6 – My Zombie Friend For Life

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As Gemini returned back up the castle steps and started his search for the dining hall, Phan found himself in a completely different situation. Phan and Captivated were now being led even further down the lava stream by a shadow-shape called Big-Kla,ee. Big-Kla,ee did not explain where he was leading Phan. Whenever Phan asked a question, he responded by stating that he was working under the order of the king. If Phan tried to resist, he would fail. Big-Kla,ee could easily overpower him. There was no other option now but to obey his command. The surroundings appeared to be clear of any other shadow-shapes apart from Big-Kla,ee. This was at least one positive idea to think about. Another topic of thought had to do with Captivated. Every now and then Captivated would start to pull away from Big-Kla,ee. After Big-Kla,ee tugged back he ceased his pulling. He would then behave as his normal self before trying this again. Captivated was given the most advanced training by the King Theo  and Prince Gemini themselves. His behavior was the best of any unicorn in the castle stables. All other unicorns respected him as their superior. He was well-behaved for even strangers and was not frightened of the shadow-shapes. Phan hadn’t even the slightest of clues as to what Captivated’s motives were. Captivated repeated his actions again. This time, Big-Kla,ee did not tolerate him as he had been doing previously. “Quit!” he scolded and  jerked forcefully on the bridle. Captivated ceased, despite his anger towards Big-Kla,ee. The walk continued until they came to a bridge stretching across the stream. Phan brightened up. Perhaps he was being taken to Gemini. However, as he studied the bridge further, his hopes were darkened. Lining the sides of the bridge were two rows of shadow-shapes armed  with spears. As Big-Kla,ee led Phan and Captivated closer they shadow-shapes turned their piercing red eyes onto Phan. Phan hoped they weren’t planning on attacking him with the spears. If that was their intention he would never stand a chance.  Judging on the grinning expression on Big-Kla,ee’s face Phan could safely bet on some sort of harm coming to him soon. Gemini was far back with the shadow-shape king and could not be relied upon for help. Phan needed to get away from the shadow-shapes as quickly as possible. A minute ago he thought of grabbing the reins and riding away, but where would be ride to?  He was clueless to his surroundings and Captivated couldn’t run forever. There wasn’t another bridge to be seen anywhere.  Currently Phan had two choices. He could either stay and face the shadow-shapes or gallop away to be caught once again. The decision was made for him as Big-Kla,ee led him to the bank beside the bridge. Immediately after Big-Kla,ee halted Captivated the rows of shadow-shapes started to advance across the bridge to Phan, starting with the shadow-shapes furthest away on the other end of the bridge. The shadow-shapes required only one word as an instruction to continue their plan. “Attack,” Big-Kla,ee stated in an unexpressive tone of voice. Fortunately for Phan, Captivated also knew the meaning of the word. In a split second he pivoted around and kicked out at the shadow-shapes, knocking Big-Kla,ee to the ground and Phan nearly out of the saddle. At this moment Phan finally understood Captivated’s plan for escape. The moments when he pulled while being led he was testing Big-Kla,ee’s strength. He found Big-Kla,ee to be similar to a human. He could handle him as a stable worker or rider could, but he was still no match for his power. Shadow-shapes were strong but they still had limits. Hopefully, if his logic was true, he would also be able to outrun these strange shadow-shapes as he could a human. When Captivated bolted off, Big-Kla,ee was forced to let go of the reins. Phan was thrown off balance and failed to catch them. Thus, the reins slipped over Captivated’s head and out of Phan’s reach. Phan desperately clung to the mane. He turned his head back to see the shadow-shapes charging towards them wielding their spears. Captivated was in control of the quest now and his top priority was finding Gemini. He doubled back down the bank of the stream searching for the spot where he had last seen his master. Up ahead he caught sight of the familiar group of rocks Gemini had used to cross the stream. Phan’s eyes widened with fear. “Don’t!” he pleaded Captivated. “You won’t be able to make the crossing!” Desperately he pulled as hard as he possibly could on Captivated’s mane, hoping he would obey the command. Captivated’s goal was firmly set in stone and he intended to achieve it. Phan gave one last unsuccessful attempt to stop the runaway unicorn. After Captivated turned and charged towards the rocks Phan had nothing else to do except to keep his grip on the mane and hope Captivated would not slip into the lava. The shadow-shapes were still dedicated to the chase. They weren’t even close to Captivated’s tail, luckily. The lava stream was quickly rising to meet Phan ahead. Phan gave one final attempt to control Captivated by reaching down to the reins. However, they were a few inches out of reach. He lost his balance and panicked when seeing the lava ahead of him. Captivated increased speed when he reached the lava stream bank. Before Phan was ready, Captivated’s hooves left the shore one by one. Phan’s right foot slipped from the stirrup. Phan, horrified,  didn’t want to watch Captivated land but his eyes were fixed on Captivated’s hooves. Much to his relief, he heard the first hoof make contact with a rock below. Two more echoed after the first. Captivated made the landing but would he be able to complete his crossing without slipping? A few of the rocks were odd-shaped at the top and gave a greater risk of slipping. As Phan continued his attempt to regain balance, Captivated bumped over one of the odd-shaped rocks knocking Phan’s left foot out of the saddle. Phan tightened his grip on the mane with his left hand and grabbed the front of the saddle with his right as he tried to refrain from slipping into the lava. He bounced around in the saddle as Captivated stepped from one rock to another. At last with great relief he saw the opposite shore just a few more rocks away. Captivated had no problem hitting the last rock and jumping to the shore. Unfortunately, Phan wasn’t quite ready for the jump. Miraculously he didn’t fall into the lava. Instead, unfortunately, he was incapable of holding on any longer. The impact of Captivated’s landing onto the shore ultimately knocked him from the saddle. Phan found himself being thrown onto the rocky ground. Pain shot through him like a lightning bolt before a world of darkness enclosed around him.

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“Get up!” Captivated nickered frantically to Phan, who was lying unconscious where he landed. He turned to see the shadow-shapes advance to the far side of the stream. Thankfully, seeing Phan lying motionless, decided it was no longer necessary to pursue him any further. They turned and left the bank chattering and talking to each other. After making certain they were truly leaving Captivated turned his attention back to Phan. He nudged him a few times on the side of the head with his nose. Phan gave no response. There was no other option left but to find a way to transport Phan away from the stream. He could not give up the search for Gemini, but he couldn’t leave Phan either. The simplest method was to drag him carefully by using his teeth. Carefully, Captivated lowered his head and bit down on the collar of Phan’s jacket. He lifted Phan off of the ground gradually, making sure he was not harming his friend. Slowly he started to continue following Gemini’s tracks, dragging Phan alongside. Once Captivated was comfortable hauling Phan while walking he decided to try it at a trot. If he could master that he could reach Gemini much faster. He lifted Phan higher and started to trot to the city. The rhythm of the trot jolted Phan more than the walk but he figured it was not enough to harm him. Perhaps the trot would even help him awaken quicker? So far, however, Phan did not respond to anything. There was nothing Captivated could do now but to keep trotting on, so that is exactly what he did. He followed the tracks exactly as he had with Gemini and Phan. It wasn’t long until he finally reached the City of Flaming Fire. The strange architecture captivated Captivated’s curiosity. He would like to have explored one of the triangular buildings further but he had to find Gemini. Since shadow-shapes left no footprints there was no confusion following the tracks down the city street. Shadow–shapes stopped to stare at the odd sight of a unicorn carrying a zombie in its teeth. Captivated paid them minimal attention. They could stare and gawk all they wanted but Captivated wouldn’t care a bit. None of the shadow-shapes attempted to interfere with Captivated. The shadow-shapes merely at the side of the street observing Captivated as he trotted past. After a while they went back to their business leaving him undisturbed. Finally, at the end of the street, Captivated found the large castle of the shadow-shape king. In order to reach the entrance to the castle he had to climb a set of rocky steps. That should not be any problem he couldn’t handle after crossing the river. Posted at the top of the steps beside the entrance was a pair of shadow-shape guards. They wouldn’t be a threat to Captivated now. Even if they turned out to be violent, he could attack back with his horn or kick with his hooves. Pulling Phan up the steps proved itself to be a greater challenge than Captivated had originally thought. He had to be careful not to let Phan’s feet get caught on the edge of the steps. As he ascended the steps the guards gave awkward looks at Captivated. Like the shadow-shapes in the city, Captivated ignored them. Halfway up the steps the heel of Phan’s foot accidentally caught on the edge of the step. Carefully Captivated backed down a stair and gently lowered Phan until the foot was released. While he elevated Phan back up he thought he saw Phan’s foot move out of the corner of his eye. The guards up at the top of the stairs were watching Captivated during the whole ordeal. Neither gave any attempt to offer help to Captivated or Phan. When he stopped in the middle of the staircase they stood wondering what was wrong. Captivated delicately lifted Phan a little higher as he continued his walk up the stairs. Captivated noticed while being hauled up the steps Phan started to recover from his unconsciousness slowly. He didn’t wake up yet but he did begin to move his hand and his other foot. Hopefully, by the time he found Gemini, Phan would wake up fully. By the time Captivated stepped off of the steps Phan started to open his eyes a small bit. He wasn’t capable of completely waking up or standing but his condition was improving. All that was left was to find Gemini. Captivated assumed he was inside the castle and walked up to the castle entrance. Unfortunately, he did not reach the entrance. The castle guards left their post and approached Captivated. They seemed surprised and confused, unlike the cold and hostile shadow-shapes he had previously encountered. Bolting off like before wasn’t possible now that he was dragging Phan alongside him. The first shadow-shaped guard caught Captivated by the reins. “Whoa, there!” he said. “What have you got there, unicorn?” He turned to the second guard. “Hold the unicorn,” he instructed. The second guard held Captivated by the reins as the first guard moved aside to the other side of Captivated’s head beside Phan.  “Release,” he asked Captivated while pulling gently on the collar of Phan’s jacket. Captivated, despite feeling certain the guards meant no harm, was still reluctant to hand Phan over. He ignored the request and kept his hold on the jacket. Besides, Phan was starting to regain consciousness bit by bit. In a few moments he wouldn’t need Captivated’s assistance any longer. The guard was persistent, however, and would not give in. “Give him here!” he ordered and pulled harder. Captivated pulled his head back while the guard tried to pull the jacket from in between his teeth. The fight continued until the jacket slipped off of Phan and sent him falling to the ground. The fall awoke him and he asked “What happened?” Captivated, glad to see his friend was back to himself again, dropped the jacket down beside Phan. The shadow-shapes let go of Captivated to rotate their attention onto Phan.  “We found you here on the castle steps.” Phan thought of possible scenarios which would explain his sudden appearance at the shadow-shape castle. None of these ideas he wished to share with the shadow-shapes. “I suppose I was just knocked out from a fall from my unicorn?” he suggested. That seemed like a  reasonable guess. “Well then. If you are feeling alright, we may escort you inside of the castle. I assume you have some business within the castle?” “As a matter of fact, I do,” Phan answered. “I need to visit the king.” Hopefully, if he dropped in at the right time, maybe Gemini would still be talking to the king. “We should have guessed!” said the first guard. “Usually there is at least about three or so guests late for dinner.” “Yes…we can go with that,” Phan agreed. “Could you tell me where he is? I must speak to him about something.” “The king is in his throne room. If you wish, I could escort you to him,” the second guard offered. “Yes, please.” Phan followed the guard inside the castle as the second led Captivated back down the steps to the stables.

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“Your majesty, we found a visitor on the castle steps right now,” the guard announced as he led Phan into the shadow-shape king’s throne room. “Welcome!” King-Oink,ooh welcomed. “Guard, return to your post.” The guard turned around and left the room leaving Phan alone with the king. “I am the mighty and powerful King–Oink,ooh. I can see you are not from these lands. Is there anything I may assist you with?” “I came to your land with my friend, Prince Gemini of the Shadow Realm. Along the way we became separated. Do you have any information dealing with his whereabouts? I would like to let him know that I have arrived.” “Prince Gemini certainly was here,” King-Oink,ooh told him. “I invited him for dinner, which he accepted. He is probably somewhere inside the castle. Dinner will be starting in just a moment and I am afraid I must be going-” “It’s MEEE!” announced a voice who interrupted King-Oink,ooh. The voice sounded as if it belonged to a small child. King-Oink,ooh dropped his speech and stood up. “Princess-Cay,lye!” he cheered. Phan turned around to see a small shadow-shape dressed in a violet dress with many ruffles. As opposed to most other shadow-shapes he had met, Princess-Cay,lye possessed a full head of curly black hair trimmed with violet ribbons to match her dress. “Father!” she called. “I didn’t know we had visitors tonight!”
“Yes,” King-Oink,ooh confirmed. “Is that okay with you?”
“GREAT!” Princess-Cay,lye squealed with happiness. “More audience for me and my wonderful show! For my spectacular show I am going to be showing the audience a set of difficult and magnificent tricks performed by my pet kbat..”
“Wonderful!” King-Oink,ooh encouraged. “I suppose then you are going to be performing for the dinner party tonight?”
“YES!” Princess-Cay,lye squealed with excitement.
“Great, then! You had better prepare for your show. If you perform a good show, as always, I will reward you with a priceless present!”
Princess-Cay,lye had one more subject to excite herself over before she was ready to leave the room. Her attention was now drawn to Phan who stood patiently waiting for the princess to finish her discussion.  “What is this?” she asked and pointed to Phan.
“Our visitor.” King Oink-ooh sat back down on his throne. “Comes from the Shadow Realm, I believe.”
“Correct,” Phan confirmed.
“Are you who I think you are?” Princess-Cay,lye questioned. Phan had to idea what she meant so he continued to stand and stare at the princess. King-Oink,ooh was hungry and was eager to leave for dinner. “Are you a zombie?”
Phan was relieved that Princess-Cay,lye wasn’t referring to anything related to Gemini or their plans. “Yes,” he assured her. “A genuine zombie.”
“Like in the story books?”
“I suppose”
“Father, I would like my present NOW!” Princess-Cay,lye screamed.
“Of course!” agreed King-Oink,ooh. “However, if I give you your present now, do you promise that you and your kbat will give a spectacular performance, as always?”
The shadow-shape princess did not need any more time to decide. “Yes!” she promised eagerly.
“Alright, then! What would you like as your gift?” King-Oink,ooh asked.
“A ZOMBIE!” Princess-Cay,lye shrieked with excitement. “I want THAT zombie and only that zombie! And I want it NOW!” She pointed to Phan while giving a huge, grinning smile.
“Of course!” King-Oink,ooh approved with just as much excitement as his spoiled daughter. “Take him and have a great evening and show! I must be going, now. It is time for me to make the announcement to start the dinner.”
Princess-Cay,lye beckoned with her hand for Phan to follow her. “Thank you, father!” she added as she led Phan out of the throne room. “Now I have a new zombie friend for life!”
“No problem, darling!” the king answered as he descended from his throne and also left the room to make the final dinner preparations.

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“Alright!” Princess-Cay,lye exclaimed  as she threw open the doors to a room filled with what appeared to be cat toys scattered around the floor. “This is the room belonging to my precious kbat!” Phan followed her inside and was greeted with a number of odd sights placed throughout the room. For one thing, the entire perimeter of the room along the walls was lined with various types and styles of pet beds, tunnels, bridges, boxes, and ladders. The walls of the room were barely visible under this enormous pet playground. To top off the pet themed room a small table with two matching chairs was positioned in the right corner of the room. Placed on the tabletop was a set of dishes, some filled with a pile of what Phan assumed to be pet food. Finally, sitting on the table lapping water from a dish, was the ultimate key to completing the room. A creature with the size and build of a black cat ceased its lapping to glance up at Princess-Cay,lye and Phan.  The kbat, however, was different from a typical cat in a number of ways. The kbat had a set of purple feathery wings attached to its back and possessed a set of horns in front of its ears.
“Is that the kbat of which you were speaking of?” Phan asked.
“That is my precious, darling kbat,” Princess-Cay,lye answered. “Her name is Zookles Princess and she is the best kbat in my father’s kingdom and beyond. You will have the magnificent honor of helping her perform her show tonight. Your job is to hold Zookles Princess’s hoop while she flies through. Understood?”
“Yes, princess,” Phan answered.
“Good, then. Now I will be heading to dinner. Your second job is to place Zookles Princess into her carrying case and bring her to the dining hall by the time I am finished eating. Understood? The carrying case is underneath her table. See you at dinner, zombie!” Princess-Cay,lye left the room leaving Phan to complete his assigned tasks. Phan would have preferred to ask the princess questions he had pertaining to the kbat, but Princess-Cay,lye did not give him any time to ask. It would do Phan good to know when exactly the princess would be finished with her food or to have received further instructions on how to handle the kbat. When he did glance out of the door to ask she was already gone. Since Phan wasn’t sure how long until Princess-Cay,lye would be finished with her dinner he decided to prepare Zookles Princess immediately in case she ate quickly. Carefully he made his way across the room to the table. Zookles Princess glanced up from her dish and fixed her eyes onto Phan. Her red eyes glared menacingly, telling Phan to leave her alone. Phan darted under the table and retrieved the carrying case. The case was lined with a few kbat toys and a pillow. Phan placed the case on the table and reached out to pick up Zookles Princess. Zookles Princess started to yowl while attempting to scratch Phan with her claws. “Stop!” Phan begged while unsuccessfully attempting to shove Zookles Princess into the carrying case. He hoped she hadn’t scratched him. Since he was a zombie healing scratches was very difficult without a potion or some sort of spell. Finally he was able to pull Zookles Princess’s claws off of his jacket and shove her into her case. Once she was inside he slammed the top shut over her. For a few minutes after being caught Zookles Princess continued her yowling and fighting fit. When she quieted down Phan gently lifted the case and exited the room. He was ready to assist Zookles Princess with her act. All he needed to do now was to find his way to the dining hall. This wasn’t a problem , all he needed to do was to ask someone for the directions. However, he still had the task of finding Gemini and staying out of any conflicts with the shadow-shapes. Even a young shadow-shape such as Princess-Cay,lye could be a threat to him.

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