Tarts

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Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine


Bacon and eggs. That’s what I awoke to. Griffin sitting down in the middle of the tent chewing on bacon and shoveling eggs into his mouth while J had popped some earbuds in and was nodding her head to music. Sully was nowhere to be found but his book lay open on a blank page marked with something along the lines of doodles.

I stretched, Griffin grinning at me as he shoved some food into his mouth. A glass of bubbling water sat beside him and I held back the urge to move it.

The sun was bright in the plains, that was for sure. The grass moved about lazily and I could hear soldiers mulling about but most seemed to still be sleeping from what I could hear. A few acres away I could hear Sully mumbling to himself and getting frustrated.

My hair was a mess but J threw me a brush and quickly combed it. No need for a braid or bun today, no siree. Having it down would help keep the sun out of my eyes as well so that was a plus.

J raised an eyebrow at me not being in my form and I shrugged, waving a hand to signal I would tell her later. She smiled at me and handed me a plate of bacon with eggs and toast. If there was one thing I loved, it was eggs. Gimme gimme those undead chicken children.

Ok, I know eggs we eat are unfertilized but it’s still a rather funny yet dark thought, you gotta admit that at least, people.

I shoved a forkful of eggs into my mouth and they were surprisingly warm. A bit more salt would have been nice but I wasn’t complaining as my stomach was on fire from lack of food and drink.

My head was pounding with a massive headache but water would most likely help with that. My back ached a bit and my legs were still pretty sore but otherwise I felt physically fine. Mentally? Oh boy, that was another story.

The toast was nice and the butter to bread ratio was just right. A little bit of butter and a lot of bread. Yum, yum. The bacon was crispy and crunchy when I bit into, the grease dribbling down my lip and chin.

Griffin let me take a swig water and my gratitude for that was immense. That bacon though, greasier than Professor Snape’s hair, I tell you.

I just stayed there for a bit, sitting down and thinking over things.

So much had happened that I wasn’t really sure what to do. Sitting and housed about in this tent seemed pretty nice, wasn’t gonna lie but I also wanted to do something as well like… I dunno.

I needed to talk to Auggie about most everything though. I had so many questions but I was only really comfortable asking him, considering he was the only person I really knew here. I guess I trusted Griffin’s parents and the three idiots I was traveling with as well. Kinda the few people I knew here.

Sighing deeply, I got up and the back of my eyes pounded in pain as my head surged for a second before calming down. Great.

I didn’t know where to take the plate or what to even do with it but J said she would take and take it she did. After cleaning everything up and changing clothes from a bag J had brought with, I stepped out to go find Griffin’s parents.

I stopped and turned around to look at Griffin. He seemed perfectly fine to me but how was I to tell? Although, he was also seemingly a little shaken by most everything going on around him and I realized that a lot of the soldiers had to be open books to him.

Speed walking over, I tapped Griffin on the shoulder and he whipped around but took a deep breathe in relaxation after realizing who it was. He smiled at me cockily with a twinkle in his eyes. I smiled back, nervous.

“You good?” I asked him, shuffling about on my feet. He cocked his head at me, confused for a moment but soon continued.

“Um, yeah…” He said but the tone of his voice said otherwise.

“Sure, sure, Claric. What’s wrong?” I asked again and his eyebrows raised at the usage of his first name.

He huffed in playful agitation and sighed. “Too many emotions. It’s overwhelming. And my parents… I talked things through with them but I still feel so beaten down from everything. I don’t think they realized how much it hurts to be with abusive parents.” He told me as J meandered by and I saw Sully jogging back from the woods with tousled hair.

“Well, at least you met them, right? They aren’t gone and they seem pretty nice. Considering they helped me escape that Ripper place.” I replied as he smiled softly at me. He moved his shoulders around in circles and stretched his arms, almost hitting me in the head.

“Yeah, I guess so. Least they aren’t your parents, you know?” He said and I just nodded in response. It was right, I guess. He was better off with parents that actually did care. And one that wasn’t supposedly dead.

"Your's care. They obviously wanted to look for you but couldn't because... well, now we know. I think. But still. They love you. And you know that." I replied and knotted my fingers together, glad that at least he had some form of a proper parent now.

Oh. Did they know about that? About what my father did and how we didn’t know why he did it? Of course I had a different view on why he did it and if he was actually still alive but…

Griffin walked off to go find Ace, as he had to ask him a few question about exactly how his form might be different from theirs and I waved him off, left alone again.

I tapped my foot as I looked around, curious as to what to do. I need to take my mind off of Ripper, the pain in my legs and confused emotions that were racing through me at the moment.

I felt so claushtraphobic around all of these people. I felt tired still and didn't really want to move but I had to. Breathing exercises might've been a good idea, me. Thanks.

My necklace lay cold against my collar bone and the glass sparkled slightly in the early morning light. I tried to listen to the people around me but to no avail on the eavesdropping, that not realy helping anyways.

Running a few fingers over my necklace's chain, I wondered if trying to figure out how to actually shoot a bow would be helpful. Of course it would but could I do that now? There were some archers training with one another and all I had to do was ask one of them for some help.

I quietly walked over, hearing J behind me who was humming some tune of a song. I noticed that most people here didn’t really have phones but it seemed that they had something to listen to music from. Ipods, maybe?

The soldier I walked up to was a rather short man with a jutting chin and small lips. The bow he had seemed to be made of gold and the arrows he had were in the quiver on his back. He looked up at me and smiled but there was some fear in his eyes.

I really don’t want people being scared of me but what if that’s what I need to get through this world? This new life, I guess one could call it.

The man asked me what I was doing and I explained that I wanted some help with archery but I wasn’t really sure where to begin. His immediate response was to ask where my bow was and my quiver.

After I had shown him the bow and covered over his confusion of the arrows that I still was rather confused by myself, he started to explain to me that my form was a little off. Keeping the drawstring just up against your cheek is correct but you need to feel a small part of the drawstring itself as you let go of it. He also said that I need to practice and take my time. Shots don’t come easy, especially to people just starting out.

He noticed that I had a slight hang of it and let me practice, not telling me that the damned targets would start moving the better you got at straight forward shots. Seriously man, could have told me that at least!

Griffin came wandering about again with this spark in his eyes. He seemed ready to fight something as his eyes drifted over to me pulling back a drawstring again, the sleek arrow forming with a spark of red.

He came jogging over and sat just clear of the target as I let go of the arrow that barely missed the bullseye. That would’ve been the first one too!

Griffin chuckled at my small misfortune and got up asking to check out the bow. I paused for a second but let him hold the weapon, his fingers tracing the underside of the frame and running over the drawstring that was still there.

He smiled slightly as he admired the work and soon handed it back ever so gently. The cane was still propped in his hand but he didn’t seem to be using it as much as he was when I last saw him.

After I had my bow back on my neck, Griffin still stayed around me. He seemed really nervous but about what I wasn’t sure. I myself was nervous and didn’t know why but Griffin just seemed out of it, my guy.

I was getting antsy, something was off or whatnot. I need to go on a walk or, or something! My english is just great, isn’t it? “Griffin, I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back.” I told him but he gently grabbed my shoulder so that I was facing him again.

“No! What if… let me come with you, at least. To be safe.” He told me and I could hear the worry in his voice for once. He didn’t seem cocky at the moment.

I looked at him, thinking things over and decided it was ok to let him join me. And I did need some space to breathe and it seemed he needed a break from all of the people as well.

I headed off to wander to about in the wide plains, realizing just how crowded that place was and just how loud they were being. My ears felt wondrously better after I got a bit farther away and I felt some stress leave my aching legs. My nose still had some blood on it but otherwise it was mostly gone by this point. I was willing to bet J did something to the water because of it.

The sun was beating down now, the morning past and early afternoon having arrived. People seemed to have watches and things of the sort but otherwise I guess they just relied on the sun? I, myself, didn’t have a phone. Thanks, “mom”.

Griffin walked up beside me, no longer limping but was still using the cane. It wasn’t a very good discreet but I guess that wasn’t necessarily the point. Or maybe it is, honestly I dunno.

His hair was rather neat today and his eyes glinted in the sunlight like jewels. The tattoos along his neck and arms were as noticeable as the sun and gave him a terrifying feeling.

He grinned at me and I smiled softly back. The grass felt wonderful against my hands and I just plopped down, smashing it altogether like sand. I layed there as the sun beat down on my skin and sighed pleasantly.

A weight on my chest just stayed there as I grew calmer. It was a wonderful feeling to be calm for once. I hadn’t felt like this in months, years even if I was willing to say that. It wasn’t like much else and I was glad to be able to relax for a second. Well, besides when I was staring at the stars.

Griffin had me worried though. I knew he was glad to have his parents back but something was off now. After talking to him about his form. They were pretty sure about what it was from what he told me but the implications they had made about it seemingly scared him, that much anyone could tell.

I took in a deep breath and my lungs filled with fresh air. That had to be one of my favorite feelings, that taste of fresh air. Wouldn’t you agree? I think it’s pretty nice, even though coffee might take the winning in some people’s mind.

Griffin was just staring at me in confusion, his nostrils flaring as he took a deep breath. He was leaning on his heels, rocking back and forth almost as chillaxed on the ground and he soon just sat down, smushing some of the grass that sat between us.

“It’s peaceful when there aren’t too many people,” I stated as my fingers started braiding a few pieces of grass together. “A nice break.”

Griffin looked at me in curiosity for moment but soon nodded in agreement as he wrinkled his nose at some smell that I could not sense.

“You think my parents care that I’m not similar to them? Form wise?” Griffin blurted out as he rubbed his eyes.

I looked at him, surprised. This was what was bothering him? There had to be more.

“Dude, you look like a freakin’ scorpion. How could they care if you might just look like a badass?! Besides, they seem like great people so I wouldn’t worry too much.” I replied after I sat back up as quickly as I possibly could from sheer surprise that he would ask that.

Griffin didn’t say anything about my response, just kinda shrugged his shoulders but soon sat up a bit straighter and composed himself.

“Thanks, Nayleth. I’m just so… confused. So much is going on that I can’t really…”

“I can’t really either, don’t worry. Least we’re in this together. Or as together as a world like this can get, to be quite frank with you.”

Griffin smiled at me widely, surprising me with this dazzling grin that made his eyes seem brighter and he stretched with a groan. The light hit him just right and he looked like he would of been posing for one of those weird cologne ads, be it not very well.

I cocked my head, hearing a voice calling my name. It didn't sound panicked but important and my first instinct was to ignore it because god dammit, I was comfortable! But I got up, stretched and head toward whomever was calling me back at the camp as I watched smoke plew up from fires to cook.

---

Sully saw me as Griffin tagged behind, ushering me over quickly as Griffin followed suit. He seemed... stressed to say the least but I didn’t pry. J, on the other hand seem relaxed and was conversing with the nurse who had those weird blue-black eyes that grinned lovingly at her while she kept chatting.

Griffin grabbed J’s attention who waved goodbye to the nurse who grinned cheekily at her and hopped on over to join us over at Ace and Blitz’s tent which seemed off. I could hear them talking but something else was going on as well. Someone else was talking?

As we got closer I wiggled my ears, aching to try and get a better angle on the noise but to no avail. But ever so soon I could hear the voices as clear as day and a smile appeared on my lips.

Auggie was leaned over a map spread out across a table in the corner of the room, his bow tie untied and his glasses askew. His hair was frazzled and he didn’t seem like he got much sleep, if any.

Mark was talking to Blitz about some of his students that would be fit for healing and oceanic jobs and could recommend them to any recruitment center. His shirt was unkempt, again, and he seemed rather frazzled. He was muttering about different strategies while Blitz kept telling him it was not his place any more, he was a teacher now.

We walked in and I cleared my throat to get the attention of anyone that wasn’t paying attention and Mark’s head snapped up right as Auggie whipped his head up as well and I laughed while they looked at me with confused expressions.

Auggie hugged me tightly and his sigh seemed to have let out all of his stress. I hugged him back and chuckled, even if it was slightly forced. Something was off with everyone in this room and I could tell Griffin was absolutely overwhelmed by it, as he was taking some deep breaths and was rubbing the bridge of his nose.

Mark smiled brightly at all of us and I kindly returned it even though I was feeling pressured. Not pressured but… something along those lines, I guess. You get it?

Auggie fixed his bow tie after letting go of me and sighed again. “I’m sorry. We won’t ever do that again.” He said as Ace gave him a quizzical look. Blitz just snorted but said nothing as she was looking over a map.

I looked at him and paused. “What do you mean? Letting us go out and me ending up in some weird place called Ripper that has ancient greek like gladiator battles? I think it helped, “ I said as I paused. “With some things. Not saying it didn’t make others worse but it helped. I think.”

Auggie looked at me with skepticism but didn’t push anything. He hugged me again and Mark wandered on over. He smiled grimly and said sorry, saying Auggie would go with us next time.

I laughed and said it was ok. No big deal. That I was lucky Griffin’s parents were there in the first place. But how could I tell them that my insides were knots and I couldn’t get this weight off of my chest? That I was choking on my own thoughts?

I wandered over to the map that was sprawled out across a table, ogling at the oceans fine detail and lands intricate patterns. Little clouds floated over the mountains on the map, moving with small specks of whiteness while the ocean seemed to be churning on the map with frothing waves and angry tentacles lashing about.

My hand gently followed the border of the map as Mark wandered over to me, sighing. I could tell everyone still felt like shit from what had happened but I would be fine. I would need to tell them about my form but otherwise things would be ok. They had to be, right?

Mark pointed to the forest, a little building tucked away on the map that wasn’t quite surrounded by trees. Small clusters of buildings were everywhere along the map and in lacey handwriting, names were etched just below the buildings. The map seemed to yawn as the clouds moved along the mountains and the sea frothed with rage. I wasn’t sure what to think but I was rather intrigued.

Mark told me that the forest had many large clearings but it was where our school was set up. Plenty of spots to help train and it allowed for an advantage when it came to attacks. But my question was why would anyone attack school in the first place? Then again, the students seemed like they wanted a fight, more than anything which normally provoked danger.

But it wasn’t wise to think the school had a training ground for soldiers. In fact, it’s more of a lets-help-you-figure-out-that-gift-of-your’s kinda school instead of draining your happiness and well being.

There were restaurants and bars, schools and hospitals. This place seemed to have everything and yet nothing similar to the Earth that I knew and it was getting confusing. Or was it? I’m not the reader here, if this was a book.

I gently tapped the building that Mark said was Edendale and wondered what we would do next. I felt shaken from the inside out and needed to relax. Maybe a visit to my Graham’s bakery back on the other Earth would help…

I snapped my head up as I heard a scream rip through the air like a dull knife. My ears were streaked with pain but Mark looked at me with a wincing-like face as a few of his fingers traced an ear. It hurt his ears too, apparently. He looked at me then ran out with Auggie close behind and they launched themselves into the air to see what had happened.

My back began to itch irritably and my skin felt warmer but I ignored it. I didn’t want to to go through that at the moment and after all, I think I had to figure out where I was going next anyways. And make sure where that scream-

“RUN!” Auggie hollered as he dove down and grabbed me, wrapping his tail around my waist and arms tightly around my chest. I started to squirm until I saw fire spreading through the tents. Eating away at the nylon fabric and burrowing into the dugouts that housed people and supplies. Soldiers in those red splattered suits charged through as men and women fought back.

My eyes went wide as I saw a man, he looked relatively young, walking through. His face was partly molten, golden goop gently rolling down like beads of sweat while the other part of his face was completely normal. His eyes were as black as coal but his one hand was water, steaming about from the heat around it.

Then my eyes darted to the three idiots standing back to back. Griffin was still confused on how to use the sword but kept glancing up toward me, Sully was obviously pissed at Auggie because he swearing him out even though he seemed thankful about him scooping me up like ice cream. J was extremely calm as vines had begun to slink around like an angry snake.

I wriggled about as my skin grew hot again and my back felt prickly. I needed out. I wanted out. And that weird man was only making things worse; the panic in my head, the fire in my blood.

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