them until they were once more swallowed up by the jungle. For the first time in a month, Nisha was able to completely relax. She was free! She regretted not being able to properly say goodbye to Manny, Scorch and Brownie but everything had happened so rapidly. Nisha looked down at Brogan, who acted like the entire adventure was just a walk in a Neopia Central park.
"I have to thank you, Brogan, for leading my grandfather back to rescue me. Thank you, Grandfather, for coming," Nisha said.
Brogan shrugged but he had a broad smile on his face.
"It was true what I told that Eyrie. You'd be missed," Grandfather Snow said.
Nisha wanted to question her grandfather there and then but it wasn't the right time. She had no idea how much farther they had to go and they all needed to conserve their energy. What seemed to be an hour and a half later, they stumbled into the familiar clearing. Brogan went to his own shack and Nisha and her grandfather went to his. It had been a long and draining day and they went straight to bed.
The next day, after the heartiest meal that Nisha had had in a month (spinach-mushroom scrambled eggs and apple juice), she felt it was finally the right time to get answers from her grandfather. As par his schedule, he had gone outside after breakfast to soak up some sun on a bench surrounded by heavy, aromatic flowers. Nisha sat beside her grandfather on the bench, Mina lying at their feet.
"Grandfather, there are things I must discuss with you before I leave for Neopia Central. Why do you so clearly favor Amorine and pretend that I hardly exist?" Nisha asked, turning slightly to face the elderly Ixi.
Much to Nisha's surprise, she saw a watery shimmer in her grandfather's eyes. He was holding back tears!
"Oh, Sainisha! I hate to make you think that. Eleven years ago, our family suffered a terrible tragedy. You and Amorine are all the family I have left," Eric Snow began.
"You're the only family Amorine and I have left," Nisha pointed out mildly.
"I loved your parents dearly, Sainisha. Your father was my only child. To believe that I had lost all of you... I could not bear it! When we were reunited, it was the happiest day of my life.
"Amorine may be my oldest granddaughter, but, as you know, she was adopted into the Snow family as a young infant. You were not. While I love Amorine just as much as I love you, Sainisha, to love... to love you... is harder. You look almost exactly like your father, your face, and your eyes. Your mannerisms, the way you move your ears and your smile are just like him.
"Do you understand now, Sainisha? Every time I look at you, I am reminded of my lost son. Though, you have opened my eyes to what I have been doing to you, unintentionally. I will change. No family of mine will go unloved and unwanted."
As the elderly Ixi spoke, he had shifted on the bench to face his youngest granddaughter, their knees brushing. Eric Snow clasped his granddaughter's hands in his own and he smiled at her. Nisha had listened in silence, being brought to tears herself. Suddenly, she leaned forward and hugged her grandfather close.
"Oh, Grandfather! Thank you so much for telling me. Amorine had hoped you would change, you know, and I'm glad you are," Nisha said, pulling back to look at the elderly Ixi.
Eric Snow looked relieved at his granddaughter's ready forgiveness. "Then, let us start off our relationship anew!"
~ ~ ~
A month after Nisha had gained her freedom from the Eyrie flock and she and her grandfather had reconciled their relationship, Amorine and her family had come to visit once more, at summer's end. The royal Gnorbu could see at once how the relationship between her sister and her grandfather had changed for the better.
"How wonderful," Amorine cried, hugging her sister and grandfather in a close embrace.
They remained thus only for a moment before Amalia squeaked, "Crushing me, Momma!"
Amorine pulled back quickly and raised her daughter into her arms. Nisha laughed as Eric Snow looked on. No longer did Nisha envy her sister her close family unit; she was truly a part of it and she always would be.