Snake River by diongillard, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  diongillard 
__________________________________________

Morning arrived. I checked up on Zeyl, but to my surprise, she was standing outside while very light rain fell on her. Her arm was still wrapped carefully. And knowing how quite she’s been lately, I decided not to utter a word for the moment. I then stood beside her, letting the cool drops of water hit my face and in the mean time I looked around in all directions. There was no sign of that large wolf I thought I befriended. It doesn’t seem like Selsie will be returning by the looks of it. That’s when I noticed it, there weren’t any of corpses around from the wolves that were killed.

“Lee,” she said, “I need to find my sword. Can you help me?”

“Of course,” I said, smiling. From here on, I can only watch Zeyl’s condition and make sure she doesn’t stress herself. And so we began looking for her sword.

We looked around the area where I first found Zeyl. Inside the crack in the ground where she was found, there wasn’t the wolf corpse that should have been there. Then perhaps Selsie is gathering all the corpses for something.

“It’s not here,” said Zeyl. After a while, we found nothing but a small lizard like thing hiding behind a bush. It ran towards me until Zeyl pushed her food on its spine, killing it in the process.

“What was that?” I ask.

“These are brown-tailed lizards, don’t get near them if you ever spot one,” she said, pointing at its tail and the head, both of which are hard to discern from the other. “These are poisonous.”

“…”

We continue searching. After a while, we found only her overcoat that was wet all over, which made it heavier and thus hard to carry.

“Lee, about your remaining stones,” she inquired. “How many did you use up?”

“I have two left,” I then begin explaining where and how the rest were used up .

“So you traded some to them?”

“Yes. By the way,” I continue, “what can you tell me about a seeker stone?”

“It works two ways. Once it is active, its twin will do the same and will begin chiming when the two are close,” she said, “that’s one version of the seeker stones. Other iterations work by ignoring the fact that the othe twin is active or not.”

“… Which is mine?”

“It could be any,” she said. At this point, I am glad that Zeyl has been speaking so often. We continue looking for her sword, and in all the likely places, we also fail to find any of he wolves that Zeyl killed. That is, until we heard digging happening somewhere nearby.

There she was. Selsie was digging in the ground. There were a few burial mounds by her. Zeyl grabs my hand and keeps me close. She takes out one of her knives she had from her bag.

“…”

I remind Zeyl of Selsie, but knowing so, I doubt that would calm her down after what happened not that long ago. It’s not like I trust Selsie completely either, still, I try going to Selsie, but Zeyl’s grip on me isn’t letting go. I look at Zeyl, and her face seemed pained. We wait around for Selsie to finish burying the last wolf. She must have been doing this the whole time she was away.

She finishes burying the rest. The mounds were obviously still fresh, but coming from Selsie, a wolf, it’s a strange occurrence. Then again, this world is a strange place. Seslie stands over the mounds and looks around. Her eyes found us and the big paws Selsie has dig into the wet and soft ground as she makes her way to me.

Both Zeyl and Selsie become stiff towards each other once close enough. Zeyl is the first to back away by herself, and Seslie makes sure her nose touches my cheek when she gets close enough. Selsie then lays on the ground and makes herself out to look defenseless by letting her head touch the ground. She seems smaller that way, but it isn’t enough to fool someone.

“Should we keep moving?” I suggested, since the city should be our priority. Zeyl nods, and Selsie stands up. I ask Selsie to gives us a ride, then perhaps we’ll get to the city that much quicker.

In the end, even with Selsie’s help, we were unable to find the sword.

“It’s fine,” said Zeyl. We left with everything except her sword after a few hours of failing to find it. As for the two, Selsie was hesitant to let Zeyl ride on top of her, as was Zeyl towards Selsie in riding her. This took a while..

We continued our way through the forest, and as usual, some strange bugs were coming out out of their nests as the rain died down. I hadn’t seen them for a while, or it would more accurate to say that with all the trouble we have been through, I’ve unconsciously been ignoring the strange bugs that hover around on the high tree branches.

While traveling, we took a few breaks in between. By Zeyl’s estimate, we should only arrive in the city sometime tomorrow, so before then, we’ll have to set up camp in the forest one more time. We also brought some of the leaves for shelter with us, now that we could carry more because of Selsie. This will make setting up the next spot an easy job.

“Now all we have to do is follow the river down and we’ll be at the city,” said Zeyl, pointing towards where we will be heading. We made our camp by the same river.

Once camp was built, I let Zeyl take a rest at her request. She said the area should be safe, especially if I kept Selsie around. That’s hard to believe though, with all the crap that’s been going on lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing that attacked was a group of angry giant bugs or fish from the river. If there were any.

I head to the river. It flows gently and without much of a disturbance except for ripples made from fish that bob their head of the water. Red, yellow, and even green scaled fish could be seen from I stood. Selsie also looked to them, following closely where ever they went until eventually she jumped in the river and caught some of them with her mouth.

“…”

She gets out of the river and plants one of the fish next to me. She then goes to a nearby tree and enjoys her catch.

“Thank you, Selsie.” I bring the fish over to our camp. Zeyl already had a fire started and was resting her back against a tree. She’s a survivalist. I borrow her knife and prepare the fish on a stick and let it cook by the fire. But just in case…

“Zeyl..?”

“Hmm?” She answers with her eyes still closed.

“Is this fish safe to eat?” I ask, the fish in question looks colorful and delicious as it starts cooking. Regardless, Zeyl smiles and nods as she takes a few seconds to look at the fish. Once the fish is done, we share it with the larger portion going to Zeyl, as I myself only need a little in comparison, but enough for a growing body.

The day should be over soon, and I leave Zeyl once again by at camp while making my way to the river. I take out the two working stones and take a closer look at the seeker stone. It’s only been activated once, since it did so with the whole set, but it didn’t do anything. Now that it’s off, it is just s piece of shiny rock. These are bigger than a half dollar, easy to button up my clothing when it actually fit. I also made sure to wrap the two active stones in different color leaves to be able to tell them apart. Others might be able to identify them, but I really don’t see the differences between them, except from the completely used up stones that have no shine and reflect no light. I take the one wrapped in a red leaf, open it put it on the palm of my hand.

“I guess this is it,” I said, and with all the force I have, I throw the stone into the water where it will lie in the riverbed. I don’t think I ever want to return to Taliqa, and with what little I know about the seeker stone, it will be best if I cut all connections. Now all I have to do is find a different way back home… if only it were as easy as saying so. I can only hope that magic is the answer I’m looking for in finding a way back.

Back at camp we take the last sleep in this forest before we reach the city of Aria. Selsie stayed around and didn’t leave this time, but she kept roaming around camp and making noise through out the night. The fire was out, so all I could see was her silhouette from place to place. Zeyl didn’t budge an inch and simply kept resting.

“Selsie,” I said, “come over here.” She comes over and lays down. She smells of fish, but that’s fine. I finally get some rest and wake up a few hours later.

It’s early in the morning and we began packing our things, which wasn’t much, and most of it belonged to Zeyl. We rode on Selsie and made our way north of the river where the city of Aria could be found. For about two hours we kept close to the river and behind us were Selsie’s massive paw prints on the soft river ground. We had to grab onto her fur so that we wouldn’t fall, to which Selsie didn’t seem to mind. After four more hours, we kept on with the same pace, taking a break here and there for food and water.

“How long until we get there?” I ask.

“Shouldn’t be more than two hours from where we are,” she answered. Zeyl rode behind me with her carefully wrapped  arm around my waist and grip held tightly onto some of Selsie’s fur.

After about just one hour, we hit an actual road with vacant forest stretched in a line from one direction to another. Selsie stops for a moment, waiting for the order to go in whichever direction.

“Go left,” said Zeyl, and so we do.

I could smell a strong wind that hinted at being salty, like ones coming from the sea. After half an hour and we see a large rhino like animal hauling a cart full of merchandise. The person handling the animal looks to us as we pass by moments later. Again, as we got closer to the city, the sight of travelers became more common.

Then, finally, we saw a large wall surrounding a city, and an opening to the sea that was also now visible.

“We’re here,” said Zeyl.

End.

 

<< Previous Chapter  I  Next Chapter >>

________________________________________________