The hippo Beastfolk worked on Lolan for about an hour before she was ready to stop. Rodrigo didn't say much else to me. And I didn't say anything to him. We sat in silence throughout the whole operation. I contemplated what Rodrigo meant, while he probably brewed on how much he hates me, for no reason, I might add.
The hippo Beastfolk left with her hands pushing against either side of her head like she had a headache or something. "He's going to be fine," she said on her way out. She turned to Rodrigo and Tallesia and said, "Come get me if he is still sleeping in twelve hours." Then she disappeared out of the room.
After everyone left us to our cells, the rabbit Beastfolk representative took Tigala out of her cell for questioning. She was gone for maybe an hour before I saw her grumpy face again as she was escorted back to her cell.
"So what happened?" I asked, trying not to sound too needy, despite the fact that my life might be on the line.
"They just asked me some questions about what happened," Tigala said. She sat down against the wall maintaining her glower.
"How did it go? Did they believe you?" I asked. I failed to hide my anxiety this time.
"I don't think so," she said.
I sighed. Do I really have to ask her for every detail, one by one?
"What do you mean they didn't believe you? What do they think?" I asked.
"They think you set all of this up. You killed the deer Beastfolk, you killed Mila, and you tried to kill Lobo," said Tigala. The anger began to seep through her words. "And they think I helped you."
It hit me again. It was the same feeling as when Rodrigo had said I should worry about myself. It was like my heart was floating in my chest. It was disbelief that this was all falling on my shoulders. How would I convince them otherwise if another Beastfolk couldn't convince them? How could I possibly come out of this as "not guilty" in their eyes? I looked up from the floor to TIgala again. "You told them what actually happened, right?"
"Yes," she snapped. She clearly was unhappy about the outcome.
I paused for a few moments and said, "Why did you do it?"
She looked at me and then back at the wall opposite of her and shrugged. "Because it's what happened."
"No, I mean, why did you stop Lobo? It would have saved you a lot of trouble, just letting him kill me."
Tigala looked down at the floor and took a deep breath. "Lobo's a bully. He tries to prove he's better than everyone else by taking advantage of them. Letting him do that wouldn't have made my life any easier. It would have made me a coward."
"Thanks," I said. "I'll make it up to you someday if we ever get out of this mess."
A moment later the Gnome representative walked into our dungeon. He looked grumpy. He was balding on top with a black ring of hair on the sides and back of his head and wiry eyebrows forming a constant scowl. "Zef. You're next for questioning. Don't try anything funny," he said with a hoarse voice.
He unlocked our cell, picked up Zef by the shoulder and closed the cell door behind him before escorting Zef out of the room.
I looked back to Tigala. "Any news on Raffa yet? Maybe he'll back us up."
"I doubt it. He's from the Tukufa guard. They are an honorable group, but they're also fiercely loyal to the Beastfolk," she said.
Great. My only hope that someone would help us out, dashed away like that. Of course, he is fiercely loyal. Why should I expect any different?
Trapped in my cell alone, now that Zef was gone, I sat thinking about all that had happened. I thought about the forest, the trolls, the magic, the tree creatures, and the walking trees. Was that really something within my power? Was that something I could do without the remnants of some type of massive magical explosion? I shuddered at the thought. Maybe the Treeks really were dangerous.
While I considered it, I began to feel around with my magic in an almost unconscious effort. I could see a small barred window near the ceiling of the room. A small breeze ran through it and I could hear the rustling leaves of a nearby tree. I couldn't actually see any plant life, but still, I reached out.
I could feel my magic searching. It was like walking through a house in the dark. I had a general sense of where things were, but pinpointing them exactly wasn't easy. I found a few blades of grass, and then some more. They were healthy, pushing themselves up in the looser dirt at the outskirts of the colony square.
I kept reaching for more. I was curious if I could reach my hammock tree from here. I found more blades of grass and then another patch. Then I felt some grass that was different. The blades didn't stand tall like the other grass. Instead, they turned sharply and felt constrained, like I'd have to add extra effort if I was going to try and grow those blades.
Confused by the sensation. I stood and tried to look out the window in the direction of the strange grass. I climbed the bars of my cell and saw something strange standing on the grass. I craned my neck and realized what it was: a talon. I looked to the right and spotted a pair of shoes. They were worn brown leather. Two people, an Avian and some other race, were standing face to face having a conversation. Now that I was focused on it, I could hear their muffled voices through the window.
I began using my magic on a small bit of dirt outside of the window to grow a large leafy jungle plant. There was a faint glow, but one of the people had their back to the window and they were probably blocking the view of the other.
"What are you doing?" Marv asked in a whisper. "I thought they told us not to use magic."
"They did," I whispered back. "But there's something shady going on out there."
A leaf about the size of Marv extended into the open area where he was shackled to the wall. I began to pull the life out of its stem, and the plant hinged at its base. The leaf glided down until it leaned on the corner of the stone window sill.
"Can you reach that leaf?" I asked.
He stood, trying not to make noise with his shackles. "Yeah, I think so," he said reaching out an arm towards it.
"Pull it down and try making a funnel out of it. See if you can use it to hear what they're saying."
"This isn't going to get me in more trouble, is it?" he asked
"No, you're just listening to a conversation," I whispered.
He grabbed at the leaf and gave it a tug. The weakened stem snapped and the leaf came free. He then twisted up the leaf, putting the small end of the cone shape to his ear and the wide end toward the window.
"Yeah. I can hear them," Marv said. "He says he doesn't care about the complications, and he needs those letters."
"What letters?" I asked, half to myself.
Marv said, "He wants the other person to have it ready tomorrow."
I watched the pair of talons walk away, toward the colony square. The pair of boots stayed still while the Avian walked away, and then they turned toward the palisade. "That's it? Nothing else?" I asked.
Marv shook his head in response.
"Can you shove that leaf back out the window?" I asked.
He tried but barely managed to get the end of it through. I grew a small vine that wrapped around the leaf and pulled it out the rest of the way. Then, I drained the life from both of them and they shriveled into husks of what they once were.
"You're looking for trouble," Tigala said without looking at me. "Everyone here hates everyone else. It's not worth getting in the middle of it."
"Come on. There's a mysterious nighttime meeting outside of our jail cell and you're not a little bit curious?" I asked.
"Nope. That's their problem," she said.
I sat back down in my cell and leaned against the wall.
"Why do you do it?" Tigala asked, looking at me this time.
"Do what?" I asked.
"Why do you get involved with stuff like that? Why did you save Lobo—or help me with that troll?" asked Tigala.
"I don't know. I'm curious, I guess. And if I do live to see the outside of this cell, secret meetings like that don't exactly make you feel safe in a place.
"I guess I helped you and Lobo because of him." I nodded my head in the direction of Lolan's unconscious body. "He took a chance on me my first day here. It would have been me with the broken rib or worse, but Lolan protected me. He didn't know me at all, and instead of letting me get smashed by an ogre, he helped me escape it and almost died himself. I still don't really understand why, but I thought of him before I did both of those things."
"It's stupid," she said. "Risking your own life to save others. Even worse because you're doing it for other races. No one is going to change."
I thought about it for a moment. "I did...I think."
I didn't say it, but I think she had changed too. She went from attacking me on sight to stepping in front of a blade for me. Maybe it wasn't entirely for me, but I still had to suspect she was starting to care about us, at least a little.
Tigala didn't respond. There was no 'Thank you' for saving her, but I didn't really expect one. Working with other races wasn't exactly easy on the conscience. Even after being removed from my people for ten years, I still felt like I was failing them by helping other races, or protecting them from getting hurt. It's not how the world works. We're separate because it's better that way. At least that's how I understood it.
We sat in silence for a while, staring at the walls and thinking. Then, there was a groan from Tigala's cell. I looked over and saw Lolan raising his hands to either side of his head. "Ugh, it all hurts."
"Healing magic usually does," said Tigala from the other side of their cell.
Lolan blinked heavy eyelids and then shuffled to a sitting position. He lifted his shirt revealing his chest, free of all of the bruises and scrapes from before. Even the giant bruise that he received from the ogre was gone.
His eyes widened and he looked at Tigala. "Who healed me?"
"It was a Beastfolk healer. I think her name was Nadira," she said.
He looked around and found me, his face unchanging. I shook my head to say without words that no one had noticed his racial ...situation. He let out a held breath in relief and then continued to look around the room.
"What happened? And why are we here? ...Why aren't we dead?" he asked.
"Your pal Kaia made the whole forest come alive," said Tigala.
"What?" he asked.
"I used the magic veins," I said. "It got a little out of hand."
Tigala scoffed. "A little?"
"Yeah, it was crazy," I said to Lolan.
I continued to explain. "You got knocked out by a troll I think, but we protected you. It looked like we were all going to die from either trolls or each other so I used the well of magic inside those veins. I lost control or something, nature magic exploded out of it, and the forest started thrashing about and trees started walking around. We helped Lobo and Rafa escape, and now Rodrigo and the other reps think that we planned an attack on Lobo's group from the start."
The shock seemed to come back to his face. "What are they going to do to us?"
"I don't know about you, but I think they want to execute me," I said. My throat hitched when I said the word.
He didn't respond right away. He was probably processing what I had said. "Wow. I'm—I'm sorry, Kaia," said Lolan. He sounded genuinely distraught.
I shrugged in response.
I was trying to be calm about it, but they might actually kill me. I had to think of a way out of this, in case it came to that. I had my plants, but I wasn't sure I could tear down a wall, bend metal bars, and escape before they noticed. It would take a lot of vines to get out of here. Maybe Tigala would help, or maybe Zef would have some trick up his sleeve.
The door opened and a grumpy looking Gnome walked in with Zef. He stepped up to my cell, unlocked the door, and led Zef in. The door closed with the screech and clang of metal and the grumpy Gnome left.
"Any updates?" I asked.
"I told them what happened, and they don't want to believe it," said Zef. "We'll figure something out though."
I wasn't quite sure I believed him. Things were looking pretty grim. I laid down on the floor of the cell. Only streaks of moonlight stretched from the barred window to the opposite wall. It had to be pretty late, and I couldn't bring myself to contemplate my fate any longer. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I woke to a sound I was starting to get used to. The screech of metal pierced my eardrums and startled me awake.
"Kaia. It's your turn," said Rodrigo.