Emerald Feather

Twenty-three

“Is it just me,” Keena whispered, “Or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?”

“I’m going to go with there’s something seriously wrong,” Ninyo answered.

Their stone had clearly told them the Black Magic they had been tracking for almost a moon was right in front of them.

“Those are humans,” Keena said, stating the obvious, just to make it clear.

“They are.”

“Humans don’t have magic.”

“They don’t.”

“Anyone care to provide some sort of an explanation?”

Nobody answered for a while, then Iis voiced her opinion. “Maybe they kidnapped someone.”

“It’s possible,” Ninyo agreed, “But surely they’d have used their magic to escape, if not their sword.”

“Could be a healer.”

“Can you sense any Healing Magic here?”

Iis closed her eyes then opened them soon after. “Over there,” she said, pointing, “They must be in that… shack-hut-thing with the four guys guarding it.”

Keena stood up from her position behind a large tree. “Let’s get over-woah.” She reeled back from the arrowhead that had suddenly appeared between her eyes. Another two soon followed, and a nervous glance soon told her that the rest of the group were in similar positions. A pair of strong hands gripped her wrists from behind and tied them together tightly with a strong vine before she had a chance to react.

“I am not liking this,” she muttered, before being shoved roughly in the back by the same man who had tied her hands. He tried to take Blue Serpent off her but cried out in pain as soon as his fingers touched the hilt.

“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Keena told him.

The man said something to her in a jumble of words from some language Keena had never heard, then shoved her in the back again.

“I’m going, I’m going!”

The group was led, or rather pushed, to the other side of the camp where a clearing of sorts lay. At the centre of the clearing was a pit filled with ashes from many fires and surrounded by large logs for the people to sit on. They were forced into the centre of the circle of logs, then encircled by men with bows and arrows, one pointed at each of them.

One of the men spoke to them again in the strange language then left, presumably to get the leader of their group.

“Ninyo, what exactly is happening?” No sooner had she finished her sentence than the archer assigned to her shot her in her stomach. She fell to her knees and would have gripped the offending area had she been able to. The pain was incredible. It stabbed hard into her flesh, washing over her in agonizing waves.

“Keena!” Ninyo cried, but a healer was soon on her.

He bent down with his back to her and tore the arrow from her abdomen, quickly healing the wound with his magic. For his efforts, his own guard let an arrow loose on his shoulder. Keena pulled the second arrow out and left him to heal himself. I am so glad I know healers, she thought to herself, but didn’t dare say it for fear of being shot again.

The head of the group of humans chose this time to show up. His tight, wiry hair had been decorated with three feathers from a macaw, the bright red standing out sharply against the rich brown skin and black hair. He folded his arms and spoke directly to Ninyo, somehow sensing that he was the leader of their group.

Ninyo blinked. “Um, hi,” he said slowly, “We do not want to hurt you. Does anyone here have any idea what I’m saying? Anyone? No, I didn’t think so. Okay, um, Green Group, anyone knowing whatever language it is that they’re speaking would be really helpful right now. Nope, no one there either. Right, let’s just stand here and see what happens then.”

“Very smooth,” Keena said out the corner of her mouth, hoping none of the humans had heard her. No arrows came flying at her, so she took that as a good sign.

The man spoke again, then gestured to the archers to take them away. The archers moved in and took each of them by the wrists, pushing them roughly towards the same hut Iis had sensed the Healing Magic in. Sure enough, a healer sat with her hands tied at the back of the hut, a pink jewel studded in her stomach.

The chief addressed them again, then began talking to the guards outside their hut.

“Hi,” Keena said, slightly sheepishly.

The healer just blinked, then she spoke. “You come to rescue me?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Um, kinda, but not in the way you were thinking.”

The healer looked confused.

Keena walked over to her and kneeled in front of her.

She edged away slightly when Keena sat, looking nervously at her jewels.

Keena looked at the ground and sighed, then looked up into the girl’s eyes. “There’s no easy way to say this, but, your child has Black Magic. We came here to kill the magic inside him or her, but it would appear we’ve stuffed it up a bit.”

But she had lost her as soon as she had said ‘Black Magic’. The healer’s jaw dropped and she stared wide-eyed at Keena, then proceeded to faint onto the dirt floor of the hut.

“Well that went well,” Keena said bluntly.

“You really need to work on your methods of telling people about Black Magic,” Ninyo informed her.

She stood up and shrugged. “Now would be a good time to kill her baby’s magic, if we weren’t all tied up, that is.”

“Yes, slight problem that.”

Keena frowned, then walked over to him. “Give me your sword,” she said, turning around and grabbing Gold Dragon’s hilt. She slid it carefully out of its sheath, then proceeded to cut Ninyo’s binds with it. It wasn’t an easy task, but she managed it eventually.

Ninyo looked out the entrance to their hut to make sure none of the guards were watching, then took Gold Dragon from Keena’s hands and cut her vines. They circled the group, apologising whenever the blade touched the skin of any of the healers.

The second they had finished, the chief re-entered the hut. The healers reacted by trying to hide the evidence and putting their hands back behind them, but those with Green Magic drew their swords and stood threateningly facing the chief.

The chief was visibly shocked. His eyes widened and he stepped back several paces to the entrance to the hut.

Keena was closest to him, and she held Blue Serpent steadily between his eyes.

“You’re not going to hurt him, are you?” Iis asked nervously.

“Nah, but he doesn’t know that.” She motioned with her head for the man to turn around, which he did very slowly, then she triumphantly sliced Blue Serpent through his three red feathers and grabbed him around the throat with her free arm.

“Right, where were we?” she said, as though nothing had happened.

“Just thinking,” Iis said, looking strangely at the chief, “If we do it in here, then the force will shove us into the walls and the whole place will fall down. Could have some troubles getting her out again.”

Keena nodded thoughtfully. “Good point. Okay, healers, carry her over to the clearing we were in to begin with, the rest of us’ll protect you.”

The nine healers lifted the girl, who still lay unconscious at the rear of the hut, and carried her to the entrance.

Keena forced the man out into the open, her sword held firmly at his throat, but not touching it. With any luck, the rest of the tribe would take this as a signal not to attack.

She soon saw why the chief had come back into the hut in the first place.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded angrily, “I thought Ninyo told you to go home!”

Imilu looked up with pleading eyes. “I know, I’m sorry, we just wanted you to see you kill Black Magic again.”

“Please can you undo our ropes?” Elryn begged.

Keena rolled her eyes. “Not my problem,” she told them, “Not helping you out here, sorry, but we did warn you. Several times, actually. Your fault, your problem, you get yourselves out of it.”

“But-”

“No. We told you not to come, and still you did. Tough luck.”

An arrow suddenly whizzed past Keena’s ear, and she whipped her head around to find the man responsible. The two men beside him were staring at him in shock, knowing what was coming next.

Keena narrowed her eyes at the man, then whipped Blue Serpent around and sliced it through his bow. He jumped back, his hands held up in panic.

“Do not try that again,” Keena hissed, pointing Blue Serpent at him. He may not be able to understand her words, but the meaning was clear. As an after thought, she slashed the other two bows, just in case.

The group made their way back to the clearing and laid the girl by the fire. Keena pushed the chief away with her foot, and almost immediately an arrow flew straight at her. Quick as lightning she whipped Blue Serpent up, deflecting the arrow with a clang of wood on metal. She heard gasps from around the group. Whether they were because of her reflexes or because they thought she was going to be hit, she didn’t know.

“Don’t give up, do they?” she muttered, advancing on the archer. She had to deflect another arrow before she could cut his bow in two. “Anybody else want to try me?” she yelled. She growled at the back of her throat, then made her way to the now formed circle, pointing her palms at the girl.

“Healers, if any of us get hit, use your magic. Ready? GO!”

She closed her eyes and felt her magic surge out through her hands, pouring into the Black Magic that lay inside the girl’s unborn child. It whipped out at them a few times, but the vines were skinny and slow compared to those they had faced against Qillan. Occasionally the rivers stopped flowing, but it was only for a second or two until the Healing Magic kicked in, and the magic flew forward again. Keena was hit twice as well, but Kayil’s magic made the pain only last for as long as it took to rip the arrow from her flesh.

“Something’s wrong,” she muttered, “It should have died by now.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Kayil said from behind her.

Keena took her arms down and opened her eyes. She could see the glowing beams of green light spiralling into the girl’s stomach and the odd black whip fly up from the foetus. Nothing seemed wrong, but the magic definitely should be dead by now, even with their slightly staggered approach.

“Stop!” she yelled suddenly.

She waited until all the rivers had stopped flowing before she started talking again. “Anyone notice anything wrong here?”

“I swear this is taking longer to kill than Qillan’s did,” Ninyo noted, rubbing his neck. “Theories, anyone?”

There was a sudden explosion from the centre of the circle, forcing Keena to turn away and shield her face from it. When she turned back again, her eyes and mouth widened in fright at what lay before her.

The Black Magic hovered over the girl in the form of a huge black bird, its wings spanning at least six meters. It let out an eerie, silent cry and swooped in a circle over the group, but it didn’t hit anyone. Arrows flew at the bird as it flapped silently up into the trees and let out another cry, but they either missed it completely or simply sailed through the black mass, leaving it unharmed. It circled above the clearing a few more times, then left, never making a sound.

Keena stared after it, her mouth still wide open. Slowly her senses returned and she realised where the Black Magic bird was heading. She sprung up to her feet and dashed off after it, yelling out to the others to follow. She felt confident that the Black Magic had completely left the healer’s child, though what it was doing now she didn’t know.

“What was that?” Imilu’s voice sounded scared as he ran to catch up to her. “Was that Black Magic?”

Keena halted and turned to the boy, gripping him tightly by the shoulders, but thought again before telling him off. “You know where we live? On the beach at the river mouth?”

Imilu nodded.

“Get as many people as you can and tell them to go there. Whether they’ve got Green Magic or not doesn’t matter, got that?”

“What for?”

“Just go!” She didn’t wait for him to respond, just leapt up and started running again. This Black Magic was clearly far more powerful than any she had ever faced before. She knew they needed all the help they could get.

Twenty-four