Chapter Five: Don't Ask Me Why Munah Hates Cheesecake: Landon
The tree bark was rough against my back, but I didn't really care. I'd grown used to sleeping against trees and sitting in the middle of their sheltering branches. Lately, all I did was sleep and fight. My sessions with Crystal - sorry, Princess Hermione - when training her in self defense had come to a stuttering halt when Munah had begun getting overprotective over his prize, his power-source, his stolen treasure, Crystal - ahem, I meant, his daughter.
I opened my eyes slowly and held my hand up in front of my face, half-expecting it to be drenched with a crimson substance from a faerie, a different faerie, like it was in my nightmare-dream, my memory, but it was clean and unstained. Of course it would be. The blood had washed off my hands over twenty years ago. The faerie the blood belonged to wasn't gone, though, not completely. I could see his imprint now, from the corner of my eye, a white ghost invisible to everyone but me. He guided me, mentored me during battle. At times like these, peaceful and undisturbed, myself asleep or resting in a tree, he would wander as far as he could get (about three yards, give or take an inch), rarely saying a word. Once every month or two, he'd drift over and suddenly start speaking quietly, recounting to me old legends with a personal depth that would put most storytellers to shame.
I glanced down from my tree branch at the messenger. "What is it?"
"Lord Munah summons you to meet him, sir!"
I moved my eyes to gaze at my hand again. "Tell him I'll be in the throne room in an hour."
"But, sir, he requires your attention immediately, sir!"
"Stop calling me that. I'll go now."
I sat up, stretched, and casually jumped down from the low branch. "I thought I told you to cut it out. Dismissed."
I sighed mentally as he hurried away. I'd gotten so much stinking respect for the past twenty or so years - ever since I'd climbed my way up through the ranks and achieved the status of legend in three short years - that only relief I'd gotten had been from the higher-ups and nobles, and those were always worse. Most of them were spoiled adults, and believe me, spoiled adults are a far cry worse than spoiled kids. I never could stand them as a child, as an orphan.
In the meantime, I decided to humor the king and see what he wanted.
For the past month - ever since Hermione had gotten away - Munah had been in a fury, and whenever Munah was angry enough, he started cursing. Not that "strawberry cheesecake" could really be called an expletive, but Munah was Munah, and Munah had always been rather eccentric in the twenty-some years I had known (and despised) him.
He was in the throne room, like the messenger had said, pacing furiously in front of the actual throne. I dropped to my knee in the formal bow (where would I be without my acting skills? Probably rotting in the dungeon, or out in the wilderness who-knows-where). "You called for me, Lord?"
Munah halted abruptly and stared at me. "Rune, yes. How has the tracking progressed?"
I gritted my teeth. Le risque numero un, whispered the wisp of faerie behind me. "We've found the kidnapper's hideout. It seems it's in a mountain, sir... a very familiar mountain."
He raised a trimmed eyebrow (what kind of guy would trim his eyebrows?). "Fairyhill? You jest, Rune."
"No jest, sir. My scouts have seen them, and oddly enough, they seem to be faeries. I'd guess - beg pardon, sir - but I'd guess that you were not, ah, thorough enough the last time you visited the mountain. But there are only three of them, plus Hermione, who they've converted back into a faerie, sir."
"No matter," Munah dismissed with a wave of his hand. "She shouldn't be able to develop fully, the Cage saw to that. I'll still get my share of magic. More importantly, what are the faeries doing with her?"
"My scouts say that they're training her in using magic. She has been seen using very basic forms of magic - minor healing charms, minor elemental spells, a bit of summoning, some transportation magic. I would suggest a raid as soon as possible, before they decide to leave."
"A raid," Munah mused, resuming his pacing. "A raid, you say. I'll have to go, of course -"
"Excuse my arrogance, but that will be unnecessary. There are only four faeries, including Hermione. A company of one hundred, with myself at the point, should be more than enough. Of course, we'll take the cage with us...."
"Hm. When will you be ready?"
Risque deux. Another whisper from the faerie. "I'll be there and back within the turning of the moon, sir. We'll leave tonight, with your permission."
I hurriedly ducked to one side and winced as a twenty-seven-year-old male crashed into the weapons' locker I had been in the process of opening. The ghost of the faerie chuckled to himself. "Hey, Richard."
He shook his head and grinned at me woozily. "So, where ya headed?"
I nudged him aside and spun the combination on the lock. "Fairyhill."
"Fairyhill? That ole mountain of superstition? Fairies used ta live there, that sort of crup?"
"It's a topic reserved for the older soldiers, but yes, something of the sort," I muttered as the locker clicked open.
"Older soldiers, older soldiers, how old are you, Lan?" Richard grumbled, seating himself on a nearby bench while I tugged a spear-carrier out of the container and fastened it across my shoulder.
"Relatively speaking, about twenty-four. In years, I'm thirty-three."
He whistled. "Thirty-three!"
"It's not that old. Don't you have something you should be doing?" I sighed. He blinked, yelped and leaped up simultaneously, and dashed away. I rolled my eyes and pulled some lances from the locker, patiently untangling them from the mess of swords inside the thing. Free of the locker, they were slung over my shoulder and slotted easily into the carrier.
I turned. "Yeah?"
"King Munah wishes to say that the thing has been prepared and is waiting in your quarters! Sir!"
"Tell him I've received his message. Dismissed."
"Sir!" he saluted and marched off.
The thing. The Cage that Munah had used to take Crystal and steal her memories as a child. Now that I had managed to get the Cage, I could destroy it. The one hundred that came along... I would have to judge them myself. I was uncomfortable with killing them all, but they could not be allowed to go to Haven and back, because I did not plan on returning.
So I'd have to lose them in the forest somehow -- which wouldn't be hard, considering that the forest was like a virtual maze. How long would it take me to get to the mountain? Fourteen days, maybe just , if I went at my pace, if I scouted ahead, left marks, returned to camp every three or four days. I could manage that.
I'd have to manage that. I'd given myself a month for Munah to keep from suspecting anything wrong. I had to use the thirty days provided to their maximum efficiency.
I shook my head (what a technician I sounded like, even to myself!) and set off for my quarters.
Very few people will cross me when I'm decked out in full gear. Very, very few people. A few exceptions included Munah and Crystal and the faerie (though he didn't do it often anyway), and probably Amber-hyrie and Pearl-hyrie, and maybe a couple of really stupid nobles, but other than that, people steered clear.
And with good reason.
If they don't, there's a good chance they'd end up sliced in half. Or at the very least severely hurt. I had a "legendary" status and a reputation to keep.
I was at the head of my one-hundred men, analyzing every one, counting the number that I knew and the number that I didn't. We had just left the eastern entrance of Munahville. So far, Munah'd given me ten people I knew out of thirty-five. That was definitely troublesome: the less I knew, the more I'd have to lose in the forest. The less I knew, the less I could trust with knowing what I was about to do.
Several hours later, I was maybe a mile in front of the rest and planning to turn back in a day or so and find the company -- or what was left of it, I'd made sure to leave an idiot in charge in hopes of inciting a rebellion just so some would be tempted to desert and get lost, the forest was pretty much a maze -- when I sensed something behind me and whirled, a double-ended spear in each hand.
Standing before me with a snarl on his face and one end of a sickle-bladed nunchaku in each hand was a vaguely familiar faerie with flaming red-orange hair and olive skin. The snarl quickly changed into a startled face -- I did look like a faerie, albeit one with round ears -- before reverting to suspicion. "Landon?" He spotted my ears. "No, you're human."
"More than human, less than faerie," I corrected, my mind racing ahead to connect the face with a name. No doubt I knew him from one of my faerie memories....
"Ah." The sound was one of disgust. "Let me guess, one of that abominable human's experiments concerning, what was it called, faemen?"
"I assume that the abominable human in question would be Munah?" I asked dryly. "Faeman, hm? I guess that would be a valid name for my existence. But no, I am not one of Munah's creations, not that he had any to begin with. I am in all honesty an... extension... of a faerie named Landon. I suppose you knew him, considering the fact that you thought that I was he... Ranu."
He jerked back. "You...!"
"I told you I was an extension. He gave me his memories, his life. Do you -- no, you wouldn't know. I'm the only one like this, the only one who can possibly know of a world and not exist in it. It hurts... it hurts so much."
I sounded bitter, even to myself. It startled me: I'd never known that being half-faerie had bothered me so much subconsciously, but now that I'd started, I couldn't seem to stop. "Landon was dying, him and Shadow both, so Shadow dragged me to Landon, and Landon gave me what was left of him. Me, I didn't have a family anymore, so I took Landon's faerie name, and I went with Munah for Crystal-hyrie's sake." I took a breath. I could feel the spirit's regret radiating from behind me, saturating me in grief. "So, what did Munah do to make you despise him?" I drawled, bitterness leaking into my voice.
The corners of his lips tightened, pulled downwards. "You have no right to ask me that, working for the human like you do."
"Who said I worked for him? I went with him for my Hyrie, to protect who I thought might be the last remaining Hyrie of my clan."
The ghost whispered across through the trees, coming up behind the faerie. "Ranu?" he whispered. He didn't so much as blink when the curved metal on one rod of the nunchaku sliced through him. The steel edge thudded into a tree behind him; the other rod tore from Ranu's grasp and crashed into the tree. Several leaves fluttered down through the spirit, landing undisturbed under the vague impression of his feet. "Fancy meeting you here like this."
"Wha -- Landon?!"
"What's left of me," the ghost admitted. Ranu whirled on me. "Then you -- who are you?!"
"He is my human counterpart, my extension, as he very lightly put it. He has taken my name because he... well, I can hardly explain why, but I suppose you could call me Enoch, which was his human name. We became the other when we met. We are not so much two different people than faerie and angeli, myself the angeli."
"You explain too much, remember too much," I sighed. "I lost my human name twenty years ago."
"You forget, when my life became yours, the reverse also occurred."
I shrugged, turned away from both faerie and ghost, spoke with my back turned on the pair: "... Hey, Ranu? May I ask where you were going?"
"To the human's fortress."
"... Then I invite you to wreak havoc amongst the group that I was forced to drag with me. My only request is that you let them live. Munah's faults are not theirs. As for the castle, you have as much chance of defeating Munah all by your lonesome as a single ant has of picking up a tree. Were it that simple, he would've been dead by my hands long ago. Also, if you would consent... you may come find me in Mount Haven with what is left of my clan."
"What's left of it?"
"My hyrei, Amber-hyrie, Pearl-hyrie, and Crystal-hyrie, and one more member, a chirou, Skyler-ro." I headed off into the forest again. "See you in a week... maybe."
Enoch slid around the stricken Ranu and followed me silently.
"I don't see why it was necessary for you to tell Ranu of how we became like this," I murmured, loping up a soft incline easily. Enoch sighed, a whisper of a whisper.
"Call it a compulsion," he replied. "And isn't that the Sea-entrance? I don't recall you being able to chyf to anything other than our forte. The Land-entrance is a mile or two to our upper left."
I let a gust of wind blow out of my nose. "How long is the tunnel in, a half a minute?"
"Ten seconds. Don't risk it, Landon: I'm only mortal, I want to live as long as possible, even in this state."
"Ten seconds is child's play. I can hold my breath for at least thirty."
"Be as that may, thirty seconds won't last you if you get stuck in the tunnel. It's only meant for sea-chyfs. I believe that the widest it gets is one-and-a-half feet in diameter of a near-perfect cylinder."
I frowned. "Did you know anyone with a sea-chyf that was a shark or something?"
"Amber's was a shark minnow --"
I waved my hand impatiently. "Not that kind of shark. I mean, something like a hammerhead or a great white, one of those things you can see if you go to Harubori, the harbor city. You do realize that Munahville -- this whole area -- is a very backwater and underdeveloped town, don't you? It's so isolated here." I got a blank look in return and realized that however much of my human memories Enoch had tucked away somewhere, his mind was still mostly faerie, even if he had graciously allowed himself to be known by our my human name.
"Maybe you should meditate once we get in and try reliving my first life," I muttered. "I thought the transfer exchanged our memories completely, but evidently it was mostly one-way."
Enoch spoke apologetically. "I'm was dying, I didn't have much force in me left for anything more than initiating the transfer. As far as I know, such an act is a last resort, and a rare one. Normally it only ever happens between siblings for reasons unmentioned in the textbooks and legends. A transfer between faerie and stranger, let alone faerie and human, has never happened before. I had no idea what would happen, and seeing as I was already dying, I didn't expect us to link like this. I thought this rationalizing part of me would die. Evidently I was wrong."
"Yeah... 'evidently'," I muttered back, resigning myself to another hour of travel as I vaulted over the edge of the subtle stone wall into some bushes that squatted directly opposite of where I'd happened to leap. Enoch melted through the stone in a few seconds and floated off in the direction of the land-entrance. I followed, but when I swerved around a tree, I ran almost immediately into a very familiar stranger.
"What the --" the stranger started, only for me to cut him off.
 Le risque numero un - Risk number one, in French. Do I know French? No. But Google Translator is pretty convenient for the little sentences. No, I'm not going to write in whole paragraphs of French. The guy Landon is based off of, on the other hand, does know a bit of French, thus the small amounts scattered here and there. (No, the guy Landon is based off of is not French, he's just taking it. In school. As a course. Well, you get the picture.)
 Risque deux - Risk two, again in French (nooo, it's frickin' Chinese. Of course it's French! And if you couldn't guess that, then, well, I have no words for you).
 ...and one end of a sickle-bladed nunchaku... -- This weapon has such a weird name that I figure the only people who know what it is are the people who are totally obsessed with weapons (or fanfiction for various animangas) and people that have been taking some form of (Japanese) martial arts for a long while (the weapon is a kusarigama, by the way). And evidently, nunchaku is not a word, according to Google Docs and Microsoft Word, but that's how it's spelled on Wikipedia, so meh =/.
 "My hyrei," -- plural for hyrie (hee-rye), which if you remember is an honorific for the direct ruling descendants of Tei-Faer Le'Yriaf, aka faerie royalty. pronounced hee-ray.
 -ro -- honorific indicating someone of equal or higher standings. pronounced roh.
 "Amber's was a shark minnow --" -- a shark minnow (more commonly known as a bala shark, I believe) isn't actually a shark; it's a small silver fish that looks like a shark, but is fairly nervous and kind of clumsy. Wikipedia: .com/wiki/Bala_shark