Chapter 10 - The road
Chapter 10 - The road
The ranger, the witch, the bard, the rogue, the knight and the scout. All of them had just passed through the now unguarded north gate when a furious scream was heard in the air. Looking back, our heroes gasped in horror at the cloud of bats rising from the town square and silhouetted by the moon. The silence spell had finally dispelled and the night guard of the town was now craving for revenge.
Well, one of them wasn't looking for witches anymore. Among the shrieks, the keen ears of Foxglove distinguished the voice of her father calling out: "BAAARRRRRDDDDD!".
The rogue turned pale in fear. "Oh my god! Sweetie, we have to run! Now!" Giving no explanations, the pink bat grabbed Dale by his shoulders and flapped away with him as fast as she could. The red-nosed chipmunk was pushed like some baggage, barely keeping the pace with his scared girlfriend.
"Foxy, wait!" begged the bard stumbling over and over. "What's the hurry?"
"We have to get away from my father!" Foxglove half-explained. Doubling her effort, she finally lifted Dale in the air.
"Much better" admitted Dale. "But please, slow down!"
"Foxglove, Dale! Wait for us!" exclaimed Chip, mounted on Gadget's broom. "Come on everyone, let's follow them!"
"Right!" responded his remaining friends in unison.
The party ran across the cemetery and beyond. All the way until they weren't able to hear the bat screams anymore. Completely tired, Foxglove landed out of breath on the grass at the side of the road. Dale sat by her side and helped her to recover. It was then when they realized they had left their friends way behind.
Dale picked up his canteen and offered some water to his girlfriend. "It looks like we will have to wait a little for the others, Foxy." The bard looked behind them narrowing his eyes. "I can barely distinguish them on this darkness… That wide one must be Monterey"
Foxglove finished to drink and stayed silently pensive for a moment. "Dale, tell me something…"
"Sure, what is it?"
"What will you do after saving Tammy?"
"Well, to celebrate of course! Let's celebrate like it's 1699!"
Foxglove gave him an anxious look. "And after that, cutie?"
This time, Dale decided to think more thoroughly before answer. "Well, I… I guess I should go talk with your father" he gulped at the mere thought. "And tell him everything about us."
The bat shook her head. "That's not a good idea anymore, darling… I already talked with my father about us and… our wedding plans"
"Really?" replied Dale stunned. "And… what did he said?"
"To say? Actually, he didn't say anything"
Dale was puzzled. "Huh? Nothing at all?"
"No, but judging by his silent mad outburst, I recommend you not to get close to him in some days… or some weeks, by all means"
"Oh…" answered Dale, understanding how grave his situation was. Even so, his humorous temper didn't decay. "Eh, don't worry about it. We can always accompany Chip to the other side of the world. Just imagine it! We could change our names, entertain the pilgrims, build a cabin…"
Foxglove giggled at the image. "And then we adopt ten orphans? Just like Gadget suggested to Chip at the inn?
"Of course!" laughed Dale. "Chip, Gadget and their kids could be our neighbors!"
Foxglove's smile faded. "Chip and Tammy sounds better, though…"
"Oh boy, Tammy…" mused Dale, rubbing the back of his neck. "How will she react when she meets Chip's new friend?"
"Ha!" the bat smirked at his boyfriend. "Just as I would react if I discover you flying alongside a beautiful yet clueless blonde witch: I'd kill you twice!"
Glancing at Dale with a mischievous look, Foxglove tackled him playfully and both rolled laughing on the grass. It was a tender moment in the middle of a chaotic night. And for some seconds, all their troubles disappeared. They only stopped upon hearing a fake cough sounding above of them. Chip and Gadget had finally arrived.
"Oh Chip!" said Foxglove standing upright immediately, clearly blushed. "We were just…"
"Training!" completed Dale quickly. "Training wrestling moves, you know, just in case"
"That sounds useful!" commented Gadget.
Grumbling, Chip helped Dale to stand up. "Focus, guys! Mission first, celebrations later!"
"Yes, captain" answered Dale shamelessly.
"Yeah, sorry" apologized Foxglove.
Monterey and Zipper arrived shortly after. The Scottish knight let himself fall in the grass gasping for air. "Crikey! I hadn't run this fast since the time I was chased by those leprechauns of Limerick!"
"Monterey, are you all right?" asked Chip.
"No problem, mate" assured Monterey weaving his paw. "Just give me some seconds to get my second wind… or the third"
"Right…" said Chip turning his sight to the road ahead. "I wish we could know how far we are from the caravan yet".
Suddenly, some lights on the distance caught everyone's attention.
"Hey, what are those lights? Asked Dale. "Is that them?"
"These are campfires" noted Chip. "Could it be that the caravan decided to stop and rest?"
"I'm not sure" said Monterey narrowing his eyes. "Sure my boss ain't fond of marching at night but he seemed to be in a big rush to take Tammy to our headquarters at Rouen. These could be just hunters or travelers."
Chip shrugged. "I guess we won't know until we get closer".
"I can help!" interrupted Gadget, causing everyone to look at her. "Just a moment… It must be here inside…" She sank her paw inside her cloak, and some seconds later retrieved a quite large telescope, for everyone but Chip's astonishment.
"Found it!" she declared proudly. "Try looking through my telescope. It's twice as powerful as the reflecting one invented by Newton, that was an improvement of the refracting one invented by Galilei, and… Anyway, try it!"
"Oh thanks, Gadget!" said Chip taking the witch's invention.
"But how did you…" started to ask Dale.
"Wow!" exclaimed Chip. "Everything looks like on daytime!"
"Of course!" explained Gadget. "It's an improvement invented by me. It's called 'night vision'. Very handy, huh?"
"Awesome! Lem'me watch too!" Demanded Monterey, grabbing the telescope from Chip's paws.
"Me too!" said Zipper.
"Hey, ladies first!" exclaimed Foxglove, flapping and grabbing the telescope.
"Wait! I was using it!" Chip scolded them.
Gadget watched her invention passing from one companion to another. "Please guys, be careful! That's a very delicate instrument!"
While everyone was trying to watch through the telescope at the same time, Dale slipped behind Gadget. Filled with curiosity, he sank his paw inside the witch's long silk cloak. At first, nothing strange happened, aside from the image of watching his paw disappear into the nothingness. But suddenly, Dale felt something cold and slimy wrapping his paw and pulling it further inside. Obviously, the bard screamed with all his strength. "Waaaaaahhhh! Chip, help meee!"
Everyone stopped to fight and turned to the bard. "Dale!"
Dale managed to pull his paw out of Gadget's cloak, just to be struck by the sight of a tentacle holding his wrist tightly. "Oh my god, oh my god! It's an octopus! An octopus is coming out of the cloak!"
"Gustav!" ordered Gadget. "Let him go! I'm not storing him!"
"Gustav?" exclaimed everyone shocked, while trying to free Dale from the tentacle.
Somehow the octopus heard Gadget's order and let go Dale at once, making him fall back along with Chip and Monterey. Zipper and Foxglove managed to fly aside at the last moment. "Darling, are you ok?" asked the pink bat to his boyfriend.
"Yeah, I guess… I still have my arm but… did you see it? It was an octopus!"
Chip bonked his friend in order to 'bring him to his senses'. "Dale! What were you thinking? Actually, were you thinking?"
"I'm so sorry Dale!" the witch apologized. "I forgot to tell you about Gustav, my octopus"
"You have an octopus as a pet?" asked Foxglove in disbelief.
"And he lives inside your cloak?" added Zipper.
"Well…" explained Gadget sheepishly. "This 'infinite storage room' silk cloak was inherited to me by my late father years ago. This cute octopus is the keeper. Gustav, say hello to my friends!"
The tentacle wiggled like a tail.
"Good boy!" praised him Gadget. "Now come back inside!"
Obedient, the tentacle disappeared beneath the cloak folds. Everyone arched their brows at the sight meanwhile Chip helped his friend to stand up again. "Now Dale, I think you owe Gadget an apology for rummaging in her… storage room"
Gadget shook her head. "Oh that's not…"
"So true, lad!" interrupted Monterey. "You were so lucky! What if instead of an octopus you had been attacked by a shark?"
"A shark?" echoed Gadget wide-eyed. "But…"
"…it could also be a lion, can you imagine it?" added Foxglove haunted.
"… or a poisonous snake…" added Chip coldly.
"…or a poisonous spider…" completed Zipper deadpanned.
On that moment, Dale was completely pale, trembling in fear over the images told by his friends. "Ok, ok! I got it! I will never do it again!"
"That's enough guys!" ordered the witch. "You are scaring him!"
Dale apologized shivering with pleading paws. "I'm so sorry, Gadget!" It won't happen again!"
The witch placed her paw over the frightened bard's shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. "Dale it's ok… I forgive you! And don't listen to them; there is no shark, lion, snake or spider inside my father's cloak. He chose Gustav as the keeper because an octopus is pretty inoffensive. My father didn't like to hurt anyone."
"Phew! That's a relief, thanks!" said Dale, breathing normally again.
Chip huffed and turned to the road again "Well, now that everything is back to normal… " He grabbed the telescope and looked at the strange lights on the distance. "Yes, it's them! The caravan is setting a campsite because… one of the wheels of the cage is broken? I wonder if Tammy had something to do with that"
"Excellent!" the big mouse celebrated. "What are we waiting for? Let's go there so I can tell my boss I'm quitting by making him eat my contract!"
"Oh! I wish I could do that!" commented Gadget absently.
"Right everyone! Let's move!"
Foxglove grabbed Dale by his shoulders again and lifted him up in the air. "Come sweetie, let's get there first again!"
"I follow you, Foxy!" The bard joked.
"On march, Zipper!" the knight signaled his little friend. "Time for another stroll!"
"At once, Monty!"
The knight and the scout began to walk and Chip picked up his backpack to join them, but was promptly stopped by Gadget hovering on her broom.
"Chip, what do you think you are doing? Climb up!"
"Gadget, that's not necessary anymore. I feel better, really!" Chip managed to smile despite the continuous jolts of pain from his ribs. He just didn't want to be a burden for the team.
But Gadget didn't buy that acting. She folded her arms and scolded her friend. "Please, stop playing the lone wolf. I don't like when you do that" She then offered her paw inviting him to ride at her side. "You are not a burden, Chip; you are our leader!"
The ranger couldn't resist the invitation of his smiling blonde friend for too long. Taking her paw, he mounted on the broom and they both rose up on the night sky. Chip had to admit it; he really liked to fly alongside Gadget.
"Umm Gadget…" Chip asked timidly.
"About your father… I want to give you my condolences; I wish I had met him"
"Aw, thank you Chip! I really appreciate it!" The witch squeezed Chip's paw gently, causing him to blush.
"Do you have any more family?"
Gadget nodded with melancholy. "Well, my mother died as well… Now I only have a sister left. A twin sister, back in Cologne"
"A twin sister?" asked Chip amazed. "What's her name?"
"… Lawhinie" answered Gadget hesitant. Suddenly, Chip wasn't sure if she wanted to talk anymore.
"Do you… miss her?" he asked cautiously.
"Sure, but only fifty-three percent of the time" she answered gloomy. "My sister was the one who convinced me to sign a contract with Mephisto, the wish granting demon"
Chip looked aghast at his friend. "But that's horrible!"
"Indeed it is…" she whispered. "Anyway, right now I prefer to stay with you and our new friends"
They both glanced at the rest of the group. Dale and Foxglove were laughing; playing races one against the other. The rogue bat was flapping forward some seconds to suddenly stop and encourage Dale to catch her. Just when the bard was about to touch her, she flapped again giggling.
Behind them, Monterey was jogging telling Zipper about that encounter with a clan of leprechauns, right after he found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Obvious to say, Zipper was having a hard time believing him.
"Heh, we are all crazy here" declared Chip smirking.
"Even you?" asked Gadget curious.
"Even me" answered Chip wryly.
Both friends looked at each other with appealling eyes, realizing that they were ready to trust and share all their painful secrets, away as they were from intrusive ears (except maybe Foxglove's). However, that time had just passed. Below them, the campfires and tents of the inquisition caravan appeared.