“It’s still got a grave yardy feel to it.” Ginger shuddered. “Hey, Tipper. Got over your fear of the big bad forest?”
Tipper’s face looked very much like a marble grave marker tinged green. He gulped, covered his face briefly with a shaking hand, and replied. “T-t-there’s nothing to w-worry about. We just g-g-gotta keep going. That’s right.”
The group traveled straight into the heart of the Blood Clot Forest for a good deal of time. Alastair would later remember feeling as though they were walking in circles. The trees tumbling up and over the ground with no beginning or end did not help with the constant itch within his head that they were getting nowhere. His feet were aching. The pack thrown over his back was making his spine twinge with momentary pain. And the fog. The fog touched his face, leaving him saturated with unneeded, heavy moisture.
For the entire length of their Blood Clot Forest walk, Gabbie kept the group’s sprits up with her constant chatter.
“I would have graduated Junior High on the high honor roll this year. I don’t think I will now. That kind of sucks because I really wanted to get into this one High School that has a really great creative writing program. Mom says that I’m a dreamer and that my dreams would be best set onto paper. I think she’s right. Maybe? I don’t know. What do you guys think?”
“I don’t know what high school is. You certainly are a dreamer, though,” Tipper grumbled.
“You can’t say suck,” Lila said.
“Anyway, this all happened because I wanted to see a mermaid waterfall.”
“Which is still dumb,” Ginger huffed.
“No, this is my fault,” Alastair interjected.
“Are there mermaids in Soielle? I mean, you guys exist as spirits in Japan, right? So that must mean the mermaids in Earth could be like mermaids here.”
“I know what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the oceans in Soielle to confirm your theory. And as far as I know, the lakes and rivers here don’t contain mermaids.” Perceval cocked his head. “I’ve only traveled the lands to the north, though. The south is another monster.”
“Huh,” Gabbie rolled her shoulders. “Is anyone else getting hungry?”
“Yeah. How long have we been walking? Ten hours?” Zane asked.
“About eight.” Tipper loped up to a plot of trees that criss crossed over one another. He scooted around the gray dirt with is fox’s foot and sniffed the air. “This seems like a safe area to stop.”
“Finally. Food!” Ginger smiled for the first time since started their journey.
The company of humans and kitsunes plopped down and unpacked the food Won and Lerol prepared for them. This could have easily felt like a picnic if it weren’t for the eerily silent forest and blue fog. Lila broke off pieces of the salty wet jerky for Perceval, feeding him chunk after chunk. Alastair had learned not to ask what type of food they were consuming. He usually received odd replies, like the one they heard about the deerne. He would just have to see the animal to truly understand its description, otherwise, he wouldn’t put himself through the strain. It was enough that the sky was a color he couldn’t name let alone comprehend.
Alastair reached into his pack and pulled out a sandwich. It was a little soggy.
‘Must be the fog,’ he thought. He was too hungry to hold back. Although he hiked regularly in the forest behind his house, he was not used to prolonged walks. His feet had blisters, and her was pretty sure that they burst. The only way to recover was food and drink.
One bite. Chew. Swallow. Another bite. Chew slowly. Something felt wrong. His mouth was burning. He swallowed and peered at the sandwich. It was just a sandwich. Alastair took another bite, chewed, and swallowed. That was when he remembered. He clearly saw himself dropping the fire gem the Elder gifted him into his bag with his food.
“Oh no,” he gasped. Alastair check the bag’s contents. The gem was no where to be seen.
“Oh no, what?” Tipper asked.
But Alastair couldn’t answer. He burped, and instead of a normal, involve exhalation of air, a giant fireball careened straight out of the boy’s mouth and right towards Tipper.