She knew they had no hope of being able to catch up to the bird. It was magic; it didn’t need to eat or sleep, it could just keep flying effortlessly above the canopy until it reached its destination. Keena didn’t want to think about what it would do when it got there, but she knew it would have something to do with Qillan and Miliko.
The group ran quickly through the forest, spreading themselves out so they could have a better chance of finding anyone else with magic, but not so much that they lost sight of each other.
Keena almost tripped over the first person she found. It was a woman about her own age with blonde hair, dozing against a tree. When Keena stooped to wake her up, she noticed with a sick feeling that she wasn’t dozing. The quartz that studded her cheek was dead, a sure sign that the Black Magic bird had been past.
Keena closed her eyes and reluctantly left the woman. Much as she wanted to help her, they didn’t have time. She would recover soon enough, then she’d have to deal with her loss of magic on her own.
As they sprinted through the forest, most of the people they came across were in a similar state. Some had even been killed by the monstrous bird, but luckily it had spared others, who were generally willing to join the group. They had witnessed the bird’s activities and wanted to take revenge on it for what it had done to their friends and families.
Many questions circled Keena’s mind for the whole time they ran through the forest. What had happened? What had made the Black Magic so resilient to their own? Why didn’t it die? Why did it instead explode from the foetus in the shape of a bird? What was it going to do at the beach? What went wrong?
The journey that had taken just under a full moon before was this time completed in little over half, and the group of people that reached the beach at the end had increased to almost thirty. Another twenty or so waited for them at the river mouth, but neither Qillan nor Miliko were among them. Aaka perched atop a coconut palm, preening himself.
The waiting group looked up when the others returned, puffing from their journey. Some backed away at the sight of no less than nine people with Green Magic. Keena ignored them and collapsed into the sand, panting. Most of the others followed her, but Ninyo stood up and addressed the mob.
“First off, thanks to all of you for helping out with this, greatly appreciated. Second, anyone not heard of Black Magic?”
Ten hands went up.
Ninyo ran his fingers through his hair. “Okay, Keena, you got the stone?”
Keena nodded and stood up, systematically dropping the stone into the hands of each of the people who had raised their hand.
“That’s a Black Magic stone,” Ninyo explained, “Put simply, it’s all types of magic rolled together, but, how can I put this, evil. It attacks your magic, and it can and will kill it.”
Uncomfortable murmurs circulated through the mob, some recounting how they had seen it do that to their family or friends, others saying how unbelievable it sounded.
“Green Group, could you stand up please?” He motioned to the sixteen seated members to stand, who wearily obliged. “Dunno if you’ve heard of us, but we’ve killed Black Magic a couple of times, namely that of Qillan and my son Miliko. Yes,” he reinforced when he heard the shocked murmurs, “My son. Anyway, our last attempt didn’t quite go to plan, and we’ve currently got a bird made of Black Magic flying rampant.”
“And you want us to kill it?” said a man with Brown Magic, “After what you’ve just told us?” The rest of the mob hummed in agreement.
Ninyo held up his hands for silence. “I won’t lie to you; it will be dangerous, and you’ll definitely have the chance of losing your magic, maybe even your life.”
“And you know all about this, do you?” the man scorned. “I saw that bird take my daughter’s magic only a few days ago. Do you have any idea how hard life will be for her now?”
Ninyo rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “I do, actually,” he answered, but didn’t dwell on the subject. “I’m not forcing you to help us, but I-we would be more than grateful to anyone who volunteered. If you don’t feel that you’re up to it, you can leave and go back home now if you want. Nobody will think you’re selfish or a coward.”
Ninyo’s address was met with intense conversation, during which seven people left, the man with Brown Magic being one of them. Keena was surprised so few had decided to leave. What they were being asked to do wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. She wondered how they were going to combine the various kinds of magic to attack the Black bird, but no doubt something would come up in time.
When the voices had softened, Ninyo spoke again. “Thank you very much to all of you for agreeing to help. Just so I get the general idea, could you all sort yourselves into what kind of magic you’ve got? Any healers can come and group with these lovely ladies and gentlemen to my right and any with Green Magic can assemble with Keena over there.”
Unfortunately, there were no extra healers, and the only two to join Keena were Imilu and Elryn. They were persistent, she had to give them that.
Several groups formed among the mob, dominated by three of the four elementals; those with Blue Magic had either left quickly or not agreed to come in the first place. There were five or six of each elemental, plus several other kinds including three with some kind of animal magic.
Ninyo spoke up again. “Okay, now the basic plan is to attack the Black Magic with your own, using the Healing Magic as a shield. Don’t diss it, it’s worked for us on several occasions. However, main problem is that, because it’s so powerful, you’ll have to get your magic powerful enough that you can see it before we’re ready to go for it.”
“See it?” The comment came from the soul shape shifter. “That’s impossible!”
Ninyo raised his eyebrows. “Keena?”
Keena raised her right hand and formed a ball of Green Magic in it, glowing steadily from her palm. She couldn’t help but grin at the gasps that came from the group as a result. Some were in awe, some in fear, and others a mixture of the two. She closed her fingers on the magic and laid her hand back in her lap.
“Not impossible,” Ninyo continued, “But it does take a lot of patience to get it up to that. Work hard and it’ll get to that stage within a moon, no joke. And for those of you who think their magic is already visible-fire and earth, for instance-it’s not. That’s just the effect of it. The magic itself is… different. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but when you see it, you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, step one is to meditate and build up the confidence of your magic. Talk to it, make it stronger while it’s still inside you, and practice with the others in your group, if there’s anyone else there. Meet back here at the end of the day.”
The various groups dispersed to different areas of the beach and sat in small circles on the sand, their eyes closed and bodies motionless.
“Iis?” Ninyo asked, “Since there’s nobody else here for you guys to coach, would you at all mind going out to find as many healers as you can get?”
“Think I’ve almost exhausted the population as it is,” she answered regretfully, “Could go and get my old group, I guess. They know about Black Magic, that’s always a good start.”
Ninyo nodded thoughtfully. “Couldn’t hurt,” he said with a shrug, “Okay, you can go get them, we’ll get the rest of these guys up to scratch. Sound like a plan?”
Iis smiled. “Good to me. Be back in a few day’s, seeya then.” She waved and left with the other healers, her white hair flowing behind her.
The healers returned three days later, the whole of the other group in tow.
“Hear you’ve come begging for our help,” the redhead said smugly.
Ninyo raised an eyebrow but didn’t open his eyes from his meditation. “The groups are on the beach, go attach yourself to your own and ask them what’s going on.”
“Also heard you’ve suffered a bit of a misfortune.”
Ninyo sighed heavily. “You’re here to help or you go back home, simple as that. I’m not in the mood for smart arses right now. We’ve got the better plan. Get over it.”
Something about Ninyo’s tone made the redhead abandon his ridicule and do as he was told, and he walked down the beach to where the other people with Red Magic were assembled.
They worked through the moon in the same way they had done before with the Green Group, but this time with a clear goal in mind. By the next full moon, they had developed strongly, and were ready to put all the different kinds of magic together.
“Okay people,” Ninyo said, rubbing his hands, “This is the idea of what we’re trying to do. Please take note of the technique rather than gawking at my lack of magic.” He smiled pleasantly then turned to the centre of the circle. “Ready, GO!”
Keena closed her eyes and focussed on the circle centre, forcing her magic out again. The feeling had by now grown familiar to her, but it still gave her a great sense of power, like she could beat anything.
“That’ll do guys,” Ninyo interrupted, shaking his hands out. He indicated for the others to join the circle so they were in nine groups, each with someone with Green Magic and one with Healing Magic.
Keena turned to her own group: a girl of about seventeen with Red Magic, the same girl from the other group who had a pearl studded between her eyebrows, and a boy of sixteen with Macaw Magic.
“Right guys, did you see how Kayil’s magic kind of wound around mine? That’s what you’ve gotta do. Wind it all together with Kayil’s around it as a shield. Make sense?”
Her three students nodded.
“Okay, try to make it kind of spiral in-” she sent out a spiral of her own magic to the centre of the circle to demonstrate “-like that.”
The three pointed their palms at the sand in the centre of the circle and shot out ribbons of their own magic. Beams of red, pearly and shimmering rainbow-coloured light shot into the sand, but none spiralled. They tried again, but with the same effect.
“‘Sokay,” Keena reassured them, “It takes a little while to get right, but with practice you’ll get there.”
She trained her group through the rest of the day, not really knowing exactly how to go about it but making it up as she went along. The girl with Red Magic was the first to be able to do it right, probably because her magic had a vaguely similar personality to Green Magic. Keena had no idea as to the personality of Macaw or Pearl Magic, so she couldn’t give specific pointers, just to keep practicing. By the end of the day they were all able to make their magic spiral and wind with the others in their group.
The effect of the spiralling, shimmering magic would have been quite beautiful if Keena could have stopped thinking about what they were going to be using it for.
“Do you think they’re ready?” Keena asked Ninyo the next morning. “They’re up to the standard we were at when we went against Qillan, but I’m not sure that’s enough.”
“I know what you mean,” Ninyo sighed, “We’ll keep going for, say, another half a moon and go from there.”
“What if this doesn’t work?”
Ninyo sighed again. “If it doesn’t work, my guess is that we’re all stuffed, so let’s not think about that.”
“Good idea.” But she couldn’t help but think what would happen if something went wrong.