Chapter Seven

Lisc Axtello

(Third Day)

Ky finally pulled out of the dark, dense clouds. Her vision was blurry, but it was slowly improving. She felt her cloak on top of her, and the warmth of another beneath. The furthest she could figure was that she had been placed inside her tent in her bed. Her face and arms throbbed with pain, and to make matters worse, her left eye was swollen. How much she could not tell, because her eyesight was too poor. She was lying down, but her back was leaned against pillows, so, if her eyes could truly see, she would've seen where she was. Kygeru saw a brown figure at her feet, with a hint of what seemed like green. Then she remembered the loki from the night before. It looked like that, so she had only a guess to go by what was sleeping at her feet.

She stirred at the return of all of her eyesight, and the loki woke immediately. He jumped off the bed and left the tent. It came back in moments later, Axtell beside him. "Hey Ky. You got into a nasty situation last night, so, how do you feel?" he asked.

"Soto, very soto," came a tiny and exhausted reply from Kygeru.

"That's to be expected. But, thanks to Lona's magic and some of my own healing capabilities, there will be no infections, and your eye will be fine before midday."

"With a tone like that, something bad's gonna come next."

"Unfortunately, the marks made by that Arafor Cato will leave long lasting, if not permanent marks."

"Fire Cat, that's what it's called? No wonder my arms were burning. I was right, anyway, about the bad news I don't want Lan to see me like this."

"Nothing I can do, Ky. Sorry."

"That's okay. I'll get used to it. Just like my short hair, after a while I loved it so much I kept it the same length."

"Guess so. Oh, and by the way, this little loki here is a wood loki by the name of Valan. He's going to stay Lyca because he has come to like her. He also says that nothing else will attack us in these woods while he's with us. Something about being guarded by the mass numbers of unseen wood loki, or so Lyca says. Did you know she could partially understand what loki say? Either way, Yiato has agreed to not turn around. He's also agreed to let you ride, too, but you'll have to ride on someone else's horse, and with them behind you in the saddle. Will you take the offer?"

"Sure. Anything's better than ridding in a wagon or cart like Minoey was forced to do."

"Hey, I read that one, too. It's my favorite volume."

"Gehan. So, when do we leave?"

"As soon as you're ready. Are you?"

"Yeah. Could you help me up?" she asked, sitting up more than before.

"I'm so glad you and Lan are different."

"In what way?"

"You're not afraid or ashamed to ask for help."

"Thanks for the compliment, Axtell. Now let's get going!" she said, putting one arm around Axtell's shoulder and the other on the side of the bed. Together they got her off the bed, out of the tent, and to where the horses were tied. Ky was presented with the choice of who she rode with, and she chose Wes, letting both him and Axtell give her a boost up to the saddle. Wesinco mounted the appaloosa behind her, and after the tent was packed and all were atop horses, they left.

Wes let Kygeru nodded off to sleep a couple of times, and in the end she slept that whole day of travel, but not until they left the Nate Woods. Her first nap ended when they reached the Doko Hills, which stood between the woods and Caldarin. Once they were over them, she fell asleep again, but Wesinco woke her before they got in sight of Caldarin.

"You've never been here before, and I thought that you'd like to see it all the way," he told her.

"Thank you," she replied, a smile upon her face.

The city was larger than she thought, but it was still the same as her father had described when she was younger. The smells, the sounds, even the way the sun shone through the houses. As they rode down the street, fishermen, women, and children alike were greeting the company, and many saying, "Hail, Kygeru of Loki," and she would reply, "Hail, people of Loki." All the others nodded, and Ky spotted Cavin. He looked very nervous, as if he'd never been among a crowded village for any length of time. That was impossible, because he claimed to be from Loki, and all of the villages and cities were this active and crowded. She was reminded of Yiato asking Cavin if he was from Celedrid, and his reply. "Close," he had said. She was beginning to wonder how close.

After going through most of the village they reached the harbor front, and they managed to get rooms for everyone at the same Inn, not too large in size. Kygeru was dismounted and was helped to a small table, where she sat for quite a while, writing and talking to many of her friends. Later, Wes and Lona came. They helped her up and down the harbor to where one of the smallest boats that Wes's father owned was docked. The two got her into the rocking boat and she sat down on a bench where Lona joined her shortly. The boat was a sailboat, and Wesinco caught the wind just right so they could get out far enough into the water. Lona took out her flute and played a familiar tune. There was a splash on the left side of the boat, followed by two high pitched squeaks. The princess and the mage got up and made their way to where the sounds came from. Kygeru smiled when she saw Cele, and it widened when a smaller dolphin emerged from the water beside her.

"That must be Cele's calf. Am I right?" Lona questioned. Cele squeaked again and the smaller one did too. The two girls laughed, and Kygeru reached out to pet Cele. The dolphin let her, and it even sort of encouraged her hand to keep rubbing. Lona seemed amazed, and so did Wes, who was watching from behind. Soon the girl stopped, and the tuinveils swam away. Ky and Lona waved goodbye, and the boat was brought back to the harbor. Wes went to check on some business matters, while Lona helped the princess out of the boat and back to the chair she'd been sitting in before. This time Lona stayed with her, and they had supper out there. When the day was darkening the two friends went to her room and slept, knowing that Lanfinox was coming home tomorrow.

Chapter Eight

Lanfinox Boleros Meyho

(Lanfinox Comes Home)

The sun had just risen, but a ship was landing in Caldarin Harbor, and the company of the princess, her seven friends, and a few others were waiting its arrival. A blue flag bearing Loki's emblem waved in a winter breeze from the top of the tallest of three masts. It had been a long time since Ky had been told about the Harbor, and even longer since she truly thought about the flag. Originally, it was the symbol on a necklace that was worn by Risona when she met Prince Thilen, and thus it was erected as Loki's symbol. It was a way of honoring Risona and her people, the Alundrin.

"Now, though, it was a symbol of hope," she thought. "The Loki Royal government was on the verge of crumbling. It had a nineteen year old boy about to be crowned king and a princess who is more suited for the job, but is restless and in need of adventure, so she cannot stay around long enough in the castle to fulfill any duties. If Lan makes even one major mistake, he and our country are doomed." Her thoughts began to trail on, but soon she brushed them out of her head. Lanfinox was returning, and everything she could think of was so melancholy. A sailor was tying a rope down that wold secure the ship to the dock now, and a bridge was raised up to an opening in the side of the ship.

A loki darted down the bridge, turned around, and sat. He was red, with orange on the usual places (muzzle, paws, tail, and stomach). Ky recognized him immediately as Seifo, Lan's arafor loki, and she knew he was waiting for his master, tail waving impatiently. Seifo's name, which means wild, is very inappropriate for the loki's character and spirit. He is calm, quiet, relaxed and gentle, making everyone think that he should've rather been Zane, Wes or Aidin's loki, not that of the competitive and (sometimes) boastful prince of loki. But that didn't bother Lan one bit. He loved Seifo, and considered the creature his best friend and guardian, not his pet or servant.

Then he was there, standing in the open space. One of the sailors handed him a rope and shouted, "Gehan vedo!" (Good luck) to Lan. At first she wondered what the man had meant, but she soon discovered the answer. The rope was attached to a makeshift bridle, which was around the head of the strangest loki she'd seen before. Lanfinox had to literally drag the loki off the ship, because he refused to budge.

Once he was on the dock, he hugged Ky and placed the rope into her hands. "As Father requested, I have brought you home a loki. His name is Netis, and he comes from Lafise's Royals' herds, compliments of Bryo, Faya and Videric," Lan told her. She chuckled and glanced back at Lyca, who was laughing, too. "And what, dear sister, may I ask is so funny?" he questioned.

"Oh it's nothing, Lan. Tell me, why does he have a bridle on? Has he acted shrewd?" Ky asked, pointing towards Netis.

"Beyond shrewd. Down right soto."

"Well I believe in giving second chances after first impressions," she commented. "First," she said, untying the ropes, "I'm gonna rid him of this bridle. How can Netis be expected to trust me if I don't show some trust in him? Second, I shall give him a hug and let him see me as a friend, not a master."

She did, and the loki's cold, stern eyes softened, and even showed a bit of love and appreciation. Ky noticed his tail was wagging, but just the very tip. Netis was a magnificent creature, black, with blue where Valan was green and Seifo orange and yellow. The shape of the blue part looked almost like a blue flame. She was glad that the Royals of Lafise had sent her a challenge. She knew she could handle it. As Kygeru stood up, she faintly heard Lanfinox whisper to Zane, "Loki! She tamed him at her touch. I swear she's more like Mom than any of us ever thought!"

Everyone smiled and began to welcome Lan home. After the greetings were said, she clapped her hands. "Now, who's ready for breakfast?" she asked.

Bakitenu started jumping up and down shouting, "Me! Me!" but then Wes grabbed him by the cloak and Baki dropped to the ground with a loud thud.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to..." Wes started.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Don't get so overexcited over small things. But you gotta understand, I'm really hungry!" Baki finished.

They laughed for a brief moment before helping Baki to his feet and heading back to the Inn 's cafe. Axtell went to sit beside Ky at a sunlit table, but Lanfinox asked him if he would mind sitting elsewhere so that Lan could speak with his sister privately. Axtell nodded and left to sit with Aidin and Cavin. Lan sat down, and Kygeru heard Netis bark a greeting to Seifo underneath the table. He pulled out a bandana, blue and stitched with the most intricate silver and green patterns.

"Videric sent this. He said this was made by a race called the Eikoan. Supposedly, they live in the most isolated part of the Biole Forest, near Pheriduel. Thought you might like it and use it as your next kerchief," he said, handing it to her.

"You told him about the lenco (bandana) incident, didn't you? I thought you promised to never tell anyone about that," Kygeru complained.

"Sorry, I couldn't help it. That's just a really funny story. Think of it this way: If I didn't tell him, he wouldn't have sent you this lenco, which I like much more than the last one."

"True. I'll let you off this time, Lan. But please don't tell people that story."

"I'll try."

"There's something else, isn't there?"

"Yes, and this is a very serious matter. Cheyso's trying to rid Ruxin of all the Royals, save for Celedrid's. He claims that the highest class should rule the others."

"He didn't... he did poison Donuin."

"We know that for a fact. I have a letter in his handwriting that proves it."

"Then couldn't you just raise this matter to the other Kings at the next Council?"

"Yeah. And I'm going to try, but it'll be a very nasty and tedious business. Plus, he might kill me before I have the chance."

"Think of a way to let him know that you and the other two Kings onto him, but not give away what you know. That way, he'll back off."

"You always think of something, Kygeru. I wish that there was a way that we could keep in touch when I leave for Ru, the capitol of Hito for the next Council."

"There is. Though nobody else knows, I have a peregrine falcon, Arancel. He'll keep us connected."

"Where'd you..."

"We all have our secrets."

"Right. Hey look! Breakfast is ready."

"One more question."

"Huh?"

"Should I tell my friends?"

"Yes. They might need to look out for your safety."

"Okay."

Then breakfast was laid before everyone, even the three loki, and the discussion was over. As they ate, Ky looked over her brother thoroughly. He had changed a little since she'd last seen him. His hair was the same, length and color, though. It was a bright red, and went down to the middle of his neck. His bangs stuck out on both sides, but mostly on his left side. His face seemed deeper, and so did his green eyes. His style (she felt) would never change, even though he'd gone to the council and was about to become King. He still had on the usual khaki cargo pants and maroon shirt that he had the day they'd left to go, and that made he laugh a little. The two spent the rest of the day together, ridding around and doing a little shopping.