Silver Flames: Part Three
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
"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
"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...