Betwixt and Between
Part Two: Chapter Three
"In blinded mind you are singing a glorious hallelujah,
The distant flutter of angels, they're all too far,
Too far to reach for you."
"They didn't know you were coming with them?" Tavarez asked incredulously, though he looked on the verge of laughter.
Torn between pride and embarrassment, Yula tilted her chin up at him. "They didn't even know I knew. Nightling thought he was just going to disappear on me, and be gone for who knows how long."
"Apparently he thought wrong."
"You bet he did. I found out from Lament's teacher, and just sort of... waited. It really wasn't hard to figure out where they'd be. Lament only has a couple places he's comfortable teleporting from, and I knew he wouldn't be doing it in the practice courtyard, so I hung around their usual garden spot until they showed up with packs packed."
"And jumped out to catch onto Lament the moment he teleported," Tavarez chuckled, shaking his head. "I have a feeling they weren't happy with you."
"Well, Lament didn't really seem to mind-- we get on pretty well-- but he was a little upset, because he was afraid he might have hurt me in the teleport, since he wasn't expecting me. Nightling, though... he was furious." Yula sighed, remembering. "It was horrible, he yelled at me-- not like before, when we trapped him, because it was really him."
"Well, even the most gentle can have a temper," the Rattai pointed out, and she wrinkled her nose at him.
"Well, they did finally let me stay, at least. Mostly because I told them I'd find a way to catch up, even if it meant hiring someone back in the city, but I think Lament finally begging him to stop yelling because he had a headache from the teleport helped a lot."
"Heh. Probably so."
Lament was exhausted. His feet were sore. He was always cold. He still wasn't very good at flying, with his wings only half-grown-in, and could only glide if the wind was easily navigable-- and the wind was anything but, in the mountains-- so he spent most of his time walking. Winter was only a couple months behind them-- less, actually, on Mythicalae, since it was slightly behind Kynn-- so it was cold all the time. Since he was the biggest of them all, he usually wound up carrying the most, and it felt like he never had quite enough to eat. What he did get wasn't the fat, tame beasts he was used to, but stringy mountain beasts who probably weren't getting enough, themselves.
And they'd been searching for two whole weeks, without a sign of anything. If they'd actually found a hint of the caves they were looking for, he probably would have written everything else off as a hazard of adventuring. But after two weeks of little hope, a lot of frustration, and a pair of very awkward and tense traveling companions, Lament just wanted to go back to go home, no matter how bad his bond's dreams were. He wasn't even full grown yet, and he was already trekking around like a mad-dragon, chasing imaginary caves that he had first speculated might actually exist.
But then they'd stop for the night, and he'd curl around Yula and his bond for warmth, and follow the latter into his dreams, and remember why they were doing this. Ever since they'd left for Mythicalae, they'd been worse than usual, as if his mind was somehow punishing him for trying to find the source of his troubles. It was as if the leap from the cave ledge had never happened, and he certainly hadn't made any other sleeping forays to their goal. After a night of that, it was at least worth it for as long as it took to get himself up and moving again, despite the cold, stiffness, and general discomfort. And once he got moving, he could at least plod along until he had a reason to stop.
He didn't dare complain, because neither of the other two were complaining. His own bond might have been used to travel and living away from the comforts of civilization, but his sleep was so restless and lapses into that otherworld frequent enough that he was starting to look haggard. Nearly everything he caught-- for he often spent the evenings hunting with Lament-- he gave away, even the fish. He had the most riding on this trek, and he said the least about its lack of success.
Even Yula, who had never left her village for most of her life, or the city of the Sanctuary of the Sun since they moved there, was holding up remarkably well. Lament suspected that getting to sleep snuggled up to his bond had something to do with that, but even though she hurt from all the walking and woke as sore as she did, she seemed unwilling to say anything. Maybe she was afraid she'd get sent back, somehow, if she complained.
So Lament tried to follow their example and be tough. It was hard to do, sometimes, in the face of yet another day of slim odds and trudging aimlessly while his bond stared around, looking for anything that might be familiar.
"Maybe we should try another mountain range," his bond said heavily, sitting facing their little fire one evening. Lament had lost count of how many there had been. It was the first even half-way discouraged thing he had said so far. "I don't think this one's it... there are hardly any caves, and there are too many trees...."
"What if it's not even on Mythicalae?" Yula suggested listlessly, tossing another twig into the flames. "Who knows-- maybe it's on whatever world your people come from."
"Gods, I hope not... then we'll never find it. It has to be here, somewhere."
"It could take a long time. Mythicalae is a big world."
"I've been around it more times than I remember... one more isn't going to hurt me."
The very thought of spending that long tramping through mountains, cold, hungry, tired, and sore, was enough to make Lament shudder. The ripple that went down his hide even caught his bond's attention, and earned him a weary pat. "It wouldn't take all that long. We wouldn't have to go over the whole world... just the mountains."
"As if that's really any better," Yula muttered, and Lament heartily agreed with her.
"Maybe we should just try," he began, but let his voice trail off, unsure.
"Try what, Lament?" Yula asked encouragingly.
"I don't know. Maybe just try going to the place, itself...."
"I thought you said you didn't know what would happen if you did that," his bond asked, voice tight. He didn't want to sound like he wanted him to try it, but Lament could tell that he did.
"That was before I knew what it was like trying to get there on foot," Lament answered weakly, ears back with embarrassment. "You believe it's a real place, right?"
"And I think it is. So it's worth a try, isn't it?" Anything was better than aching so much it hurt to shiver. And if he didn't think too much about what could happen if they tried teleporting to someplace that didn't really exist, he wouldn't get too nervous about actually doing it. He hoped.
"Not until you've slept and had enough to eat," his bond said firmly, surprising him. At his glance, he grinned slightly. "The more rested and sated you are, the safer your teleport." I know you haven't been happy, Lament, his thoughts added sympathetically, in a musical undertone not unlike how Lament, himself, sounded in his bond's dreams. I'm not oblivious. But thank you for being here with me, anyway. Lament didn't answer except to nuzzle into his chest for a gentle hug around the neck. It was enough.
Yula, oblivious to the silent words, said, "Tomorrow sometime, then?"
"Tomorrow sometime," his bond agreed. "Now let's get some sleep, it's late and we're all tired."
Lament coiled around the fire, as closely as he could without pushing his bond or Yula into it, while Yula crawled around with her cloak to settle against his side, right up against his bond. The latter sighed, and he said silently, wryly, At least all she can do, out here, is cuddle.
::With me right here? Thank the gods.::
They both stifled snickers, and said no more for the rest of the night.
Song borrowed from the OST for Hack//Sign, the song "The World"
Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera