Wish Carriers

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Liffon Foxglove, the youngest in the Foxglove line, travels to Greenbrook to become a Wish Carrier. Upon arriving, he finds his father, the famous Fens Foxglove, has gone missing on a very important mission. Where has he gone? It's up to the young hummingbird and his new friend Lissa Gentian to find out what's going on. What they find may even be a threat to the Carriers, let alone Greenbrook and perhaps all of Herald itself.

Please feel free to comment. I have divided the chapters up according to basic word count, so they are rather long. When I totally finish everything, it will probably look a bit nicer.

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13. Trainspotting

 

         The world sped by as the small ruby-throated hummingbird gripped tightly to the luggage rack. People shuffled in and out of the car, trying to find a place to sit. He watched them all with slight interest, observing their habits. One man perched below him, his head masked by a gray hat. A newspaper crackled in his hand; he folded it up backwards to save space. A child whined at her mother, begging for a snack. The mother handed her a sandwich and she became silent.
         The train stopped. Fens glanced out the window behind him. An urban landscape greeted him, but he didn't see the other trains that Felicity had mentioned. He sighed, willing the train to keep moving; this wasn't his stop.
         The man with the newspaper stood up and folded his reading material until it could fit in his coat pocket. He left the train, watching the ground as he walked. A bell rang and the doors closed.
         The train was moving again. This was excruciating. Fens had to hunch down to prevent himself from fidgeting. If he was flying at least he would feel like he was doing something productive. But this sitting; he didn't know how humans did it so much. Sitting and not moving for hours on end: sitting and reading, sitting and watching a box with pictures, sitting and looking at the sky. He shuttered to think that there were even birds that had to do this all day.
         He glanced around the train again. There were a few new people, but none of them had noticed him, and for that he was grateful. The last thing he needed was a child to grab him or someone to scoop him up and throw him off the train. He wasn't sure why either of those would happen, but he didn't want to take the chance.
         A scratchy-sounding voice announced something that Fens couldn't hear. The train slowed and it grew dark. Fens was surprised at the sudden change of lighting and jumped slightly. The world outside the window revealed that they had arrived in a large complex, and from Felicity's description, looked to be the station she mentioned.
         The doors of the train opened with a ding and Fens slipped out behind the mother and her daughter. The building was crammed full of people, all trying to get to their trains or stopping off and getting something to eat. Fens took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This was going to be a challenge.
         He flitted about, trying to avoid signs, animals, people, and the random flying popcorn kernal of a child trying to feed the pigeons. They cooed with words the boy couldn't understand, but Fens rolled his eyes at their comments.
         "This small person has free food."
         "That's my corn!"
         "I saw it first!"
         "But if I eat it first, then it's mine."
         "Shut up or I'll eat all your corn!"
         Ignoring the rabble below, he tried to pay more attention to the signs on the trains. Felicity said something about a P-H-I-something.
         A man shouted and waved a hot dog in the air, trying to get attention from possible customers. The smells confused Fens; he had never experienced this dense collection of scents and his brain was becoming jumbled.
         Something hit him in the face that sent him tumbling backwards. He blinked a few time, regaining his composure. Something else hit him, but this time it was a bit bigger.
         "Hey! What are you doing?" Fens shouted to no one in particular. He was answered by a gleeful chatter as a squirrel scampered away into the crowd.
         "Now boarding train 4521 to Philadelphia," he heard a scratchy voice say over a speaker. But that started with a "ff" sound, not a "puh" sound. He went over what he knew about the human language in the area, trying to think of what sound the train's name would make when spoken. 
         "Now boarding train 4521 to Philadelphia," the voice repeated. The letters I-A make the "ee-ah" sound, he thought.
         His head snapped this way and that trying to find the train with that label. Look for a P, he reminded himself. One line down, and a fat stomach shape.
         "Last call - now boarding train 4521 to Philadelphia," the loudspeaker said. Fens began to panic. Was that his train? He sped toward a group of people boarding a train. The sign on the side said "Philadelphia," flashing and scrolling along the electric sign.
         P-H-I-L-A... This was it! But the train was already moving, slowly crawling along like a caterpillar waking up from its sleep in its egg. "Wait!" he shouted at the long vehicle. But, of course the train didn't slow. Why would it?
         "Wait! Stop!" the hummingbird yelled toward the departing train. He clenched his beak and sped toward the closest railway car, grasping the straps of his pack in an effort to prevent losing them.
         If I don't make it...Procne only knows. Thoughts of his son flashed through his mind. His son was depending on his. All of Greenbrook was depending on him. He needed to get home. He needed to catch this train! A burst of speed pulsed through his wings and he pushed hard against the wake created by the train.
         The chain! One claw on his bag strap, the other extended toward the chain-link rail between the cars. A little more...! His claw closed on the chain and he felt a rush of relief. The wind was strong, but his grip was stronger.
         The wind slowed and he breathed deeply, sitting in silence amid the sounds of the train. Just a few moments, he thought. A few moments to catch my breath.
         The hummingbird peered around, trying to figure out how to get inside. The doors were clamped shut on either side of him. Carefully, he shimmied over to the door while the train was slowly picking up speed. With a quick, deft movement, he launched himself at the door and grasped the latch. It was tiny, but so were his nails and feet. He flapped his wings to try and upright, but the miniscule grip that he could muster on the latch was failing. Finally, he simply gave up and hung there, upside down, like a bat.
         A bat! He growled to himself, angry that he was even able to be compared such a fowl creature. Just as he was about to head back to the chain, the door slid open and he fell off.
         It slides! He rolled over on the grating and fluffed himself up in frustration as the human's boots shuffled past him. It slides, for the love of Procne!
         In his anger, he had almost missed his opportunity. The few seconds he had to race inside the door were passing fast. He launched himself like a rocket toward the opening, nearly catching his tail feathers in the rubber between the doors.
         There was a dim chatter throughout the car. This train car was a little nicer than his previous vehicle; he reasoned it was because this train was for traveling longer distances.
         There was less room in the luggage rack on this train. He had a hard time finding a perch. He found himself bumping into the backs of people whilst searching about, not even paying attention to what was ahead of him.
         The back of a large man came much faster than he predicted and he quickly found himself, feet up, on the floor. He quickly turned over, moving out of the way of a rather sharp-looking heel that landed with a clack as the woman wearing it took the step.
         In his panic, he took to the air, trying to get his balance and clear his confused mind. This was much busier than the last car. 
         A young college student's cup of blazing hot coffee splashed dangerously close to his head as she sat down on one of the seats. He flitted around it, hearing a hiss of pain from her as the hot liquid splashed onto her pants.
         A hand covered in a black glove shot up in front of him as if it had a mind of its own. It seemed the human attached to it thought he was a rather large bug. Sadly, he hadn't looked up long enough to see it was actually a poor, defenseless hummingbird. Fens clenched his beach, doing a half flip in the air to dodge the giant hand. He sighed in relief, deciding that getting out of this car was a better course of action.
         The crackle of newspaper accompanied his travels. The woman folded it over, revealing a collection of colorful comics on the back side. If he had the time or inclination to try and decipher the strange human scribblings, he probably wouldn't understand the jokes anyway. But more importantly, the woman was standing up and walking towards the door.
         His heart leapt as she walked toward the door. It hissed slightly as it opened and Fens followed her through without looking back.
         Through a series of well-timed flights and even some clever button pressing on the emptier cars, Fens finally made it to somewhere that looked relatively safe. There were multiple luggage racks stacked about the car with a few suitcases here and there, but overall it was a bit emptier than he expected. There was a rather large dufflebag, blue in color, on the top rack. The zipper was slightly open, so he could easily push it back. Inside was a collection of sweaters.
         A little itchy, but it will do, he reasoned, settling into his makeshift nest. He hated not being able to be active, but this was much better than having to fly for a week straight.
         Time was running out. There was not telling how much the lack of wish energy could have affected Herald by now. He frowned, thinking of what he could have done. Why did he have to go on this mission alone? Miu was right, he should have sent someone else in his place.
         There weren't large windows in this car, but they were big enough for Fens to watch the landscape race by. He spread his wings out on instinct as if he were flying.
         He relaxed a little, despite his situation. At least this car was calmer than the others.
         His mind wandered back to Greenbrook. He swallowed, trying to not worry about how much he needed to get home. There was no reason to worry about things he was not able to control (like the speed of the train). Nevertheless, he couldn't make himself relax.
         For the first time since he set out, his thoughts turned to his son. He was supposed to have met Liffon back in Greenbrook to encourage him in his tests for Carrierhood. By now he would have missed them. 
         He cursed at himself, angry at this sudden realization. He had hardly spent enough time with his boy as it was! He pretty much missed everything of Liffon's chickhood: his first word, his first flight, even his first flower. 
         Now he wasn't even there to welcome him to the ranks of the very Association that he himself took so much pride in. He recalled the starry-eyed look the young bird had always given him as he told the stories of his adventures. He had been so proud for his eldest sons Friss and Fross when they finally made it, but now he had missed his youngest son's turn.
         He wondered if Liffon would ever forgive him for that. The lack of connection with his son had made him worry about their relationship, but no matter what he did, Liffon had always treated him like a sort of hero.
         But Fens never felt he deserved that.
         "Dad, tell me the story of how you delivered the wish during the storm in the Spring of the Killdeer!"
         "Are you sure you want to hear that one again?"
         "I love your stories, Dad!"
         Even if he had been away for months a time, he always came back to his son's bright face. Friss always thought it was silly, and Fross always poked fun at them, but Liffon would have none of it.
         "You just wish you were as awesome as Dad is!" he would retort.
         Fens smiled at this though. He wondered If Liffon had made it into the Carriers. There was no doubt in his mind that he had. Suffi had always helped Liffon stay on top of his studies. He had seen the evidence every holiday he returned home. Every season, Liffon grew more astute, and more serious, but he never lost the love of stories, even if he was much less social than his brothers.
         Suffi, Fens thought, sadness rushing through him. He hadn't seen his wife for at least a month now. Even when he could get a few days off to make the trip home, it was hardly enough to make up for all the time he was away from her. He felt a tear come to his eye, but shook his head.
         Now was not the time to be sad. Now was the time to think of the future, and plan for the trip home. If Felicity was correct, this train would take him all the way there.
         The train slowed to a stop. It seemed it had arrived at a station. The view outside the small window confirmed this. The rather small station was simply a pavilion, painted white, with a collection of people gathered around holding suitcases and the like. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, so the whole scene was rather grayer than the previous one.
He watched as a few people got off the train, and some on, snuggling into the wool sweater. He closed his eyes, hoping to catch a quick nap.
         The scchhcctt sound of the door opening snapped him back to alertness, however. A young woman in a clean-looking uniform had entered and began to pull a bag off the opposite rack. She hummed a tune as she did so, and Fens began to wonder what made her so happy. She turned to grab the bag Fens sat in and yelped in surprise.
         "Why what are you doing here?" she asked in a rather annoying voice. "Are you a stowaway?"
         "Leave me alone! I have to get home!" Fens shouted.
         But to her, it only sounded like a series of angry chirps. She grinned at him in her ignorance. "I'm sorry, Mister Bird! I didn't mean to wake you. Did you get yourself trapped in here?" she cooed.
         "No! I'm meant to ride home!" he all but screamed. He fluffed himself up as big as he could and tried to appear threatening. But she would have none of it.
         "Let's get you outside," she said with a smile, and reached to grab him. Fens saw the hand and panicked. He shot off toward the door, but he legs were much longer and she leapt at it, sliding it closed with a quick movement. 
         Fens shrieked in anger, which didn't turn her off her path. Instead, it made her move faster.
         "Come on, little birdy. I'm not going to hurt you," she cooed, shifting her weight from foot to foot, trying to gauge her quarry's movements.
         Fens was growing furious now. Humans always ruined everything! Why couldn't she have just left him alone? "Move, you stupid human!" he bellowed.
         But it was still no use. To her, his shouts were nothing but soft chirps and peeps. She began maneuvering about the car, trying to corner him, but she didn't realize it was so small, apparently. Every time she lunged to grab him, something was knocked over.
         "Dang it!" she hissed.
         "Come on, Jenny," a voice called from outside. "We have passengers waiting for their things!"
         "Coming!" she shouted back. "Now come on, you silly bird!" She grabbed a sweater from the open bag and threw it toward Fens.
         Not expecting such an attack, the hummingbird was caught off guard. The heavy fabric hit him like a tank, and he fell to the ground with soft thump. He struggled, flopping about in the semi-darkness, but still couldn't move. He felt himself being lifted up, and then heard the sccchhcct of the sliding door.
         "No!" he screeched, flailing about under the sweater. "No! Put me back! No!"
         He was released, falling to the earth before he realized where he was. On instinct, he spread his wings and righted himself, making an awkward flight to a nearby perch.
         As he landed, he realized, but too late, that this was the roof of the station. A train whistle blared and the sound of the vehicle leaving made his heart drop. He shot toward it, trying to grab ahold again, but his tired wings couldn't reduce the distance between him and his ride.
         "No!" he choked, landing with a soft plop on the grassy ground. "No..." He was near sobbing by now, all hope lost. How was he going to get home now? If it weren't for that stupid human he would be on his way home now.
         He lay on his back, staring at the sky for a moment, all his energy drained. If it hadn't been for the sound of his stomach and his natural fear of long lengths of time on the ground, he would have laid there for eternity and melted into the earth. Reluctantly, he flapped his tiny wings and found a patch of flowers someone had planted in the park.
         His depression grew, along with his hopelessness, even as he sipped the sweet nectar of a daffodil. He sighed and made his way back to the station. Perhaps another train headed for Cleveland might come back here.
         He paced back and forth on the shingles for a time, fell down in despair, then got up and paced some more. Many trains passed, but none of them had the same lettering that Felicity had mentioned. He settled down with a sigh as the sun grew lower in the darkening sky.
         There was simply nothing to be done.

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