Two Are Better Than One Chapter 2
The Chase is On!
By Samara Secor
When the next day dawned, almost everyone was still in bed, sleeping off the effects of too much food and drink. Neil was even more tired than the people who had stayed at the party, because those angelic siblings of his had refused to go to bed. He had tried bribing them, threatening them, and anything else he could think of, but all of it had failed. They finally dropped off to sleep about ten minutes before his parents had returned. Neil felt like tearing his hair out, but all he did was give a mumbled good night before collapsing on his bed.
Around mid-morning, he awoke to Carlin and Erin poking him and yelling, Get up! Get up, sleepy head!
Without opening his eyes, Neil moaned and said, Go away.
Everything got really quiet, and he had almost drifted back into dreamland when someone dumped a mug of cold water on him. With a loud yell, he sprang to his feet and glared at the two little terrors who were laughing so hard, that they could barely stand. Grrr... What makes you think that you can get away with doing something like that? he asked, trying to keep a lid on his temper.
Because I told them to, Neil.
Neil blinked and noticed that his mother was standing behind them. From the expression on her face, he could tell that something was seriously wrong. Mom.... What is it?
Do you have any idea where Alicia went after we dropped by with Carlin and Erin?
Neil shook his head and said, When I left, she was still standing there. Why do you want to know?
Both Alicia and Laticia are missing. Their beds havent been slept in, and no one seems to know where theyve gone. Whats more, is they took enough supplies to keep them going for a week, not to mention their weapons and a couple of quivers full of arrows. Their parents are frantic! Dont you have any idea where they might have gone?
Neil thought for a while and said, I really dont know, but Tyrian might. Didnt he say that he was going to head for Tamur and trade some of those goods we gave him? He only left a couple of days ago. If I take one of the horses, I might be able to make it there before he leaves.
By the time Neil had gotten a horse saddled up and ready to ride, Alicia and Laticia had just arrived at the entrance to Tamur. Alicia was about to step through the gate, when she saw Tyrian standing there talking with some merchants. She quickly ducked back out of sight and said, Weve got a problem. Tyrians making some kind of a business deal in the middle of the path into town. Theres no way that hes going to miss seeing us if we just walk in there the way we are now.
Well, we cant just wait until he leaves! That could take forever, Laticia thought for a moment and said, Maybe he wont notice us if we go in separately.
Its worth a try. Ill go first. If you dont hear Tyrian yelling at me after a couple of minutes, it should be safe to follow.
Alicia slipped around the corner and forced herself to walk at a smooth, unhurried pace past Tyrian while he was trying to wring a better exchange rate out of one of the merchants. When she made it to the other side without incident, she breathed a sigh of relief. Not too long afterwards, Laticia joined her and said, Whew, that was close! I was sure that Tyrian was going to turn around any second and catch me. Lets get out of here before something else happens.
After a few hours spent having to trace and retrace their steps, the twins finally came out on the other side of the pass. They continued going to the northwest, when Laticia suddenly stopped and asked, Do you hear something?
Alicia listened for a moment and answered, Yes, I do. It sounds like...
Pipes, Laticia finished. I wonder who could be playing such music out in the middle of nowhere. Do you think we should check it out?
Well, its getting kind of late, and those trees look like theyll be the best shelter for miles around, so maybe someone else found a good campsite around here. We should see whats going on, but have your bow ready in case whoever it is that is making the music is not friendly.
They followed the noise to its source and came upon a clearing containing nothing but a lake and a cave. Puzzled, Laticia said, I dont get it. It sounds like were practically on top of the musician, but I dont see anybody. Where is it coming from, and whos playing it?
Its the wind, a small voice said from above them.
Alicia and Laticia looked up and saw what appeared to be a blue cat looking down at them from his perch on one of the tree branches. A minute passed with neither of them saying anything, until the blue cat cleared his throat and repeated, Its the wind blowing through the passages in that cave that makes those sounds. Are either of you two listening to me? You girls are just standing there staring at me with your mouths wide open like youre a couple of zombies or something.
Laticia found her voice first and answered, Im sorry. Were from Pao, and neither of us have ever seen a talking cat before. Are you the familiar of one of Vanes magicians?
Excuse me, but I am not a cat! he exclaimed and leaped off the branch.
Instead of falling to the ground, he stretched out his wings and hovered a few inches from Laticias nose. Lets get a couple of things straight here. Cats do not talk, they do not have wings, and they are not blue. I am all three. Therefore, I cannot possibly be a cat! I am a.... he stopped in mid-sentence and said, Well, never mind that. Just accept the fact that Im not a cat and be happy with that, okay?
Sure.... Whatever, Alicia gave the flying blue thing that was not a cat a strange look and asked, Do you mind if we camp out here for the night? Or is this some kind of private place, uh... What did you say your name was?
I didnt say what my name was, but you can call me Conch, he answered. So, what do I call the two of you?
Im Alicia, and this is my twin sister, Laticia. So can we stay here or not? Alicia asked, tapping her foot impatiently.
Yeah, sure. You can spend the night here. Just dont go wandering around in the cave or swimming in the lake. Theyre off limits to travelers, Conch explained.
Well, you dont have to worry about me going anywhere. All I want to do is have a quick bite to eat and go to sleep. We have to get an early start in the morning, Laticia said.
Really? Where are you going? You dont mind my asking, do you? It gets kind of lonely out here sometimes with nothing but the wind to listen to, Conch said.
I guess we can tell you as long as you dont go blabbing it to someone else, okay? Conch nodded and Alicia continued, Im taking my sister to Vane so that she can learn magic.
Cool, Conch said. Youve still got a long way to go before you get there. Do you want me to tell you about it, or do you already know all that stuff?
Well, weve got some idea of whats ahead, but Im sure theres a lot that we dont know. Youre welcome to tell us, Alicia said.
Conch smiled and said, Get ready for an earful.
Three hours later, Conch took a deep breath and said, Well, thats about all I can tell you. Did you catch all that?
Uhh... I think so, Laticia said. So, you say that the first thing weve got to do is catch a ferry to take us to the Marius Zone?
Right, Conch agreed. Remember what I said about Reza, now. Stay away from them unless youre of a mind to lose something.
We will, Alicia yawned. Now, quit talking and let us go to sleep.
Tyrian looked up from his work at the sound of a horses hooves and saw Neil ride in through the gate. Hey, Neil! What brings you out here in such a hurry? Tyrian asked, raising his hand in a welcoming salute.
Neil slid off the horse and said, Alicia and Laticia are missing. Have you seen them?
No, I havent seen them, but that doesnt mean that they havent come by. All day, Ive been doing my best to wring every silver I can out of those money-grubbing merchants hands. If they were trying to avoid being seen, I could have easily missed them.
Well, do you have any idea where they might be heading?
Away from here, lad. Where else?
Tyrian! I mean some place specific.
That depends entirely on whose decision it was to take off. If it was Laticia, I imagine that theyll be heading towards Vane.
Thanks! Ill be going, then, Neil said as he prepared to jump back on his horse.
Hey, hold on a minute, Neil! Tyrian laid a restraining hand on his shoulder. Youre not going anywhere today. Navigating the Tamur Pass in the dark would be suicide. Stay here with me tonight, and Ill make sure youre on your way as soon as the sun rises.
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