Chapter 37: The Duchess
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: After breaking up a brawl between Madnes and his ex-best friend Oz, uncle Cosmic claims he can help them find the Terraforming spell’s hidden crystals before Okinala is devastated. He knows someone who can locate them, and now he leads the way, back into Wonderland…
The portal swirled and groaned beneath the surface, as Cheshire led them up to it. The sight made Madnes question whether this was a good idea. But his uncle didn’t appear the least bit concerned: sauntering up, turning, and letting himself fall backwards into the swirling blue. “This one’s stable enough fer now, kids. But gettin’ back may be a problem, if we fail our quest. Ah well, life’s full of risks!” Uncle vanished beyond the blue. Madnes swallowed, then clenched his fists and dove in after him…
A world of blue, chilling ice cubes running up his skin, and then Madnes found himself stumbling out into Wonderland daylight. He almost lost his footing as the ground rolled and crunched beneath him. He stared down at his shoes, and the red stuff under them; the ground like rocks and pebbles—only red and porous. They crunched like rice krispies when he stepped. The air was salty. He could hear and see a beach off to the left. They were on an island—part of an archipelago, bits of trees and sand poked up out of the sea. ‘This red stuff must be some sort of coral.’
He caught Alice and the orphans as they stumbled out. Harrey tripped over the crunchy terrain and got a mouthful of red, which he then vigorously spat out. Cheshire, Oz and Pelur had no problems, and they marched forward as if it were pavement.
Cosmic Hunter was already far ahead, treading up the red slope toward what resembled a giant shell. Upon getting closer, Madnes realized the shell had been carved and made into something like a monastery. Its gates were oyster shells, and two fish-like people stood guard.
Cosmic reached them first. He flapped one of his hands to the guards, and spoke. “Gwee blub bloo blee, fa jeejee ah vu.”
Behind him, Harrey guffawed, and he almost did the same. “Is that really a language?”
“ ‘Course it is!” Cosmic tilted his head back, once he’d finished. “I’m fluent in all kinds of speech, boy. Comes with the hunter job, y’know.” Madnes shook his head with a smirk. The fishy guards swung the oyster gates open, and Cosmic led the way inside.
The interior was smooth as the inside of a shell, and off-white with hints of pink. A shorter fish person bowed before leading them down a long, curve-walled hallway. An oyster door at the end swung open, and they poured into a room of dangling shell lanterns and arched windows. At the back sat a large clam, its white halves closed. No one else seemed to be present in the room, besides them.
Madnes absently tugged a strand of his hair, looking about for what they should do now, when Cosmic approached the clam, kneeled down, and shouted.
“White Duchess, greetings! Blee bleu gur. We have come to seek your gracious assistance!”
He imagined his eyes stared as wide as Alice and Harrey’s just then. Had his uncle finally gone insane? He glimpsed Oz and Cheshire, both blank faced as ever, and Pelur was off trying to munch on the windows, muttering something about “too salty”—Ash and Drisel watched him, fascinated.
A minute passed, Cosmic not budging an inch, and then a loud creak echoed the room as the clam before them began to open. It parted open with a jolt, and a person inside it stood up and stretched finned arms. A pearl white fish person, with long dress and hair like seaweed that swayed as if underwater. Large eyes regarded Cosmic, and then the group behind him.
“A long time I not see you, Cosmic Hunter,” she said, and glided out of the clam to alight the floor. “You brought Madness Solver, I see.” She drew near, and circled Madnes slowly. “Normally I not allow people to interrupting my solitary prayer time, but for you I make one exception. Is emergency I hear in your voice and see in your eyes, yes?”
Cosmic nodded, and Cheshire stepped forward, giving the duchess a sweeping bow. “A spell has been cast on the portals, White Duchess—one that will devastate Earth if not stopped,” he explained with grace—Madnes almost gagged to watch the cat behaving so courteous.
“To surmise, you need location of crystals that are generating this spell?” The fish lady gestured, and a pearl table rose up out of the floor, a map engraved across its top. “Yesss, I have felt disturbances. I wondered what took so long for you to act, Cheshire. You not on top of things well, lately.” Cheshire bristled, and Madnes hid his grin.
“I would have been sooner, if my apprentice wasn’t still a greenhorn.”
Madnes grimaced. “So,” he moved to view the table, ignoring the cat, “can you pinpoint where the crystals are for us?”
“Hasty you are.” She bopped the tip of his nose with a slick finger. “I like that.” She grinned, much to Cheshire’s dismay. “Come and observe,” she stretched a webbed hand out over the engraved map, and the group lined around the table to watch.
Her hand hovered just about the surface, large eyes to the ceiling as she let her hand move across lands, towns and mountains, feeling for something.
“Yesss,” the hand drew to a halt. Madnes squinted at the village it hovered above. “This crowv village…somewhere in or somewhere nearby it lie one crystal you looking for. It’s closest one, I think.”
“Good,” Madnes adjusted his hat, “The sooner we destroy it, the quicker that spell will be weakened. Let’s go!” He grabbed Pelur’s gauntleted wrist, dragging him out with him.
“Madnes!” Cheshire ran after him, stopping at the oyster door, “You can’t be rude! You should at least—” But Harrey, Alice and the kids brushed past, following after the redhead. “Oh, honestly! What sort of people is Earth raising you to be? Barbarians?”
Oz lightly dipped his head to the lady before silently sweeping past the cat, black frock swaying. “Dash it all!” Cheshire grumbled, and gave a deep bow to the duchess. Her fish lips held amusement. “Time is of the essence, I suppose.”
Knight Pelur—in his grand dragon form—carried the motley group from the archipelago and across to Wonderland mainland. His keen dragon eyes followed the landscape, pinpointing the hilly rainforest and its hidden village that the White Duchess had marked out on the map for them.
Bird calls and monkey howls circled the trees as the dragon descended into a world of green. The passengers slipped and hopped off Pelur’s scaly back to the spongy floor. Alice shook her head of gold hair, shaking off leaves. Drisel spotted an orange squirrel and scampered ahead after it, down an overgrown path. Alice moved to chase after her, but Madnes motioned he would, and sped past.
Shoes thumping fluffy, lichen ground, he caught up and snatched Drisel up by the shoulders. She dangled her feet, pleading and giggling as he swung her around. “Stay with the group, you little rascal,” he said, and plopped her down.
She grinned, and pointed an excited finger out. He raised an eyebrow and looked to where rows of thatch houses and Indian-style tents made up a village in the middle of the rainforest. “The crowv…”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
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