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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.
by David R. Dorrycott
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, from Fredrik Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip
and other characters by Fredrik Andersson;
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Art by Simon Barber & Fredrik Andersson
Adult situations make this a story for mature readers
Oharu Wei reached deep within a grove of white flowers, carefully selecting several stems whose buds had yet to fully open. Again she had not slept the night before and it was showing. Having three days before, returned from a night of island-wide celebration, her dreams still kept her from sleep. Creating the sacred fire, one that then was used to burn a huge sculpture of a tourist, had been but the beginning of that night. She had spoken with many of her new people through the night of their problems, their needs. Answering questions, helping find new paths around old problems where she could. For her it had been a wonderful night, for she was helping. She was serving. It was all she ever in her life had wished to do. Her secret pleasure had continued until near morning when the last had made their way to a place to sleep, or find a water taxi still able to take them to where they needed to be. She had even spoken with two priestesses that she had not met before. It had been a wonderful night, one that had lifted some small part of that great weight attempting to crush her into the ground. She had even been able to watch her love Molly Procyk for several hours. From afar, of course. Approaching the soul-scared doe would have endangered Molly’s recovery. Thus she had remained within the shadows.
Molly Procyk. At that name her paws stopped their work. Molly. She for whom the mouse had fallen, knowing in her mind that there was no possibility of even a simple kiss from the hard-bitten Chicago mobster's daughter. Her heart though, refused to believe that, so Oharu had moved to Main Island, to the remote, near-forgotten ancient temple site now known as Great Stone Glenn. Oharu had done everything she could to insure that their paths never crossed. Yet cross they had. Again and again. That fact bothered her more than she would allow even herself to admit. Was she unconsciously hunting the doe? Was there some darkness still within her that would not allow her to leave the American alone? Or was love simply that powerful? This she did not know. More importantly, though she did everything in her power to avoid it: Why did their paths continue to cross?
Footsteps drew her from her thoughts, informing her that her students had finally found the courage to approach her. She had been aware of their unsettled conversation upon their return. A conversation that had continued these few days. Something of importance had occurred on festival night that bothered them. That they had taken this long to decide upon exactly what to do, warned the mouse that their concern was important. Silently she sent a prayer to the Glen’s spirit, that one of her students had not taken advantage of that curse they had so foolishly created. Watching helplessly as the High Priestess Huakava ripped forever from her student that grand gift given her, would hurt Oharu almost as much as it would the girl. Certainly the boy, Tehepoa, would have had no luck with Angelica. Not on that night. No male would have dared hope for even a glance from the blond feline on that night.
“Shishou Oharu,” Tehepoa’s voice called in Spontoonie.
Setting aside her blade and flowers Oharu composed herself even as she turned to face them. “Yes?” she asked in the same language, fearing what she would hear.
“May we ask questions?”
“Of course. Always. For you are students. It not possible to learn without asking questions. So sit. Let us speak.” She settled down on freshly turned earth, uncaring that it would stick to her lava-lava. “I will listen.”
Her students, too, settled into comfortable positions, though Oharu noted that Nuimba kept further away from her than normal. Could her fear be true? Had Nuimba failed this test?
It was Tehepoa who spoke, as he always tended to do when with the others. “It is of the woman Angelica Popoluma that we wish to speak of, Shishou. We feel that we have failed her. Still in speaking carefully of our actions, of searching all paths available to us that night we can find no failure. Thus we must ask for guidance.”
“I listen,” the mouse answered, overlaying her own emotions with calm. Angelica was Spontoon’s newest adopted native. That social problems would occur with such a newly adopted woman were a given. She still had so much to learn. Just as Oharu did.
“We watched over her as you instructed,” the fox continued. “As you expected, that Songmark class again appeared. It was as though they were called. Again, as you warned us. Angelica chose the woman Ada.”
“I understand. Then none of you approached Angelica?”
“I...I did,” Nuimba admitted softly. “I wished to apologize to her. For our curse.”
“Was there more?” Oharu asked, knowing already from the young woman’s voice that there must be.
“I...” Nuimba shivered. “...I wanted her,” she admitted. “I still want her. I think I will always want her. I know that I will never touch her. It is painful.”
Oharu remained silent. Not because she was angry, but because she was surprised. Nuimba? She had not even suspected the girl's life choice. Had taken for granted that because the three were one, that in truth they were one. “I was not aware you drank from the same stream as I,” she finally admitted.
“I did not wish you to know,” the younger badger admitted. “I feared that you would send me away.”
“Send you away? For being what the Gods decreed you would be? We shall speak of this later. For today: You did not offer yourself to Miss Popoluma?”
“No, Shishou,” Nuimba answered quickly. “I wished to. Oh, Shishou, how I did so wish. I believe that I love her, yet I did not offer. I could not.”
“Then you have no thing to fear. You did what was both correct....and honorable.” Oharu turned her attention back to her male student. “As I see this. No thing was done wrong. Then what is this question you feel so desperate to ask?”
“Shishou. We wish to know. This curse we created. Does it change what one is?”
“Ah!” the mouse said, catching the drift of this conversation. “You wish to know how badly you have violated the law. Badly yes; but no, not quite that badly. Though I could, with effort do such, even the three of you together still do not have the power to do such. Even by accident. Not yet. Your curse, once a month it does waken within Angelica’s heart that which she herself would never have woken. It is true that she would never have walked the path that I (and it seems Nuimba), walk. Yet within her had to have been the desire, no matter how buried. Else such would not have happened. Certainly never as strongly as it does now. When this curse is lifted she will no longer feel this need. She will be as she was. Simply with experiences that she may...or may not...decide to taste again. Then it will be fully her choice.”
Tehepoa turned to look into each of his co-students faces. Turning back he took a deep breath before continuing. “Shishou. Would this curse make one do something one would not wish to? Such as a binding contract?”
“This curse? No. It is possible to do so. Yes. It is true that one may be made to do anything. With great effort, great abuse of power: Yes. One could be made to do anything one would not do of their free will. One could be made to believe all their life that this was their free choice. Yet this curse? To enter a contract, no. It is too specific to reach that far...” Oharu paused, looking again at her thoughts. “What kind of contract?” she asked softly. There was fear in her heart. For there were many contracts available in these lands. Had Ada, in her anger, sold the feline? At that time, a full moon. It was possible that Angelica would allow herself to be sold simply because Ada wanted her to be sold. Could Ada, in her pain, have done so?
“Angelica Popoluma and Ada Cronstein made tailfast rings,” the fox answered.
Oharu felt the blood flow from her face, felt her entire body weaken. Anything but that. Even Kuo Han rather than that. “No priestess....”
“No, Shishou. No Priestess blessed those rings. Yet to their own Gods did they swear.” Tehepoa blushed under his fur. “It is the same as if a Priestess had blessed them, is it not? For their Gods did not refuse them. We...We were listening from under the window. Hidden well.”
“No fault to you,” the mouse answered, though her voice was not as strong as it had been. “I must again study this curse. Nuimba, you will lead in my absence.” She stood, pausing only long enough to retrieve her blade before walking towards her hut.
“She called me Nuimba,” the young badger gasped. “She has always called me Nui.” Quickly she stood, hurrying after her teacher. “Shishou Oharu!” she called as she ran.
Ote’he looked after her sister as she stumbled down the path. “This is true. Since we stepped into this place, Shishou has never spoken our full names. My sister has much impressed our teacher with her restraint.”
Tehepoa reached out, taking Ote’he’s tail in his own paws. “Had I know that was all it required was to renounce the love of my heart...” He grinned at the look his companion gave him. “I’d be her student until my death from old age,” he admitted.
At Great Stone Glen, Oharu gathered the few things she would need for her trip, ignoring the waiting badger standing just a few meters from her until she was ready. She would have to take a water taxi, as a small landslide had blocked the path over Main Islands ridge last night. “It is time you stepped up the path” she told the waiting girl in explanation. “Your sister is none too many steps behind you, nor is he. Yet you have been the one to work hardest.”
“He is male. I may only place him upon the path, give him a foundation upon to build. When his time comes one will arrive to take him. He will become a Priest. If that is his choice.”
“Then we will never see him again.”
“Nuimba. This I cannot answer. Perhaps even the High Priestess cannot answer. This you must look into the fires for.” She reached out, touching the badgers forehead. “As I think you should. Tonight. I cannot see a future that the three of you are not in some way linked. Perhaps you may find the truth. Now I must hurry, for each second now is precious for Miss Popoluma’s own future. If what I fear is truth. Though this is not a great possibility, it must be investigated.”
She left the stunned girl behind, making her way up the path, back into the world. Even so Oharu was not too far away when her student abruptly screamed her joy. Nuimba had just realized that she could hear the Spirits again.
Northern Village was an easy trip by water taxi this time of day, for both wind and currents had this time decided to help Oharu’s water taxi along. For the mouse this was a good thing, as her unreasoning fear of the ocean forced her always to sit in the boats center section, not in the least the most pleasant position to choose. She passed the time speaking with her pilot, her constant wolf companion when on the water, it seemed. By the time she had arrived to her destination Oharu had learned much of the wolf's family, yet not his name or his true reason for ‘being there’ when she needed him. It was a touch unsettling for her, yet she was absolutely certain that the wolf had no physical interest in her.
‘I have a lifetime,’ she reminded herself. ‘I will learn. By the stretching out of my learning, he makes such the more interesting.’ Her wolf companion had landed Oharu almost within sight of the Popoluma household, leaving her only a bit of a walk to her destination. Soon she discovered that Angelica was asleep, having joined the night fishers when that season started. With her schedule now that of a night person, she slept each morning through. Such fishing was a dangerous occupation Oharu was informed, for if one fell overboard.... Well in the darkness, oft times one never found their way to the surface again. Even with battery-powered lamps shining upon the surface there had been those who had become confused, swimming away from the light instead of towards it. Angelica had made her native family double proud by taking such a dangerous position. All her words impressed the mouse, who took her leave after only a single cup of the household's cool water.
Accepting that it would be late afternoon before the feline awoke, Oharu had taken her leave for another reason. Walking down the beach to that beautiful silver aircraft that waited to speak to her. There she smoothed out the beach sand above high tide and settled down to meditate. If what she had been told was as she feared, her work would both be the easier and the more difficult. Had Nuimba’s desire for the feline, even if only budding at first sight, corrupted the feline’s curse for an instant? Oharu hoped not, still the only way to be certain was to again approach that twisted knot of curse, desire, hate and dream. Always insuring not to touch that one glowing thread. For it would forever bind her to the feline's heart.
Angelica had been awake some time before she was informed of her visitor, and where her visitor awaited her. Fearing for her precious aircraft, Angelica hurried down the beach to find Oharu still meditating, and a safe distance from her precious Silver Angel. Realizing that her aircraft was safe from harm, Angelica approached the mouse, only to find that nothing she did (short of actually striking a native Priestess) would wake her. Once she was aware of this Angelica did something that not long ago she would never have thought of doing: Entering her craft she returned with a small tarp, a bag of stakes, rope, and several collapsible poles. In a very short time she had constructed a shelter, protecting Oharu from the afternoon sun's baking heat. Assured that her shelter would not fall in the day's mild breeze, Angelica hurried back to her home. From a season's experience diving for pearls, the feline knew one thing for certain. This long in the heat, unprotected, anyone would want water.
Oharu withdrew from the dreamworlds to find herself under shelter. This both pleased and amused her. Opening her eyes only a little she found that her shelter was made of European materials, expensive European materials. Only Angelica could have done this. It explained even more of what she had found.
“Water, Honored Mother?” that dream soft voice offered.
Opening her eyes fully, Oharu found herself gazing into Angelica’s so-soft eyes. “Yes, please,” she answered in English. “You more beautiful, even, than Molly.”
“Your doe,” the feline said as she poured water from a large pot that had been half buried in the sand. Something else the European would not have bothered to do before. “I understand you have given her your heart.”
“She mine only in dreams,” the mouse admitted, accepting a large mug of cool water. “She has no desire for me. Thus I never speak of her.”
“I wish I could say the same,” Angelica admitted, sitting in the sand no more than an arms length from Oharu. “I wish to apologize.”
Oharu sipped her water. “For?”
“When I laughed at you.”
“You right do so. At that time. For I was fool. I knew better. Yet my feelings being right, I gravely errored. I bear you no ill.”
“I know now what that curse does, Honored Mother. I know how powerful it is. You were strong not to take me that day, I know now that I would have given myself to you. Freely. I stole from this village. I admit that now. I wanted money for fuel. I wanted my beautiful Silver Angel repaired so that I could leave this place. You could have had me arrested. Deported. My Silver Angel sold as scrap metal to repay my crime. Still you gave me another path, a choice. Few in Europe would have done as much.”
Oharu sipped her water, enjoying its coolness. “You leave any time, Angelica Popoluma. Your aircraft leave any time. You not fly your aircraft this place. Or return-fly away. Not long as curse upon you.”
“So I have to marry Ada?” the feline asked. Her question was serious, there was no lightness to her voice.
“Only that your true desire. Is it?”
Angelica hugged herself, looking first back to the Popoluma compound then to her aircraft. “I’ll do whatever I have to. To leave this place.”
“Then will never return. Do truly wish marry Ada Cronstein. Her wife forever. Bear children with her? Grow old peace with her and grandchildren? Is truly your great desire? If answer 'yes', then you marry her. For she already given her heart.”
“Why am I so calm?” Angelica asked abruptly. “I should be screaming. I should be yelling.”
“You have shock after shock. So great, even now emotions are dry. Soon you scream. You shout. Soon you look again at certain shark killer.”
“And in less than a month's time I will be back in Ada’s arms, won’t I?”
“Or another’s. Yes.”
Angelica stared at the Priestess before her. Studied the mouse as intently as she had every studied anyone. “I am not attracted to you. I am not thinking of Ada. I know the difference now. I know that soon my thoughts will turn towards her again. Stronger each day until I may no longer bear them. Why? What is happening to me”
“That thread, binds your heart, very dangerous one,” Oharu explained. “It reached deep within your heart. It found within you ancient love. One from lives before. Angelica. You not being forced do anything you not, in some life before, done. It only letting ancient love, freedom one night every twenty-nine. What you feel is real. Real for Angelica who rode horse, wore Lady's clothing. Had for mate, another. A Warrior who died much too young of illness she not defeat. Such was your oath to her, even now she is with you.”
This statement brought laughter from the feline. “And you know this how?”
Holding out her empty mug Oharu waited in silence. Finally Angelica took the hint, refilling that mug with cool water. After drinking half the water in one go Oharu looked towards the aircraft. “Her guidance part of you all your life, for she bound part herself with your soul forever. You must know she loves you still. That part her now living within your aircraft. It why you love it greatly.”
“Wait!” Angelica snapped. “You're saying you can really talk to inanimate things. That some ancient woman, I supposedly loved once, has woken? Is floating around here like a ghost? You think I believe that?”
“No. I do not. There no ghosts Spontoon Island.”
“What? Prove your claim.”
Oharu finished her water, setting the mug down. “To learn fly well as you do took years. Correct?”
“A lot of years, yes.”
“Angelica. I learn speak with the spirits, Gods -- as I do now -- took me sixteen years. You wish speak with her yourself? It take that long teach you. Thus I can not expect you believe me any more I believe you fly through storm and not lose way. I can not do this. Thus I take on faith you able, which I do, or consider you charlatan. Why I expect different from you?”
“Because you have never lied to me,” Angelica admitted. “How much longer must I live with this curse? How long for you to unravel it.”
“But one thread, is gone.”
“You took Kama as daughter. In payment she banished curse. It more than I or any Priestess now living could do. But she left behind one thread. Strengthened in way I not understand. Angelica. I not know why she did this. Kama is Spirit Child. With no family. I no more attempt undo something that child did, than you attempt drink aircraft fuel in center of bonfire and expect survive. For myself, results be as fatal.”
“So I still can’t fly out.”
Oharu pushed herself up from the sand. “No. Any other place this world you may fly aircraft. Here? No. I not know what will take to release you. I said. Kama changed that thread. Changed in way I find unsettling. Changed, as only child would. I will speak with her, but until she understands, I cannot hope this change anything soon. Now though, you woke your love. You will desire her these nights. Whomever she may be.”
Angelica watched as Oharu carefully brushed the sand from her own lava-lava, realizing that it was true. Other than a growing respect, she felt nothing for the mouse. No desire, no love. Not even friendship. Absently she reached up to the ring of fur hanging from her neck. Even in her horror, even days after she found that ring, she still couldn’t part with it. “What do you suggest that I do then, Priestess? Bind myself each full moon as a monster is bound, or a madwoman?”
“You are neither. Find one you may trust. Explain problem. She care for you. Without taking advantage. You have family now. Use their resources. I will speak to them. Explain. You not go out with boats tonight. We must talk.”
Standing, Angelica again looked to her aircraft. “If I had to choose. I must accept that I prefer Ada. But I will never marry her. It has always been a man for me. Strong, giving. Not a woman.”
“Then I speak with Ada, too. I bring her tonight. We find understanding.” Oharu noticed what Angelica was playing with. “You still wear?”
Looking down, Angelica pulled her paw away from the shell-encased ring, yet made no move to remove the necklace. “I don’t know why,” she admitted.
“Angelica. Ada make you great friend. If, as fear, Kama made thread part of your life. Then is not an honorable citizen this nation, deny you your full moons. Perhaps Ada is answer to puzzle. Perhaps her being with you allow you fly plane out. I not know, I simply Priestess in training. I not a Goddess. Now must go Ada. My thanks, both shade, water. I return before midnight. You be waiting me..”
“You called me Miss Popoluma. Why?”
“That who you are now. You adopted into Popoluma family. You as much Popoluma now same if born her womb. You are longer Euro. You Spontoon native. Citizen this nation much as any born here. Subject Spontoon law, you hold privileges go with those responsibilities. Still denied Sacred Island. Until learn more. Sacred Island dangerous. Even to me.” Bowing slightly to the young feline, Oharu turned and left.
For a few moments Angelica stood, her mouth open. Very slowly, very deliberately, she raised one paw, closing her jaw. Only then did she fall to her knees, dumbfounded.
Songmark’s gates were locked closed by the time Oharu arrived. Instead of turning away though, she walked up to the two girls holding council over a deck of cards. “I come for Ada Cronstein,” the mouse announced, as though it were something she did every day.
“Too late. Come back tomorrow,” the second year girl announced without looking up, still studying her cards. “Gates are closed.”
Oharu’s paw coming down, slightly cupped, against the gate's many-times painted wood, released a sound much akin to a gunshot, causing both girls to jump. “You call Miss Devinski. You tell her Oharu come for Ada. You do this, or explain why are two aces hearts in deck, to third years now watching. NOW!”
Her rough voice ripped through the two like a rusty sawblade. Fumbling, one picked up the phone, closing a switch while the other began picking up cards as fast as she could. When the older hound arrived, she was none too pleased.
“I was reading a very interesting letter from a former student,” she informed Oharu in Spontoonie.
“Catherine,” the mouse answered in that same language. “As much as I value our friendship, I have been much too long without sleep,” the mouse explained. “I am most short of temper. Much ashamed of this. To my actions I offer apologies. I require Ada Cronstein to come with me to Main Island now. Not tomorrow.”
“If I refuse?”
“I will come in and take her. We both know that it will be most messy. Our friendship may suffer. Please Catherine. I beg you, I am near the edge of a disaster and must deal with this tonight. Else I will watch a great error occur. A life is in the balance.”
“Has this anything to do with that tailfast ring Ada was crying over last night?”
“Everything,” the mouse admitted.
“Get her, and tell her to bring that ring,” Miss Devinski ordered in English, pointing at one of the girls. “You, cards.”
Sheepishly the second girl surrendered her deck while her partner ran off. Spreading open the deck Miss Devinski studied each one. “There is only one ace of hearts,” she reported still in English.
“Are certain? Or are all ace hearts?” Oharu asked with a grin. She hated speaking in English. Not because of the language, but because she was still so poor in the language. Her preferred language was still Spontoonie, though when she need clarity she would return to her native tongue... as when drawing upon her Shinto knowledge.
Looking again at the cards the hound released an oath than near blistered her students delicate ears. “How!... Oh. That way.”
“You saw only what wished see, Catherine. Nothing more.”
“In short, don’t play cards with you,” the hound said. There was humor in her voice and she had returned to the mouse's favored language. Few knew, but the hound was fluent in eight languages. Two of which now had no other speakers than the hound herself.
“Or any Priestess,” the mouse admitted. “We all cheat do we not? We have to, for we are all very bad card players. We all much dislike lies. Even those over a simple game of cards. Catherine please. Again I apologize for my actions. My nights have not been pleasant of late. I slept not at all last night or the night before. It does affect me.”
Turning her attention to the student standing beside her Miss Devinski gave one quick order. “Five laps around the parameter fence for being caught with cards on duty. Now.” Almost instantly her student vanished. “Molly is tearing you apart,” she stated without turning her eyes from the running student. Switching from one language to another was something Catherine Devinski did without thought.
“She is a large part of my burden, yes,” the mouse admitted. “There are many weights upon my shoulders my yellow-furred pet. Molly is greatest, yes; but nothing I could not normally carry with ease for life. My daughter Tatiana as well. I worry very much about her studies. My students. My own studies. The Great Book. That book Malou brought with her that now resides within the Great Mother's care. So much more. It is draining me, yes. But each weight must be carried. No one else is able.”
“Tell your High Priestess, then.”
“Admit that I am not suitable to be a Priestess? Pet, I believe that I carry no more weight than you did when creating Songmark. Do you believe that I am less capable than you? What would you do if one of your students said the same?”
“No. No I don’t think you less than myself. And you're wrong about that weight, Oharu. I have never in my life carried such weight alone. Even with China and Henrika added to my own burden. Ah, here comes our little problem child.” She turned to meet Ada, only taking enough time to order the second girl to follow her companion. “Ada Cronstein. Explain why I have a native priestess demanding you go with her. At this hour.”
“I don’t know, Miss Devinski,” Ada admitted, not yet seeing which priestess it was waiting in the dark. She, too, spoke enough Spontoon now to carry on a conversation, but the demand had caught her off guard. She had answered in English. That was going to cost her dorm points. She just knew it.
“You will travel with her. You will do everything that she says. You will return when, or if she brings you back. She just may keep you, from what I understand. I will not have Songmark reduced to kindling by having to battle one angry priestess simply because you have done something terrible. Is this understood?”
“Yes, Ma'm!” Ada agreed, though in truth she could not for the life of her understand what was going on. “I will need a pass.”
“You will need your head sewn back on if you upset this woman. That is if she lets you keep it. Now get out.”
Ada didn’t even bother to ask about the locked gate, proving to both women her fitness, as she was over the fence in a flash. Only then did she discover who was waiting for her.
Oharu though said nothing, simply turning to walk to her waiting water taxi. Ada though had walked only a few yards when she remembered something vitally important. She had been in bed, and had nothing on but her thin nightshirt and a few special weapons at the moment .
It was on the water taxi ride that Oharu finally spoke. “You brought your tailfast ring?” she asked in the native language.
“Its not real,” Ada explained. “Yes. But honest, it's worthless. Angelica screamed and ran as quickly as she could get dressed.” She waited, but Oharu said nothing. “I’m in really deep trouble, aren’t I?”
“What makes a tailfast ring true?” Oharu asked, ignoring the question.
“Two people in love use their own fur to create two rings. Clockwise for opposite sex, anti-clockwise for same sex couples. A Priestess then blesses it. Often upon Scared Island, though not always. After a year, and two tailfast ceremonies they can marry. But no Priestess blessed these rings. I swear this on my grandmother's grave.”
“Your Grandmother is still alive, yet it is truth no native Priestess swore over those rings. Tell me, what was said over them.”
“How... But... I never...”
“Ada. You carry the truth in your voice. It was calculated risk. Now answer.”
“You’d make a great Jew,” Ada admitted. ”You want the rough draft, or word by word?”
“For now, the general words.”
“We pledged our love to each other until death took us both. Then.... Well, we swore to our Gods that our love was true. I should have known the Swede was lying. Using me. A night of pleasure on my shells. Then leaving me like a used rag. I just can’t help it. I had to have her in my arms. In my life.”
Oharu took a drink from her water bottle. Main Island was approaching quickly but they were going to the far side. To North Village. They would be fighting both current and tide at this hour and that would cost time. It was still a long trip and she was so tired. Tired and out there in the darkness it waited to feed upon her body again. That thing in her soul, that thing that had made even the touch of salt water an uneasy event. Her fear was doing nothing to steady her nerves. “Do you truly love her, Ada? Or just wish her body?.”
A short laugh came from the canine. “First time, when she was drunk. Her body. Oh yes that sweet delicious body. She was a prize, a rare prize I never expected to gain. Nothing more. But she was a prize that night that I could not get enough of. I could have forgotten her if she had left these islands then. Maybe. But I had a month to think about her. Watching her when I could. Honored Mother. I am in love with her. I am certain of that.”
“Your other lovers?”
Ada shrugged, defeated. “Yes, I have other lovers. Maybe I’m punishing myself. What else do you know about me?”
“What you have told me. What your friends spoke of while I drew you. Nothing more.”
“Oh. Oh yes. We did speak freely. I’m sorry Honored Mother. I thought you had been spying on me. That was petty of me. I’m truly sorry.”
“Oharu will do, I have yet to spend my night upon Sacred Island Ada. Until I am accepted I am not officially an Honored Mother. I do not think your favorite lady will desert you. She will understand, one night a month is impossible for any but a fool. Now I must explain to you the truth of Angelica. Her problem, her own difficulty.”
“Ada,” Angelica said in greeting, standing stiffly by the aircraft she had been busy inspecting and polishing, even though it was near midnight. She had been waiting Oharu’s return. Her boat Captain had understood and wished her good luck. She knew now that she would need it.
“Angelica.” Ada’s voice was the softer. From Oharu’s viewpoint it was obvious that Angelica was doing her best not to run away, while Ada wished only to run into the feline's arms. “You are cursed.”
“Yes. I... I apologize. I woke remembering everything. That last, the rings. It was more than I could withstand at one sitting,” the feline explained. “If it had not been for them I might have reacted differently. Perhaps. Perhaps not.”
“Oharu has so explained. She has explained everything. Even that each lunar month you will be the same. Have you chosen someone yet?”
“Why?” the blond beauty asked, absently striking an enticing pose. “You don’t like me anymore?”
Ada stepped back, looking first to Oharu then to her own paws. “Angelica Silfverlindh. Those words I said in that room are still true. I love you. My heart is yours. But I won’t touch you again. Not now. Not knowing the truth.” She shrugged, still looking down. “As much as I desire to do so. Never again. I’ve loved and lost before, what’s another time? It was just... Oh, hell, I wanted to know because I want to be here, and I can’t be.”
“Because, you silly fool... You don’t love me. Oharu said something about a past life being woken at the full moon. Angelica, I don’t want thirteen nights a year with you. I want every night. Every day. Every moment I want to be a part of your life, I want to share with you everything. I want to name our first daughter after you. That can’t happen.” She lifted her head, locking her eyes with the feline as she released the borrowed sheet she was wearing. It fell to the sand at her feet, leaving her in the paper thin nightshirt she normally wore to bed in Spontoon’s tropical heat. A nightshirt that soon joined the sheet. In the waning moons light there was nothing about the Songmark student left hidden. “Look at me Angelica. Look hard. You feel no desire, do you. No need to touch. No need to hold. I’m just another woman to you, aren’t I? Nothing worth a moment of your interest. No more than a mannequin that talks.”
Angelica did study Ada. In her memories she touched her, tasted her, smelled her. True, at this moment she had no physical interest in Ada Cronstein. Yet those memories were of a great shared pleasure. That was the crux of this problem; it had been shared pleasure. She hadn’t been forced or drugged. “You're right, Ada. I don’t want you. Not right now. But I will. Oharu explained that I have chosen you twice. Having freely done so, I would probably always choose you. I don’t know. After the New Moon I know I’ll start thinking that way again. Wanting to smell your scent, hear your voice. Touch you.”
She looked away, towards her beloved aircraft. “Ada. When the time comes I’ll take the first girl who says yes. God, I might even take one that says no, and that scares me. I’d rather it be you. I won’t live my life with you as your wife. I can’t be that. I don’t know how long this curse will be with me because its been changed by someone who scares even Oharu. I don’t know -- maybe we could try being friends? At least, when we’re not ripping each others' clothes off while this curse is on me. It isn’t just the full moon, Ada. As we approach the full moon I’m more and more interested. I’ll want to touch, to kiss. It fades the same way. And sex has nothing to do with sharing ones life anyway. Or true love. Oharu warned me that if she cannot find a way to release me, that after twelve months under this curse it will change me. I won’t become Sappho like you are. But I won’t care either way anymore. On any day. I’ve been under this curse almost three months now, counting when it was first bound to me. Do you really think one Priestess can save me in nine months?”
Oharu stepped away from the two, allowing them their own personal time. To her it was still evident that where Angelica was barely holding herself from running away from the canine, Ada was barely holding herself from running to the feline. Ada though now knew the truth. Knowing it, the mouse hoped that she would be able to deal with her disappointment. What the two would work out, she wasn’t yet certain, yet at the moment they were talking. From a distance of over ten feet, yes -- yet they were talking. And Angelica wasn’t looking away even though Ada was still buck-naked. Intending on keeping her eyes on the two in case she would have to intervene, Oharu found a date palm to lean her back against as she sat in the sand. She was tired, so tired. Within minutes she was asleep.
Asleep, to find herself not upon the dream-plane but upon the spirit-plane. “Who?” she asked, knowing that this journey had not been of her own making.
A form came from the mists, neither male nor female, yet quite pleasing to the eye. “Oharu Wei.”
Oharu bowed as deeply as she could without falling. “How may I serve you?” she asked, discovering that here her voice was again that sweet pure song of before her mutilation. A gift, or stark reminder of what she had lost. But why?
“You serve us well Oharu Wei. You serve as well as any can.” That spirit or God, for here it could be either, while appearing the other, settled upon a stone that appeared beside it. “You bring together Kama’s family. This is good.”
“Kama... She wished Angelica and Ada as her parents?”
“Oharu. Kama is still a child. A child who is... You know what Kama is. Why we dote upon her, though her form is mortal. If you did not, you would have touched that thread. Kama does need a family. In her child’s way, she has chosen whom she desires. Whom her own heart cries out to be her parents. To teach her the things all children must learn in order to grow.”
“Touch that thread and been forever bound to Angelica as she is bound to Ada.” Oharu noticed a stone appear beside her as silently as the first had appeared. Tactfully she settled upon it, for it was a fool who ignored a God's gift. No matter how small. “I would have fought that.”
“To have your heart burned to ash where you sat. We would not have liked losing such a servant as you, Oharu Wei. Your intelligence is more than we hoped. For when we approached your Gods we had hoped only for one that would help weave this land's rituals into a whole again. You have proven to be many times more than our greatest hope.”
“You turn my head. It is unseemly,” Oharu warned.
“You have no Honor, Oharu Wei. Thus you have no pride. At this moment nothing we say to you will endanger your usefulness to us. We feel that you must regain your Honor in order to be fully useful to she whom you will next serve. This we are aware. So we will make such possible. In the fullness of time.”
“You are aware of her fate. Her pride. Her selfishness. She now pays for that, as all pay for their ill actions. Perceived or not. Her payment is light. We have insured that she will not fully reach that point you so fear for her. Angelica has learned. A hard learning, yes; still she has opened her eyes. Protecting Kama’s pet is something she would not have done just two moons ago. Angelica is growing.”
“That thread?” Oharu asked.
“Will fade as Angelica becomes that which she should be.”
“This is good. May this one ask a question?”
Amusement struck her. No laughter, yet it was certain that the emotion was amusement. “You have asked many questions already. Still... We see this is one that you feel important. Ask.”
“Angelica was Lady so long ago. Now she is not. Her love was a Warrior. I feel her love near, yet cannot locate her.”
“Think Oharu Wei. What warrior is in Angelica’s life now?”
“There are no female warriors in Angelica’s village.” She stopped speaking, her mouth falling open as amusement struck her again. “Shark Hunter?”
“No Oharu Wei. Another comes for Shark Hunter. Very soon. Sadly this will break many hearts, Angelica’s, especially, as she is pulled towards him. You are too close to the problem to see the answer. It is Ada who was her warrior Lady before, and Ada who should have been her Warrior Lady in this life. As Molly should have been yours. We refuse to meddle in our followers' lives, with very few exceptions. Thus what must be must be. You have lost Molly, Angelica will not marry Ada. This is as it is, in this life. Now, though our favorite mouse, you are no longer to refer to yourself as Priestess-in-Training. Else a certain mortal mouse will feel our displeasure. You must also allow Angelica to discover this secret upon her own.”
“I shall. Still. I have yet to spend my night upon Sacred Island,” the mouse reminded that which was before her.
“For all that matters, this is your night on Sacred Island, Priestess. We will see you again, in the coming of time. As we see all, judge all, who wish to serve us. We fear that there is not time enough for your ritual meeting with us. Events unfold too quickly for such luxuries at this time. Now we have an instruction for you. Once you have returned Ada to her place, you will withdraw from observing Angelica, though you may visit her as much as you desire. You may be her friend, should you wish. Yet in no way may you protect her. You have performed your task. Your students have performed their task. Now there are other tasks for you. This village’s Priestess will care for Angelica’s needs, now.”
Abruptly the figure became serious. “We have great need for you, Oharu Wei. We have great tasks for you. Each could be your ending. Each is important. You may live a day, a month, or a full life. Yes. We are aware of the manner of your passing from your present body. We are aware that you will not rest, but return to serve again and again. As you have too many times to count. We are aware of your life thread. Its full length, its ending. This we will not tell you.”
“I serve. Thus I am happy,” Oharu admitted.
“Yes. That one finds simply being a servant such a pleasure in all her lives. We think that we shall give you your doe...”
“NO!” Oharu screamed without thinking, standing from her stone. Almost instantly she was thrown to the misty ground by a power she could no more defeat than an ant could defeat a battle cruiser.
“YOU WILL NOT....” Thundered through her entire being. Silence followed, long and cold silence while Oharu fought for breath under the crushing pressure. “We see. You love her that much?” That voice was again soft, though Oharu still could not move.
“You are aware...”
Oharu gasped a bit of air into crushed lungs. “Yes,” she admitted. “I love her this much.”
Abruptly the pressure vanished, as did that figure. Struggling to her feet Oharu found the stone still waiting. Carefully she settled upon it, feeling pain lance through her chest as she breathed. Through her entire body as she tried to move. ‘Fool’ she thought. ‘To argue with the Gods.’ Her thoughts, though, changed nothing. To protect Molly, even from her own love, the mouse was well aware that she would die before forcing a whisper of thought upon the doe.
“What will be, will be,” that voice announced from around her. “We have looked upon the future between you two. You still refuse to accept her love in payment for your service to us?”
“I so refuse,” the mouse answered, feeling her body begin shivering in fear of her actions.
“Then you are truly a Priestess. We accept what will be, though you could be surprised when that future unfolds. Or not. This secret we withhold from you until its coming. We welcome you fully within our fold as a beloved and needed servant. No rules of restrainment now hold you other than those you place upon yourself. Go, Priestess. But know this, Oharu Wei. Should you anger us again, your futures will not be comfortable ones. For a very, very long time.”
Oharu woke to the dark of early morning. Her body was sore, as sore as though she had been beaten again. She shivered, not from the cold but from her own actions. Arguing with Great Stone Glen's spirit was one thing. Saying 'No' to a God was... Madness. Pure madness. For it had been a God, not a Spirit she had spoken so glibly with. This she was now certain. She had won, but felt no greater for having done so. It had been pure luck she had not died right then. Had she what those Texans called a luck-bucket, hers was now missing its base. Even as she thought this, the knowledge that she had spoken to a God, not a spirit, faded from her mind. No mortal could remain sane knowing that they had truly spoken to a God. No mortal included the mouse herself.
Voices caught her attention, bringing her from her thoughts. Angelica and Ada were still talking, but they were not talking about each other. Ada was still in her fur, now sitting on the sheet she had been loaned by their water taxi pilot.
“I still need much money for Silver Angel’s care” Angelica was saying.
Ada’s answer was the same of almost all Songmark students. “I haven’t enough to spare. Not even for that. Not even for you, my... Friend.”
Struggling to her feet, finding that they had swollen and were extremely difficult to balance upon, Oharu made her way to the two young women. As she so did she was pleased to note that they were much closer together. Still several feet apart, but no longer was one ready to bolt while the other pounced even though the hound was as naked as the day she was born. “Money?” she asked as she settled down again, saddened slightly to hear her torn voice back. For the gift of her birth voice, she knew now that she would willingly pay a high price for its healing, were it offered.
“To care for Silver Angel,” Angelica explained. “Barnacles and seaweed now grow upon her floats. Corrosion is eating into her metal. Without turning her engines at least once a month her bearings will flatten. I need to find covered storage for her, clean fuel, and new oil. All that is just a start.”
“How much?” the mouse asked.
Ada gave her a number. “That’s a month,” the canine explained, noting Oharu’s stunned look of shock.
“So much for single aircraft?”
“High performance,” Ada explained, the hound seemingly surprised that Oharu did not already know this. “Delicate equipment, constant care, and very expensive oils.”
“I could not pay more than month's cost,” Oharu admitted. “Were I give every coin for a year. I cannot help you. You see, Priestess’s have little. Certainly little money.”
“You might in another way,” Angelica explained. “That poster you made of me, Ada tells me it is exceptionally popular.”
“There no money. You gave publishing rights.”
“True, Oharu. But you are a Master artist, and Ada tells me that there are rumors that I was kidnapped. I do not wish to demand money from my own father, no. Embarrass him, yes. Teach him that I am now a woman in my own right. No longer to be ordered about as he wishes. But beg or steal from him? No. Simply by asking him, he would give it, then have me dragged back to his horrid banana company, still not understanding that I am an adult now. There is a way we think. Ada thought of this. I wish to very much repay my father for his unintended abuse. I love him greatly, I would never do anything to really hurt him. There is, though, his using me as his company model when he knew I could not bear his product. For releasing that poster, now I can not walk the streets of Copenhagen without catcalls. My reputation, such as it was, is destroyed forever. I want to offer you a project. I wish to repay him a very small amount of the pain, the humiliation, he has given me. Yet only a very small amount. This time.”
“That being?” Oharu asked carefully. “For my free time limited.”
Angelica and Ada stood, the naked Ada moving closer to the feline. This was an action that surprised Oharu. Taking Angelica’s paws in her own Ada held them behind the feline, forcing Angelica into a pose that looked a bit painful, forcing her chest forward as though offering it to the world. It abruptly made the feline appear very desirable even to Oharu, who no longer had interest in the feline.
“ 'Angelica, slave to the Fire Queen' ” the feline announced. “A twenty-four plate series of a certain feline's fall into horrid slavery. A High Society European reduced to some crazed native's sexual play toy. It is a very popular fantasy in Europe at this time, becoming more desirable in certain circles since the publishing of that Harem book.”
Ada then carefully released Angelica, stepping away though obviously not wanting too. “Very adult,” the canine continued. “Released to the blue market. It should sell well enough to keep Silver Angel in oil and fuel for a while. At least until I graduate.”
“This what you both wish?” the mouse asked.
“It is the best idea we could come up with,” Angelica admitted. “You have perhaps a better one?”
“This I can do. I be most honest with you both. This not style art I like work with. Yet you in need. To be honest, I also require money. Live in these lean times between tourist seasons. I have three students support. Angelica, I must see you naked. As Ada is now,” Oharu admitted. “It take three weeks. Perhaps four. You wish large plates?”
“As large as you can manage,” Ada agreed. “For a portfolio that over-rich, aged, old overweight males will hide in their dark libraries. To withdraw to in the evening with a bottle of Port and their paid lady-of-the-night. I’ll talk with my dorm mates. I think we can come up with the needed funds to start this. But they will want a share of any profits.”
Oharu stood again, brushing the sand off her clothing as she withdrew her ever-present sketch pad from her shoulder bag. “That is between you partners, this endeavor. For myself, my charge: Twenty shells each drawing. The why: Doing this take all my drawing time. My other drawings will suffer. I must support myself, three students. Of course my fee too high -- there many other artists Spontoon. Almost all grasp this commission eager paws. I certainly understand.”
“Four hundred and eighty shells? At one time?” Ada gasped.
“If only twenty-four plates. I accept one hundred shells when turn over completed work. You pay rest in two months.”
“If we fail to pay?” Angelica asked.
Oharu looked to the two girls, running through her options. “I will demand money from Songmark.”
Ada actually turned white under her fur. “How about I just sell myself to Krupmark first?” she stammered.
Oharu looked hard at the hound. She was serious, the mouse finally decided. “That your choice. Is contract accepted?”
In answer Angelica let her own lava-lava fall to the sand, causing an involuntary gasp from Ada. “What do I need to do, Priestess?” the feline asked
“Simply turn, move into positions,” Oharu answered. “Let Ada hold you, though -- captive. Kiss you once. Twice. I must see how bodies move together; how look together. I memorize most what must know. Sketch rest. This be noticeable yourself?”
“Impossible for father not to know who it is,” the feline answered, glancing at Ada nervously. “Or anyone who has ever seen that poster. They will know that I am enslaved, and that Ada is my Fire Queen.”
Ada however remained silent now, drinking in the beauty of Angelica. Her Angelica. Between her own breasts, her tailfast ring felt like a firebrand. She so wanted this woman. Not for an hour or a day. For her entire life. Her life and beyond. With tears in her eyes she turned away from the view a few moments, collecting herself. Once a month, at best twice. Could her heart stand this? For the first time Ada was certain she knew how Oharu felt about Molly. Knew, and wondered how such pain could be endured for so long. Then she turned around and followed Oharu’s careful instructions. Even so, it was a test not to take Angelica fully into her arms then and there.
Eventually Oharu indicated that Angelica could dress. “I will start,” she agreed. “When return home. Now most important thing. Ada?”
Ada gave a wan smile that was less than she wanted to give. “Yes, Oharu?”
“Dress. Use sheet as lava-lava. We now speak Mrs. Popoluma. She waits with breakfast. Angelica must have home, for Kama has taken her as mother. Taken you, too, I think.”
“Kama? The kid? But... I’m not ready to have kids!” the canine stammered.
Oharu shrugged as though in defeat. “You wish Angelica. You see if can live with good and bad. Kama is nice girl. She needs care, she is not like other children. She is Spirit Child. Very difficult to raise. Allowing her wander uncared for. Ada, is that what you mean by marriage? By love? Want only Angelica? Not her burdens?”
“No. No, of course it isn’t.” Taking a deep breath, Ada’s paw lifted to her own tailfast ring as she looked to Angelica. “For you, I’ll do it. All my life. Even if for only one night a month in your arms.”
“Then I bless tailfast rings. If is your desire,” the mouse announced.
“Here? Now?” Both women asked.
Oharu managed a tiny smile of her own, even through her exhaustion. “Rituals are that: Rituals. They are formalized results age-old practices. They not law, thus be modified as need calls. A ritual be created by anyone, such brushing teeth every morning. It simply something that been done so long none remember original reason. Do you wish this?” Oharu knew Ada’s answer, it was Angelica who’s voice she listened for.
“I think it best,” the feline agreed after a short time. “But... It is true that a woman may have both a wife and husband?”
“As male may have both wife and husband, two wives, more -- as is able to support equally” Oharu answered. “Though truth such houses not common, they not rare either.”
For a long while the feline thought over her potential future. “Then, yes. I would think this best,” Angelica finally decided. “Ada, this is an engagement. Not a marriage. If we are not able to find a common ground, then please do not be angered should I return this tailfast ring to you. If we do find common ground,” the Swedish woman blushed in the waning moonlight. “I can think of no other woman I would accept that way than you.”
“Better than I could have ever hoped for,” the American admitted. She looked to Oharu. “I accept fully my love's desires. What do we do?”
“Many will be saddened, Honored Mother” Mrs. Popoluma told Oharu as she served the mouse pineapple juice. “So many wanted her.” She was speaking Spontoon, as Oharu had indicated her preference for that language earlier.
Accepting the juice, Oharu tasted it. Fresh, as it had been made for breakfast. Tart, as she loved it. “Angelica has accepted Ada,” she explained. “This is still a test, for Ada must still prove that she can accept Angelica as she is. Kama too. Then there is this truth: Angelica wishes a husband. She looks to Shark Hunter.”
Mrs. Popoluma eased her considerable bulk onto the matted floor of her home. “Many sweet eyes have fallen upon Shark Hunter. He has never chosen. He does still play.”
“Ah!” Oharu said after swallowing her poi. “Then other males may have a chance. Does the thought of Ada joining your family bother you?”
“No, Honored Mother. I have given a daughter to a Euro before. She now lives in Italy, though from her last letter she does not much like what that country has become. I have several grandchildren from her already. Her husband is a very virile male.”
Oharu laid a paw over her own stomach, feeling its pleasure at learning her throat had not been cut as it had so feared. “It is my thought that Angelica will give you many grandchildren as well,” she remarked. “Though we both are aware than Spontoon will never be her lasting home. Sweden is her home. I would enjoy her as long as I had her, were I you.”
“Oh, I shall Honored Mother!” Mrs. Popoluma agreed. “I will see that a small longhouse is started for her. Taking Kama into her arms is a great gift to our village. And she does work hard now. As hard as most girls. Honored Mother. When she arrived she was harsh. Now she has softened. You are certain she will not remain here forever? It would be a great pleasure to watch my grandchildren grow.”
Oharu turned her eyes to the small fire within the longhouse. Understanding what the Priestess was doing Mrs. Popoluma remained still. For some time the mouse searched that fire for an answer. “She will leave, then darkness comes. Watch for her, for she will return with her child to the protection she feels these islands will give her. Yet, when the darkness passes fully she will again leave. Returning yes, but Sweden is her home. It is her heart. Just as this land, this village is your heart.”
“Thank you Honored Mother. I had not expected such from you.”
“I but serve,” Oharu answered. “You did ask, it was such a little question.” She yawned then, a jaw cracking yawn that could not he hidden with both paws though she tried. “I must return Ada to her place, then home myself. I will have a long day today I think. Your Priestess will enfold Angelica within her arms. I will return yes, but only to visit. I have been informed that she is no longer my responsibility. I may aid her in no further way.”
She yawned again. Her fire search had drained the last of her energy. It was with surprise that Oharu found she could not stand. In fact, could not rise from her place. “May I lean upon a pole, to rest?” she asked.
“You will have a bed, Honored Mother,” Mrs. Popoluma announced. Turning around she switched to English for a moment. “Angelica. Ada. Help Honored Mother to pallet,” she ordered, breaking the two from their conversation.
“Thank You.” Oharu managed before sleep enveloped her. She barely felt the two women lift her. She never felt her body laid upon Angelica’s own waiting pallet. It would be late afternoon before she woke.
“Thank you, Honored Mother,” Ada said as the water taxi approached Eastern Island. “I never dreamed...”
“You dreamed” Oharu corrected. “You hoped. Even as I still do. Without dream we are nothing. You could never believe.”
Ada threw up her paws in surrender. “Is there anything about me you don’t understand?” she asked.
“Ada. You and I shared a common problem. Yours is now a possibility. Mine, never. It is simple to understand one who is so like oneself. What name will you take, should you marry her?”
“Silfverlindh,” Ada answered. “Cronstein is a good name, yes. I would be a fool though not to accept a name that would open more doors of commerce to me. I’ve already asked her, she’s said yes. I will have to inform Songmark.”
“You would make a good Jew,” the mouse decided, repeating what Ada had said to her earlier.
“I am a good Jew,” Ada corrected. “And proud of it. Besides, I like the name Silfverlindh. I am simply worried that I won’t pan out. That I won’t be able to be what Angelica needs. And Kama. Oh my. When she looks at you its like she’s looking into your soul.”
“She is,” Oharu admitted.
“She... Then... Oh my. I do take on the impossible dream don’t I?”
“Not to dream. That would be a death of a kind. Would it not? And your education?”
“Oh... Yes. Oh my. I am in a fix, aren’t I?”
Ada let a paw drift through the water as she thought -- it was something that her mouse companion could never do again.... “It's not going to be an easy thing to work out,” she admitted. “After what the Rotes did, and now myself. Oh, this is scary Honored Mother. It isn’t as easy as I thought life would be.”
“Such is the spice that makes life worth living,” Oharu agreed.
“Honored Mother. Will it work?”
Oharu shook her head no. “Do not ask me this. Ask your Rabbi. It is not my place to answer that question. Nor could I without great effort. Even so, it would be no more than an educated guess. With the coming darkness, all paths are twisted. Should she gather Shark Hunters heart... Should he die, she could not survive without you. You will give me your oath you will care for Angelica and Kama?”
“I give you my oath I’ll die protecting them.”
“I prefer you do not do so. It would hurt Angelica more than she yet understands, to see your lifeless body. You are part of her life now. You will become more, if you pass this test of love. Ah, we are arrived. I will pay the pilot, then we will see if you are still a Songmark student, or simply a wife-to-be. I will speak to Songmark for you... This time.”
Oharu could not quite know the joy those last words gave Ada, though in truth she did understand somewhat. Which was why she said them in the first place. It was late afternoon, not quite twenty hours since the little mouse had dragged her companion from Songmark’s gates.
“Why should I allow her to return to class?” the yellow-furred hound called Miss Devinski, asked through the sealed gate.
“I am asking for this,” Oharu answered. “As sister to sister. Please.”
“You ask. Does she ask?”
Ada stepped between Oharu and Miss Devinski, though the fence still separated her from her instructor. “Please Miss Devinski. If you want I’ll grovel in the dirt and beg, I will. Here and now;. I want to come back to class.”
Cocking her head, the yellow furred hound studied her student. “You’ve changed. Not much, but you have.”
“I’m tailfast to Angelica Silfverlindh,” Ada admitted. “I’ve responsibilities now. Kama depends upon us both.”
“A village child, Miss Devinski. A Spirit Child. She hasn’t any parents so Angelica decided to take care of her.”
“I see. Return to your Dorm, Miss Cronstein. No demerits, but you will catch up on your studies. After a full-night's sleep.”
Smiling Ada reached for the fence, only to have Oharu’s paw stop her. “It is unlocked,” the mouse announced.
“It is locked!” Miss Devinski argued, though there was a twinkle in her eyes. “I checked it myself.”
Looking first to her instructor, then to the Priestess, Ada shrugged. Nothing ventured... Walking to the gate she pushed on it, oddly unsurprised when it opened without more than a whisper of sound. Looking to Oharu in amazement, she stepped through, closing the gate behind her.
Ada looked back to Oharu. “Yes, Honored Mother?”
“You no longer need a guide on Main Island, though Sacred Island is still denied you. For now.”
“Thank you, Honored Mother.” With a curtsy to Miss Devinski, something not easily done in a form fitting lava-lava made from a sheet, Ada hurried to her waiting dorm and the hard bed within it.
Once Ada had left, Oharu turned to go, only to be stopped by Miss Devinski’s voice. “I’m not going to ask you how you did that,”: the hound admitted. “I find she likes you, after returning the daughter.”
“It was never locked,” Oharu answered, returning to her place to speak.
“It was locked. I checked.”
“You saw what you wished to see.”
“And the squeak?”
“Squeak?” the mouse asked. “Are you being speciest, now, my little pet?” Oharu gave the larger and older hound a knowing smile. “Must I parade you through North Village with a collar and nothing else?”
“No” Miss Devinski laughed. “That gate is designed to squeak when it opens. It always has.”
Oharu looked at the gate. “Then you must not have heard it.”
Frustrated Miss Devinski walked to the gate, to find it locked. Taking out her key she unlocked it, then opened it. A squeak that could be heard across the compound answered her actions. Stepping outside the compound she walked over to her visitor. “Suitably impressed,” she admitted. She turned to look back at the mound in the center of Songmarks land. A mound that was nothing but a mound, except for the right people. “You're as good as I am, it seems. She likes you way too much, little mouse.”
“Should I get collar and leash now?” Oharu asked, “I could ask her to give you to me.” There was, though, humor in her voice.
“Collar and leash?” Miss Devinski shook her head no. “Only for Molly. She’s digging herself deeper Oharu. I’m afraid that one day and soon she is going to need the Seventh Calvary to come to her rescue. Will you?”
“Her needs are my needs,” the mouse admitted. “I will deny her none of my skills, my talents.”
“Then I will endeavor to keep you informed of her life. As best I can. Oharu, I have a question.”
Oharu cocked her own head for a moment. “We will never be a couple,” she answered. “Mrs. Whitehall now holds your heart. I have lost my opportunity, I much fear. For myself, this is a great loss. I will never lead my pet on collar and leash. Mrs. Whitehall would not permit it. For Ada, she has accepted the name Silfverlindh. This makes her part of the Popoluma family. Even should Angelica and Ada not marry, Ada is now a Spontoon citizen. I would not tell her of this thing, though. Not until she needs.”
“Oh my...” Throwing her paws into the air the hound looked past Oharu for a moment. “More paperwork. More name changes. Still that isn’t the question you... You... Oh, hell! What do you get out of all this? Helping my girls. Bringing Henrika back to us. All you have done... What do you get out of all this?”
Reaching out, Oharu gently laid her right paw over one of the hound's. “Truth. Truth, Catherine. My life is to serve. To serve is my greatest pleasure. I have always served. I have always wanted to serve. Doing so is my reward. Nothing else. I want nothing else, I need nothing else.”
“Lies!” the hound snapped, keeping her voice low. “You want Molly. You need Molly. It’ll destroy you one day if you don’t get her. Still you break your back helping people like Ada and that Swedish woman who would never have come to you. I’ll accept the 'serve' thing, but Oharu. Never. Never lie to me about what you need. What you desire. Not when it comes to that doe. Not ever. I won’t stand for lies. Especially not from someone who lies so badly.”
“She will pass. Barring something unforeseen, all third-years pass. We have only had one third year fail, and her failure even you could not have kept from occurring. She is well, she’s still in love with Lars. He will be her downfall, but I am sworn not to interfere with my students' decisions. But understand me, Honored Mother. This I swear. If I discover that Lars had anything to do with Henrika’s destruction I will skin him alive myself. Even if it does get me the short end of a rope, or a swim in certain waters.”
“Do not do so on Songmark grounds. She would be angered beyond calming,” Oharu warned. “Never take that swim; I will always stand for you. I must go now, I am needed elsewhere.” She removed her paw, looking past the hound to a certain dorm for a moment.
“You didn’t correct me when I called you Honored Mother,” the hound noted abruptly.
“You made no error,” the mouse admitted.
“Congratulations. And Oharu. Don’t stop flirting with me. Nothing will ever happen of it, your right. Helen has caught my heart. But I do enjoy it. Honestly.”
“Then when you are upon the slave block I shall bid for you,” Oharu decided. “An old broken-down hound, whose body is no longer young, should be a bargain. Five, six-shells at most. Less that a collar and leash. Good night, Catherine. We will speak again.”
Miss Devinski watched the mouse walk away into the late evening light. “Oh, we will speak again,” she whispered. “I just don’t think I’m going to be any more happy about it than this time.” When the mouse was no longer in sight she too returned to her duties.
Spontoon Island webpages ©2011 Ken Fletcher
All rights revert to the contributors - their collaborative contributions
are ©2011 Simon Barber, ©2011 David Reese Dorrycott,
& ©2011 Fredrik K T Andersson - rights reserved include story characters.
Contact the contributors for permissions.
Angelica Silfverlindh ne Popoluma, Kama, are characters by Fredrick Andersson.
Used with permission.
Ada Cronstein, Miss Devinski, Popoluma household, Songmark
characters by Simon Barber. Used with permission.
complete "Stranded Angel" story
is at Reese Dorrycott's [Mature] archive website:
Check his "Stories" page under the new title:
"Tales of Spontoon"