The skip in Petuna’s step slowly started to fade. The stress of crossing the marsh had taken its toll on her and she had used up what little magic she had left. Petuna collapsed on the ground, panting for breath. Phineas rushed to her aide, helping her up and leading her towards a friendly looking tree.
"Let’s rest here for a while,” said Phineas kindly.
Petuna looked at him gratefully, “We really can’t afford to waste time but we have no choice. I’m just too weak.”
She sat down on the ground and closed her eyes for a moment while trying to relax. Phineas sat down beside her and was picking at the grass.
“You deserve a break, Petuna. That was some feat you went through back there,” said Phineas. Petuna did not respond and just nodded slowly in acknowledgement. She looked around and noticed the trees were more sparsely distributed. She looked up and could see the sky clearly. There were birds chirping, flowers blooming and it seemed that they had left the worst of the Dark Forest. Phineas got up and plucked a flower and handed it over to Petuna.
“Your Highness,” he bowed in style while presenting the flower to her. Petuna smiled at the gesture.
“We must be out of the Dark Forest,” said Petuna as she observed the changes around her. She still felt quite faint.
Ten minutes passed and she did not feel any better. She knew that she had no strength left within her to make it any farther. Besides, they needed to make sure they knew where they were heading, now that they were out of the Dark Forest.
“Phineas, I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it any further,” said she weakly, “I think it would be best if we make a little detour.”
“Yes of course,” said Phineas, “Is there somewhere nearby?”
“The Spring of Dreams. It should be close by if I’m not mistaken,” said Petuna.
Phineas froze for a moment at the mention of the Spring of Dreams then quickly rushed to help her up and they started walking away from the Dark Forest.
“The Spring of Dreams,” said Phineas, “Is it safe?”
“Oh! Yes it is! It’s one of the resorts that the fairies go to. The Spring is such an entertaining host too! I’m sure you will like her. Besides, we do need the rest before we set off again,” said Petuna.
Phineas was silent, his mind whirling with thoughts. Then he suddenly had an idea.
“Perhaps it would be safer for you if you remain in the Spring of Dreams while I search for help,” said Phineas, “There won’t be any water-wrestlers after me and I can try and I can back before nightfall.”
“But…” started Petuna.
“It really makes sense, Petuna. You need to be protected, no more risk taking and putting your life in danger. I made a promise to protect you and get you home safely. I’ll set off on the mission to find your fairies and get word to the king,” interrupted Phineas.
Petuna closed her mouth and thought about this for a while. He did make quite a bit of sense and she could do with the rest and freshening up, just for a little while. She would get to the Spring of Dreams who could tell her how to get in touch with her father and decide what to do next.
They walked on for another hour. There were no trees in sight, just wide open land with fields of flowers and grass. There were some animals nearby too. They found a little stream on the way and Petuna rushed to it. She made sure that there were no abnormal currents in the water and that the water was harmonious. She could not risk having Storm Blazer or any of his associates capturing her now. When she was sure that it was safe, she scooped the water and splashed her hair and face with it. It was the most refreshing thing she had had in two days. Her hair soaked up the water droplets like a sponge and the glow in her eyes and face slowly started to show through. She could do with a good meal but that would have to wait until she reached the Spring of Dreams.
Phineas took the opportunity to gulp down mouthfuls of the fresh water. He splashed his face and washed his glasses which he was busy polishing with his shirt. The water was cool and refreshing. It tasted sweet and fresh and he could not get enough of it. A feeling of nostalgia passed through him as he thought of the water back on Earth. He missed home and wished that the water they had there was as fresh as this. Sadness spread over his face momentarily and he sighed as he took several more gulps of the water.
Very soon they were on their way again, feeling alert and refreshed. It took them another ten minutes to reach the entrance to a cave that appeared to have been carved in the face of a stone mountain. Petuna had remembered the place right away. She remembered coming here as a child with her mother, the queen, and she had been captivated by the serenity and beauty of the place.
“We’re here,” said Petuna cheerfully. She turned to look beside her but Phineas was not there. She stopped and looked around and saw that he was trailing behind, head hanging low, dragging his feet and half kicking the ground with his shoes. Petuna stood waiting with her hands on her hips until he finally reached her spot. She waited until he looked up at her. He had his hands in his pockets and an awkward expression on his face.
“We’re here, Phineas, come on let me introduce you to the Spring of Dreams,” said said, excited that she would meet her again after so many years. She turned around and was about to move when Phineas touched her shoulder slightly.
“Petuna, listen, you go ahead,” he said slowly. She turned around and stood searching his face.
“It… It’s just like I explained. It would be best if you take the time to rest and freshen up and I’ll be on my way to get word to the king. We shouldn’t waste time,” he said, “You’ll be safer here.”
Petuna watched him closely. Something did not feel right.
“Come with me, just for a moment, I’ll introduce you and then you can be on your way,” coaxed Petuna.
“It’s best if I didn’t, Petuna,” he sensed the awkwardness and laughed nervously, “It’s just that I’m quite nervous about this whole thing and well, guilty with all the mess that we, Anton’s group and I, have put you through.. and… and well I’m a bit embarrassed about meeting your… your citizens… given the situation…” Phineas was fumbling for explanations that would justify his awkwardness.
Petuna was not convinced but decided not to push him further. At least he would make up for the time she would lose here but he needed to know how to get to her fairies. Petuna thought about this for a while and decided that he was trustworthy enough.
“Very well, Phineas, you’d better be on your way then. But do you know where to go?”
“Uhhh… I’m sure I’ll find my way,” said Phineas in a hesitant tone.
Petuna smiled and walked over to the side of the mountain next to the entrance to the cave. She touched the face of the stone until it slowly became translucent. Phineas’ mouth dropped as he watched in amazement. The section of the stone which had become translucent showed a compartment and there was an object inside. She reached her arm inside the compartment and pulled out a compass before walking away. As soon as she did, the compartment solidified and returned to its original state. No one would have thought it more than just an ordinary piece of rock.
“What was that!” exclaimed Phineas.
Petuna giggled, “Here this will help you.”
“What is it?” cried Phineas in disbelief.
“It’s a liquid compass, the royal liquid compass. Only members of the royal family know its hiding places. They’re distributed across the land in various locations to help us in case we get lost or separated. The secret compartments only respond to members of the royal family.”
Phineas looked down at the compass in his hand. He could not believe he was holding on to a water compass, a compass that was made solely of water yet solid enough to contain a structure.
“This is incredible!” said Phineas.
“You’ll never lose your way. Just look for the direction to the fairies and it will lead you there,” said Petuna.
Phineas was taken aback.
“I.. I can’t possibly take this. It’s royal stuff…”
“Consider it on loan for now. I expect you to give it back to me when you return with the fairies,” said Petuna with a smile.
“I won’t hear another word of this, Phineas,” said Petuna turning to walk into the cave.
“Alright, Petuna, I will bring them to you as soon as I can!” he said.
Phineas held on to the compass. It looked like a pool of fluid water but felt like a flexible piece of soft rubber that changed form in his hand. He looked at it closely under the natural light and searched for the direction to the fairies. He touched its surface at the part where it pointed to the word ‘fairies’ and it slowly started to change form. It drew up the route he should take starting from the exact spot where he was standing. He was amazed at how it could pinpoint his location. He tried walking over to another spot and the compass changed its form again to show his new starting point. He started walking along the route that the compass told him. Every time he took a few steps, the compass would mould itself to his new location. He smiled and shook his head trying to imagine the implications of such a device on earth. Maybe he could study this device and see how it worked at some point, he thought, but first he had to find his way.