My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Five: Return

            CHAPTER FIVE–RETURN

            Going higher, I could see both villages clearly. I could see the battlefield between them. In a flash of anger, I sent each warrior back to their own army camp. Bugger them.

            I zipped toward the Zepha tribe. I was getting angrier. Not because they were trying to capture and use me, but because my previous work defending Zephan kids is moot if they got killed anyway. They just had to live through more dictatorship because I’d saved them that time.

            “It’s not far, guys,” I called.

I was ready to overthrow anything, but I wasn’t sure how. Somehow I think they might be magically protected. I didn’t think the bow would be much good, either. It would be all too obvious who assassinated everybody. I hadn’t kept my archery practice a secret. And I wasn’t going to be able to arrive in secret, either. Not only would my face be spotted easily, but I carried my bow no matter what, and I was the only person who really liked green clothes. My wings had been green when I left, too, so I would have to tell my magic to keep them that way as not to cause a major ruckus. Which, in turn, would make me even more recognizable. Dang it.

I would have to see the weapons the army used. People would think that someone in the army wasn’t satisfied with the power they had. Maybe one of the generals would get cocky and try to usurp power, or one of the Darkness Anoki would run rampant. Cough.

I decided to forget most of my planning, stay normal, and just kill people off. After all, if it seemed like I was getting quiet and secretive, it would raise suspicion. Hmm.

I stuck my wings out wide, braking over the village. It wouldn’t work very well to fly in—too conspicuous, and it made it obvious that I had new talents. I was sure that the village elders had heard about me from spies that were in the Kliid tribe, but maybe they didn’t know it was me.

I circled around to meet the others. “I guess we can’t put it off any longer.”

They nodded gravely, and we all dropped into the forest.

“You guys stay here,” I said. “They’re really going to think you’re Kliid warriors. I’ll go first, because they’ll recognize me.” I changed my wings back to normal and put on my old green clothes, as if I hadn’t gotten any new ones. Then, one freaky step at a time, I went back to my old village.

                                                *          *          *

“Amanda!” someone hissed. I jumped. “It’s just me,” someone said, coming out from behind a tree. It was Mel, the Anoki who had taught me to shoot the bow, and how to make them too.

“Where did you go?” she asked.

“I ran away before the commitment spell,” I said. “They kind of want to kill me now. I have this really dangerous plan I need to follow through on, and you can choose to help me or not. You could get in serious trouble, but it’ll stop the wars and free everyone.”

“I’ll help,” she said, and we both disappeared back into the forest. Several Zephan warriors were in the place my friends had occupied just moments before. Mel and I drew arrows and shot them, but not fatally. I punched mine in his temple, watched as he went down, and kicked his jaw hard enough that he wouldn’t be telling anyone about this anytime soon.

“Nice bow,” Mel said. I couldn’t respond quite yet. The others might have been in danger, and I got this odd idea: I should make up a spell to shield them. I told Mel to hold on, and used the wand to try the spell I’d come up with. Apart from that, I could only hope that Kaye and Li could fend off any attacks. I knew that Kaye could, but whether she would was another story.

            “What was that?” Mel asked me. “That didn’t seem like Earth magic. Where’d you get the wand?”

“Don’t you dare tell anyone, but I have new power now. Sky power. Not Air, but Star magic.”

“I thought that was mythical!” Mel said, lowering her voice. “I always knew you were different from everyone else. Just happens, I have new power too. Earth power. Odd, isn’t it? That’s why you weren’t followed any more. They didn’t think I don’t think they’ll try to kill you now.”

“Always nice,” I said. “What weapon does the army use?”

“Bows,” she said, “and swords, a lot of the time. They figured out that you were killing most of the enemies, and they’re suffering without you. So they tried to fight like you… but it’s not working. Like I said, they won’t kill you now. Why?”

“Remember that dangerous plan?” I said. She nodded. “Well,” I said, “we’re going to kill the dictators and take over the village. I have some allies from the Kliid tribe now who are going to help govern the village afterwards. The Kliid won’t attack them.”

“You have allies?” Mel said, astonished. “How’d you manage that?”

“Where do you think I’ve been for the past several months? They wouldn’t kill me either, but then, I never told anyone I was from around here until it looked like I was going to stay there. But when they figured out I could do more than they thought—when I figured out I could do more than they thought—I had to leave or I’d be used in the war.” I noticed that Mel was looking at the ground.

“What?” I said. I almost regretted it when I saw the look on Mel’s face.

“You sound like your mother,” she said.

“Is that bad?” I asked.

“No,” she said cautiously.

“Then let’s go defend my friends. And my sister.”

“Sister?” Mel said, confused.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Kaye is my Kliid sister. Then there’s Akana, a little girl I found in the forest with a shoulder wound from an animal. I healed her and cleaned her up, and she’s with us now. She can do Light magic.” I paused. “Can you fly?”

She gave me a bewildered/shocked expression. “No!” she said. Her expression melted. “I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all… but then, why are you asking me? You know I’m not an Air Anoki.”

“I can fix that,” I said. “Or, more correctly, Akana can.” I frowned. “I bet I could do the spell, too. I don’t remember how she did it, though. Let’s go find the others now. Stay here a minute.” I zipped into the sky, wings blending automatically. I heard Akana’s innocent voice echoing through the tree’s leaves. I dropped back into the forest, just barely, and asked the trees if they’d seen her. I never talk to trees when other people are around because they tend to think I’m crazy, but they’re actually really smart and informative. Some of my best friends as a kid were trees. Climbing trees—or, more precisely, falling out of them—had been the closest thing I’d had to flying. All the trees pointed me to an area of the forest. I went there quickly, finding everyone safe and silently hiding. Badly.

“Seriously, guys?” I called out. “Hiding behind trees is for preschoolers.”

Cautiously they came out, one by one. I explained that I had someone waiting, so we took off quickly.

“I wasn’t expecting kids,” Mel said when we got back. “Are you sure they have enough influence on the Kliid?”

            Actually, I wasn’t sure. I knew Kaye had some weight, being the best magician of the Kliid, but Akana had barely been there at all and wouldn’t matter, and Li’s Fire magic wasn’t exactly rare; there were other Anoki in the Kliid tribe that had her talents. Maybe if they knew that she was a Star Anoki and could blast their head off… but she’d spend the rest of her life casting war spells. Hmm.

            “No,” I said finally. “I’m not sure. But unless the Kliid are really dense, they’ll realize that we could easily kill them all.”

            “That’s true,” Mel said, and I mentally patted myself on the back. Now I had another person on board. I thought periodically about causing uproar among the people, and just let the mass force overthrow the government, but that would be loud, and people would get killed, and a free village would be useless if nobody lived there to enjoy it. No, it wouldn’t do.

            Night was falling. I liked that. My night vision had gotten suspiciously better recently. And it was one of my favorite parts of night, too: just after twilight, when the air is still hot and crisp from the warmth of the day, but cooling, and you can just about feel it—or, at least I can, in the sky, where it matters because the temperatures are diverse.

            I got this sinking feeling that though I felt safe now, my instincts were not only off the mark, but blindfolded and pointing the bow in the other direction while Anoki ran away from the space in front of it. Which didn’t make sense, because the sinking feeling was also part of my instincts. It was like saying that magic always works the way you don’t expect it to (just to be contrary. It does have a sense of humor), although you expect both of two opposites. What does it do? Do I have two sets of instincts? Would the Amanda action figure come with what-the-heck-am-I-doing features, paranoid twitches in five directions, and 10 “okay-that’s-weird-now” sayings? Now there’s a picture.

            Akana had finished her spell, so I put this whole deal aside for later and asked Mel, “Where would the elders be right now?”

            “Not in the war, that’s for sure,” she said. “They’ll be eating dinner now. You could substitute the chef and poison them, say, with foxglove or something. It would be easy enough. Or do you have another way in mind?”

            “I do,” I said. “Poison could come from anyone, but we want to make sure we’re excluded from the suspects. Which means we need to use a sword. The same one, all the time. They’ll suspect the crazy Darkness Anoki. But it would be all too obvious what we’re doing to buy a sword from a blacksmith. Are there any other villages nearby?”

            “Just the Kliid,” Mel said. “But I know of a blacksmith who can get you what you need. He’s in the forest. Alone. Used to be my sweetie, and he owes me a favor at any rate.”

            We helped Mel into the air, and she led us to a clearing maybe twenty miles away. I kept looking around suspiciously. Mel dove (on purpose, fortunately) and we flew to the doorstep of a large cottagey-type building.

            Mel rapped twice, and we heard a male voice mutter something at us. Mel opened the door.

            “Hello, Melody,” someone said, rather wistfully, as if something had just happened to discourage him. “Do you need something?”

            I could barely believe that this downcast-spirited man had interested Mel for any length of time at all.

            “Actually, yes,” she said primly, her head high. Oh, I thought. That’s why.

            I explained our dilemma.

            “An interesting tale. So you need a sword from me?”

            “Yes,” I said. “That’s sort of why we’re here.”

            “A noble cause requires the most noble of swords. Take this.” It was the traditional long, brown paper package. With a shaggy red cloth tied around the hilt. Tsk.

            We left with the blacksmith staring wistfully at Mel’s back.

            “He wasn’t always like that,” Mel said, her voice suggesting that she knew what she thought everyone needed, and it mainly involved having your face slapped until you could only mumble incoherently and then start acting like a Dlitchian dancer, whose routines involve steps that shouldn’t exactly be possible, nor should they be performed in the presence of small children. (Life as a Dlitchian can be… very different at times. I really should give a ceremonial cough here, but to try and keep from giggling, crying, and throwing up all at the same time after coughing ceremoniously, the noises may be more inappropriate for kids than the abovementioned dancing.)

            We reappeared at the edge of the village. I watched my Zephan friends fight. They had no clue how to do it, and I realized that they weren’t even in the army. They were trying to protect the kids I’d normally defended.

            “Go fight,” Mel said, reading either my mind or my expression.

            “What do we do?” Akana said.

            “You can watch,” Mel said. “It’s fun to watch Amanda fight.”

            I think that was a compliment, but it hadn’t mattered at the time because I was running as fast as my skirts would allow, and then stopping to slit them, giving up, and hiking them higher than any sane body would ever do except in crisis. I snatched up the kids, hauled them to a rooftop, and fired arrows so fast that I ran out and had to make more, which didn’t take too long since I’d gotten even better at Earth magic as well as everything else…

            I watched each body fall individually. I didn’t care who they’d been. These kids weren’t soldiers, yet they were firing at them. Innocent kids!

            “Jackie!” I yelled at the Water Anoki just as she’d gotten fired at and hit. “Stay here and hunker down,” I growled at the kids, and then jumped off the building as they gasped. There was no hiding my flight abilities now. I had to defend my friends. I picked Jackie up by her armpits and flew her to the rooftop. I took the arrowhead off—it had gone all the way through her shoulder–yanked the arrow out smoothly, and healed her. She stood up and yelled something incomprehensible at me, trying to be heard over the din. I shook my head and grabbed her again. She struggled as I jumped off the building again, but gaped as I picked her up again. She didn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, anyway, so I lifted her pretty easily.

            I set her down at the edge of the battle and went to help Derek, a Fire Anoki who had failed to fully melt the sword coming at him. I sent a mass healing spell that hadn’t been meant to be very powerful, but ended up that way. Leaping upwards, I flew fast over the mass of Zephans.

            “Amanda’s back!” I heard someone yell. I couldn’t deal with that now, though. I swooped over the crowd and handed Chloe more arrows, healed her and socked a Kliid warrior in the nose. It broke.

            Pulling an arrow, I shot the Kliid general on sight. I swept down and fixed Andrew’s weakening invisibility spell (which was Water magic) and then threw a major fireball at some Kliid warriors.

            “That’s her!” I heard a voice shriek. Fienne. I pulled an arrow, tipped it with fast-acting  poison (which was Darkness magic, but I was so dang angry I didn’t give a rip) and shot her personally. But she’d already been heard: sound travels faster than arrows. Perhaps, if someone was killed fast enough, they could be heard after they were dead by someone far away, maybe in Alaska. Hmm. Somehow I felt better knowing that she was dead, despite the fact that at least thirty more people knew who I really was. Soon it wouldn’t matter. Soon I would govern the village—officially, that is, because I’d really protected it for all my life.

            I wondered how much that would endanger me. Really. If I killed everyone with a sword, maybe in their sleep, then it wouldn’t obviously be me…

            “Traitor!” someone shrieked from below. I didn’t know which side it was from, and didn’t really care in any case.

            Then I realized that I’d never told anybody that I went to the Kliid tribe. Maybe I wouldn’t be targeted, at least not for a while. In this noise, Fienne could have only been heard by a few people… and she was far on the Kliid side, which would mean that the “traitor” call came from the Kliid.

            The motion of a person falling caught my eye, and I sent another mass healing spell before going after him. I shot the person punching the air in triumph on the way down. Showing off isn’t always good, guys. After dealing with Jacob’s arrow wound, I personally went over and kicked the shooter’s nose. It also broke, and bled enough to… never mind, I’ll skip this metaphor. Ew.

            I watched the catapult hurl thousands of stones, then saw so many warriors go down. I sent another mass healing spell and flew fast to shoot the person manning the huge weapon. Always kill the threats first.

            I really ought to be tired by now. I remember thinking that just as the seventeenth shot in a row left my string and hit someone—I didn’t know who, because I hadn’t really been aiming. But usually after the third mass healing spell and after fifty revenge shots and fifteen personal run-over-to-heal-someone jobs… I would usually be exhausted, and by the time I was thinking this, I had at least doubled each of those amounts, and I’d been working for seven hours. I knew Mel would take care of the others, even if Kaye was still super-afraid of defending herself.

            I considered stopping to rest, but then a surging though shouted, NO! I need to defend, protect, defend… it kept muttering to itself, but I kept fighting anyway. Fly down, heal, shoot the attacker, fly up, spot someone else, do a quick revenge attack, shoot the threat, go down, knee-kick-shin-kick-he’s-on-the-ground-now…

            I wasn’t tired. Just angry. Angry. It didn’t manage to describe my burning rage. It felt like the word belonged to kindergarteners. It seemed like the world was being run by kindergarteners.

            They dared to do it! They dared to hurt my people! They dared to touch my people!

            I sent a (tenth?) mass healing spell, and then sent a mass weakening spell to the enemies. Our troops suddenly realized they were getting the better of their enemies and raged on.

            “Amanda?” someone asked as I returned to the ground to heal someone. I turned; he was Zephan. A Time Anoki, I rendered him harmless–at least to me.

            “Yes?”

            “Um, our general got killed… and you’re the best warrior on the battlefield…”

            “I accept,” I said briskly, and took flight again, sending yet another mass healing spell. My healing spells were getting progressively stronger now that I was constantly using them. I WAS NOT TIRED. I couldn’t believe it but was glad that it was true. My village needed me. I had to protect the innocent people… roundhouse-kick-watch-her-stagger-quick-move-with-rabbit-knife… I WOULDN’T let my people down… back-kick-head-snap-move-punch-fast-he’s-down-kill… I would fight until everyone was free!

This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 4:17 pm and is filed under Star. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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