Day 56

Traveling to Rockestel took the better part of the day. The massive green tinged sun had set behind the crest of mountains, leaving the three moons to illuminate the company’s way. The lake to their left seemed more ominous in the darkness of night, as if a monstrous hands would thrust from the peaking waves and snatch the children along with their guides with one swipe. The weather, which used to feel both warm and cold, a perfect comfortable mixture, now only felt cold. He children had long ago filtered out Adriei, Agile, Digitalis, and Glue Pot as they chatted about the goings on about Soielle. There were too many places, names, and species that they just didn’t understand. Instead, they focused on what they did understand.

The children took out their jerky and munched on the morsels as they walked, letting the juices from the meat settle their stomachs. The mixture of sand and rocks had somehow lodged into the children’s shoes, leaving only Zane comfortable in his hiking boots. They were all growing sleepy, still unaccustomed to this rigorous training of their bodies, and therefore, became grumpy. There were no soft beds to plop onto. There were no mothers or fathers kissing them atop their heads to wish them goodnight. There was no one to tell them that everything would be alright.

Just when Lila had at last had her fill of walking and walking and walking and was about to scream at the top of her lungs, even if it would make her sound like a little girl, the company halted in front of an odd, rocky outcropping.

“Say, hey!” Zane said. “What? Isn’t that what medieval people say when they arrive somewhere cool?”

“I think you’re thinking of, lo—we art here,” Gabbie corrected.

“Or, we can say what normal people say,” Ginger grumbled.

“Land ho?” Alastair ventured. He knew it wasn’t what Ginger wanted to hear, but sometimes he couldn’t let the golden opportunity to tease her be wasted.

“I think we can all agree that we’ve made it to Rockestel,” Adriei said. They straightened their belt, and Alastair could have sworn that they were turning green. Did that have to do anything with the Heights? Alastair couldn’t really see anything in the dark. He wished that Tipper was awake to cast his black flames so that they could all see better.

Agile rushed passed Adriei and knocked bristly against the outcropping of rocks three times.

Rap. Rap. Rap.

Glue Pot grasped his hands nervously and pawed the sandy Rocky’s with one front foot. Digitalis golden her arms impatiently.

“Who is it?” Rasped a squeaky voice from behind the rocks. Actually, the squeak was less of a mouse’s squeak but a more pleasing sound, like a squeak from a well tuned viola. The children had to adjust their hearing to comprehend that a squeak could sound so, so pretty.

“It’s us,” Agile barked.

“Who’s us?”

“The guards sent from Queen Inana.”

“Funny, I thought that there were only two of them people.”

“There are.”

“Then why are their…one, two, more than quintuple of you all?”

Agile covered their face with both of their trembling hands.

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