Polax: as much as the people of the land were obsessed with chameleons, the town's structure was actually shaped like the Sagittarius constellation. It was one of the quintuplet clusters, Brax being another in the North, Hax lying to the westest west, and Tea Tax in the northeast (but more north than east to be honest). The passageways, streets, and alleys of Polax spiraled from the center of the town, disjointed and asymmetrical. The palace grounds were located at one of the outlying arms of the town. That being said, not too many new travelers could understand the layout of the town and navigate within it, heck, not even some of the old-timers knew how either. But the town's children knew, as all children do when they spend their free time running amok in towns.
The girls turned into one of the alleys that led up to the castle, panting and out of breath. Edelie pulled her arm free from Cleo's hold. "Don't touch me," she said.
"Touch you? I had to grab you to run away!"
Edelie didn't say anything at first but then muttered, "I wasn't afraid of them."
"It doesn't matter if you were afraid or not! You know what adults can do to you right?"
Edelie didn't get a chance to answer because Wren shouted at them from the end of the alley.
"Hey guys! Kip's gonna make three pies, and Liet said to meet back in an hour to eat them!"
Cleo looked at Edelie and sighed but Evey chose that moment to pipe up. "Yay! Three pies!"
"I think I might just go back home to get another shirt and check on my grandma and sisters," said Wren, who was still shirtless since he gave his shirt to Edelie back in the woods. "You guys can come too, if you want," he offered.
"I wanna go home too," announced Evey. "And eat pie," she added quickly.
"I can drop Evey off at the crack in the wall," said Cleo.
"Then I guess you're coming with me," Wren said to Edelie, giving her a smile. Edelie shrugged.
"Um, I'll come too. After I drop Evey off," said Cleo, noticing Wren's smile.
Wren shrugged. "See you then." Wren and Edelie set off and Cleo watched their backs until they disappeared around the corner. She kept standing there until Evey's persistent tugging drew her back to the present.
"Have you had berry pie before?" asked Wren.
"No," replied Edelie. She wrinkled her nose. "What is pie anyway?"
"You don't know what pie is?" Wren's facial expression was one of disbelief and incredulousness. "I can't believe it! What do you eat?"
"Vegetables, roots. I eat berries too, just not berry pie."
"So you're vegetablarian?" Wren didn't think he said the word right but figured it was close enough.
"What?" asked a clearly confused Edelie. Maybe it wasn't close enough.
"You know. Someone who doesn't eat meat. Do you eat bread?"
"No, I don't eat other creatures and I don't know what bread is either."
"I think we're going to have to change that," decided Wren. "We're here."
They stopped at a small brick abode. Smoke curled lazily from out of the chimney and what sounded like a hundred cats meowing came from inside the home.
"I gotta warn you, we don't have a hundred cats or anything, but we have some," said Wren nervously. "And my family is just my grandparents and little sisters, except my grandpa doesn't come home much 'cuz he's working."
Wren pushed the door open gently and stepped inside first. Two small figures jumped out at him, calling his name and hugging him at the knees.
"Hi Mira, hi Em. This is my friend Edelie."
The two girls peeked behind Wren and chorused a "Hi Edelie," before they continued to attack hug Wren's knees.
Edelie walked to the center of the room and turned her head to look around. It was rather dim, the only source of light coming from the setting sun through the window and a couple of gas lamps. The ground was soft, braided rugs covered the entire floor. Lots of cat hair lined the ground, and a few pairs of glowing eyes came from the corner, along with loud meowing.
"Okay guys, stop." Wren pried his sisters' small fingers off his legs. They giggled and ran to the kitchen.
"Who's there?" called an older-sounding voice from the kitchen.
"Just me grandma! And a friend."
"A friend? You can just say Cleo, dear!"
"It's not Cleo. It's…a new friend," said Wren.
"Oh! One moment then." A frail woman hobbled from around the corner, with something in her hand. "The girls just helped me bake some bread buns, try some." She nodded, presumably at Edelie. "Pleased to meet you."
Edelie wondered why Wren's grandma didn't seem to be scared of her, but realized as she pottered back to the kitchen after handing them the buns, that she was blind.
Wren spotted a shirt of his that was drying in the back and went to put it on. Edelie bit into the bun.
The toasted crispiness of the crust intermingled with the buttery, warm insides of the bread bun in Edelie's mouth. The small sprinkle of saltiness throbbed against the roof of her mouth, and she licked her lips in anticipation for the next bite. It was just as good, if not better than the first bite of the bun. She quickly finished the rest of the bun, licking the traces of salt and butter off her fingers. She sighed as she stared at her fingers.
Wren looked over at her and laughed. Edelie frowned. "What?"
"You can have more-don't worry." Wren scampered to the kitchen and back with eight more buns, four for each of them.
"Let's go up to the attic," suggested Wren. "I've a map there, and we can see if we can figure out where you're trying to go."
They trudged up the narrow staircase at the back of the room, shooing the cats perched on each stair so they could keep climbing. One of the cats, Wren said, had a perpetually grumpy face and hated moving from its spot. So he picked up Mr. Grump and tossed him out of the way. Mr. Grump landed on all fours on the rugs, and looked sulkily up at Wren.
"Why did you do that?" asked Edelie, angrily.
"What?" asked a confused Wren.
"Throw your cat like that!"
"To get him out of the way so we could go up the stairs…"
"You could have just asked him instead of throwing him!"
"Ask him? Cats don't talk, Edelie. He wouldn't have moved anyway."
"You've got no right to treat another creature like that!"
"It's just a cat. Look, I'm just trying to help you figure out where you're going! And-"
"I don't need your help!" exploded Edelie. She jumped down from the stairs, landed off-balance and tumbled to the ground. She sprang up and exited the house, running toward the forest as fast as she could.