A shape rose out from under a pile of straw, scattering the stuff in all directions. Ree’ku saw a medium-sized young chocobo, and heard it reply (again, in perfect Ixali):
“Trouble? We’ve been captured, and caged; we’ve been left out in the cold to sleep with nothing to eat and nothing but damp, moldy straw to keep warm. We don’t know precisely where we are, and nobody else knows either. And you say NOW we’re in trouble?”
“Yeah.” The moogle, Ree’ku noted, was walking. It appeared that he was missing a wing.
“Well, why now?”
“Because this featherhead hasn’t brought us any food, and if I don’t eat soon, you’re going to be my next meal!”
The two continued to ignore him, squabbling back and forth. It was hard to hate them. Ree’ku wanted to hate them, but he could not. They weren’t humanoids, and their kind had done nothing to earn his hatred. But they had come from Gridania city, so they must know something. He decided it would be best not to treat them as hostile.
“Hey! Are you two done arguing, or would you like to get out of that cage?”
Boco and Moogaloo stopped talking, as they both turned to look at the young Ixali male looking at then through the wooden bars of their prison. And he had spoken, Boco realized, in perfect Chocaa! So he turned to Moogaloo, and started to translate for his friend, when he realized that Moogaloo was laughing!
“What’s so funny?” Boco asked.
“And why are you repeating what I just said?” asked Ree’ku.
Moogaloo laughed again. “My friend thinks your greeting needed to be translated. He says you were speaking Chocaa. I thought you were speaking Starspeech, and you, I think are speaking in Ixali.”
Ree’ku thought about this. “And you are not speaking in Ixali, are you? I wondered how you might both have learned my language! But what is this, magic?”
“No,” replied the moogle, “I think it has something to do with that spear, though. Don’t you see it glowing while we talk?”
“My name is Moogaloo,” it said, and a small hand was offered through the bars. Ree’ku, who knew that his mother’s feathers would be ruffled if she were present for this, gave his name and shook the offered hand. “Boco,” said the chocobo, offering his wing. “Truly, Moogaloo, I do not see this glow. This spear is special, yes, but my father was killed by the Gridanian Riku’Lanora before he could tell me about it.”
“No, that can’t be! I know Riku’Lanora, she works with Kan’E’Senna, she would never…” began Boco, “do anything like…”
“No, she might have.” Boco turned sharply towards Moogaloo. “Boco, years ago, my father told me, there were a series of ambushes aimed at killing all the Seedseers. Kan’E’Senna survived because Riku laid an ambush for the ambushers. I’m so sorry, Ree’ku!”
Boco suddenly fell back with a squawk. “We were sent here.” Their captor was turning as if to go, when moogaloo sprang in front of him. “No, we’re not spies! Wait!” And the Ixal’s spear flashed, suddenly and with an intensity that knocked all three to the ground.
The forest around them came alive with Ixali Hunters, Nezuul at the head. “So, they have some magic about them? How could the brilliant nephew of the Matriarch not have known? We’ll execute them at dawn. Bez’o’Tuu, escort our skilled Interrogator back to camp, as he seems to have been blinded by ground dweller magic.”
“That went well,” grumbled Moogaloo. “Why did you blurt forth that nonsense about ‘being sent here?’ We were just running from Tulaq when it…when we…”
“…when we were somehow sent here, just like the last time. I don’t know,” thought Boco aloud, “how it happens. One minute we’re in Gridania, trying to get away from Tulaq – why you tricked me into putting Atomos pepper powder on his meal, I’ll never know – “
“He laughed at me!”
“Moogaloo, you tripped and fell face first into a pile of opo-opo poo. Tulaq warned you to watch where you stepped…”
“He was trying to distract me!”
“He was trying to…Oooooh! There is no reasoning with you! And anyway, you fell into it just as you were telling him how clean opo-opos are! Of course he laughed! And you did look…ah ha ha ha” laughed Boco.
“May I remind you,” said Moogaloo, stomping forward, “that we are going to be killed in the morning!”
That put them both in a bad mood. His diminutive friend sat down with his back to him. Boco tried to figure out the whole mad situation. He could not help but feel that someone, or something, sent them here for a reason. And that reason, he hoped, was not to get them killed. There was a sudden rustle of leaves near the cage, as two Hunters walked by.
“Will it work? When it comes to Nezuul’s plans we’ve all come to expect madness, but this? Why anger the Tree Spirit? And why you?” said one.
“I’m the first son of Jin’ka’Hul, leader of the Westwood Tribe. He honors my father by choosing me. And if this works, the humanoids of Gridania will know fear. And the Hunters’ Council will be one step closer to controlling Garuda’s Flock.” And the pair walked away.
Ree’KuKu’Noru sat by himself, away from the Hunters and their derogatory remarks. He needed to think about what had just happened, and constant clumsy attempts the other Hunters made to engage him in conversation were becoming too frequent and annoying.
The prisoners – Moogaloo and Boco – were not what he had expected. He liked them, dammit! A more unlikely pair of spies there never was…until Boco had all but confessed to having been sent here. What could Ree’ku do? As the Hunter Party’s Leader, Nezuul held the highest authority here.
As he pictured them, Reeku’s spear gave off yet another blinding flash of light – and Ree’ku saw Moogaloo and Boco dead, their lifeless bodies dropped in front of Nezuul, then his Mother, pleading for mercy as Nezuul had the Matriarchal Council slaughtered, and finally his mother’s death by Nezuul’s claws. And lastly he heard the voice of his Aunt, saying “Save the two, and save us all…”
And, as his head stopped throbbing, he opened his eyes, to see tall wooden poles rising above him.
“Boco, he’s awake!” cried the moogle.
“So, they think I pose a danger to the camp,” Ree’ku angrily said, “because my father’s spear flashed again, and they think you’re somehow controlling it? And that my father was therefore in league with the Gridanians, and a TRAITOR?”
“Calm down, Ree’ku,” said Boco, “We have to think of a way to get out of here. We’re wasting time.” And Boco told him about the conversation of the two Hunters. “No, I don’t know what Nezuul is planning. How is he going to anger the Tree Spirit? Nezuul is not so reckless that he would chop down the Forest! And it must be something that only one Ixal can do!” Try as he might, Ree’ku could not think of what Nezuul’s plan might be. “As much as it shames me, we have to get word to the Gridanians and my mother! Nezuul must not be allowed to succeed!” He looked at Boco and Moogaloo. “Do you trust me?” he asked them.
When they both nodded, Moogaloo was stunned at how fast everything happened. One moment their Ixal friend was crying, “Guards! Help, Guards!” and the next they were half a yalm away, running for their lives, with what seemed like half the camp following them. Then he got that funny feeling in the pit of his stomach, and they were swallowed up in a flash of blue light. He heard Boco squawk, “Not again!”
When the Hunters rejoined the camp, it was to discover their comrades gone, and the dead body of Nezuul, a Gridanian arrow through his throat. There were a few dead Gridanian Wood Wailers. Of the son of the head of the Westwood tribe, there was no sign.
Next issue: BOCO: IN HOT WATER