Tyrants and Heroes: Part Six
“Alright, everyone. As you have all clearly seen, one of us has invaded our enemy- and won- in hopes of getting his caretaker back. Not only has he rescued his step-in mother, but the rest of us who have fallen to the Huntress, adding up to over fifty in numbers. Cerulean was this one of us. What the focal point of this meeting is going to be is the recent series of events that has caused us all to be here tonight.”
Tor’s home was, quite literally, packed. He, Rubia, Callie and (as a thing of honor) I were the occupants of the chairs; everybody else was huddled on the floor. Normally, even when others were speaking, all eyes would be on the fire. They could still hear the spokespet fine: they just liked to watch the flames and warm their faces. But now, the fire was the smallest point of focus.
More specifically, though, all eyes were on me. They had no idea of who I was, other than simply “Cerulean”. My tale was completely unknown to them; all must have been insanely confused as to why I would courageously lead an expedition against my own kind. Clearing my throat, I began to satisfy their curiosity.
“I’m a Creator’s Child.”
At my explanation, they all gasped. The White Usul who had been slightly preoccupied with her wet fur; a Shadow Kacheek and Pink Kyrii (who Callie and Bronco had introduced as their parents); all of them, their eyes widened.
“But why?” the Usul softly inquired. I got up from my chair and looked at her. She was a sickly-looking thing, droopy eyes and thin form. With a small jolt, I recognized her as the sole individual who had been on display in Chix’s cockpit, the same one with the accurate rainbow of gems down her tail, the same one who was very familiar with the controls of the ship.
“She wanted us all to stop stereotyping. If we were of an ‘evil’ species, that wouldn’t mean we were also evil, would it?”
I wasn’t lying. I was doing something completely different from that; not saying the whole truth. Of course, the real reason I was a Xweetok was because the Creator wanted for there to be somebody to understand what it was like to be of a forbidden species. I knew that it was something she was incredibly sensitive about, though.
The reason I knew that was that, in my dreams, she would appear to me. She would usually not talk, but that didn’t stop me from speaking to her. Whenever I would mention our species, her body language revealed either anger at the Hunters or shame for herself.
They seemed satisfied with that brief and incomplete explanation. Callie described about how I had saved her, Bronco and Hill that one time, and then it was over. The masses of them... They saw me not as a Xweetok anymore, but as a hero. I jumped down from my chair and let the twins’ father sit in it while he sang ballads as a celebration, Hill joining in with his new jaw harp.
Now as a member of the crowd, I swayed and danced with them, occasionally joining in singing the tunes I knew. For a while, it went on, and then a hand loosely grabbed my shoulder. Startled, I turned to see who it was.
I came face-to-face with the Usul. She snatched my hand and ran, leading me to the edge of the room, and then through the door to the hall. Nobody noticed; they were too busy enjoying the music. She stood there, eyes full of emotion, swirling with thoughts I couldn’t identify.
“What are you not telling me?”
At the word, I flinched.
“Can’t some things remain a secret? The Creator wanted to stop stereotyping. She made me then.”
“Anybody can tell you’re lying. Really, why did she make you, if at all?”
“I told you already, and she did make me!”
“Tell me the rest of the truth!” She snapped. Nervous, I quickly told her.
“The Creator- She’s a Xweetok!”
Her mouth opened wide.
“How can you accuse the Creator like that? She couldn’t be! I’m leaving; I see no reason to live around a tale-teller like you!”
She winked, and then left. Sheesh, talk about mixed feelings. I watched her leave Tor’s house. She had wanted to know the truth behind my creation, got it, but accused me of lying.
Ah well. I shrugged and, recognizing the song being sung as The Shining Sky (one I knew well), I joined in.
“The Hunters are away
“In the storm, forest plants sway
“There is peace in the world again
“All is as same as when it began
“The wind is singing once more
“It’s a day out of woodland lore
“And then the Hunter returns
“And then the pain again burns.”
Several verses into it, I began realizing that while it may have been foolish to actually go inside a Xweetok ship, the reward of being with Rubia again was worth it. The benefits had far outweighed the possible consequences. What I had done had made me truly happy, and I felt very at-home singing with the crowd. The song ended just as somebody knocked on the door. Tor got up to answer it.
Several gasps arose from foresters who were close enough to see the ones who entered. I had to get up on my hind legs to see over a couple of rows. I, too, gasped.
Two JubJubs strolled their way inside. The red one was clearly male. A crown was perched atop his head, and a cape was dragging on the floor behind him.
The other was female, and a purple-bluish color. She was cloaked by a regal robe. Her tiara was very extravagant. It was on her face rather than her head, and it had incredibly intricate twists and turns.
“Excuse me, but we are royalty. Please back away,” the red one scolded at the admirers. “We are Lord Entetare Hillshire Jubbington and Lady Tamaza Hillshire Jubbington, descended from the JubJub forest dynasties of old. We are certain that Entetare Hillshire Jubbington the Second was orphaned once the Huntress claimed us. As we have returned, we request our child back.”
Callie and Bronco looked at each other and sighed.
“Here he is, ma’m. He’s used to being called Hill.” Callie handed Hill to Tamaza. Hill... was... royal?
The reunited JubJub family immediately left after that, including Hill, the tiny hero.
The royal hillbilly.
The wooden needle in my paw jabbed in and out of the quilt-in-progress, being made from different types of leaves. Bronco was using a stone to smash some berries into jam. My sewing was as rhythmic as his pounding.
But something was missing.
About this time of day, when Bronco cooked and I sewed, Hill would practice his jaw harp. His twangs would synchronize with what we did, and create a steady, lulling beat. All his different buzzes and trills were completely absent now.
Looking back, we had been the only ones to admire Rubia. But now I seemed to hold a small grudge against her, because she had been the one to indirectly urge Cerulean to get us all together in that crazy stunt. One thing led to another: All of Chix’s captures were released, including those JubJubs, and so they took back Hill.
We had been lucky to survive, not to mention. Had the benefits really outweighed the consequences?
My pick sharply plucked the strings of my old samisen as I thought back.
I remembered no mother or father. I remembered no friends or enemies. I remembered nothing except the dusty samisen, the woodcarving knife, the Forester’s Book of Legends and Legacies, my home and all the wood left over from its construction.
I had lived a lonely life, but on the day I made a mistake, everything had changed.
Cerulean had shown me the way when he saved me. In return, I carried out his order of “chew through the wires”, thus releasing captured woodlanders from their confines. Once the raid was over, he had told me the dates, times and place of the meetings.
I had gone from nothing to something. Everything had been worth it.
Throwing a few sticks into my fire pit, I never doubted once that the mission had been futile.
Sure, it was a risk. Two Creator’s children and four normal woodlanders could have been lost. But really, when you considered the fact that a few dozen had freedom once more; could you really have said it wasn’t worth the risk? Besides, I was nearing the end of my lifetime anyways.
And wouldn’t it have been a good final adventure?
I had truly become a conqueror. Stories about me that would be passed down to the next generations would surely become legends in time, and then legends would become myths. I was like a hero out of the tales Rubia had told me after she first took me in, when I was still recovering.
Tor’s house had previously been rather empty even at meetings, with only a few dips being occupied at one time. However, there was just enough seating after the adventure, as Chix’s entire collection was in a state of ruin.
Speaking of Chix, over time, we forgot about her. We thought she perished in the forests, but her body was never found. Maybe she asked another Hunter to take her back to the Distance, and she gave up hunting forever.
Whatever was the case, we were wrong to forget about her. The Creator had told me when I first met her that she wouldn’t be coming back one day, but as I found out in due time, that day was actually far away.
She was still out there.
“I’d give the sun for you,
I’d give the moon for you,
“I’d give the sea for you,
“I’d give the stars for you! The Creator’s strength can’t match my love for you! It’s been so long this can’t be true, but I’ve still got love for you!”
Bronco blew on the jug one last time at the end of the song. I let my sitar notes ring for a few seconds before muting them. Fang (Bronco’s father) had been singing the song entirely from memory, despite not opening his mouth for several years.
“What sorts of boy stuff have you three been doing?” Litehart, Bronco’s mother, poked her head in the front room and smiled.
“Eh, nothing much,” I confessed.
“Anyways, Callie and I are going out to pick some berries. Don’t get into too much trouble!” she said as she and Callie went out the door.
“Sure is lonely around here without Hill,” Bronco quipped.
“Yeah, he would probably be enjoying doing this with us.”
“I know who would enjoy watching this, though.”
“Yeah, let’s go take our instruments over to Rubia’s.” I grinned.
That day we spent reciting every song we knew in front of a crowd of two foresters (three when Tor arrived at their house) was one of many, many memories I shared with my new group of friends for years to come.
I awoke with a groan and my paw flew to my forehead. Did I fall asleep? A splitting headache had befallen me, and my ears were ringing.
That Xweetok! The same one that I had been chasing forever, from my first sight of it in a berry grove, had raided me. And now, my entire collection...
Well, I thought, maybe my biggest worry should be getting out of this forest and back to the Central Station. If I were to get back, then I would have to start with getting up. My legs stretched and brought me up, but not as high as normal. For a moment, I stood there, and then I realized my fur was sopping wet. My insulated suit was gone!
My eyes darted around my surroundings. Trees, trees and more trees loomed around me. I unsheathed two claws and pinched myself. I was still in the woods. I did it again and again, but it wasn’t a dream. I raised my head.
“Ruth, Engar, Intao; please, one of you reply to me!” I shouted to the sky. Delicate plants shook with the sound of my voice as it rang throughout the crisp air. A faint echo from when it bounced off some trees was all that returned my cry.
Taking note of a low branch, I took a few steps back prior to jumping forward and leaping for it. My forepaw came within a single foot of it, but didn’t make it. Scowling, I stepped up to the tree and dug my claws into the bark. I carefully ascended to the top and looked out.
A few meters away, I could see the landing site! I jumped down from my perch and ran into the clearing. A pod split through the clouds and landed next to my old, crashed ship. All I had to do was ask for help.
The legs extended from the pod and the door slid open. Engar, the green Hunter who had been my closest friend, stepped out of it. Through the glass of his visor, his large square glasses gleamed in the dull light. He was quiet and smart, which made him excel at captures.
“Since when did they start dumping scraps in the landing site?” He poked his head inside my ship’s open door. “I have a feeling I’ve been here before. It was probably just the same model; I don’t know anybody who’s been in an accident like this before.”
I shouted out to him, “Engar! It’s me, Chix! Could you let me ride with you back to Central Station?”
He turned to me and smirked.
“I think I see one of the Xweetoks that Chix was telling me about.”
I stumbled as fast as I could to get away from him. Recalling me telling him about my sightings of the blue one, I made it as far as a small grove to hide in. When I was safe, I took a moment to catch my breath and take a look at myself.
Good grief! I look just like the one that I’ve been after for so long!
It was true. I was small. I walked on four legs. My armor had vanished. I was nothing more than a thing that any true Hunter or Huntress would aspire to have. My head dared to peek out of a blueberry bush.
“What has happened?” I whispered softly into the wind, calm yet still panting. Each word carelessly drifted away, faded into nothing; accomplished me nothing. And yet, my silent hopes that there was somebody out to answer me were answered.
“Others are no longer afraid of you. You no longer need to be a hazard to my Creation to be accepted among your own kind. Your own kind is now another party,” a soft, feminine voice whispered back to me. It was rich and creamy, although it was supernatural.
I stepped out of the patch and looked around for the speaker, to no avail.
“This isn’t a dream, is it?”
“It isn’t a dream.”
I should have been wondering how all of what just happened was possible in any way whatsoever. But I was fuming so much that it wasn’t going to happen. My body had just changed in a period of, at most, a few days. I talked to nobody and was answered. I had a history, friends, family, and a life. It was all gone. I would never politely interact with the other Hunters again, and to rub it in, one could come running through the woods after me at any moment.
“May I at least have another name?” I crossly questioned ‘nobody’, my head feeling like it would blow up.
“You are no longer the feared Huntress Chix. You are now a mere, humble forester who goes by the name of Faith. “
“Who are you, and why did you do this to me?! Is this some kind of joke?!?”
That question--no, it was a demand--was truly forgotten. I stood on my hind legs, staring into the skies which no longer held any promise for me, out at the world that didn’t mean a thing to me anymore.
And it wouldn’t for quite some time.
I breathed a deep breath. Rubia and I had both finally calmed down after the rescue. We were alone. Again. At last.
We stared deeply at each other. Neither of us had changed, but our love for each other was stronger than ever. We would do things, dangerous and risky things, for each other. The mission had only dug the bottomless pit of our friendship (should I call it that, or is it something more?) ever deeper.
What would I say? We were together once more. Did I need to say something?
“Thank you, Cerulean,” Rubia started crying as she flung her wings around me.
Those who face the trials of living under tyrants will never tell a lie.