Handling The Unexpected
Looking straight down at the rock in the gently flowing river, Vanduck tried a seventh time to peck at the ground. The energy stored in the currents of the water and the heat of its river stones was barely enough to activate the young mutant vandagyre's psychometry.
Planning ahead as usual, Vanduck ran down the long river, jumping over jagged, slippery edges to reach the waterfall at the far end. Upon seeing the crest, he locked all three eyes onto the waterfall and slipped on a pile of pebbles underneath, sliding all across the wet stones and over the brink. After falling into the plunge pool, he managed to stay above the surface momentarily by smacking the water with his tentacles for propulsion.
The rocks that followed his fall came down shortly after, landing on his head. All Vanduck's tentacles staggered at once and he began to slowly sink, unconscious. As his head was about to go underwater, his middle eye opened widely. Eruptions of volcanoes from a thousand years ago, erosion of river banks from centuries ago, his fall from above the waterfall moments ago - everything had become visible to the mutant's mind, including how to keep from drowning.
Awakened by his epiphany, Vanduck opened his other two eyes and instantly curled all his purple feathers inward to avoid the water resistance. As his tentacles rose above the surface, his legs freely absorbed the water from the basin. Like an eruption, he shot water from the slimy stalks on his legs, no longer wondering what they were for. Time slowed down once again. He remained frozen in place within the cascading waterbed as the future tumbled through his vision, this time all three eyes open to view the premonition.
"Slow down now!" drawled the gelert pointing his boat toward the vandagyre. "All I want is one of your feathers, or maybe just a tentacle!" As Vanduck sped past, a large splash drenched the poacher and his boat. "Oh, nice shot!"
Vanduck strode across the wide lake, looking for safety while dodging every gaff thrown his way. Out of the three eyes, he moved only his left to reposition it over on his profile. He had learned over the years how to shift his eyes further out for a better view of his surroundings. Watching the next incoming spear a couple meters away through his left eye, the mutant psychic calmly closed his right eye in a winking manner, grinned and leapt into the air. Six times before he had evaded getting impaled by the poacher in this way, and upon the seventh leap, the gelert stood still on his boat, overwhelmed with amazement. Vanduck was physically frozen in the air within the cool mist of his transcendental splash, as drops of water gradually fell from his body back into the lake.
The boat engine was disengaged and the sudden stop cast gentle ripples through the lake, meeting those caused by the water dripping from Vanduck, still stuck motionless under the bright sun.
In that moment, Vanduck knew why the energy from the rocks that had fallen on his head long ago allowed him to see the eruptions and rivers. It was the powerful spirit of Mystery Island where the land is surrounded by running ocean water and igneous rocks from its volcanic mountain, all filled with stored energy from the past. Any direct contact with these strong pockets of energy could unlock the memories absorbed by the nearest objects at the time. He realized learning from the past would help him avoid hunters coming after him in the future. So he sent a psychic message back to when he was still a young vandagyre at the waterfall many years ago - a premonition to explore all of the island and grow a psychometric connection with it.
"Walk. Touch. See what you must. Feel the earth a hundred times. Feel the connection a thousand times. Walk. Touch. See what you must." He repeated this mantra in his head until a white glow shined from his talons and beak as he dove into the water.
A school of both Flishy and Koi swam away as the mutant hit the surface. Vanduck was at peace with his message and his life on the island. He looked at both his arms underwater in joy, now knowing his purpose is tied with all the elements around him. A few curious Flishy returned to get a look at the mutant they had been staring at from under the surface. Vanduck gently pet one on its fin and smiled before kicking the water below to rise back up for air.
"Hey, Feathers!" shouted the gelert poacher. Lowering his head to pick up a lifering by his teeth, he flung it over the water. "Heads up!" Vanduck calmly turned his head toward the boat. The gelert jumped into the lake over the taffrail.
Vanduck's right eye squinted in confusion, but his left eye opened further to analyze the poacher swimming over to him. He sensed no danger from the gelert now, and wishing to rest his legs for a while, he grabbed onto the lifering. "Is this where I thank you? Who... Who are you?" he asked quietly.
Splashing all four legs, the gelert arrived to the lifering and laid both his front arms out on top of it. Sighing, he said, "Scavert. And, I'm not looking to take your feathers or whatever." He looked at Vanduck in all three eyes, going back and forth to each one to check if he believed him. Sighing again, "My name's Scavert, and I was out here trying to trade for a few treasures back home by taking one of your crazy-lookin' sparkle parts. You're one of the most wanted hunts on the guild board right now. They say they've caught all sorts of sights of a sparkling mutant going around the island and just touching everything. That was you, wasn't it?"
Vanduck's beak opened in shock while his tentacles swayed underwater. He was pleased to know that his psychometry had been getting noticed by the island inhabitants, or at least, he thought, they noticed he was attempting to communicate with the land. At any rate, he was at a loss for words while his mind raced.
Scavert inhaled loudly through his nose after waiting for a reply and said, "Yup. It was you. Well, look. I'm really not here to tell you what to do, especially since what I do ain't all that great anyway. I don't even like this job." Scavert lifted his paw to rest it on his cheek. "Guild says it's easy rank-up, but I'm only in that guild 'cause the leader is my brother..." He let out a quick breath from his nose and put his arm back down on the lifering. "Anyway, if you want to avoid any more of my guild members coming after you, just lay low. You're kind of an easy target to find. Just ain't easy to catch."
"Are any of them as nice as you? Why did you stop chasing me?" Vanduck quickly responded. A few of the Koi had now swam closer to the both of them. One Koi nudged Vanduck's leg, then swam over to Scavert, nudging his as well.
"I feel like I'm meant for something better. Always have," Scavert said, turning his view out to the distant trees lining up the edges of the lake. "My brother... He thinks I should work for the guild and make it the best it can be. I don't really think they see me for who I am." After a quick pause, Scavert looked back at Vanduck and continued, "Do you like the night sky?"
"I think it's nice, yes. The stars always shine brightly," Vanduck replied softly.
"They do!" Scavert proudly explained, "Here at Mystery Island, that's the best way to navigate at night when you're out at sea. I take my baby over there out every night, looking for any underwater treasure in the deeper parts of the ocean." The two of them looked at the boat, then smiled at each other.
"Treasures..." said Vanduck in glee. "You find things from the past in the ocean?" he asked the friendly seafarer.
"Sure do. All the time. Well... not all the- Well... Yeah, I do," Scavert said trying to impress the gentle mutant. "My brother doesn't think it's much. Says it's usually trash I bring back. It's not true... Most of the stuff I find looks like it was something very special way back then," Scavert assures Vanduck before shrugging his shoulders.
Feeling comfortable around the poacher, who seems more now like a friend, Vanduck explained his psychometric abilities and the glow from his body during psychic connections. "I like to feel the earth and elements around me. They carry the weight of the past, and I can see it whenever I touch something. Perhaps I could see if your treasures hold a past that your guild members may not be able to?" he asked.
"You- what?! You can what now?" the confused seafarer responded. After more explanation, the premise was finally understood. "So... You're a psychic," Scavert said firmly.
"I believe that I am, yes," Vanduck replied as he nodded.
"OK. OK. Well, I guess we're just going to have to try your psychic abilities on this necklace I found. It's back on the boat. Don't worry. I'll go get it, so you don't think I'm pulling a fast one on you." Scavert said with a smile. He had been looking for someone to share his treasures with for so long as well as someone who would simply listen to him for more than a minute without asking him to go fetch something.
"That's all right. If it's all right with you, I mean, could I hop on your boat? This lifering is nice, but I'm feeling quite tired now," Vanduck explained while his middle eye began to close halfway.
"Oh! Yeah, sure," Scavert replied, holding back another smile.
The audience of Flishy and Koi nearby all swam away again as the two made their way over to the boat. Scavert put both front paws on the edge of the boat and lifted himself up with one quick jump out of the water. Vanduck pulled water from the sponge-like membranes on his legs and burst it all out to leap over the side of the boat.
Scavert drew a metal box from under one of the seats. He came back and handed the necklace to Vanduck. "All right, Feathers. Do your stuff."
The vandagyre took the necklace, then looked back at his friend. "My name is Vanduck by the way," he said smiling.
"Well, Vanduck, it's a pleasure to officially make your acquaintance," the old seafarer said comically as he extended his paw. A smile broke out on Vanduck's face as he reached out and shook it.
"Now, then..." Vanduck looked at the necklace and began pecking lightly at its chain. After several pecks, his middle eye widened as a white glow began to shine around them. Suddenly Vanduck knew how to share his psychometry with his past self, the fellow spirits of the land, as well as with his new friend. A white glow began to shine through both as they shared a look of wonder.
Sometime later, Vanduck released the glow, a smile lighting up his entire face. "Well that's never happened before."
Scavert stared at Vanduck in wonder but could find no words to express all the feelings coursing through him. "I... you..." He sighed. "Thank you!"
Before Vanduck could respond, the lush, green mountain a mile from the lake shook the ground and sent a shock wave out across the island. At its volcanic peak, ash particles collided and a lightning bolt struck the mountaintop. That was quickly followed by an eruption of hot stones accompanied by billowing clouds of smoke a mile high.
"Wow, everything suddenly makes perfect sense," Vanduck whispered as the land's conveyed message pulsed throughout his being.
Debris from the volcano rained down around them. Vanduck smiled as he caught a glimpse of the falling red rocks as they burned and blended majestically with the orange sunset to land nearby on the shore. Turning back to Scavert he gestured toward the shore. "Let's check it out!"
Excited to see what sort of history the debris has to offer, he sped his way toward them and suddenly realized he could sense the psychometry of the new rocks around him, even those he wasn't touching. Now he could freely run on and jump off any stones in his way without worry. Amazed, but not slowing down, Vanduck glanced over his shoulder to make sure Scavert was following then skipped eagerly, unaware his talons and beak began to faintly glow on and off along the way.
Like water off a duck's back, Vanduck decided nothing again would ever stop him from rolling like a stone as he reached the site of a shaking red codestone that tumbled onto the river's edge.