Celobia sighed contently.
The Lion was sprawled on his side in front of his temple, letting the sun soak through his armor. All the people had left the Mountain City to go watch a special air show on the plain behind the Great Temple, so everything was quiet. Celobia had been interested by the idea of watching Avion and Phalanx perform synchronized stunts in the sky, but had decided to catch up on some sleep and "self-time".
Suddenly though, he heard someone nearby cry out in pain.
The Lion instantly lighted his eyes and sprung to his feet. Looking around, he couldn't see anyone. Celobia thought he had heard it from the other side of the city, so he sprinted around the main building. After leaping over several of the canals that brought ground water from the mountains, and ducking under the many arches that served as raised pathways for people to access the obelisks, the Lion found who he was looking for.
A petite teen girl with odd, reddish-black hair was clinging to the small corner obelisk with one hand for support, while the other hand gripped her right ankle. When she looked up to see Celobia running towards her, she waved.
The Lion came to a halt in front of her.
"Are you alright?"
The girl grimaced.
"Does it look like I'm alright?"
Celobia shook himself, embarrassed.
"Right. Sorry. Standard question. So… how did you do this?"
The teen blushed.
"Oh… I was trying to climb this obelisk. But since it doesn't have any ridges like the normal ones, I err… slipped and fell after I got about ten feet up."
The Lion shook his head inwardly. Their people loved to climb things and get higher up. This was why they built tall buildings and made ridges in the sides of things instead of just making stairs. In fact, the only reason the main obelisks existed was so the people of the Mountain City could be high up and enjoy the view whenever they wanted. Celobia believed the reason their people had this "get higher" mentality was because they lived alongside beings who's heads were literally in the clouds. Of course, this event was proof that the mentality could be dangerous.
"Well, how can I help?"
The girl placed her injured foot down and tried to put weight on it. She winced and raised it again.
"I think I have a sprained ankle. Could you bring me to the healer?"
After kneeling so the teen could climb on his back, the Lion made his way back to his temple, being careful to not scrape his rider off when he went under arches. Celobia carefully climbed up to the top of the temple and squeezed around the central structure that he sheltered in at night. The girl gasped.
"There's a secret pathway?!"
The Lion had made his way onto a thin path that carved into the mountains, and was slightly amused by his rider's reaction.
"Yes. How else am I going to get out?"
For a few minutes, Celobia trotted along in silence. The girl seemed content to take in the view and rub her ankle. Finally, though, a question came to the Lion.
"So… why weren't you at the air show?"
Celobia could almost hear the teen shrug.
"Meh, it wouldn't be anything I haven't seen before. Avion doing loop-de-loops… Phalanx spiraling… Taking on a new climbing challenge seemed more interesting. Now, if we were able to actually ride them while they were performing stunts, then I would so be there."
The Lion chuckled.
"I have a feeling if you did that you would have worse injuries then just a sprained ankle."
The girl laughed.
"Yeah, I guess so."
There was a pause before Celobia had another question.
"Um… if I may ask… what is your name?"
The teen giggled.
"Of course you can ask! It's Ceil."
The Lion nodded in response.
Eventually, they came to a point where the walls on either side of the path flattened out and Celobia had to carefully slide down a grassy hillside. At the bottom was one of the main streets that cut through the mountains. This particular street led directly to the area where most of the people of the Mountain City actually lived. The Lion headed that way and quickly came upon the town. Celobia passed wooden homes of varying sizes before he got to his destination. Before him stood a small hut and it seemed to be the only building in the vicinity that showed any sign of life.
Inside he could hear the sound of the current Mountain City healer scolding somebody.
"No, no! The yarrow goes there!"
The Lion poked his head into the hut. On one half, there were three small cots. On the other, there was one long table that had various herbs and jugs on it, with more herbs tacked up on the wall behind it. Baskets filled with bandages and other materials littered the floor. The healer herself was standing with hands on her hips, watching a teen boy sort out new herbs from a different basket.
Celobia cleared his throat.
The woman looked up, startled.
"My Lion! What can I do for you?"
The Lion nodded towards his rider, and realization lit the healer's face. She was instantly at his side, helping Ceil down. The woman helped her over to one of the cots and sat her down. Unlike when the healer spoke to the boy, she spoke to the girl in a soft, concerned voice.
"What's the matter, dear?"
Ceil told the woman what she had told Celobia, all the while glancing constantly at the boy while he continued sorting herbs. When she was finished, the girl found her foot high in the air. The healer felt it over, clucking her tongue.
"I know you're an adventurous one, Ceil, but honestly! You were here just a few weeks ago with a severely scraped elbow! And a few weeks before that you had a dislocated hip! And before that… oh, never mind. You've injured yourself too many times to count."
The girl glanced away sheepishly.
Celobia looked at them both.
"You two know each other?"
The healer snorted, but didn't look up from her work.
"How could I not? This one is such a regular patient I should be setting up a cot for her exactly every three weeks."
Suddenly the woman dropped the foot. It fell to the ground with a light thud. Ceil winced.
Tala noticed and made a dismissive gesture.
"That won't hurt it more, so don't worry."
She then turned to the boy, her voice gruff again.
"Lorus! I've taught you how to cast sprained ankles! Do that while I go wash my hands."
With that, the healer briskly walked out the opening to the hut. She gave Celobia a quick, respectful bow as she passed. When she had turned a corner around one of the houses, the Lion looked back at Ceil. The girl had her foot now resting in Lorus' lap as he crouched in front of her. He was clumsily opening a small jug. When he had accomplished taking off the plug, the boy scooped out a greenish-white cream and gingerly lathered it on Ceil's ankle.
The girl raised her eyebrow.
"Um… what is that…?"
Lorus glanced up at her quickly and blushed.
"Oh, err… it's an aloe lotion we apply before putting on the bandages. It keeps your skin from drying out and getting flaky during the next few weeks."
Ceil nodded. After a short period of time, the boy started wrapping the bandages stiffly around her ankle so it would set in the correct position. Just as he was finished, Tala walked back in. She wiped her hands on her dress and proceeded to snatch the girl's foot out of Lorus' hands. Inspecting his work, the healer slowly nodded.
"Good… I expect this sort of standard from my apprentice."
She gently placed the foot on the ground at smiled at Ceil.
"You're free to go. Take it easy for about two weeks, though. It's actually good to put weight on the foot, but don't do any adventuring. I mean it."
Tala turned away to put back the aloe lotion jug on the table, so she didn't notice that when Ceil tried to stand, her leg gave out from under her. The girl must have forgotten that she needed to hold onto something when standing. Instead of falling back onto the cot, Ceil fell forward. Celobia was about to cry out her name when she was saved. Lorus had been able to catch her around the waist just in time. They stayed still like that for a few seconds before the boy seemed to regain his mind and helped Ceil properly to her feet. Celobia took note with amusement that they were both blushing furiously.
After everybody said goodbye, Ceil climbed back onto the Lion and he trotted off. When they had left the town, Celobia chuckled.
"He likes you."
The girl leaned forward wildly.
"Who?! Lorus?! Did he say so?!"
The Lion shrugged, amused.
"No words were needed. And it's pretty obvious you like him too."
Ceil then sat back and seemed to be lost for words.
"Well… I-I… I don't know what you're talking about…!"
"Sure you don't."
The rest of the way back to the Mountain City, the Lion and his rider argued lightheartedly about the matter. Celobia couldn't help thinking,
This one's sticking around for a while… I can feel it…
Three Weeks Later…
"Are you sure it's safe?"
"But how do you know?"
"Trust me, I've done this before. And I know its safe because I onlygot a broken wrist."
After Ceil had told Celobia the story of how she found an ancient slide and stone sled on a mountain top in the south, she had wanted to repeat her experience. However, the old sled had fallen apart at the bottom of the half-mile long track (thus resulting in Ceil's broken wrist), and she had been afraid the slide would be unused for good. Just as she got the okay from Tala to do whatever she wanted, the girl had begged Celobia to help her on her quest to find and make a new sled… of a larger size so that it could accommodate him, of course. The Lion had agreed, and they had spent a week on a search to find what they needed.
The stone for the sled had been taken from Dirge's cave. It had been one of the last, un-mined blocks. The Sand-Serpent had been reluctant to hand it over, but he was won over when Ceil hugged his snout. His eyes had turned a bright, happy shade of blue, and he had enthusiastically agreed to let them take the small boulder.
The next stage, carving the block into a sled shape, was a bit harder. None of the stone-carvers of the land wanted to do it for free. Basaran might have agreed, but being so large his aim would have been horrible. Pelagia said no… he was too busy watching an interesting woman who had an odd hair cut. They didn't even consider Malus. So who else had the power of blasting at their disposal? After much debate, they decided that it was necessary. Unfortunately, convincing Kuromori to carve the sled was even harder then they thought it would be. In the end, Ceil ran up to the Gecko and kicked his leg in frustration. Instead of being ticked off, Kuromori was amused and impressed by her "spunk".
The end result was a large, sturdy looking sled with an open back to step into and protective walls on the three other sides. It was large enough for Celobia to fit snugly into it and still have Ceil squeezed in at the front. The Lion and the girl spent most of the day pushing it up to the top of the mountain. For the occasion Ceil had clumsily chopped her dress short and wore boy's work pants underneath. Celobia had done most of the work, but the teen had insisted on helping.
Now, was the moment of truth.
Ceil was crouching in the front of the sled, looking over the edge with wide, excited eyes. Celobia walked in behind her and after glancing over her at the steep track, spoke up.
"As your guide, I feel it may not be in your best interest to-"
"Oh, give me a break. Push off on my mark!"
The Lion sighed in a resigned fashion and placed his back foot behind the sled.
"Three…! Two…! One…! GO!"
Celobia thrust his foot in the ground and quickly pulled it back into the sled as they zoomed forward. The track was surprisingly smooth, so the only noise was Ceil screaming with laughter as they careened down the mountainside. Lizards skittered away and birds cried out in surprise as the sled practically flew past them. Celobia soon found himself laughing with Ceil. It was like this for at least a minute, before the end of the track loomed ahead, made obvious by the rubble of the previous sled. The Lion tensed and prepared to jump forward to block his companion from hitting anything and breaking something, but was relieved to find the sled slowly and easily coming to a halt. When their ride was completely still, Celobia backed out to let a shaky Ceil exit. She was grinning madly.
"Okay…We haveto do that again…"
And to his own surprise, the Lion agreed.
Celobia lighted his eyes.
The Lion looked up blearily at the night sky, observing the poufy clouds and how there was a faint, almost undetectable moisture in the air. He noted to himself that there was probably going to be a thunderstorm in a few days. Celobia then looked down at his paws and sighed. His dreams were so full of memories these days it was almost painful. The Lion just wanted to stay awake and try to think of ways to remember the beings he loved without pain, but he knew very well he needed sleep. So as Celobia curled back up and dimmed his eyes, he thought to himself determinedly.
I must be strong for tomorrow. For everyone. Forher.