Emerald Feather

Six

As the Monsoon came to a close, Keena grew more and more proficient with her magic. With barely any effort, she could kill something as large as a fully-grown wild boar or as small as an annoying mosquito just by pointing at it, all with complete control. Still, she preferred to use her sword to hunt with. “I think you’re ready for the next step,” Ninyo said.

“I thought I’d gone as far as I could.”

“Not quite. Draw your sword,” Ninyo ordered, drawing his own and laying it on the sand in front of him. He sat cross-legged, Gold Dragon’s blade pointing down the beach away from him. Keena did the same.

Ninyo put on the voice he always used when he was about to teach Keena something, a smooth sound that blended beautifully with the waves and breeze and sent a pleasant tingle up Keena’s spine. “Hold your hands over the jewel like this,” he said, clasping his hands above the emerald on his sword as though they lay on a coconut, “and close your eyes.”

Keena did as he said, not knowing what she was about to be taught. It seemed to be Ninyo’s method of teaching, not to tell her exactly what she was doing, so that instead of focusing on the end product of the technique, she learnt how to get there.

“Hold some Green Magic in your hands, in a ball about the size of a mango.”

In her mind’s eye, she could see the magic in her body, and let just as much magic out as Ninyo had ordered. It was difficult to keep it in the right place. Holding the magic outside her body but still keeping control of it was a struggle, but Keena managed, keeping her unwieldy magic from running loose.

“Now let it run into the jewel on Blue Serpent’s hilt.”

Still picturing the ball of magic like a mango, Keena let its juice drip slowly into Blue Serpent. She felt slightly nervous doing this, not just because she was filling her sword with enough Green Magic to kill two tigers, but because she had to still keep control of the magic as it entered the jewel, not letting it run away.

“Okay, let go.”

Keena relaxed, letting her hands drop to her lap and slowly exhaling. When she opened her eyes, she literally leapt up and fell backwards into the sand.

“What did you do to it?” she screamed in horror.

“Keena! It’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with Blue Serpent, I promise.” Ninyo’s voice was still perfectly calm, but Keena was still less than content with her glowing sword.

Blue Serpent lay on the sand, the turquoise blade reflecting an intense green glow bright as the sun emanating from the emerald studded into the hilt. Yet Ninyo’s sword remained the same.

“Ready to continue?” Ninyo said calmly.

Keena relaxed slightly and returned to her position, though she was still edgy from the sudden change in her sword’s appearance.

“Ready?” Ninyo asked, his eyebrows raised in question.

Keena nodded hastily, then forced herself to relax.

“Okay, pick up Blue Serpent by the hilt as though you were going to fight with it, and close your eyes again.”

Keena could still see the green light through her closed eyelids.

“Take your right hand and put your palm over the jewel, then force as much Green Magic out through your palm as you can, like you’re throwing a rock.”

Keena hesitated, not at all liking the idea of throwing a rock at her sword, let alone one made out of the magic of death. Still, she Ninyo could be trusted, so she gathered a ball of Green Magic in her mind, set it spinning and thrust it down her arm and out into the jewel.

The force was so great that Blue Serpent was thrown from her hand and landed down by the water’s edge. Keena immediately leapt to her feet and sprinted down the beach to fetch her sword, examining it thoroughly. There was no damage, and the bright green glow had gone, leaving just a twinkle inside the emerald that could have easily just been the sun reflecting off its facets, aside from the fact that the sun was behind a cloud and had been for much of the day. The twinkle was produced by the magic inside Blue Serpent’s jewel.

“So what did that accomplish?” Keena asked, a little shakily.

“Essentially, your sword now has its own Green Magic,” Ninyo explained. “It means nobody can touch your sword unless they have Green Magic themselves.”

“What happens if they do?” There was a hint of fear in her voice. “Do they-?”

“No,” Ninyo cut off, knowing what she was thinking. “They just get an intense pain in their hands, so painful that they drop the sword, but it doesn’t cause any damage.”

Keena nodded, not wanting to say anything. It was scary throwing so much of the deadly magic at Blue Serpent and she was worried she would kill it. She felt a certain loyalty to her sword, almost like it was her friend. As much as she developed her magic, she would never give up on Blue Serpent. She’d had the sword for almost fifteen Monsoons, and even when her family turned her away, it stayed on her side.

Her magic was different. Since she had discovered it, it had always felt to her like it wanted something more than what she was giving it. It enjoyed finally being set free, but it was still constrained, never fully given a chance to run rampant. Keena felt it constantly in her veins, bubbling through her body with an energy she had never known before. But she kept control of it with little effort, keeping it happy with the occasional time to be set free.

That was the only real reason she ever used her magic. Ninyo had told her when she had first met him that if she didn’t let it have some fun, it would become restless and dangerous, releasing itself when she wasn’t expecting it. Green Magic wasn’t just magic, it had its own personality.

She learnt too about other kinds of magic, and what else characterised them apart from just the jewels. Like Green Magic, they all had personalities, which partly came through in the personality of the holder. Cat people with Blue Magic were known to be very cautious and timid, which was partly the reason Keena’s family feared her so much.

Ninyo’s family had fire magic. They were very proud people, quick to temper but when they loved someone it was with their whole heart and soul. That was why they felt so bad when Ninyo had to leave.

At that time, the control he had on his magic wasn’t as good as it could be, and once it had gotten loose and killed Ngunu, the tiger the family had adopted when it was just an orphaned cub. His parents knew it wasn’t his fault, but seeing the dead tiger made them realise just how powerful Green Magic was.

Ninyo was the first to suggest that he should leave. He had hated himself for it, and didn’t want to risk his magic escaping him again to kill one of his family members.

“I would never have been able to live with myself if that happened,” he told Keena, looking out at the sunset with glistening eyes. “So I left. Inevitably, everyone with Green Magic ends up living alone, whether it’s by choice or not, but it always happens.”

Keena laid her head on his shoulder, entwining her brown tail with his black one. When she thought about it, she was almost happy with the way she had left her family. At least her magic hadn’t had a chance to escape and kill one of her sisters or her parents. She now knew what it was capable of, and was shocked it hadn’t run loose before she had discovered it.

“Well, you know my story, how about yours?” Ninyo said, stroking Keena’s hair with his left hand.

Keena sighed. “You know it, pretty much,” she said finally, “My family was so scared of my magic they never let me know I had it, then eventually they turned me out.”

“So how’d you find out you did have it?”

“Someone told me I had magic, but I had to believe I had it before I could use it. When Aaka came along, I didn’t know what to believe, so I went back to my old territory and saw Mum use Blue Magic. The same person who told me I had magic told me you could teach me how to use it.”

“And have I?”

Keena slapped him playfully. “Course you have!”

“So what’s the deal with Aaka, anyway?” Ninyo asked, turning to face her.

Keena shrugged. “No idea. He appeared the same day I was told I had magic.”

Ninyo looked slightly perplexed.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just never seen any animals with magic before, that’s all.”

“Neither, but I’d never seen anything with magic before.”

Ninyo sighed. “There’s just something not right about that bird.”

Keena shrugged again and stood up; the sunset display had finished for the evening, and the light was already disappearing from the sky. “Whatever it is, let’s just be glad he’s on our side.”

Ninyo sat for a while longer, obviously thinking about the eagle’s mysterious ways. Keena lay her hand on his shoulder, jolting him out of whatever train of thought he was involved in.

“Ninyo?”

“I guess you’re right,” he sighed, though Keena could tell he still wasn’t convinced.

Seven