Runaway: Part Two
The sun was low behind Toren and a chill night wind ruffled his fur, making him shiver. His chest heaved as he struggled to pull in a deep breath. The Lutari glanced over his shoulder nervously. What if Mike had chased him to try and take him back to the Pound?
May yipped and wiggled in his arms. He bent over and set her on the ground. She proceeded to walk around, sniffing the new surroundings.
"Where should we go, May?" Toren asked his Petpet dejectedly.
May looked up at him and yipped, wagging her tail. Toren picked her up again. "We can't stay here. It'll be night soon. But where do we go?"
Away. We go away. Away from Mike. Away from the Pound. Away from people.
Toren's heart still raced at the thought of the Pound. Mike had almost taken him to that wretched place. He had almost been abandoned. And it was all because of that stupid girl and her stupid Flask of Rainbow Fountain Water... It wasn't fair! He didn't want to be painted Faerie anymore than Mike.
But, he could not do anything about his new color now. He didn't ever plan on getting close enough to another person again, not even to buy a Paint Brush.
Toren sighed and kept walking. The grassy field was too exposed. Anyone could see them. On the horizon, though, Toren saw the vague outline of a building. He froze. The person living there might let him have shelter for the night, but he could just as easily turn Toren over to Dr. Death in the Pound. We'll scope it out a little. If nothing else, I could hide under the porch or something for the night...
The building was a barn. A farmhouse stood beyond the barn. The lights were on in one window of the house, but the barn appeared dark. Toren crept up to it and pressed on the door, which opened easily and quietly. May barked. "Shh, May," Toren snapped, a bit harsher than he usually addressed her.
He heard assorted noises from the Petpets in the barn reacting to his own Petpet's bark. Just great, Toren thought. He stood perfectly still, ears trained hard on the sound of a door or approaching footsteps, but apparently the farmer had not noticed his livestock's noises.
After his eyes adjusted to the darkness (his night vision had been much better when he was Stealthy, Toren noted), the Lutari crept into the barn and let the door shut with a soft thud behind him. He squinted into the rafters and saw a few bales of hay. Good enough for a bed, and no one would notice him from the ground level.
Toren's face twisted in concentration as he struggled to locate the muscles for his new wings. When he opened his eyes again, he noticed that he was bobbing off the ground. With a few powerful flaps, he flew up to the hay bales. The hay was soft and it was dry. That was all he needed.
Setting down May, Toren pulled some hay into a little pile for her. He then made an even bigger pile for himself next to hers, upon which he settled himself. May rubbed her head against his hand. Drowsily, he stroked her ears. "We'll find somewhere to go tomorrow. Somewhere like... Lutari Island. That sounds like a plan. It'll be great," he promised her. "For now, let's get some sleep. Be good, okay?"
She licked his paw. That was good enough for Toren. He closed his eyes and the exhaustion from the day's events overtook him immediately.
Toren cracked an eye open as his brain registered sunlight suddenly streaming into the barn. The low rumble of the farmer's voice was just barely audible, but Toren could not make out any words. The Petpets below were baa-ing and oink-ing, presumably in anticipation of being fed.
The Lutari crept forward and peeked over the side of the rafters. He kept his wings as flat to his back as possible. Thankfully, the farmer appeared to be leading his Petpets outside and had his back to Toren. The Lutari decided to not press his luck and instead crept back to his out-of-sight sleeping spot. He saw May stirring, so he put his paw over her mouth to keep her as quiet as possible.
The farmer shuffled back into the barn and Toren could hear him making a scraping sound. The noise got louder until it seemed as though the farmer was right beneath them. Toren hoped silently that the farmer would not ascend the ladder.
Eventually, the sounds quieted and he heard the farmer shuffle out of the barn. Toren let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding as he heard the barn door close. "Now let's get out of here," he whispered to May.
He could see a window on the far side of the barn, so he lifted the Doglefox and flew to it. Toren could see no one outside the window, so he opened it and clambered out. Unfortunately, the window had not been used recently, so it creaked. Apparently the farmer heard.
Toren jumped, breath catching in his throat and heart pausing for a moment. He tightened his grip on May and flapped his wings as fast as possible. He had not seen the farmer, but in his mind's eye, he could only imagine a sinister-looking red Techo.
Despite the fact that Toren had not eaten since before his fight yesterday, he kept flying for most of the day.
Toren finally stopped to take a breather once he reached a port town. He had not realized just how far east from Neopia Central he had traveled, but the sight was not entirely unwelcome. If he wanted to reach Lutari Island – a place he had never even seen before – he would need to hire a boat to take him there, or at least find a map of the sea.
Toren kept his shoulders hunched as he strode through town. He attracted a fair amount of interest due to his vibrant colors, but no one approached him in a threatening manner. Toren kept his head high and his shoulders squared as he approached the docks. He saw a pirate Lupe standing near a large vessel.
"Excuse me, sir," Toren greeted. He did not feel threatened. Just because he had run away from his owner did not mean that he had forgotten all of his battle training. If push came to shove, he could defend himself.
"Whaddya want, kid?" the Lupe snapped.
"Do you know of anyone that could sail me out to Lutari Island?" Toren asked.
The Lupe laughed derisively for a moment. "What are ye, stupid, kid? I won't be sailin' to Lutari Island any time soon, and I doubt ye'll find a soul crazy enough here to take ye. There be storms in the area."
Toren must have looked crestfallen, for the Lupe looked thoughtful. "If it's that important to ya, kid, then... well... ye've got wings. Ye can just fly until ye reach it. I don' know where it be, though – it never sits still. Best start in the mornin', though."
Toren did not like the idea of storms... but maybe storms would keep away Mike? Maybe the storms were put there by other Lutaris to keep bad people out? The more he thought about it, the more Toren liked the idea of going to Lutari Island.
"Do you know of somewhere I can stay for the night?" he asked. "I... I don't have any Neopoints."
The Lupe frowned. "Ya know, kid, I'd really like ta know yer story. Wanderin' around, wantin' to hitch a ride to Lutari Island of all places, and without a Neopoint to yer name? What's the deal?"
"I ran away," Toren replied simply. "My owner tried to abandon me. But I didn't want to go to the Pound... so I ran. Lutari Island... just seems like the place to be. I feel like I'll be safe from the Pound there."
"That's a heck of a story, kid. Ya know what? As long as ye promise not to tell anyone, why don't ye just come and crash at my place? S'long as ye promise to keep that Doglefox o' yours out of trouble. I'm almost done here an' I'll be shovin' off bright and early, so I'll wake ya up. Sound good, kid?"
Toren nodded happily. "Thank you so much, sir," he said, bowing his head. "I really appreciate it."
"S'no big deal," the Lupe said gruffly. "Follow me."
He led Toren to a house near the dock.
"What's your name?" Toren tried asking.
The Lupe smiled wryly over his shoulder. "Ye can't hurt me reputation by callin' me a softy if I don't tell ye my name. Don' worry 'bout it, kid."
Toren did not press his luck. The Lupe was already being generous enough.
His house turned out to be one story and very minimally decorated. Toren guessed the Lupe spent most of his time at sea, so the house did not need much more than the bare essentials. The Lupe pointed to the couch. "Ye can sleep there."
Toren nodded and sat on the couch. He sat May down next to him.
"I suggest ye go to bed sooner rather than later. When I say I'll be up early, I mean it."
With that, the Lupe disappeared into a room off to the side and Toren heard the lock click.
"Better than a smelly barn, huh?" Toren asked May as he stretched out and settled onto the couch. "Tomorrow's the big day."
"Wake up, kid."
Toren jumped as he felt a paw shake his shoulder roughly. He sat up and looked around, heart thudding. It was only the Lupe, however. He put a plate with half an omelette on Toren's lap. "If ye're gonna be flyin' to Lutari Island, ye best eat somethin'."
"Thank you," the Lutari said sleepily, as he began to eat the omelette.
He saved a few bites at the end for May, who happily lapped it down and licked the plate clean. Toren picked up the plate and carried it into a door that led to the kitchen. Toren set the plate in the sink under the watchful eye of the Lupe.
"Mind helpin' me out, kid? I gotta carry a few boxes to me ship."
"Sure," Toren agreed. "It's the least I could do."
"Take these, then."
Toren grunted as the Lupe passed him two boxes. His strength training was certainly coming in handy now. "Come on, May," he called as he walked back through the living room. He heard her scamper after him, her paws softer than the Lupe's footsteps behind him.
The Lutari walked back down to the ship where he had met the Lupe in the first place. A few other pets were gathered around it. They gave Toren suspicious looks.
"What's a guy like you doin' here?" a Shoyru asked.
"He's just helpin' me," the Lupe replied from behind Toren. "Ye can put the boxes down now, kid. Me crew can handle it from here."
"Okay." Toren set the boxes down. "Thanks again for your help."
"Same to you, kid. Yer not half bad."
"Well, wish me luck," Toren said, gazing out at the sea. He could see no islands in the distance. He would have his work cut out for him, flying all the way to Lutari Island. But, he knew he had to do it. He was sure he would manage.
The Lupe laughed. "Sure thing. Good luck, kid."
Toren picked up May and took a deep breath, launching himself into the sky and flying to the east, as the Lupe had directed him. Immediately apparent was the problem of the sun shining right in his face. He supposed it was better than trying to navigate at night, but it was difficult to look ahead for too long; he instead chose to look down at the water beneath him.
Minutes turned into hours and eventually, Toren realized the sun had risen far enough that he could look up without it being in his eyes. He fluttered to a stop and turned around. The port town was well out of sight. He could not see anything around him at all. Floating above the ocean, not a landmark in sight, Toren had never felt so deserted.
I wonder if that Lupe set sail, and where he was going. I wonder if I'll ever see him again. Will he even recognize me again if we do meet? Toren thought as he continued flying. He was trying to distract himself from how tired his wings were and how hungry he had gotten. Half an omelette was all he had eaten for two days. The sun beating down on him from overhead was not helping matters. He shuddered as a wave of heat trickled through his body followed by a chill. Spots danced in front of his eyes, but he tried to blink them away. There was nowhere to land; he had to keep going.
"Have to keep going," he repeated aloud to himself in a thick voice.
The spots turned into dark specks that multiplied with each blink until Toren could see nothing. "Have to..." he began, before he felt the weightless sensation of falling. It was the last thing he remembered.
To be continued...