Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 192,587,388 Issue: 653 | 11th day of Swimming, Y16
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Runaway: Part Four

by catchinglights


The sky wasted no time in darkening to a stormy gray once again and it was not long before Toren felt a raindrop hit his head. In the distance, over the sound of the wind rustling through the trees and undergrowth, he could hear ocean waves slapping against the island. Yet another storm was starting to brew. At this rate, Toren wondered if he would ever feel safe taking to the skies and trying to find somewhere else to go. He looked up; the sky was dark as far as the eye could see. It may be time to start thinking of alternatives, he thought.

      He glanced back at the hut where he had slept. It was in pretty bad shape, but overall it was neither worse nor better than the other options. If he could patch the leaks, it wouldn't be a bad place to stay.

      The rain had been steadily light as Toren debated his options, so he decided to take advantage of it by exploring the island and looking for woody debris and foliage to patch up his hut. He wasn't sure at what point exactly he started referring to it as 'hit hut.'

      Toren spent almost a solid hour dragging fallen branches and dead bushes to the village. May followed him faithfully and she occasionally stopped to lift a twig and hold her head high proudly as she carried it back. They had started close to the village and slowly branched outward. Still, the storm had not gotten too much worse.

      Toren piled all the gathered supplies in one of the other huts to keep it dry. He decided to explore more of the island. His stomach had started to rumble, anyway.

      He walked along a worn path. When Lutaris had inhabited the village, that path must have been one of the main roads in and out of the jungle. It made a good landmark, even if it led nowhere in particular. The last thing he needed was to get lost after finding somewhere that sheltered him from the rain.

      The path ended abruptly at a set of wooden docks. Unsurprisingly, they were all broken and no ships could be seen. Toren felt a strong pang of isolation at seeing the wreckage. It impressed upon him the fact that the island was totally abandoned now. At one point, it would have been a safe haven for Lutaris to avoid the Pound. Now, the only thing that could be said for it was that Toren doubted Mike would follow him to the storm-addled island.

      That old Lupe was right, no one in his or her right mind would come here. That's why they all left.

      Even the rain had stopped. Toren's shoulders and wings drooped as he turned and began to walk along the beach. He wasn't sure why seeing the dilapidated docks had hit him more than seeing the broken houses had. A village in poor shape could mean they just moved to a better part of the island. A dock in bad shape means that whoever was here left with no intention of coming back, he reflected sadly.

      A gap in the clouds above let a small amount of sun peek through. The gray sand was tinged the faintest of yellow. Even the weather mocked him.

      The beach stretched on as far as Toren could see. Bluish-gray waves slapped against the shore and the thick fog turned the piles of dark rocks and brush into indistinct blurs in the distance.

      Except, one of those indistinct blurs was moving.

      Toren threw caution to the wind and ran to the fuzzy, moving shape. He desperately hoped for it to be another person. Any other person. His heart soared as he saw that it was a Krawk. He felt happier than he had been since the night he spent with the Pirate Lupe on the continent. The green Krawk raised his head as he heard Toren's approaching footsteps. His yellow eyes were sharp although the rest of his features were aged and graying. The Krawk tensed and brandished a splintered piece of wood. Toren slowed his approach and lifted his arms in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture.

      "I'm sorry for startling you," Toren apologized. "I just haven't seen anyone else since I've been here. How long have you been here?"

      "Just got here, I did. They said it was dangerous out here but I don't listen to them," the Krawk spat in a gravelly voice.

      Toren wanted to ask who they were, but decided against it.

      "S'pose I shoulda listened, though. Or maybe they shoulda just told me to come here instead of telling me not to. They know I don't listen to 'em," the Krawk continued, more to himself than to Toren.

      "I washed up here yesterday," Toren explained. "I know we're on Lutari Island, but that doesn't help much, as the place is pretty much abandoned. Like I said, you're the first person I've seen here."

      The Krawk clapped his hands together. His yellow gaze was fixed intently on the jungle. "Cursed! This land is cursed, and you must be cursed too."

      I don't feel cursed... Toren thought before shaking his head imperceptibly. The Krawk was clearly a little insane. A climate change didn't mean that the place was cursed.

      "What's your name?" the Lutari asked uncertainly.

      "Name! A name is a word... and all words lose their meanings eventually. Many words have no power, yet some have more power than you could imagine. What you call me makes no difference, as it is certain to be meaningless. I will answer to Gray."

      Toren's heart lurched in pity for the Krawk – what a fate to have forgotten his own name. Perhaps his madness was the result of isolation. Toren felt guilty referring to him as Gray, but at least the Krawk had picked the moniker himself. "Nice to meet you, Gray. My name is Toren. My Doglefox is May."

      Thunder rumbled in the distance. Gray glanced over his shoulder.

      "I found a village a ways into the forest. I'm the only one, but the houses are intact and you won't get rained on there," the Lutari offered. "I was looking for food when I found you, but I have fresh water as well."

      Gray squinted at Toren with evident suspicion. "I don't plan on spending too long on this forsaken island. But I suppose I'll need somewhere to stay while I build a boat to get out of here. You'd better not be like them, though."

      "I'm not," Toren replied although he had no way of knowing. After the Krawk had followed him along the path, the Lutari asked, "Is a boat really the best idea? Do you think you can build one that can withstand these storms?"

      "Not all of us have wings. I've worked with ships all my life; I think I know how to build one. And if it does break, that's still better than being cursed."

      Toren said nothing about the cursed comment. It was totally ridiculous, but Gray seemed just stubborn enough to not change his views based on Toren's reasoning.

      Once they got back to the village, Toren held his hands up in a mocking reveal. "I told you it wasn't much, but here it is. I collected rainwater in that vase. It's good enough to drink, better than salt water anyway."

      "You said you had food here?" Gray asked.

      Toren shook his head. "No, sorry. But I found some berries yesterday. I was looking for food when I found the beach. Then I saw you and got distracted."

      "Go look for some then," the Krawk ordered. "I can't be building a boat on an empty stomach."

      "Would I be welcome to hitch a ride on your boat, when you're done?" Toren asked. He didn't like the idea of being this Krawk's servant if there was nothing in it for him.

      The Krawk mumbled to himself quietly before saying, "Yeah, yeah. If you think you wanna leave when I'm done, you're welcome to come along. Don't know where I'll be going though."

      "That's alright. Me neither," Toren replied.

      "I'm hungry," Gray complained suddenly. "Go get food."

      "Alright, alright, I'm going." I didn't have to invite you here, you know...

      Toren chose to follow the same path in the opposite direction out of the village. If nothing else, hopefully he could find the Blobbule bush again. He did not stray far from the path, but he gave each tree and bush he passed a careful look as he checked for fruits or berries. A light rain had started falling, which, with the fog, obscured Toren's vision immensely.

      He flicked his ears in annoyance as he slipped in the mud and felt his fur go from damp to wet. He did not want to pick a fight with Gray, likely the only other person on the island, but he could not help but feel a bit envious that the older Krawk got to sit in the huts while he had to go on a food run.

      I'm not even hungry. I would have waited until it was less rainy... He knew it was unfair and that he was just sick of the near-constant rain. Maybe it's a good thing I'm out on my own right now.

      Toren's mood lightened considerably upon seeing several yellow fruits hanging from a tree nearby. They resembled bananas, so he assumed they were safe to eat. He plucked as many as he could carry from the tree and followed the path back through the forest to the huts. He hoped May would not be too disgusted by fruit yet again; he knew she preferred meat.

      The village was silent. Toren peeked into each hut until he found Gray. The Krawk perked up as he saw the food. "Good job, boy," he praised, snatching four of the bananas and starting on them immediately.

      Toren glanced around the hut, but he could not see May anywhere. She had not followed him to find the fruit, although he was sure she had come back from the beach. He looked in the other huts, but she was still nowhere to be found. "May?" he called, whistling shrilly.

      The soft, steady pitter-patter of the rain was his only response.

      "Have you seen my Doglefox?" he asked Gray. The old Krawk shook his head.

      "I don't care about no Petpets," the Krawk replied gruffly. "She kept outta my way and I ignored her."

      Toren felt a surge of anger. He stormed from the hut. "May!" He poked through the bushes, but she wasn't hiding. Where could she have gone?

      "Where are you going?" Toren heard Gray ask from behind him as he continued to search further and further out from the village.

      "I'm looking for May," the Lutari snapped.

      "But... but the food –"

      "- is coming with me until I find my Petpet!" he spat. "So don't eat all of what you took too fast."

      Thunder rolled overhead as Toren shook bushes and called May's name intermittently. Come on, May... Don't do this to me. Don't abandon me, too...

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Runaway: Part One
» Runaway: Part Two
» Runaway: Part Three
» Runaway: Part Five

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