At this point, I'm pretty much convinced that nobody's reading this anymore…
But I am going to update only on Fridays now, so if anybody's actually there…that's when I'm updating.
For the first time, Simon and Felt were alone.
It had been a long day, and Felt was glad it was finally over. The three of them had set up a fire – or at least attempted to – and Thea had gone to find some food.
"So what's the deal with you and Theodora?" Simon asked hesitantly. He was staring at the horizon, but as Felt was the only one around, he knew who Simon was talking to.
"It's…complicated," Felt said slowly.
"All relationships are," Simon said knowingly.
Felt blinked. "No," he said quickly. "It's not like that. We're not a couple."
"Is she your sister?"
"No," Felt said slowly. "But, I mean…she's like one. I've known her for years."
Simon frowned. "Oh," he said. There was a moment of silence as the mediocre fire gave out a little spark. "Is she pretty?"
"You know, I can't see her. She sounds pretty. She's got a nice voice and everything."
Felt cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Yeah, nice voice," he said.
There was more silence. "Well?" said Simon.
"Is she pretty?"
"Oh," said Felt with a frown. "I don't know. I've never thought about it before."
"So think about it."
Felt thought. She was, he thought, a little pretty. She had nice hair, and clear skin, and her eyes freaked him out a little bit, but they were kind of nice. When they weren't…feathery. "Yeah," he said at last. "Yeah, I guess she's pretty."
"That's good," said Simon, seeming satisfied with that answer.
And that's when Felt really started to wonder about Thea. Maybe, he figured, she was human after all.
"Don't tell Thea this," Simon said, interrupting Felt's reverie, "But I'm not really a knight."
"No," Felt gasped, rolling his eyes.
"I stole one of the horses from the castle and tried to follow a search party," said Simon. "It was always my dream to be a knight, but…I'm just a tailor."
"Don't worry," said Felt. "I won't tell her."
Simon smiled, and even tried to look at him. He wasn't very successful. "Thank you," he said.
At this point, there was no point in pretending there was even any sign of a fire.
"One more thing," said Simon. "I can't really see any colors. Just blackness."
"You're secret's safe with me," said Felt, and he smiled to himself.
Thea was confused and frustrated.
Bringing Simon along didn't have the effect she'd hoped for. The two boys didn't hate one another. In fact, Felt seemed to be friends with him.
Simon was the first human boy either of them had seen in ten years, besides Felt, who didn't count. Thea didn't know what to make of him. He was really tall, over six feet, and his eyes were an unnaturally light blue due to his blindness. His hair was dark and overgrown, and his ears were slightly pointed on the ends.
Thea supposed Simon must be considered an average boy, but she wouldn't know until she got to Guneer.
Even though Simon was getting along with Felt, he let her lead him along by the arm and walk too close to him. He let her giggle the way Five had and he often smiled in her general direction. Felt would always walk farther away from the two of them when they did this, but overall it did not seem to bother him.
The weirdest thing about all of this was that Thea was not sure what she was doing, or even why she was doing it. All she knew was that she was a girl, and she was mad at Felt because he just wouldn't apologize.
Or…maybe that's why she was mad.
To be honest, every time she thought about it, it made her feel strangely dizzy, and so she made sure to giggle louder and focus on Simon's blind smile.
On the third day traveling with Simon, Thea began to worry about how long she would have to avoid her best friend.
On the other hand, they were only best friends because they didn't know any other humans. In fact, she didn't even like him.
Theodora was dreaming about spiders.
Spiders and Argon, crawling, scaring her for the first time. They crawled up her nose, into her mouth, peering into her eyes…
"Thea," Felt said louder. She sat up suddenly, half expecting to be covered in spiders like in her dream. But there were no spiders, and there was no danger. Only Felt and Simon, who was sleeping a few yards away. "You were talking in your sleep," Felt said.
"Oh. Sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you." With that, Thea lay back down on the ground, trying to forget the cold. They still couldn't build a fire for some reason.
"While you're awake," Felt said slowly, "I wanted to ask you something."
"Can't it wait until tomorrow?" asked Thea. Can't it wait until never? she added mentally.
"No," said Felt. Thea sighed and sat up.
"What is it?" she demanded.
Felt blinked, said slowly, "I was wondering," he said, "if we could just stop arguing now."
Thea thought about this, long and hard, Felt's eyebrows high and expectant.
"Well," she said finally, "I guess. But," she added, "You have to...tell me about Guneer."
Felt smiled. "You'll be there soon," he pointed out.
"Exactly. I want to be ready for it."
And so Felt grinned and began telling nonsense.
Simon was listening.
He'd been listening for a while, but he said nothing and gave no sign that he was awake. Felt was talking about Guneer, and what he remembered, and even though Simon knew he was completely wrong, it was definitely interesting. A different kind of Guneer. A Guneer someone would actually want to visit.
After a while, Felt's voice grew quiet, and Simon knew he was the only one who was still awake. The night was silent and still, and really cold. There was still no fire.
Then there was a sound. A crawling sound, like someone was coming. But the steps were different. Lighter than a human's.
Simon sat up and looked around. He didn't expect to see anything, but maybe, he figured, whatever was coming wouldn't know that.
He was wrong.
Cucumbus and Gwyneth were on the fourth day of their week-long journey. The tower was never in sight over the thick trees, but Gwyneth always insisted that it was there.
Cucumbus wasn't too sure if Gwyneth would be a good second wife anymore. She was bossy, loud, and much too strong-minded for a girl. He decided she just wouldn't do, even if she was pretty cute.
Walking along through Guneer's forests, neither the prince nor his female bodyguard said much. Cucumbus wasn't too fond of this, because it led for many awkward silences, but he wasn't too fond of the few conversations they had either, since they almost always involved the words "stupid," "idiot," and "fat," sometimes directly after each other.
So that's why, on the fourth day, both Cucumbus and Gwyneth were surprised to find that they began to talk to each other in a reasonable tone.
Cucumbus thought maybe he had caused it, with his remark about how the rabbit they'd had for dinner was almost as good as his chef made it. Gwyneth thought it must have been because of her, when she told the prince he was making good time for a fatso.
But, somehow, it ended up with Cucumbus telling Gwyneth about his eight dead fathers, and Gwyneth telling Cucumbus about how the Resistance started thousands of years ago.
"At first, it had thousands of members," said Gwyneth as the sun began to rise to the middle of the sky. "That was when Guneer was a freer place, when people could have opinions without being executed. We didn't have to meet underground, and it didn't have a name. It was just something. Just a hunch that a lot of people had that something was wrong."
"What happened?" asked Cucumbus, glad that the word "fatso" had not appeared in the last five minutes.
"I don't know," Gwyneth admitted. "People got scared, I guess. Families in the Resistance lowered from hundreds to thirty, then six, and finally only four. That was a long time ago."
"So…the people in the Resistance…?"
"My cousins," said Gwyneth. "Distantly, anyway. But it seems like more and more people are leaving every year."
"If Guneer's so bad, how come there aren't more people?" Cucumbus said suspiciously.
"I don't know," Gwyneth admitted. "Nobody knows. Maybe there are, but anybody who gets caught gets executed."
"I've seen King Reichstein," Cucumbus said thoughtfully. "He doesn't look like a guy who could execute anything."
"That's what we thought," Gwyneth said curiously. "But for some reason, whenever there's a new king, nothing changes."
"Is that from personal experience?"
"No," Gwyneth said after a while. "But it's true."
As the day turned to night, the conversation turned from talk of the Resistance to things that were a little more pleasant. They talked about favorite colors, and food, and their favorite holidays. They talked about first words and memories and stuffy relatives from far away. They talked about politics, religion, personal ethics and what they thought about the world. And most of the time, their answers were as different as night and day, but other times they were more similar than either would admit.
Gwyneth had said that she'd been born in a tree trunk – not the same one as the Resistance headquarters, but a tree trunk nonetheless. Her father had been caught and executed when she was nine, and her older brother had left the Resistance and become a shoemaker when he was sixteen. She said she would never marry, not even once, and she'd never have any children, especially after there was no more need for the Resistance. And she said that once the economy of Guneer settled down, she'd get a job. Maybe as a lumberjack, or maybe even a lawyer. Not the kind of jobs girls usually got in Guneer. She said she'd be sure to make something of herself one day, that she wouldn't settle for anything less.
It was very different from Cucumbus's life story. Being a prince, given anything he'd ever asked for…but Gwyneth didn't seem too surprised or even disappointed.
"Well," she said after a while, "You can't choose your own fate."
It was dark now, and the night seemed to swallow up the two of them as they walked through the forest. Together they had grown silent, and even though it was hard to see, neither of them suggested setting up camp. And what broke the many hours of silence was not the darkness, or the weariness that pulled on their feet.
It was the single snap of a twig.
"Did you hear something?" Gwyneth said quietly, slowly reaching and pulling an arrow out of the quiver.
"Probably just another detox," Cucumbus said dismissively. But he was not too sure.
There was another snap.
"You stay here," Gwyneth murmured. "I'll go check it out." She slid the arrow into the bow and stretched it, walking slowly towards where the sound had come from. "Don't move," she called into the brush. "I'll shoot."
The pale-faced girl slowly moved aside the bushes, bracing for an attack...
Then she stopped.
She lowered her bow.
It was a bird. Lemon yellow and bright as the sun, it gave a pathetic Ca-coo and stared up at Gwyneth with big, round eyes. It was a bird that very much resembled an owl, with the same wide, nocturnal eyes and round, feathered head. But its color was unlike any owl Gwyneth had ever seen, and something about its body just wasn't the same. It wasn't an owl, but it was cute.
And stuck. Its foot was caught in some kind of metal trap unlike any Gwyneth had ever seen. It looked very complex, and nearly impossible to pry free. And there was something about the spikes on the end and the blood on the bird's foot that made her think it was pretty dangerous too.
But there was something about that bird's eyes that made even Gwyneth's heart melt.
"Oh, hey there, little guy," she murmured, and she knelt down and gently touched its head with her fingertips.
The little yellow bird gave out its soft Ca-coo in response, almost as if it were purring.
"Hang on a second," Gwyneth said as she suddenly saw a tail. "Are you a cat?"
"No," said a sudden voice behind her. "Not a cat. Just a yellow owl with a tail."
Gwyneth turned, and she almost ran her nose into an arrow, pointed straight at her head. At the other end of it was a bow, being held by a dark man with a long, red beard. "Now," said the man, "Stand up nice and slow. That's it." When Gwyneth had stood, the man turned to Cucumbus and said, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Run and she dies."
"Run!" Gwyneth shouted.
The man glanced at her irritably. "Did you not hear what I just said?" he demanded.
Gwyneth stared at him, in a way only a really angry girl can stare. "What do you want?" she said.
The man blinked, stroked his beard. Began to chuckle, then to laugh. He said, "Money!"
"And you think murder is a just way of getting it?" she demanded.
The man blinked again. "I never said I was goin' to kill ya," he said.
Cucumbus stared at him, confused. "But, aren't you…?"
"Then what do you want with us?" Gwyneth interrupted, shooting Cucumbus a look.
The man stroked his beard again. "Well," he said at last, "I figure you've probably got some money on you. Some valuables. And if you don't, you could have a little food. And if worst comes to worst, I like the look of those arrows." He took one from the quiver and examined it. "How'd you get 'em all red like that?"
"Blood," said Gwyneth.
"Ah. Blood. Not a big fan of it myself, but…"
Cucumbus looked at the thug, with his long red beard and his rotted teeth, and slowly he bent down and picked up a heavy rock from the ground. And, even though throwing had never been Cucumbus's strong point, he aimed the rock at the thug's furry head and threw with all his might.
There was a loud crack, and the man dropped his bow and fell to the ground.
He didn't move.
And so eventually Gwyneth said, "We should go." And, with that, she disappeared into the forest.
Cucumbus followed quickly behind, stepping over the unconscious ruffian on the ground and hurrying off after her into the night.
But before he did, he bent down and pressed an odd little button which sprang the trap free of the little yellow bird.
If anybody's actually reading this, review…
I don't really feel like doing a fun fact right now because I ran out…I think.