My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter One–Amanda (Edited)

CHAPTER ONE—AMANDA

I’m not scared, I thought as I left. I was running away from home. Not scared. Just angry. I can deal. I am Amanda the healer. Amanda the Earth Anoki. I’m Amanda the Really, Really Teed Off, too, so I’m dangerous. I don’t care who they send now, because now nobody can hurt me. Nobody can do anything to me. Yes…

Yeah, I see your clueless expression. Don’t freak out, because I’ll explain. This whole book is an explanation.

First off, Anoki are sort of like faeries that have powers relating to specific elements, some natural and some not. I happen to be one of the few Anoki with Earth talent, which makes me a healer and almost indestructible in any battle, unless you manage to kill me before I can heal myself, like a neck attack. For instance. But if I dodge it, you’re pretty much dead. That’s what you get when you wander onto a battlefield at seven years old and start healing people who get hurt. You pick stuff up.

Earth talent is pretty rare, and I happen to be the Zepha tribe’s only healer. I was expecting pretty much everyone in the village to come after me, trying to either kill me or persuade me to come back. The Zephans rely so much on me that people could get killed, but if the Zephans were worried about that, then they should have paid more attention to the first aid lessons I gave them. Either I’d run away successfully and get what I wanted, or the Zephan dictators would change the laws, and I’d return. If neither happened, I wasn’t sure if I planned to come back at all.

If I was a normal, obedient little girl who was impressionable enough to believe that dictator-knows-best, I would be at school, getting magic done on me—specifically, the Commitment Spell—which limits the recipient (read: victim) to a certain element but supposedly allows them to do the best magic of that element. Note: I’ve never met an Earth spell I couldn’t do well. Since I obviously couldn’t call in sick or anything, I had to leave the village to avoid it.

Why do I care? As much as I like Earth magic, I want to be able to do Air magic and to fly. Every Anoki has a pair of wings, but without Air talent, we can fly like an anvil. The closest I’ve ever gotten to actually being airborne had been a Truth or Dare game involving lots of cayenne pepper.

My mom had been amazing at all kinds of magic, and I’d never thought much of it. She’d tried hard to teach me each kind: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, Darkness, Time, Storm and Dreams. Earth had been the only one that had stuck with me at the time. I could heal anything from cat scratch to brain tumor, but I couldn’t even light a candle by magic or make air move. I couldn’t use magic to turn lights on or off in a room, but I could talk to trees and plants. Only my mom ever knew about that talent; Dad never caught on, and I never did it in front of my friends because Mom said that they couldn’t hear the plants. They would have thought I was nuts.

All of my friends had a talent in a stronger element, like Fire or Water. Some of the Darkness and Time Anoki bullied me until I started using Earth magic for anything that hurt me, not just the big stuff. If a little kid fell off a swing at school, I would heal the sidewalk scuffs. Kids paid me in quarters if I did a little healing magic for them. It eventually got out of control, and I had people following me constantly. I loved little kids and didn’t mind healing them, but the teenagers should have been able to suffer through needle pricks. Sheesh.

The school never trained me in anything other than Earth magic. I picked up some simple Light and Water spells, taught to me by friends. Light is picky and complicated, though, and getting it to do what you want is hard. I liked Water, but it’s heavy, and you have to struggle not to drop it, like trying to keep a dozen balloons up in the air at once. Water balloons.

None of the Zephans had Air as their element, even though the Zepha “village” is huge. Village or tribe are the collective nouns for a group of Anoki; it doesn’t refer to the size of the actual neighborhood. The Zepha tribe is actually more like a city, littered with all kinds of crazy people, pompous idiots, guilty bystanders, bad cooks, and actor wannabes.

Back to the story. I ran, and I only planned to come back after I learned to fly. Since Air Anoki are even rarer than Earth Anoki, the dictators won’t want to give up either talent by making me commit. Save the marriage jokes for someone else, please.

Who am I? You ask. Or, more likely: Who the heck is this person and how many psychiatrists has she driven nuts?

You’re looking at a mint-condition Amanda, capable of archery and with six or seven years of mercenary-style fighting experience. Why would I have that at thirteen years? To put it short… Kliid tribe no likey Zepha tribe. As in, a decades-long war, the conflicts which started it long forgotten. I started out healing a few soldiers every day, then learned to manipulate plants enough to make simple potions. When I had a good stock, I started to spend time with Mel, a soldier and my sort-of godmother, whose life I’d saved repeatedly. Mel was teaching me to use the bow and to fight. I thought she looked like a ninja. She definitely fought like one.

You’d think that somebody would tell the kid (me) to get off the battlefield, and most people did… at first. But after I snuck in repeatedly and saved a bunch of people’s lives while successfully avoiding all strikes myself, other people started telling anyone who scolded me to shut up.

Problem was, I hadn’t saved the two lives that counted to me personally: my parents. I’d been too young—maybe four years old. After that, Mel took me in. Maybe she’d been a friend of my mother, or maybe she could see the benefit of raising a healer. She didn’t earn much, and I wasn’t paid for my fighting since I didn’t want to join the army and be put under that much control, so I had to heal people for money, or go hungry. I could grow vegetables easily enough—that’s probably how Mel could afford to support me—but that wasn’t meat, and I’m not into cannibalism, even though dead Kliid were in abundance. Ick.

I hoped my parents would come back someday, but there wasn’t really a bunch of hope for that. The soldiers had found bodies.

Of all the species of fey, animals, and humans in the world, I’d always choose Anoki to live with. They seem… I don’t know, independent. Sort of. But at the same time, they do rely on each other for certain jobs. Fairies, pixies, Shapees, dragons… they tend to try and be weirdly nonconformist, but everyone does it at once, kind of like when two people are trying to get out of each other’s way and keep leaning in different directions simultaneously to dodge the other, and always lean in the same direction at once. But Anoki are already nonconformist, being separated by the elements, and conformity within element groups is normal because each type of magic has its own personality and the Anoki has taken some of it. If they’re different, it usually means they’re weak spellcasters.

Magic wielders are the only humans worth talking to, seeing as most have a brain, though they’re still humans and have relatively boring magic. But they’re similar to Anoki in certain ways. They always have some sort of implement, usually a staff or a wand or something. Anoki have yarn rings like the kind you tie around your finger as not to forget something. But ours are created by magic, and never have knots. Usually, they’re the color that tends to represent the person’s element. Mine, strangely, isn’t a deep green like normal Earth Anoki’s rings. It’s kind of a misty, mint green, and is speckled with dark blue where it hits my hand.

Human wielders rely on the implement to do magic. Anoki rings are just kind of a way to tell about someone, about their element and personality, whether they’re trustworthy, and all with a glance. Simple.

Now that I’d run away, I needed to find a village that would accept me and that had an Air Anoki who was willing to teach me Air magic. This was kind of a bad task to get stuck with. Since I, uh, couldn’t fly (or I wouldn’t be doing this), I had to find villages like a human. I couldn’t locate an Air Anoki using magic, since finding people was probably something more like Dream magic. I had to go on foot. And even when I reached a village that I was sure wasn’t the Zepha tribe, it wasn’t guaranteed that I would find an Air Anoki. Kind of the opposite, actually. The talent was so rare…

I calmed down, just a little. I was maybe a mile from the village. In that short little trek, I had gained a jittery jump-up-and-down rush of adrenaline. Then I realized why: there was this whirring little noise behind me, getting louder. It sounded really familiar—I’d heard it at school. It was… it was…

Two Fire Anoki and a Darkness Anoki crashed between the trees. They were only about twenty yards away! I turned tail and ran at a speed I rarely have to run at. This was an emergency: those guys could kill me in an instant, before I could heal myself. My blatantly obvious weakness.

I thought fast as I ran, then came to a decision. I yanked an arrow from my quiver and nocked it on my bow. Guess it was a good idea to keep it strung after all.

But maybe not. The dictators  had sent my own friends after me, because they were so afraid I might kill their warriors. I guess I’m too predictable.

I put the arrow back, but called to several trees, which uprooted themselves and went to surround the others. I put an automatic-heal spell on them so the Anoki couldn’t blast through. The trees would eventually let them go, but not until the end of the day.

They were caged in seconds, but before the circle of trees was stable, one of the Fire Anoki shot a flame and burned my foot. Needless to say, my friends aren’t very loyal.

I asked the trees to let Mel know I was leaving so she wouldn’t go looking for me. Mel couldn’t talk to plants, but trees can write. Weird, isn’t it?

I yanked off my burning shoe, biting my lip. “Physician, heal thyself,” I said, and the burn faded slightly. I chucked the shoe into a pond and ran with one foot bare.

I saw, at the edge of the forest, a flash of purple. Then it was as close as the others had been. I ran faster. One of the Time Anoki had fast-forwarded his pursuit and was almost on top of me. Well, I was a fast runner. I sped up.

He sped up as well, but after that I could tell from his gait that he’d be too magically tired to do anything else without collapsing. But the second store of energy reserved for magic had no effect on the first store of physical energy, and he was running like water anyway. If I could collapse him either magically, physically or mentally, he’d be a heap in a few minutes. Especially if I outran him, which I could do if my energy held out, or…

I ran like my life depended on it, widening the gap between us to give me some time. Then, panting hard, I stuck a maple seed in the ground and convinced it to grow fast. I jumped into the tree when it was big enough to hold my weight and climbed to the top. Then I grew it to full size, supplementing it with energy.

The Anoki saw me. Kind of hard to miss a huge honkin’ tree growing that fast. As he started to climb the tree, I shifted branches and hopped to an oak. The Anoki was stuck wandering around in the foliage of the first tree while I was crossing branches of several of the trees, thanking the universe that I’d run far enough into the forest for it to be dense enough for me to pull this off. When I was several trees away, I discreetly dropped to the ground and got my butt out of there. And the rest of me, too.

Welcome to Rabbit-Eating Girl, the brand new hit reality TV show!

Okay, no. One, I’m much too practical for reality TV. Two, I hate soap operas. Three, I don’t have a camera, and if I’m not mistaken, most reality TV is not shot in some stupid forest. Four, if I was only eating rabbit, I’d probably be dead by now. Rabbit’s lean meat.

Yeah, I hear you tree hugs all yelling protests and forming a mob. Nothing’s going extinct around here. Anyway, I’m an endangered species. Why aren’t you rioting and storming the Zephan dictators to protect me? Spoiled animals.

I’ve actually been eating pretty well on the forest critters which are, surprisingly, in large quantities and low intelligence. Maybe it’s just my magic that gives me an edge surviving, or maybe it’s just because I was pretty much used to it. Ironically, if the dictators ever paid me, I wouldn’t be able to survive their attacks. Works for me.

Thankfully, I spotted a human camping site and jacked all their Pepsi. So I still have the whole will-to-live thing.

Not bad use of my extensive supply list of a bow, a bottle, a blanket and a rabbit-cleaning knife, eh? Hmm.

I keep hoping that I’ll somehow learn Air magic on my own, but that’s extremely far-fetched and I know it won’t happen. I’ve been trying to fly every day, and it’s not working. I wish I could fly to wherever I need to learn Air magic. I’ve decided that I’m not going to do this halfway: I’m going to learn at least half the Air magic there is to learn before I go back, or die trying. Mel would be my only reason for going back to the Zepha tribe in the first place.

Hopefully, the dictators won’t try to commit me to Air magic, either. But they probably know by now what it’s like without me and can gauge the loss.

I was thinking this, sitting by a shrimpy fire I’d coaxed into existence. I was in a mood, and any wood I touched was trying to grow. It was, annoyingly, kind of funny. Advice: Green wood doesn’t want to burn.

Then I heard the twang of some kind of magic—what, I didn’t know, but the temperature was getting suspiciously hotter and all my healer senses went on alert. I stuck the meat I was cooking on the sharpened stick, which was also not burning, and shoved the other end of the stick into the ground. That way, I should be able to know if any animals messed with it. Just as long as I didn’t have to tree-climb for dinner.

I traced the noise to a clump of near-dead pine trees and a scrawny-looking bramble. They were so close together I could barely see what was behind them, but I did see a fire. A pretty large one.

I set an automatic healing spell up as a shield. I wasn’t too fond of barging in on a possible Fire Anoki enemy with no protection. I strung my bow and pulled an arrow for ready use.

I shoved my way between the pine trees, adrenaline preparing me for a fight.

And I saw, sitting around the fire, twelve Fire Anoki, staring straight at me.

… not?

“Eep!” the little girl said, jumping. She backed away from her fire, magnifying glass in her hand, and only stopped when it was necessary to prevent the bramble from perforating her. Her shoulder was practically nonexistent, looking like it had been ripped off by a rabid wildebeest, and she was skinny enough to shove through a medieval arrow slit.

“Who are you?” I asked, staring at her. In front of me was a girl, maybe eleven, looking too innocent.

“Please don’t kill me,” she said.

“Hello, Please don’t kill me. I’m Amanda,” I said. “What were your parents thinking?”

“Are you going to kill me?” she asked.

“That’s an odd thing for parents to worry about. I mean, not many people look at a newborn and say, ‘I really hope you don’t take an AK-47 to my brain in three years.’”

She obviously wasn’t sure what to make of this since she just stared at me like I had suggested that she could drive a car across the ocean, so I relinquished the jokes and said, “No, I’m not going to kill you.”

I think both of us relaxed. I fanned out my big green wings and grinned in relief, showing off major freckles.

“How’d you get the fire started?” I asked. She held up the magnifying glass in response. “Oh, I see,” I said. “You’re a Light Anoki, then. What village are you from?”

“The Zepha one,” she said without any menace of sign of threat. Nevertheless, I froze in place. She was wearing Zephan trends.

But I knew all 200 of the Zephan kids. I could recognize them and call them by name if I saw them on the moon. She wasn’t one of them. And she didn’t fit village genetics; back at home, everyone had brown or red hair, and she was blonde and blue-eyed.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Don’t tell me it’s pleasedon’tkillme.”

“It’s not,” she said with an I’m-getting-annoyed undertone.

“Hello, Not…” I started with a grin, until she glared at me.

“My name is Akana,” she said firmly. “Don’t play games with me. I am nine, you know.”

“Yeah,” I said, “because everyone knows I get a baseball card about a little girl called Akana when I crash through a bunch of spiky bushes. It tells me her name, age, element, and what color Popsicle she likes.”

She smiled. “Orange.”

“Why are you out here?” I queried. “If you’re Zephan, shouldn’t you be about twenty miles back?”

“I… should,” she said, tiptoeing around something.

“But you’re not,” I said. “Why?”

She looked like she’d been caught stealing wedding cake. “I ran away. Three days ago.”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, almost yelling. I think she thought I was going to scold her for leaving, but I continued, saying, “How fast did you run?! We’re miles away from the village!”

“Run?” she said in disgust. “I flew, silly. What do you think you have wings for?”

Thirty minutes later, I was in a state of utter confusion. We were sitting around my campfire and talking. Well, I was talking, and Akana was trying to shove as much food in her face as humanly—or magically—possible.

I made her stop with the venison for a second to let me look at her shoulder. I had no clue how her arm was still attached. It was covered in patchy scabs. I told her to look away while I healed her. She shivered and took a glance at her shoulder, incredulous, then went straight back to eating.

I let her for a while. After about fifteen minutes, she’d polished off the venison. I had suggested that she start with some lettuce or something light, but she’d headed straight for the meat anyway. I didn’t make a big deal of it—her malnutrition couldn’t be that bad after only three days, as long as she’d found water. I had enough meat available. Now that she had maybe fourteen ounces of deer sitting in her stomach, I started to question her further. But she was falling asleep in front of my face, so I rolled her into the blanket and let her fall asleep.

I went out to replenish my food store. When I came back with a few small furry animals I couldn’t identify and… erm… set them up, I banked the fire and collapsed myself, pulling my big cloak around me. (You can buy Earthen Mage cloaks for Only a Dollar at the same place human magic wielders get their wands and staffs. Really, they could use sticks if they wanted to, but those don’t look as cool, which was the same reason I wasn’t wearing a normal coat.)

I woke up that morning to myself, unwilling to wrench open my eyes. In that minute, the muddy ground was as comfortable to me as my bed at home, maybe more so, and I could feel bruises healing and my energy draining again. I remembered that I’d never removed the auto-heal spell from myself, and I could either take the spell off while it was still healing me and risk it becoming permanent, or let it heal the rest and risk collapsing again out of self-preservation and worrying Akana when I don’t wake up again for a few hours.

As an Anoki, who rely heavily on their magic to survive, (unlike humans, who rely only a little on magic, and only require the universe to contain magic to survive), I always collapse when I get too magically tired. This is because, like all others of my kind, if I get too magically tired, I have the potential to kill myself with another spell, or be killed by an event that saps magic, like a large spell that absorbs surrounding energy as well as its caster’s.

I decided to let the spell run its course. I didn’t collapse, even though I apparently had so many bruises, scrapes, and thorn-sticks that I probably would have fallen over anyway from them upon standing if the spell wasn’t there to heal me. That should have taken a lot of magic. Maybe I’m getting stronger… something to hope for.

I released the spell, and the one on the trees near the Zepha village as well. The last thing I wanted was to land in a crumpled heap in the middle of battle because of someone with a chainsaw.

Akana was already up, sitting with her magnifying glass by the rocky circle where last night’s fire had been. She was passing light through the glass, starting the fire.

“So you can really fly,” I said, the remark not quite a question, but definitely a statement that demanded an answer.

“No, it’s a scam designed to waste your time. Yes, I can fly.” She rolled her eyes.

“And you got that from hanging around me for a day?” I said incredulously.

“No,” she said matter-of-factly. “I knew you were going to ask that the second you got up, so I came up with a witty response. And you can’t fly?”

“Well, I surpass rocks,” I said. “But only with cayenne pepper.”

“I could probably teach you,” she said. “Come on.”

She took flight, and motioned for me to follow. Hard as I beat my wings, I couldn’t get off the ground.

“It’s not brain surgery,” she said. “Chill out.”

“Not helping,” I said, putting my hands on my hips.

She landed with a sigh and muttered something, making a little motion with her hands that might have been part of the spell, or it might have been nine-year-old-girl impatience.

“Now you can,” she said hastily. “Get up here. You need to see this.” She took a running start and disappeared quickly above the trees. I had no choice but to try and follow. Amazingly, it worked.

“There’s the Zepha tribe,” she pointed out. “And there’s the Frether tribe…”

“That’s the Skiea tribe,” I said.

“Come on, then.” She zipped away toward another area.

“Why there?” I asked, matching her speed.

“Because!”

She flew in random circles for a few hours, then both of us landed back where we’d started.

“You never did answer my question,” I said to her when we stopped for lunch. “Why did you leave the Zephans?”

“Oh, they wanted to use me in some war.”

I wasn’t surprised. The Zephans probably thought she could fly away from anything. But they didn’t think about arrows.

“Why did you leave, Amanda? You’re out here, too.”

“It’s really complicated. I’ll tell you sometime, but not out in broad daylight. We don’t know who’s out here, and I have enemies. In short, I need to find a village with an Air Anoki. We obviously both have the talent for Air magic, so what we need to do is learn more so that we can defend ourselves better. The fact is, we’re both refugees, and refugees are hunted.”

“I visited a village that had an Air Anoki recently. They make really good cinnamon rolls.”

In return for gaining the ability to fly, something for which I restrained my elation in case Akana would think I’d gone crazy, I tried to teach Akana healing magic. It didn’t work too well. Everything distracted her, especially the big honkin’ butterfly that decided to repeatedly land in her face.

Akana took me back above the trees to look at the village she’d mentioned. It was somewhere near the Zepha tribe, so I had to be wary while staying there, and it seemed to be in an oddly familiar direction.

We hunkered down for one more night. We weren’t too far from Akana’s cinnamon-roll paradise, so I figured we’d be able to cover it in a day. I didn’t know what I was looking forward to more, the Air lessons or the aforementioned bakery products.

The next thing I knew, I was forcing my eyes open again and staring up, wondering when my bedroom ceiling had been painted that way. You can laugh.

Once again, Akana had woken up before I had. It was early morning, and the sun hadn’t risen. The grass was wet with dew. My clothes were caked with mud. Scratch that. I was caked with mud. And believe me when I say everywhere. I still didn’t exactly feel like hopping in a river when it was forty degrees out, though.

I didn’t need to worry. It was a dull rain all day anyway. There wasn’t wind, though, so we needed to keep moving. This is one of those instances where I wish I didn’t thrash so much in my sleep. Rolling stones do gather mud.

I was flying all day, Akana by my side. It was hard to see where we were going, but the trees and my sense of direction kept us straight. Then I saw the village, and I bolted there at seventy miles an hour or something, leaving Akana so far back that I had to retrace my nonexistent steps.

At what should have been 6:00 but was hard to tell without a visible sun, we both landed in the village.

“Raaaah,” I said. “I’m the mud monster!”

Several people stopped in their tracks to stare at me.

That was how the rest of the day went.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 3rd, 2010 at 12:02 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.

4 Responses to “Chapter One–Amanda (Edited)”

  1. greensmoke
    12:30 am on October 12th, 2010

    Pepsi is evil, big up for Coke 😉

  2. Writer
    12:59 pm on October 17th, 2010

    Them be fightin’ words!!!!!!! 😛

  3. Rodney Vafiades
    2:03 pm on October 29th, 2010

    Hi! Lam quen nha ban , thay blog nay rat hay.

  4. Writer
    3:43 pm on October 29th, 2010

    I KNOW Pig Latin. That ain’t it. Keep tryin’.
    Try this:
    Cat=At-cay
    Dog=Og-day
    You=Ou-yay
    Rug=Ug-ray
    I=I-yay

    I hope you get over whatever mental retardation has struck you, or that you stop butt-dialing your keyboard. That’s very bad for your computer.

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