Chapter 25: Returning Home
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Previously: Madnes got himself in trouble with Alice when he accidentally saw her taking a bath in the pond. Her skin glowed like liquid sunlight, and betrayed that she is more than what she seems…if only Madnes could find a way to confront her about it.
(Blog Battle word this week: “Mars”)
Madnes found himself near the palace grounds, once again, as Cheshire led the group to the nearest portal connected to their island home, Okinala. Alice had been silent the whole way. For a while Ugly and Pelur muttered how indecent a person Madnes was; Harrey laughed his head off like it was the greatest joke, and Cheshire gave a glare full with reproachful rebuke at his pupil. He pulled the brim of his hat down over his face, wishing that all of him could disappear and hide inside it.
The image of Alice, her skin glowing like the molten sun, he couldn’t get that image out of his head. ‘What is Alice?’ He’d known her for years now—or thought he had—a normal girl moved to Okinala. But now he wasn’t so sure she was even from Earth—not even Mars! ‘And all this time she acted like she couldn’t see Wonderlanders. Was it all a lie?’ Had she known of Wonderland and the Madness Solver power all along? ‘Why would she keep it secret from me? Why play pretend?’
So many questions he had for her, if only he could find the right time and place to ask. Problem was, asking anything about her appearance at the pond would bring up the “peeping tom” incident—and that would be unpleasant for the both of them. He really didn’t want to bring that back up, nor give her more reason to bash his head in.
‘First Oz, then the mystery of syn and the Madness Solver, and now this!’ He clawed at an aching head, his brain feeling like an overloaded water balloon waiting to burst. Too many things to think about, too many mysteries—were they all connected or not?—he needed a break. But it wouldn’t come soon; there were things to sort out today.
Cheshire halted and stepped aside before two trees: their oak trunks bent down forming an archway between them. “The portal,” the cat introduced.
“I guess this is goodbye,” Knight Pelur drawled suddenly, and they turned to face him. “It’s been fun, a very nice not-boring time. Come visit?”
“Ah, sure. We’ll have to keep in touch,” said Madnes, shaking his gauntleted hand, Harrey shaking the other. “You’re the coolest, bud. I’m gonna miss you! You gotta visit Okinala some time!” Harrey beamed.
“Um, not as a dragon though…” Madnes added nervously.
“Sir Madnes?” He turned down at Ugly’s call. “You won’t tell mom about all this…the Sacred Pond, ‘n all…will you?”
He wiped his brow, just thinking about that woman goose made him weary. “I won’t if you won’t.” The last thing he wanted was her shrieking down his ear about Ugly nearly becoming fried goose.
“Hurry on, hurry on. Best not to dawdle,” urged Cheshire.
Alice went through first, marching with a hurried step before anyone else could. Harrey elbowed him: “Yikes, she’s never gonna forgive you, heheh!”
He flashed his friend a scowl before following through the arch portal and back to their island dwelling.
“Well, it’s about time!” came a voice like something from Mars.
Mother Goose marched—or rather waddled—toward the park bench where Madnes, Harrey and Cheshire sat waiting with Ugly Duckling. Her red-rim glasses gleamed darkly beneath a pristine white bonnet, making them jump. Harrey had to blink twice at the finely dressed goose—his first time seeing Wonderlanders on Earth, and it was an effort to keep him from gawking rudely.
Ugly dipped his head nervously, and it was with great slowness that he climbed down off the bench to meet her.
“I have been worried sick, waiting days without any news from you people!” Mother Goose hissed at them before a wing caught and pulled Ugly close to her. “Incompetent! Careless! I could have done a better job myself.”
Any smidge of guilt for causing her worry vanished, and Madnes readied to snap back that maybe she should’ve gone and looked for him herself, when Cheshire’s paw on his wrist stopped him. “We do apologize, Madam Mother Goose.” He soothed. “There were unforeseen circumstances which interfered with our contacting you, but I assure you Ugly has been safe with us since we found him yesterday.”
“Hmph! I should hope so. But no excuse is an excuse for lazy work! As for you,” she turned Ugly around to face her, “Running off like that, really! How many age wrinkles am I now suffering because of you?” she snapped. “Don’t think you’ll be stepping one foot out the door this month—you’re grounded! And I’ll not have you going anywhere without adult supervision! Is that clear?”
Ugly hung his head and long neck miserably. Madnes couldn’t stand it, “He wouldn’t have run off in the first place if you weren’t such a strict, unpleasant person to be around!”
Harrey covered a gasp with both hands, and Cheshire’s furry brow drew down.
“Madnes—” His hand stopped the cat, “No, it’s the truth, and we all know it. It’s about time someone told you, Mother Goose. Your behavior is what drove Ugly to run away. Is that really how you want to raise him? Do you want him to resent you once he’s grown up and leaves home? That’s nothing but a recipe for a miserable family, one that won’t care about you when your old and gray and in need. Think about that.”
Finished with his rant, he noticed the goose woman’s round eyes staring widely up at him. She gave a shake to Ugly’s shoulders and he sheepishly looked at her. “Is that how you see me, Ugly?” Her son didn’t answer. “But a mother should be strict, and cannot always be a pleasant person because of it.”
“I k-know,” Ugly plucked up some courage. “B-but you could be more aware of my feelings, and care a little. We never do anything fun together, either.” Sunlight caught on a tear.
“…Oh.” Her hold released him. “I see…well, it wasn’t my intention to be so…not to be aware. I’m just so busy making this place our home.” Was that a sniffle in Mother Goose’s beak? “Maybe we could spend some time doing things outside of school and work. I suppose a child your age should have other gosling friends to play with, as well.” She straightened, “We’ll have to work on that.”
“Really?” Ugly brightened, then hopped up and hugged wings around her.
“Oh, oh my.” Mother caught her balance, taken by surprise, then hugged him a little bit back; she wasn’t an affectionate person by nature, but that was simply because she wasn’t used to it. “Maybe I was never cut out for this mother stuff…but I’ll try and be more understanding, Ugly.”
“Thank you, Mom!”
They watched as the waterfowl mother and son waddled off, Harrey wiping at something in his eyes. Madnes looked sidelong at him then sighed through a frown. “What? It’s dust, not tears!” he insisted.
“Well, I’m glad that’s settled,” Cheshire propped paws on hips. “Even if rather rash words were used.” He glanced up at Madnes meaningfully, but he shrugged it off with a pleased smile.
“It had to be done. That’s the Madness Solver’s job, isn’t it? Resolving conflicts.” He flashed a smile. Cheshire just shook his head, finding no words.
“The Runaway Ugly Duckling case is solved!” Madnes made a check motion in the air, checking it off, proud and relieved. “Let me revel in this moment of peace before it fast fades away.”
“Weren’t you gonna investigate that syn stuff, and Oz?” Harrey rudely interrupted, and Madnes let his head fall back and eyes stare blankly at the sky.
“Yes…the moment of peace fast fades away…”
Haha, poor Madnes. 😀 Please share with friends via social media buttons and help spread the word about #MadnesSolver! Follow the newsletter and blog for more chapters to come! 🙂
Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for more Okinala Island and Wonderland adventure 😀.
© 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: “Mars.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
Hope to see you on Okinala Island (here) next Wednesday!
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