Up-to-date coverage on faerie wars Circulation: 188,938,732 Issue: 545 | 18th day of Hunting, Y14
Home | Archives Articles | Editorial | Short Stories | Comics | New Series | Continued Series
 

Hiding the Clockwork Negg: Part Three


by seiya_from_ashes

--------

For once, Rutu wasn't woken up by Voughn. Instead, it was Selvin.

     "Whaaaaaat."

     "Listen, we should talk. We're the only ones without a negg, so..."

     Rutu rubbed her eyes and struggled to sit up. "...Are we...?"

     "Well, yeah. So, you know, I just want to talk about it. I guess. Or talk about anything."

     "I want to sleep."

     Selvin dragged her back up into a sitting position. "C'mon! This is serious! And are you really gonna be able to sleep now that you can hear Voughn's snoring?"

     Now that she mentioned it, the Kau was snoring a storm tonight. It almost sounded as he was actively trying to snore as loud as he could. It was surprising he didn't wake her up before. "...No," she sighed. "What is it?"

     Selvin pushed her way inside the tent. Reluctantly, Rutu scooted aside. It was a tight fit, and for a moment the botanist was afraid that her tent would give up and simply collapse, but they were eventually able to sit cross-legged, facing each other, with no issues. Besides that Rutu felt uncomfortably close to the Ixi, but she tried to hide it.

     "So. One of us is going to have to... well, guard the clockwork negg thing... so..."

     Rutu yawned and tried to rub the sleep out of her head. "What, you're asking if I want to do it?"

     "No! No, not that, no!" Selvin, realizing that she had shouted louder than she had intended, worriedly looked around. The steady rhythm of the clockwork negg and Voughn's snoring continued on, impassive to their conversation. "I'm just saying... if you, y'know, have a problem with doing the, uh, thing, you should say so... but... you seem like kinda a private sort, right? So I wanted to ask privately. I mean, there's no pressure to answer either way! But..."

     "No."

     "...see, if you don't say something, you'll end up... what?"

     "No, I don't have a problem."

     It was hard to see, but it seemed that Selvin's face fell. "Oh."

     "Why? Do you have a problem?"

     "...No. I actually don't care either way... I mean, I'm just a mercenary, right? Nobody cares much about them except how much they want for a job. If one went missing, who cares, right? Less competition for the others. I've long cut ties with my family and I don't have a lot of friends to worry about me. I mean, I have friends, but not friends friends, right?"

     Rutu stared. Despite Voughn's best efforts to keep everybody awake around him, her eyes were still drooping closed. "Wow."

     "What?"

     "I thought you were the kind who had lots of friends. And stuff."

     "I... talk to people," she said hesitantly. "Can't really call them friends, though."

     "Huh. Well I'm a botanist. I kinda empathize more with plants than with people. So I'm sort of weird. And people don't like that."

     "Noooooo, you're not! I think you're cool!"

     Rutu could only scoff. "I legitimately like plants more than people, Selvin. Because plants don't judge me. That's pretty sad."

     "...You think we're judging you?" she said softly.

     Rutu looked down. "Well... no, not you... I mean, sometimes I'm just... anxious. Around others, I mean. So... I guess that's why I don't care."

     "But what about having to stay in one place all the time? I mean, I know you said you really wanted to go to Shenkuu and all, but don't you want to go other places? I'm sure there're tons of exotic plants in, I dunno, Altador or something."

     Rutu shook her head. "Shenkuu... it's actually my only dream. I honestly don't have any other goals... or anything. I would die happy there."

     Selvin tried to say something, but it was hard to follow up on Rutu's utmost sincerity. She sank into silence for a few moments before finally saying, "At least you know what you want. I'm kinda... not like that. I don't really have a fantasy or dream or whatever. I'm aimless."

     "But you're a mercenary," Rutu gushed. "A mercenary wizard! That's useful, right? And meaningful! I'm just... botanists aren't really that useful at all. So I guess it'd be better if – "

     "Don't say that," Selvin snapped. Rutu immediately stopped. For a few seconds, the Ixi just breathed heavily. Then, she set her hands on Rutu's shoulders. "You're doing what you like right? You like being a botanist?"

     She could only nod.

     "Then that's good. That's great! Seriously, it is. And you're accomplishing your dream too! Rutu, you have a meaningful life here, and you shouldn't put yourself down like that! And most of all, you shouldn't just decide that you should guard some dumb clock for the rest of your life just 'cause you think you can't do anything better because you already are doing something better! Do you understand?"

     "Um. Yes."

     Selvin let go of her shoulders and leaned back again. "...Are you just saying that?"

     "...Yes."

     "Okay. Um. Look, just promise me that you don't just say you want to guard that dumb ticking thing because you think it's the best you'll ever do with your life, okay? You should only do it if you want to!" Spontaneously, she started to laugh. Rutu cringed and looked around again, hoping nobody would wake up. "What am I saying! I was going to do the same thing!"

     "Wh-what?"

     "Mercenary life is so repetitive, you don't even know! It's always 'get this, retrieve that, capture that guy,' and it never stops. It's meaningless! So I was actually seriously thinking... ha! Alright, Rutu, let's make a deal – I'll stop being depressed about my life and you stop being depressed about yours and we'll both think seriously about what we want to do with the rest of our lives with no self-pity whatsoever. Alright?"

     Rutu looked down at Selvin's proffered hand. "That's actually a lot to do in one night."

     "Who says it has to be one night? We've drawn this silly thing out for two weeks already, we could stand to stick around a few more days."

     After a few seconds, Rutu also stretched out her hand and allowed Selvin to eagerly shake it. When the wizard tried to pull her hand away, though, Rutu kept holding it.

     "...Selvin... ? Just as a sort of hypothetical question. What if someone did find the negg?"

     "Uh, what? How would someone find it?"

     "Like, say a curious adventurer came and, I dunno, found out about it and managed to track the clockwork negg instead of any of the decoys, and he's there and he confronts the guard – either me or you – and, uh," she babbled. She couldn't stop. "So it's like everybody knows it and then none of us would have to keep protecting it forever, and some actual professionals could worry about it and – "

     "Wait wait wait," Selvin shushed. "Doesn't that mean we're doing this whole thing for nothing? And it's supposed to be kept secret, you know, that's the whole point, that's why we took the oath and all. Seriously, how is some adventurer gonna find this out in the first place?"

     "Weeeeelll," said Rutu, biting her lips, "say that there happens to be a journal and someone happens to find it – "

     "WHAT."

     Both turned swiftly towards the open tent flap. Selvin's face formed an expression of horror. "Hurok! Was that you?! Were you eavesdropping?"

     The two of them crawled out of Rutu's tent as Hurok exited his. The knight stared down at them. "It was hard not to when you woke me up! Rutu, were you really writing in your journal the whole time with the intent to reveal what we were paid to keep secret?"

     Rutu's shoulders hunched upward, as though hoping to conceal her head, and she just looked down, toying with her fingers. "It... it isn't exactly... like that..."

     "It sounds like it," the knight retorted, and she could feel the heat of his glare penetrating her skull.

     "Look, Hurok, forget it, we can talk about it in the morning."

     "No! This is a betrayal of trust!"

     "I know what you're thinking, and yeah, I understand, but don't you think she's smart enough to think what she wants through?"

     "What she wants is to endanger everything we've been working towards!"

     "Okay, that's it, shut up! This seriously isn't the time for arguing!"

     "Wha's goin' on...?"

     "Nothing!" Hurok and Selvin shouted simultaneously. Ricky, halfway out of his tent, blinked once and then collapsed back into a deep sleep. Voughn's snoring continued to saw through the air.

     "...I wrote it... like a puzzle," Rutu whispered. The other two turned towards her and she tried not to flinch. "You know... so it doesn't say it outright... or anything."

     Hurok opened his mouth but could only sigh and rub his head in an attempt to calm down. "Those who are smart aren't necessarily good," he explained.

     After a long pause, the knight added, "Burn it. That's my request of you."

     This time, Selvin raised a fist. "Hurok! You can't order someone to destroy their own private possessions!"

     The knight only stared impassively, and even barely reacted when Selvin actually punched him in the stomach and stormed off. He turned towards Rutu.

     "It's just... I was only thinking..." she started, still turning her head away. "...if I was the one who had to hide it, I would feel... kinda lonely, eventually. And if someone actually came and found me, I mean... even if they just wanted the negg... that would make me... really happy."

     The fire crackled. Voughn snored. The clockwork negg ticked.

     "That's placing a lot of trust in a complete stranger," Hurok observed before simply heading back to his tent.

     Rutu stood still for a moment and finally crawled back into hers. Oddly enough, the only thing she could think about was how Hurok actually got her name right for once.

     ***

     The day lacked the sort of joy that filled the previous ones. Even Voughn didn't hold his usual luster and brimming boisterousness. Though perhaps it was because they had been eating only berries for the past few days.

     "So, I believe today we should decide where the... last two neggs are going," said Hurok, his official tone faltering a little. "And then we should start to head out afterwards. So... do either of you have a preference...?"

     "I've been thinking a lot about this," Selvin piped up. "And I think that if I had to stay somewhere for the rest of my life, it'd be Kiko Lake, right? There's all that rock candy and taffy there. It'll be delicious."

     "And unhealthy," said Ricky. Selvin ignored him.

     "So are you saying that you're taking the clockwork negg?"

     "Well, I mean... I'll take either one. If Rutu wants to take the plant one, I'm fine with that. That's all I'm saying."

     "Looks like it's down to you, Rutu," Voughn muttered.

     "So what's your choice?"

     Rutu glanced down, shuffling her feet. "I'd like to take the clockwork negg."

     Everybody was silent. Selvin looked shocked, but somehow relieved. Still, she spoke up: "I was serious when I said I didn't mind, so – "

     "I really do want to, honest," she interrupted. "I like Shenkuu, and actually, I think I want to live there... so it won't be any trouble for me anyways. And I'm good at being private and inconspicuous. I like being alone for long periods of time. I'm okay with dealing with loneliness once in a while. Besides, an Ixi suddenly moving into Kiko Lake would stand out," she pointed out.

     "...I could disguise myself," Selvin muttered, but made no other protest.

     "...Well, if you're really sure..."

     "Yes. I really am! Honestly, it's a good excuse for me to stay at Shenkuu! I'd love that!"

     Hurok looked around and then shrugged helplessly. "Well... I suppose it's decided then." And with that, he started packing.

     The resolution of what had started two weeks ago did nothing to lighten the atmosphere. If anything, the mood intensified, not helped with the nice falsities and fake jokes the others went through as they packed. Selvin asked Ricky if he didn't mind showing her around Kiko Lake after he was done; Ricky said that for the last time, he never lived at Kiko Lake and he never went to Kiko Lake and people should stop assuming but fine, if she felt that she would get lost at a lake, he would come over; Voughn lifelessly joked about how, after all this, Hurok still couldn't remember any of their names; Hurok surprised them all by proving that he did.

     With some nervousness, Hurok suggested that perhaps to further throw off anybody trying to follow them, each of the decoy carriers should stay with their negg for a week or so. Ricky pointed out that that's easy for Hurok, he's going home. But generally, everybody agreed.

     Rutu could hear all this, but she let it be distant. She finally took up the clockwork negg.

     It thrummed under her hands, its gears ticking contently. There seemed to be locks set all around it – and a quick glance into the basket showed her that there were also a few scrolls which must be hints on how to unlock it. There was a strange warmth to the negg, but a cold warmth, an unsettling warmth, as though something was alive inside it.

     It wasn't the negg itself that was important, but whatever was locked inside. There was something that had to stay inside at all costs...

     Suddenly Selvin gave a yelp. "Hey! This basket's ruined!"

     Everybody surrounded the basket of the plant negg. There was an entire corner gone. It was strange how nobody had noticed before.

     Hurok looked around. "Who's good at basket-weaving?"

     "I am," Voughn admitted after a moment.

     ***

     Rutu looked up as Selvin, Hurok and Ricky approached.

     "So we've been conversing a little. And we feel that you really ought to learn some self-defense."

     Rutu scrunched up her face. "Um. How long is it going to take for Voughn to finish fixing the basket?"

     The Kau waved from where he sat. "Just a day!"

     "Yeah, that's going to take a lot longer than a day."

     "No, it'll be fine. I can teach you a few simple moves, it won't take too long."

     "Seriously, Selvin's got her magic stuff. Voughn's probably learned how to handle himself, Hurok's a knight, and even I got some good arm strength," Ricky added, patting his biceps. "You're... kinda just a botanist."

     "It's even more important now that you're actually going to take that ticking mess of gears along," said Selvin. "I'm still surprised you were offered this job. Ricky's a stretch – "

     "Hey!"

     " – but you're an outright anomaly."

     "Wow, thanks," Rutu muttered.

     "If we insult you, it's only because we love you," the wizard trilled. Rutu rolled her eyes.

     "I appreciate the concern, but spending the day bruising every part of my body doesn't exactly sound fun."

     "No," Hurok said, crossing his arms. "This is absolutely not optional. In fact, this might as well be my formal request for you. You must train with me to better defend yourself and the negg."

     "Wha—but—" Rutu turned to Selvin for support. "Come on!"

     "No objections here this time, Rutu."

     Voughn paused in his basket-weaving to look up again. "As official rule-referee-guy of this, I give it my approval!" he bellowed.

     The botanist stood up with a scowl. "Okay, fine. But I'm not going to like it."

     She didn't like it.

     ***

     "Hey, I'm done!" Voughn shouted the next afternoon. Rutu got up from one of many painful falls. Hurok seemed unable to decide between standing imperiously with stance advice or helping her up with many apologies and instead seemed to waver about in a strange trance.

     "You... you're doing well for a beginner," he offered, but Rutu waved it away.

     "So! Everybody all packed up?" Selvin asked, shouldering a pack.

     "Yeah, we've been packed," Ricky shot back. Rutu started struggling with her own bags, her sore limbs pounding with pain, but Voughn came over and laid the load on top of his own.

     "Oh – you don't – "

     "Aw, stuff it." His smile faltered as he took a last look at the again-abandoned clearing. "Right. Everybody know what direction they're going? I got a map an' all, if we need to look at it."

     Everybody crowded around Voughn as he kneeled in the grass and rolled the map out on his knee. "Yeah, so Hurok an' Selvin're going north, me an' Rutu are going east. But we'll have to go north a bit to get to this small port town here... Ricky, you're going south."

     "Huzzah. Travelling by myself, I see."

     "South issss... thataway. Want me to draw a map?"

     Ricky gave Voughn a dull stare. "I think I'll be able to figure out where I am when I see all the sand."

     "Hey, look, explorer talking here, you could get turned around! Look, here, I have a compass, just keep heading south. You might want to buy a map when you get to Sakhmet, though, so you can get back an' all."

     Ricky fumbled with the thrown compass a bit. "Really? This compass looks really nice..."

     "Bah! I got a compass in my brain anyhow."

     Ricky shrugged impassively, but he couldn't hide his cracking voice. "Um. O-okay. Bye, then."

     "I'll be expecting that tour, so you better come to Kiko Lake!" Selvin shouted at Ricky's retreating back. The Kiko gave a backwards wave.

     "You do realize you would probably have to wait for a month," Hurok commented. Selvin only shrugged.

     ***

     "...Aaaaand this's where we gotta part," Voughn announced after two days of travelling. Rutu mumbled a groan. Hurok, who hadn't realized that the four of them would continue to travel together for a while, had taken the chance to continue more training. "Th' port town's right down there."

     Rutu squinted towards where he was pointing. Honestly, all she could see was something that looked like a tip of a lighthouse. That was something, at least.

     She almost collapsed as Selvin jumped up from behind and enveloped her in a hug. "Owowow."

     "Rutu, I'm seriously going to miss yoouuuuuuu," she wailed, but she leaned closer towards her ear and added, "I actually broke the basket myself so that I could convince Hurok to train you."

     "Wh – "

     "Okay, bye!" And with that, she was released.

     Rutu spun around to at least attempt to say something back to Selvin, perhaps a retort, perhaps an insincere insult, but instead she turned straight into Hurok.

     The knight stood ramrod straight, a mite too awkward for a farewell. His eyes sped around, as though hoping the scenery would be able to tell him what to say in such a situation, but there was no help to be found. Finally, he simply said, "Good luck."

     Rutu found herself searching the sky for a response. "Um. I know I complained a lot, but seriously, thanks for training me. And all. You didn't have to do that."

     He fiddled with his staff a little. "Well... I didn't want you to get hurt."

     "Yeah." She smiled. "You're a good friend like that. Even if you're stupid sometimes."

     Voughn and Rutu started down the hill but didn't get too far when Hurok suddenly called out, "Voughn!"

     The Kau looked back, looked down at Rutu, blinked once, and then grew a wider grin than usual. "Man, after all that, that's still the most amazing thing that happened. Hurok remembers our names!" And with that, he jogged back up to the Acara, the two packs on his back clanking noisily together. Rutu waited where she stood, swinging her basket around as the two conversed briefly, and Voughn soon returned, his grin still rather intense.

     "What did he say?" she asked.

     "Ohhhh, nothing."

     ...It probably wasn't worth the effort to drag it out of him.

     ***

     At the port, Rutu scanned the waters for a flying boat. "...I don't see one," she said, squinting.

     "Oh, prolly Shenkuu guys don't come down here. 'S not much of a dock, see? Let's see if one's going to Altador – there'll be Shenkuu boats there for sure."

     "I see," was all she said.

     There was one, it turned out. The captain was a rather sleepy-looking Ogrin merchant, but he seemed to brighten up very quickly at the sight of Voughn's fistful of coins. Scratching at his red fur, he graciously welcomed the two aboard his ship and explained that, not being much of a cruise ship, they didn't have much room, but he would see if they had any extra hammocks and set up some space in the storage. "'Coarse, s'long as yuh unnerstand yer not tuh touch uh thing, y'hear?"

     "Of course, of course," Voughn replied with a confident grin as the two clomped on deck.

     The captain bowed low as Rutu passed, but glanced up suspiciously and snorted. "Wuh's tha' tickin' sound, lass?"

     "A clock," Voughn said easily.

     The captain's eyes traced from Rutu's basket to Voughn's face several times. "Inna basket?"

     "Captain, as we've so graciously agreed to respect your privacy and not snoop in your cargo, I don't think it too much to ask that you respect ours." And with practiced ease, Voughn strolled past the captain, down below deck. Rutu hurried to follow.

     "...This is... safe, right...?" she asked, glancing back up the stairs where the captain was watching them descend.

     "Well, they might try to swindle us and steal our stuff, but I wouldn't worry. I know all the tricks."

     "Um. If you say so," she said as they reached the bottom of the stairs, down in a dank place that creaked as people above clomped their feet about. There were many shadowy boxes piled up and tied down with ropes and nets. Voughn squeezed through two columns and eventually found a good spot that was relatively clear. He set the two packs down with a clunk and Rutu found an uncomfortable seat against a box. "Say, how long is this voyage going to take anyways?"

     Voughn tried counting on his fingers until he realized he didn't have any. "Approximately three weeks? Unless these folks got some sort of magic propulsion system, but it doesn't look it. But now, y'know, since we got three weeks of doing nothing..."

     Rutu stared up at his sly look, not feeling terribly optimistic about where this was going.

     "...I think this'll be the perfect time to continue your training!"

     Her face fell. "Oh. That's what Hurok talked to you about, wasn't it."

     "Yup! Told me he changed his request!" said Voughn rather happily. "So I don't exactly got that fancy 'ninja' training he got, but – "

     "Hold up," Rutu interrupted. "Did you say 'changed?'"

     "Oh." Voughn's smile dropped. "Did I?"

     "Yes," said Rutu, pushing herself back on her feet once more. "You did."

     "Funny how he had to change it, eh? He's really bad at choosing his requests th' first time 'round!" Voughn started to laugh, but it was obviously strained.

     "Voughn... what did he ask you to do the first time?"

     Somewhere above deck, someone shouted, "Hoist anchor!" There was the sound of sudden activity above, and soon after, the boat groaned and shifted towards the side. The two kept their balance.

     Voughn scratched at his hair with a sigh. "Actually... he woke me up early one time, right? And said he wanted me to steal your journal or something. And, uh, I agreed, but not 'cause I wanted to or thought it was right or anything," he added, "but 'cause I was tired, see? And I didn't quite understand what he was saying and – "

     "Were you going to steal my journal?" Rutu interrupted.

     "Uhhhhhhhhhh, yes. But I figure, he didn't say that I couldn't give it back or anything, so I was just planning to, y'know, take it for a few seconds, put it back, then nobody would know, but now it doesn't – "

     "Okay."

     The ship groaned the other way. The boxes struggled to tilt accordingly, but were still held fast by their bonds. "What?" said Voughn.

     "You can have it," she said, riffling in her pack and tossing the small book towards him. He caught it clumsily.

     "B-but I don't – "

     "It's okay, there's nothing private in there at all. It was just an idea I had. You can look through it," she said, though when Voughn actually did so with gusto, she couldn't help but feel a bit creeped out.

     Flipping through a few pages, Voughn's smile grew skewed. "Wow, were you trying to write this as confusingly as possible? And some of these things didn't even happen actually," he said. "Not that that's wrong or anything... but it's... a bit strange. For a journal."

     "But if you found it and read it, you'd be intrigued, right? As an explorer?"

     "Oh." Voughn flipped through a few more pages. "Ohhhhh."

     "But I honestly don't care what happens to it. You can keep it. Or you could give it away, if you want. The idea I had in mind was kinda ridiculous anyways."

     "You're never ridiculous," Voughn said sincerely, placing the journal safely in his bag. "But c'mon, I'll teach you to fight dirty..."

     ***

     The longer that time went on, the closer she came to Shenkuu and the more impatient she got in general. Voughn seemed to bear her snappish attitude with a lot of grace and always waved her later apologies away with a laugh. But he did spar with her less often and grew less talkative, before finally taking her aside one time after dinner with a serious look in his eyes.

     "Rutu... I, uh, well I know what you said earlier... but you're sure you wanna... go through with this thing?"

     The botanist stared back. "Yes."

     "I mean, you could just, you know, go, stay awhile, see the sights, and then... leave, y'know?"

     "I pride myself on keeping my word, Voughn," she replied coldly. "And I gave my word that I would keep watch over this my whole life."

     "I... I know. I know! It's just... !" The Kau clapped a heavy grasp on the back of his neck and looked up, face wracked with worry. "I... I know you don't like me. As much as I like you, I mean. But... I was still kinda hoping... we could still hang out. Or something. Afterwards. I dunno, like you could walk with me, I could walk with you, maybe we could chat a little... I mean, I kinda know you, but I don't know you..."

     "...Well, I don't really make myself easily known," Rutu admitted. "I don't exactly like doing that."

     "Could I at least visit you? I could go to Shenkuu, like, a whole lot and – "

     "I think people would get suspicious. It's enough that I'm coming in with some sort of ticking basket and immediately becoming a hermit, but then someone starts visiting this hermit every year? If you really want to, I mean... I wouldn't mind if someone... stayed with me."

     Voughn stared down into her eyes, an expression of confliction written across his face. He tried to say several things at once but gave up and spun around quickly, shouting out a general cry of anger and hate and sadness. "Why is this so hard!"

     He punched a box. He kicked another. He generally made a racket that seemed to silence the waves that massaged the hull around them. Then he sat down and cried.

     Caught completely off guard, Rutu panicked inwardly and searched for a way out. But she soon stood beside Voughn and gave a hesitant pat on the shoulder.

     "I want to say yes! I really do," he blurted out, begging her to believe him. "I want to help you, joke with you, talk with you, just be around you! But I – but – " And then he dissolved into incomprehensible apologies.

     Rutu managed to get herself to kneel down next to him and continued to pat his back. It seemed a general soothing action that people did, and she tried her best to imitate it. "So you don't like being tied down," she started, speaking quietly. "You like moving around, right? You like wandering. That's why you're an explorer."

     Voughn only tried to control his sobs. He kept rubbing at his eyes and nose. It didn't help much.

     "I mean... it's okay. I understand. You shouldn't force yourself to commit to something you don't want to do, right? Even if it's for... um... someone you like. And... I'll be fine on my own, I'm okay with that... so... don't hate yourself because you like to explore. Please."

     He coughed and sniffled once.

     "And... also, I mean, as long as it isn't too often... I guess you could visit me."

     "Really?" She almost turned away at the wide, hopeful eyes that stared at her.

     "...But even I don't know where I'm going to hide right now, and after I leave you at Altador, I won't have a way of telling you where I am..."

     "If you just wait while I hide th' negg, then – "

     "You... kinda have an obligation to stay for a week. And I have an obligation to go into hiding as soon as possible."

     "Then I'll find you."

     Rutu stayed silent, letting the sounds of the waves consume the ship again.

     "I'll find you," Voughn repeated, the silence somehow bolstering him even more. "I'll go over to Shenkuu and look for you wherever you hide, and don't you dare make it easy on me!"

     "I wouldn't dream of it," she said, smiling faintly.

     "Hang on," he said, digging around in his bags. "Alright. So I'm gonna... wait, no, um... should I make you close your eyes...?"

     Rutu rolled her eyes. "Voughn."

     "Alright, alright! Um. Here!" The explorer swiftly spun around, clutching a bright necklace that shone with the purest blue.

     Rutu stared and slowly felt the crystal before taking it. "Oh... this is..."

     "I, well, find alotta stuff. Sometimes. I wanna give it to you... um, for you to remember me." He rubbed the back of his head and looked down bashfully, only to glance up at her from the top of his eyes. "I mean, if you like it...?"

     Rutu had never actually worn jewelry before. It seemed like something for others to stare at. But it was beautiful, though a bit damp because Voughn had neglected to wipe his hands properly. Still, she put it on. "Yes, Voughn... it's lovely."

     Voughn could only smile widely at that.

     ***

     Rutu stepped off the boat onto the docks of Shenkuu. Her anxiety of being alone was swiftly washed away as she stared around in wonderment, taking everything in. The smell, the sight, the beauty, the culture...

     ...but she shouldn't stay around. She had to find someplace secluded. There were many tall mountains and sheer cliffs that the inhabitants were happy to live on, but there must be a place that was wild, abandoned, something.

     She hurried across a terrifyingly high bridge and through walkways, merchant areas, forcing herself not to be distracted. A secluded place, a secluded place...

     ...she looked down.

     Well, people here did generally live in the higher places...

     ***

     Rutu stared at the necklace. It swung in her grasp.

     Had she really hidden herself that well?

     No, Voughn was capable.

     Except he hadn't come.

     She glanced back at the clockwork negg, ticking and thrumming atop its pedestal.

     She could understand if he couldn't get to where she was, maybe, but what about when she had to go get supplies? Go to the market? Did he really never catch sight of her there?

     Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

     It had been...

     Tick. Tock.

     ...years.

     Maybe he got into trouble. Maybe he was hurt. If something happened to him when he was in Altador, or after he left there or something...

     ...she could try to find him. Go looking. If she caught a ride on a boat and –

     Tick. Tock.

     ...What was she thinking.

     This was foolish.

     She traced a finger around the crystal.

     It was... really too bad. But she was fine alone. Right?

     With a reluctance that weighed deeply in her throat, she threw the necklace out of the cave and off a cliff.

The End

 
Search the Neopian Times




Other Episodes


» Hiding the Clockwork Negg: Part One
» Hiding the Clockwork Negg: Part Two



Week 545 Related Links


Other Stories




Submit your stories, articles, and comics using the new submission form.