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Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 41 by Lloxie

Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 41

Here’s chapter 41! And finally, Lykou and Kuna’s adventure in Clovaria draws to a close. Time for farewells and… still more potential new friendships?

-Llox

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Kuna woke up before Lykou the next morning. It was already late into the morning, and he could hear that the adjacent common area of the lodge was abuzz with activity. He somewhat reluctantly sat up and rubbed his eyes. He would have loved to close his eyes again and doze a bit more, but he knew that he and Lykou would have to readjust to their normal sleep pattern soon enough, and they had at least a half day of travel ahead of them.

When he glanced over at his side, he couldn’t help but blush and grin slightly at another temptation to lay back down- a nearly naked konuul. Since Lykou’s new outfit was padded with armor bits, it wasn’t well suited to sleeping in, so he’d decided to strip down for the night. Kuna had also taken off his robe. While not as strictly necessary as it was for Lykou’s outfit, he offered up a handful of excuses- combining it with the blanket was too warm, it was awkward to sleep in, and, of course, it was ‘only fair’ to the konuul. Still, they each came to the conclusion that they’d still each wear their old pants instead, at least for the time being. Unless they were in a hot climate. Where it would be strictly pragmatic to strip all the way down. And for no other reason, obviously.

Of course, they’d gotten in so late, they hadn’t had the energy to tease each other about it much before they both conked out for the night. But he had a feeling that was coming, so at least for the time being, he opted to quickly get his robe on and shake some potentially intrusive thoughts away before he gently started nudging the canid awake. He definitely didn’t think he’d find the time or place to deal with any… fallout of such thoughts until they left Whitlan, at the very least. Not without some awkward conversation he wasn’t interested in having with anyone about why he might need a secluded space to himself for a short time.

After some gentle prodding, Lykou’s eyes fluttered open and he stretched, groaning a bit. “Mmno fair. Tell the sun to go back t’bed for a bit,” he grumbled playfully.

“I don’t think even Lana’s or Inkari’s magic is that powerful,” Kuna replied groggily, with a smirk. “C’mon, we can’t get too used to this late morning stuff. We’ve got traveling to do.”

“Mmm, need to find a sun spirit or somethin’ t’ teach you,” the canid joked as he reluctantly sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Sleep okay?”

“Mmm, yeah, just not enough.”

“Me either, but I figure it’ll help if we get moving. And we can always camp early if we really need to. Let’s just get some progress today.”

“Fair enough,” the konuul replied, then looked around, blinking the sleepiness away. After a moment, he smirked at the sereva. “Already dressed huh? Eager to hide that cute butt?”

Kuna blushed and rolled his eyes. “Oh hush, it’s too early for that. C’mon, get dressed so we can go grab some breakfast.”

Lykou got dressed as Kuna began gathering their things up, making sure everything was packed away for traveling. Afterwards, they both walked out into the common area, where they saw the Dunnyhill gang milling around, packing things up.

“Mornin’ lads!” Ealar greeted them.

“Ye were oot late again,” Effie noted with some concern. “Everythin’ a’right?”

“Yer lettin’ th’ big toun gie ye bad habits,” Gavin teased, then chuckled. “Ah’m glad yer enjoyin’ yerselves, though.”

“Er, yeah,” Lykou said sheepishly. “After we met up with the council again, we, um…”

“Went for another long walk,” Kuna quickly interjected. “Spent a long while exploring the garden.”

Ealar looked at him with a perplexed expression. “They usually claise efter sundoon. Ah ken ye met wi’ the council, bit…”

“He’s a druna, aye? Special privileges, ah’m sure,” Finlay chimed in.

“Y-yeah! Druna stuff,” Kuna quickly agreed. Eventually one of the lodge porters came to check in on the group and noticed the boys were up, so he brought them some food and drinks. It wasn’t hot, but they didn’t care at that point.

Eventually, Bhaltair walked in from the cart stalls and saw that they were finally awake as well. “Aboot time ye two got up!” he said playfully. “Ah wis startin’ tae think ye wis thinkin’ aboot turnin’ intae night guards fer Whitlan.”

Lykou chuckled. “Nah, sorry for sleeping in again. Guess everything that’s happened over the past week has messed with out sleep patterns, heh.”

“Weel, efter helpin’ us lik’ ye did, ye kin sleep whene’er ye want, as far as ah’m concerned,” the caravan leader said, walking over to embrace them both lightly. “Unfortunately, we’ve got oor own travelin’ tae do, sae we’re heidin’ oot efter lunch. Ah did put in a word wi’ th’ lodge master ‘n’ he dinnae mind if ye wantae spend th’ night here again, but come tomorrae, ah’m afraid ye’ll ‘av ta find ether arrangements.”

“We appreciate it, but we were going to head out soon ourselves,” Lykou replied. “We’ve dragged our stay out long enough, and as much as we both have enjoyed Clovaria, we really do need to get on with our trip home.”

“Ah sure hawp ye come visit again someday, then,” Effie said, setting down a bag she was carrying in order to give each of the two a hug in turn, which they happily returned.

“Aye, wid be great tae see ye again,” Bhaltair agreed, then patted them both on the back. “Ah need tae git back oot there, bit in case ah dinnae see ye afore ye leave, safe travels to baith o’ ye.”

“Likewise!” Lykou said as he and Kuna both gave him another quick hug. “Who knows, maybe one day we’ll find out a way for you to come visit Lakefire, too!”

“Soonds crackin’!” Bhaltair agreed, then headed out the door.

“If at all possible, I definitely want to come visit here again, too,” the canid said with a smile. “Love the open hills out there and everything. And of course all the great people like yourselves.”

“Yeah, other than those bandits, this has been really nice,” Kuna agreed. “Thank you all for letting us travel with you.”

“Ach, we’re th’ ones thankin’ you!” Gavin said. “Ye saved all oor skins, havin’ yer company wis oor pleasure!”

“’n’ ye better believe ah’m workin’ on a song fer ye two,” Finlay added with a wink. “Two strangers fra far away come ‘n’ save th’ day- tis a perfect story tae tell by a campfire.”

“A song about us? Gosh,” Kuna replied with a bashful smile.

Lykou grinned and hugged the sereva. “Well, rest assured we’re looking forward to telling the other Ashers about all of you and Clovaria when we get back, too.”

“Mak’ sure ye get ‘im guid ‘n’ tipsy first,” Ealar teased, poking the sereva playfully as he walked past to pick up a box of goods.

“Oh definitely,” the canid responded with a grin before the sereva could interject.

Kuna just smirked and rolled his eyes. “Right…”

Suddenly Bhaltair came back in, followed by an unexpected guest- a familiar ‘groundskeeper’ from the garden. Only she was dressed up a little more formally- more like an official of some sort than a gardener. “Er, lads? This here’s Aelana, she says she works fer th’ council ‘n’ wants ta speak wi’ ye two?” he said, uncertainly.

“Oh… yeah,” Lykou said, perking up a little. “We uh, met.”

“Hi Lana,” Kuna added with a small wave and a smile.

“Ach, guid then. If ye need anythin’, let me know,” Bhaltair said to Aelana with a nod, then turned to head back out. “Ah’ll be oot here if ye need meh.”

Aelana nodded back, then turned to the boys. “Mornin’ lads,” she replied with a small, guarded smile of her own. She was clearly in disguise mode, including the way she carried herself. “Th’ council wid lik’ tae see ye one last time at yer earliest convenience. Nae rush tho, ye kin tak’ yer time.”

“Goodness, th’ council must really be fascinated wi’ th’ two o’ ye,” Gavin said.

“Seems that way,” Lykou said, smirking knowingly at the ‘council servant’. “Tell you what, why don’t you join us while we eat breakfast?”

“Oh, tha’s a’right, ah should really-”

“Nonsense, I insist! I happen to remember most of your work is in the evening, right?”

Kuna smirked and shifted over a bit, patting a stool next to him. “Trust me, he won’t stop until you join us.”

Aelana shot them a subtle look, then glanced around nervously for a moment. “Weel… ah suppose ah… dae ‘av some time…” she said as she hesitantly walked around, then sat down on the offered stool.

“Nice tae meet ye,” Ealar said as he walked back past. “Aelana, wis it? Ah’m Ealar.”

“And ah’m Gavin,” Gavin said, then proceeded to introduce the others.

“Whit dae ye do fer the council exactly?” Ealar asked.

“Ah, ye ken, jest… errands ‘n’ such,” Aelana replied. “Nothin’ tae interestin’.”

Finlay chuckled. “Errands fer the high council soonds plenny interestin’ in isself.”

“Ah suppose,” she said with a slightly forced smile. She then leaned over and whispered out of the corner of her mouth to Lykou when nobody was looking at her. “Did ye want somethin’ lad? Or ye jest tryin’ ta mix meh up?”

“You should get to know these folks some. See for yourself they’re trustworthy,” he replied with a wink, then spoke back up more normally. “You want anything to eat? You can have some of my stuff if you want. I should probably have some of my salted meat, to be honest.”

“Nae thanks, lad, ah’m nae hungry,” she replied, then twitched slightly as an odd sensation briefly flashed through her. She flagged down the lodge porter. “...ah might could use a drink tho…”

“A drink, er a ‘drink’?” Gavin teased, then chuckled. “Ah’m sure they kin bring ye some water er somethin’, bit ye may ‘av ta wait a bit on th’ guid stuff. Tis still mornin’, efter all.”

“Water will be fine,” she replied flatly.

The porter left and came back in short order with a copper cup full of water, setting it down in front of her. “Forordinar onleh trade folk wid get anythin’ ‘ere, bit if yer wi’ th’ council ‘n’ thaes lads vouch fer ye, ah’d be happy tae bring ye some food as weel.”

She shook her head. “Thank ye, bit this is all ah need fer noo.”

“Aye, jest let me ken if ye change yer mind,” the porter said, then turned and walked away to help Gavin carry a larger box out to the stalls.

The three sat and made small talk for a while, with each other and the Dunnyhill gang as they worked. While it wasn’t especially obvious, there was a faint bit of awkwardness that Lykou picked up on. He could tell she’d not engaged in such extended casual conversations about mundane subjects in a long time.

Eventually, as Effie was passing by, she paused and shook her head as she caught a glance at the cup in front of their guest. Luckily, Aelana picked it up to take a sip before she could get a better look at it. Kuna caught the look though. A thought occurred to him and he warily spoke up. “Everything alright, Effie?”

“...aye,” she said after a moment with a small grin. “Sorreh, mah eyes must be playin’ tricks oan meh. Mibbie ah’m nae as awake as a thought.”

“Tak’ a break, then,” Ealar suggested. Aelana looked at Kuna questioningly. The sereva tried to subtly point to her cup with a quick glance. She looked down and stiffened up slightly, then made sure to keep both hands wrapped around it, as her eyes scanned the room for any other reflective surfaces. “Nae much left tae pack away ennyway, we’ve got th’ rest. Ye bin workin’ at it sin’ afore some o’ us wis awake.”

Effie started to protest, but Finlay spoke up, “Aye, ‘es right. Rest up fer a spell, ye need some energy fer travelin’, ye ken.”

Before Kuna could come up with anything to draw attention away, Lykou nudged a stool out with his foot and smiled. “C’mon, listen to the others and join us.”

Finally, the smaller lepne conceded and sat down with a smile. “A’right, soonds guid. S’pose ah ‘av bin keepin’ busy this mornin’,” she said, then turned to Aelana. “Sae ye run errands fer th’ council, aye? Does tha’ mean ye met ‘em?”

Aelana looked around uncertainly for a moment, then slowly nodded. “...aye, tho usually ah jest talk t’the guards. The council bein’ sae busy ‘n’ such.”

“Ye ever get tae see ‘em use thir magic?”

And so the conversation continued for a while. After around an hour or so, once the boys had finished eating and waking up, they stood up along with their guest and decided it was time to bid everyone farewell. They walked around distributing hugs and swapping well-wishes, then finally picked up their things and headed for the door.

Aelana was still holding the cup carefully when she began following them out. The porter cleared his throat and arched a brow at her as he was cleaning up one of the other tables, giving her hand a meaningful glance. She smiled sheepishly and set the cup down before hastily making her way out. The porter went back to his work without another thought, along with most of the rest of the lepne. Effie, however, having been resting up, caught another glimpse of something odd right before the stranger walked out after the boys.

She glanced around a bit, then excused herself as she walked to the door herself. Once could be dismissed as a trick of the light or her eyes, but twice seemed odd. And she couldn’t shake the feeling that something seemed a little off about the council ‘errand-runner’.

“Where ye goin’?” Gavin asked.

“Jest hoppin’ doon tae th’ market real quick. Willnae tak’ lang.”

“A’right, jest remember ta be back afore lunch!”

“Aye.”

*****

Aelana led Lykou and Kuna back towards the garden, ducking down the quietest, least-traveled alleys along the way. Finally, when they came to a particularly isolated spot with no other lepne within sight, she stopped them and waved her hand in a large arc, sending a curtain of sparkling light around their section of the alley, which shimmered for a moment, then faded.

“I take it we’re invisible to others again now?” Lykou asked.

“Aye, naebody wull detect us fer th’ moment,” she said, relieved. But then she turned and glared at the wall for a moment as she waved her other hand, temporarily turning part of the wall reflective. The boys could see their own reflection, but hers was… missing. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Oi. Daisy. Ah ken yer there. Quit hidin’.”

The tinger finally appeared at the bottom of the reflection, grinning sheepishly. “Aye, whatcha need?”

“I think that’s what we should be asking,” Kuna helpfully suggested before Aelana could snap.

“Whit were ye thinkin’ tryin’ tae peek in back a’ th’ lodge?”

“Ah jest wanted tae get a peek a’ these ‘Dunnyhill’ folk, a’right?”

Aelana groaned and rolled her eyes. “We experience th’ same things, ye numpty! Ye almost gave us awa’!”

Daisy frowned and looked away, her ears drooping a bit. “...fine. Sorreh. Ye were chattin’ wi’ ‘em ‘n’ ah wanted feel lik’ ah wis really part o’ it.”

Lykou shot her a sympathetic look. Aelana’s expression softened and she sighed. “...aye, bit ye ‘av tae be careful. Ah’ll kip mah promise, bit ah need time, a’right? Warm folk up tae th-”

“Who are ye talkin’ tae?” a curious voice spoke up behind them, causing the three non-reflection-dwellers to whirl around in surprise.

“Effie??” Kuna said in surprise.

“What are you doing here?” Lykou asked with a nervous grin, trying to help Aelana block her view of the reflective portion of the wall without being too obvious about it.

Effie raised a brow, glancing between the three suspiciously. “Thas whit ah wis gonnae ask you three,” she said, a faint smirk starting to form on her face. “Jest an ‘errand-runner’ eh? Didnae ken th’ council ‘ad other drunas workin’ under ‘em in secret. Whit kinda magic ye even’ got goin’ on here?”

“Hah! Other way ar-” Daisy blurted out behind them.

“SHUT IT, DAMMIT!” Aelana snapped, turning back to the wall briefly.

Lykou sighed as he and Kuna shared a look. “Weren’t we supposed to be invisible?” Kuna asked.

“She must’ve been hidin’ ‘round th’ corner ‘n’ gotten caught in th’ spell,” Aelana grumbled, clutching her head as she began to panic a bit. “Ah should’ve made it smaller, dammit. Ah’m losin’ mah edge, lettin’ mah guard doon...”

Lykou glanced between her and Effie for a moment, then gently laid a hand on Aelana’s shoulder. “Hey, she’s good people. I know it wasn’t planned, at least not so soon, but is there really any harm to her knowing?”

“Whit ye talkin’ aboot?” Effie asked, then grinned sheepishly. “Ah’m sorreh fer snoopin’, bit ye really caught mah eye back a’ th’ lodge. Couldnae help mahself. Er… ah’m nae in trouble am ah? I didnae mean tae interfere in council bus’niss!”

Aelana wilted a bit, glancing around uncertainly. “Weel, no, s’not exactly a council matter… considerin’ only one o’ ‘em even ken aboot me…”

“Ah’m sorreh…” Daisy weakly chimed in behind her.

“Who’s back there ennyway?” Effie asked, trying to peer around Lykou.

“...weel, guess thir’s no hidin’ it noo.” Aelana finally conceded, then shot the other lepne a very nervous smile. “…ah’m… nae exactly normal, ye see…”

“She’s ha- mnmnfff!” Lykou started trying to help explain, but suddenly felt his mouth seizing up in the middle of his sentence out of nowhere, as if some unseen force was forcing it shut. He shot Kuna a bewildered look, then turned to Aelana.

Kuna raised a brow. “Er… he’s trying to say she-mmmnpf!”

Aelana couldn’t help but smirk in amusement. “Geas, remember? Ah tellt ye the words wouldnae leave ye,” she said, then rolled her eyes a bit. “Ah hereby grant ye permission tae talk tae this one aboot meh.”

The boys’ mouths returned to normal and Lykou couldn’t help but smirk in spite of himself. “So that’s how that works…”

“No more ‘gesh’ promises for me, thanks,” Kuna added with considerably less amusement, his eye twitching a bit.

“...whit jest happened?” Effie asked, growing visibly more confused by the moment.

“Weird magic, not the kind drunas usually do,” Kuna answered, rubbing his jaw a bit.

“Right, so… want me to explain?” Lykou asked Aelana.

“Aye, fine,” she said, then adopted an almost manic expression as she dramatically stepped to the side, revealing the reflective portion of the wall. “Explain away!” she said with a theatrical gesture towards the now visible wolpertinger, before burying her face in her hand. “Oi…”

Daisy looked a little startled at the sudden reveal, then gave Effie a slightly nervous grin and a small wave with one forepaw. “Er, hi there...”

Effie’s eyes widened as she took a step back, unsure how to react to the revelation.

“Errr… right, so… this is Daisy. It’s kind of a complicated story, but suffice to say Aelana is more than just a druna. She’s only half-lepne. The other half is a being called a wolpertinger, which is represented by Daisy here.”

Effie glanced back and forth between the two for a moment. “Er, come agin? Ah dinnae follow.”

“Ah’m a powerful sorceress fra anether world- nae th’ spirit world, bit one most folk hae forgotten called Sylthea. Ah went magically a bit dotty tae th’ point tha’ mah ‘tinger half became her oon sep’rate person, ‘n’ tha’s Daisy ‘ere,” Aelana chimed in, then shot a sidelong look to the wolpertinger.

“…did ah git blootered ‘n’ ferget it?” Effie asked incredulously, rubbing her head a bit. “Ah dinnae usualleh drink, bit ah suppose it’d jest hit meh harder when ah dae…”

“Nope, this is all real and you’re sober,” Lykou said with an awkward smile. “I know it’s… kind of a lot, but it’s all true. The council runs things for the most part, but she’s the secret leader of Clovaria as a whole, in a way.”

“Ach, realleh?” Effie said, perking up a bit. “Sae th’ high drunas hae a high druna o’ thir oon?”

“Yes, and um…” Kuna chimed in, then glanced around between Aelana and Daisy for a moment, then walked over and gently laid a hand on Effie’s shoulder. “...she needs friends. I know this is sudden, but please don’t tell anyone about her, and consider getting to know her. This is just scratching the surface of things she’s kept secret for longer than you can possibly imagine, and it’s taken a toll on her.”

“Och, ah’m fine,” Aelana bristled, straightening herself up. “Nae need tae overstate things lad, ah-”

“Ye lit’rally created me oot o’ half yer damn heid frae loneliness ‘n’ stress,” Daisy interrupted, shooting her a look. “Yer nae fine. We’re nae fine.”

Aelana deflated again. “...weel...”

Effie looked up at Kuna, then back to the other lepne- or half-lepne, rather, and her mirror-half. She slowly nodded. “...weel, ye certainly seem off, ‘n’ tis hard tae believe ye really rule Clovaria somehow, bit if these lads think yer guid folk, ah’m inclined tae believe ‘em,” she said with a small smile. “Er. Aboot tha’ whole… ‘half-lepne’ thing tho, ah’m still a smidge confused. Ye look full lepne tae me, is tae ether half jest in yer heid then?”

“Nae ennymore, na fully anyway,” Daisy said with a smirk.

“Nae helpin’, you,” Aelana said, shooting her a look, then turned back to Effie. “Lik’ ah said, tis… complicated. We’re both th’ same person but also not. S’all… magic-related stoof. Specifically Sylthean magic, which tends tae get weird sometimes.”

“Why don’t you show her that hybrid form? That was basically your ‘true’ form, right?”

“Aye… technically,” she replied, then waved her hand around, surrounding herself in the glittery cloud of dust for a moment, before emerging in her full halfie form. The sight earned renewed shock from Effie.

“Crivvens, ye really are streenge,” the small lepne remarked, then smirked a bit. “Nae offense. Yer… actually quite beautiful.”

Aelana smiled a bit at that. “Thank ye. Bit aye, tis oor original ‘true’ form, if ye wantae call it tha’. Sin’ we split, tho, ah tend tae stick tae lepne form, ‘n’ she tends tae stick tae ‘tinger form when ah let her oot.”

“Which doesnae happen near enoof these days,” Daisy commented pointedly.

“Let her… oot?” Effie asked curiously.

“Aye,” Aelana said, then looked sidelong at her other half for a moment. “...ach, guess we might as weel show her, sin’ ye wis gonnae come oot later ennyway. Jest promise tae behave ‘n’ stay hidden lik’ we agreed, okay?”

Daisy perked up and nodded. “O’coorse! No funny bus’ness, jest flyin’ t’ th’ gateway ‘n’ mibbie aroond Clovaria fer a bit, nae lettin’ mahself be seen,” she replied, then tilted her head a bit. “Ah ken ah’m a radge shite sometimes, bit ye kin trust me oan tha’. Ye need a break fer a bit, ‘n’ ah got plenny o’ shenanigans last night ennyway. Ah’ll jest be happy tae be oot fer a bit ‘n’ enjoy th’ air under mah wings.”

“What’s this about the gateway?” Lykou asked.

“Aye, th’ reason we originally came tae git ye wis tha’ she wanted tae giv’ ye a lift as thanks fer spendin’ time wi’ us fer so lang last night,” she explained. “And honestly, she’s right. Ah need a break. More than ah ever realized.”

“So tha’s where ye two bin these past two nights,” Effie said with a bemused look. “Long walks, eh?”

Kuna smiled sheepishly. “Well, to be fair we did spend a lot of it in the garden…”

“Riiiight,” she replied, then turned back to Aelana. “Still tho, flyin’? Lettin’ her oot? Ah’m still waitin’ tae-”

“Jest watch,” the halfie said, rolling her eyes up with a sigh. She conjured up another cloud of glittery lights and dust, which gradually grew larger and larger, forcing Lykou to take a few steps back out of the way, joining Kuna by Effie’s side. When the dust disappeared, Daisy was out in the material world, and Aelana had taken her place in the reflective surface.

Effie gawked at her for a minute. “...ah see.”

Daisy grinned and bent down to sniffle at her a bit. “Hi.”

“H-hi there miss… Daisy, wis it?” Effie replied, hesitantly reaching out to stroke her snout slightly. “...this feels a smidge weird, nae offense. Ah feel lik’ ah’m dreamin’.”

“That’s whit makes it fun!” Daisy replied cheerfully.

“She gets… rambunctious, but she’s nice, don’t worry,” Kuna assured Effie.

“Ach, ah tellt ye, ah’ll tone tha’ shite doon fer noo,” Daisy whined slightly, rolling her eyes. Then she grinned back at Effie. “Ah wis gonnae give these two a ride, yer welcome tae come alang if ye want. Pretty sure thir’s room fer three o’ ye,” she offered, unfurling her wings a bit.

“...wait… ye mean lik’…” the lepne responded with growing incredulity as she looked over her wings. “...in’ the sky? Lik’ a damn bird??”

“Yup!” Lykou chimed in. “It’s amazing, like nothing you’ve ever experienced before! She took us up last night, it was awesome!”

“That’s certainly one way to describe it,” Kuna said with a slight shiver.

“Ah’ll… pass fer noo. Th’ gang’s preparin’ tae leave ‘n’ ah need tae be back afore lunch,” Effie replied, causing the wolpertinger to wilt in disappointment. After a moment, Effie grinned and stroked the wolpertinger’s snout some more. “...bit hey, ye got me all kind o’ fascinated ‘n’ wantin’ tae ken more aboot ye two. Mibbie ye kin pop by tonight when we mak’ camp? Ah’m sure th’ others wid be jest as fascinated.”

“Weel… tha’ soonds nice, bit…” the tinger replied, glancing back towards Aelana. “We made a deal tae tak’ things slow ‘n’ nae reveal oorselves tae too many folk at once… originally we wis gonnae try ‘n’ ease intae revealin’ oorselves t’Moyra ‘n’ her lad o’er in Kerney fer noo.”

“Oh, aye, they’d be guid fer secrets,” Effie agreed with a small nod. “Still, if ye ever wantae visit, lik’ ah said, ah’d love tae ask ye more ‘n’ get tae ken ye both better.”

“Definitely!” Daisy agreed.

“And hey, like we told you, the Dunnyhill gang are all good folks. Seriously consider opening up to the others, too,” Lykou suggested, glancing back at Aelana.

Aelana shrugged. “Ye know whit? Ah’m pure scunnered. Ye kin make yer oon decision while yer oot there,” she told Daisy, then arched a brow. “Jest be careful, tha’s all ah ask.”

Daisy lit up with excitement. “Aye, o’ coorse! Thank ye Lana!”

“Nae need ta thank me. We’re supposed tae be equals efter all, ah’m sorreh ah fergot that for a while,” Aelana said with a sigh.

Daisy grinned and turned back to Effie. “Right, guess ah’ll pop by tonight efter all,” she said, then paused and thought for a moment. “Tell ye whit tho, fer Lana’s peace o’ mind, how aboot jest th’ two o’ us meet at first. That a’right wi’ you?”

“Ah cannae exactly say no tae th’ high druna’s boss, can ah?” Effie said in amusement.

Daisy snickered. “Nae need ta think o’ it tha’ way. Tha’ whole secret leader thing is a wee bit overblown thaes days,” she explained. “We- mostly Lana- jest go aroond secretly keepin’ an eye oan things ‘n’ occasionally nudgin’ folk in wee ways noo ‘n’ then. Powerful borin’, tae be honest.”

“But safe and effective,” Aelana spoke up somewhat defensively.

“Aye, sure, sure,” the wolpertinger said with a small eye-roll.

“Weel, ah best git back tae th’ lodge afore the others start worryin’,” Effie said. “Bit ah’ll look forward ta seein’ ye again. Still ‘av plenny o’ questions.”

“Wait a minnit!” Daisy said. “Dinnae leave jest yet, yer invisible tae everyone else.”

Effie blinked a few times and glanced down at herself. “Right. Tha’ magic thing yer ether half started off wi’.”

“Maybe a geas as weel?” Aelana suggested. Kuna winced and subtly tried to gesture for Effie not to go for it if she could help it. “...or nae. Sorreh, yer call, Daisy.”

“Nae, ah think we kin trust her,” Daisy assured her, then smiled down at Effie.

“Aye, nae worries, ah’m guid wi’ secrets,” the short lepne assured her. “Ah willnae tell a soul ye dinnae want tae ken aboot ye.”

“Right, lemme jest-”

“Wait, so ah’m invisible tae everyone bit th’ four o’ you, aye?”

“...aye?”

Effie rubbed her chin thoughtfully for a minute, then slowly grinned. “...ah almost wish Dougal were still aroond. Ah kin think o’ some fun ah could ‘av wi’ this,” she said, surprising both Lykou and Kuna.

Daisy beamed. “Oh we’re gonnae git alang famously, lass.”

Aelana groaned slightly and brought her palm to her face. “...jest be careful o’ causin’ real trouble, a’right?”

“Right, right,” Daisy said, then waved her head around a bit, conjuring sparkles up from the tips of her antlers, which surrounded Effie for a few moments before vanishing. “A’right, goan ‘n’ git tae lunch. Ah’ll see ye tonight tho, aye?”

Effie grinned and nodded. “Ah look forward tae it,” she said, then turned to the reflection on the wall. “Wis crackin’ meetin’ ye both- fer real meetin’, ah mean,” she said, then turned back to the boys. “Seems lik’ streenge ‘n’ amazin’ things follow ye two. Guid luck oot there, lads. Ah look forward ta hearin’ more stories fra ye someday, ye unnerstan?”

Lykou grinned and nodded. “Absolutely.”

“Take care, Effie,” Kuna said, then hugged her briefly and leaned in to whisper to her, “And thanks for giving them a chance.”

The lepne just grinned back at him and winked, then smiled back at the others. “Weel, best be goin’. Safe travels ye two,” she said, then turned and sprinted off.

“Weel. Ye two ready fer another flight?” Daisy asked with a grin.

“Not really,” Kuna said with a slight shudder. “But I guess it beats walking all that way.”

“Hey come on, you have to admit it’s exciting,” Lykou encouraged him, then narrowed his eyes with a playful look as he stepped behind him and wrapped his arms around him. “And don’t forget we figured out how to make it more-”

“Don’t even say it,” the sereva playfully snapped back, blushing and looking away with a coy smirk.

Daisy and Aelana shared an amused look. “Lik’ ah said, jest as lang as ye d-”

“You either. I’ve not had enough sleep for the ‘fluster Kuna’ game, dammit.”

All three of the others snickered.

*****

A short time later, Daisy was soaring through the air with the boys on her back. Much as Kuna denied it, he did find it comforting having Lykou behind him and his arms around him. And once the fear began subsiding a bit, he did find the view all the more spectacular in the daytime. They flew for a few hours, giving them a breathtaking view at the rolling landscape of Clovaria, and he was glad to be huddled up between the wolpertinger and the canid- both for his nerves, and as a bulwork against the cold air. Lykou was slightly chilly, but Kuna had pre-emptively loaned him his poncho to put on over his new outfit in preparation for the extended flight, so it was at a tolerable level.

It also helped that the wolpertinger was flying a bit lower than she had at night, which also allowed them a closer view of some of the landmarks. While much of it was rolling, grassy hills, they did eventually come into rockier territory with a few scattered mountains in the distance. And some streams fed into a small river that eventually cascaded over some impressive falls. They also spotted another town in the distance, though they didn’t get close enough to see much of it. Early on they’d followed the road out of Whitlan, but eventually it veered off from their course and towards the distant town.

Finally, she started descending down as they spotted the old arch on top of a hill, sitting out in the middle of nowhere and overlooking the smaller hills nearby. She set down in front of it and allowed the boys to climb off, then sat up again. “Weel, here ye are. Dinnae ken where it leads, tae be honest, so be careful.”

“Well, ultimately it leads home, and that’s the important thing,” Lykou said as he helped Kuna down.

“So you never used it in the past?” Kuna asked curiously.

“Nae. We used one ‘er two o’ th’ others when we wis a wee bairn, bit tha’ wis so lang ago we dinnae remember much. Bit only a few o’ oor cousins used this’n. We jest stick tae thaes hills. Oor domain ‘n’ all, ye ken?”

“You don’t ever want to explore elsewhere?” Lykou asked.

“Ah widnae mind seein’ some ether sights some day, bit Lana has a point aboot us needin’ tae keep watch o’er Clovaria. ‘sides, tis a pretty big domain,” she replied with a shrug, then smirked. “’n’, as ye’ve seen, we dae get oor own excitement tae deal with here noo ‘n’ then. Thanks again fer dealin’ wi’ Kerr.”

“So… did you already know about him before we got here?” Kuna suddenly asked, arching a brow.

“Aye, ‘n’ we wis plannin’ tae intervene, bit then we sensed ye two show up, ‘n’ ah had a feelin’ aboot ye. So we waited ta see how things went in Kerney.”

“Were you following us all along or something?” Lykou asked. “No offense, but that sounds a bit like-”

“Nae up claise, lad,” Daisy assured him. “Aelana uses scryin’ windas all th’ time ‘n’ only goes oot o’ Whitlan when she feels tis urgent.”

“Scrying… windows…?”

“Aye, watch!” she said, then manifested a sparkling light on the tip of one antler and used it to draw a circle in the air. When the magic dissipated, what looked like a hole opened up within the circle, showing part of the garden back in Whitlan.

“Oh wow,” Kuna said with wide eyes.

“That definitely seems useful,” Lykou commented. “So uh… were you watching us the whole time?”

“Nae, jest checkin’ in noo ‘n’ then. ‘n’ nae jest oan ye two, obviously.”

“Shame I can’t learn that one,” Kuna said.

“Who says ye can’t?” Daisy replied with a wry grin.

“Oh? Isn’t it Sylthean magic?”

“Aye, Syltheans came up wi’ it, bit tis one o’ th’ ones mortal folk kin learn. Tisnae easy tho, ‘n’ ye ‘av tae ‘av claise ties to th’ person or place ye want tae scry oan. Luckily fer us tha’ means pretty much ennywhere in Clovaria tis fair game fer us.”

“Oh, right, that makes sense. Still… think you could teach me?”

“Mibbie sometime, in yer dreams- lit’rally. Bit tis a more advanced spell, sae fer noo ye got plenny else tae learn first.”

“Ah, right… guess now’s not the best time anyway.”

“Well she saved us a lot of time flying us here. We can always camp here so you can practice magic stuff for the afternoon, then go through the arch tomorrow morning.”

“Nah, I’m curious to see what’s on the other side. And the more we travel, the sooner we’ll get back to Lakefire,” Kuna said, smiling at the konuul. “We’ve stayed well distracted lately, but I know how homesick you are, Kou.”

Lykou smiled and looked away a bit wistfully. “...yeah, fair point.”

“Weel goan then,” Daisy said, playfully nudging them both. “Off ye go. Yer journey awaits!”

“Thanks again for the ride, Daisy,” Lykou said, rubbing her head lightly. “It was great meeting you both.”

“Yeah, it really was,” Kuna agreed, then smirked. “Also nice in general to meet a powerful individual that’s not all creepy and scary, let alone two of you.”

The wolpertinger snickered. “Aye, guid luck wi’ her, too. Bit ye got us oan yer side noo, sae dinnae let her skeer ye tae much if she shows up again soon,” she said, then winked. “Tis nae bye, after all. Ye got yer astral charms.”

“Right, thanks again for those, too!” Lykou said, patting his pocket. “I can’t wait to give that a try.”

“Jest mak’ sure ye get at least one guid night’s sleep afore ye use it, lad. Ah ken ye need it.”

“Right, hehe,” Lykou said, then turned to Kuna. “Well, guess it’s time then. Unlock the uh… gateway, almighty druna!”

Kuna chuckled and rolled his eyes, then walked over to the arch, manifested his soul magic, and lit up the runes around the gateway. After a few moments, the swirling portal opened up underneath it, disturbing the grass and any debris around them with the winds it stirred up.

“Ach, bin a lang time sin’ we saw one open,” Daisy said, watching it with some fascination. “Ah fergot how wild they look when thir active.”

“Yep… it was intimidating the first time we saw it,” Lykou said as he walked up next to Kuna.

“Still is the second time, too,” Kuna said, then took a breath to steady himself.

“Well, off to our next little adventure?” Lykou said after a moment, taking the sereva’s hand in his own and smiling over at him.

Kuna smiled back. “Right…”

They stepped through he portal and a bright flash lit up the area as they vanished through the arch, leaving the wolpertinger to watch the swirling images within until they eventually faded. “There go some damn decent lads,” she said to herself, then turned and jumped back into the air to fly off.

Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 41

Lloxie

Well, here it is folks- chapter 41, the last full chapter set in Clovaria! I had a couple more scenes planned for this chapter, but I'll probably slip them into the next one so that this one doesn't become monstrously long like several other recent chapters, hehe. Hope you all enjoyed the adventure in lepne lands! It sure ballooned way beyond the initial short jaunt I originally planned, but I certainly had fun writing it. 


As always, be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think! And stay tuned for the next episode to find out where Lykou and Kuna wind up next!


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