Vampire Slayer Ferdie, Chapter four:
That is not a bridge, it's a piece of rope with ambitions!
You have failed me again!
Both minions ducked as the silver tea set came flying at them with deadly precision. The raccoon stayed down for a count of ten before slowly raising his head to see if it was safe. We're sorry Master, he pleaded, We promise we won't fail again.
The raccoon's female companion, a black cat, also sat up. We don't know what happened Master, we did everything you said. There were at least two dozen night ghouls, that village shouldn't even be standing!
Standing on the raised dais, his short form covered with heavy black cloth, the master vampire regarded his cowering minions. The room was filled with them, creatures of every size and shape imaginable and all practically quivering in fear. However his rage was currently directed at two of his generals, normally his most trusted underlings. Yet somehow a foolproof plan had gone completely awry. Hallmar still stood, the Slayer remained out of his reach and his companions had survived. Actually, if the reports were to be believed, these strange beings had done the impossible, killed his beautiful night ghouls.
First you can't kill the Slayer then you can't even capture him. They bowed their heads in shame. How am I supposed to accomplish my master plan if you can't even do that one simple thing? I need the Slayer alive and locked in my dungeon! Sacrificing him will remove the one obstacle that stands in my path to total domination and break the spirit of the mundanes for good. Tell me Blade, Isis, what should I do with the two of you? What should your punishment?
Isaac, the Master's most powerful warlock, cleared his throat and stepped forward. Forgive the interruption Master, but I have a suggestion.
Grant them a second chance. Should they fail you again, it will prove they have no use to you. You can turn them over as food for the ghouls or something equally fitting.
The Master snorted. I would think, Mage, that they have already proven how useless they are to me.
Perhaps, but then again maybe not. By all accounts, this Slayer is no ordinary creature, maybe he cannot be captured by ordinary means.
Settling himself upon his throne, the vampire inclined his head. You may have a point. I will have to acquire the Slayer by other means then. You are all dismissed. His minions trampled each other trying to escape. Not you two. You will remain as well the Mage.
Once the room was empty, Isis dared to approach her master and kneel before him. How may we serve you Master?
I am thinking of a plan, a new plan that will be far more effective. Tell me Mage, if this Slayer is as extraordinary as the mundanes believe, how would *you* capture him?
The warlock appeared to ponder the question for several minutes. Force him to come to me? But on my terms?
Exactly. We shall make the Slayer come to us. Then, when he is in position, the trap will close around him. However we will need bait.
Bait, Master, Isis inquired.
All heroes have a weakness, something that we can exploit. You two will find out what that weakness is. Search his mind, the answer will be there.
The next morning our intrepid band of heroes (will you stop laughing!) set out from the village in an exhausted daze. The first part of their trip was moderately peaceful as they stumbled (or in Iiwi's case) flew through the forest, guided by a far too perky Hazel. Thankfully the relatively sullen mood of the rest of the group eventually killed her cheerful chatter. Being a morning person surrounded by the sleep-deprived can be hazardous to one's health. Even the Professor was uncharacteristically silent as he staggered down the sunlit path. Bob was so far gone Beak was practically carrying him. The yellow kiwi would occasionally moan piteously for coffee.
They stopped to picnic in a small clearing Iiwi had found. Actually they had come across her snoozing against a rock as she waited for them to catch up again. After a simple lunch (minus the plantains which Beak insisted on saving) the group resumed their journey north, everyone feeling somewhat refreshed. However the trouble started the moment they reached the rope bridge and it began with Bob.
No way, he shouted for the fiftieth time as they attempted to pry him loose from the Beachwood tree he was clamped around. You are not getting me on that thing, he spat. I'll just stay right here, you can pick me up on the way back.
But we need you Bob, Beak replied, still trying to reason with the yellow kiwi. The pair of cops had opted for the direct approach and were currently trying to pry him loose, with little success.
Hazel, trying to lend a hand, stepped onto the rope bridge. Look Sir Bob, it is quite stable, I assure you. She jumped up and down on it causing the whole thing to shake and Bob looked nauseous. See, completely sturdy. This bridge was built to last.
Bob gave her a look that could only be described as incredulous. That is not a bridge, it's a piece of rope with ambitions!
Approaching the group after helping Iiwi carry their packs and supplies across, Ravyn sighed. We don't have time for this, she said to no one in particular. Beak, cut him loose.
The brown kiwi nodded and pulled out his handy lightsaber. Within in seconds the poor tree was reduced to kindling and Bob was curled up in as small a ball possible, wailing at the top of his lungs. The black mouse reached over and pinched a nerve in his neck, knocking him out cold. I had to stop his screaming, she said in defense.
About time, Ferdia muttered. However, who's going to carry him?
In the end, most of the crew just grabbed a limb and the hauled the unconscious kiwi across. The rope bridge wasn't very wide but it was long, taking at least ten minutes to traverse. Of course Bob woke up just as they very nearing the other side and started screaming again. Fed up, Ravyn dropped her end and leaned over menacingly.
I swear to you, I will have him slice this bridge in two if you don't shut up. On cue, Beak pulled out his lightsaber again.
Bob set new land speed records getting across.
Ferdia grinned. I'm impressed, she said to Ravyn who shrugged sheepishly.
Once everyone was safely to the other side, they headed north again, traveling for several hours until all of them were pretty worn out.
There it is, the Professor called as they left the forest behind and stumbled onto the riverbank. There was a dock just south of their location with a large wooden shack and a small riverboat tied up next to it. Ferdie started to look ill. We'll travel by boat now.
The riverboat was called the Merry Queen and it's owner/captain turned out to be a friendly starling named Izzy. Welcome aboard folks, he greeted them as he helped them aboard (once payment had been worked out). Names Izzy and I'm the captain of this here fine vessel. First mate, too. Now if any of you lovely ladies should happen to need anything at all just give me a holler.
Hazel giggled, accepting his hand as she stepped onboard. Iiwi and Ferdia rolled their eyes.
Getting everyone settled and their gear stowed away took a little time and Izzy kept a running commentary throughout it all. The bird seemed to know everything about the area and was determined to tell all. Now the owl tells me you folks want to head upstream for the wildlands. Nasty place that be but I can take you, that's no problem. However, we will be going near Breakneck Falls, a right vicious stretch of water that is. I warn you now, it's going to get rough.
Ferdie moaned and stumbled to the rails to stake out a spot.
They called him Slythe, mostly because he was slimy and preferred water. Names really didn't matter to him; his kind normally doesn't bother with such things. They had just enough intelligence to survive and obey orders. The swamps, where they usually bred, weren't conducive to much else. Slythe was currently obeying orders, namely the orders of his Master, the vampire who ruled all. The Master had told him to do whatever the generals wanted so Slythe obeyed. Dumb as he was, he was still smart enough to know that defianceee meant pain. Slythe wasn't fond of pain.
Still, he didn't really like the generals either. They were land creatures, which meant they didn't understand the importance of staying damp, plus they constantly argued. You can't obey people who won't agree on what your supposed to do. So far, the all black furry one was winning, mostly because it kept zapping the other one. He knew that was the general called Isis, which meant it wasn't a good idea to make it mad. Isis had a reputation for cruelty among the lower ranks. You did as it said or it found new ways to hurt you.
On the other hand, the general with the bushy tail was known as the Master's Blade. The lower ranks didn't like that one because it was ruthless. If the Blade targeted you, you were doomed because no one had *ever* escaped the assassin. Slythe was pretty certain that was why the generals didn't get along - they were exactly alike. A pretty progressive thought for something with the general IQ of a wet log.
You want me to take his thoughts, Slythe finally hissed, sick of their bickering. Both generals turned to glare at him.
No stupid, Isis replied. What the Master wants is for you to find out what the Slayers weaknesses are and report back to him.
Well to do that, he has to read the Slayers mind, Blade muttered in a superior tone.
Yes, the slimy
well let's just call it a thing, insisted. I take his thoughts. Bring them back to Master. Then Master happy.
Amazingly simple insects aren't they, Blade commented to Isis who rolled her eyes.
Whatever, take his thoughts, she snapped. As long as you find something we can use against him. Do it and the Master may bring more of your kind across.
Blade shuddered. Disgusting thought.
Where is Slayer, Slythe demanded, ignoring the taller general.
Right now he's on the boat. He's the one hanging over the side heaving his guts into the water. River travel doesn't seem to agree with him.
He's weak, Isis pointed out. We could take him.
Maybe, but do you really want to get wet? Distaste crossed her face. That's what I thought. No, we let our repulsive friend here do the dirty work. As long as he scans the Slayers mind, our job is done. Then the Master will be happy.
Hopefully. At least he'll stop being mad at us. As long as *you* don't screw up, Slythe. Mess this up and I'll personally gut you like a guppy.
Slythe just shrugged. Is easy job. Slayer on big wooden thing, I go to big wooden thing. Water conceals Slythe.
It had better, Blade snarled. Do not get caught. Make sure no one sees you. The look in his eyes promised all sorts of painful things if Slythe disobeyed.
No one see Slythe. Water *my* world. Hopping over to the riverbank, he slipped into the water and instantly sank, leaving no trace.
I still have a bad feeling about this, the black cat grumbled.
The water rippled and Slythe reappeared. Which one Slayer, he asked.
Blade groaned. The bright feathered one hanging over the side of the boat you dimwit! Find the one who has thoughts about heroic deeds and foolishness like that. That will be the Slayer.
Our future is resting in the hands of a idiot.
Ferdie was currently wishing Death would take him. After emptying the entire contents of his stomach overboard, he slipped to the deck moaning then curled up into a miserable little ball. A pair of feet suddenly feet moved into his line of sight and he looked up. Beak, trying to be helpful, had brought him a platter of food. Bob snickered when, at the sight of it, the ailing bluebird immediately dove for the railing again.
Sorry you're not feeling well, Bob said with only a hint of insincerity. He and Beak leaned over the railing on either side of him. Just think of it as the price of being a hero. We have to endure these little hardships, you know.
Hah! Ferdie groaned again. If I survive this I may never go near water again. Besides, aside from going without coffee, how have *you* suffered?
Feathers ruffled in indignation, the yellow kiwi glared at his friend. Well for one thing, *I'm* not the hero this time! I'm always supposed to be the hero. It's my job. But no, this time *I'm* merely the sidekick. And not even to my own sidekick! No, I'm stuck playing second fiddle to the resident idiot! Then there's the lack of coffee in this awful place. Plus the whole incident at the rope bridge this morning.
That was your own fault, Beak pointed out, tone less than sympathetic. Then he yelped when someone booted him from behind, almost knocking him into the water.
Go away, Ferdie muttered desperately. Both of you are making my head hurt.
Forgive me for interrupting, Ravyn said hesitantly from behind them. All three turned around. Hazel felt bad that you were feeling so poorly Ferdie, so she mixed some herbs together that should help with your nausea.
Thanks, Ferdie weakly replied. But right now nothing is staying down.
Ravyn looked even more uncomfortable. Actually, you don't swallow.
Then how he supposed to take it, Bob innocently asked.
Slythe swam away from the boat vaguely wondering why the feathered buffoon had started screaming. It didn't matter; he'd done his job. Is done, he announced to the waiting generals once he reached the shore.
You scanned the Slayer's mind, Isis eagerly demanded.
Yes, took all his thoughts. There weren't many.
It doesn't matter, Blade informed him coldly. As long as the Master can find a weakness. We must return now.
Back at the castle, the Master Vampire was waiting anxiously for their return. We have completed our task, Blade announced as they entered the throne room. Slythe has scanned the Slayer's thoughts and knows all his weaknesses.
Excellent, the Master responded. He beckoned the slimy thing forward. Tell me Slythe, what is the most important thing to the Slayer, what does he think of most?
Slythe paused, uncertain of how to answer. There was brown water, but not water. Very hot and brown. Put things in the brown
Dead silence ruled for several minutes as both generals gloomily contemplated their fate. Finally the Master spoke. A brown liquid? The Slayer's greatest weakness is some sort of brown liquid! Impossible.
Even Slythe could figure out that he was doomed if he didn't come up with something fast. Also a thing, like that, he said hurriedly, pointing at Isis who bared her teeth at him.
No, not fur, feathers, like the Slayer. Just like Slayer only opposite.
Ah, a female, of course. The Slayer is in love, how perfect. Capture his beloved and I will have the perfect bait to lure the Slayer into my trap. What is the name of this female?
Slythe hesitated, uncertain of how to pronounce the word that appeared in what passed for his mind. P-pri
A princess? How perfect. She must be someone very important in his world, which means the Slayer will do anything to save her. Once I have her, I can force the Slayer to do anything I want. He'll be powerless!
Forgive me Master, but how do we find this princess, Isis questioned.
Come here Slythe. Slowly, the scaly, slimy creature approached the dais and knelt at the Master's feet. Black cloth stretched out, revealing gray feathers and Slythe shuddered as the Master Vampire drained his mind. Eventually he fell over, mind empty and two guards hurried over to drag him away. Perfect, I know everything now. You and my Blade will go to the Slayers world and retrieve this Princess Bobetta Kiwi. I will supply you with all the information you shall need. Take what guards you will require but make sure you bring me the Princess. Take one of her attendants as well; we will need someone to deliver my ultimatum to the Slayer. Have my warlock fetched at once; you will leave immediately for the princess' kingdom, this San Viano.
I think he's coming around, were the first words Ferdie was aware of when he finally regained consciousness. A worried looking Beak stared down at him as the bluebird opened his eyes. Yep, he's awake.
How do you feel, Ferdia asked as she helped her brother sit up. Ferdie's head swam for a moment then the world kindly righted itself and he sighed in gratitude.
Surprisingly good. My head hurts a little, though.
You hit your head fairly hard while we were chasing you, Ravyn quietly explained. She was standing at the end of his bed looking guilty. I'm really sorry about tripping you and holding you down. I didn't mean to harm you.
Trust me, my brother's head is hard enough that a simple blow won't do much damage, Ferdia dryly informed her.
You would know, Ferdie muttered.
She dropped him. Be grateful you're no longer sick. Plus you got a nice nap in; you've been out cold for several hours. We should be docking soon.
Ah, that's nice. I think I'll pass out again now.
He'll be fine, Ferdia announced as she stood and left the cabin, the others trailing behind her. We should get ready, the captain said we'd reach this Wandering Forest in a few minutes.
Topside, Squeaks was repacking their food supplies and fending off a certain yellow kiwi that claimed he was starving. Hazel had disappeared somewhere and Iiwi coasting along above them, scouting ahead. Izzy had been cornered by the Professor and was patiently listening to a lecture on local flora while he piloted the riverboat. Ferdia strolled over to the railing of the ship and watched the riverbank as they glided by.
It's been really quiet, Squeaks commented as he joined his partner.
Thankfully, Ferdia tiredly replied. Sorry this hasn't been much of a vacation.
Did you really expect it to be one? When do we have a peaceful moment with this bunch around? Anyway, I meant our unseen enemy. After the night ghoul attack I figured this master vampire would throw everything he could at us.
But so far nothing's happened? Yeah, I noticed.
Well I did spot something lurking in the river earlier, right before Ferdie attempted to run across water. Nothing showed up, though, which makes no sense. The Professor says their headquarters is in the wildlands, which is why the natives set up camp there.
Yeah well, I get the distinct feeling that not everything in this magical little world is quite what it seems.
The Wandering Forest shouldn't be far from where we'll go ashore, Ravyn declared as she wandered over. The Professor is certain we'll locate it by night fall.
Wait, you guys don't know where it is, Ferdia queried loudly. The Professor claimed he helped set this camp up!
Squeaks casually laid a restraining hand on her arm.
The Learned one spoke the truth, in fact he himself chose the location.
Then why would he have trouble locating it, Squeaks asked, tone reasonable.
You must understand, the Wandering Forest does just that; it wanders about the countryside, taking everything within it's borders along on the journey. Thus the forest was chosen for the safety it offers. While even our allies have some trouble locating the base camp, so far none of the fiend have found us. Each morning we find ourselves in a new location, anywhere in the wildlands that the forest wishes to see.
Iiwi suddenly alighted on the deck in front of them. You make it sound like this forest is alive, is it?
Ravyn nodded. In a sense, yes. The forest has a conscientiousness that controls where it goes. However, there is no danger, nothing in the forest would harm you and the trees are very friendly. Also, the forest will not wander into the fiends territory. She smiled. I suppose it possesses its own sense of self-preservation that warns it away from danger.
Incredible, Iiwi replied. A sentient forest. Can you control where it goes at night?
Sometimes. The forest will allow our interference, but not often. Mostly we do nothing since the forest's movements protect the location of our camp. The Learned one received news of its current location this morning before we left Hallmar. The trip should not be long, but we do need to reach the camp before nightfall.
Otherwise the forest picks up and leaves again, Squeaks concluded.
Yes and we will be unable to find it until the sun rises and it settles into a new spot. This would not be wise. Trust me, the wildlands are not a safe place at night, not without protection. All sorts of terrible creatures live in the wildlands, things that dwell normally in only the worst of nightmares. It was that way even before the fiends came and claimed most of the territory for themselves. The land has only grown worse since their arrival.
From the stairway leading below deck came a shriek and a serious of thuds followed by a distant crash, which made everyone on deck jump. Ferdia groaned and buried her head in her arms while Iiwi just sighed and shook her head. Ravyn stared at them all, confused.
Ferdie, Squeaks said by way of explanation.
Are you certain this isn't a terrible case of mistaken identity, Ferdia muttered tiredly through her feathers.
Ravyn abruptly looked extremely uncertain, the poor black mouse shrugging nervously as she gazed back at them. I think, perhaps, it is too late now either way.
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