Previously: After talking to the zlurp, Nadec, Wyny, and Kitty leave the cave in a rush, flying on the back of Blackie. Once down, they decide to head toward a point in the distance Wyny had recognised. He believes there is a city, and in the city they should be able to confirm or disprove the zlurps’ claims. First, they need to get there. Read all the previous chapters here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
‘Where did Blackie go?’
The question slashed through the silence of their walk. It had been a silence of words, not a complete silence as the crackling of leaves and twigs under their feet formed an orchestra of wood sounds along with the tweeting birds. Wyny looked at Nadec, the question as much on his face as it had been in his words. He suspected she had something to do with it.
‘How should I know? She’s a free animal.’
His eyes narrowed at her. She rolled hers at him.
‘The last time I saw her was yesterday evening, right before falling asleep. It woke me up this morning, not having her by my side. I’ve gotten used to her warmth. And presence.’
She absently lifted her hand to stroke Kitty, who was riding along on her shoulder. Since their unexpected flight to The Other Realm—or Troponia, as she often called it now—her furry buddy had been holding up pretty well. Nadec suspected that their meeting Blackie had much to do with it. The dragon and the cat had formed an almost immediate and super strong bond.
‘You had her go back to the cave to wake the zlurp, have you not?’
Nadec stopped in shock. She slowly turned her head towards Wyny. He stood there stoically. Even while wearing peasant clothes, his royal bearing was obvious. His face was serious. Nadec felt herself shrivel under his gaze. She did not like confrontation. But she also did not like to cower down before anyone.
‘I did.’ She met his stare eye for eye. Who did he think he was? She didn’t have to answer to him.
‘Why would you do that? You know what he had said. Blackie might be flying straight into their hands. She might be in danger now. And once the zlurp is awake, he can tell them things.’
He was serious, wasn’t he? Nadec felt her face redden and her blood boil.
‘What can he tell them? Oh, huh, they took a bunch of clothes and left me here, eeuuh. We’ll be fine. Blackie will be fine.’
But now doubt crept up to her, like a wriggling traitorous itch on her back. Had she sent Blackie to her death? No, the dragon could take care of herself. And there really wasn’t anything the zlurp could tell them. Except… except what he’d told her and Wyny. Would it be a disadvantage if they knew that she knew? Wyny was still looking at her, silent.
‘No, I mean, yes, she’ll be fine. You’ll see. The zlurp was probably too out of it to remember what he’d told us anyway.’ Damnit, she thought when she saw Wyny shift. He hadn’t even thought of that yet. She’d have to give him something more.
‘I just couldn’t let him die. Too many have died on my hands already.’ Her voice was soft. She’d tried to keep it low enough so he wouldn’t hear.
‘Anyway, we should keep going, still a long way to go.’ The words came blurting out when his face softened and he took a step toward her. She moved away from him in the direction they’d been going.
‘I’m sure Blackie will join us by tonight, we’re only three days away and she’s a fast flyer. At least, I assume she is. How long until we reach the city near the, what was it again, the spiraling spinal spine pines?’ The chuckle she forced sounded hollow. Perhaps it would’ve been a better idea to leave Wyny behind. It’s no good having people around, because that leads to talks, and those eventually sometimes lead to deeper talks. And Wyny appeared to be a trigger for her.
‘Bloody ridiculous man,’ she murmured under her breath at the same time he said: ‘Yes, that was the name, I am not certain how far it is still. If Blackie was here, we could ask her to take us up long enough to get our bearing.’
She flinched as he put his hand on her shoulder. Oh no, he’s not! She knew what he was up to, once again he wasn’t letting go of the momentarily weakness she’d showed. He liked to latch on to those moments, as if those convinced him she was a woman. Even worse, as if that meant he was a woman who needed a man by her side. Fool.
The underground crunched beneath her feet as Nadec swerved to the side, putting a tree between them, dismissing his hand in an effective and—she hoped—inconspicuous way. He wasn’t ready to give up yet though.
‘We will need to talk about it someday, Nadec.’
‘No, we don’t. I don’t know what you mean. Just keep walking. We’ll listen to any rumours in the city first. I’m sure they’ll tell us the zlurp was lying.’
‘You do not believe that. I saw your face when he mentioned your parents. Were they really—’
He ducked right in time to avoid the rock she threw at his head.
‘Perhaps,’ she bent down to pick several more rocks, ‘it wasn’t a coincidence,’ she aimed another rock at him, ‘that I was sent to rescue you. Perhaps,’ another rock, ‘it also wasn’t a coincidence,’ this one hit him on the shoulder, ‘that you skipped along with me. Perhaps,’ a grunt from a solid impact on his back, ‘it wasn’t a coincidence that my couch exploded while you were there.’
The last rock went flying over his head. She didn’t really want to hurt him. Much. Only a little. That felt good. Perfect vent for the frustration she’d been feeling lately. He gaped at her. She went down her knees, searching the ground.
‘No! That is not, you can not believe I have anything to do with that! Please, I would never hurt you.’
She shut out his pleas. It was good to hear him grovel. Was he too adamant about his innocence though? She shook her head. She didn’t suspect him of such a thing. Well, Frankdamn fucking shit. I suppose I really trust him. The thought surprised her.
When she straightened again, holding more rocks, he stopped babbling and steadied himself. He was going to take it like a man, it seemed. Although why he wouldn’t tell her to stop or come up to her to try to take the rocks away, or anything else, was beyond her. Social difference between man-woman interaction on Earth vs Troponia she supposed.
‘Relax, I’m done throwing these at you. Come have a look. Do they look man-made?’
Wyny looked at her warily but came closer anyway. The hewn marks were clearly visible on the rock, now that she was paying attention. It was a special blue-pink color, strata of both colours forming a mesmerising effect. She almost dropped them at the startling gasp coming from Wyny.
‘The statue of the Originals. It is supposed to be only a myth, but this colour. It is unmistakable. It is said that the statue was divided in eleven parts and carried away to other lands. The power of the complete statue was said to be too powerful. One of the parts must be… There!’
He pointed, but all Nadec could see was a hill with a funny protrusion at one end.
‘Oh’. The only thing she could say. Of course. Of course the part they had to come across was the middle. Of course she had to get the balls again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In case you missed it, the first episode of Nadec: the podcast has been released on the weekend. The extended and improved narrated version of the previously published chapters is accompanied by comments from Nadec, a short excerpt from how she tells the story to Astrid, and bloopers.