My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Phoenix: Chapter 12

I woke up in a hotel bed, with Dakota nearby, sitting with a laptop and a cup of what smelled like mint tea.

“Mmm?” I said groggily, and rolled over.

“Are you awake?” Dakota said mildly, not taking her eyes from her computer screen.

“…sorta…”

“Do you want hot chocolate?”

I sat up immediately.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Dakota said, smiling slightly, and went to get it.

Thank you,” I said, realizing how thirsty I was.

“Mark is not happy,” Dakota said.

“Why?” I asked, between sips. The drink was almost too hot for me, but I didn’t care.

“I don’t know,” Dakota said. “I don’t know if he thinks you did it on purpose, or if he’s just convinced that your job with us is too dangerous. You fell for pretty long. Key doesn’t think it’s any harm—in fact, she sent you this.”

Dakota held out a card. I took it and opened it, and it piped out the song “Firework” at a ridiculously high pitch.

“She made that herself,” Dakota said, trying not to laugh. “Obviously, she doesn’t blame you. And Emma sent you a box of snickerdoodles. She’s addicted. Leslie sent you a bath set, but it’s in a lockbox—she’s paranoid, as usual.” Dakota handed me the cookies and box.

Something I taught you to make in secret, said the box. Four digits. Wand, I typed in, and it clicked open. It was indeed a bath set. Leslie had written Relax, Phoebe on the inside of the lid.

“Why is everyone sending me stuff?” I asked.

“They heard you weren’t feeling well,” Dakota said. “Mark and Key were the only ones who were backstage when you flew back there. I was in the crowd of dancers on the floor as planned, but I was in an easier position to watch you than most. You did a pretty good job of making it all look like part of the act, but you looked pretty desperate to get out of the crowd, too. Now everyone has a different opinion about what happened—some people are angry with you for changing the plan, some know how your magic works and don’t think you’re at fault. And you don’t have much say. That’s why I took you here.”

“And what do you think?” I asked.

Dakota sat down on the other bed. “The Anoki have a similar reaction to what you experienced, except the conditions in which it happens are the opposite of what you’ve seen. Key told me she’d told you about using a stage persona. That was a bad idea.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I think I need to teach you a little more about the Anoki,” Dakota said. “Anoki have different elements, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“Haven’t you ever wondered how young Anoki end up with their element?”

“No,” I said. I hadn’t given it much thought.

“It’s not genetic,” Dakota said. “It’s the person. Sometimes there’s loose magic in the air, and that magic can be picked up by Anoki. Say there’s a Water Anoki, like Emma, who does a spell, and she puts too much energy into it. The energy that wasn’t used by the spell just… sits there. Say there’s enough of it to matter, and some little kid comes along, runs into the extra energy.”

“And?”

“Well, if the Anoki likes the magic, and the magic likes the Anoki, then the Anoki can take the magic—sort of give it some room, in the Anoki’s mind and abilities, and then the Anoki can do that sort of magic.”

“Likes?”

“Magic isn’t all the same,” Dakota said. “Like light waves—sometimes they’re UV waves, sometimes they’re gamma. Different types of magic have a different zing to them, and different abilities, and then you end up with the Anoki elements.”

“Okay.”

“Well, there’s… a spell. It was outlawed a long time ago, Amanda made sure of that. It was… not a good spell. It pushed all the person into a corner to make room for the magic, and then sometimes the magic, it took over the person, and magic isn’t something that’s supposed to sit in a body all on its own,  and lots of Anoki were terrified of being taken over, back when it was required…” Dakota shuddered, and reached across the bed for her mug of tea. It had gone cold, and wasn’t steaming any more, but she drank it anyway.

“Why was it required?” I asked.

“Mostly so that the village leaders could exercise their authority,” Dakota said, “but also because more magic can mean more power. Even still, it was a nasty exercise, sometimes it even took away a bit of person as well…”

“And how does this relate?” I asked, keen to get Dakota off the topic, which obviously made her nervous.

“Well, there’s another Anoki state, too,” she said, more easily. “Anoki rely on magic a lot more than humans do, so when they get too low, they kind of go to sleep. Involuntarily. Almost like…”

“…passing out?”

“Yeah.”

“I had more than enough magic.”

“Exactly. You had all that magic, and then you were using your stage persona, which isn’t a real person. I don’t think that your stage persona”—

“Annabelle,” I said. “I named her.”

Dakota nodded as she went on—“that Annabelle is part of your human self. I think that she’s more phoenix than human, but your human side adopts her. So you had Annabelle active as a self, and you don’t believe in her. She’s only a tool to you, she’s not… you. And then you had all that magic available, and the dominant phoenix magic pushed your real self—a stressed, weakened self—backstage.”

“And the phoenix took over again,” I said.

“And the phoenix took over again,” Dakota said, nodding.

“So instead of deciding whether I’m guilty, you come up with a logical explanation,” I said, smiling. “You’re starting to sound like Leslie.”

“Leslie doesn’t know enough about Anoki,” Dakota said.

“You’d be surprised what Leslie knows.”

“Only what a book knows,” Dakota said.

“No,” I said, “she learned it from her brother.”

Dakota sighed. “You still believe that?”

I’d never questioned it.

“You know she worked with the Agency once,” Dakota said. “She’s a mage. A very clever mage. Maybe she’s a real Epselan, maybe she’s not, but I do know that she’s a mage.”

“How?” I asked.

“She’s never played the violin before this show started. You never saw her practice before we left. The only way she could have learned that fast is with magical assistance. She never mentions her brother except in that story. There aren’t any retellings of how they got caught hiding under sheep or chasing cats with squirt guns.”

Neither of us said any more. Dakota had a point.

“So… what are we going to do about it?” I asked.

“Your performance? Well, you need to stop using Annabelle. She’s too dangerous. I know she’s your solution to stage fright, so we’ll just find you another one. Also, Emma needs to put a spell on you to keep you from getting too hot.”

Dakota made the solution sound so simple that I stopped worrying immediately.

“What are we going to do about the stage-fright part?” I asked.

“Open mic night,” Dakota said, grinning wickedly. “Yo I’m MC Phoenix…”

“I don’t think so.”

“It was Emma’s idea.”

“I’m sure it was.”

“You have a week here with me in Jackson, Mississippi,” Dakota said, “and I’m going to do as much as I can for you here, and you’re only going to be seeing me, until everyone else calms down. And, Epselan, neither of us are human. Remember that. Remember the way you have powers that others don’t, and remember how bad it can be.”

Haven’t you ever wished you could be all human? She shot back.

No. It wasn’t like I’d realized it could be possible.

“…There’s a sandwich in the refrigerator if you’re hungry. Are you zoning out?”

“No, I heard you,” I said. “I just remembered something.”

“What?” Dakota asked.

“Where’s my wand?” I lied.

“In your hand,” Dakota said. “We never bothered to pry it from your fingers, you were holding it so hard.”

It was the wand Leslie had made for me. I found my normal wand in my suitcase later.

I was sure that the wand I had hopped onto as a phoenix had been my old wand.

But that’s another story.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2011 at 2:01 am and is filed under Phoenix. 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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