Chapter 76 = Friend and Foe
Disclaimer: With one exception, all characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
When Darkmark awoke early in the morning, he was dismayed to see that it was still snowing outside, albeit not as heavily as it had been the day before. When he looked over and saw that Skafria was absent from his bed, Darkmark gave an audible groan and sank his face back into the pillows. Already the day looked like it was starting horridly, and it would only get worse.
After another five minutes of undisturbed peace under the blankets, Darkmark finally decided to get up, fanning his wings out suddenly to fling the bedclothes off of his body, then getting up, dressed, and armed with the sword before heading out into the corridor.
Neither Skafria nor the Yoshi were anywhere to be seen, and Darkmark headed out to the main lobby to find the latter sat in one of the chairs in front of the fire, which had been supplied with new kindling since yesterday. She was calmly munching her way through various fruits and pastries from a small foldable table in front of her. Looking over, Darkmark spotted another tray that was almost ready, and the orange Yoshi behind it smiled brightly as she tried to finish it off.
“It was going to be for your friend, but he didn’t want it. I wonder why…” she murmured. “He’s locked outside, by the way. He lost a tussle with her.” She added, nodding in the sky-blue Yoshi’s direction.
Sighing and going off to let Skafria in from outside, Darkmark grabbed his cloak from where he had hung it the previous day and put it back on as a shivering Skafria came back in and steered as clear as he could from the other Yoshi. Darkmark’s imagination ran wild as to what might have happened as he grabbed the tray of food and carried it over to the fire, taking a seat in one of the big chairs.
“He came by earlier, but I didn’t want to wake you.” The other Yoshi muttered, looking over to him as he took a bite out of an apple. “What’s up with him though?”
“Vampire.” Darkmark replied, before picking up a large watermelon. “Only this sword I’ve got is any good against him.”
“He doesn’t seem to like being encased in ice, though.”
“Not really, now that you mention it…”
That was it for another few minutes as Darkmark made his way through the food, happy to have something relatively fresh and not the various preserved supplies in his saddlebags. “Where are you going?” she asked, and Darkmark jerked his thumb in the general direction they were headed.
“Into the mountains. You?”
“I’m just wandering.”
Darkmark nodded, taking a bite out of a mango and licking up the juice that gushed out from it. It was a pity that as winter came in, fresh fruit would become a rarity until spring… looking out the window, he saw that the snow had abated to almost nothing, maybe a flake here and there.
“Are you an anthro?” he asked as he finished off his breakfast.
“No, no. Not unless I’m one-eighth anthro, and the hair is all that shows. Are you a dragon Yoshi?”
“No, I just took the wrong magic curse at the wrong time. Made my wings permanent and fused them to my back. Dragon Yoshies have scales anyway…”
“How do you know that?”
Darkmark realised what he’d said and gave a rather feeble “I just do…”, trying to think of some way to steer the conversation elsewhere. “Sorry about what happened last night. I can’t take him anywhere…”
“Ah, it’s okay.” She said. “I don’t fancy becoming a vampire, but he didn’t get me. What’re you doing travelling with him, anyway?”
“Old friend. Took a bite, got injected, grew fangs and a taste for blood.”
She nodded, and Darkmark rose, preparing to leave, waiting as Skafria paid for the meal before heading out the door. They barely got three yards away from the door before her voice called out to them to stop.
“Mind if I go with you?” she asked, and Darkmark did his best to keep a straight face.
“You? Come on, you’re hardly cut out to even be in this kind of environment, let alone deep in the mountains with who-knows-what along with a vampire and a psychic. I mean, he’s damned near invulnerable and I can hold my own, but you…”
He chuckled, but his eyes widened when he saw a bright red flare in her eyes, and he raised a psionic shield just in time to deflect a pair of heat beams from her eyes, sending the energy careening off up into the sky and out of sight.
“Okay, so you can do that, but it’ll take more than-”
Next he found himself under an assault of water, fire, and electricity, as she alternated her hands to keep up a steady stream of projectiles, melting straight through the snow when her fireballs went astray, until Darkmark finally threw a psionic cable and wrapped it around her, pinning her arms to her body.
“Don’t make me hurt you, okay? You’re not comi-”
There was a little flash of light in her right hand, and Darkmark ducked to the side to avoid a poison pin she had thrown with a flick of her wrist, and in his fury he sent out a mass of thinner, smaller cables with his other hand, completely immobilising her.
“This isn’t funny any more.” Darkmark said, despite Skafria gaily chortling off to one side. “Just give it up and let us go, okay?”
“Why?” she asked, trying to shrug but receiving a painful jolt of energy as a result. She gave a little cry and Darkmark released her, keeping a charge in his hands in case he needed to raise a shield again.
“Fine, fine. Keep up with us if you can!”
He spread his wings and took off with Skafria close behind, leaving her in their wake in the snowdrift. Or so they thought; a few moments later she appeared between them with her arms held out in front of her, and no visible means of propulsion, travelling just as fast as they did. Darkmark dived down to the ground with the other two in close pursuit, landing near a wooden bridge spanning a crevasse at an entrance to the mountain range.
Folding her arms with a smug look, she waited patiently as Darkmark clenched and unclenched his fists, clearly annoyed that he had been bested not just by someone else, but a girl, probably who was probably even younger than he was. “Alright already!” he said, throwing his arms up in frustration. “You can come along. Just don’t come crying to me if you get hurt!”
Her grin became even wider, and she stepped forwards with an outstretched hand. “Call me Yoshata. What’s your name?”
“Darkmark.” The brown Yoshi said sternly, taking her hand. “No remarks about my name and I won’t make any about yours.”
They managed to cover another few miles before the snow picked up again and drove them to the ground, forcing them to take cover in one of the many caves that seemed to be liberally scattered throughout the mountains. They had only seen a single large area specially cultivated for growing the medicinal plants the mountains were famous for; aside from there being very little flat land, the supply of the plants was carefully maintained so that the human-kingdom-owned plantation could keep the price high. Though the plants grew wildly within the mountains, getting them was more trouble than they were worth and at this time of year, they would have long since spread their seeds and wilted, waiting until spring to take root and come up from the ground.
Exploring further in and looking around the cave with a light ball, Darkmark saw it extending far underground, but a sudden drop and a large abyss made Darkmark have second thoughts about jumping down to see what lay within the cavern. Travelling back, he looked absent-mindedly at the walls as he walked, stopping suddenly when he found something scrawled on one of them…
Wiping away the snow that had drifted in, he found something inscribed in ancient Yoshi. However, he only knew a few words of it and certainly didn’t know the sprawling symbols covering the wall; the old language had a symbol-based language with one for each word or idea, whereas the new one constructed every word from various letters like the common tongue did. Checking his saddlebags, he found a spare scrap of vaell, and took out his writing knife, copying the inscription as best he could…
No sooner had he copied the last symbol than he heard a sound from the way he had just come. It died off after a few moments, but came back again in the form of a loud rumble accompanied by a minor ground tremor, dislodging bits of dust and rock from the ceiling. Without another moment’s pause, Darkmark took off for the exit, running as fast as he could.
“You’re not normal.”
“Is that any way to talk to a girl?” Yoshata said, keeping her eyes on Skafria.
“I mean, you’re definitely not like either me or Darkmark. Whatever powers you have certainly aren’t either Magic, Psionics, or Chi, so I’m damned if I know what they are…”
“Special fruit.” She replied. “I ate it when I was younger and I got these powers.”
She gave a smirk. “If I told you them all, I’d have no surprises left to pull, would I?”
“I’ve learned my lesson.” Skafria said bitterly. “I know better than to try and take a bite out of you. If we don’t find anyone for a while, though, you’d better watch yourself…”
“Do you kill people you bite?”
He shook his head. “They only get knocked out and forget they were bitten. They just wake up later, unknowing, assuming I don’t leave a huge set of fang marks…”
They heard a low rumble from behind them, and Darkmark appeared a few moments later, ushering them out of the cave as he ran past. A few scant moments after they got out the ceiling started to cave in as the ground shook beneath them and large clumps of snow rolled down the mountain towards where they were, getting larger due to the snowball effect, but passing by them harmlessly, still too small to be any major trouble.
“Everyone okay?” Darkmark asked, brushing himself off. “I guess this place is still seismically active…”
Skafria suddenly pointed to a rolling wall of snow coming down towards them, and Darkmark’s instinctive reaction was to leap into the air, accompanied by his two companions, and they circled the spot until the snow had come to a halt.
“If we make it back out of here alive, I’m never leaving a city during the winter again.” Darkmark growled to himself. “Who could have ever lived here, let alone built a temple…?”
To be continued…