Chapter 36: Unexpected Quest
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: After trying to convince people to evacuate Okinala before more land is terraformed, and failing, Madnes and his friends meet up inside his Madness Solver office building. They are surprised to see Cheshire there, and behind him is someone Madnes isn’t too happy about…
For one slow second, Madnes scowled cold fury at the prince, and Oz likewise stared coolly back. Then all heck broke loose. Before Cheshire could get a word in, Madnes leaped for Oz’s throat. Oz swiftly side-stepped, raising a hand that grew crow talons to cut him as he passed. But Madnes halted his momentum, calves burning, and whipped around to face the taloned hand—backhanding it away with one tight fist, and leaving Oz open for attack as his other first balled into Oz’s left cheek.
The force of the blow sent Oz flying back, crashing over tables and chairs, hitting the far wall with a satisfying thunk—all of Madnes pent-up anger released in that one blow.
Cheshire yelped as Oz staggered back to his feet. “Stop—this isn’t what you think! Madnes, you can’t—!” The cat was ignored. Oz wiped blood from his cheek with a dark grin before sprouting crow wings and charging forward into Madnes—top hat flying off as they hit the floor in a heap. Black feathers and red hair mingled in a violent blur.
Cheshire tried to reach his paws out, wanting to stop them but helpless to, instead berating them loudly as he could, vainly hoping words would work.
From the sidelines, Harrey called out: “Two points for Madnes—One point for Oz—Another point for Madnes!” Next to him, Knight Pelur held up a clipboard, keeping tally. Alice moved the orphans back and shielded their eyes with her hands, no matter how much they begged to watch.
Amidst the turmoil, a shadow fell over the room, and two large hands descended: grabbing Madnes and Oz each by the scruff of their collars and yanking them apart. “How many times do I gotta pull you boys apart, eh?” a familiar voice boomed.
Madnes blinked aside blood from a bleeding cut to see twin large boots—the hem of a dark duster coat swirling about them. He tilted his head up painfully, and met the rough, stubble face of his uncle—a wide-brim hat playing shadows across his jagged features.
Cheshire let himself sink to the floor, relief on his furry face. “Cosmic Hunter! I could not have asked for better timing. Thank you.”
He tossed Madnes and Oz to the floor, forcing them to sit with a hand pressing down on their shoulder. Cuts, bruises and a black eye marred Oz’s face, and despite it the prince kept up a smirk. Madnes watched angrily as the injuries healed and faded away, and could feel his own body doing the same.
“Whoa, all that fighting, and they’re already healed enough to dive into battle again!” Harrey marveled.
“Yes, let’s beat each other up for eternity, Madnes,” a spark lit in Oz’s eyes. “I could use the therapy.”
“Ha! If therapy’s what you want, how about I give you some that’ll really knock you out?” Madnes jabbed a fist—or tried to. His uncle’s hand on his shoulder shoved him back down.
“Enough, kiddos! Sheesh,” Cosmic shook his head of shaggy black hair. “Indeed!” Cheshire stepped in, now that the danger of getting struck was past, “You didn’t give me a chance to explain things before diving into a fight, Madnes. You must learn better control over your emotions. Okinala is at stake, here.”
Madnes closed his mouth from what he’d been going to say. Adrenaline still pumping, he crossed his legs and crossed his arms, seething but ready to listen. If only Oz would wipe that aggravatingly pleased smirk off his face.
“I’ll begin by sharing with you what I’ve learned…” Cheshire proceeded with a monologue about the portals, the dangerous state they were in now, and what the Red King has planned. Madnes in turn told about the Forest of the Haunted—glaring sideways at Oz—and the current situation of the public park disappearing and growing back into a garden of Wonderland flora…
“Terraforming Process spell…” Madnes examined Cheshire’s information. “I’m not surprised the Red King is bad news though, just like his son.” He ignored the arrow of hate Oz’s bitter look flung his way.
“Yes, you were spot on in your prediction,” Cheshire admitted, “But we have to stop his plan first, before we can attempt to confront him.”
“Finding the seven crystals to break the spell, you mean?” said Madnes. “Some Wonderland insect told me the same thing,” he murmured absently, then sat up straight, tone growing demanding, “But what’s this have to do with Oz? Why is he here, when he’s the enemy?” Violet eyes threw daggers at the crowv prince—wings and claw now gone, looking like any other handsome human.
“I told you,” the cat sounded exasperated. “He wants to find the crystals as much as we do—for reasons I promised I wouldn’t say. We can use his help, Madnes; we need every little bit we can get for this quest.”
“Quest?” Harrey interrupted. “We’re calling it a quest now? Woohoo!” He slung on a backpack crammed with stuff. “We’re gonna become famous adventurers, heroes that saved the world, the kind people talk about and make songs up for!” he swooned. “I really want my own ballad, something heart-wrenching and grand.”
Madnes raised a palm, blocking him out. “You think I can forgive Oz, let alone trust him, after what happened to Nagato?” he demanded. The orphans Ash and Drisel were all ears now, keeping a distance from the prince and waiting for Cheshire’s answer.
The cat looked tired, worn out. “I know this isn’t ideal, Madnes. But it’s for Okinala, your home…that is, if you want there to be a home you can come back to.”
The words hit hard; Madnes kept his lips shut against the tirade writhing inside his chest. His uncle’s heavy hand moved to pat his back.
“I’m comin’ with ya lad—cheer up!” said Cosmic. “Nobody ever saved the world by cryin’ and glarin’, so pucker up that miserable face of yours.”
Madnes rolled his eyes, but he had to agree with his uncle’s blunt logic. “So,” he took a shaky breath, his body still working to cool down, “How do we locate these crystals?”
“Hehe,” Cosmic pushed the brim of his hat back with a thumb, and grinned toothy, “That’s why yer feline friend called me here! I know just the person who can help us with that there problem…”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
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