Chapter 14: Where is Ugly Duckling?
Read previous chapters here. Enjoy!
“Wonderland is all around us, but you must have the eyes to see it.” Welcome to Okinala, the island where worlds meet. A crazy town where the Madness Solver must work to keep the peace between worlds.
Madnes Hatter has a rare gift, a special “vision” that allows him to see into the other world, Wonderland, as it overlaps his island home. This power was awakened by Cheshire, and he named him the world’s next Madness Solver–whose job it is to solve mysteries, make people behave, and act as mediator between worlds. But there are other forces at work…and with each use the power takes away more of Madnes’ life.
Previously, Mother Goose demanded Madnes help find her runaway son, Ugly, a naughty Wonderland duckling. While he goes about the task, Cheshire leaves for Wonderland to investigate the ancient Madness Solver power, in hopes of discovering something that could save Madnes’ life from being absorbed by the Madness Solver power. Meanwhile, Madnes’ friends, Alice and Harrey, are both determined to find out the truth and decide to “stalk” him for the day. But their movements have been noticed, and Madnes draws near…
A gray duckling sniffled tears as it slowly waddled, aimlessly, at the edge of a corn field.
“Hello, little duckling.”
Black feathers swirled, revealing a boy when they subsided, with slick-back blonde hair and frost cold eyes. The Ugly duckling hopped back, startled, and had to crane his head far back to see the person’s face.
“I’m sensing that you are upset,” spoke the half-crow boy. “Is your mother being mean to you?”
Ugly wiped gray pinions across his beady eyes. He wasn’t sure who this person was, but he looked genuinely concerned and even offered a consoling smile. And Ugly needed someone to vent to. “She never plays with me…is never there…just bosses about and gets mad. I hate living in that ol’ shoe!”
“Oh, really? What a coincidence this is! I happen to know of a lovely place—a paradise, in fact—for birds of the water, such as you. Why, you could make a nice home for yourself there.”
“A home? All my own?”
The Crowv Prince nodded.
“Where is it? Oh please, do tell me!”
“Of course. I’ll gladly help you…” A dark smirk curled one corner of Oz’s lips, not reaching his blue eyes.
Alice held her breath as Madnes’ footsteps drew near. Harrey’s mouth was stuck in the dirt, but his eyes roved back and forth like a rabbit about to be caught. For a second, there was silence…then the steps drew away. She let out the breath.
“What are you doing?”
Eep! They jumped to their feet under Madnes’ suspicious stare, as he stepped from around the tree trunk, eyeing them.
“Oh, Madnes! Hi! We’re just…um…not much. That is…” Alice stammered, when Harrey quick stepped away and pointed an accusing finger at her, stating, “She’s stalking you.” Her fist to his shoulder staggered him sideways.
Madnes stared from one to the other. “Yeah, sorry Harrey, but Alice isn’t like that. This must be your doing.”
Harrey’s jaw dropped, his face pained. “You wound me, bro! Why am I always the one blamed? This was her idea.”
Alice tried to hide her reddening cheeks, looking away.
“I thought I felt eyes following me…now, come to find, it was my stalker friends. Thanks a lot.”
“Heheh,” Harrey winked and stuck out his tongue. “We know you’re up to something! You’re not yourself, anymore, we’ve both agreed on that. Question is,” he stepped forward, until he was inches away from him, “what’ve you gotten yourself into?”
Madnes clamped his jaws and backed up. “I told you, it’s a new job.”
“What kind of job?” Harrey folded arms and leaned forward, eyeing him sideways through one eye, eyebrow arching. Alice came up behind him, also waiting.
He looked from her to him, and tried to keep nerves in check. “It’s…it’s like a…” He thought, and they waited. “Like a town assistant.”
“You know, assisting the town, doing odd jobs, keeping things in check.” He shrugged his shoulders like it were obvious.
Harrey squinted. “A bouncer?”
“No!” He let out an exasperated growl. He didn’t have time for this; he needed to find Ugly Duckling before the day grew late. There was a pit in his stomach of unease, that Ugly might be in deep trouble. And Cheshire wasn’t here. He needed help, however small. “Look, I don’t have much time to explain. The town has this special duck—erm, duckling—it’s gray, and very important, and I have to find it. It got loose, but I’ve searched every pond and water source on this side of town.”
“You’re looking for a town duck?” Harrey tilted his head up. “Huh, I didn’t even know our town had one. That’s awesome! I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s awesome!”
Madnes resisted rolling his eyes. Alice was staring at him, he met her gaze briefly and she looked away.
“So,” Harrey crossed both arms and puckered his face into deep-thinking mode. “This is the case of the missing duckling, hm?”
“You’re not Sherlock Holmes. Don’t even try that look.”
“If I were a duckling, and ran away from my fancy, town pen, I wouldn’t want to just go and live anywhere; no no no,” Harrey emphasized and shook a finger. “I’m obviously a snooty duckling, and I would want to go live in an equally snooty place. The best of the best of ponds!”
His stomach churned at his friend’s words. “That’s what I was fearing to think, but you went and agreed with my brain,” he admitted bitterly. “There’s only one place like that I can think of.”
Harrey and Alice flanked him either side, and they gazed off in the direction as he named the place: “The Sacred Pond.”
The tread of his boots scraped the pavement as he spurred into a run, his friends not far behind. If Ugly was going to the Sacred Pond, he could end up dead. Nothing living was allowed inside the Sacred Pond. Any person or bird who ventured to its water was shot on sight. Ugly wouldn’t know that; he was young, he wouldn’t know the rules of Okinala.
“Madness Solver!” Something shouted, and he unbalanced, turning this way and that. “You still haven’t found my naughty Ugly, yet?”
There she was; Mother Goose pecked at his backside angrily, and he jerked back, turning to face her. “I’m getting him, now! Don’t worry, madam! Um, it—it’ll be fine soon! Do keep your beak to yourself.” He skipped and continued his run, as her beak grimaced and hissed angrily after him.
Harrey shared a look with Alice, jogging past the Goose who looked nothing but a tossed paperbag to them. “Madam? What, does he have invisible friends? He’s spiraling, Alice. It’s all down hill from here.”
“Shut up and run, rabbit-brain.” She sped up her pace, but he annoyingly kept up. “Madnes, if the duck is there, how will we get in to save him?”
“Yeah, like, everything that nears its bank is blasted to smithereens—it’s illegal and sacred, duh!” added Harrey.
“There’s a live recording—part of a recent tourism thing—outside the Pond’s compound,” Madnes explained breathlessly, not letting his pace up. “We can have a look at it and see if Ugly is there or approaching. If so, then I’ll hop the wall and get him out, s…somehow…” He kept his sights ahead, wondering how to go about that, if worse came to worse.
“Why is the pond sacred?” Alice asked beside his shoulder.
“An old story. One of Okinala’s myths,” he answered. “Long ago, a boy was sick and dying. He saw the pond, and with his last strength pushed his body forward until he reached its water, thinking and hoping in vain that, somehow, the water might heal him. It didn’t, of course, but it caught the attention of a being who rose up from the water’s surface. Some say it was like a fairy, a nymph of the water. She felt sorry for the boy, and allowed her power to touch him—healing him instantly. He survived and spread the tale, and ever since the pond became a sacred symbol of ancient power. But, if you ask me, it’s more an attraction for tourists, nowadays.”
“A water nymph…do you think it’s true?”
He shrugged his neck. What with Wonderland’s nonsense, he wasn’t sure he could cast off every Okinala myth as false, anymore.
“I’m gonna go get my flying bike!” Harrey shouted at their backs.
“What?” he exclaimed, glaring behind him. “That thing doesn’t work!”
“Does now. I fixed it! And we’ll be needing a get-away vehicle for this stunt, right?” He grinned eagerly.
“We can’t wait for you!”
He flapped a hand. “Don’t need you to. I’ll catch up with ya’ll in a jiffy!”
“Ugh.” Madnes groaned as the fluffy-hair guy sprinted away. “I hope we won’t regret this…”
I’m wondering the same thing, Madnes!
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Eye.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 2 favorite to win!
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