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7. A Bucket Full of Nuts

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Chapter 7. A Bucket Full of Nuts

Today we experienced the second element: wind. As with the water, it was nothing like what we’d been expecting, and the form in which it came was a complete surprise to us. There was no warning at all, not even a wave of heat as before.

We were following the trail, conversing, when we noticed a pleasant scent. Kelson claimed it was his mother’s bread and soup. Kenji believed it was maple trees, pine needles, and mountains. To me, it was Arien’s perfume. The other Makalos and humans also listed their favorite things. Regardless of what we smelled, the effect was the same—we were made to feel completely happy and at peace.

We continued our trek, satisfied and content, and weren’t surprised to find the trail free from problems as we traveled.

However, an hour or two later, I felt someone pull me from my horse and drag me along the ground. I couldn’t focus on whoever it was, nor could I clear my thoughts long enough to remember what I was doing. The smell was so pervasive that my thoughts were completely centered on Arien. I’d even forgotten that she’d been kidnapped.

I felt water being poured over my head, and suddenly my thoughts were sharp again. When I looked around, I saw that I was near a small cabin, with its owner standing over me. Instead of fear, I felt joy as I realized who this woman was—a long-time friend of Ara Liese and Arien’s.

The Fat Lady—as she insists on being called—drew my attention to the trail and my fellow travelers. I was disturbed to see every member of the group standing still, a complacent smile upon their faces. But what shocked me most was that during the last two hours, we hadn’t moved an inch, and the horses had wandered away from us to graze. How had they done so, when we had been riding them?

Once my companions had been rescued and the horses rounded up, the Fat Lady explained everything.

The Lorkon created a type of everlasting potion and placed it in thick concentrations throughout the area. Whenever a person inhales the fumes of this potion, his mind is confounded, and he—or she—is rendered completely helpless. What was most frightening to us was this—the individual has no idea he is not continuing with his life because in his mind, he is. It is an invisible prison.

***

A timid voice interrupted Jacob’s reverie. “Jacob?”

He sat up and focused his eyes on Akeno, who sat not too far away. “Yeah?”

“Would you accept an apology? The way I behaved was completely childish and . . .” He hesitated, and Jacob rushed to forgive him.

“It’s okay, Akeno.”

Jacob watched Akeno closely to see if he was going to cry or start throwing punches. Satisfied by the contrition he saw in the Makalo’s eyes, he relaxed.

His mind drifted back to the forest. “Do you think that lady had an influence on what the trees were doing to us?”

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