Rakhanar burst from the magical portal astride his new friend, the golden-brown autumnstrider unicorn, Wildstreak.
Well, they’ve been calling me Runaway Rakh all my life, time to live up to it.
He braced himself for the impact as Wildstreak’s hooves hit the packed ground of the path that curved through the sparkle-lit land of Faydwer, expecting to come out in the midst of the fae Nursery. His hope was that he would be coming through in the dead of night. There was a time differential in the Enchanted Grotto and he had no way of knowing when he would emerge.
No such luck. Broad daylight.
Wildstreak had leapt completely out of the mushroom ring onto the path and swerved to the left as planned, but then he stopped in confusion, trying to get his bearings. Rakhanar was leaning forward, prepared for the breakneck gallop they had in mind, so the sudden stop nearly threw him to the ground right in front of the Nursery matron. He struggled to right himself, his dark hair falling across his eyes. Snapping his head back to clear his view, he found himself looking straight into the fae matron’s shocked gaze.
“Rakhanar! Buds banes, young man, just what do you think you’re doing?” Her little purple and green translucent wings hummed with annoyance and her matching purple hair stood straight up like an angry rooster’s crest.
Rakhanar gave her a wide grin that was more a mischievous grimace.
“Don’t you be grinning at me with your furry face, Rakhanar! You’re up to something…”
He couldn’t contain a laugh that came out pitched a little high for him, a little crazy. He wasn’t about to explain. Focusing on Wildstreak, he urged the autumnstrider forward with his whole body, kicking and rocking his weight forward. “Go! Go, Wildstreak! Left, left, just go!”
Got it, Rakh! Wildstreak reared and plunged forward, swerving to the left in a full gallop, tail high. Rakhanar could hear the fae matron behind him, her high voice fading as the two widened the distance. “Oh! Oh, dear! Guards! He’s running away! Oh, but don’t hurt him… Rakh honey, stop! Think…”
They thundered down the trail and through the pass in the cliffs and Rakhanar whooped with glee. None of the guards were keeping up as they tore past the Sapling Spur Outpost, veered right and raced on down the path towards Kelethin. All he had to do was get to a magic globe and he would be home free. Home free.
He had been to Kelethin only once or twice but he had taken note of the layout of the many platforms of the enormous tree city. Approaching the boarding platform entrance to Old Kelethin, he figured the casual act would have to do since there was no way to rush that silly, oversized acorn lift.
“Walk here, Wildstreak. We’re just running some errands, no hurry.”
Wildstreak nodded and slowed to a walk. Rakhanar smiled and saluted the fae guard as they passed him but once they boarded the acorn he bounced impatiently on the unicorn’s back. “C’mon, c’mon…” he whispered, glancing down toward the road and expecting the Nursery guards to catch up at any minute.
Rakh, you mind? You’re on my kidneys, you know…
“Oh. Sorry. And sorry about the kicking back there. Just got excited.”
Well. Just try to remember, I’m not a horse. But it’s all good, buddy.
Rakhanar nodded, his dark skin darkening more with a flush of shame. “Right, right. I know you’re not a horse. Not that I’ve ever ridden a horse anyway…”
Biting his lip, he tried to sit still and contain his mounting excitement as the acorn floated upward with excruciating slowness. A familiar tint of red began to creep into his vision.
“Noooo, not now,” he moaned under his breath. He put his head down and focused on calming his breathing until his vision cleared and the acorn finally glided to a stop. With a sharp exhalation of relief, he snapped his head up to look.
“Transporter to the left! Go!”
Wildstreak jumped off the acorn and onto the transporter pad. Rakh willed them to appear on the bank platform where he knew there was a globe. Shouts from the lift boarding platform struck his ears just as the sparkles of energy that shifted them through the in between dimension thrummed through him. Then they were there, at the bank.
“They’re coming, Wild! There’s the globe! Go! Quick!” Rakhanar pointed across the platform and Wildstreak obliged, thundering across the high platform to bring Rakhanar close to the magic globe. Rakhanar didn’t know much about geography so it was just a matter of chance where they would wind up. That suited him fine. If he didn’t know where he was going, it would be impossible for them to figure it out and find him. He clung to Wildstreak’s mane as he reached down and touched the globe with a prayer to an unknown god. Or goddess…?
Shimmering, thrumming energy again and then the next sensation was a biting cold wind and a sense of being enfolded in whiteness everywhere, sharp contrast to the warm greens and browns of the life of Kelethin.
“We made it!” Rakhanar whooped.
That we did! Wildstreak sounded amazed as much as anything.
Then Rakhanar looked around, shivering. He was in light leathers, his arms bare, and the wind was whipping up waves in an ice-blue ocean to his right. The magic globe was at the edge of a pier. “Whoa…”
But where are we? Wildstreak walked up to the closest person there, a tall muscular man clothed in fur, so Rakhanar could speak to him.
“Excuse me, sir. What is this place?”
The man raised an eyebrow, looking him up and down. “Ye daft? It’s New Halas.” He shook his head. “Here, ye need to be getting into someplace warm, lad. There’s a tavern called the Frosted Brew up in the town proper.” He pointed up toward the cliffs, where Rakhanar could see circular platforms carved from the stone, leading up.
“Here, ‘fore ye go, take this…” The man pulled a green cloak from his pack and handed it to him. “Not my color.” He smiled, shrugging. “You know how it is, the wife likes green, so it’s automatic I should too.” The fur-clad trapper looked at him a little more closely. “Might do you some good with the ladies though, sparking up them green eyes you got.” He grinned conspiratorially and winked.
Rakhanar accepted the cloak gratefully, chuckling. The ladies? Hmm. “My th-thanks, good sir. No t-trouble with the wife, giving this away?” He threw the cloak around his shoulders and pulled it around himself tightly.
The man shrugged. “Nah. A shark ate it.”
Rakhanar chuckled again, then looked down at Wildstreak. “Let’s go, Wild. F-f-frosted B-brew it is. Before we freeze to death.”
Wildstreak raced up to the snowy cliff and onto the platforms, one, two, three, determined to get Rakhanar to a warm place quickly. Beyond the third platform was a tunnel infested with crystal white spiders which Wildstreak dashed through, avoiding them deftly. They came out in the city and looped back to the right to find another tunnel into the living quarters. Inside, it was a good bit warmer already, although still not comfortable for a young man who had spent most of his life in the lush green wilds of Faydwer.
They stopped before the first building on the right, an inn that looked to be very sturdily built in the New Halas style, its heavy dark wood beams crisscrossing at the peaked roof. Rakhanar slid to the ground. He looked up at the entrance then back at the unicorn. “Uh, well…”
Wildstreak caught his thought. I’m thinking they don’t have anything I’d enjoy there. I’m going to go find a nice sunny pasture. Just give me a whistle and I’ll be back when you need me, Rakh. I can be wherever you are in a flick of a filly’s tail.
Rakhanar looked at his new friend and gave his wide neck a couple of pats, then broke down and hugged him. “Thanks, Wildstreak. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t met you.”
Ahhh, it was nothing. My pleasure. Go, Rakh. Have some adventures. Make some friends. Find a nice mare. Er, woman, for you, huh?
Rakhanar released him and stepped back, chuckling as he gave the unicorn’s soft nose one last pat. “Aye… a woman, for me.”
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Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith