Beautiful Chaos: Part Three
"I don't suppose you happen to have a map, by any chance?" Leo asked his friend as they walked side by side on the old dirt path that wove around the back of the Castle.
Overhead the sky had lightened slightly, the dark grey clouds swirled silently above them, promising rain.
"You really think anyone in Meridell would have one of those just lying around? No, we'll find our way. It can't be that difficult; it's not like we're going to the other side of the world," Cedrik said confidently, twirling his wand in his hand.
"Feels like it," Leo grumbled, glaring at the sky.
"Besides, we are magicians, are we not?"
The handsome Lupe smirked and decided not to comment, when a Mortog jumped out of a bush and stood in the middle of the path, glaring beadily at them.
"Shoo." Leo frowned, reaching out with his foot to give it a nudge. It croaked loudly and did not move.
"Weird, you don't normally see them this close to the Castle," Cedrik said, stepping around the petpet and prodding it gently with his toe. "Hop along now."
"This whole place is weird right now," Leo muttered darkly, as they kept walking.
"We can stop by some places on the way to the... uh... Citadel," Cedrik said as a loud thunderbolt clapped over them and the rain started again. "Oh, great. That's just what we need." He pointed his wand above their heads, slowing down the rain but unable to stop it completely. "I've never been good with weather spells," he admitted, frowning at the dark sky.
"You'd never tell, the way you make it snow every night," Leo said dryly, as he pulled his coat more tightly around him.
"I can't help it," Cedrik said defensively. "I don't even know why it happens."
"Well, get a hold on it, or one day you're going to wake up to find me as a Leosicle."
"Sounds... delectable." Cedrik rolled his eyes and waved his wand at his lantern, making the fire glow brighter. "Alright, we'll stop by Sinsi's on the way, then Illusen's. Avoiding the Turmaculus, we'll pass through the farm and then from there we'll travel the Pass and should be at the Citadel in a couple of days."
They walked in companionable silence for the short distance to Sinsi the Shapeshifter's stand, and upon arrival found the brown Ixi attempting to feed her Drackonack a bowl of mushy peas. It clearly was not interested, and was trying to eat the bowl instead.
"Hey, Sinsi," Cedrik called to her as they neared her stall. He leaned against the fence.
"Samuel! And Lennie! How are you boys?" The frequently absentminded Ixi smiled brightly at them and walked over to the fence. Her Drackonack snorted and started shuffling his short legs towards his bed.
"We're fine, how are you?" Leo said, rolling his eyes at Cedrik as she had forgotten their names yet again.
"Just fine, thanks, boys. To what do I owe the pleasure? Shouldn't you be brewing something up in the Castle with your teachers?"
"Lessons have been... cancelled today. Listen, have you noticed anything odd around here today?" Cedrik asked, leaning forward and staring at her solemnly.
"Like unusual. Not normal. Weird."
"No, why? I mean we don't normally have storms in the middle of summer, but not everything can be predicted, you know. Why, what's going on?" Sinsi asked sharply, narrowing her eyes beadily at them. They exchanged glances before Cedrik said, "We aren't sure what, but something's happening at the Castle. We've been told to go to the Citadel for some answers."
"The Citadel!" Sinsi gasped, stepping backwards slightly. "Are you crazy?"
"I'm beginning to think so," Leo said seriously, jumping down smoothly from the fence and adjusting his rucksack. "But we're the only ones crazy enough to be doing this. Do you want to come with us?"
"I... well, yes, I can't let you go by yourselves. The Citadel," she repeated with a breathy sigh. "Where are Kayla, and Lisha? Why aren't they with you?"
Leo opened his mouth to answer but Cedrik stepped swiftly on his foot and spoke for them.
"We believe they're at the Citadel already," he said, avoiding his friend's glare. "We'll meet up with them there."
"I see. Well, I don't, not really, but still. Let me pack a bag." The Ixi shook her head and turned and walked to her tent. As soon as she was out of sight, Leo shoved the Draik and whacked him with his wand.
"What did you say that for?" he hissed quietly, checking over his shoulder to make sure no one was around. "We have no idea where Kayla and Lisha are!"
"Yes, because saying 'we're off to the most dangerous place for any Meridellian on a hunch based on the ramblings of our chef who seems to have gone off the deep end a little bit, but hey, wanna come with us?' would sound so much better!" Cedrik retorted, rubbing his shoulder where the wand had whacked him. "We don't sound so insane this way. Because let's face it, nothing about this day has made sense so far."
"I suppose you're right," Leo sighed, glancing at the tent into which Sinsi had disappeared. "How long does it take to pack a bag??"
"I don't like this at all," Cedrik said, gripping his wand tightly in his hand. "If one more weird thing happens today I swear I will lose it."
They stood looking at each other for a minute before leaping quietly over the fence and silently moving towards the tent. Thunder rumbled as they peered inside, only to find Sinsi sitting on a plushy stuffed chair, reading a book.
"Oh, hello, Selby! And Louis, this is a nice surprise! To what do I owe the pleasure, boys?"
Thoroughly unnerved, Cedrik tried to explain.
"We were just talking to you, Sinsi, outside the tent, remember? We're all going on a journey. To the Citadel."
"The Citadel?" Sinsi gasped, looking shocked. "Are you crazy?"
"Crazy doesn't even begin to cover it," Leo said, stepping away from her and tugging on his friends arm.
"Whatever are you going to the Citadel for, boys?"
"Just an errand for the uh, King. Actually, we're running really late, we should really be going. Nice chat!" Cedrik said, as they turned and tried to walk calmly out of the tent. They got to the fence and broke into a run and only slowed down when they were way out of the potential eyesight of the Ixi.
"What just happened?" Cedrik asked, clutching his side and gasping for breath and they paused to catch their breath under a large tree.
"This is officially the weirdest day ever," Leo panted, using his wand to cast a small protective shield around them. A spell he rarely used, and rarely had the need to.
"It sure is. We need to get to the Citadel, as soon as we can. We can take a short cut through Meri Acres Farm; that should save a bit of time. And we can't afford to stop to talk to anyone else, not Illusen or anyone, not after what just happened with Sinsi. We're on our own," Cedrik said solemnly, staring at his friend. "It's you and me against the world, Leo. And this time things are serious."
"I did not sign up for this," Leo said darkly. "All those years ago when they came to my house and told me I was special, that I was a magician. Who knew I'd be here one day, chasing Darigans all over the countryside?"
"I know, it's not exactly where I thought I would – hey, it's stopped raining! And the sun is... why is the sun out?" Cedrik frowned as he peered up at the (now sunny and clear) blue sky.
"I don't know, and I don't like it. But it is an improvement to the storm, at least we can see where we're going," Leo pointed out reasonably, as the soft white cloud swirled slowly above them. "It actually feels like daytime now."
"Let's get moving," Cedrik said, and they peered out from under the draping leaves of the big tree. Satisfied that no one was paying them any attention and nothing (else) unusual was happening, they made their way back down the hill and started towards Meri Acres Farm.
They walked in comfortable silence under the bright blue sky while the rest of Meridell went about their everyday busy, seemingly normal.
Passing through the farm, it was the newfound heat of the midday sun that slowed them down. By the time they made it to the start of the Pass the sun was dipping back down and the evening was cooling down.
Cedrik and Leo stood at the Pass, looking down at the fork in the road. On one side, the grass was a fresh green shade and came up to their ankles, with the occasional bright flower poking up here and there. The small wooden sign sticking in the ground read 'Meridell – East'.
The other side of the path had much less grass, and what there was were scattered in dry and dead patches. The sign on this side of the path read 'To the Citadel', with an arrow pointing in the direction of the dead grass.
"Well, this is it, Leo. If we take that path, there may be no coming back," Cedrik said grimly, gripping his wand tightly.
"Oh, you are such a drama queen!" Leo scoffed, hoisting up his backpack more comfortably. "We'll be back before the week's out and I bet we'll have a LOAD of homework to do."
Cedrik couldn't help the small smile that touched his lips. But the thought of the road ahead sobered him up quickly.
"For Meridell?" he asked his best friend.
Leo looked at him for a minute before nodding at him and throwing his arm over the Draik's shoulder.
To be continued...