Chapter 28 = Beneath the star-lit sky
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
The second day in the mountains progressed much like the first, though a little more cheerfully than the previous day had been. Visali and Dave were in the front, talking to each other about the University and other ways to improve their quadra spears; Shiala and Marcus were walking hand-in-hand behind them talking to each other in low tones, but laughing every so often; and Xenly helped Manny hobble along on his cast as they brought up the rear.
The bright sunlight prevailed for the rest of the day, beating down in between the hills and mountains to reach the travellers as they followed the mountain trail up and down and around the hills. There was hardly any vegetation around them growing in the rocky landscape, maybe the odd patch of grass and weeds, but no trees or bushes.
They only had a single encounter with a Koopa, which ran when it saw five armed Yoshies and an armed human bearing down on it. They could hear it snarling to itself as they passed by a large boulder, and Xenly kept checking behind her until they couldn’t hear it any longer. When the sun started to sink down and the sky became an expanse of reddish shades, Visali called them to a stop to take the first rest they’d had that day; they’d even had their meals while still walking. Shiala’s backpack had originally had enough supplies for only four Yoshies, and as they were supporting a human and a fifth Yoshi, they were having to stretch the food a bit thin and try to ignore the pangs of hunger.
“We’ll keep going once it’s dark.” Visali said to them as they sat down in a rough circle. “It looks like it’s going to be clear, so we can go by the light of the stars… and the lunar cycle’s starting again, so if you’re lucky you may just be able to see the larger moon if there’s a gap in the mountain peaks.”
“How far are we from the next city?” Shiala asked, rubbing the soles of her feet as she sat next to Marcus.
Dave looked around for a moment before saying, “We’ve come pretty far… we ought to reach Corvan some time tomorrow afternoon. We’d get there sooner if we didn’t have to walk at Manny’s pace, but at least you get to take the scenery in.”
“It’s not my fault.” Manny muttered. “I didn’t want to get my leg broken, you know. I want to get this checked out as soon as we arrive.”
“No need.” Visali replied. “We can take you to the university and get some of the magi-medicine students to look at you. They’re mostly girls, so it won’t be too bad, right?”
The blue Yoshi gave a chuckle and retorted, “I’m sure if I say that Visali sent me, they’ll give me some special treatment, eh?”
“Ah, you’ve got me there, Manny. One of them’s my girlfriend, so you’ll be guaranteed to get some kind of a response if you say that.”
“You have a girlfriend?” Marcus asked, looking away from Shiala for a moment.
“Yep!” Visali replied, beaming. “Dark pink Yoshi with the longest eyelashes you’ll ever see. But be warned; get on her bad side and you may or may not live to regret it… that temper of hers ought to be kept on a ball and chain.”
“I second that.” Dave said glumly. “Last time I ticked her off I had the rest of her class looking after me for a week while the wound healed. She knows some pretty nasty magic considering she’s a magi-medic in training!”
“I think she said something about self-defence.” His Yoshi friend recalled. “Or too much free time and too much library access. One of those. Or both. Sweet girl though, until the flames light up behind her eyes.”
Silence fell for a moment, before Xenly flopped down on the ground, lying on her back with her legs crossed as best she could. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m exhausted… probably from holding up this cripple for most of the day.” She said weakly, nudging Manny’s leg with her elbow.
“Hey, I’m not crippled, but if you keep poking that cast then you soon will be.”
“Bring it on, bucko, I could beat you using just my tongue and a rusty spoon. Go on, give me your best shot.”
Xenly shot him a quick grin, before deliberately prodding his cast and making him wince. “I’m warning you…” he began, but she did it again, and he made a swipe for her.
Suddenly, her arms became a blur of motion; and the next thing Manny knew, his arm was being forced back painfully, with Xenly holding it just using two fingers on her left hand.
While he tried again and again to get a good hit on her, much to the amusement of Dave and Visali, Marcus and his feral companion left most of their things and snuck away a short distance and lay on their backs together beneath the stars.
Shiala sighed and said, “I don’t like being with them… you keep talking in your language and I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Well,” Marcus replied, “I can always try to teach you… if you ever want to live in the city, you’re going to need to know the common tongue.”
“We’ll see… where are you going, anyways?”
“Didn’t we tell you?”
She shook her head, and Marcus gave a sigh as he stared up to the stars. “Remember I told you about Alziana? Whoever killed her took out my entire village, too, and my family and friends… except Manny and me. And Karin, but you never met her… but we’re going to find the person who did that, and we’re going to kill him.”
“Essentially. We don’t know how far we are, whether we’ll make it, or what… we just keep going, hoping that we’ll win in the end…”
He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, and felt Shiala clasp hands with him. “What will you do after you’ve done that?”
“Settle down somewhere… I hope… just live a normal, quiet life with Manny…”
“What about me?”
Marcus opened his eyes and tilted his head to look at her. “I thought you were going back to the ferals.”
“I might… but would you like to come with me?”
With a smile, Marcus rolled onto his side and softly stroked her fins. “I would love to. Do ferals get married?”
“No,” Shiala said with a shake of her head, “They don’t… because there are so few ferals in any given community, anybody can go with anyone… having lots of different pairings gives lots of different children… occasionally, you’ll get a family being raised as one, but neither parent stays completely loyal to their partner. It’s just the way it is, and it’s something we do to survive… if there were more of us, we could afford to marry and keep families to themselves, but small feral communities that do that die out.”
Solemnly, Marcus muttered, “I don’t really like the idea of you going off with other males, even if it’s not serious…”
“Well, usually, you get a mating, and the child, and one parent will take the Yoshi egg and they’ll go their separate ways. Sometimes, if you have lovers, they’ll raise the family together, but otherwise… it’s just survival instincts, you know? Something within us that’s there since we hatch… things we do without thinking about… you just want to have a child with the biggest and strongest members of the opposite gender, to have big and strong children to keep the community going.”
“I know, and if I was a feral, I would agree, but I’m not… and I want you to be mine and only mine…”
“I understand.” She said softly with a sigh, as they both sat up to look into each other’s eyes. After a moment, she ran her hands down his chest, over the chain of the elven necklace, and across the bandage around him. She rubbed it gently and Marcus didn’t react to it, so she leant forward and began unwrapping it, eventually revealing a light scar on his chest over his left ribcage. Marcus smiled and nodded in thanks, taking the bandage and crumpling it up before throwing it over his shoulder; it was made out of some kind of plant fibre that would be broken down over time.
Shiala then took the rune on the necklace chain in her right hand and looked at it. Marcus noticed that it wasn’t even so much as sparkling; the metallic silver was reflecting her image but it didn’t have even the slightest hint of a blue tint to it. After she let it fall back to his chest, they both lay down to look up to the star-studded sky, and after a time Marcus spoke. “I wonder if there’s anyone else out there.”
“Look up to the sky…” Marcus murmured, waving his hand up to the vastness of space. “There are millions and millions of stars… each one could have planets around it, and each planet might contain intelligent life. It’s a very small chance, but that chance has millions of opportunities to occur. There could be a planet that only had Yoshies on it, or only humans or whatever…”
“You know what would be weird?”
“If there was another planet out there with life on it, and they were also looking into the sky right now and wondering if they were alone in the universe or not.”
Marcus gave a chuckle. “You’re right, that would be weird…”
Then, Visali’s voice came over to them. “Hey, you two! As soon as we’ve disentangled Manny here, we’re leaving, so get your stuff together!”
Sitting up, Marcus saw that Xenly had Manny in a very painful position involving one of her knees up against his back, and his arms and uninjured leg behind him. Shiala sat up next to him and laughed as Manny struggled to get free from the white Yoshi’s hold, before she put an arm around Marcus.
“If I ever learn how to do that, you’d better watch what you say to me, or you could be in for a very rough night.”
“Aw, you’d never do that to me, would you?” He replied lightly, leaning forward and touching noses with her. “After all, if you injure me, I might not be the biggest and strongest any more…”
She giggled and countered, “Well then, I’m sure Manny would have someone to make him feel warm and fuzzy, hm?”
“That’s not funny.” Marcus murmured.
“Aww, did I touch a nerve?” she said sarcastically. “I’ll make it up to you, don’t worry…”
She gave him a gentle kiss on the nose, and after smiling for a moment he began to lean towards her, kissing her passionately in the starlight. As he took his lips away from her, he heard her very faintly whisper to him, “Marcus, I love you.”
He did not respond at first, kissing her again as thoughts raced through his head. He remembered Alziana and him splitting an orihalca gem, supposedly declaring their love to each other for as long as they lived…
But that time is over, as one is dead and the other is not.
As he broke away, in an equally low tone, he said in a soft voice to her, “Shiala… I love you, too.”
One final time, they embraced and held each other tightly, putting everything else out of their minds as they almost drowned in the hormone rush, their skin rubbing, their tongues slithering around their mouths, immersed in a sense of tranquillity just for a few, precious, intimate moments together…
But, just as Marcus was about to break away, everything seemed to slow down, bit by bit, until he found he couldn’t move at all, just think… and then, his consciousness slipped away from him once more. Suddenly, he somehow landed hard on his front on the cold, granite floor of the strange place he was getting used to finding himself in, usually accompanied by one of the Yoshi gods…
To be continued…