Two Are Better Than One Chapter 2
The Chase is On!
By Samara Secor
When the next day dawned, almost everyone was still in bed, sleeping off the effects of too much food and drink. Neil was even more tired than the people who had stayed at the party, because those ‘angelic’ siblings of his had refused to go to bed. He had tried bribing them, threatening them, and anything else he could think of, but all of it had failed. They finally dropped off to sleep about ten minutes before his parents had returned. Neil felt like tearing his hair out, but all he did was give a mumbled good night before collapsing on his bed.
Around mid-morning, he awoke to Carlin and Erin poking him and yelling, “Get up! Get up, sleepy head!”
Without opening his eyes, Neil moaned and said, “Go away.”
Everything got really quiet, and he had almost drifted back into dreamland when someone dumped a mug of cold water on him. With a loud yell, he sprang to his feet and glared at the two little terrors who were laughing so hard, that they could barely stand. “Grrr... What makes you think that you can get away with doing something like that?” he asked, trying to keep a lid on his temper.
“Because I told them to, Neil.”
Neil blinked and noticed that his mother was standing behind them. From the expression on her face, he could tell that something was seriously wrong. “Mom.... What is it?”
“Do you have any idea where Alicia went after we dropped by with Carlin and Erin?”
Neil shook his head and said, “When I left, she was still standing there. Why do you want to know?”
“Both Alicia and Laticia are missing. Their beds haven’t been slept in, and no one seems to know where they’ve gone. What’s more, is they took enough supplies to keep them going for a week, not to mention their weapons and a couple of quivers full of arrows. Their parents are frantic! Don’t you have any idea where they might have gone?”
Neil thought for a while and said, “I really don’t know, but Tyrian might. Didn’t he say that he was going to head for Tamur and trade some of those goods we gave him? He only left a couple of days ago. If I take one of the horses, I might be able to make it there before he leaves.”
By the time Neil had gotten a horse saddled up and ready to ride, Alicia and Laticia had just arrived at the entrance to Tamur. Alicia was about to step through the gate, when she saw Tyrian standing there talking with some merchants. She quickly ducked back out of sight and said, “We’ve got a problem. Tyrian’s making some kind of a business deal in the middle of the path into town. There’s no way that he’s going to miss seeing us if we just walk in there the way we are now.”
“Well, we can’t just wait until he leaves! That could take forever,” Laticia thought for a moment and said, “Maybe he won’t notice us if we go in separately.”
“It’s worth a try. I’ll go first. If you don’t hear Tyrian yelling at me after a couple of minutes, it should be safe to follow.”
Alicia slipped around the corner and forced herself to walk at a smooth, unhurried pace past Tyrian while he was trying to wring a better exchange rate out of one of the merchants. When she made it to the other side without incident, she breathed a sigh of relief. Not too long afterwards, Laticia joined her and said, “Whew, that was close! I was sure that Tyrian was going to turn around any second and catch me. Let’s get out of here before something else happens.”
After a few hours spent having to trace and retrace their steps, the twins finally came out on the other side of the pass. They continued going to the northwest, when Laticia suddenly stopped and asked, “Do you hear something?”
Alicia listened for a moment and answered, “Yes, I do. It sounds like...”
“Pipes,” Laticia finished. “I wonder who could be playing such music out in the middle of nowhere. Do you think we should check it out?”
“Well, it’s getting kind of late, and those trees look like they’ll be the best shelter for miles around, so maybe someone else found a good campsite around here. We should see what’s going on, but have your bow ready in case whoever it is that is making the music is not friendly.”
They followed the noise to its source and came upon a clearing containing nothing but a lake and a cave. Puzzled, Laticia said, “I don’t get it. It sounds like we’re practically on top of the musician, but I don’t see anybody. Where is it coming from, and who’s playing it?”
“It’s the wind,” a small voice said from above them.
Alicia and Laticia looked up and saw what appeared to be a blue cat looking down at them from his perch on one of the tree branches. A minute passed with neither of them saying anything, until the blue cat cleared his throat and repeated, “It’s the wind blowing through the passages in that cave that makes those sounds. Are either of you two listening to me? You girls are just standing there staring at me with your mouths wide open like you’re a couple of zombies or something.”
Laticia found her voice first and answered, “I’m sorry. We’re from Pao, and neither of us have ever seen a talking cat before. Are you the familiar of one of Vane’s magicians?”
“Excuse me, but I am not a cat!’ he exclaimed and leaped off the branch.
Instead of falling to the ground, he stretched out his wings and hovered a few inches from Laticia’s nose. “Let’s get a couple of things straight here. Cats do not talk, they do not have wings, and they are not blue. I am all three. Therefore, I cannot possibly be a cat! I am a....” he stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Well, never mind that. Just accept the fact that I’m not a cat and be happy with that, okay?”
“Sure.... Whatever,” Alicia gave the flying blue thing that was not a cat a strange look and asked, “Do you mind if we camp out here for the night? Or is this some kind of private place, uh... What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t say what my name was, but you can call me Conch,” he answered. “So, what do I call the two of you?”
“I’m Alicia, and this is my twin sister, Laticia. So can we stay here or not?” Alicia asked, tapping her foot impatiently.
“Yeah, sure. You can spend the night here. Just don’t go wandering around in the cave or swimming in the lake. They’re off limits to travelers,” Conch explained.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me going anywhere. All I want to do is have a quick bite to eat and go to sleep. We have to get an early start in the morning,” Laticia said.
“Really? Where are you going? You don’t mind my asking, do you? It gets kind of lonely out here sometimes with nothing but the wind to listen to,” Conch said.
“I guess we can tell you as long as you don’t go blabbing it to someone else, okay?” Conch nodded and Alicia continued, “I’m taking my sister to Vane so that she can learn magic.”
“Cool,” Conch said. “You’ve still got a long way to go before you get there. Do you want me to tell you about it, or do you already know all that stuff?”
“Well, we’ve got some idea of what’s ahead, but I’m sure there’s a lot that we don’t know. You’re welcome to tell us,” Alicia said.
Conch smiled and said, “Get ready for an earful.”
Three hours later, Conch took a deep breath and said, “Well, that’s about all I can tell you. Did you catch all that?”
“Uhh... I think so,” Laticia said. “So, you say that the first thing we’ve got to do is catch a ferry to take us to the Marius Zone?”
“Right,” Conch agreed. “Remember what I said about Reza, now. Stay away from them unless you’re of a mind to lose something.”
“We will,” Alicia yawned. “Now, quit talking and let us go to sleep.”
Tyrian looked up from his work at the sound of a horse’s hooves and saw Neil ride in through the gate. “Hey, Neil! What brings you out here in such a hurry?” Tyrian asked, raising his hand in a welcoming salute.
Neil slid off the horse and said, “Alicia and Laticia are missing. Have you seen them?”
“No, I haven’t seen them, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t come by. All day, I’ve been doing my best to wring every silver I can out of those money-grubbing merchants’ hands. If they were trying to avoid being seen, I could have easily missed them.”
“Well, do you have any idea where they might be heading?”
“Away from here, lad. Where else?”
“Tyrian! I mean some place specific.”
“That depends entirely on whose decision it was to take off. If it was Laticia, I imagine that they’ll be heading towards Vane.”
“Thanks! I’ll be going, then,” Neil said as he prepared to jump back on his horse.
“Hey, hold on a minute, Neil!” Tyrian laid a restraining hand on his shoulder. “You’re not going anywhere today. Navigating the Tamur Pass in the dark would be suicide. Stay here with me tonight, and I’ll make sure you’re on your way as soon as the sun rises.”
To Chapter Three
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