Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Eleven: …and Found
Previously: Zack learned that his sister had been spotted in the Frengan Light Forest. So he and his immense raptor friend Aviar set out to find her.
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Zack wasn’t sure what the distance was between the Northern Mountains and southern Frenga, but he knew it was a long way.
As if reading his thoughts, Aviar shouted, “Eighteen hundred quamtomurs. Bury your body in my neck feathers. You’ll freeze, if you don’t. And don’t touch the silver ones, or I’ll bite your thumbs off!”
“Now I know you like me!” Zack yelled. “Before you were gonna bite my leg off, now it’s only my thumbs!”
Aviar swung his head back to see a grinning boy with wind ripping tears from his eyes. He said nothing, but the corners of his beak curved in an avian smile.
Even at subsonic speeds and an altitude that made Zack thin-air-drunk, it had taken over four hours to reach the Frengan Light Forest. They arrived at the western edge of the glowing woods long after the farmers had gone to bed and Gina had become desperately lost. Now what? Zack wondered.
Within fifteen minutes, the great nocturnal hunter had spotted something moving upward from the northern edge of the forest. “There!” he said, executing a ninety degree turn.
“Woah!” Zack grabbed a three foot long silver feather. “Sorry!”
What Aviar had seen turned out to be a squadron of night-hunting pixie youths decked in full mouse leathers, piloting foot-long foxbats. The bats screeched anxiously when they spotted the mountain-sized Sheya, but the leader of the pixie squadron squeaked a soothing scree-eee-k-k-kooo, and they collected themselves.
“Greetings, Lord Sheya!” the tiny commander called in fluent Zshinian. “You are far from the frigid climes of northern Gerd.”
“Too far, young knight.”
“I am Jenblevó, prince and future king of the South Frengan Pixies.”
“I am Aviar, Master of—”
“Say no more, great hunter! Your name is honored throughout the Ten Kingdoms. Trusted Friend of Prime Regent Melcarhassen and Fabled Servant of Uol, we salute you!” Jenblevó doffed his mouseskin cap. Taking its cue from him, the foxbat dipped its wings and nodded its soft brown head as well. All of the other squadron members followed suit.
“Errr-hrrrrmmm…I thank you, Prince Jenblevó. Now to business. It has been reported that a human girl fell from the sky into the Light Forest, and that—”
“Yes! The beautiful and mysterious Queen J’nah!”
“You have seen her?”
“Uh, no,” Zack intervened, “We’re looking for a regular girl, like me. I mean, you know, not like me because she’s a girl, but…”
Prince Jenblevó and his squadron were taken aback: until now they had not realized that the mighty Aviar had a human passenger! How could this be?
“Lord Aviar, it is an embarrassment to have to tell you this, but there is a—”
“I know! The girl we seek is his sister.”
“Ahhhhhh! Then he is of royal blood as well. What is your name, honored sir?” Jenblevó asked in Frengan.
There was a sudden silence, then Jenblevó and the others burst into guffaws. “Your sister, the queen, is called ‘he who fights,’ a strange but honorable name for a magnificent lady! And you…you are ‘Zhec’ – ‘the Surrenderer?’ This is a servant’s name! Not even that—a slave’s name!” The pixies roared a hurricane of hoots. “But it is a joke, yes? Or are you the illegitimate child of a slave?” Another wave of laughter crashed on the shores of callow youth.
Because the pixies had switched to Frengan, with thick pixie accents, Aviar could not understand them. This burned his feathers. Even more, it annoyed him that these crude pixie teens seemed to be having a laugh at Shak’s expense, so he quenched their little storm with a downpour of his own: “This is fine fun, fledglings, but it is over. You will help us find the human girl. Now!”
“But glorious Lord Avi—“
“Listen, precious princeling, this boy is my friend. You will honor him, and you will help us find his sister, or you will wish you had never lived, by Uol!—forgive me, Lord. Hrrrrmmm-errrmmm-hmmm!”
Whatever flaws Prince Jenblevó might have, he certainly knew how to command his squadron. He divided the Light Forest into six wedges (like a pizza, Zack noted), and sent a bat-piloting aviator to search each wedge. He sent two more to Rennou, the previous destination of J’nah the Dragonmeer. The last two he sent to scour the Frengan countryside. All were to fly to the Palace of Light with any information they could find before moontop.
Aviar and Zack followed Jenblevó to the Palace of Light, which was immense by pixie standards (it could have fit in Zack’s bedroom). Aviar alighted, if a twenty-three foot tall bird can be said to alight, on an immense irontree branch about ten feet away from the Palace entrance. Attendants rushed to meet Prince Jenblevó. A groomsman began to rub down the glistening foxbat, but seeing the massive Sheya, went whiter than the double moon.
“Yes, you pathetic poltroon,” said the prince, “I know he’s there. I brought him.” Then he spun around and walked through the baroque bracken entrance into the Palace.
A moment later the groomsman fainted, and the little foxbat flittered off in search of something to eat.
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Thoughts: Have you ever become friends with someone so entirely different than you that simply knowing them altered your view of the world?
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