Chapter Forty-Seven: In Which Paths Converge
It was night, and Flake was wide awake, in a room at the Coral Palace. It had been a day since the meeting with Chief Ripple, and he couldn’t help but think about the Cave Kingdom, and how to get in. He was so lost in thought, when someone knocked on the door, he barely registered it. It was when that someone started banging on the door in which he got up from his bed and ran to open the door.
It was the guard stationed outside that was banging on the door. He said with a gruff voice, “The chief wants to see you.”
Flake was overtaken by a leap of hope. Maybe Chief Ripple will allow them to go to the caves to search for Snow? Or maybe he found other information? He was practically skipping on his way to Chief Ripple’s office.
“What happened? What’s the news?” he said as soon as he went in the room.
Chief Ripple didn’t reply, just pointed in front of him. Flake followed his gaze and saw that sitting on the sofa was a boy. The boy looked very scared, fidgeting and shaking. He looked familiar, not just because he happened to look uncannily like Flake, but also because he felt like he saw him from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“He knows where your sister is, and what happened to her. Quite a lot about it, actually,” Chief Ripple said.
Flake stared at the boy, who shrank back a little. “What do you know? Is Snow okay?”
“Well,” he said in a small voice, “she was okay before, but I’m not sure about now… and as for what I know…” The boy launched into a long summary of the many events that had happened before, Flake listening in wide-eyed realization.
“...and then I wandered around that dark place and found some stairs, then I went up the stairs and then ended up the forest,” Jack said. “And that’s basically everything.” The boy sitting in front of him, Flake, was listening intently, hanging off every word.
“Oh, and here’s the book I got from the laboratory,” he said, pulling out the leather bound book. “I skimmed through it, and it’s mostly recipes.”
“Receipes that happen to include highly volatile substances, and other items commonly used in dark sorcery,” Chief Ripple added. “I can’t tell what he’s planning to do, since I’m not a sorcerer myself, but it isn’t any good."
“Right, right,” Flake said anxiously. Jack couldn’t tell whether he was happy or scared with the sudden onslaught of information he’d been given. “So you know how to get in the caves?”
“Well, I came out of this passage leading to the Fearsome Forest, so surely there is a way to go back.”
“Great. Let’s go there. NOW.”
“Not right now. I still need to contact all the other chiefs and then we have to organize a Conference so we can talk about what we have discovered,” Chief Ripple said.
“Organize a Conference?” Flake said. “But the Conference is supposed to be next week! Will we have to wait until then?”
“No, we’ll organize one that doesn’t follow the normal monthly routine. I’m hoping we can schedule it tomorrow. I do realize you want to start as soon as possible, but we do need the approval from everyone else.”
Flake sighed. “So… I just go back to my room? And wait?” The chief nodded. Flake went out of the room, then after remembering something, went back in. “Where’s Rose? I think she’ll want to know this.”
“Second floor, west wing, fourth door down from the start of the rooms.”
“Wait.” Jack stood up. “There’s a person named Rose here?” A coincidence. That’s probably what it is. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it? After all the weird things that have been happening… maybe… just maybe…
“...Yes,” Flake said. “Why?”
“No, it’s just that…” Jack hesitated. “What does she look like?”
Flake looked a bit weirded out by the question. “Um… brown hair, brown eyes, medium height, long hair… but why?”
“Nothing, but… can I see her?” A coincidence. Simply a coincidence.
And so both of them headed to Rose’s room, two jigsaw pieces that were finally brought together. But of course, the puzzle isn’t done yet, and there are still much more pieces to go. So much that even you, the reader, doesn’t know everything, but there is one person who does. And he isn’t telling.
Chapter Forty-Eight: Letters From The Chiefs
From Chief Ripple to all:
We need to have another Conference. I know that it isn’t the time, but we must. I have an informant who know where the missing children are, and I’m sure you would very much like to discuss it in person.
Looking forward to it,
From Chief Phoenix to Chief Ripple:
You forgot to mention something very important: the idenitity of the informant! Do you think it isn’t necessary to say from who you got this sudden information? What if it is not a reliable source? What if you were duped? And why do you wish to withhold the information on where the children are? Surely you want to let this information to be known to us. I do hope you plan to reveal this all at the Conference (which I feel we should have as soon as possible). I do not like to be kept waiting.
From Chief Frost to Chief Ripple:
Really? Where are they? We must go immediately! Be sure to contact everyone else! Should we alert the public? Is Snow okay? Who is the kidnapper? Do you know yet? Will it all be discussed at the Conference? Thank you, by the way.
Lots and lots of thanks and good wishes,
From Chief Alya to Chief Ripple:
What?! Where’s Windy? I demand that you tell me immediately! Oh, we will have a Conference to discuss this preferably tommorrow. Do not leave a single thing behind. And if it turns out you are lying, you will certainly regret it.
From Chief Oak to Chief Ripple:
Very well. I will prepare the Great Sycamore for a Conference.
From Chief Ripple to Chief Phoenix:
Everything will be explained soon. If I were to truly explain everything, I would most definitely run out of ink. Besides, better to get a firsthand account. As for the informant, you do not need to know right now. You do not know yet whether he is lying, so do not make assumptions. It’s better to just hear it out first instead of throwing around flimsy accusations without any evidence.
From Chief Ripple to Chief Frost:
You’re welcome, and really, it wasn’t my doing, but more of a turn of fate, so no need to thank me. As for whether we should alert the public, I’ll say no. Everyone will go crazy with the news and bother us even more. We can tell them after everyone is truly safe and sound.
From Chief Alya to Chief Ripple:
Hello? Since you haven’t answered my letter, I assumed something was wrong, or you just don’t want to answer it on purpose. No doubt you’ve already told Frost all he needs to know, didn’t you? Stop keeping this information from me! I will be sending a messenger over soon if you do not reply once again.
From Chief Ripple to Chief Alya
Nothing is wrong, and in fact, I haven’t told Chief Frost any more than I told you. And I hadn’t answered back because I’m busy alerting and answering the other chiefs who had replied first. And I’m not going to tell you any more until it is Conference time.
Chief Ripple to all:
Be at the Sycamore by 7:00 this morning. Bring only your closest advisors. Frost, I’ll bring over Flake for you. Everything should be set.