Tribulations of a Quest Sceptic: Part Five
Saba had never been the first to put up her hand for babysitting. Doing chores normally provided her with enough savings for extras, such as expensive Usuki dolls, or books. The idea of keeping watch over little kids hardly appealed. Keeping watch over the Aisha triples who appeared determined to rival Sloth as evil beings was certainly not appealing. She was about to suggest they all sat and relaxed, when a cold spurt of water hit her in the face.
Saba spluttered wildly, gazing around franticly. Was it the Techo ghosts? Had they come for her?
No. It wasn’t. The smallest Aisha stood before her, a wicked grin upon his features, water pistol firmly in hand.
Saba reached for the toy, but was rewarded with another squirt of water that went straight up her nose. Franticly, she chased the Aisha in circles, her progress impeded by attacks from the water pistol and the outstretched feet of the other two Aishas, determined to trip her up. Each time she scrambled to her feet, red flashing in front of her eyes. With a final lunge, she snatched the toy from his sticky little paws, holding it above his head and taking a certain malicious pleasure in watching him jump and screech, trying to grab it back.
“NO! You’re done. Sit down and be SILENT!”
Okay, so the words had no impact. But she was too angry to care. She grabbed her bag and stalked over to a nearby tree, slumping against it and shoving the water pistol deep into the bag, far out of reach. Or would have, but it hit something. It didn’t fit.
Drawing out the toy, she retrieved whatever was blocking the way. Ah. Negg Faerie Usuki Doll. Carefully, she straightened the glittering wings, a little bent from being squished into the bag. Balancing it in the same arm as the water pistol, she also retrieved the Captain Rourke toy, and the Bat Thing Usuki Doll. That one was rare and she was relieved to see that its webbed wings hadn’t been damaged. Gingerly, she dusted off sandwich crumbs before becoming aware of an eerie silence nearby. The sounds of the dancing and music still lilted around her, but the triplets had stopped screeching. Instantly, she lifted her head. What would she see? Caravans in flames? Decimated woodlands? An angry Elephante?
No. What she saw were three little faces, fixated on her every move. Wait… It wasn’t her they were watching.
“Is that… Captain Rourke?” The smallest Aisha asked in a breathless gasp of awe. Slowly, Saba nodded.
The triplets carefully edged forward, their hands locked behind their backs.
They’re trying to show me that they can behave?
The thought astounded her and she warily held up the Bat Thing Usuki. The middle Aisha released a little gasp of amazement.
“The Bat Thing! When we play pretend, I always get to be the Bat Thing!”
Saba smiled slowly. “Yeah? I like him too. He’s got those great wings, right?” She indicated the dark webbing of the dolls eerie wings. The triples made the appropriate, impressed sounds. Hesitating, she reached out her arm, the Usuki held in her hand.
“Do you want a hold?”
The middle Aisha nodded, carefully taking the Aisha. He gazed at it in wonder, tracing his fingers over the wings and horns, whispering to himself about how awesome it was. Beside him, the smaller Aisha spoke up hopefully.
“Can I look at the Rourke one? I like him. He has adventures and stuff.”
Saba smiled wryly. “I could tell you something about adventures, kid.” She carefully handed the Usuki over, unable to help but smile at the expression of wonder.
Within moments the Usukis were all out of her bag and being carefully used to enact a rather wild adventure, created in the minds of three, now very docile, Aishas. Saba watched, smiling. Why had she even been surprised? The Usukis had brought her such joy, it wasn’t a shock to discover other pets liked them. But even as she watched Captain Rourke battle an Alien Usuki, her thoughts were drawn to Vodi.
Is he scared? Does he think I’ve abandoned him?
She sighed. She needed to get going. Time had to be running short. A glance at her pocket watch confirmed the suspicion. As she gazed at the tiny hands making their way through the seconds, the massive shadow fell over her once more.
“What magic is this, girl? I’ve never seen them so silent.” Ven stood over her, studying the triplets with an astounded expression that made a smile tug on the corner of Saba’s lips.
Slowly, she stood.
“Ven. I’m sorry. I have to go. My friend is in trouble.”
The Elephante nodded slowly. “You’ve almost done your hour, girl. And I got a good, swinging dance in. I say you’ve earned this.”
He reached out, handing her a small glass jar. Inside, its squeals stifled by the glass prison, was one of the revolting berries. With trembling hands, Saba reached out, clutching the precious fruit to her and trying not to scream in joy, as something tugged gently at her free hand. A glance down confirmed it was the smallest Aisha, he holding up Captain Rourke sadly.
“Thanks for letting us play.”
Something in Saba melted a little. The triplets seemed to have found such pleasure in the toys, and her priorities felt… Different.
She had faced the wander through the Haunted Woods. Survived the demonic terrors of the Game Graveyard. She had braved the tower of Edna and tamed the wild triplets of the Gypsy Camp. A warm feeling of pride rushed over her.
Perhaps adventures aren’t so bad. There could be something to be said for this quest business.
Gently, she reached out, closing the little Aishas hand around the toy as his brothers looked up with wide eyes.
“You know what? I think I’m a bit big for these now. I have a lot to do, and it would be a shame if I had to lug them around with me. Seems they would have better adventures with you.
A little sliver of regret wove its way into her heart as she said it. The Usukis had been her constant companions when everyone else seemed to have moved on. But a glance at the shimmering eyes and bright smiles of the triples confirmed her choice. Relaxing, she smiled.
How did I ever find them scary?
With a wave and an overwhelming sense of relief, she placed the jar in her back and slung it over her shoulder, shoving her pocket watch in the top of it as she did. Ten to Eleven. She had just over an hour to get back to Edna, get the potion, and deal with a group of angry Techo ghosts.
No problem. Right?
Breaking into a run, the Draik hastened down the winding path, back in the direction of Edna’s tower. This time, the eerie green light didn’t seem so scary. It seemed a bit like a glow, lighting the way she needed to go. Skidding to a halt at Edna’s door, she took hold of the knocker, slamming it against the door wildly. With a strong jerk, the door flew open.
Edna appeared before her, tapping a foot impatiently against the ground. The sound of her toenail claws scraping the stones was enough to make Saba’s scales stand on end again. Franticly, she dug around in her bag, dragging out the jar and shaking the filling from the sandwich, handing over the bit of bread, now very much stale and having seen better days. Edna’s expression was startled, clearly she hadn’t expected such success. She turned the jar over in her hands, then unscrewed the lid, tipping the berry into a bubbling cauldron near the door. Saba watched as the Squealberry gave a final squeak and dissolved into the simmering brew. The addition of the bread caused the potion to emit a puff of dark smoke, the tendrils dancing around the cauldron in a wild, frenzied dance.
Edna’s cackling could be heard throughout the woods, Saba suspected. The witch thrust back the empty jar at her, and she shrugged, shoving it into her bag. The Zafara danced around the cauldron, her nails tapping on the stones in an eerie beat, nothing like the merriment of the Gypsy tune earlier. With a wild shriek, the witch snatched a small, glass vial from a passing Meowclops, who hissed and scuttled away as Edna plunged the vial into the bubbling mixture. The potion gave a final belch, and Edna spun around, facing Saba once more.
“Congratulations, I guess. Good work and that rubbish.” She thrust the vial into Saba’s eager hand, rolling her eyes as she did.
The door slammed in Saba’s face, and all that was left was the echoing cackle of Edna’s laughter, but nothing could diminish the moment. So this was it. The warm feeling of accomplishment. She had done it. Beaming, she examined the vial. The potion was vivid blue, the colour of Kiko Lake, but floating with specks of wispy silver. She didn’t care to know what THAT was. With a grin, she opened her bag to shove the vial in, then paused, a smile on her lips as she examined the contents.
With a mere half hour to spare, Saba dashed along the trail, leaping over stones and dodging the trees, the whispering hisses of the Techo phantoms guiding her back to where games went to die.
It was time to get her friend and complete the quest.
To be continued…