Emerald Feather

Five

On the same day the two met, Keena and Ninyo began training. The pair of them sat cross-legged on the beach, their green eyes closed and face turned to the ocean. Their only movement was the ruffles of their hair and clothes in the breeze, and their slow but steady breathing. Ninyo had explained that before she could begin to use her power, Keena had to be fully aware of it. To do this, she had to search deep inside her and find where her Green Magic held its core.

The rhythmic lapping of the waves and hushing of the breeze in the beach palm trees helped her to lose herself. She could sense nothing outside the world of her mind. A deep awareness grew inside her of her body and mind. She could feel the muscles under her skin, her heart beating steadily, pumping her blood through her body.

Slowly, she began to feel the presence of something that wasn’t part of her, something foreign and unnatural. Concentrating hard, she probed deeper into the presence, taking note of how she found it. As she had expected, the presence had a green hue. She couldn’t physically see the green, but she could feel it. She emersed herself in the green, forcing herself to grow used to her magic, how it felt in her mind.

The Green Magic was restless, she could tell. It had been living and growing inside her since before she had been born, a good seventeen Monsoons ago, and for the first time, it had been noticed. Like an agitated child, eager for attention, it played in her mind, waiting in anticipation for the time when it could finally be released into the world outside.

Keena gradually began to bring back her other senses, but didn’t let go of her grip on the Green Magic she had found in her mind. She let the feel of the breeze, the warm afternoon sunlight and the soft sand reach her mind and opened her ears to the ocean and the gentle flapping of the coconut palm fronds. She breathed in deeply and took in the sharp scent of the salty ocean with the more delicate frangipanni, then finally opened her eyes slowly, blinking against the unexpectedly bright sunlight, but not losing the Green Magic.

She somehow expected everything to look different, but there was no change to the glinting deep blue water or shining bright blue sky that lay spread out before her.

“I need you to do this every morning, before you do anything else,” Ninyo said smoothly. “In time, it will become easier for you to find your magic, until you won’t have to even think about it anymore. Don’t ever try to use it until I tell you you’re ready.”

Keena nodded, staring out to sea. Her impatient magic would have to wait. She knew she had to have full control of the emerald magic before she could even think about setting it free.

“Until you have control of your magic,” Ninyo continued, “until you know where it is at all times, I can’t help you. Persevere and you will grow more confident with the Green Magic, but it’s up to you. You can never gain complete control over Green Magic; it’s too powerful, but you can learn to use it.”

Keena nodded again, fully conscious of the Green Magic sitting, waiting in her mind. Just wait a little longer, she told it silently.

“Ready to start learning some sword skills?” she asked, turning her head to face him.

Ninyo faced her and grinned broadly. “Is the sky blue?”

Keena grinned back and got to her feet, stretched after spending such a long time sitting in the same position, then dusted the sand off the backs of her legs and picked Blue Serpent off the sand where she had laid it for her meditation time. The steel blade was warm from the sun.

“Meet Blue Serpent,” Keena stated, digging the tip of her sword’s blade into the sand.

“Impressive.” Ninyo’s eyes ran the length of the winding turquoise blade, topped with glittering emerald and flapping feathers. He got to his feet and picked up his own blade.

“Gold Dragon,” he introduced, “though I believe you’ve already met.”

Keena curled the right side of her mouth. “Let’s see how well you know your own blade.” She took up her position, Blue Serpent held firmly in her hands. Ninyo did the same.

For a long time the two circled in the sand, but eventually Ninyo struck. Keena’s speed and knowledge of how muscles moved kept her out of trouble, and she spun around, clashing her sword with his over his back. He almost stumbled over, but managed to catch himself and block Keena’s blade with his own as it came crashing down over his head.

Keena didn’t let up, whipping her blade around, never letting him have a chance to do anything but defend and retreat. She advanced so quickly that Ninyo eventually tripped over backwards, where Keena stood over him, pointing Blue Serpent’s tip between his eyes.

“Not too bad, considering,” she commended, helping him to his feet with her free hand.

“What do you mean ‘considering’?” Ninyo asked.

“How do you hunt?” Keena countered.

“Good point.”

“You see an animal, point at it, say ‘die’ and there you go, instant meal. For my whole life, I’ve had to use Blue Serpent to catch and kill everything I eat, simply because I never knew I even had magic. Been getting a little help recently from Aaka, but yeah, you get the point.”

“Woah,” Ninyo breathed. “I could never do that.”

Keena shrugged. It was a way of life for her, nothing special. She couldn’t imagine giving up her sword skills, no matter how easy her magic became.

“Not to boast, but to become as good as me, you’d have to totally drop your magic.”

“That’s not gunna happen.”

“Didn’t think so.”

“So how do I improve, without dropping the magic?”

Keena had sized him up during their ‘fight’. “You’ve got all the basics there; good grip, pretty good technique. But you need to attack more. Don’t be so afraid of Blue Serpent, it won’t hurt you.” She grinned and stroked her blade affectionately. “Course, there’s more to it than that, but that seems to be your biggest downfall right now.”

Ninyo nodded, taking in her every word.

For two moons, the two cat people trained in the same way, beginning the day with a meditating period for Keena to find her magic, followed by some rather intense sword training. Keena’s meditating sessions became increasingly shorter, and she could see that Ninyo’s swordsmanship was slowly progressing. He still seemed clumsy to her, but there was definitely an improvement on their first battle. She didn’t know if he could see it, but her trained eye could pick up the subtleties.

It was nearing the beginning of Keena’s eighteenth Monsoon when she was told she was ready to put her magic into physical application. She could feel the magic inside her bubbling in excitement, eager to make its first appearance into the world outside Keena’s mind. But Keena kept it in check, holding it back and keeping it from doing anything too dangerous and unexpected.

“Naturally we’ll start off with something pretty basic,” Ninyo informed her, “So don’t be too disappointed. We’re going to kill a blade of grass.”

Keena raised her eyebrows. She knew she’d have to start with something small, but she was expecting something like a beetle or a mouse, not a blade of grass. “If you say so,” she sighed.

The two of them dropped to the grass, with Aaka watching from a safe distance from a tree branch. “You must first understand that, because your magic has been held inside you for so long without being released, it will be very powerful. It doesn’t take much magic to kill a blade of grass, you have to keep control of it. It will try to take control of you, but you can’t let it.”

Keena nodded. Ninyo held the tip of one blade, indicating for Keena to do the same. Keena watched as the grass blade between the tips of Ninyo’s fingers shrivelled and turned brown before her eyes.

She picked some of the Green Magic held in her mind and sent it through her veins to her fingertip. A flood of magic sprung from her fingers, killing all the grass in an expanding circle as wide as two hand spans. She quickly took her hand from the circle of brown grass, clenching it into a fist to stop the magic from flowing. She blinked at the grass circle then turned to her teacher, smiling sheepishly.

“See what I mean?” Ninyo wasn’t angry; he’d expected this. “Now you know what it feels like, try again.”

Keena could feel the magic all through her body now, not just in her mind. It flowed through her veins with a power she didn’t know she had inside her. She tried to push it back to where she felt more comfortable with it, in her mind, but only managed to agitate the magic, and it flew through her with even more power.

“Does it matter if I can’t get it back in my mind?” she asked nervously.

Ninyo shook his head. “It’s better if it flows through your whole body, then it won’t be able to build up and release itself in a flood like it did just then.”

Keena sighed and let herself relax. There was no longer any need to meditate to grasp her magic; it was everywhere inside her now. She touched another grass blade and let only a drop of her magic escape, cutting it off before it could cause too much damage. This time she didn’t need to draw her hand back to stop it, and the circle of dead grass only engulfed five blades.

She tried again, letting even less magic through, and succeeded in killing only the grass blade she was touching. She smiled, pleased with her progress.

“Not bad,” Ninyo told her, “considering.”

Keena pounced on him, slapping him playfully with a handful of live grass.

Six