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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Broken Path, Starless Tail - 18. Chapter 18

“Are you okay?” Valrinda asked. He craned his neck and tried to peer at Beckett, who only looked up for a brief second before the icy wind of their rapid flight made it too unbearable.

“F-f-fine,” was all Beckett could get out without risking biting off his own tongue. He patted Valrinda’s neck, and his hand burned from just the light contact. There wasn’t a choice. They had to stay higher in the atmosphere, and he was going to tough it out. His core was warm enough, pressed against Valrinda, and that was most important. Beckett tucked his head tighter against Valrinda’s smooth scales, just trying to breathe through it.

He tried to hide it, but a few minutes later, Beckett was shaking violently and struggling to hold on.

“I’m going down,” Valrinda announced.

“N-n-nooo.” It hurt to talk, and Beckett didn’t even try to lift up and look around.

“Yes, you can’t stay up here. It’s too dangerous. What good does it do us if you get sick or hurt from being this cold? It’s not safe, Beckett.”

“N-not s-safe d-down.” That was all he could get out.

“We don’t know that. We can’t be sure what your dream meant, and I might have gotten us past whoever, or whatever, was camped on the road. I promised I’d keep you safe, and keeping you up here is the opposite. So stop arguing with me because you’re on my back, which means I’m in charge of this ride.”

“F-f-fine.” He just really wanted to get warm. Or take a nap. Beckett could go for a nap, even if they’d only been up and flying for a short time.

“No sleeping!” Valrinda snapped.

“’M not.” Beckett forced himself to stay away, to keep that petulant promise. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he recognized the danger of falling asleep when he was that cold, even if he couldn’t consciously think it.

Some feeling was creeping back into his limbs by the time they landed, but Beckett wasn’t any use to Valrinda as he slid off onto the black stones that made up the road. His brain was fuzzy, and he huddled in a heap of exhaustion. “I don’t see anyone around,” Valrinda said. “Just rest for now.” He nuzzled Beckett, tucking him close to his side with one wing. “Just rest.”

 

The tinkle of metal startled Beckett, and Valrinda’s roar deafened him. He stumbled to his feet, staring at the beings surrounding them. Valrinda reared up behind him, claws at the ready, but the beings weren’t threatening them that he could see, just surrounding them, so Beckett put a hand on his chest. It was rumbling, and Beckett had to hope Valrinda wasn’t about to burn them all to a crisp for startling them.

Not really the reputation he was going for.

“Who are you?” Beckett demanded defensively. They were small, barely coming up to his elbow, but their bodies were hidden in crimson robes and hoods. Everyone knew if you were hiding your face like that you were probably up to no good.

One stepped forward and bowed. “Oh, great days are upon us now that we have found you, Seeker of the Star. We have pilgrimaged far to offer our services.”

Great. Wonderful. So these beings didn’t want to capture and enslave them, but that still didn’t answer his question. “Who are you?” Beckett asked again, a little less aggressively.

As one, they all lowered their hoods.

Valrinda groaned, “Great, Ore Wisps.”

They didn’t look very wispy. In fact, with their eyes spaced wide apart, and faces strangely pushed forward at the nose and mouth almost like a muzzle, with wide teeth they were all showing either in a threat or a smile, they looked a lot like a human mixed with a goat. Not that goats had purple, yellow, or orange hair, or walked around on two legs wearing cloaks and talking… but the resemblance was there.

“What’s an Ore Wisp?”

“It is what the others call our kind, since we mostly secret ourselves in the mountains where we can search out sparklies and other fancies—”

“They’re obsessed with anything shiny,” Valrinda said, “And they’re not above stealing what catches their eye either.”

“We do not steal,” one said indignantly. “We trade.”

“Does the other person always agree to the trade?”

The group was silent. Valrinda snorted. “That’s what I thought,” he muttered. “Better what your stuff, Beckett. You never know what they might take. In fact, you’ll probably not even realize it until you go to stand up and your pants fall around your ankles and a useless rock falls into the dirt in place of the belt they took.”

“We would never take something from the Seeker. We are here to help him.”

“Help him? How? I’m his guide,” Valrinda said defensively. “I’m helping him, so buzz off, wisps.”

“Wait, wait. Didn’t you say they’re good at finding shiny, sparkly things?” Beckett asked.

“Yeah, so?”

“We are,” several wisps exclaimed at the same time, drowning out Valrinda’s petulant mutter.

“So, obviously Parallax’s star will be shiny, right? They could help me find it!”

“We could, we will!” They were so excited, their little voices piped up in a pitch that was almost painful to hear.

“You’ll be lucky if they don’t steal it for themselves,” Valrinda declared in a fit of doom. He stamped his foot. “Nothing good ever comes from consorting with wisps!”

Beckett knew he was supposed to listen to his guide, but what about his vision? He’d seen them. And how did they know to be on the road and looking for him? They had to be something more at work here, some magic that probably was part of the path that Parallax set him on to find his star.

“Valrinda, I think they were meant to find us, and we’re meant to work together with them. I need their help, just like I still need yours.” He stroked Valrinda’s side.

Copyright © 2023 Cia; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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