Emerald Feather

Sixteen

“Alrighty people,” Ninyo told the group, hands on hips. “Rest of the day off, we’ll start training tomorrow.”

Murmurs of agreement circulated throughout his attentive listeners before they dispersed to do their own thing until the sun set.

“So, all great and powerful Ninyo, how to we fight magic with magic?” Keena asked him, flopping down onto her back into the sand next to him.

“Buggered if I know.”

“Aah, now the truth comes out. So this is why you gave everyone the day off?”

“Bingo.”

Keena produced the black stone, propping herself up on her elbow and dropping it into the sand between them.

Ninyo rested his head on one hand and held the other one over the stone. Keena placed her hand on his and they both channelled their magic through their fingers into the stone, but with no apparent effect on it.

“There’s more to this than just throwing Green Magic at it,” Ninyo noted, dropping his hand onto the beach and staring at the black stone.

Keena held her hand hesitantly over the jewel, then closed her eyes and deliberately laid her palm on it. She felt nothing herself, but could feel the Black Magic held inside the stone stabbing at her Green Magic. It had always felt so powerful in her veins, but now it seemed more like a frightened mouse, trying desperately to escape the Black Magic that was chasing it. Keena put it out of its misery and took her hand away.

“What was that for?” Ninyo asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Was hoping I could figure out its movements.”

“And did you?”

“Nup. Just thinking, if we could somehow figure out some method of defence against it, maybe we can work on an attack from there.”

“I was thinking more of going the opposite direction. In general, attack is easier than defence; don’t have to try and predict anything.” He drew his sword and tapped the stone with the one on Gold Dragon’s hilt. The green jewel twinkled slightly, but there was no effect on the stone. He stabbed hard at it with the tip of his blade, but all this resulted in was the partial burying of the stone in the sand.

“Don’t think traditional weaponry’s going to work on this one,” Keena informed him.

“It would appear not,” Ninyo agreed, returning his sword to its sheath.

“Need to be able to see it really, before we can have a chance of attacking it.”

“Mmm.”

“Any luck?” Iis stood behind them, looking down at the black stone.

“Nothing,” Keena replied. “You know this stuff better than we do, got any ideas?”

Iis shook her head. “Can’t say I do.” She knelt down and held her hand over the black jewel. It sent out a very pale sparkle when her magic touched it; the first sign of life they had seen inside it.

“I think it likes you,” Ninyo concluded. “Not quite what we’re after.”

Keena sighed and scooped the jewel back into its pouch, then got to her feet. “Stuff this,” she said, dusting the sand off her legs, “Let’s do sword training, less frustrating.”

“I’m going to lose again, aren’t I?” Ninyo said from his comfortable position on the sand.

“Don’t see why not. Up you get, you haven’t done enough with Gold Dragon lately.” She hauled him to his feet and unsheathed her sword, ready to battle.

The metal flashed under the dull light of the beginning of the Monsoon season. They both slashed with blurred swords at each other, skilfully blocking the dangerous blows and dodging others. Inevitably, Keena came out on top.

“You have gotten a little rusty over the past couple of moons.”

“That’s rusty?” The two turned to see about half the Green Group had been watching their fight. “Looked pretty good to me.”

Keena blinked and looked back to Ninyo. “I know your previous experiences with sword battles, but Blue Serpent won’t hurt you, kay? You need to build your confidence back up again.”

“You couldn’t let me win one, could you?” Ninyo asked hopefully.

“Not gunna happen. Okay, again, and stop cringing when I strike, it makes it harder for you to strike back.”

Ninyo nodded and took up his position.

The crowd watching them grew to include not only the eight with Green Magic, but also the nine with Healing Magic who Iis had found on her expedition. They trained for much of the rest of the day, and Keena could see Ninyo’s confidence returning. He was still not as good as she was, and he probably never would be, but he was still a strong swordsman. When the two swords were sheathed, the pair was cheered well, and Keena was approached by all eight members of the Green Group.

“Where’d you learn to do that?” Lima asked, awed.

“Dad taught me,” she answered, “That and, until about two Monsoons ago, Blue Serpent was my only way of hunting.” She tapped her sword’s hilt affectionately.

“You’re kidding,” another man said, “You only just found out about your magic two Monsoons ago?”

“I know, scary, isn’t it?”

“Could you teach me to use my sword like that?” a girl about Keena’s age asked.

“Sure, but not until we’ve gotten rid of Black Magic, that’s the first priority.”

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is your enemy,” Ninyo said tossing the black jewel from its pouch into the centre of the circle. “First one to come up with an idea gets to attack it.”

Immediately, seven pairs of hands were pointed in the direction of the stone, and threw as much Green Magic at the thing as they could, but as Ninyo suspected, nothing happened.

“Seriously, people if it was that easy, it would have been done before. My theory is that we have to actually attack the magic, as opposed to the jewel. Everyone close your eyes and focus on the Black Magic, not the jewel. Iis, tell us if anything happens.”

Keena did as instructed, and tried to picture the Black Magic in her mind’s eye before she tried attacking it. It was just a pool of dead blackness on the edge of her mind. There was no life in the magic, it only existed to cause pain and suffering. That’s what the magic was, and she could see it.

“Ready?” Ninyo murmured over the sound of the waves, “Now.”

Keena thrust out her hands and focussed hard on the magic, forcing her own to attack it. A sudden force threw her off her feet and back into the sand. She opened her eyes to find that the same thing had happened to everyone else.

“I believe something happened,” Iis informed them.

“What happened, exactly?” Keena asked her.

“Well, you all stuck your hands out, then there was a black flash from the stone about this big-” she held her hands out a bit wider than the width of her waist, “-and you all fell over.”

Keena looked back at the stone. It lay in a crater in the sand. “Woah,” she murmured, “Well Nin, it would appear we’ve found its weakness.”

“It would appear so.” He stood up and brushed himself off, then frowned and flexed his fingers. “Anyone else feel… weird?”

“How do you mean?” one of the younger members of their party asked.

“I dunno, something not right with the magic.”

Keena frowned. He was right. Normally, her magic bubbled through her with incredible energy, but now, it felt as though it was scared, moving around tentatively, lacking the child-like vigour it had prior to the attack on the stone.

“I do, actually,” she answered. “I reckon we should go with my original idea and develop some sort of defence before we attack it again.” She looked back at the stone. “That stuff’s even more powerful than Green Magic.”

“Have to agree with you there,” Ninyo said, putting his hands on his hips.

Lima spoke up. “Maybe we could try strengthening it somehow?”

Ninyo nodded slowly. “I’m willing to try anything right now. But we won’t attack it again for a while.”

“What are you doing?” It was Yakel, staring at the jewel lying in its sandy crater. “What’s that?”

Ninyo pointed at the stone. “That’s a Black Magic stone. Don’t touch it, it’s very dangerous. We’re trying to figure out a way of killing the magic inside it without hurting the stone itself.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s a lady who’s got Black Magic. She’s not a bad person herself, but the magic makes her do bad things, so we want to kill the magic inside her, but not kill her.”

“Why?”

Keena could already see where this was going, but Ninyo kept his head and continued to give the boy his answers.

“Because it’s wrong to kill someone.”

“Why?”

“Think about it,” Ninyo told him finally, “and get back to your meditation.”

“Why?”

“Go.”

Yakel poked his tongue out and sulked off, but his sulking was obviously put on.

“You know,” Keena said, “meditation’s probably not such a bad idea. Use it to strengthen our magic, give it more confidence and all the rest of it.”

“Sounds good to me,” Ninyo agreed, sitting back down. “Right people, focus on the Black Magic and your own, and give yours its confidence back.”

Keena closed her eyes and felt the sea breeze ruffling her hair and carrying the scent of frangipanni to her nose. In her mind, she could feel the Black Magic, and her own Green Magic, shivering in fear of the more powerful kind that lay before it.

She mentally stroked it, like it was a frightened animal, calming the poor creature down a little. It may be one of the more powerful and dangerous kinds of magic, but that certainly didn’t mean it was fearless. With much persuasion and words of praise from Keena, the Green Magic eventually began to regain its self-confidence. It cursed through her body again with new-found energy and will to attack the Black Magic, but Keena told it not to. It wasn’t ready yet.

“I still think we need a defence.” Keena and Ninyo were sitting on the thick branches of one of the trees near the beach, staring out dismally at the rain as it fell in sheets from the dark clouds.

“Yeah, but how? We can’t exactly use magic as a shield, that’s what the Black Magic’s attacking.”

“I don’t know, put it all together or something. You know, safety in numbers type thing.”

“I still prefer the idea of killing it before it gets a chance to do anything.”

“Thing is, if we do that and it doesn’t work the first time, then we’re all stuffed.” She sighed. “There’s no other kind of magic we could use, is there?”

Ninyo shook his head, then pricked his ears up. “Iis!” he said suddenly.

“We tried that, Black Magic likes it.”

“No, we could use the Healing Magic as a shield. If we can use Green Magic on Black, Healing Magic should be able to work on Green.”

Keena nodded slowly. “I think I see what you’re saying. Need to test that theory out when it stops raining.” She flicked her tail when a particularly large drop made it through the thick canopy and landed on it.

“I think we’re starting to develop a plan here,” Ninyo said, smiling.

Seventeen