Dawn and Dusk vs the Bounty Hunter:Part Two
I had gotten an early start to the day. I had gotten up and ready before our alarm clock had even gone off. For purposes relating to our prank, I picked my clothes carefully and threw the exact same set onto Wila’s bed so she could be my mirror image. It would do no good if Balthazar saw two of us at any point during the day, so dressing the same made trading places easier. I was doing field work with our mentor today. I don’t know if Balthazar was quite thrilled to be taking a third grader out hunting faeries or at least showing the basics of faerie tracking, but it was risky to our prank.
Wila grumbled in her sleep as I finished rummaging through our sock drawer for a second pair of matching blue socks. We really needed a system here, though to be fair it wasn’t entirely our fault. Our mom put our laundry away this time and not us. Wila and I were picky about putting away our own laundry. I found the matching socks I wanted and tossed them onto my sister’s bed and headed down for breakfast. Balthazar would be expecting me, (He would be expecting Wila) to be at his faerie hunting shack at 8 am.
He was going to be going over the basics of how to track faeries. We were going to be starting with minor water faeries. He had noticed Wila’s fascination with his water faerie net and had proposed the idea. I reread all of the notes I had copied from Wila over a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. Mordred would be really proud if he could see this. Normally, Wila and I were not the most detailed in our note-taking skills. The amount of detail here however, was enough to cover five pages front to back. I gathered them up and headed out. It was time to meet Balthazar!
* * *
"Wila!" The Bounty hunter boomed enthusiastically, "Good morning, you ready for your first faerie hunting lesson?"
I nodded, returning the enthusiasm. I was actually very excited. He invited me into his shack; he hadn’t quite finished packing the gear we would need for our lesson.
"You seem a bit different today," Balthazar said with a side glance at me. Before I had left this morning I had switched my charm bracelet with a sun on it, for Wila’s which had a moon on it. Wila was also the left-handed twin and I was the right handed one. It was a preference mostly, we were perfectly ambidextrous. A talent we had honed for our trickery.
"I’m still a little tired," I said. It wasn’t too far from the truth. "I got up extra early today. I wanted to go over the notes from yesterday, again."
He laughed and nodded. I could tell he was proud of the diligence my sister and I were taking in this, even if he didn’t know he was dealing with a set of twins and not one studious student.
I noticed his net collection hung up on the wall. Wila had been right; the air faerie net was the one I liked best. It was fascinating with its glittery cloud shaped silver handle. The water one we would be using today looked like it was made out of water. It was almost as lovely as the air faerie net. This guy had made it pretty well in his business if he could make such pretty and expensive looking nets. I doubt faeries were the only thing he hunted.
I bet even though he was in the gallery of evil book stored away in the halls of justice in Neopia central, that he had his fair share of hunting down other bad guys. I knew he was friends with Magax. He was also on reasonable or friendly terms with Kauvara, who sells the faeries he captures. Wila might have been right in saying he was possibly the nicest guy in the gallery of evil. He had finished gathering up the rest of the things we would need to hunt water faeries and we headed out.
* * *
"Look here," Balthazar said and pointed to a rock on the bank of a quiet river. "Some water faeries have been here, most likely warming up in the morning sun."
The rock was wet, almost like it had been sat upon. There were several more like it in various patches around the river bank. I listened very carefully, Balthazar had mentioned water faeries were very cheery and you could easily hear them giggling. I could hear the murmur of the river, and when I strained my ears to listen harder, I heard gentle splashing about ten feet up the river. Balthazar heard it too, as he had turned to me and motioned for me to be very quiet. We crept up the bank of the river. In a few minutes we saw five or six water faeries splashing in the river and laughing. They were really pretty. I had met Naia in Faerieland not long ago. Naia was one of the great faeries. She had been the first Faerie Wila and I had met. Now I was coming face to face with the smaller variety.
With one swift move, Balthazar pounced. He had swiped his net with all the ease of an expert and sent the faeries shrieking in every direction. When he brought his net up to examine the catch, he laughed very loudly. I went over to him and he did something that surprised me. He introduced me to the faerie he had caught! He also explained to her, that he was part of a mentor program for my school. He did something even more shocking after that. He let the faerie go.
"Go, Aliannia," Balthazar chuckled. "I don’t understand why you always let me catch you. Such a strange little faerie you are."
I watched him set the water faerie down on the river bank. I supposed he was only showing me how to track them for now and not actually catch and bottle them. I watched Aliannia closely. She looked offended at being released. It almost seemed like an insult to be released in such a manner for the faerie. She noticed me watching her and sneered before jumping back into the water. Most faeries didn’t like Balthazar or didn’t care in general. This one however, I think might like Balthazar. It was a rather bizarre encounter.
We spent the rest of Saturday morning tracking water faeries. I took a lot of notes, mimicking the dexterity of my sister to perfection. For all his years as a bounty hunter, he hadn’t noticed the slight difference in my writing while using my non-preferential hand as opposed to Wila’s whose writing was more naturally sloped from using her left hand as a dominant. I had noticed him watching me a few times and every now and then a puzzled look would crawl across his face. Almost as if he had a question, but couldn’t figure out how to ask it. We finished up the lesson for the morning. He had to be in Neopia central by two in the afternoon, so it was a short day.
* * *
When we had made our way back to Neovia, we had bumped into Mordred and Magax. Magax was showing Mordred how to track villains in much the same way Balthazar had taught me how to track water faeries earlier. Hubrid Nox was the subject of their lesson, who funny enough was a mentor to another student in our class. (I was very interested in how it was possible to track a ghost, and made a note to ask Mordred later.) I introduced Mordred to Balthazar, who was more than delighted to meet my friend. Balthazar was a fan of music and often visited Neovia’s music center where Mordred’s parents were both first chair for their respective instruments in the orchestra and teachers. Mordred, despite being deaf, was first chair violinist in the junior orchestra.
Balthazar watched me signing to Mordred, as I happily told him about my morning. That was when I heard Magax ask Balthazar if he could step in the role of mentor for Sunday, as Magax was very busy tomorrow and couldn’t escape his obligation to the Brute Squad. Balthazar happily accepted. Knowing Mordred, he would use the time with Balthazar tomorrow to finish next week’s math homework. Mordred got bored in class easily and often asked the teacher for more math puzzles to do. Mordred and Magax said farewell to Balthazar and I and carried on with their morning, while Balthazar kindly finished up our lesson day by telling me I had a future in bounty hunting if I studied hard enough.
* * *
"I see the spots!" Wila chirped happily.
It was just after lunch and I had decided to show Wila everything I had been shown this morning, instead of expecting her to copy every note I had taken and go from there. I had been right about Mordred too; he had been impressed with our new found notary skills. He had accompanied Wila and me on our adventure to the river. He had already expressed his concern for our prank and had scolded us for being such risk takers. I think he had been a little mad for now being included in our prank, (Through no fault of his own) because his hands were moving sharply as he signed to us.
He had calmed down pretty quickly, though. Wila and I had told him that Balthazar had no reason to suspect he was in on the prank. He wasn’t so sure about it however, he wouldn’t exactly say how he knew the prank would fail, but he knew it wouldn’t last the weekend.
We hunted up and down the river for signs of water faeries; I secretly hoped I wouldn’t run into Aliannia again. She had seemed pretty mad about having her morning interrupted and then being released without a fuss. I had told my sister and Mordred about that and it surprised them too. It was one of those stories that absolutely no one would ever believe. Thankfully, we only found the tell-tale signs of water faeries and not the faeries themselves.
Wila and I were examining some rocks closer to the river’s edge when we heard Mordred whistle. His elder sister had taught him how to whistle by shoving the pinkie fingers on each hand into the corners of his mouth. Though, he couldn’t hear the sound, he could feel the passage of air that made the whistling noise. We went over to the checkered Gelert and he showed us scorch marks on the trunk of a tree.
"Fire faerie," He signed to Wila and me. "We should track it. You’ll impress Balthazar."
"Great idea," Wila signed back with a big smile, and I nodded in agreement.
So we followed the scorch marks. They were on several trees and even the ground. We spent an hour following random scorch marks until we came to the Neovian graveyard Wila and I normally play hide and seek in on Saturday mornings, when we were not busy with school assignments. We all glanced at each other and then went in.
"Look at that," Wila said verbally and then signed it to Mordred.
"It looks like a fire faerie had a temper tantrum," Mordred signed, "I wonder what made her so mad."
I couldn’t help wondering that myself. There were some headstones that had scorch marks on them, but mostly the ground bore the brunt of a vengeful fire faerie. Needless to say, Wila and I were already ahead on our lessons with Balthazar and he hadn’t even been there to teach us. We were sure to impress him. We continued to search the graveyard for the fire faerie. We did not find her, but found many tell-tale signs of her having been there. Mordred had thought a head and had insisted Wila and I take along our notebooks. We had taken a lot of notes in the few hours we had been following the trail of this angry fire faerie. If Balthazar asked Wila tomorrow why she had been tracking a fire faerie, she would say she had been playing hide and seek with friends and had remembered how much fun tracking the water faeries had been.
We had rehearsed this a few times, with Mordred giggling madly at us. He didn’t need to hear us to know we were terrible liars. He always knew when we lied because I stuttered a bit and he could see me struggling to say words. Wila was a bit more discreet with her reaction to lying. She would normally fiddle with her bracelet or crack a few of her knuckles against her hip. Mordred had noticed everything and had openly expressed his concern at Balthazar finding out. I kind of got the impression that there was something he wasn’t telling us. If there was, maybe he wasn’t sure how to tell us. It almost felt like a math assignment. Mordred would spend hours patiently tutoring us, until we came to something difficult to explain.
I could tell by the look on his face that something was bothering him. Wila and I both had that twin moment where we were in each other’s minds and agreed that he might be nervous about hanging out with Balthazar tomorrow, because Magax was busy. He had mentioned earlier that he didn’t think our prank would last the weekend. I hated to admit it, but he was usually right. We left the graveyard, still rehearsing our lie, with Mordred shaking his head behind us. Each time one of us with start with our lie-tells, he’d poke us in the shoulder. He did this with Wila especially, because he hated the sight of her cracking her knuckles. It was the musician in him.
We rehearsed all the way home. We were all late for dinner, we realized and had to hurry before we could get into deeper trouble with our parents.
I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Mordred knew something and wasn’t telling us.
To be continued.