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Oharu: Summer 1936
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 Reese Dorrycott
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Angelica Silferlindh, Jan Van der Veldt, and Kama © Freddy Andersson
Oharu, Nikki © Reese Dorrycott.
Spontoon priestess Oharu Wei thought back to the day when Tehepoa had returned, having followed the Euro Angelica to Casino Island and back. She remembered with fondness that when he finished his report to her she had said “You did well.” She also remembered that her words had surprised the younger fox. As she waited for the sunrise her other words drifted through her memory. “You were to watch her, to insure that no harm came to her. This you have succeeded.” She had then reached out, scratching the young male behind his ear in an unexpected show of affection. “I am proud of you. Now return home. I will see you tonight.” She had then watched in pride as the confused fox hurried away, even after over thirty hours of no sleep the native born had shown no difficulty handling Spontoon’s semi-hidden paths.
Now looking down to the tiny village fires below her a harder expression came to the mouse’s face. Nikki’s contacts, contacts Oharu was somewhat certain she herself knew, had finally brought the truth of what had occurred that night to the mouse. “So. You have been selling pearls. That was known. But you sold a valuable pearl. One that could have fed many within your village. All for own gain. This will not be allowed.” It could not be allowed. Such a prize happened perhaps once every generation, rarely twice.
Oharu calmed herself, sensing the sun’s approach to the horizon. She would wait. Wait until the lithe feline began her day. Behind the mouse, in a bamboo carrier, was a replica of the poster now gracing much of Spontoon. This replica, though, had been created by Oharu herself. Many nights’ hours had been spent getting every line just right. It was much the same as the original, with exceptions. It was, in truth, the best work Oharu had ever done. Angelica’s face was now completely recognizable, and the form shown was much more blatant that the high society girl would accept. Nothing was hidden. Nothing. Even the dancer’s form seemed more fluid. Certainly much more enticing. It had taken, after all, only rearranging one banana’s position, and a bit of added detail to the upper torso. Of course Angelica would destroy this drawing, but it was only a print. One of over three hundred waiting to overnight replace those original posters now available to the public eye.
Blackmail was a dark thing for a Priestess to reach, but theft from a child’s future, perhaps their very life, was even worse. Her trip to China had left the mouse with a harder view of what could be done, a slightly colder soul, and no stomach for law-breakers. It had left her feeling the weight of her world upon her shoulders. A weight she knew now was certain to crush her, but her work was too important to set even one item aside. Or she was too proud. Even the mouse wasn’t certain, and she knew not what to do about it. Her patience was, for certain things, at an end. Perhaps she was near madness-- certainly her heart raged within her for no good reason. “I will forget her,” she suddenly whispered, pushing a thought aside like so much ash from last month’s fire.
After a bit more than a half hour after sunrise, late for those of the village below, Oharu watched as Angelica cheerfully walked to her plane. It would be a shock to her when she discovered what Oharu carried. It would be a greater shock when Oharu gave her ultimatum. Huakava had spoken with the mouse about this Euro just last week. Because of the actions of Tehepoa (who would one day make a fine Wild Priest) and his two friends, Angelica was to be helped-- when such help could be given. She was also to be guided, shown the path of lawfulness. Yet when required, such as now, she was to be struck down. Hard. At the moment, Oharu’s heart boiled with her loss, and she had no care if its heat burned the feline below.
Unknown to the mouse, she was beginning to destroy herself.
“…baby. We’ll be out of here...” Angelica was telling her aircraft as Oharu walked up.
“Not this season,” the mouse finished. “Or next.”
Angelica spun in place, her borrowed lavalava covering her form well, but its minimal cloth could not possibly hide the promise of the body it currently covered. A promise that held little interest to the angry mouse. “Who are you!?” the Swedish woman demanded.
“Oharu Wei,” the mouse answered solemnly, outwardly calm, inwardly ashamed at her own loss of control. “Priestess in training. I have become your conscience. Such as you have.”
“Conscience?” the feline laughed. “You? No.”
“Yes.” Oharu sat on a stone, putting herself between the cat and her adopted village. “You have stolen from those who help you. This can not be allowed.”
“Stolen? I’m no thief!” Angelica snapped, stepping back to place herself against her aircraft. “I worked hard for the money I have.”
Oharu eased her bamboo tube down, letting it sit on the sand. For several moments she looked inward, hunting the cause of her anger. “Angelica,” she replied with a desert calm voice, its sound that of sands upon dunes. “Everyone works hard here. For after the tourists have gone, there are few jobs. Money is earned, is saved, for the lean times between seasons. Thus it is for guides, entertainers, fishers... and pearl divers.”
“Pearl divers?” the feline repeated, hesitation in her voice. She looked around, expecting the law to step out from behind every bush.
There Oharu decided. ‘I cannot forget; I must place aside, for today. Today at least, I will forget.’ Her inner anger cooled, bringing sanity back to her mind. “We are alone,” she assured the younger, and much more beautiful woman. “You have sold many small pearls; this was known but ignored. It harmed none but your own soul to do so. You are not a native, so you could not know why such sales are important to your village.”
“Know what?” Angelica asked, her courage building knowing she was alone with this woman. “That I’m not wanted here? That I can’t leave? That my aircraft doesn’t want to fly.…”
“For 'Mommie'?” Oharu finished with a smile. Her anger had cooled completely, but she would need serious time tomorrow to return her center. It was impossible to forget. “I listen, I hear, I remember. Angelica, you may leave any time you wish. Simply ask for money from home and buy a ticket. No one holds you here.”
Angelica’s paw touched the silver aircraft behind her. “I won’t leave her,” she retorted. There was more than ownership in that tone. There was love. Almost the same love of a mother for her child.
Interesting, Oharu thought. But why such attachment?
“Your aircraft is bound here. It cannot leave.” It was a small twist of the truth. Should Angelica hire a pilot, yes, the aircraft would fly. Oharu, though, was banking on the feline’s fierce independence to blind her to that truth. Her independence, and her strange love for a machine.
Stepping closer to the mouse, Angelica balled her paws into fists, placing them against her hips as she leaned over the sitting woman. “If you think I’m leaving my plane here, you’re crazy. I’m going to order fuel to be delivered, then I’m leaving.”
“No one will sell you fuel, Angelica. No one will help you. No one will accept any money from you. Not stolen money.” It was an effort of will not to stare into that fur Angelica so easily exposed. An effort Oharu wished she did not have to make-- would not have had to make had she not tried to forget. ‘I am a fool’ she told herself. ‘A fool with no future.’ Yet she must appear disinterested, or all would be for nothing. Angelica’s scent, though, was another matter. Without comment she inhaled that clean scent. It seemed to help her heart.
“So...” Angelica stepped back, lightly wringing her paws. “So, I’m stuck here?”
“Surrender the money you were paid by criminals. Surrender it to those who accepted you. They will understand. They will forgive. That money is meant for food for the children, clothing, medicine.”
“Give up my money? No. What will I do for a living?”
Oharu shrugged, reaching down to pick up her bamboo tube. Angelica’s scent was intoxicating, but not overwhelming. She was able to enjoy without danger of losing herself at all. “I will arrange with those who do such things to grant you a working visa. Also a hunting license. I am certain, that with your looks, if you are kind enough you will make ten times what you have hidden.”
“To hunt lonely men, grant then the pleasure of your company, perhaps more. I understand there is good money to be had. Were I not accepted to become a Priestess, I would have become a Huntress. Not for the money-- for survival. I have no other skills. There is no shame in this land to that path. None at all.”
Angelica had the consideration to be shocked at the suggestion. Shocked just long enough for Oharu to cover her ears. Her scream though could probably be heard all the way to San Frisco. “ME! A painted lady? What do you take me for!?” the feline demanded.
Lowering her paws, Oharu smiled, this was the point she had been working towards. Pulling out one of the two posters from her tube she held it carefully in her paws. “A self-centered childish, selfish thief,” she answered truthfully. “Whose parents are so crass as to send these out for anyone to see.” She held out the rolled paper tube. “Spontoon families would be proud for their children to be seen such. Where I was born, had I done this, it would be expected for me to take my own life. Or my father would have done it for me. I assume your society will fall somewhere between?”
Accepting the paper tube, Angelica unrolled the poster, one Oharu had been given by a business owner who did not want such in his establishment. Huakava’s gift, though, was well stored in her hut, for though she had gotten over her touch with that one string, Angelica was still a very beautiful woman. “I wore more than this!” the feline gasped. “They let this be made? I’ll kill them both!”
“Their artist was good, yes, but not that good. These are now over all Spontoon. They have been for some time. They are over this entire ocean, perhaps this world by now. At least any place your family does business. Everywhere you travel. These will be known.”
Wadding up the poster Angelica tossed it into the waves. “I can live with that. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. I just want to leave this place forever.”
“You will not return the money?”
“No. Nothing you say or do will change my mind.”
Oharu sighed in defeat, carefully withdrawing the second poster. It was an action, though she was ready to make, she had no true desire to follow. “Then in the morning, this will replace those posters. More will be shipped to other islands. With permission to reproduce.”
Again Angelica unrolled a poster. Her reaction this time was stunned shock. She collapsed onto the sand, her tail popping lightly as it hit the earth. “Who drew this?” she managed to ask after some time.
“You? Your talents are wasted as a priestess. This could be a photograph.” She continued to study the poster. “Even my mole... But how did you know I have one there? Never mind. This is blackmail.”
“Evil, nasty blackmail. Priestess, you have no idea what I’ve been through. How hard it’s been. How hard I’ve suffered.”
“You have suffered nothing,” the mouse corrected. “You have worked, your body has become healthier. You have lain in the sun. You have become attractive to many males, as well as several rich females. You have a great number of furs who would accept you in their lives. If for nothing but that healthy body you now have. Other than not being able to fly, you have suffered nothing.”
Still holding the poster Angelica felt her temper rising. “And what, little mouse, makes you think you know suffering better than I?”
Silently Oharu rose, letting the bamboo tube fall away to the sand. Reaching up she untied her own lavalava, letting it fall as well. Then she turned her back to the feline. Reaching up she pulled her long hair away from her scarred back. “This,” she answered. For several minutes she stood thus, could have stood thus for hours, perhaps days. Letting her hair drop she turned to face the devastated feline. “This,” she continued, pointing to the white ring of fur around her throat. “I was hung. Thus my voice.” Opening her mouth she ran her one clawless finger along slightly lighter colored teeth. “These are false.” Gathering her lavalava she stood, holding it against her stomach in a manner only a woman could understand. “And more darkness-- I will not insult you by the telling. Tell me, proud, arrogant Euro: Do I understand suffering?”
“I’ll give up the money,” Angelica managed to say, her voice now tiny. “Then what?”
“No posters will change. You will remain with this village until you are able to leave forever. I will personally insure that you are not deported. I will try to find you employment-- pilots are always needed. Perhaps Nikki will hire you. I will ask her. You will steal no more from your village. Until you leave you will be kind to those who are kind to you.”
“What do you get out of this?”
“I serve,” Oharu explained. “On this day I have served this village. Perhaps I have served you. Tomorrow, perhaps someone else. I ‘get’ nothing.”
“You said I was under a curse. Can you fix that?”
“I have been working on that,” Oharu admitted. “I have little free time; still I do what I can. It would be easier if you tried to understand those about you. Still, that is your choice.”
Angelica carefully rolled up the poster in her paws. “So you’re my Guardian Angel?”
“No, Angelica. I am your conscience. When things are too difficult for you, come to me. When you are unsure: Come to me. I will listen. I will do what I can to help. No one is your guardian angel. That is your own responsibility.”
“Come to you? Like, take me to your bed, like those girls did? I laughed at you, you know.”
“At that moment I deserved your laughter,” Oharu admitted. “I accepted it for the truth it was. There was no insult. Still, worry not. You are a very beautiful woman, Angelica. Whomever you choose for a lifemate will be exceptionally blessed. Though it is truth I prefer my own kind, you are not Molly. You cannot interest my heart. I will never touch you. You hold no interest to me in that way.”
“And you’re not my Guardian Angel. So, if someone were to drug me and drag me away?”
Oharu looked towards the village behind her, then back to Angelica. “Friends. Have you any? I have owned a slave. I think you would be difficult to train. Not impossible, not as hard as she was. For only those willing to die are impossible to train. Nikki would enjoy breaking you to my bed, should I ask her. No Angelica, I would not raise a claw in your defense. You have not yet earned such. Not from I.” She looked again towards the village. “Not from them.” Picking up her tube, she gave the feline one last hard look. “No one asks you to believe as we believe. No one wants you to change your beliefs. All that is asked from you is respect for others. True, honest respect. Nothing more. Good day, Angelica, I hope we meet again.”
She turned to leave, having made only a few steps before the feline called out. “Priestess.”
“Release the poster.”
Turning to face the cat, Oharu kept a laugh back only by effort of will. “You realize what this will mean?”
Angelica, though, did laugh. “My parents wanted to embarrass me. Let’s show them true embarrassment. If you could survive that, I most certainly will survive something as painless as the leers of those who know that they will never have what they wish. Now, I must go explain things to certain people; give them the shells I have. Would you join me?”
“I would be honored.” Oharu held out the bamboo tube. “If you wish to keep that, perhaps this will prove useful.” Silently she unfolded her lavalava and slipped it back on. “Let us go.”
Later that afternoon Oharu returned to the Great Stone Glen. It had been as she had suspected. Angelica’s small thefts had been suspected, perhaps known. But she was a Euro. Such things were what Euros did. Her admission of guilt; her surrender of so much money (more than Oharu had expected), had warmed the villagers’ hearts. Right now, much to the girl’s embarrassment, they were making her one of their own. If she wished, there were many young males who (as Butterfly had explained the slang), were tripping over their tongues. So were a pawful of women for that matter, the mouse had noticed.
In truth, Oharu wished the outlander well. It had taken hard blackmail to open her eyes, but less than what the priestess was ready to do. This Winter there would be more than usual upon people’s plates. More than usual for their children. A Euro who would have been a weight had instead become a useful pair of paws. What the pearl was that Angelica had stolen was unknown to the mouse-- for though she had once spent a day watching pearl divers in her home country, she had no knowledge of the things. In truth, she barely understood what precious gems were, having seen but less than a pawful in her entire life. Malou had kept hers packed away, and Oharu had not visited the Chinese woman’s shop. All that had no interest to her at the moment. Joining her three waiting students, she looked up at the sky: “Mei.”
“Yes, Priestess?” the youngest girl asked.
“You will sing the sun-sleep song.”
Oharu watched the girl hurry off to prepare. So did her life, her routine, continue.
It was a clear night, black as coal, so far from civilized lighting. Angelica lay on her aircraft’s port wing, her best dress clinging tightly to her body as she watched the stars above her. Not long ago she had danced with her own kind. Had tasted champagne again. Had dreamed of flying home. Then came the morning and what followed. Finally, that priestess. After that, all her dreams had crashed to the sea in flames.
It could have gone worse, the cat admitted to herself. That priestess, O something, could have brought the coppers. But she hadn’t. She’d come alone and talked. No real threats-- her blackmail would only have been embarrassing. Only that. It was the real danger she had mentioned: No one would lift a claw were she to be kidnapped. No one would help her if she were laying broken on the forest floor. That last hadn’t been said, but the implication was clear. No, she could accept another season here, another year, or she could fend for herself.
Not that Angelica couldn’t fend for herself, in civilization. But this was the dark jungle. Why, already she had done things she would never have dreamed of. One such thing still turned her stomach at the thought. Still, the truth was she had become a thief. A thief. Her father would be unhappy, her mother disgraced. Instead of cold jail and the loss of her precious plane, she had been given a way out of her current situation-- not forced. Simply a gate left open that she could take or leave. Angelica knew the mouse was right. She was stuck up, she was selfish, but she wasn’t an idiot.
So now she was an official member of this tribe, or clan or whatever they called themselves. Fully accepted. Meaning she was expected to pull her own weight from tomorrow on. That Priestess had mentioned a job, and suggested a woman who might hire her. Then nearly in the same breath admitted that same woman would gladly break her for the mouse, if she asked. That wool-covered warning wasn’t missed by the feline either. Do good, or be done to. Okay, she would do good. But as soon as she could get away from these cursed islands she was never coming back. No, it was Stockholm for her from now on. Good old safe-and-sane Europe.
Above her a bolide silently ripped through the sky, headed west, its green and blue light casting shadows. Silently Angelica wondered if it was a warning, or a promise. Whatever it was, there was nothing she could do about it now. Gradually she slipped into sleep, the gentle rocking of her plane easing her into a rest she hadn’t had for a long time. Images of that poster the Priestess had made dancing in her head. If only she could hire the woman to do work for her family’s company. And they shared one thing in common, both disliked bananas. Angelica’s last wakeful thought was of the pineapple the mouse had shared with her, and the kindness still evident in her ruined voice.
The end of this episode of "Stranded Angel"
next: Stranded Angel: Autumn 1936