I decided to do what I’d planned: stop the wars. To do this, I had to negotiate. I dragged Kaye and Li along.
I picked out a leader, a “permanent president,” standing at the very edge of the battlefield on the Kliid side and supervising.
“Call off the war,” I shouted over the thwap of arrows and clang of swords.
I was rewarded by chortling laughter. “Go home, little girl.”
“I happen to be the new leader of this tribe,” I shouted. “I govern the entire village. Face it, buddy, I’m at your status. Call off the war or I destroy your people. I AM A STAR ANOKI!”
The warriors stopped. We were rushed by arrows, swords, even just thrown rocks. I shielded my tiny group.
“Nice to hear that. So am I.”
My turn to giggle. “As if! Star magic is too rare.”
“I learned your little flight trick and found the magic months ago.”
“Then you don’t know how to use it. Call off the war or I’ll destroy you now!” I was starting to feel queasy from panic and looking down in flight. I wasn’t scared of heights, but I was getting really disoriented.
I threw a fireball at him. He shielded. “Overused!” he taunted. I flooded his immediate area, but he used Air magic to keep breathing. I had the trees nearby uproot themselves and choke him, passing him from branch to branch until he was at eye level. I kicked his nose, hard, and blood squirted out. He started cutting through the branches, but I just told the tree to drop him anyway, maybe 100 feet to the floor. I sent another fireball just as he was snapping his wings out, and he couldn’t shield well.
“Your toupee’s on fire.”
I saw that his eyes were dark; I couldn’t tell where the pupils ended and the irises began. Which told me something: he’d been taken over. I shot him; he healed himself and yanked the arrow out. Wrong order! He kept bleeding.
“I’ll kill you the same way my father killed your parents!”
“You’re lying. I can see it in your face. You don’t know how my parents were killed.”
I realized something more, and grinned. When he’d reached the bottom, I twisted his arm, shin-kicked you know where, and applied a fist to his temples hard enough to make him black out on the ground.
“Are you going to kill him?” Li asked.
“No. I don’t want two villages. I’m taking him prisoner.” I picked up the scrawny person, who looked like he was in his early twenties, and flew him off to the Zepha tribe dungeon. He deserved to be there. I waited until he’d woken up, but had all shields on. I let Kaye and Li leave.
“You have three options,” I said casually. “You can sit here the rest of your life. You can ally with the Zephans, call off the war, and I’ll let you go. Or I can destroy your guts. Pick.”
He fired spell after spell at me, but I made up a spell to prevent him doing magic for the next hundred years. I was hoping that the spell would outlive him.
“Release me. I’ll fight you, if you aren’t too chicken.”
“I’m supposed to be the immature one, remember? Now I gave you options. You can sit here the rest of your life. I won’t hesitate.”
His eyes narrowed.
“And if you think that’s too good for you, I can cut off all food supply. Put you in a cell made entirely of metal. Maybe a sealed cell. And I’ll put Fire magic on it so you can’t melt the bars. I’m sure you’d love that. You can go crazy in there. I’ll even supply Sharpies for you to doodle Kill-Amanda pictures on the walls. Unless you want to go for the cliché and use your own blood. I’ll give you a few canvases if you want to do that.” I smiled.
“You do realize that the more you threaten me, the less I want to negotiate.”
“Hey, me too. I’m getting some good ideas, and they’d be a heck of a lot easier than dealing with you. Destroying your guts has its appeal, too.”
I don’t think he minded the threats, but my being young, pretty and female was definitely taking its toll. I could tell.
“Do you want an Etch-A-Sketch?” I said, smiling more.
I grinned. “You are the immature one.”
“I’m eighteen.” He sulked angrily.
“Maybe I should just keep you by my side. You make me look older.” Okay, yes, I’m mean.
“I bumped off the elders of this village to free it. Why don’t I free yours now?” I said, pacing back and forth in front of his cell. I was feeding the flames.
“Yes, why don’t you? You haven’t killed me yet. You’re too soft.”
“Do you really want my response to that?”
“I won’t negotiate. You’ve killed all my generals, and I’ve had to replace my best fighters.”
“Uh, that’s because you killed my generals and my best fighters?” I said in a “duh” tone.
“This anti-magic curse is taking your energy. I feel it. You can’t kill me.”
“I have a forty-five pound bow right here. Do you want to test that?”
“I want to kill you.”
“There’s a surprise.” I grinned wider.
“You don’t want to kill me. You don’t want the village. That’s why you’re not hurting me.”
“Amazing, genius! He can read minds.” I clapped slowly in that “bored” way.
The kid fumed. I wasn’t sure why he wasn’t acting like the Darkness Anoki did when they got possessed by bad magic. Maybe the Light area was affecting him. When someone takes too much magic all in one go, a part of them that normally takes backstage comes forth and houses the extra magic. That part of them becomes full of magic, and since it wasn’t full of the person, it has the most magic in it. The person is locked into their normal personality, which now takes backstage to the other part, and the magic becomes sort of the dominant force. It kind of depends what the person was like and what kind of magic took over to know how they’ll start acting over being possessed. It’s complicated. If I had my say, nobody would get possessed by any type of magic. It’s bad, it takes over a helpless person, and that person can’t control themselves afterwards. Maybe there’s a way to un-possess someone.
I made up a spell to do so, hoping not to remove all the magic. The kid ruler slunk to the floor. I picked him up, skinny thing, and carted him out to somewhere else in the forest, a long way away. Using some Dream magic, I convinced him that he was a Chiki (Chikik are forest elves with wings. They can scream so loudly and so high that if you don’t want to be deaf, you should be several miles away. With earplugs.
I set him on the forest floor, and did some basic healing magic. I removed the anti-magic curse. He smiled, and I immediately protected myself against the same spell.
“Now it’s time for me to destroy your guts,” he said. I guess my magic didn’t work.
“Yeah. Whatever. Unfortunately, I can’t just fast-forward through this stupid fight with Time magic to the point where I’m standing over your cold, dead body.”
“That’s because it won’t happen.”
“Ooh!” I said. “I love witty banter! Can I put the poison in both cups and heal myself?”
He growled and lunged at me with a fireball.
“Overused!” I chirped. The trees sniggered. I socked his nose again (which just stopped bleeding) and it broke this time. I went in with ice shards to the neck, but it only cut away flesh.
I tried invisibility, and when he copied me, I simply did a spell to undo his. He didn’t know what I’d done, though, because I was invisible. Duh. I pulled out the bottle the spy had given me, hoping it was still water because I was really thirsty, remembering that it would be anyway because I needed it, and having it snatched away by the leader, who gulped all of its contents. Unfortunately, the bottle hadn’t been invisible as I was, because I hadn’t been directly touching it.
“No water for you, girl!”
I decided, right then and there, that what I needed was poison. I smiled.
The Kliid leader gaped and bent double, then got caught up in a nasty localized tornado. It seemed to last just long enough to dislocate his shoulder. But he’d traced the magic and knew where I was now. I ducked to avoid a badly-aimed spell and fired like seventeen of my own. His face had gone blank–very blank. He was actively possessed now. The magic was taking over. I knew, because he’d gotten a lot better. But that meant that his melee defenses were down. I took the rabbit knife out. Grimly, I neared him fast. Better to die than be possessed.
The spy lady appeared suddenly and held a magical shield over me. I would be fine.
Moving fast before the actual person came back, I stabbed him in places that were generally bad to be stabbed in: the chest, the head, the neck. I left him to die alone and with dignity (well, as much dignity as one can when one is defeated “by a girl”). But the truth was, I didn’t want the Zepha tribe, let alone the Kliid. I just wanted them safe.
I turned to the spy lady. “Who are you?”
“Amanda… I’m your mother.”
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