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A story by Simon Barber & David Reese Dorrycott & Fredrik K T Andersson
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, a character by Freddy Andersson,
(including characters from his comic strip "Silver Angel")
& featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon Barber's Songmark Academy stories.
Stranded Angeland Freddy Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip
by Simon Barber
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Everyone in the village said it looked like a very fine week for the end of the tourist season. Two large tour boats were visible on the horizon, getting nearer hour by hour as their cargos of loud tourists from Sealth City and Rain Island poured small change into the deck telescopes in an effort to be the first to spot the famous beaches and hotels of the Spontoon Islands. According to the villager whose cousin worked in the Ministry of Tourism, they were the last big tour-boats of the year scheduled to arrive. In a week or ten days they would be gone again, and then the islanders could breathe a prosperous sigh and relax.
At least, some of them could. Angelica Silferlindh sat on the narrow seat of the pearl-fishing canoe and looked out at the distant funnels on the horizon. The feline’s eyes were wide, as she thought over what the native girls around her were happily chattering of how friends and relatives would be putting their “custom” costume or dress waiter suits away for the year and coming home; the village was already planning the celebration feast to welcome them back. But Angelica had very little to celebrate.
“Those ships are the last way I can get out of here,” she told herself as the other girls vanished over the side leaving her to steer the sailing canoe. “You see people rescued in the films being taken back without a ticket … can I do that?” She recalled the first dawn she had seen that village had been from her beloved Silver Angel, its engine a victim of useless local fuel (or a curse if anyone but a native could believe that) and caught in the Nimitz Sea Current that would have carried her into the deep ocean. That was just the direction the main tour boat routes used, and a bright silver aircraft should be hard to miss. If she had known at the time how many tour ships crossed those waters, she would have stayed at sea and might have been rescued and home long before now.
“Monona’he,” she asked the otter girl who surfaced a minute later, her net laden with oysters. “If a ship heading back from Spontoon to Rain Island picked up a castaway, would they pick her up and her aircraft – I mean boat – and take her back home with them?”
Monona’he laughed, shaking the water out of her ears. “Two years ago, treasure-hunter he out of luck and money, nothing but unpaid bills for he on Casino Island, some big Samoans they asking he louder all the time. He make he raft of petrol drums, steer out into Tourist boat lane. Ship they stop and pick he up, oh yes – turn they round and straight back to Casino Island, with the Samoan brothers waiting on dockside so happy to see he!”
Angelica sighed as Plan Number thirty-eight sank into the Nimitz Sea with hardly a bubble. Though she had been less than happy about starting to work as a common pearl-fisher, she had to admit it kept her fed and had paid for the work on her beloved aircraft. And it had provided her one big chance to get away; in her locket she kept the pink pearl of fabulous value that was her only ace card. Though helping Mamma Popoluma hoe the taro patch for a living would not have involved getting her fur soaked to the skin every day, that job would never have brought her the rose pearl.
Pearl-fishing had kept her afloat so far. But with the tourist season coming to an end, there were hundreds of natives currently sweltering in bell-boy or chambermaid uniforms longing for the day they could throw them in the laundry, put on their grass skirts and join their relatives for the last week of the pearl-diving season. “I don’t think they’ll be pleased to see me…” she murmured, shading her eyes as she looked out around the headland to the distant Casino Island, where the sunlight glittered on the windows of expensive hotels.
Monona’he laughed, misinterpreting the Euro feline’s gaze. “Angelica, no worry! Your friends they come back before Songmark term she start, for sure. Most days they found on South Island, my cousin he give you water-taxi there, only ask Native rates.” The otter smiled at Angelica’s blushing ears and stricken expression. “Is no problem! Tobonule she my friend from school, many of beach party guests I good friends with.”
The feline felt her stomach tie in a knot. She remembered everything, from happily accepting the invite to the party over the ridge, to waking up in company the next morning – and everything she had very happily done in between. It was not as if there was even a reason for it – the group had brought only a couple of bottles of date wine and Nootnops Blue to share between them, and that had scarcely been a glass apiece. She had definitely not been herself last night – whoever she had been under the full moonlight had enjoyed herself as thoroughly as could be imagined, but that only added to Angelica’s worry as she remembered it all. And unlike the problem with her aircraft she could not blame that on local fuel; she had tried date wine and the strange but appealing non-alcoholic blue drink before, and it had never affected her that way.
There were few people she wanted to meet on these islands, and after last night she had even fewer; it would be almost impossible to meet Prudence and her friends without explaining her abrupt and horrified departure, and that was an explanation she could not even give herself.
The morning’s diving went well, and with two buckets of large oysters she returned to sit on the beach a little apart from the local girls who sang ancient Spontoonie chants to speed the dull work of opening the hundreds of shells. She frowned, concentrating on the careful work involving very tough shells and a very sharp knife. Oddly, one of the ancient Polynesian chants sounded very like the English folk song she remembered from school there, although “Row, row, row your boat” with Spontoonie lyrics would quite puzzle any anthropomorphologists.
With a sigh, she turned back to her work. She enjoyed it slightly more than the oysters did – but not much.
With her youngest kitten slung on her back in an Ulàul cloth, Mama Popoluma headed towards the beach to buy the family evening fish. She waved at her Euro guest sitting glumly opening oysters, though Angelica was absorbed in her work and did not notice her. Oysters were very fine and a help with the housekeeping, but she had a fish dish in mind tonight.
Suddenly she felt a tugging at her skirt. She looked down to see a small kitten looking up at her, just the same size as her second youngest but with plain fur and not the striking patterns she had inherited from her Fillypine grandmother.
“Why, it’s little Kama,” she smiled down, kneeling to talk to the kitten. “How are you today?”
Kama smiled and made a complex series of gestures indicating she was fine, but feeling sorry for their guest.
Mama Popoluma nodded. “I’ve been trying to cheer her up,” she admitted. “She’s not eating nearly enough. She could have a very nice figure, that’d get her a husband as soon as she wanted to choose from the crowd.” She laughed, as the kitten looked up at her quizzically. “Well, that would cheer her up, if I can’t. You’re always welcome at our house, you know. I’ve got Pusan ng Saging to cook tonight with fish, and plantain mash to follow. Missy Angelica does like that.”
Kama nodded happily, and skipped away towards the village. She was the village’s child; her actual parents were rumoured to be always nearby but it was something the Priestesses did not vouch details of. She was neither orphaned or abandoned, but neither did any family lay claim to her.
Mama Popoluma watched her go with a wistful sigh. Her own kittens loved to play with Kama, who made herself at home everywhere. Though she did not speak in words she always got her message over perfectly well – and as one of the Wise Ones had said, “She is speaking as well as you or I. But what she speaks to does not hear with ears, so she talks without voice.”
Just then, a very definite and strident voice had Mama Popoluma’s own ears pricking up, and woke up her young kitten. Slipping it round to her breast and stroking her, she looked round and smiled her most postcard smile at the tourist party that had arrived over the trail from Main Village.
It was a definite rule that no Euros were allowed on Main Island without a guide, and on Spontoon the guides were well trained and strictly licensed individuals who served until their lifetime supply of patience and good humour ran out. Mama Popoluma recognised Te’hame, a cousin of her neighbour whose tour of guide duty must surely be approaching its end after six busy tourist seasons. He wore a grass skirt and the Amerind feather head-dress, with a bone chest-plate that rattled as he walked to let villagers know it was time to hide the gramophones and radio sets.
<Greetings, Mama P, and littlest P> Te’hame bowed low before her, careful to speak only in Spontoonie. <When we burn the image at the Hoopy Jaloopi festival, may it much resemble this one.>
<Who do you escort today?> She cast her eyes over two stout canines, he in the Hawaiian shirt and embroidered straw hat declaring “I AM A MONG” in carefully untranslated Spontoonie, and she in a large but still too-tight cotton sun dress with a generous slathering of calamine lotion on a badly sunburned nose.
<Oh, I bring you two prize specimens,> Te’hame bowed before his employers. <I bring you Hiram H. Hackensack the Third, may there be no fourth in the image! And his not-to-be-pitied mate Darlene, who deserves every ounce of him. Insisting on seeing some genuine local colour, forgive me for letting them darken your longhouse doorways.>
Just then the aforementioned Darlene gave a shriek of “Oh How Quaint!” And moved out in a blubbery jog towards the nearest longhouse. Leaning in, she fired off six rounds of flash film at the surprised inhabitants, and returned with a smug look. “Just wait till I show Charlene and Marlene, they’ll be just so thrilled to pieces!”
Her husband gave a wide smile. “Now now, hon, don’t you go breaking one of those native tab-boos they do tell about on the boat. Kinda hard to sue a volcano after they do throw ya in.”
His wife threw her head back and laughed loud and shrill. “I do declare, Hiram, you are SUCH a card!”
Just at that moment Kama reappeared from the beach, clutching a half-eaten roasted fish as she looked wide-eyed at the visitation. Two sets of cameras locked and loaded, while Darlene made strange cooing noises that were presumably meant to be soothing.
“Isn’t she just darling!” Darlene fuzzled Kama’s head-fur. “And what’s your name, sweetie?”
“She no speak. Not ever speak.” Te’hame had modelled his “custom” grammar on Hollywood Red Indians, as hearing the actual Spontoonie accents tended to confuse customers who saw North-Western village islanders in buckskin and feathered head-dresses and knew exactly what they expected to hear.
Hiram H. Hackensack the Third nodded graciously, turning to his wife. “It happens, in these little Native places. Folks marry their cousins and worse all the time, you get in-breds and re-tards. The Missionaries do tell them, but looks like folks hereabouts don’t listen.” He grinned and winked.
Te’hame’s smile widened like an elastic band nearing breaking point, and his bill increased by a double handful of cowries. “No camera! Heap bad medicine.” For some reason the Priestesses claimed that taking photographs of Kama might be a bad idea – not only were the films often spoiled, but there was a real possibility of seeing something else in the shot that would cause surprises and in the wrong paws draw attention where it was definitely not wanted.
Two cameras flashed regardless. Kama jumped back alarmed with a small wail of surprise and ran behind Mama Popoluma’s skirts. For an instant something strange happened to the light in the village as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun, though there were no clouds in the sky.
<Now they’ve done it. Will make apologies to Priestesses, and pad Guide bill without mercy.> Te’hame eventually managed to herd his charges across to the far end of the village, and gave a dignified wave of farewell. Just as they stepped across the village boundary with its guardian Tikis, both tourists suddenly assumed stricken expressions and urgently asked their guide if the hotel drinking water was really as safe as the guide book promised.
Mama Popoluma smiled down, combing Kama’s head-fur smooth once more. “There, now. Not all Euros are like that. Why don’t you go and say hello to your friend? She’s working on her aircraft again.”
Kama nodded, her ears perking up and her expression brightening. As she left one side of the village the tourists were leaving the other, carrying cameras with films that would prove oddly disappointing; to them and amateur psychic investigators both.
Angelica was standing on the float of the Silver Angel where it was pulled up on the beach, fastening the engine covers. “Got to be the fuel filters. It just has to be.” She had soaked the filters all night in caustic soda and boiled them for half an hour in clean water, before examining the fine bronze mesh like a cashier examining a suspect banknote. Now … she had about four gallons of fuel left in the tank, hardly enough to get her to Eastern Island, but just enough for a test hop.
She felt a tugging at the hem of her lava-lava dress, and looked down. Her tail twitched in annoyance as she recognised the small kitten. “Hello, Kama. You run along, I can’t play now. You stay clear of the propeller!” Angelica gently shooed the kitten back towards the village.
Three minutes and one hopeless attempt to start the engine later, she was back again sitting on the float, her ears and tail drooping like wet dishrags. There was again a tugging at her hem.
“Flower!” Kama was eagerly holding out a hibiscus bloom the size of her head. Angelica accepted it, gave a sad smile and patted Kama on the head.
The kitten nodded, looking the Euro feline up and down and trotted off, a determined expression on her small features. One flower was not enough for this job; more were needed!
Ten minutes later, Angelica was surrounded by a dozen fresh blooms. She spotted the little native girl trotting towards her from the jungle, bringing in another.
Suddenly she laughed, picking up the kitten. “That’s enough! How would you like to sit in a real aeroplane?” At Kama’s happy nod she carried her up and sat her in the co-pilot’s seat, adjusting it so Kama could just peek over the control panel.
“Here’s how you fly an aeroplane. Check all controls first, wiggle the wings and tail –“ She swept the joystick around from side to side, checking in the mirror the rudder and elevators still moved “- then switches on, fuel cocks open, and if we were really going to fly we’d press that starter button there.” She indicated the big button in the centre of the panel.
“Fly!” Kama leaned forward and pressed the button. Angelica relaxed for a second, sure that it would do no harm. But her fur and ears stood on end as the powerful radial roared to life, a smooth throaty bellow her sharp ears checked over as carefully as a mother with her newborn’s breath, and found no hint of ill-health.
Suddenly she grinned, and throwing caution to the winds advanced the throttle. “Hang on, Kama! We’re going for a ride.” The Silver Angel slid off the beach into the smooth waters, and in half a minute was skimming along the bay waters, “on the step” and poised for flight.
Kama bounced up and down in the seat happily, both for her own sake and at the sight of her big friend’s expression, a fierce joy she had never seen before. “Fly!” She squeaked, clapping her small paws together.
Angelica was about to open the throttles all the way, but hesitated. It would be so good to head over to Eastern Island, drop off Kama and fill the fuel tanks for an escape at long last – but she currently had nothing like enough money for that much fuel. It would have to wait till she saw Jan van der Veldt again, negotiated a pay rise and sold that pearl for some decent fraction of what it was worth.
Cutting the throttles, with a pang of regret she turned her beautiful silver bird back towards the despised shore. Much further today and she would not have the fuel to get to Eastern Island again no matter how many pearls she sold – and hauling petrol from Superior Engineering in oyster buckets was not a project she looked forwards to. “Not right now, Kama – but soon. Oh yes. Then it’ll be goodbye from me forever!”
The kitten’s ears fell, and sadness drooped her tail and whiskers. So did Angelica, as the engine coughed briefly and cut out. Fortunately they were almost at the beach, and with the momentum and a well-timed wave they swept in to land and stick firmly above high-tide mark.
Angelica sighed. It fitted her latest ideas perfectly – the fuel filter had done its job and the engine ran perfectly until it jammed with filthy Native petrol. “If I could just put extra filters in the system … maybe then …” she shook her head sadly as she thought of the expensive engineering needed, climbed down with Kama and shooed her off towards the village.
In the village, a rather surprised Wise One had been watching the Silver Angel’s sudden burst of life with great interest. Oharu sat in the main square under the shade of a spreading mulberry tree that British gardeners had brought as a cutting from Hong Kong, and cast her perceptions open to listen to what the local spirits were saying about it.
A stranger would have thought it an odd scene two minutes later, with a trained priestess solemnly bowing low before a small kitten. Kama smiled and waved up at the mouse, fixing her with a curious stare.
Behind her, a young fox gave a cough. “Shishou, that’s just Kama. She’s nobody’s kitten.”
Oharu turned, and cast an appraising gaze on her young apprentice. “There is much that the Priestesses did not tell you, student. I bow down before her. When you understand why, you will understand much that you need to know.” She watched Kama running off, playing happily on the beach. “You cannot even lift the curse you put on Angelica. Yet while Kama sat nearby, the curse was gone like a shadow in the sunlight.”
“But she doesn’t even talk!” Ote’he objected. “Everyone knows that.”
“Mount Fuji does not speak in words, but many go to learn its wisdom.” Oharu quoted, one ear dipped at her two students. “It is not truth that she can not, only she does not, without sufficient cause. She spoke today. Did not the Spirits tell you about her?”
Ote’he bowed her head. “We didn’t ask. They said a lot, but I know I didn’t properly listen.”
The mouse gave a small smile. “Admitting ignorance is the first step towards wisdom, student. We shall ask your sister if she has yet taken it.”
Ten minutes later the sisters were reunited, with Nuimba hungrily breakfasting on the cold fish and cold water brought up from the village. The little cove before them was empty now, with the swimming club having carefully extinguished their fires and cleaned up meticulously before heading back to Main Village and various paths or water-taxis home.
Oharu waited until the hungry badger-girl had finished; her new students had enough to think about without trying to battle spiritual issues while denying the demands of the body. That would come later.
“And now, students,” she tapped on the ground with her largest brush, “tell us what Miss Angelica did this morning.”
Nuimba hesitantly described a rather shocked Angelica departing at Schneider Trophy speed, and what she had read of her emotion. “But Shishou,” she looked at her teacher with a worried expression, “there was nothing that she did not do with great joy a few hours earlier. Even with the Hyena girl, she would have… had Tahni not been Tailfast elsewhere. And Miss Cronstein – she’s lovely.” Her eyes crossed as a large fly settled on her nose.
With a swish and a movement too fast to follow, Oharu’s brush flicked out, the tip bristles not touching Nuimba’s fur but knocking the fly off unharmed; the dizzy insect righted itself and flew off to find more comfortable roosts. “Concentrate.” She told her student firmly. “You are free to seek out Miss Cronstein yourself, if you so wish – but not to daydream in my time. Tell me why our Guest reacted so … with such an appealing sight to wake to.”
Nuimba frowned. Although badgers were omnivorous, many of her friends were herbivore biased species whose remote ancestors had been wholly so. “It might be like … a deer or a rabbit girl waking at a feast, a wonderful spread of the finest cooked meats, roasted fish, pates and tripe! Wonderful tripe!” She stared for a second, her mouth watering as her imagination ran away with her. Suddenly she noticed Oharu’s brush twitch, and went on hurriedly “It’s the most beautiful food there is … but a gazelle or a deer might be sick to her stomach realising what she’d eaten.”
Her students noticed Oharu’s whiskers stiffen, but could not know the reason. Oharu had asked one of the Songmark cooks in passing at the Double Lotus, and been shocked to find that of the local food dishes, although Molly liked cooked taro greens she also ate fish and meat (not that she had much opportunity at Songmark, where the menu had evolved from the earliest days when the school’s finances were still shaky.) The doe was not innocent of a taste for flesh.
Oharu forced herself to breathe deeply and easily, drawing on her training. “Nuimba. If a carnivore friend of yours made a deer girl drink much sake and date wine then eat of what the carnivore thought was the finest foods – what would you say to her? Even if you would have liked to share in such a banquet.”
“I’d tell her to…” The badger’s snout wrinkled in disgust, and then she stopped, her ears drooping. “Shishou. I see what you mean. I did it, didn’t I?”
“I believe so. Much of that side of the curse, I believe it carries your scent still. I am looking to you to assist me in removing it.”
Oharu rose, and with a gesture for her students to follow, she headed West along the inner curve of Main Island, to the place where the curse had been made. Crater Lake. She had a disturbing premonition that was where the curse would have to be removed in the end, and it would need all the participants together again – including the Silver Angel.
That morning on Casino Island, in a small hotel with the odd combination of luxurious rooms and a very disreputable dockside location, “Baron” von Krokk looked up at an equally reptilian lady with an expression several percent less predatory than his usual one.
Black Lotus returned his smile, the sinuous rasp of her scaled coils loud on the polished wooden floor as she reclined in the window-seat and fanned herself with a mother-of-pearl fan. “My dear Baron.” She was a Naga lady, her dark shining scales as fine as sharkskin and a heart that many said matched. “How goes our little enterprise? Tourist season is ending here but the social season in Europe is yet to begin. There are grand balls and palace dances that will just glitter with lustrous pearls – if we can provide them.”
The Cayman’s long jaw had been opening in a carefully rehearsed burst of complements, but it irritably snapped shut. He scowled. “Not good! Profits are down a quarter from last year. Two damn deer are eating us – deer eating US, what is the world coming to? If it’s not that Detective Stagg scaring off our best smugglers it’s the other one on Krupmark, NordSturm-und-drang or whatever his name is. You can’t even trust decent ordinary criminals these days.” His thick tail swished angrily.
Black Lotus would have raised an eyebrow if she had one; instead she flicked her forked tongue in and out enquiringly. “I heard you had a new supplier, right in home waters.” She looked down at her costume, a brilliantly lustrous display of pearls that cascaded over her slim scaled figure like dew on an ebony statue. There were ropes of small pearls, plates of mother-of-pearl, and a string of large and lustrous white pearls worn around her neck.
Von Krokk’s eyes brightened. “And I have! Some of her finest finds, I’ve saved just for you!” He drew out of his frock-coat a soft red leather bag, and poured out into his scaly paw ten fine white pearls that Angelica had gathered the week before.
Black Lotus looked down at them with mild interest. “Very nice. I can put them here next to the others; perhaps they will relieve the boredom by fighting it out.” Her tail moved, an elegant hiss. “And I heard she has found something – Different. Interesting. Something you don’t get by the sack full.”
A Cayman muzzle wrinkled. “You’ve been talking with the hired help again. I’ve heard the same. A rose pearl, a big one. Probably flawed. Probably lop-sided.”
Black Lotus preened herself, scales kissing sibilantly. “It would go so well – here. Or maybe here.” She stroked one line of pearls then another. “As a contrast – a counterpoint … better that one rare rose than a basket of stock whites.”
“I can have one dyed to order,” von Krokk looked up hopefully “I have a contact in Kuo Han, he does good work. He’s fooled half the Hamsterdam trade and they don’t even know it.”
The Naga’s voice suddenly filled with reptilian chill. “You are talking about me now. I would know. I wish to have the real one.”
Von Krokk looked up at her, and for several seconds their eyes locked. His tail drooped. “Yes, my sweet. I’ll arrange it.” His teeth locked tight, he stamped out of the room to have words with his “trusted staff.”
Two streets away, Jan van der Veldt returned from a trip to the least hygienic toilets on Casino Island, to stare at his table. If you left a drink unwatched for a minute at The Devil’s Reef it was liable to be long gone by the time you returned. He had put the beermat on top of the glass before leaving, and written “I’ve spat in this” as a warning. When he came back, some unknown paw had added the postscript “so have we.” He cast a sharp glance at the bar’s owner; the kilted Arabian Abdul Ben Nevis looked serenely back and continued polishing a glass with a rag that looked as if its previous job had been wiping engines down. The other denizens could have been described as a desperate ragtag pack of low-life’s, but only by a missionary determined to see only the best in people.
Just then the doors swung open and a familiar reptile appeared. Baron von Krokk glared up at him and gave an imperious jerk of his long snout, gesturing for him to come outside. Jan nodded, and left his beer on the table without either of the warning signs on it.
“That pink pearl. I want it, and I want it now.” The Cayman snarled up at his employee. “Do what you have to but get it for me. A hundred and twenty shells is the top limit.” From the description he had heard, two hundred would be a fairer price, but he was not in a fair business. The regular pearls would have paid Angelica ten or fifteen shells each if she could have sold them legally; but as Jan van der Veldt had been quick to point out to her, their legal value to her was entirely nil.
“Yes Bass. She wants to meet with you personally and talk about increasing her regular money. A shell a pearl isn’t enough for her, she says.”
The reptile threw up his short arms in exasperation. “Fine fine! Bring her whole damned village while you’re at it. But Jan …” his gaze was suddenly calm and crafty again “after she’s finished this diving season, we can’t have her telling folk about us. She should go on a long paid-for sea voyage … for health reasons, the good of our financial health. A haughty, pedigree young Euro like that – oh yes. I might even be able to increase your wages.”
The lion nodded, straightening his collar. “Whatever you say, Bass. Can’t have her selling us out for money. Better make sure we do the selling first.”
The Cayman chuckled. “Sometimes I admit I could have a worse local agent. Now get out there and get me that pearl.”
That evening, Angelica was relaxing outside Mamma Popoluma’s hut tending a small beach fire. Over the fire was a large iron pot that some of the smallest kittens sometimes played in (it always gave anthropomorphologists something to write about, seeing them putting their siblings in a relatively big cooking pot. Much had been written about “latent cannibalistic race-memories” that caused the Spontoonies no end of amusement.)
There possibly were less interesting things to do than watch fuel filters boiling, but Angelica had no ambition to find out what. She had scoured the sites of former beach fires for fresh, clean charcoal and had a cloth full of it to pack the filters with for her next attempt at getting the Silver Angel flying again.
A shadow fell over her, and she looked up to see the tall figure of the lion looking down on her fire. Her nose twitched at the raw scent of him; Jan certainly washed on occasion but not so often that his natural musk was lost in the water. She twitched her tail, and raised an enquiring ear at him.
Jan grinned. “Don’t want to disturb you, having so much fun.” He laughed at the house-cat’s reaction. “If you can tear yourself away, my Bass he wants to talk serious money with you. It’s on Casino Island, so you might want to put something better on.” From behind his back he pulled out a brown paper parcel, and handed it to Angelica. “Complements of the firm.”
Angelica gasped as she unwrapped and pressed to her slender form a simple, elegant dress of Ulàul cloth. “It fits me! How did you know my size?”
A tufted tail swished. “I know the local girl who lent you what you’ve got on right now. It wasn’t hard.” He suppressed a smile when remembering just how he knew her; measuring her dress size she had regarded as a strange request but she was used to customers with far stranger ones. “If you’d like to wear that – we can be over there in half an hour.”
Angelica’s eyes gleamed at the prospect of bright lights and civilisation; hurriedly she kicked sand over the fire and ran indoors to change out of the despised lava lava wrap and head out to the promise of glamour and riches. The filters would be safe till the morning.
A hundred yards away on the rocky crest of the ridge, the meeting had not gone unnoticed. Oharu and her senior student were looking down, the mouse’s expression a rather bleak one.
“Tehepoa”, she addressed the fox “you follow her. If there is any danger that the police may help with, summon them. You know Casino Island and your folk better than I, and you will not stand out and cause suspicion as I would.” She hesitated, having observed how the lion stood and moved, especially when he thought nobody was watching him. “Have you observed how he held his arms and hands, just now as he looked around the village?”
The young fox nodded, imitating it, dropping his hands to waist level in a peculiar half-open stance. “Like so?”
“Like so.” Oharu inclined her head. “He does not know he is doing it, or he would be more cautious. I have seen such, on soldiers and hunters - they have held a rifle for so long that the body feels incomplete without it. Take great care.”
Spontoon Island webpages ©2011 Ken Fletcher
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are ©2011 Simon Barber, ©2011 David Reese Dorrycott,
& ©2011 Fredrik K T Andersson - rights reserved include story characters.
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