Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 266 | 17th day of Storing, Y8
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Silver Flames: Part Three

by scar19


Ora immediately noticed I wasn't with the group. He gave me a questioning look. I knew he wasn't much of a talker and avoided speaking when he could get away with silence, and right now it was obvious what he was asking. He wanted to know why I wasn't swimming.

      I just shook my head, pretending that I didn't want to swim and acting like I was just too cool to go swimming.

      Kiah saw that Ora was looking at something, and he was the second to realize that I wasn't swimming.

      "C'mon, Mage! It's fun. Come check out this school of scrawny fish we found," he said.

      I shook my head again, but already Era and Scar were trying to get me in the water. I couldn't see how I could refuse without Era giving me a few good reasons why my excuse wasn't a very good one. Although Kiah had the best book-smarts of all of us, Era was definitely the most logical.

      Soon I got frustrated with my family's pestering, and I shouted, "I can't swim! Get it? Now stop bugging me!"

      I sulked in a corner while the rest of my family tried to enjoy themselves. It wasn't long before Ora got the attention of the others and shook his head. I've always been amazed at how well he can get his point across without words. Maybe we were just good at reading his expressions.

      "Ora's right," Kiah said to Scar and Era. "I just can't have much fun when I know Mage isn't happy."

      "Let's go," Scar said glumly.

      Era agreed, and they climbed back into the boat where the captain sailed us back to the docks. We rode in silence, and I was wallowing in my guilt. I felt horrible for keeping everybody else from having a good time. I should have just accepted the floatation device (actually just a floating tube, but I think the captain wanted to sound smart when he said 'floatation device') and humiliated myself instead of yelling at them. If I had done that, maybe I would have ended up having a good time. As things were, I was here, and there was a miserable air about the entire boat.

      When we reached the docks, it was a little after noon. We all quietly went our separate ways, agreeing to meet for dinner and to eat lunch on our own. I set off towards the forest again, remembering that I had seen a quiet coffee shop where I would be able to have lunch. I've never been a big fan of coffee, but I wanted to go for the biscuits and tea.

      When I arrived, I ordered a cup of mint tea and sank into a wooden chair. When the red Uni waitress dropped by my table with my tea, I looked up and noticed a familiar shape sitting with his back facing me at a nearby table. If I wasn't already able to tell, the blue cloak gave him away. It was Blane, the hood of his cloak off his head while he sipped a cup of steaming coffee.

      I wasn't eager to have my misery interrupted, so I did not go over to him. However, he must have sensed somebody watching him, and he turned around to look. I immediately ducked my head and lowered my eyes, but despite my efforts to remain unnoticed, he stood, coffee cup in hand, and came over to my table. He sat down in the chair across from mine, and it was all I could do to keep from sighing in frustration. I really wanted to be alone right now, but that clearly wasn't going to happen.

      "Hey. It's Mage, right?" he asked, his tone friendlier than it had been the day before. I guessed that the reason behind that was because there was no danger in talking to me. Sylva wasn't there, and at the moment there was nobody around who would object to his talking to me. At the moment, I really wished that there was.

      "That's right," I answered gloomily, not adding anything else in a poor attempt to discourage him from staying. I sipped my tea, pretending not to pay any attention to the Techo.

      "So do you live around here? I haven't seen you around until yesterday," he said, obviously trying to start a conversation. I wasn't planning to let him.

      "No, I don't live here," I answered, determined to make him uncomfortable by making him fill the silence.

      "Neither do I. The Flames have come here for a little while to deal with the Shadow Usul. We really all live in Meridell. Where do you live, Mage?"

      "Neopia Central," I answered, but it was obvious that my efforts to make him feel awkward were working, and I was feeling even more guilty than I had when I entered the coffee shop, so I added more, deciding to make an effort to make it a two-sided conversation. "But my family and I are staying here for three weeks on vacation."

      When I mentioned my family, I noticed a strange expression come across Blane's face, and I instantly regretted mentioning them. At that moment, it made me wonder if he had come into the coffee shop for the same reason I had. To think and try to solve problems.

      "That's nice..." the Techo said, clearly wanting to end the conversation. He began to concentrate on drinking his coffee, ignoring me and looking awfully gloomy.

      Now it was my turn to feel awkward and to try to fill up the silence, but for the life of me I couldn't think of anything to say, so I just got to the point by saying, "Are you okay?"

      "Fine. Really. I need to be somewhere. I'll see you tonight, Mage." And he rose and left the shop, leaving me confused and even gloomier than I started.

      My morose feelings were beginning to overwhelm me, and I needed something to take my mind off of it, so I took a jog through the trails in the forest.

      After finishing my jog it was about time for me to be getting back to the lodge. I had completely forgotten about everything that had happened before my run, and I was feeling pretty good. I trotted off down the path that snaked around the lake and led towards the lodge without getting lost. It was progress. Usually when I went to new places, I was constantly looking for somebody to give me directions.

      I entered the lodge feeling as if I were starving. I headed into the dining area, hoping that my family was already there. Sure enough, all but Scar were seated at a round table. I walked over and sat down. They were discussing what they did that day, and I was relieved to see that they had all forgotten about what happened in the morning. I stayed quiet, debating over whether I should tell them about the Silver Flames and about how I'd met Blane in the coffee shop. I didn't have to decide because the topic of discussion switched over to the different possible reasons why Scar was late. She was always late, so this wasn't unusual, but she always seemed to have a different excuse for being late whenever we asked.

      When Scar finally hurried into the room and sat down, she told us that she had gotten lost. This was her standard answer whenever she really couldn't think of any good reasons. Usually, though, it was hilarious whenever she claimed to have gotten lost in her own house.

      We ordered our food, which consisted of salad, candy rocks, and soup. Although it was similar to the night before's dinner, it tasted great and different. When we finished our meal, Era, Scar, and Ora headed up to our rooms while Kiah left to the lobby to meet new friends.

      I pulled out the card Akiri and Blane had given me, realizing that it was growing late and I had promised to meet them. The room number on it was 216. I knew by the number that it was on the second floor because the first number was two. Now I just had to find the room. I headed up to the second floor (the dining area was on the ground floor) and looked around. I was standing next to room 265. I started to walk, scanning the numbers on the doors and looking for 216. The numbers decreased. But I turned a corner and found myself at 290. Wrong way.

      After a while of wandering and getting thoroughly lost, I successfully located the right room. I was unsure of what to do now, because the door to the room looked exactly like all the other ones. Maybe they had just played a trick on me and there really wasn't a group called the Silver Flames. I knocked on the door and a large and very normal looking yellow Skeith opened the door. I was immediately sure that I was at the wrong room and was about to turn away when I saw that behind the Skeith there were many pets wearing cloaks similar to Akiri's and Blane's.

      "What do you want?" the Skeith growled.

      It was then that I realized that I had been standing there for quite a while and I must have looked pretty stupid. I began to feel awkward and quietly handed the coin to him, casting my eyes down. He pushed the coin back to me.

      "Keep it," he said and without another word he stepped away from the door and allowed me to pass.

      When I entered the dimly lit room and the door closed behind me, I wasn't at all sure what to think. Oil lamps and candles were lit and moonlight flooded through the windows, but there were no electric lights being used. As I looked around, I noticed that the room was far larger than I had expected it to be and there were also far more people here than I had expected. I estimated that there were roughly thirty of them while I had expected more like five of ten.

      I began to feel even more awkward when I realized that, besides the Skeith, I was the only one not wearing a dark colored cloak. It made me feel like I stuck out of the crowd and that everybody would be able to tell. A few people stared at me, and it occurred to me by the way everybody was talking to everybody else that they all knew each other. I felt terribly uncomfortable and alone.

      I was caught off guard when somebody yanked me to the side of the room. I stumbled, but, to my relief I did not fall and humiliate myself in front of all these strangers. I looked to the person who had pulled aside, and was glad to find it was Blane and not somebody I didn't know at all.

      "Mage," he greeted me, and Akiri appeared beside him from the shadows cast by the wall I hadn't noticed her there, and it startled me.

      "Hello..." I said to them, unsure of what I was here for or what I was supposed to do. I had expected this to be a one-on-one meeting, and I hadn't expected any of this.

      "Put this on," Akiri said, throwing a dark forest green cloak that was only a few shades darker than my fur.

      I held the cloak for a moment, probably looking stupid, before throwing it over my shoulders and fastening it around my neck.

      "Look, Mage, this is important. Soon Sylva will be here to discuss the problem about the Shadow Usul with us. She's the leader of the Silver Flames, you know. You need to want to work hard and try hard or else you can just leave now, no offence. She's always late, though, so you have time to meet a few of the Flames before we get down to business," Akiri informed me.

      "And you'll need to be able to come here around this time every evening so that you can learn how things work," added Blane.

      I nodded and soon Akiri left us. After the way she'd been talking to me since we met, I figured that she was just reserved and wasn't very friendly to new people. However, I liked her anyways. She seemed like a kind person, really, but I wouldn't call her social. I watched the Kyrii for a while and was proven wrong. She was chatting and laughing with the people I assumed were her friends. She joked around and didn't seem half as serious as she was with me.

      Seeing who I was watching, Blane told me, "It takes her a while to warm up to people. Don't take it personally. She's not really good at making friends, but when she does, she's fun to hang around with. Trust me, if you stick around, she'll get used to you."

      Then Blane left me alone and only after a few minutes of standing and trying to figure out what to do with myself, a Christmas Zafara hopped up to me and we started chatting. She told me her name was Eevie. Soon she began to introduce me to her group of friends and then everybody in the room. I knew I wouldn't remember many of their names later, but I appreciated meeting everybody. I might remember their faces, but I was horrible with names.

      I was just shaking hands with a pink Kougra when the room suddenly fell quiet. I followed the Kougra's eyes to see what everybody was looking at. Sylva had entered the room, and the meeting began. The atmosphere changed from friendly to serious, and everybody was concentrating on what needed to be done. Sylva was showing us all a map, and everybody told her where they had heard of somebody seeing the Shadow Usul or where she had stolen from while the green Ixi added red dots to those places. Then they moved on to how they were going to catch him and where they predicted when and where he would strike next. It was all very confusing, and I barely managed to keep up with everything.

      I returned to my room around midnight, threw the green cloak against the wall, and collapsed onto my bed, which was about a meter away from where Scar's bed was. I knew by the silence, only broken by Era's snoring, that everybody was asleep. It was not long before I fell asleep as well. I had just had a long, long day.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Silver Flames: Part One
» Silver Flames: Part Two
» Silver Flames: Part Four

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