Okay... I have no idea what to do.
So me, Happy, and Alex tried to save Rainy. Now we're all stuck together, with no one to save any of us? Honestly this entire flipping journey has taken what seems like a whole year! Maybe it's been a week, but I don't even know anymore. We're just moving from one conflict to another, another long walk to another. Me and Happy have been thru some stuff, son.
Yep, me, Happy, and...
Wait, where is he?!
I lifted up my head, bumping my head on a low hanging branch. Rubbing my head dizzily, I looked up at the sky.
I was in the middle of a very dense forest, that I knew for certain. I managed to slip out of that cell, which I actually have no recollection of doing? And why does it seem like I slept for hours even though it feels like I was just thrown in a dungeon five minutes ago? Whatevs, at least I'm free and–
Oh, right. Berry.
I looked over to the castle, where there was none. I was out in the middle of the forest with no landmarks, so no need to even think about responsibility when I don't even have a WAY to do it! Anyways....
I looked around the forest. Yep, very green. Very leafy...
At this point, I began running around in circles screaming. Normally when I'm afraid I try to be funny to kinda, er, combat the fear?? I mean it's just a forest... but I was freaked out, and screaming is funny, right?? It's not gonna alert any predators, right?? I'm a crocodile but you never know when a whole ANACONDA will come lunging out of the bushes and YEAH I KNOW ANACONDAS PROBABLY ARENT IN THIS REGION BUT–
I heard a twig snap and a scream that wasn't mine.
It was cold and damp inside the cave-like dungeon, which I could have stood just fine forever if it wasn't so gloomy and depressing. I was the prince of this doomed kingdom, and we were just here to view its destruction...
I just hoped that the village plushies could get out safely...
"Hey Berry," I spoke for the first time in a while, my voice cracked.
"Yeah Rainy? Prince Rainbow? What is it that you wanna be called?" he responded
"Err, Rainy's fine... It's what it's always been, right? Hahaa... umm.."
It was silent for a minute and I fidgeted my claws.
"You okay, Rai–?"
"I just think this whole thing is pointless!" I blurted out.
The whole dungeon was silent once more, but it was a thicker silence than before.
Happy was the first to break the fog. "Listen Rainy, everything's gonna be okay! It's obvious that we're gonna get out of here at some point– Berry thinks that Alex is going to come back, and Berry's smart! We WILL get out of here, and maybe someday, sometime we can come back and fix this mess with the kingdom and all that."
"Happy's got a point," Berry joined, but a with a little sudden reluctance. "This kingdom thing... it can't be fixed right now. We can't fix it now, maybe we can't fix it ever on our own, but it will be fixed. Eventually." he curled back up in the corner.
I took a deep breath. "Guys, I'm not really sure you can understand right now. It's either... It's..."
"Yeah?" prodded Berry.
"It's either now, or... never. If a magic gecko doesn't grant us an instant result then we can't just rebuild this village and take down these lions on a later date! The plushies from the village are moving onto bigger towns already." I paused. "My home town will be destroyed from the inside out until there's nothing left..."
Berry was out of his protective curl. Happy went over to hug me. Both were about to say something until a slight tap was heard on the outside bars of our cell.
And two others, too?
"Alex!" I called out and rushed over to the bars, already being squeezed through by the pumpkin-colored crocodile. "I knew you'd come back!"
I then noticed that beside Alex was a small light green rabbit with an even smaller bandage around her left front paw.
"Berry, meet Cherimoya!" Alex began, strangely cheerful for the situation. Hey... that name rings a bell!
"You're Elderberry's sister, right?" I asked, not trying to hide my excitement. "If you are, then could you help us out of here? Elderberry's pretty cool and smart and I think you are too and also Happy may not be able to fit through the bars like Alex can."
She seemed to sift through my jumble of deliriously hopeful words and answered carefully, "Yes, I'm Elderberry's sister. But you must have traveled far, for the desert is almost on the other side of The World!"
"The desert?" Happy confusedly replied "but I thought we found Elderberry's home in the Marshlands...?"
At this Cherimoya's cool expression slipped off into startled confusion, and then laughing, she said "My sister must want to try out that whole 'witch living alone in the middle of nowhere' thing and leave me out of it. Whatever she wants, that isn't my world. Anyway, my friend Strawberry is strong enough to bend these bars wide enough."
All of a sudden, a snow colored lioness seemingly materialized out of dust to Rainy's startled gasp. Rainy was shaken up, but everyone else seemed to sense the kindness in the lions heart, however corny that sounds.
"I'm here to aid you, not to harm you. Trust me, everything will be alright." said Strawberry in a willowy voice. "I will bend these bars. Cherimoya, please explain to the Prince your plan."
"Thank you so much for everything, Strawberry," Cherimoya's thanks were genuine and then, turning to rainy began, "I created a plan not only to take back the 'crocodile' in crocodile kingdom, but to protect the villagers under it as well."
Rainy lit up brighter than Rainy or Happy had ever seen, and it was almost as if a glowing light of wild hope had filled the damp dungeon cell. "Tell me! Tell me please! Tell me, I want to help set it in action!"
Cherimoya smiled excitedly and told him with joy "It's already in action, and it's foolproof."
Seeing Rainy's light grow even brighter to near bursting, she got right into her plan's details. "I have already over the course of only a single moon cycle evacuated every single villager along with their belongings to a very safe place until this mess is all over. Tomorrow is supposed to be the defining moment of when the people will be forced under the rule of the lions: the raid."
When Rainy looked a little confused, Cherimoya elaborated.
"All the lions will leave the castle (which they will assume is safe) to swarm all of the villages and conduct a raid, stealing gems and valuables which they will justify as legal announcing they're the kingdom's new rulers. They will walk far through the forest, walk the long paths to each village, DESERTING the castle and making it vulnerable for at least three hours, and come upon villages of nothing but empty structures," Strawberry's eyes glinted in the corner of my vision, hinting at the same, if not higher, joy as Rainy. "and knowing these lions, they'll search every single crack for the smallest gem, which doubles the amount of time we'll have."
I was listening intently, but not as intently as Rainy "time to do what? Do we have anything to do with it?"
The sun was beginning to set, and the warm light reflecting off of puddles by the window reminded Rainy of the red pears from the Marshlands. Cherimoya stretched in the fading light and continued "Me and Elderberry have noticed some strange things about this one castle in particular. We think that taking down this castle can take down something much, much bigger than just the lions. In fact, it won't even be taking down the lions, but the results will be amazing."
Cherimoya began shuffling through a bag. Rainy's joyous glow faded slightly and looked around in confusion, but saw only Berry and Happy look at each other in a mixture of knowing and wonder, which comforted him.
Cherimoya fished out a half shredded map from her bag and handed it to Rainy with reverence. "You can save not only our kingdom, but every lion as well from something that's been destroying them for hundreds of years."
"I don't understand..." said Rainy. "What is destroying them? Why and how can I help?"
Strawberry pushed her head through the now completely open window.
"You can save us from ourselves."
*TO BE CONTINUED IN JUNE, NEXT MONTH*