Chapter 4

Water cascaded down into blueness, the liquid disappearing from sight. It looked like there was nothing down there, and Launo wondered where the water came from and where it ended. He took a shuddering breath and backed away from the cliff, the pounding of the water echoing in his ears.

This was the same place his previous dreams had always ended at, with him falling to the bottom screaming as the Qinulis stole his ring. But he had also heard of the waterfalls in village rumors. They said that they only appear once a month, and that they were a portal to another world. Yet, nobody believed it, because nobody has ever jumped down there.

And Launo wasn't going to be the first. There was no way he was going down there.

*-o-* *-o-*

Daman stood next to the village's chief and one of the Qinulis—the demons sent a guard to the village, just in case Launo came back early. In front of the three of them was a messenger: one with skin as dark as desert sands; black ink markings tattooed across his torso and arms, reaching up his neck and around his cheeks; and fake, black wings sewed to his back.

"I have a message I need to deliver to the youngest of the Aleeli family. Do you happen to know where he is at the moment?" The messenger spoke formally, standing as straight as a stick.

The village chief shook his head, "He left a little while ago, as he could be anywhere in the tundra by now. Although, there was a blizzard that must have slowed him down, so he shouldn't be too far away. I'm sorry for the inconvenience."

"Ah, no. It is fine," The messenger's mouth had been pulled into a thin line. "Thank you for your time." He turned around, unfolding his wings to take off.

"Hey, Hey! Wait!" Someone called from behind Daman, yet he instantly recognized the voice. The messenger halted his flight and looked over his shoulder.

"Wait! Oh, thank you!" A girl named Kat stopped next to Daman, purple hair falling to her shoulders. Giving a quick huff, she spouted, "I can track him for you!" She held a crystallized stick in front of her, the bark was a frosty white, "I come from a family of witches, so I can use magic to track him. I'm quite good at it now. So, please, please will you let me? I've always wanted to be a messenger, so I promise I wont fail! So, will you? Pleaaase!"

The messenger blinked, revealing that his eyes lids were also tattooed with the black lines. "Um..."

"Kat," Daman turned to her, "Leave him alone, you can't go with him. I believe it's against the rules."

"No, it is okay. I could use some help, I was supposed to deliver the message yesterday anyways. But I am sorry, you will not be able to become a messenger. You need to be family in order to do so." He dipped his head in apology before folding in his wings.

*-o-*

Launo sucked in a deep breath, looking over his shoulder at the white expanse of snow that played out before him. Maybe he should turn around and look for the ring some more. Would it even be able to leave the arctic tundra?

He stood on that thought for a moment. The ring was made completely of ice, so wouldn't it melt if it was brought into a warmer climate?

He gave a confused huff before looking back down at the waterfall. Steam rose up to the sky and slowly shaped themselves into clouds. He had no clue where the steam came from, and he wasn't willing to find out. So, he turned around and took a step away from it, his torn leg complaining as all the weight was placed onto it.

Letting a pain hiss escape his lips, eyes closing as he did so, he took another step, relieving his leg. Opening his eyes once more he yelped, taking several steps backward.

Right in front of him were two people: a girl with purple hair and gray eyes and a guy with spiky silver hair and strange markings all over his body.

Moving his foot back he felt the ground and snow disappear from underneath him, being replaced with water and air. He screamed, loosing his balance.

The guy with the marking leaned forward frantically, trying to grab onto Launo, but the boy was out of reach and plummeting to the blueness below.

His screams were drowned out by the sounds of the roaring waterfall and the lashing of the wind. The fall seemed to go on forever...

...Until he was hit by a thick branch, a searing sensation exploding through his back. Leaves, twigs, and other branches whipped at his limbs, breaking his bones and cutting his skin.

But the true pain arrived when he smashed into the ground, the feeling running like waved all the wait to his brain. And then he blacked out.

*-o-*

"At least you know your powers are quite accurate," the messenger said, flying himself and Kat down to the bottom of the cliff, the waterfalls soon disappearing, being replaced by a huge green canopy. The cold, dry temperature soon turned very warm and moist.

"I know... But I still made him fall! What it he's dead!? Ohh, I can't believe I did that! I should have taken precaution and teleported us further away from him. But then, I didn't know the tundra ended. But I still should have done that! What if he's dead? I'll never forgive myself!" She tightened her grip around the tattooed person's neck, not making sure she didn't choke him or prevent his wings from flapping.

"You ramble a lot," the messenger said, flapping his wings to avoid a branch with a bird's nest on it.

"No I do now! I do not ramble a- Oh! Look, I see him!"

And her attention span does not last very long, he thought, pulling his wings in for landing.

She removed her arms and ran over to the heap of broken bones and skin; Launo. He was completely unconscious, blood trickling into a pool around him, lash-marks visible through his stained and torn clothes. "Oh! No! I killed him! Ahh!" She cried, shaking him.

The messenger walked over calmly, seeing the rise and fall of Launo's chest. He sighed, "You over react. He is okay." The messenger looked around at the towering trees and the floor. "I have been here before, and I believe there is a village near here," he picked up Launo and threw him over his shoulder with one arm, "We should probably go there so he can be treated."

"Really?" She gazed around as well. "I can't see anything. How can you tell? Oh, oh! Are you a witch too?"

He stared blankly at her. "I have been here several times before," he repeated, starting through the trees, his feathers ruffling in the weak wind that blew through.

Kat stared at the wings, noticing the stitch marks that connected them to his skin. "Hey. Um. Messenger? Did someone pull off your wings before? Did it hurt? Oh, oh! Did an Ag Mavie do it?" (An Ag Mavi is another type of tundra demon). She pretended to claw at something, "Did the claws hurt? Or, did it hurt to have them removed? Oh! Did you-"

"I was not born with them. They were implanted by my family," he said simply.

"Geez, you're so boring. Oh! Wait! You said you had them implanted, right? So does that mean they're mechanical? Or are they magic maybe? Oh! I just remembered! I don't know your name yet! I'm Kat Katara. It's nice to meet you!" She was now standing in front of him, holding out a hand with a smile plastered on her face.

"My wings are not mechanical, nor magic. They are real, yet do not belong to my body. My name is Yoake Crystal, and... I guess it is nice to meet you." He didn't take her hand, only continue walking to the village he mentioned earlier.

*-o-*

They walked in silence after that, clouds gathering in the sky, soon dripping down and splattering on the leaves and ground. Kat stared up at the tree leaves, a raindrop exploding on her nose. She blinked a couple times and shook her head. "I didn't know water could fall from the sky!" She exclaimed in awe. "I thought only snow could! How does it get up there? Oh! Oh! Is it magic? Is some witch making a river drop on out heads? That'd be so cool! Yoake! Yoake! Is it really magic!?"

"No," he said, "It is now magic. And it is not a river falling on you."

"Then what is it? Only snow and ice can fall from the sky!"

He interrupted her before she could said anything more, "Rain can fall from the sky too. It changes with different climates. In the arctic tundra, it is snow. In the Rainforest, it is rain. In the volcanic lands it is merely mist."

She cocked her head to the side, not quite understanding what the messenger had said. But she didn't get a chance to ask another question, as a person was walking toward them.

The person carried a long bō and an unfriendly expression on her face, her green eyes had a feral glint in them that unnerved Kat. "You are passing on tribe territory!" She called out, knuckles whitening as she gripped her bō tighter.

Yoake dipped his head in greeting. "I am aware," he said calmly, shifting Launo's limp, bleeding body on his shoulder. "We just need help, that is all."

She stamped her bō three times, and soon Kat saw people emerge from behind trees like liquid shadows. "And what do you need help with? Steeling our territory for your own use?" Her voice had risen a margin, and the people around her shifted, as if readying their weapons.

The messenger kept his blank look and replied. "We have no intention of taking your territory. We just need him treated," he nudged Launo, "He fell from the arctic tundra on accident... Also, I believe I have a message I need to deliver to your leader. Just something small."

The girl stood not blinking or moving as Yoake spoke, but now she made a strange gesture to her people. Four of them quickly darted forward, grabbing both the messenger's and the witched's arms and locked them behind their back. The movements were too quick to follow, and even Yoake seemed slightly dazed.

"How can we trust you?" She stated simply, crossing her arms.

The messenger gave a nearly silent breath of irritation. "Our friend is bleeding to death, and here you are talking about trust. Please, just treat him and we'll be on out way." He had given a slight pause before he said 'friend', and this was the first time he had said a contraction.

The girl looked at Launo's broken form before saying, "For all I know, you could have hurt him personally. Now get out of out territory and go bother someone else. We don't have time for you. Keean, guide them out, now."

Yoake closed his eyes and lost his previous cool. "We. Will. Not. Leave until you treat him and allow me to deliver my message!" His wings shot out, knocking the people holding him down away, and freeing his arms.

She blinked in shock, then ordered that Keean person to grab the messenger almost immediately after she recovered. "Grab him now. Pin him to the ground." Then she turned back to Yoake, "You want a fight?"

"No."

The messenger kicked upward, throwing Keean off-balance, and used the momentum to flip and land on his feet almost gracefully. Then he ran forward and brought a single hand around the girl's throat, throwing her into a tree an dpinning her there. The whole thing had to of taken five seconds.

At most.

And Launo was still on his shoulder.

*-o-*

Yoake removed his fingers from her throat, letting an unnerved girl fall to the floor in shock. The people around him stared at the messenger for a few moments, shifting uncomfortably, Kate gazed at him in pure amazement.

The messenger calmed himself down by taking a few deep breaths before reaching over and grabbing her arm, pulling her to her feet with ease. "I am very sorry. I should not have lost my temper like that; it was unnecessary for me to do so." He dipped his head in apology. "It is just that I deliver messages for a living. My family will not feed me or let me move on my own unless I do."

"W-wait. You're a messenger?" She murmured, hoping that it wasn't true.

Yoake nodded once. "A messenger for W.O.T.R."

Her eyes widened. "Oh, no... I broke the contract, didn't I?"

He nodded again. "But I will excuse you, if you treat my friend." He paused before saying 'friend', just like last time.

"Keean, I want you to hurry to camp and tell the nurse that she has a patient coming. Everyone else, split yourselves into patrols and leave," she ordered before taking a hesitant step toward Yoake. "I should be sorry, not you."

*-o-*

Launo moaned, his eyes flickering open wearily. His entire body felt numb and weak, and he couldn't move to push the blankets off of him. He almost called out 'mom' when he realized that he had left his village a few days ago. And that he had just recently fallen off that cliff into blueness...

As soon as he remembered that, his body burst into pain. He had to force his mouth closed to prevent a scream from escaping into the air. But even still, some of it managed to come out.

Someone rushed in almost as soon as the noise was made. It was the purple haired girl. Her hair was pulled up in pigtails (although Launo didn't know what those were), and her gray eyes were wide with excitement. Launo instantly recognized her this time, as they were old friends.

And yet he felt even worse in her presence, knowing how loud and annoying she could be. Along with her never ending rambles. "K-kat?" He said, trying to make himself sound happy, even though he dreaded the thought of her being there when he was in so much pain.

"Launo! You aren't dead!" She came over, looking like she was about to say more when another female walked in, making sure Kat didn't come any closer. "B-But-" she was ushered out of the room.

The girl who made Kat leave turned to him. "I hope you're feeling okay. If you want, I could give you some painkillers, if... well, you know. If it hurts."

He gave an unsure smile, not sure who this person was. He had never seen green clothes before—or, lets refrase that. Launo has never even seen the color green before. It was a strange color, being darker than white, yet lighter than white at the same time. The style was also different, being short sleeved and thin with many decorations laced into the cuffs, and the collar.

"Please?" He said at least, the blaring pain feeling unbearable.

"Let me check you over first. If you get any painkillers now, you wont be able to direct me to the places that hurt most."

"Even without them I don't think I could," he said honestly, "Everything feels the same to me."

The nurse smiled before going over to the corner of the room and pulling out a few herbs and liquids from a jar and mixing them together in a wooden cup. Then she turned back to him and gave him the cup, telling him to drink it. "The pain will still be there for a while, but it should leave in due time."

She dipped her head. "Get some rest and I'll come back later."

*-o-*

The liquid slowly worked its magic, numbing the pain almost completely. But the down side to that was that it made his mind sluggish as well. He couldn't think properly, and he just felt extremely exhausted.

After a while he managed to doze off into a deep sleep.

*-o-*

A strange aroma hit Launo's nose, one that was sweet yet didn't have the greatest smell to it. The scent made him open his eyes to the black sky above him. When he sat up and looked down around him, he saw a vast field of green, red, and pink. It stretched on for a mile, then stopped suddenly. The field was merely a large square.

The colors and the sight awed him, as he had never seen something like this before, since he was raised on an arctic tundra. But then, the colors unnerved him, because, if he remembered right, read and black were the colors of death.

He sucked in a deep breath, standing up slowly when he saw another thing about the area. A little ways in front of him was, what seemed like, a golden dust cloud. The cloud was in the shape of a person sitting down on a stone. In its hand was a type of plant, and it kept peeling the petals off one by one, dropping them onto the floor until all that was left was a leafy stem that had a few spikes on it.

The dust cloud and gazed at Launo for a few moments, some specks moving up to reveal something like a delighted smile. "Finally," it said, the dust shifting in a way that made it look like it was standing up. "You're in a drug-induced sleep..."

Launo stared at the cloud, butterflies of fear dancing in his stomach.

Giving a smile, the cloud came closer. "My name is Zuka. I'm the spirit of, what you call, the Ring of Ice." It held out a hand, the fingers slowly forming themselves.

Launo's gaze traveled down to the hand before hesitantly taking it. The dust tickled his skin as the shook hands. The spirit... of the Ring of Ice? I didn't know there was such a thing... His thoughts seemed to echo out of his mind and into the sweet scented air, allowing the dust cloud—Zuka—to hear every word. He stiffened up as the words resounded over and over again.

"Don't worry about it," Zuka said, giving a slight chuckle. "But there is such a thing as the spirit of the Ring of Ice. The sad thing is, is that I can't tell you where the ring is, as I have no clue as well. But I can talk to you about it, and hope that an idea or two can pop into your mind."

Thanks? Launo thought, feeling that it would be much easier to talk to this... spirit that way, as he didn't have to open his mouth to do so.

Zuka laughed. "A little uneasy around me?" Launo nodded. "Don't worry! I can't touch you. And, I cant communicate with you unless you're in a drug-induced sleep."

Really?

The gold cloud nodded. "It's strange thing, isn't it?" It shook its head before pulling up another plant from the ground. "In three months time, I'll have picked and pulled the petals off of all these roses. So, when you come here, I'll tell you how much time you have left before the Ring of Ice melts."

Melts? Launo thought, panicked.

It nodded once more. "That's why the Qinulis only gave you three months to retrieve it."

So I need to hurry... don't I?

"Yep."

Launo sighed. How do I leave this dream? Or... vision. Or whatever...

"I let you leave. But, before I do that, I need to give you something." Its hand slowly formed a small bottle. "There are five drops of liquid in here. If you put on one your tongue, you'll instantly be transported here and healed. It's my gift to you."

Zuka handed the bottle over to Launo, and when it touched his hand, it turned into a clear glass, an ice colored liquid inside of it.

"Thank you for your time. I hope to see you again."

The field disappeared.

Author's Note

Longer than our usual chapters. :) Hope you enjoyed it.

Also, Yoake. You. Are. Amazing! And sorry for making you put up with Kat.

Please tell us if you have any questions, concerns, or comments!

Thanks.