Twelve begins where the second draft of 10 leaves off, making it a great base for the new chapter 11. That means that the two draft’s chapter numbers will be out of synch from now on–but hey! It just means I’m doing my job and slicing out all the crap to make the story more concise.
12 – Stone Rory Refuge
Darrow and Tome were the first down from the stands: climbing up onto the ring along with Mean as soon as Pinada was finished lowering the four walls. Dark sat beside the smoldering, wooden remains.
“Are you okay, man?” Darrow asked.
Dark coughed, holding his glove to his mouth. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. I might need a drink of something, though.”
“I’ll get it,” Mean said, touching his shoulder as she hurried off.
A wet thump sounded as King’s rory landed next to the creature that had emerged from the breastplate. King swung off the gilded shell, his eyes blazing above his scraggly, black beard. He stared down at the squirming lump.
“King, I didn’t mean to upset anyone,” Eon pleaded, edging over from the throne. “But Sing is who I––”
Without looking King shot out his hand and Eon vanished with a loud bang. He knelt down, watching the creature. Its eyestalks and body were flattened against the ground.
“It is a stone rory,” King confirmed. “Oh––don’t touch it,” he warned Darrow as he leaned closer.
“Is it alright?” Darrow asked. King’s rory slid closer and bent its eyestalks over the smaller one.
“Well, I know that stone rories aren’t as pliable as other species,” he said. “They need heat––special conditions to fit into their shells. Eon must have molded it into a shape that would fit into that armor. Barbaric. I don’t know what to do, though.”
“I know a place,” Tome offered, “It’s a refuge for this type. I think they can help.”
King looked up. “How in the world do you know a place like that?” he asked, then waved his hand. “Oh, never mind. Dark––will you carry it? Their slime is corrosive, if I recall.”
Dark nodded, reaching over and inching his gloves under the slimy pile. As Dark lifted it up, the little rory crept up his arm. Mean walked over to find him cradling it.
“Wow, it really likes you,” she said. “Here’s your drink. I’ve never seen you drink before so I got you whatever.” She held up a cup with a straw, and Dark leaned over.
“Thanks,” he told her, then took a long gulp through the gap in his helmet. “We’re going to take it to the stone rory refuge.”
As they went with King to the public hex door, Parlay joined them.
“I want to see if I can help it too,” she said.
Dark’s lips under the helmet grinned at her. “I had a feeling you might.”
The group materialized inside a foyer decorated with stone shells and plush merchandise. A lone attendant at a counter’s cash register looked up.
“Welcome to the Stone––oh, hey, I know you!” she said. “Aren’t you King from––”
“Yes, indeed I am,” King confirmed, rushing over. “And we have a rory that was injured at my fair. Can you help it?”
She slid off her chair and waved everyone through the lobby without speaking again. Dark strode at his normal pace now, through the opening door and out into a high-walled, outdoor area. A keeper with a clipboard sat at a large, many-faced engine on a pedestal; and behind him, stairs ascended past multiple tiers. Thin pillars dotted these tiers, each holding aloft a small platform. Rories with stone and pumice shells lay on top of them.
“What do you have there?” the keeper asked Dark. “I didn’t hear about getting any new rories today. Good lord, what happened to it?”
“It was smashed in between two plates of armor for––I don’t know. A few days, at least,” Dark told him. He held the little, slimy thing out along with his arm. The keeper set his clipboard down and donned a visor that hung on the engine from a peg. He took a paper strip from his pocket, touched it to the rory, examined it, then frowned.
“It’s not looking good,” the keeper said, placing the paper aside and pushing the visor up onto his brow. “Its internal organs are too compressed. We need to get it out of that flattened shape.”
“I’ll pay for the treatment,” King said, and the keeper looked at him with wide eyes for a moment.
“I just don’t think we can do it right now. Not here,” he replied. “The plants we use––I don’t know if you can see them up there––but those plants aren’t in season. They can put out the proper heat, but only at certain times during the year.”
“Want me to go get the flamethrower?” Darrow asked. The keeper shook his head.
“No, it needs to be those plants; don’t ask me why. I can send out the word to some of the other stations; maybe theirs are in the right stage of growth.”
King held up a finger. “I think we can handle that part. Parlay––?”
The blond-haired woman nodded. “I can try. Plants are pretty easy.”
“What do you mean?” the keeper asked. “What did you say her name was?”
King removed his crown and held it to his chest. “She is the Parlay that no doubt you have heard of. Now, she believes she can get your plant into the right state, so to speak, but she will have to manipulate it herself.”
“I’ve heard what she does,” the keeper said. “Look––I’ll let you try; that rory needs help. Just don’t go telling everyone that you were here, alright?”
King bowed. “Not a word. Shall we, then?”
He set his crown atop his balding head again, as the keeper turned to the engine. After a few button presses every pillar trembled and lowered into the floor. When they had all descended, Parlay pointed at one. Two small plants clung to the top: both consisting of tiny vines light purple in hue.
“Bring it over here, Dark,” Parlay said, taking the stairs up. Dark followed her. She stepped onto a bench seat and knelt, taking one of the vine’s tips in her hand.
“Were these all cultivated from the same parent?” she asked, looking back. The keeper nodded. “Okay, Dark, hold it up above that other plant. These guys are all share a magical link in their patterns, so when ones goes––they all do.”
Dark obeyed her, kneeling as well, with the flattened rory still clinging to his arm. The vines rolled inward as he approached: wadding up into a compact, squishy ball.
“Okay. Good,” Parlay stated. She flinched back a little. “Now I just––”
The plants flickered and a fire bloomed on them both; Parlay winced, holding on with just the tips of her fingers.
“She did it,” the keeper said, slipping on the visor again. Small flames had ignited on the many platforms, scattering the rories there. They launched upward and hovered around the jets of intensifying heat: some staying back while others dipped themselves in. Dark’s arm was engulfed and he shielded the gap in his helmet with his free hand. Parlay grit her teeth and held her face away.
“We need to get inside,” the keeper told the others. “When the rories are done molding their shells they’ll scrape the magic from every pattern they can. It’s how they extinguish the flame, but it will hit everything else inside the walls, too.”
The group retreated inside, watching the columns of rippling air. Many of the rories were rolling around: smashing their shells into different shapes as they began to glow. When each had finished they emitted the white spindles, snuffing out the flames one by one. Soon only the fire next to Dark and Parlay remained.
“It’s amazing––no matter how many times I see it,” the keeper marveled.
“It’s certainly something,” Darrow said.
“I had a son that felt the same way;” the keeper laughed, “he didn’t like the rories much. Thought they were disgusting.”
Mean tapped on the glass door. “Look––it went out! They’re done; let’s go see!”
As she stepped out with the others Dark lumbered to his feet again. Now it was he who was sluggish; the rory on his arm poking its head in the air: its body full and round with eyestalks bending in all directions. Parlay had tears running down her face.
“You guys did it!” Mean said, galloping up the stairs to them. “Wow, he looks great! Parlay, you guys saved it!”
“Yeah,” Parlay said, massaging her fingers in the soft folds of her vest. “I’m glad it worked; I like being able to help things, for a change.”
Mean smiled at her, as Tome and Darrow rushed up.
“Well, it looks lively,” Tome said, as the rory doubled around and slid over Dark’s chest.
“Yeah, he just kind of inflated,” Dark said, clamping his mouth shut for a second as the eyestalks came close. “I think I need to rest again, though; my armor got drained again.”
As he sat on a nearby bench Mean gave him the cup that she had been holding. He took another long gulp through the straw.
“Well, I don’t think that I should risk staying here long,” Parlay said. “Thanks for all your help, Dark.”
“You too,” Dark replied, and Parlay rushed off: joining King and the keeper at the door leading in from the yard. Mean sat down on the bench and Darrow and Tome gathered around.
“How did you know the little guy was in there?” Darrow asked, extending his finger and pulling it back as the rory slithered toward it.
“I remembered something Tome said––when we first met him here,” Dark replied.
“Me?” Tome coughed. “What did I say?”
“You said that Parlay came here in the days before the end,” Dark went on. “And that there was some commotion about an injured rory. Since we’re in that time now, I thought I’d watch out for when that happened. At first I figured that King’s rory would be the injured one, but then Parlay told us that some used magic––like what Eon was doing.” Dark shrugged. “It seemed likely, so I just thought I’d check.”
Tome bolted upright. “Wait! That means I’m here! We shouldn’t be talking about––oh, nevermind”––he relaxed again––”the rory wiped the magic; my past self can’t see anything right now.”
Darrow nodded, folding his arms. “I guess we should leave before we change the timeline or something. I mean, more than we’re trying to, anyway.”
“That’s a smart plan,” Tome agreed, and the group took the stairs down to the engine and pedestal. The keeper was coming back out wearing a thick pair of gloves. Dark headed over to him.
“I guess I’ll give this to you,” he said, taking the rory and holding him out. The slimy thing squirmed as the keeper reached for him: popping out of Dark’s grip, slipping over his arms, and clinging tight to his chest again.
“Uh oh,” the keeper said, backing off. “Where did you say you found him? Inside––”
“Someone’s armor, yes,” Dark finished. “A piece of chest armor.”
The keeper clicked his tongue. “Hm, this rory might be confused––it might think that it’s supposed to live on a person. It may not even take to normal shells.”
“What?” Dark asked. “What does that mean? I have to keep it on me!?”
“You get to be its dad!” Darrow laughed. “Oh, this is priceless!”
“I can give you the type of food that it eats until we figure something out,” the keeper said. Dark sighed.
Mean, Darrow, Trisk, Tome, and Vornis appeared at a hex door carved in a paved lot. Dark walked with half of his cape drawn over his chest: the head of the rory peeking out. People in bathing suits and scant clothes wandered out of other doors nearby, heading toward a large complex of towers and slides in the distance.
“What happened?” Darrow asked. “What are we doing out here? This is still Hilo’s right?”
“I think so, but our usual suite could be full,” Tome suggested, shielding his eyes from the sun overhead.
“Right, I forgot,” Mean said. “Crowds, having to pay––we’ll get the full experience this time!”
“Yay,” Vornis said, and they all began walking toward the shouts and splashes sounding from the distant towers. They followed a group of teenagers––with the girls in the group taking glances back––all the way up to an arched entryway. A line of people extended out from the gate: winding past the word “HILO” written in suspended pools of odd water.
“Maybe this could be fun after all,” Vornis said, winking at one of the girls and flexing his scale-covered chest. She shrieked, pressing into the people ahead of her.
“You can’t even fit in the slides,” Darrow grumbled.
“I don’t think any of us will have to worry,” Trisk said, pointing. “Looks like they’re already calling security on us.”
Ahead, at the gate, a young man was speaking into a device: his eyes shifting between Darklord and Vornis.
“Well, I did forget to bring sunscreen for the two percent of my face showing,” Dark lamented.
“I guess we do stand out,” Tome said. “We should probably go.”
As the group of people ahead murmured and stared, the letters spelling “HILO” shifted in shape. With a plop, the water drew into one unified blob. A chute extended from the wall nearby, and a person flew out of the tunnel: landing in the liquid and making a splash.
“Hilo! It’s Hilo!” a little boy said, blinking through the spray.
“Welcome, guests!” the man cried. He bounded out of the water, keeping a hat pressed to his head. It was woven from straw and water dripped from its edges: splattering down and rolling over and off his slick suit. “Come over here––yes, that group with the armored fellow––you’re not in trouble; don’t worry; don’t worry.”
Darrow and Tome were the first ones over, and the man shook their hands: moving from one to the next as they gathered.
“My name is Hilo and I run this park,” the man said, bowing as he met Mean. “I know who most of you are; me and my staff have been watching you play at the fair.”
He doffed his hat as he edged over to Trisk, and liquid continued to dribble from the brim.
“So I’m quite glad you all decided to visit us here––you will have to keep your clothes on, miss––here at my fabulous park oozing with my miraculous invention: the one and only place with odd water!”
He swirled his hat around on his finger, and an onlooking child giggled as he was sprinkled. Hilo smiled sideways at him.
“It’s a unique pattern: You can breathe while submerged. It retains all of the buoyancy of water. And it can be molded and formed into any shape possible!”
Mean gave Dark a small frown and Hilo spotted it at once.
“You seem nervous;” he said, placing the dripping hat on his head. “let me assure you that it is perfectly safe and the flow is monitored by us at all times. Gracious! Is that the rory you saved from the cult leader?” He leaned in, and the slimy eyestalks stretched out from under the cape. “It looks much better now––ah, but we don’t allow pets on the grounds.”
“He’s kind of stuck with him,” Mean said. “The rory thinks that is normal to live in, I guess.”
Hilo clenched his mouth shut and stared at them both. He hummed to himself, and the water dripped past his face as he thought.
“Oh, of course!” he exclaimed, twisting around and shouting at the young man at the gate. “Marco, get suite A ready! And the rest of you”––he gestured to the people that were gawking nearby––”you all get in free! Tell your friends! This is where the Jesians are spending the day!”
The crowds gave their thanks and wandered back to the gate; Hilo spun on his heel to lead Mean and her group back across the wide lot.
“You don’t mind if I tell people you were here, do you?” Hilo asked, walking along. “Don’t worry; the suite has private slides––even catering! Oh, you don’t eat, though. I’ll have it deactivated. How do you feel about doing commercials?”
“Oh man, are you serious!?” Darrow asked. “That would be wild!”
“Mm, yes,” Hilo said, eyeing him. “Your shirt works. Colorful––festive! Let’s put one on ‘the Beast’ too. Soften him up for the kids. And”––he pointed at Dark––”what was that you said in the ring? ‘Party with the Darklord?’ Yes, I like it. Let’s use it.”
Dark chuckled as Hilo paused. “No, I don’t really do things like that.”
“Oh, of course,” Hilo replied. “I’m sure you’re different outside the suit. ‘Persona’ is what you and Jelk do, right? Here we are.”
A couple wearing sun hats was exiting the hex door, and Hilo bowed at them as they stared at the group. Darrow bounded in but Hilo called him back.
“No, not yet,” he said, bending over at a toll kiosk. “Just stand around it and keep your eyes on one of the hex door spires.”
“What’s it doing?” Mean asked, looking up with a raised brow.
“Oh, right, sorry,” Hilo said, tapping some buttons. “It’s memorizing your faces: the patterns that light makes when it’s reflected off them, that is. Since you seem so nervous, I’ve decided to give you all incentive to visit––a free pass to my suites! Now the receiving hex doors at my park will take you directly there from now on! For a limited time, of course. I’ll decide how long later. Okay––it’s ready! Please step inside.”
The six did so and Hilo cheered them on. “Alright! Enjoy your stay! And remember to tell all of your friends back on your world about my park! Open for most of the year!”
He gave one final salute, spinning the rim of his hat and sprinkling off a ring of odd water. As he did so, the sky vanished and walls lined with lockers appeared all around them. As they stepped out of the six pillars water lapped at their ankles, and the current flowed into another sunlit room and beneath a long table. A jaunty tune played from somewhere nearby.
“We’re in our room,” Mean said. “I mean, this is where we usually show up when we come here, right?”
“It is,” Vornis affirmed, looking up at a yellow banner. “I don’t remember that being there, but everything else matches.”
“So is that the reason it sends us here in the future?” Darrow pondered. “Because Hilo decided to give us free rides in the past? That’s awesome.”
“Awesome? I’m not so sure,” Dark said. The rory on his chest slipped down his right leg, testing the water. “That would mean that the effects of our trip here have already altered our future. That we have already seen the changes before we ever even knew we could change it.”
“What? No,” Darrow stated. “But that would mean––”
“It means we don’t save anyone,” Trisk finished.
Dark’s match with Eon has ended, and the fanatic is disqualified for his illegal use of magical snails. Dark takes the injured rory to the stone rory refuge, and Parlay uses the “exothermic wonder vines” (I forgot what they’re called) to mold the animal back into shape.
The group then visits Hilo Water Plaza and finds themselves at the front gate, instead of at the suite they usually appear in. It seems that the hex doors take them to the gate by default, and only after being scanned by Hilo himself do the doors take them to the private suites. This fact gives Dark’s theory credibility: that any alteration to the past has already happened and been experienced by those in the future.
“Want me to go get the flamethrower?” Darrow asked. The keeper shook his head.
It took me a second to realize that Darrow was referring to Dark’s flame gun from the previous match. The keeper seems to take this comment in stride for some reason. I never did say exactly where Dark got it from, though. Perhaps the flame gun is a common product? I guess I should figure it out.
“Okay, Dark, hold it up above that other plant. These guys are all share a magical link in their patterns, so when ones goes––they all do.”
Here Parlay uses the fire vines to save the life of a helpless animal; while in the first book, Parlay uses the same plants to burn Trisk alive. CONTRASTS!
“It’s amazing––no matter how many times I see it,” the keeper marveled.
Keeper dude, I was rushing the descriptions here so there’s no reason at all to be so amazed. I’ll try to make the scene worthy of your reaction though. Either that, or I’ll just have you say “It’s mediocre! Just like the last time it happened!”
As she stepped out with the others Dark lumbered to his feet again. Now it was he who was sluggish….
Oh, come on! Sluggish? A pun!? How did that get in there!? I’m erasing the chapter.
“You too,” Dark replied, and Parlay rushed off: joining King and the keeper at the door leading in from the yard….”
While Mean, Dark, and the rest talk in the yard I might have King and Pinada discuss Eon’s cult and its possible threat to the fair. It’s been a few chapters since I cut that conversation out, and I need to put it back in soon.
Conneld needs to be present as well, though. Hm, it wouldn’t be too weird to have him show up here. King allowed him to investigate the Jesians if they went outside the fair, after all.
I would have to make sure it happened after the rory magic-wipe, though. Since past Tome is here as a spirit, he’d be able to pick up the conversation by sensing the patterns. Okay. Good. Sounds like a plan.
“My name is Hilo and I run this park,” the man said, bowing as he met Mean.
Now what is this!? Why in the world are they at the water park!?! They just show up, and I didn’t even put a B.S. reason for it!
Okay, so I KNOW there’s a plot reason for them to go there, but man–I still have to think of a good excuse for them to suddenly decide to go swimming. Maybe I can have Conneld show up like I said before. He’s King’s brother, and he’s investigating them, so maybe Tome could suggest that they go somewhere to discuss the situation–somewhere not related to King. Hilo’s would be good, since they meet there often in the future.
Yes! This can work!
Hey! Stop being so negative!
“It means we don’t save anyone,” Trisk finished.
No! No! No! Oh my goodness this just turned into the end of every Hunger Games chapter. That is just too obvious. Looking ahead, I see that the next chapter continues this conversation. So I might just put that here so the ending isn’t all bleak.
Or maybe I want it to be bleak. We just had a “high” moment when Dark saved the rory. It might be good to end on a “low.” We’ll see.