Cinnamon Bun-Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Two - Taking Your Leader with Me

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Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Two - Taking Your Leader with Me

Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Two - Taking Your Leader with Me

"Mhm," I said.

The pixie leapt and bounced through the air, his voice a high-pitched, high-speed series of squeaks and chirps.

The other pixies were alternating between watching their boss and nibbling on the snacks I'd laid out for for them. Sometimes they'd look past me, towards my friends who were gathered a few steps behind me, far enough away that they wouldn't spook the pixies.

"And where was that, exactly?" I asked the pixie boss-man.

He scrunched his little face up, then rubbed at his chin for a good while before squeaking some more and gesturing. He pointed deeper into the forest, then back to where we were. He shook his head, squeaked a few more times, nodded, then crossed his arms smugly.

"I see," I said. "And how many were there?"

The pixie considered it for a moment, then shrugged and squealed while making a gesture with his hand.

"I wonder, does Captain Bunch actually understand their every utterance, or is she merely good at guessing?" Desiree asked in a low whisper. The sound had the pixies look her way, but they were busy devouring their snacks and my friends hadn't made any threatening moves, yet.

"I trust that she does," Amaryllis said. "Her Riftwalker magic is actually very impressive. Like a powerful and high-ranked linguistic skill."

"I still remember her talking to the bee-people," Awen said.

"Yes, you would," Amaryllis replied dryly.

I smiled--without teeth--to the pixie, then bowed my head a little and stepped back towards my friends. He dove down onto the snack pile and plucked a big nut from the top and started to take some big nibbles at it. "Okay, so... translation time, I guess?"

"We'd certainly appreciate it," Desiree replied.

"Mhm! So, Bossman--that's the pixie--said that there aren't too many people that come through here, and when there are, they're usually teams of grenoil or sometimes younger grenoil from the town nearby venturing out to cause trouble."

"Bet the pixies love interlopers like that," Calamity said. "Pushing into their territory and all."

"I think they do," I said. "They... kind of bully those younger grenoil, steal their lunches, then run them off. I don't think they actually hurt anyone, though--if they did that, people would probably stop coming here, and the pixies would lose their supply of free lunches. Anyway, that's what they're used to seeing, but it's not the only sort of person around. They said that they saw some stronger people too, recently. A group of five." π”£π–—π–Šπ–Šπ–œπ”’π”Ÿπ”«π”¬π–›π–Šπ”©.π–ˆπ–”π”ͺ

"A group of five," Amaryllis repeated. "That could be our man. Did they mention the races?"

"Uh, the pixies have a hard time with that," I admitted. "They're of the opinion that any big person that walks on two legs is the same." I was more or less quoting the pixie there, and even then I felt my cheeks warming up a little. That was kind of a speciesest thing to say, wasn't it?

"What do we know about this explorer anyway?" Calamity asked. "Feels strange that we're looking for this guy without knowing the first thing about 'im."

"How do you even know it's a man?" Amaryllis asked... then she recanted. "Not that he isn't. His name is Sir Aberrforth, a human member of the Exploration Guild in good standing. From Mattergrove, I think."

"Oh," Awen said. "The Aberrforths are a smaller family. I've heard of them. I didn't know any were in the Exploration Guild, but that's not too surprising."

"It isn't?" I asked.

Awen shrugged. "The Guild is pretty popular for third sons and such? It's the guild or the army, and having a member of the family join the guild costs a lot less than turning them into a knight. Horses are expensive."

"Huh," I said. Awen didn't always open up about Mattergrove stuff, so it was interesting to learn. "I guess it's not too unusual to have someone from Mattergrove here? We're right on the edge, right?"

"The actual border is this forest," Amaryllis said. "Both Mattergrove and Deepmarsh claim the entire thing as their territory, and neither are able to nor care to enforce that fiction. The western end is definitely Mattergroves and this end is definitely Deepmarsh's, but the actual line between the two? That's for cartographers and politicians to fight over."

"Well," I said, rubbing my chin, "I guess the specifics of the border don't matter too much to us. What does matter is that the pixies got us a lead. Those five people they saw."

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Amaryllis nodded and pulled out a small notepad. She plucked a feather, did a spell to sharpen the nib, then dipped it into a tiny inkpot and scribbled some notes. "Good, so how were these people dressed?"

"The pixies don't do clothes," I said.

"I see. That's unfortunate, but it makes sense. Which direction were they heading in?"

"That way," I said, gesturing vaguely in the vague direction that the pixie had pointed in."

Amaryllis frowned. "Uh huh... well, it's something. And how long ago was this?"

"The pixies don't know. They don't really keep track of time in days, more like... weather?"

Amaryllis finally looked up from her notes, then she glared and turned the page towards me.

Five (?) members

Unknown races

Unknown outfits

Westernly direction

Unknown dates

"Wow, that's not a lot," I said. "Well, I guess it's a lot of unknowns?"

"Broccoli, I could fill libraries with everything we don't know," Amaryllis said. "I'm more interested in actually knowing. Anything, at this point."

"I could question the pixies some more, but, uh, I don't honestly think they'd be able to help all that much?" The pixies were nice, when I had them distracted with food and they weren't in the mood to be little pranksters. I glanced back at the glowing pixies and discovered a few of them sitting back on a stump, tummies stretched out with their big meals. "The boss did say that we could move through their territory, no problem. I think that's something, at least."

"And if we meet more of them along the way, we can always ask them what's going on," Calamity said.

I nodded. It was a plan!

I returned to the boss pixie and smiled as I explained to him that my friends and I wanted to cross his territory. He considered it for a moment, hemming and hawing, until I revealed that I had an entire mini-loaf of bread. It was a little hard by then, but it was also bigger around than the whole pixie, and when I broke off a piece and gave it to him, he nibbled on it happily and agreed to come with.

The pixie settled on my head, right between my ears, and we headed out in a westerly direction. We quickly figured out a way to navigate where he would tug on my right ear for us to move right, and tug on my left to turn left.

I think he made us go in a little circle on purpose at some point because he was giggling to himself, but I didn't stop him. The Broccolimobile was all about fun!

It didn't take too long before we met other pixies, but a few chirps from the boss and some shared bits of bread--which left crumbs in my hair, but that was fine--and we were left alone for the most part. A few of them did recall seeing five people, and they pointed us further into the forest.

By the time midday rolled past and we were considering stopping for lunch, the boss pixie had found us some other pixies who had seen what we were looking for.

He flew off my head and chatted with the pixies with chitters and squeaks so fast that I couldn't keep up, but eventually he flew back to me and gestured rather urgently. And then he said that because that spot was the space of the pink one, he wouldn't be accompanying us, not for all the bread on Dirt.

I thanked him, which I had to do quick because he was fast to dart away and back into the woods.

"Should we, ah, be concerned?" Awen asked.

"I think so," I said with a nod. "He said something about a pink one? It sounded dangerous. But the other pixies saw our explorers that way."

"What is the 'pink one?'" Desiree asked. "A name for a creature local to this area?"

"I don't know," I said, and neither did my friends.

"The good news is that that way," Calamity said as he pointed in the same direction the pixies had. "Is north. We've been going west for a while now, so if we turn and head out that way we'll be coming up to the base of the mountain range again."

"And that's where the cave is!" I said. "Right, so we really are on their trail! We'll find them in no time!"

"Actually, um, this explorer, was he meant to be alone?" Awen asked.

"He's the only Exploration Guild member, but the others could be hired help," Amaryllis explained. "It's plausible enough, I think."

That made enough sense for me. So we continued, sans pixies, towards the north. I expected to find the whole group in a camp or something, or near a big cave. Maybe they'd just forgotten the time?

Instead, what we found, were effigies hanging from the trees like cheap Halloween decorations.

***