Emerald Feather

Seven

Ninyo wrapped his arms around his mistress; Keena returned the gesture, pressing her tanned body against his. His lips met hers, and she closed her eyes, smoothing her hands down his warm smooth back. As her velvety skin slid with his, the passion that had been slowly emerging between the two cat people over the now completed Monsoon surfaced.

Keena felt her magic more than ever. It pumped through her with new life, just at the mere thought of mixing with more magic of its own kind. She enjoyed the new feeling of her magic. It made her feel more powerful, like she was almost invincible.

It didn’t feel to her like they were one person, or like he was really inside her, but she did feel closer to him than she had ever felt before. She loved him deeply, in a different way than she had ever loved anyone or anything else. She still felt some slight attachment to her family, but nothing this strong. This was a different kind of love, and she right now she felt she couldn’t express it enough.

She snuggled up to his immensely comfortable body in the soft sand of the beach under the brightening stars, her back to his chest, and fell asleep, feeling more relaxed and happy than she had ever felt in her life.

The dawn’s light shone onto the beach, and Keena was aware of the waves tickling her feet. Her tail was still wound with Ninyo’s, and when she squeezed his tighter with her own, he squeezed back. She rolled over, kissing him firmly on the lips.

Suddenly he stopped though, sliding his hands around to her stomach and sending the same pleasant tingles up her spine he did when he spoke softly to her. She removed his hands and tried to kiss him again, but he pushed her away.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, trying again to make contact with his lips.

“Not sure, something’s itching me though,” he answered, looking down at her stomach.

Keena bent away and did the same, then threw herself on him with such force they rolled over in the sand together, laughing and crying with sheer happiness.

From her bellybutton, a small green jewel shone and glittered in the milky dawn sunlight.

As the sun began to rise higher off the horizon, Keena picked herself up and stared in wonder at her new acquisition. She smoothed her hands over her stomach, thinking about what was now growing inside her. Ninyo stroked her stomach with his soft hands, playing with the new green jewel with his fingers.

“Stop it, that tickles!” Keena protested, pushing his hands away and kissing him again.

Ninyo eased her away from himself. “Just one thing,” he said, “You can’t use your magic until, well, you know, or else you’ll kill it.”

Keena shrugged. “No problem, still got Blue Serpent,” she answered, slapping the hilt. “Guess that means we’ll have to put training on standby for a while then.”

“Guess so.”

“Can still do your training though,” she said mischievously. She stood up and drew Blue Serpent, getting herself into position. “Come on, up you get.”

Ninyo reluctantly stood, unsheathing Gold Dragon and setting himself ready to fight Keena again.

To Keena, Blue Serpent had felt different in her grip ever since she had injected it with Green Magic. Ironically, the sword felt more alive, vaguely reminiscent of the magic inside her, but it still retained most of its previous qualities. She felt as though the blade moved faster, with more power than it used to, and as she swiped it through the air, she could feel a hint of the magic flowing through the cool metal blade. She wondered if Blue Serpent could feel it too.

“You were hardly even trying,” Keena accused, “Just because I’ve got a new jewel doesn’t mean you can turn into a slacker.” She grinned and gave Gold Dragon back to Ninyo, hilt first. “Again, and try this time.”

She could see Ninyo was trying the next time, but the sword fight still resulted in a pair of crossed blades at his throat.

“When are you going to teach me how to do that?” Ninyo whined, not for the first time.

“When I can feel confident you’ll do it right, as opposed to cutting my sheath or scratching Blue Serpent.”

“How close am I to that?” Ninyo sounded slightly frustrated.

“Not doing too badly. Give it a moon or two, less if you keep practicing.” She paused. “Why exactly do you want to know how to do that?”

The question visibly threw Ninyo off guard, and he took a few seconds to answer. “I dunno, it’s just cool.”

“Granted,” Keena said, swinging her sword deftly in her grip, “But why else? You’ve got Green Magic, why do you need to learn sword skills?”

Ninyo couldn’t answer.

“I’ll give you a while to think it over. Until then, keep practicing.”

Keena trained him for the whole day, save a break for their midday meal, but even then Ninyo had to work hard for it. Keena made him pursue his prey and kill it with his sword rather than his magic. It took him a long time, but when he eventually returned with a drab brown female peacock slung over his shoulder he was very proud of himself. He slapped the bird at Keena’s feet, folding his arms over his heaving chest.

“Knew you could do it,” Keena smiled.

Ninyo collapsed on the sand, too puffed out to say anything, but he was immensely blissful and pleased with how his training had paid off. Keena was content to prepare and cook the bird, half understanding how hard it must have been for him. She almost pitied him for never having felt the pleasure of physically killing his own prey. But then, he’d never experienced the frustration in missing it either.

The peacock was large enough to have in the evening as well as midday, so she didn’t get him to go out and hunt again. They left Aaka to polish off the bones and lay down in the sand to watch the sunset, Keena’s head on Ninyo’s chest.

“I think I know why I want to learn it now,” Ninyo told her. He had one hand on Keena’s stomach, the other tenderly stoked her hair.

“Hmm?”

“It’s more satisfying than Green Magic.” He struggled to find the right words. “I mean, you’re born with Green Magic, but you have to learn how to use a sword, and when you get it right, it gives you a really good feeling inside.”

Keena turned her head to face him, smiling. “Much better.”

“That and it’s just cool.”

Keena flicked a handful of sand on his face.

As she lay, fully relaxed in the sand, she could feel that her magic was more restless than usual. It flitted around her stomach, trying to work out why it hadn’t been used all day. It had enjoyed the exertion from a few days ago, when some of it had been transferred to Blue Serpent, but it was annoyed now.

Keena rested her hands on her belly, peering curiously at it. She found it awkward to imagine it blown up so large she wouldn’t be able to see her toes, but it was bound to happen within the next few moons.

Ninyo noticed her looking at her abdomen, and tickled the tanned skin with his fingers. Keena giggled, pushing his hands away. A slight flicker of green light twinkled from the jewel in her belly button.

“I know I’m not supposed to use my magic, but won’t it get restless and try to break free itself?”

Ninyo shrugged. “Don’t suppose so. You probably know more about it right now than I do.”

Keena looked at him, a slightly puzzled look on her face.

“Women’s business,” Ninyo explained. “I’d try to keep it in check though.”

“Does the same thing happen with other kinds of magic?”

“Again, women’s business.”

Keena nodded. “I’ve just been thinking about my family. When I last saw them, my sister Anya was pregnant, so she’s probably got her own baby now.”

“Guess that makes you an aunty.”

Keena smiled. “I was just wondering if we could go and see them. I mean, I’ve got control of my magic now, and they’ll know I can’t use it anyway. Do you think we could?”

“Don’t see why not.” He paused. “Would they accept me though?”

“I honestly can’t say. Don’t know if they’d even accept me. I’m willing to give it a go though. They wouldn’t attack you, but they might be a bit protective of the family.”

Ninyo thought it over for a moment before answering. “We can leave tomorrow, if you think you’re up to it.”

Keena sent another handful of sand in his direction.

After a breakfast of coconuts, the couple left following the river into the rainforest. They walked for days along the river bank, during the course of which Ninyo seemed eager to do as much hunting as he could. Keena didn’t know whether his newfound enthusiasm for hunting with sword rather than magic was so he could better his skills, or whether it was because of her ‘condition’. Either way, she let him hunt in the hopes of making him a better swordsman, though she still did her fair share.

Her magic still felt confused, franticly trying to work out why it was no longer needed. Keena tried to keep it calm, telling it the only reason it wasn’t being used was so it wouldn’t kill her growing child, but it either wouldn’t listen or wasn’t convinced. It knew it was something to do with the foreign creature in her stomach, and it continued to flitter apprehensively around it, tentatively poking it, wondering what it was and what it was doing there, but knowing it was too important to kill.

Eight