“Alright,” Marlee dumped her sticks onto the stack of sticks that Kase had led us too. Walking up next to her, I dumped my own bundle of sticks and turned to Kase.
“I’ll get the sticks out of your bag if you want,” I offered. It probably looked like I was being nice, but I just didn’t want the others to see the carrots that were in the bag. I hadn’t looked inside when I’d slipped them in, so if there actually were sticks still in the bag, I wanted to get them out without my secret being spilled.
Kase turned around. “I want.”
I rolled my eyes as I chuckled. I opened the bag and peeked in, finding a few sticks. I reached in and dug them out, tossing them on the pile. After checking to make sure there were no more, I shut the bag.
“Okay,” I smiled, “you’re all set.”
“Thank you.” Kase said very seriously. “Now I must complete my mission and deliver this bag to Gliss.” He pointed his finger very dramatically towards the kitchen, then glanced back. “Farewell, dearest friends.”
Marlee snickered, but I managed to keep some semblance of composure.
“Farewell,” I replied, my whole body aching to laugh, “if you come back intact, you must tell us.”
Kase nodded. “I can do that,” he said, then ran off.
I burst out laughing, shaking my head as I turned to Marlee in astonishment. “How is he so…” I trailed off, not able to find a word for it.
“He just is,” Marlee said, not even asking what word I was trying—and failing—to think of.
I looked at her. “So…”
She raised an eyebrow back at me. “So…?”
I pursed my lips for a moment, drawing up my courage. “Should I bring you to the castle tomorrow?”
Marlee’s eyes lit up. “Yes,” she breathed.
I nodded slowly. “I can’t guarantee we’ll be able to get in this time. I’ve already duped their guards a few times and the last time I was there, there was an… accident.” I tried not to think of the snapping sound I’d heard.
Marlee must’ve recognized something on my face. “A… fatal accident?” she guessed hesitantly.
I nodded. “Long story. Watch out for Mitch.”
Marlee’s eyes widened. “You’ve had a run-in with Mitch?”
I shrugged. “He showed up and he wasn’t too thrilled at me for some reason.”
Marlee glanced around. “Let’s go to our beds,” she said, grabbing my arm.
We walked together to the teen corner of the warehouse and settled down on the floor, facing each other.
“Mitch…” Marlee began, scrunching up her face in thought. “He used to be sane, I suppose.”
I stared at her and she started laughing.
“I suppose that wasn’t the best way to start,” she said between giggles.
“No, I’d say not,” I replied, rolling my eyes at her.
“Okay, so seriously, though, Mitch is rather crazy. Maybe I shouldn’t say that he’s insane, but sometimes he doesn’t appear to be in his right mind.”
I feel like I would’ve noticed if someone wasn’t “in their right mind” but to be fair, I’d only met the guy twice and one of those times he ran at me like a psycho and snapped another guy’s neck.
Marlee seemed to read something on my face because she assured me, “I’m not saying that you should’ve seen that he wasn’t thinking clearly.” She paused for a moment, thinking. “How about I start at the beginning.”
She shifted, tucking her legs further under her. “When White used to be up and running, all the royal children played together. They were all around the same age, which was odd, but we didn’t seem to notice anything horribly off between the families. They’re all related by blood on some level because they rarely marry commoners, so we didn’t think much of it, but there was some sort of dramatic shift that happened, and we aren’t entirely sure why.”
Marlee stared off into space as she kept speaking. “The royals went from meeting often to encroaching on each other’s territory and stealing things. There were a few small wars, but those ended pretty quickly. We seem to be in some sort of impasse because none of the kingdoms have kept moving into each other’s territory, but they’re barely trading with each other either.”
Marlee looked at me. “I know you know about the drought or famine that’s basically plaguing the whole island, so I can easily tell you that my hunch is that they stopped the wars because of that, but we also can’t figure out why there hasn’t been rain in so long. Normally, someone just gets sent to the mountains to ask the rainmakers to bring the rain back, but the problem with that is that we need someone with blood specifically from the white family in order to do that.”
I made a face as I thought. “But if all the families share blood, why does it have to be the white family? Don’t they all have some sort of the same DNA?”
Marlee nodded, her eyes widening as she leaned closer. “That’s what I thought! Except there’s also an old story about how one of the princes from one of the other kingdoms tried to ask for the rain to come and he never returned. And all the other kingdoms ended up getting rain except for his.”
I stared at her. “Seriously?”
Marlee nodded. “Yeah!” She paused, then laughed. “You really do love that word, don’t you?”
I huffed. “Give me another word to use instead?” I told her, raising an eyebrow.
“Really?” Marlee replied instantly.
“Yep.” I grinned.
“No, that was the word,” Marlee clarified, shooting me an odd look. “I think you could also use ‘what,’ but you may want to be careful because someone might think you’re stupid and just not understand what they said.”
I closed my eyes, knowing that a pained look was crossing my face for a moment. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you,” I muttered, noticing how the ending could also apply to me at this exact moment.
“Yep!” Marlee laughed. “You’re welcome.”
“Brilliant gift, that is,” I grumbled.
“I know,” Marlee smirked, “You’re still welcome.”
And the thing was, I knew that I was, and it felt great.
“Well,” I smiled, “in that case, thank you.”
Marlee waved her hand. “I already got that from you.” She tapped her head. “You know, telepathically.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course.”
She grinned. “Shall I continue?”
I shrugged. “Why not?”
Marlee rolled her eyes. “Because you’re the kind of person who just might smack me for teasing her like that.”
“Nah, I won’t,” I said, an idea coming to mind.
“Okay, good,” Marlee looked away, thinking again. “Now, where was I?”
I reached out and playfully swatted her leg.
She turned back, gaping at me. “Excuse you? You said you wouldn’t!” she squealed.
I grinned. “You forget how good I am at lying.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, you’ll regret that.”
Judging by the look in her eyes, I was definitely going to regret it.