Vivi & The All-Lands Tournament- Event 04
What lurks in the shadows?
Last time: Rary found himself in some friendly battles, and some not so friendly. After finally facing off against the smug Halcyon, Rary takes an unexpected nap.
I highly recommend you read this on the Substack website, as this post is a multimedia experience. You’ll find many audio embeds below that score the story, and they won’t function as intended in your email client. Only one track can be playing at a time, so if you reach the next one and the first is still playing, just start the one you’re on and they won’t overlap. If you like the music you hear, please consider supporting the artists as well.
Event 04- Chasing Shadows
Rary was standing on the precipice of an enormous cliff. The trees had grown halfway off the edge, roots dangling out into empty air. Nobody else was around, not Vivi or Amur or any of his fellow creatures from back home. He called out across the cloudy void.
A moment later, the echo came back to him, but it didn't sound like his own voice. "Rary?"
"Rary? Can you hear me?"
He knew that voice. He could pick it out of a crowd, hear it on the wind and through the trees. The voice that plucked at his heart and made him want to do loops in the air and caw for joy.
"Vivi! Where are you?"
"I'm right here, and so are you."
"Where?" He turned away from the cliff, and some kind of pink flower had sprouted up, as tall as him. He leaned in to smell it, and was treated to the sour, pungent smell of…
"Faintaway?" Rary squawked.
Bird-like green eyes blinked back into focus. Above him was a set of human-sized brown ones, much smaller than his own. But that was alright, because they were his favorite.
"Whew, he's awake," Vivi said, handing an orange bottle back to Clara, who capped and stowed it away. Her pink hat was hung up on a peg at the entrance of the tent they had all huddled inside, a dark brown bun pinned up at her neck. LJ was sitting in the corner on a stool, just staring at the opposite wall.
Rary shifted around, he'd been on his side and one of his wings ached from the poles of the rescue stretcher he was laying on.
"Oy, what happened?" he croaked, then his eyes snapped open. "Wait, where's Amur? Did we win?"
Vivi just shook her head while Clara spoke. "He's in the sauna, still recovering. I can't be in there with him for long. And…" She looked to the other girl.
"We lost," Vivi said bluntly, which was how she ever said anything, so it wasn't unusual. "His last technique thingy put you both to sleep at the same time. Since neither of you could wake the other, we called you both out."
"Well drats," Rary said. "But how'd that happen? I've been practicing with all the common sleeping powders—"
"Magic," LJ cut in. "You don't have any resistance to it."
"Aww…" Rary lowered his head to rest it against his front legs.
"So what do you wanna do now?" Vivi asked. "We could go straight home, the boats will be less crowded."
"What?" Rary stirred, pushing up onto his talons. "That'd be just like giving up, with all these medals we've already earned."
Vivi clicked through the metal hexagons in her belt clip. "Well, we'd get a few prize points for these, but I'm more worried about you still competing. D'you think you can handle it?"
"I think I can more than handle it!" Rary crowed, stretching out his wings, only to pull the left one in sharply. "Ouch…Okay, maybe I can handle it after a little rest." His stomach growled like it was entirely lion and not just half. "And also that."
Vivi stood up also, picking up Sapphire and tucking her into her front pocket. "Let's get you some food, then."
Clara put her hat on, pulling the edges of the brim down and letting them snap back into place. "I'd better go check on Amur. If he gets talking with the other fire creatures, he'll never come out again. See you later, you two." She nodded to the boy standing beside them. "And see you later too, LJ."
"Um…" he muttered with a dry mouth. "Okay…"
Outside, rows of small tents were lined up together. Some had open flaps and groaning creatures, others with battle-certified veterinarians, mechanics or tailors going in and out to treat various injuries or malfunctions. LJ followed behind Vivi and Rary, no one questioning or objecting on either side.
Rary sighed as they passed a victorious creature earning their hard-won medals, a huge plush elephant covered with multicolored patches. "It's too bad I wasn't carrying Sapphire during that match," he said to Vivi.
"She cancels out magic, I think. I don't know if she does it on purpose, she's awfully young. One time, Owlbert was teaching the Parliament a spell to clean up the leaves on the hill, but wherever Sapphire was sitting, the spell just went around her. It was pretty funny!"
"Hmm…" Vivi's brow furrowed.
Rary could practically hear her thinking anymore. He was facing away from her but asked: "What's that?" anyway.
"Just…I'm still not sure yet."
"Okey-dokey! Hey, here's the food, great. I want something juicy and roasted and dead."
"In that order?"
Rary prowled up and down the rows of grills and ovens while Vivi turned to LJ. "Are you hungry? I only brought food for myself, but I still owe you for helping out with chores last time you were over."
"Ah…maybe," LJ said to the crowd, not looking at her. "I guess I am a bit hungry."
Within minutes Rary was gnawing away at several turkey legs, Vivi stirred a plastic container of something sweet and mushy, and LJ picked at a basket of fried nuggets. They all said Grace, Rary holding up a talon and moving his head around to touch all the right spots in order.
"What did you get?" Vivi asked LJ.
"The triple meat treat, it's like a treasure hunt. Some are chicken, some pork, some beef. And a slice of cake," he pointed to the rectangular pastry, white frosting with red decorations on top.
"Fun." And that was all either of them said for a while, each doing their best to focus on their meals and tune out the surrounding crowds.
A pair of handlers walked by, both young boys with billed caps. One had a red hat with a blue jacket, the other capped with blue and jacketed in red.
"Did you hear? They won another three matches."
"No way! Doesn't that put them close to a record?"
"Not just close, all the way. Dark types don't usually match well, even with their magic resistance, and especially not dark griffons. I heard one of the staff saying they'd never seen a darkness type griffon before, ever."
Rary's feathers perked up at the mention of his second favorite word, but he kept his beak full and listened too.
"Well, Shadeland isn't really well explored, I guess? There're probably lots of new things to discover."
"I guess so…Hey, there they are! I wonder if they'll sign my schedule."
Vivi turned in her seat, and surely enough, Ebris and Sable were standing by an empty table near the walkway. Or, what was supposed to be Sable.
"Hey, Sapphire?" Vivi asked. The little dragon looked up from her peach and tilted her head. "I think Rary wants a hug."
Sapphire squeaked her agreement and worked up her thin golden wings, hovering an inch over the table and landing on Rary's shoulders, squeezing his neck with her tiny arms.
Rary hadn't been paying attention. "Hey what? Oh, hi Sapphire. I was just trying to look over at Sable, since he—what on the winds is that?"
"Shh…" Vivi said, standing up and going to stand by her two creatures. "It surprised me at first, too." She was getting her own first look at the elegant black and silver creature that had captivated the whole competition so far. Or, the creature who had taken the form of said creature.
"But it's just like…a black blob, or something…and that toothy grin, with those shiny colors all over, it looks like…some kind of ravenous rainbow…" Rary looked up at Vivi. "This is why you were acting funny earlier?"
"Yep." Vivi plucked Sapphire off Rary and held her close to her chest. "Clearly it's some sort of magic, but the next question is…why?"
Rary fluffed out his wings. "Because griffons are so awesome, that's why!"
LJ had finished his food and was watching the exchange with alternating raised and lowered eyebrows.
Vivi offered Sapphire to him. "You wanna see too?"
"Eh, sure?" She set the squirming dragon on his lap. "Oh…huh…"
Rary fully stood, his plate left with nothing but bones. "So now what do we do?"
Vivi packed up her own containers. "I wanna go talk to them."
"Good luck, there's quite the crowd."
"Ask him to sign your beak or something."
"Ew! That would never wash off…I'd have to wait until, I don't even know when!"
The crowd was pressing around the two Shadelanders, handlers with small creatures in front while the larger ones hung at the back. Vivi pressed in behind a very young girl with a red bandana around her neck, the tall stuffed rabbit at her side wearing a matching cloth. This was a challenge for Vivi, not only getting close enough to speak with Ebris quietly, but being around so many other handlers and people in general. She took a deep breath, said a prayer, then found an alternative solution.
Ebris and Sable were doing their best to nod politely along when a loud clang shook the metal picnic table they were leaning against. The cloaked boy looked backward warily, while Sable craned his feathered neck around.
"Hoy hoy," Vivi said, crouched atop the table. Everyone in the crowd had stopped to stare at her, so she ignored them and focused on her quarry. "As another griffon handler," she put special emphasis on the name of the species, "I thought we should get together and compare notes. Starting with…how you hatched him?"
Many heads turned to spot the only other griffon nearby, leaving Rary chuckling more nervously than when Vivi had jumped on the table.
"Hmm…" Ebris croaked. "Surely, perhaps later—"
"No, right now. I'd love to know what you fed him and how you taught him to fly."
Ebris' face fell, the hood of his cloak swallowing his head. "It was a lot like this—" With a snap of his fingers, Sable melted, flattening into a mass of shadowy matter that slid backwards along the ground. Ebris dove under the table, away from the girl on it, running full speed after the again three-dimensional creature.
Vivi wasted no time, vaulting off to chase the fleeing pair. Rary bounded after her, meeting up at the exit from the picnic area between two of the nearby buildings.
"Hop on!" Vivi hooked an arm around Rary's neck and leaped onto his back, holding two handfuls of feathers like reins.
"I saw them turn left!" she yelled.
"No, your other left!"
"Waak! Easy on the neck feathers!"
Ebris' gray cloak and Sable's black feathers stood out against the red brick of the walls, but the advantage faded the deeper they got into the maze of twisty little passages. Shadows from the tall structures on either side made it easy for their quarry to evade them.
"Wait!" Vivi yelled. "Go back that way, I think we can cut them off."
Rary burst around the corner, expecting to find a surprised handler and his loyal something, but found only a stack of barrels and crates in the shadowy corner between two buildings.
"Huh? Where'd they go?"
Vivi turned around as far as she could without falling off Rary's back. "I could've sworn they ran down here from over there."
"Don't swear," Rary said, scratching at wooden crate labeled 'pickles.' "Unless Shadelanders can turn into boxes too…"
"Hmm…" Vivi peered intently around.
"Should I fly up and take a look?" Rary stretched his wings wide.
"Yeah, take up Sapphire, since she—" Vivi reached into the right pocket, only to pull out a handful of loose scales and twigs. "Where is she?"
"Huh? Oh, you gave her to LJ! He must still have her."
"Drats." She sighed. "We better get back to them."
"Alright!" Rary trotted away, Vivi still on his back.
After a few seconds, the shadows on the corners of the walls shifted, unfolding to reveal a harrowed handler and his creature. "That was close," Ebris whispered. "They must know. Use caution around both of them."
Sable's only reply was a deep, gurgling growl.
After Vivi had chased off the guy in the cloak and the weird thing with him, LJ just sat at the same table, finishing his last bits of fried dough in the basket. Sapphire sat on the table beside him. She was nervous enough in the absence of her handler, not to mention her both fuzzy and feathered friend, that she glanced around at any passerby, but not so badly that she was buzzing off to find them on her own.
LJ picked up a chunk of meat and offered it to the tiny reptile. "Oh, wait, you're not that kind of dragon. I don't have any fruit, though."
Sapphire waddled over to the slice of cake. The enchantment made it so someone could only eat a single square section at a time, and LJ had already enjoyed about half of it. The magic appeared to her golden eyes as a series of lines and corners binding the pastry together. A quick swipe of her paw and the cubes cracked and crumbled, allowing her to scoop out the red cube-shaped berry baked inside.
She nibbled at it while LJ watched. "Well, there you go."
Sapphire's eyes grew wide and her wings fluttered as she heard the familiar clicking of paws and talons in alternating order. Vivi and Rary were met with a delighted squeal and a subdued "hi."
She slipped off Rary's back expertly. "Sorry about that. We had to go take care of something."
Vivi scooped Sapphire into her pocket, despite the sticky berry she still clung to. "I hope she wasn't too much trouble."
"Naw, she just broke my cake, but it's fine."
"Cakebreaker…" Rary mumbled. "Whew, that was a good run. I think I need another break."
"Sorry," Vivi said, checking the watch at her belt and the crumpled schedule in her hand. "That was your warm-up. The log pull is next."
"Alright! Time to get dirty."
LJ showed his displeasure on his face.
"Don't worry," Vivi said. "They hand out plastic ponchos beforehand."
Curiouser and curiouser…What’s going on with the team from Shadeland after all? You might find out in the next Event, or you might not!
If you like the story and want to share it with someone else, make sure to send them the first Event instead of this one, that way they can start at the beginning. That’s how that works! Otherwise, you can skip the line and read the whole story right now!