Chapter Twenty-One: In Which Flake Gains A Sidekick
When Rose saw Colden riding out of the village, she had a sudden urge to go with him. Helping him find his sister- it seemed like a good cause, better than anything she’d do at the village. Maybe she’ll do what those people did in stories, just follow him until they were far enough from the village so he couldn’t bring her back. She could easily keep up with a trotting horse, even through the forest.
So she ran. Rose ran until she was just a few paces away from the horse. She slowed down a little. It wouldn’t be good if Colden noticed a suspicious girl following him out of the village.
When she reached the boundary between the forest and the village, she looked back. From a distance, the houses looked nice and orderly in little rows. People were walking and talking as normal. Rose looked wistfully at the sight. She’d come back, once she had her share of adventure. It was her home, after all.
She looked at the gray horse, which was now going deeper into the forest, half concealed by branches. Wait up! I want to go with you! she thought.
The horse seemed to stop, as if it could hear her, which of course it couldn’t. Or maybe the horse had mind reading powers! She smiled a little to herself. Then the horse started turning around. Wait. Did Colden want to go back to the village to get something? She stepped backwards tentatively, then looked back at the village. It wasn’t too far away, maybe she could run there before Colden noticed...
“You want to go with me?” Rose jumped backwards a little. She found herself face to face with a speckled gray horse face. She slowly looked up. Colden was looking straight at her. She gulped.
“Was it you who said that?” he asked, sounding mildly confused.
A million thoughts were racing through her head. Well, I don’t think so, because I can’t talk, but there isn’t anyone else in the vicinity, and that happened to be exactly what I was thinking-
“Wait, wait, hold it right there.” He held up a hand. “You want to come with me, right?”
Rose hesitated a second, then nodded.
Colden bit his lip and studied Rose. “Well, no offense, but I would prefer no one else came because… well… more people means I’ll have to go slower, and with a life on the line, I’d rather not be hampered-”
Oh. Okay. I get it. I’d probably be a distraction anyways. I won’t bother you anymore. Let me just go back to the village… Rose looked back. The village was still in sight, an easy running distance.
“Do you really want to come?” he asked.
Well, sort of, but I don’t want to be a distraction, which I definitely will be, she thought.
“Do you… have anything to offer?” Colden said. “Skills, supplies…”
Um. No, not really. And with the fact I can’t speak, I’m really no use at all… She looked at him squarely in the face. But you can hear me, can’t you? Even though I’m not really saying anything.
“Well, it’s like a voice in my head. It doesn’t sound like a voice, but more like, a thought. Except it isn’t mine. It’s yours. Which is rather confusing.” He frowned.
Right. So. Uh, I guess I’ll just go back to the village… She awkwardly spun around and walked towards the village.
At first, Colden didn’t say anything. Then he spoke. “Wait for a sec. Do you know where the forest leads to the Coral Kingdom?”
Rose turned around to look at him. You mean you don’t know?
He shrugged helplessly. “Seeing that I was sort of brought here while I was unconscious, then I don’t. I only just realized that. Luckily I wasn’t too deep in the forest.”
Well, I do know how to go out. She thought for a moment. I think you go west, not directly west, but a slight bit more north, and until you reach the part where the undergrowth suddenly increases in density, and then you go even more north, like at a direct northwest angle, and from that direction out of the forest is the entrance to the Coral Kingdom.
He nodded. “You seem to know the forest well.”
She shrugged sheepishly. I roam the forest a lot. Rose thought for a moment. You know, those directions might be hard to follow. I can lead you until you reach Coral Kingdom, if you want.
“Yes, that would probably be extremely helpful.” Colden got down from the horse. “Do you want to ride Pebbles? That’s the name of the horse. Since you’re leading the way, you might get tired…”
Rose shook her head. I don’t get tired very easily. By the way, my name is Rose.
“Thanks, Rose. My name is, um, Colden. You might have heard from the talk with Alder.”
She nodded. Well. This way! She pointed westward and started skipping that direction. ‘Colden’ got on the horse and rode after her.
Chapter Twenty Two: In Which A Few Chiefs Exchange More Letters
From Chief Phoenix to Chief Alya
Queen Alya, I expect that you have heard about the missing children. Well, I have intercepted a message between Chief Frost and Chief Ripple and they seemed to think you took them. Preposterous, isn’t it? They might even be sending spies into your territory! (For proof, I can give that intercepted message to you if you wish.)
So, as you can see, they are not your friends. I was wondering, that if worse comes to worse and Frost doesn’t give my son back, whether you will support me when I have to use… more forceful tactics, as I call it.
I await your reply.
From Chief Alya to Chief Phoenix
Send me the letter. As for your intriguing offer, I’ll consider about it. Are you certain it was Chief Frost who stole the children? What is the motive? Why pretend that his daughter is missing too? And what exactly do you want me to do in order to take part in whatever plans you have? I don’t entirely trust your way of thinking, Phoenix. Don’t act too rashly, or let the anger get the best of you, but everyone knows that’s what you’re best at.
From Chief Ripple to Chief Oak
Hello, Chief Oak. I believe you know me? Chief Ripple of the Coral Kingdom? Anyways, I’m appealing to you on behalf of Chief Frost, of the Snake Kingdom. He wishes to have your affirmation that you will side with him if worse comes to worse, which, judging by the angry letters Chief Frost is getting from Phoenix, it will get worse.
He also wishes that you also send the opinions of your fellow councilmembers in the Council of the Tree.
From Chief Oak to Chief Ripple
The Council generally tries to stay impartial as to not get into disputes with other kingdoms, but I do not think that Frost kidnapped anyone, if that is what you mean. It seems rather ridiculous why anyone would think that. Phoenix is just blinded by his hate. No one will believe him.
As for whether I will openly side with you is a different story. I feel that you can handle things on your own, with both Snake and Coral Kingdom, even if Phoenix get Alya to join him. If things really do get bad, then I might intervene, but only with the consent of at least five out of the seven Council members, which might not be very easy. Old Maple is more in favor of Flame Kingdom, Beech isn’t fond of me, and Rowan supports being separate from other kingdoms and being more independent. Fortunately, we will definitely not be siding with Flame Kingdom either.
Wishing you well,
P.S. Send Chief Frost my condolences. It is tough to have to think about your missing children, try to run a kingdom, and deal with a hot-tempered chief. As if life isn’t hard enough.
From Chief Alya to Chief Frost
Chief Frost, Chief Phoenix has notified me about Chief Ripple’s letter to you that he has gotten. I must say I am quite mortified by you and Ripple’s suspicions against me. I find it highly insulting. If you attempt to send any spies into Breeze Kingdom, I’ll have them imprisoned. I’m warning you once.
From Chief Frost to Chief Ripple
I got your letter about the reply of Chief Oak. I think he will not be a problem. The Council has always been reasonable. As for Breeze Kingdom, I have gotten a letter from Alya. You remember that Chief Phoenix intercepted that letter accusing Alya of possibly kidnapping Snow? Well, he handed it over to Alya so now she’s getting worked up about it too. She might cause a bigger problem than you think. Her power is underestimated. Her kingdom is located directly above yours, perfect position to launch an attack. And I fear that we may be getting to that point too soon.