My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter 19

How could Angel not be there? Daniel shoved this question aside and went out to get rid of the Gateguards.
They weren’t Gateguards. They were two men, about fifteen or sixteen years old, messing around in the woods. Daniel remembered Molly’s panic when the shapeshifter had almost caught them, and considered the possibility of these being shapeshifters. He decided to scare them away. The cops had magic, but they weren’t normally stationed in the woods like this. To make these people think otherwise would keep everyone away.
Daniel decided to have a bit of fun. He leaped into the air and hung there, running (not very well) on the air. He looked down, saw the men, grinned and let himself drop altitude enough to attract attention. On the way down, he grabbed a dead stick trapped in the branches of an ash tree, and then the men saw him. Daniel mentally commanded the stick to be able to burst out green fire, which he made it do, sending the men running like little boys out of the forest. He dropped out of the air, cracking up, and headed back to camp.
*    *    *
“He’s starting to scare me.”
Molly looked up from her binoculars. “Why?” She shifted positions. The tree wasn’t very comfortable.
“He could be getting too powerful for his own good.” Mage shook his head. “You do have magic, don’t you? You know how this works?”
Molly sighed. “Yes, I know. The only problem is that he doesn’t.”
*    *    *
Sophie had disappeared. She didn’t really mean or plan to, but she went on a walk in the woods and just didn’t come back. She’d been gone for several hours when she saw the men; two of them, slightly older than her, running like death was behind them. Maybe it was. Sophie held her breath. She was deep into the forest, far from camp, and not very adept at magic. If only Daniel were here, she thought, then scolded herself for thinking that because she had a large stigma against boy-dependent girls. No, she could handle this.
She walked up, put on her best coy smirk (something she was incredibly good at) and said, “What are you running from? Did the big nasty bunny try to bite you? Did it get into some whipped cream? Hmm?”
The men stopped in surprise. Sophie wished she could make them stay like that longer to examine how to fake that expression. Oh, wait, she could. She pulled out her wand. Zap!
“Not another one!” one of them yelled out in horror, just before the binding spell kicked in.
“You can still hear me, can’t you?” Sophie said in a small, dangerous voice right up close.  “You’re very, very afraid of me, and you’re right to be.” Sophie was grinning, smirking, evilly raising an eyebrow, and trying hard to keep from giggling, but grinning more than anything.
But confused underneath. Another one? Who was here before and was enough to frighten these men? All the others were back at the camp…
This could only mean one thing, right? The Gateguards must have found them! Sophie ran back to the camp in a big rush to tell the others they had to go, fast.
She was crying, and her tears blinded her slightly, so she didn’t notice how fast she was going.
*    *    *
“We need to get out of here! Now!” Sophie yelled, careless of who heard. “There might be Gateguards in the forest!”
Immediately Daniel stuck his head out of the tree he was climbing, muttered something, and jumped the thirty feet to the ground, landing on his feet perfectly. Molly and Messenger ran out the door of the cabin. Molly was carrying the backpacks, and had placed Mage in Daniel’s. Ryder and Hannah appeared out of the forest, and Angel dropped out of the sky. Ryder and Hannah had a huge sack full of berries.
“You guys haven’t done anything stupid, have you?!”
Daniel stared at a tree, wondering if you could write on the peeled bark of a paper birch and how that might come in handy for writing notes later. Everybody else called out, “No.”
“Then let’s get out of here!”
And they got out of there. Molly wanted to go to a place she knew where they might find out Angel’s species. Tress wanted to find more of the books, and there was a hint in her voice that suggested that this should be done now. Hannah and Angel just wanted to get as far away from the Gateguards as possible. Ryder wanted to find a city and get transportation, but this was vetoed; they could travel by magic if they needed to go that far. There was some dispute over whether to find more books or to find out Angel’s species, and then Mage’s muffled voice in the backpack was heard. The pack was opened and Mage pointed out that if Angel knew her species, it might lend her more power. So they decided, for Angel’s sake, to go there first, and they went.
*    *    *
“Now who do we ask about species?” Sophie asked Molly once they entered the cities of the Nai. Once they were beyond the protected dome of the realm they could see the city clearly. Hannah gasped and nearly doubled over.
“It’s the shock of the dome. The magic content of the air in here is much higher than in the nonmagical realm. The shock’s effect is more powerful on some wielder types than others.”
“No!” Hannah shouted, straightening up and making everyone jump. “No. No…” She slunk to the ground, actually dropping to her knees this time, then on her hands. She could barely manage a whisper:
“There are Gateguards here. No, worse than Gateguards.” She flinched a little. “I’ve never felt this before. Not this huge of a disruption of the magic field and this large of a………..”
Her words trailed off. “We need to get in and get out. Fast.”
*    *    *
The Nai were unlike any picture book creature Daniel had ever seen. Mermaids with wings and fairies with hair that seemed to move of its own accord, or even hair that picked up objects for its owner and carried them around, and even fairies that seemed to be having telepathic conversations with each other in order to have nobody overhear them. Their wings were oddly shaped, each unique, in every shape you could find and every type. It reminded Daniel of that one TV show that compared America to a “melting pot;” everything was here, in the city. And everyone. All at once, apparently.
Molly found who she was looking for. She coughed. “Hey, Misi. Do you know what she is?”
Misi looked at Angel. She drew in a breath. “No, what?”
“I’m not joking. None of us know. We found her in the forest.”
Misi’s gray hair blew into her face. She brushed it out of the way and squinted at Angel. “I don’t recognize your element, dear. What can you do?”
“I’m not entirely sure.”
Misi took Angel into a brick building that didn’t have a sign or anything that would mark what it was. Naturally, Sophie followed. Molly coughed and swallowed, then trod after her. Daniel noticed that her shoulders were deliberately low.
Angel was taken behind a certain door. The others were told to wait in the lobby. Only Sophie, with her acute hearing, heard another door open and close, but they all heard the argument between Misi and someone they didn’t recognize. They could hear an emotion expressed in a way they couldn’t recognize; it wasn’t a shriek, a scream, or an angry yell – it may have been all three. Then a sigh, and calmer speaking, and what sounded like an agreement.
After an hour, Angel came out. “It was sort of like a little maze, and you had to use certain magic to get places. I had to take it a million times, though, because apparently none of their stuff made sense. Well, I hope they got enough data to help.”
Then they waited another half-hour or so. Hannah fidgeted, and Sophie practiced her “bored” faces. Mage and Tress worked on thinking out what the people were doing behind the door. Daniel got lost in thought again. Ryder fell asleep. Molly drew in a little notebook she had, then she burst into a coughing fit, then she went back to drawing. That was the second highest point of excitement, only bested by when Sophie tried a “barfing” bored face that looked so realistic that Daniel woke up from his train of thought just to let everyone know exactly how loud he could scream. He knocked his head into the magazine rack on the wall behind his chair, and launched into a mental discussion about the sanity of the people who arranged the room. Then he kept himself busy by trying to remember what he was thinking about. Normal people would try to read the magazines, he thought as Sophie tried an equally repulsive face, but we aren’t normal people.
Finally the door cracked open just a bit, and Sophie saw the barest edge of black cloak. She gathered up the group and silently slipped out the door before anyone noticed.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 28th, 2009 at 7:31 pm and is filed under Mirrorworld. 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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