Capture The Flag 3/6

From: Dan Drazen <>
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 16:22:03 -0400 (EDT)

                                 Chapter 5

     It was just before dawn when Sally was roused from a
dreamless sleep by a knock at the cabin door. "Who is it?" she
     "Get your cloak, Princess." It was Julayla.
     Sally got out of bed, felt around the side of her bed for
her boots, slowly pulled them on, then walked across the hut to a
wardrobe. Fumbling through, she found the heavy hooded cloak
that belonged to her. She draped it over her shoulders gladly,
for the morning was cold.
     "Whuh the hoo-ha's goin' on, Sally?" Bunnie asked in a
sleepy slur of words.
     "Julayla wants me for something. I wonder what?"
     "Homsanomuh," Bunnie mumbled as she drifted back to sleep.
     Sally stepped out of the hut, slowly closing the door behind
her. Julayla was already dressed in a long cloak of her own.
Without a word, she began walking to the edge of the clearing, with
Sally following close behind.
     Ordinarily, Sally wouldn't have hesitated to ask Julayla a
hundred questions: Why get up so early? Where were they going?
Did she bring provisions? But there was something about
Julayla's demeanor that morning which forbade questioning --
which forbade conversation altogether.
     The two walked on for several hours. Breakfast was taken on
the run, as Julayla and Sally ate berries and other edibles they
found along the way. This was nothing new to Sally, for Julayla
had taught her survival skills already.
     At last, after several hours, they had circled back to a
large meadow about ten minutes walk from Knothole. Julayla sat
down on a fallen tree trunk, and Sally sat down next to her.
     "What is this place?" Julayla asked.
     "Well," Sally began, not really sure just what Julayla was
asking, "it's a meadow. We usually come here to play Capture the
     "I guess because it's so open. See, if the flag were placed
at that small sapling there, or over by that stone, you'd have a
hard time getting to it without being seen."
     "Princess, when you play this game, what is it you're
     "We try to capture the flag that's held by the other team."
     "No, Princess; what is it you're REALLY after?"
     "I don't understand."
     Julayla said nothing. She leaned back slightly and studied
a few small clouds overhead in the sky. Sally looked too, not
knowing what she was looking at.
     "There," Julayla said at length. "That cloud toward the
northern horizon."
     "I see it."
     "Do you see the face in it?"
     "No, I don't. Whose face do you mean?"
     "You never met him," Julayla said as she turned to look at
Sally. "More years ago than I care to recount, when I was only a
little older than you are now and living in our village far to
the East, I loved a boy. Juleric, his name was. He never sought
my heart, but I gave mine to him gladly."
     Sally listened in rapt attention. The thought of Julayla as
a young girl in love was one she'd never entertained before.
     "He could have claimed the heart of any girl in the village.
When he chose another, it was devastating. Yet I knew that I
would always love him, and that I would still see his face even
when he was gone."
     "You saw his face in the cloud, then?"
     "Yes. But only because I carry his face with me. In my
heart." The two were silent for a short time.
     "Princess Sally, you miss your home. I think we all
do. And yet you still have that home."
     "I do? Where?"
     Julayla didn't answer the question. She just looked at
Sally and waited for the Princess to answer her own question.
     "But Julayla, what good is a memory?"
     "That I cannot answer. You yourself will discover the
answer. When it is time."
     "Time for what?"
     Julayla didn't answer. Instead, she rose to her feet.
     "You must remember. Remember everything and anything. You
said you were worried because you could not remember your old
room, even its color. Then remember the shape of the door or
window. Remember the sounds you heard every day in that room.
It will return. And once it returns, you will understand what a
memory is good for.
     "That is your assignment: to stay here and remember. Come
back to Knothole when you are finished, whenever that may be." And
without another word, Julayla walked away.
     "This is ridiculous!" Sally thought. "There's no way this
can help me! Why should I even bother?" Indeed, she spent the
first 20 minutes or so studiously and angrily avoiding her
"assignment." She circled the meadow, looked at the clouds in
the sky, tried and failed to count the number of trees
surrounding the meadow, then finally as the sun climbed to its
midday height she sat at the foot of the willow.
     "This is stupid!" she said out loud. "Remember this!
Remember that! It's all a bunch of..." She was so disgusted she
was at a loss for words, but she finally came up with a phrase:
"It's all a bunch of...of moonshine on water!"
     Sally gasped. Her eyes went wide. She hadn't heard those
words spoken since...since she was a girl. She had said them
while watching the delicate willow branches as they swayed in the
breeze, branches as fine hair!
     Suddenly it all flooded over her. She was young again; she
must have been only three. She was seated on someone's lap,
looking at her own reflection in a mirror as that someone brushed
Sally's hair after her bath. That someone was singing a song, a
lullaby, about night and the moonshine on water.
     And Sally was remembering. She remembered that she was in
the nursery, only now she could see it all. She saw everything
with absolute clarity and conviction. She remembered every
sound, every scent, every color. But most of all, she remembered
how good it felt at that very moment, to sit without a stitch of
clothing on someone's lap watching yourself in a mirror having
your hair brushed by someone singing a simple song.
     Sally's reaction was simple and straightforward: for the next
forty minutes, on and off, she cried her eyes out. The memory had
created a joy in her she had not felt in a long time; the
realization that that joy was now lost to her was too much to bear.
     Finally, worn out from crying, she looked across the meadow
from beneath the tree. "Anything and everything," Julayla had
said. What else was there?
     Then she looked at the meadow itself. It was familiar, but
in a way Sally couldn't describe. It looked the
palace garden in Mobotropolis!
     Was this what Julayla was driving at? Had she chosen this
meadow because it was a good game field, or because of the memory
it evoked, a memory unidentified until now?
     This was getting to be too much. Sally quickly walked away
from the willow and stepped into the Great Forest. She took one
quick look back over her shoulder at the willow, then turned.
     And now she saw something that almost stopped her heart.
She looked up at the trunks and branches of the trees as they
interlaced to form the protective shield that kept Knothole
hidden. Only now it looked less and less like a covering of tree
branches and more and more like a ceiling. The ceiling of the
Throne Room at the Palace. And before her she thought she could
see an aged tree trunk shift into the ornate throne of the Acorn
kings. And seated on the throne....
     "Daddy?" she heard herself say in a half-whisper.
     "What's wrong, my dear?"
     "Daddy, I...I don't know what's happening to me. And I'm
     "I know. I wish I could calm your fear but it's not within my
     "What IS happening to me?"
     "You're growing up, my dear. I only wish I really WAS here
to see it." And he smiled THAT smile, the one he gave when there
was a joke that only two could share.
     "But I'm not ready yet!"
     "I know. But there's nobody to assume the throne as Regent
until you come of age, and you no longer have the luxury of
waiting. Whether you're ready or not, whether you like it or not,
this old throne is yours. If you're ready to take it back. THAT
is the point, Sally."

     When Sally awoke, it was with eyes red and swollen from crying.
She was at the base of an old tree stump, its wood long rotted with
decay. She looked around. The light was failing. The sun was
low in the sky; almost night! How long had she been asleep? She
gathered her cloak about her and began running back toward
     Despite all the emotions that had overwhelmed her that day,
Sally felt no fatigue. In fact, remembering what she had gone
through buoyed her up as nothing had before. She had to tell
     She ran into the center of Knothole. There appeared to be
no activity of any kind. She quickly walked to the cabin she
shared with Bunnie. "Bunnie?" she called out as she opened the
     No sooner had Sally entered the hut than the door slammed
shut behind her. Sally turned, and could see Bunnie in the dim
     "Bunnie, I've got to tell you what...."
     But before she could say anything else, Bunnie placed her
hand across Sally's mouth as if to silence her. Sally simply
batted it away.
     "Bunnie, what's your problem?"
     "Tails is missing, THAT'S mah problem!"

                                 Chapter 6

     As Sally's eyes became adjusted to the dark, she could see
that Sonic, Rotor and Antoine were in the room with them. It was
a major infraction for ANY of the boys to be in the girls' hut
after curfew, but that fact seemed to pale in comparison to
Bunnie's news. "When did it happen?" Sally asked.
     "We don't know. Last anyone saw of Tails, he was sittin'
next to Sonic at dinner. He left the table and never came back.
Whenever Rosie or Julayla asked about him we told them that he
was with someone else who wasn't there at the time--Sonic or Rotor
or someone. I think we managed to fool them through bedcheck,
but we still don't know what happened to the little darlin'!"
     "I even took a quick dip in the river," Rotor added. "At
least we know he didn't fall in."
     "Sonic, did you say anything to Tails that might have gotten
him mad or...?"
     "No way, Sal! I was just, you know, talking to him."
     "What did you say, exactly?"
     "Not much, just the usual, like how I was getting tired of
the same old thing over and over for meals and how much I missed
Uncle Chuck's chili dogs and...oh boy."
     "Sonique, what is meaning this 'oh boy'?"
     "Sonic, what are you trying to say?"
     "It's probably nothing, Sal, but...well, last night I was
talking to him about Uncle Chuck's chili dogs and how he used to
make 'em and...."
     "Sonic, please! I don't want to hear any more about chili
dogs! Besides, it's not like Tails knows the way to Uncle
     "Well...." And so Sonic told the others of their conversation the
night before.
     "Sonic, you didn't! Why would you tell Tails where Uncle
Chuck's house used to be?"
     "How'd I know he'd go looking for it?"
     "He's four years old!! Four-year-olds do things like that!
Smart move, Sonic! He's probably lost somewhere in the Great
Forest right now."
     "He is not. I...."
     "There's more?"
     "I...sort of kind of drew him a map."
     "And he's got it?"
     "I can't find it anywhere; he MUST have taken it with him."
     "Perfect! You gave him directions to get to Robotnik! And
if Tails get caught by any SWATbots, they'll have directions to
get to us!"
     "Relax! I'll just go get him."
     "Sonic, you can't just go walking back to Robotropolis
     "Who says I can't?"
     It looked like the two of them were two seconds away from a
fight. That would REALLY have brought out the grown-ups.
Instead, Sally lowered her voice. But while she spoke calmly,
she continued to look Sonic in the eye. "What is it, really?"
     "I..." Sonic hesitated. "Well, it's just that I promised
Rosie that I'd look after Tails all day today. And...and I
promised her I wouldn't let her down.
     "Look, Sal, we both know the grown-ups think I'm a loser,
some kind of screw-up. Just 'cause I don't do well in school or
I don't help out as much as they say I'm supposed to. I WANTED
to show them I was good at SOMETHING, but...." Sonic turned away
from her and the rest of the children.
     "It's OK," Sally said in a whisper, placing her hand on his
shoulder. "We'll look for him together. All of us."
     "Sal, you weren't even here when...."
     "That doesn't make any difference, Sonic. I don't want to
see anything happen to him, either."
     "But Princess," Antoine asked with a tremor in his voice,
"for the all of us to be going to that terrible place...."
     "Fine. We'll only take volunteers, then. All those who
care about Tails, raise your hand. OK, it's unanimous. Get your
cloaks--we're leaving."
Received on Wed Sep 20 1995 - 17:09:57 PDT

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