My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Four–The Good, The Bad and the Weirdoes–Edit #3

CHAPTER FOUR–SPY

That night, something said to me that what I was doing was a bad idea. It wasn’t some supernatural magic this time, either; it was my own fighting instinct and maybe a flicker of calm reason that was still left somehow. I promised myself I’d never let my guard down.

Unfortunately, my efforts proved futile when I realized that a spy was watching us from the horizon. In the light of dawn, I could barely see the strange Anoki, who seemed to be easily aloft on incredibly large wings. I detected a listening spell and traced it to a dark haired Anoki in her late thirties. I signaled to Kaye, below: “Babysit them,” and went to investigate. Silently I flew towards her, circling occasionally as if I were flying for fun, but when she realized I was approaching, she flew away fast. I poured on the speed. I was going to catch her and question her, no matter what. My stubborn determination would demand no less. She wasn’t Zephan, I think, but she was very pretty and looked like she could be younger, or older, than my estimate.  She stretched her arms out for balance and rolled completely over, like I liked to do, and went even faster. I copied her movement, finding I could go faster if I accelerated while rolling.

I wondered if she’d caught on that she was teaching me how to catch her. Maybe she already knew. The sunlight glittered on her wings. She must have been doing magic again. I recognized it as Air magic, and realized that she was speeding us both with wind—also pretty useless for trying to get away. Then she dove into the trees and dodged every one of them, as if she were used to being there. We must have been going over a hundred miles an hour now. With a new rush of extra adrenaline, I rolled again and accelerated, adding my physical strength to my magical, and sped up so fast that I collided with the strange lady and we both crashed to the ground. She looked oddly familiar. Her eyes looked like mine, deep blue-green and with the capability to look rather threatening. Hers softened when she saw my face, which confused me. I frowned and helped her up, catching her firmly when she tried to escape my grip.

“I’m armed, silly,” I said. “Why were you watching us?”

Her eyes flared. “Us?” Her expression changed from shocked to coyly pleased.

“Yes, us!” I said. Idiot.

“You,” she said. “No one else.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am more than you know and more than you will.”

“Why?” I asked, scowling. Had she spent too much time around elves?

She smiled. “Good, child. Some may think you inarticulate, but I see you as clever. You know I will not explain my words’ meaning. I like you; you look right. Perhaps you are who I am looking for.”

“I’m armed,” I repeated.

“Yes, you are. Show me.”

“First…” I said, and summoned a tree’s root to wind around her ankles. Yes, it’s cheesy, but a lot of cheesy stuff works in magic, especially if you want to drive the point that you’re doing magic, like in front of a human that you want to scare away. Or, in this case, a spy who needs to think that I’m an Earth magician.

I took my bow off my back and, with a glance at my pitiful quiver, drew an arrow and shot a tree forty feet away, square on the trunk.

“Now,” the strange lady said, “protect yourself. From behind.”

I drew another arrow and whirled. The lady wasn’t talking about herself, but a Darkness Anoki trying rather unsuccessfully to hide in the foliage. But you can’t hide black well. So he charged, ready with a sword. I shot him, but not crucially, in case he had some information that would be useful, and pulled my rabbit-cleaning knife out as a hand-to-hand weapon.

I approached, folding my wings back to keep them safe, but not far enough that I couldn’t easily escape. As I got closer, he jumped up, sword ready, and flourished it long enough that he nearly cut off his hand. Then he tried to stab me, and performed a series of moves that reminded me exactly of a human kid with a lightsaber on a TV show.

“I can kill you,” I offered.

“I’d like to see you try,” he hissed. I realized that this was one of those cases where the Darkness magic had possessed its user, and power had taken its toll. He was no longer an Anoki, and was without love. Then his eyes flashed, and he muttered, “Stay back, Anise…” and I wasn’t sure I was right.

“I’ll grant your wish in a minute, unless you surrender. I can’t have you killing me or anyone else. This is war!”

“To which do you belong?” he demanded. “Zephan or Kliid?”

“Yes,” I said, and punched his temple hard, with the full effect of a spiky topaz ring. He went down like potatoes, and I shoved the knife into his neck. There wasn’t any use trying to interrogate a possessed Anoki. I stuck the knife in the ground momentarily, cleaning it, then stood up.

“Where is this Anise?” I said grimly. Actually, I knew, because I’d heard her moving. I made no sound as I approached her, though I’m sure she’d been watching me, then I suddenly reached through a bramble and grabbed her shirt collar. About half of the shirt was in my hand.

“What element?” I growled.

“Time,” she said, big-eyed. If she freaks over an Earth Anoki, I was thinking, then she has problems.

I let go of some more of the shirt collar, so she wouldn’t choke, but I kept my grip. “You must never tell of what happened here. If you do, I will track you down and kill you. No one can know where I am. If anyone asks, he got caught in a sinkhole and was buried.”

“It’s okay,” she said.

I frowned. “What?”

“He was Zephan. An employed mercenary. I was his prisoner.”

“You are Kliid?” I asked. The war’s started again, I thought. A most-likely-innocent girl captured and probably tortured, from the look of her.

“Yes!” she whispered. “Are you going to kill me?”

“No,” I said. “I told you.”

“Are you Kliid?” she whispered.

“I grew up Zephan, but I lived with the Kliid recently. I’m going to stop the war anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

“Will you take me with you?” she pleaded.

“Too dangerous,” I muttered. “I would take you back to the Kliid, but I have a prisoner of my own to deal with.” I heard the spy laugh behind me. “The village is that way.”

I put Anise down, and she turned. “Wait,” I said. She came back. I put a spell over her. “You won’t be seen until you are safe within the village. Go, and don’t let me see you turn back.” I wouldn’t be able to see her anyway, but it sounded good.

I turned back to the lady.

“What element are you?” she asked.

“Earth,” I lied.

“You are not,” she said. “You, Amanda, are a Star Anoki.”

“How long have you been spying on me?” I asked.

“You chose the cleaver,” she said. “That’s a decent knife, there.”

“I can’t believe I never noticed you!” I yelled.

“Quiet,” she said. “The forest must be thick with spies worse than me.”

“Why would any of them attack?” I said. “I am Zephan and Kliid.”

“Or neither. Perhaps all of them would attack. As far as they are concerned, you are an outsider.”

I have no home, I thought. What I said was, “I’ll fight every one of them singlehandedly if I have to. Try me. Bring it on.”

“No,” the strange lady said. “You don’t want to. You just want an outlet for your anger. You won’t hurt innocent people.”

“These aren’t innocent people!” I shouted. What I was thinking, though, was, Are my issues really that obvious?

“They’ve been taken over!” I continued my rant. “It’s that stupid Commitment Spell! It’s evil personified! These people don’t even know what they’re doing!”

I grabbed her collar and ignored the clattering of the seven pounds of wooden beads she wore. “You will tell me who you are,” I said through clenched teeth.

“This is fair,” she said, “because I know who you are. My name is Alicia; you may know that much.”

Too many people in my life have been named Alicia, I thought.

“You are thinking of your mother?” she said.

“My mother is dead!” I yelled. “And these wars will stop. I have power now, and I’m going to use it!” I stopped and glared at her, staring Alicia down. “You can help… or not.”

“I will be there,” Alicia said, “when you need me. But not in my current state.”

Alicia was referring to the roots. I was kind of wondering why she wasn’t undoing them herself. I looked for her ring to tell me her element (Water?), but she had her hand in her jeans pocket, and I couldn’t tell from her wings. As I let her go, she handed me a small bottle.

“It’s morphing potion,” Alicia said. “It turns into whatever you need at the moment.”

“It’s water,” I said flatly.

“That’s because you don’t need it right now. If you get caught, your capturers will only see a bottle of water.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Where I am from and where I stay now are different things. It is a long story. Something says that your friends need you now.”

I stared at her, unsure. Something about this lady was familiar, and at the same time foreign, like food that I haven’t eaten for a long time and tastes different than I remembered.

“Go ahead,” she said. “I will take care of myself.”

Before I turned, I healed her, and she gave me a thin smile as I silently took flight.

I found everyone in the air, scrambling, splitting up and coming together, flying as high as possible and looking really, really odd. Not funny odd. Creepy odd. Like something was happening. So, big surprise: something was.

I found some Time, Water and Fire Anoki chasing Li, Kaye and Akana. There might have been twelve of them. As far as I was concerned, it was a fight with the advantages tipped towards my side: me against a dozen attackers. I was so fast, so powerful, and so, so mad. I must have hacked through nine of them with the bow and the cleaning knife (which, granted, was a bit degrading for these guys, but not like I cared) when I found that all of a sudden, I couldn’t see anything. One of those jerks had spelled me. With a healing spell that was so strong it sent out a shock wave that nearly knocked our enemies out of the sky, I warded off the blindness. As I watched my enemies fall, it struck me: they were flying.

They didn’t fall for long. I watched as a Time Anoki swooped up to face me.

“We were told to bring you back. Your powers are a threat to us.”

“What powers?”  I said evenly. “I’m an Earth Anoki. And you can already fly.”

“Don’t play dumb. We know what you can do,” she hissed. “Many would kill to have your magic.”

“I wouldn’t try if I were you.”

“You have to come back alive.”

“So they can use me to win the war? I don’t think so.”  I drew the cleaning knife and said, “Do you know where this has been?”

“No,” she said. Other soldiers watched from behind me, and I saw Li, in my peripheral vision, taking one out with a knife of her own.

“In a rabbit! Oh, wait… it still is!”

I inspected the work before turning to the other soldiers, who were frozen in place. I think it was their leader that I just decapitated. Note to those reading: Unless you have a terrorist pointing a gun at you, follow the rule we all know: “Don’t try this at home, kids!” Please. If you do have a terrorist pointing a gun at you, well, this probably wouldn’t be very effective anyway. (I’m really glad that Anoki haven’t stolen any other human technology, like guns, but with magic, we really don’t need to.)

I called Li over, and together, she and I disposed of the rest of the attack squad. It really did help my anger issues, especially since Li was as freaked and angry as I was. Was my Fire side affecting me, or was it a personality similarity with Li? I’m pretty sure it was the latter.

“What was that?” Li asked. “We’re not worth the stronger Darkness Anoki, so they just send a bunch of redshirts?” Yeah, definitely a personality thing.

“No, that’s not it,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. “You’re worth the war itself, because I would have come after you and they’d have all of us, and Kaye would be an especially good pawn to have against the Kliid. They just don’t think you’re enough of a threat to bother with more powerful mercenaries when I’m off somewhere interrogating someone. I wonder if they baited me out there with that spy.”

“I won’t ask,” Kaye said. “ But it’s not that we’re weak. Not physically, not mentally, and definitely not magically. I just didn’t want to kill them.”

“And that’s what you need to get over. This is war, Kaye! It’s you or them. You can’t dodge it. Once we kill some major warriors, they’ll stop sending them because they need warriors on the battlefield so they’re not taken over by Zephans.”

“The village is bigger than you think, Amanda,” Kaye said. “Most families have at least five kids.”

“Then we’ll deal with what they give us. Anyone else the Kliid send is obviously as dumb as the government behind them. From now on, we kill anyone who threatens us! And no getting soft. I won’t kill innocent people, but these aren’t innocent. That’s why we fight, and that’s why we need to kill. We kill to protect—not just ourselves, but everyone in the Zepha tribe, and everyone in the Kliid tribe. All right?”

“No,” Kaye said. “It’s all wrong. I’ve never killed someone in my life. I don’t plan to.”

“Kaye,” I said, “it’s them or us. Think about it. If we let too many people go free, we’ll be tracked easily, which will force us to kill more people. If there’s hope of finding us, then the Kliid and the Zephans will try to get us. At once. Them or us.”

It’s amazing how people seem to really hate logic at times. Logic whips poetry. But really, I didn’t need a squad of peacies. Or PCs. And I’m not talking about computers. What I really needed were warriors, and I had three girls who didn’t want to kill anything. It didn’t work, and I knew this was driving Kaye nuts.

Well, not three girls. I didn’t know Akana’s position, or even if she had one. And Li was definitely a fighter. I knew she’d been the one to step up and fight, to get everyone into the sky, and probably the one who taught them the evasive maneuvers. She’d saved them. And Kaye had objected. Whatever. This was one fight I decided to avoid.

I turned to Akana, though, to see what her view was. She held up her hands in an “I let them argue” gesture.

I didn’t see any more people around. There were no more Anoki emerging from the forest to take a crack at killing us. The strange spy lady who, now that I came to think of it, had such a stilted way of talking, as if she’d planned this speech for a long time, had disappeared and probably wouldn’t show her face again for a while. Maybe she was trying to disguise her voice.  I hadn’t noticed in the action of a) catching her spying, b) killing someone, and c) not killing a girl hiding in the bushes. Wait a minute–I was talking like that, too. Maybe I was subconsciously role-playing. I am so weird.

The sun was already getting high in the morning air, so I convinced the others to leave:

“We’ve been seen here. We need to leave now.”

“Whatever.”

Okay, so they didn’t put up much of a fight. But still. We all took off, up in the air again. I still loved it, despite the fact that we were running again. But now we were at least running with a purpose. We were leaving.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010 at 9:28 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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