“Got the jewel?” Ninyo asked just as they were about to depart.
Keena nodded. It was completely black now and its magic was clearly felt if it touched the skin, so Keena kept it in a small pouch she had made from a palm frond.
“Right, time to put your new skill to work then,” Ninyo told her.
Keena closed her eyes and sent out a sweeping arch of Green Magic, searching the forest for the closest person with the same magic as her. “That way,” she said, pointing.
“Okay, we meet back here next full moon, sound good?” Ninyo asked. Both girls nodded in agreement.
“Good luck,” Iis encouraged them, then set out on her own to find others with her healing magic.
“You too,” Keena called out. The girl seemed honest enough, Keena just hoped she could be trusted. She’d grown accustomed to people betraying her, her family and Qillan for a start, and Ninyo was the only person she felt she could fully trust.
“Ok, now they should be around here somewhere.” It hadn’t taken them long to reach the first cat-person with Green Magic, no more than a day’s walk.
“Looking for something?” The voice came from behind, and Keena turned to see a woman five or six Monsoons older than she was, the tip of her blade at Ninyo’s neck.
“Yeah, been looking for you, actually,” Keena told her, casually flicking the woman’s sword out of her hand and grabbing it in mid-air. Still got it, she told herself.
The woman looked shocked at Keena’s sword skills, obviously expecting Ninyo to be the more dangerous of the two. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I’m Keena, this is Ninyo, and long story short, we need your help to kill Black Magic.”
“Very smooth,” Ninyo whispered behind his hand. Keena just shrugged. No use wasting time over this.
The woman raised her eyebrows. “You don’t actually believe in that, do you?”
Keena sighed. “Hold out your hand,” she ordered, moving both blades to the same hand so as to emphasise who had the upper hand in the equation. The woman obeyed.
Keena lifted her coconut palm pouch and tipped the black jewel from it onto the woman’s hand. She gasped and hastily dropped it to the ground.
“How did you do that?” she gasped, clearly shocked.
“Me? I didn’t do anything, that’s Black Magic.”
The woman lifted her fingers to her mouth and took a step back from the tiny black jewel. “It exists,” she whispered.
“It does,” Keena confirmed, “Interested in helping us kill it?”
The woman nodded quickly, not taking her eyes off the jewel. Keena bent and used the pouch to pick the jewel up again.
“There you go,” she told Ninyo, “easy as.”
“Whatever you reckon,” Ninyo sighed, “Can’t say it’s the most elegant approach, but if it gets results, whatever.”
“I’ll handle the next one.”
Keena pouted, but reluctantly agreed.
“Good girl,” Ninyo mocked.
Their second candidate took longer to find. They spotted him by a waterfall with his family. Keena was hesitant to approach the boy; his family had Blue Magic, so it was likely he didn’t even know magic existed, let alone Black Magic.
“Do we seriously want to get him?” she whispered, noting how his family seemed rather nervous around him.
“He’ll have to find out he’s got Green Magic some time,” Ninyo answered.
“Yeah, but what I mean is do we have the time to teach him?”
“She’s got a point,” Lima, the first addition to their group noted.
Ninyo sighed and frowned at the boy. He couldn’t have been more than ten Monsoons old. “I see what you’re getting at, but I just don’t like the idea of the kid not knowing he’s got Green Magic. He doesn’t have to accompany us on our… expedition, but I think we should still teach him about his magic. Plus he’s a young boy; he’ll think the idea of Green Magic is pretty cool.”
“If you seriously think it’s worth it,” Keena sighed in defeat, “Go for it.” This’ll be good, she thought with a smile, then scaled a tree with Lima close behind her.
She watched as Ninyo strode confidently into the family, approaching the boy’s mother. He was instantly greeted with three sword tips, one from the father, one from the mother and a third from the boy’s older sister. Even from her position in the tree, Keena could see the fake mask of threat that plastered their obviously terrified faces. The boy on the other hand was looking more curious than anything.
“Don’t worry,” Ninyo said coolly, raising his hands in surrender, “I’m not here to hurt any of you, look, I’ll even put my sword down.” He moved his right hand towards Gold Dragon’s hilt.
“Don’t even think about it,” the father ordered. “Besides, we know your other-” he looked at his son, “-talents.”
“What I’m concerned about is that your son may not know his,” Ninyo said sternly. “It’s much more dangerous if he doesn’t know how to control it.”
“What’s he talking about, Dad?” the boy asked innocently.
The man looked at Ninyo with pleading eyes. Ninyo met them with a stern gaze and folded arms. “Tell him,” he ordered.
The boy’s father sighed and sheathed his sword; his daughter and partner followed suit. He stepped over to his son and rested his hands on his shoulders, looking earnestly into his eyes. “Yakel, you have magic.”
The boy blinked. “Serious?” he asked.
His father nodded.
“Cool! So does that mean I can fly and zap stuff and do cool stuff like that?”
“Not quite,” his father answered. “Your magic is-”
“The same as mine,” Ninyo cut in. He could see where this was going. A mosquito conveniently buzzed into his view, and he grinned mischievously, gesturing the bug with his eyebrows, then knocking it off as it flew past the boy’s face.
The three with Blue Magic turned away and hid their face in their hands, even though it was only a mozzie that had been killed. But Yakel’s reaction was quite different.
“Cool!” he breathed, “What else can you do?”
“Well that’s pretty much it,” Ninyo told him, “But it is very dangerous magic, that’s why your family never told you about it. Learn to control it and you’ll have Green Magic, but if you don’t it could end up killing someone you love.”
“I want to learn it!” the boy said excitedly, then turned to his mother. “Can I Mum, pleeeeease?”
“I just want to talk to the man first,” she said shakily, “Go and play in the river with your sister for a while.” She shooed the boy away with her hand then motioned to Ninyo to sit down on a moss covered rock.
“Um, is it okay if Keena can sit in on this too? She’s got Green Magic too, just to let you know.”
The woman nodded, not really knowing what she was agreeing to.
At Ninyo’s signal, Keena swung around on the branch and dropped to the ground. “You’d better stay up there,” she told Lima, “Don’t want to overwhelm them too much.”
“Gotcha,” Lima replied, giving a thumbs up.
Keena smiled and walked into the small clearing by the waterfall. She nodded her head to greet the pair with Blue Magic and held out her hand. “I’m Keena,” she said, but awkwardly took her hand away when neither of them made a move to shake it, and instead she took a seat on another rock, leaving Ninyo to do the talking.
“Green Magic is different to Blue Magic,” he informed them, “It’s got a mind of its own, really, and unless your son learns how to control it, it could break free without him being able to stop it. But if you let us teach him, we can bring him back to you by the next Monsoon and you’ll all be much safer.”
“What do you intend to do with him?” Yakel’s father demanded.
“Just teach him how to use his magic properly. He’ll find out some day, and the sooner the better.”
“How do we know you don’t just want to take him away from us for good?”
“Trust Green Magic,” the mother snorted, “That’s a laugh.”
Ninyo gave an irritated sigh. Keena could see he was running out of ideas.
“It’s your choice,” he said finally, “We leave and never come back, leaving you with a young boy who has no control over Green Magic, or we take him with us, teach him how to use it and return him to you when we’re confident he can control it enough so you can feel safe around him.”
The pair of cat people looked at each other, silently debating what they should do. In the end they caved in.
“Only if you promise you’ll bring him back in no less than twelve moons.”
Ninyo put his hand on his heart. “I give you my word,” he said, bowing his head.
Yakel’s father stood and unwillingly called his son out of the water.
“Yakel, you’ll be spending the next twelve moons with Keena and… I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“With Keena and Ninyo.”
“Yes! Thanks Dad!” Yakel bounced eagerly over to his new guardians.
“You be a good boy, okay?” his mother told him, “Do everything the nice people tell you to and don’t cause them too much trouble. They’re doing you a very big favour, got that? Yakel…”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got it. I’ve got magic, I’ve got magic!” he sang.
Already Keena was beginning to regret the idea. She’d forgotten how much energy people with Green Magic had, let alone young boys with Green Magic.
“When do I get to start zapping stuff?” Yakel asked, his green eyes bright and orange tail wriggling with excitement.
“Not for a while yet,” Ninyo told him, “You need to have complete control of it before you can do anything with it, otherwise you could very easily end up killing yourself.”
“Aww, no fair.”
“Ninyo,” Keena interrupted, “he’s a boy.”
Ninyo rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger then knelt down to the young child, firmly gripping his shoulders to make the boy listen. “Do not use your magic until I tell you you’re ready, got it?”
Yakel sighed, frowning angrily at Ninyo.
“Why not? I can control it, easy.”
“It’s not that simple. I know Green Magic. You don’t get any practice shots with it. If it escapes when you don’t mean for it to, it could kill someone, do you understand that? They would be given no second chance. When someone’s dead, they’re dead, and nothing can bring them back.”
Yakel looked at the ground. “My chimp died last Monsoon,” he said quietly, “Mum said he’d just gone to sleep for a very long time.”
Ninyo shook his head. “That’s not true. When someone dies, they’re gone forever.”
“Smooth, Ninyo,” Keena murmured.
“Promise me you won’t try and use your magic until I tell you you’re ready.”
Yakel nodded, his mousy brown hair shaking on his head. “I promise,” he said dejectedly.
“Good boy. Now, you want a piggy back ride?”
Yakel looked up, a big grin on his face.
Over the next moon, another six people with Green Magic joined the group, but upon Keena’s instruction, none were under the age of fifteen. Most of them joined in the same way Lima had, but two already knew about Qillan and her Black Magic, and were much more eager to join them. Two of the people they approached simply refused, but they didn’t pressure them into coming along with them.
Ninyo patiently coached Yakel on how to find his magic through the same meditation methods he had taught Keena almost two Monsoons ago. Keena was amazed at how he managed to keep the boy still in the same place for so long, and asked him his secret.
“Quite simple really, sooner he can do this, the sooner he can use his magic. Easy as.”
After the tenth person had joined the Green Group, as they called themselves, they headed back towards the beach.
All eight members saw Ninyo as their leader, and Keena to a certain extent, but her magic skills weren’t quite as good as Ninyo’s.
They were told the general plan-to kill the magic, not the person-on the way back, and they all seemed to agree to it, except Yakel who wanted to kill virtually anything that moved. Keena had to marvel at the man’s patience.
“You’ll make a great father, you know,” she told him.
“Have to admit, he is learning.”
“He’s got a great teacher.”
Ninyo just smiled.