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Stranded Angel
Autumn 1936
Part 12
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.

Little Kama and her 'Pet' - from Stranded Angel, by Andersson, Barber, & Dorrycott - Art by Fredrik Andersson
*  Little Kama and Pet 'Sea Cucumber'  *
Self-proclaimed daughter of Angelica and Ada. Here holding her strange pet.

Stranded Angel
  Autumn 1936

Part 12
by Simon Barber

A story of Angelica Silferlindh, from Freddy Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip
and other characters by Freddy Andersson;
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott

and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Art by Simon Barber & Freddy Andersson

Angelica Silvferlindh had been through a lot since she arrived on Spontoon. She had been a castaway, a pearl diver, an international smuggler (or at least paid by them) and a night-shift fishing girl. All this was hard enough to take, but she was a modern, fiercely independent young lady and she had handled everything that fate had thrown at her.

“Most girls at least have some advanced warning they’re going to be a housewife and a mother,” her fine tail trembled as she stood at the edge of the village. “Not me.”

Kama giggled, the four-year old kitten looking up at her keenly. She tugged at the hem of Angelica’s lavalava skirt. “Home!”

At the edge of the village was a brand-new longhouse, its thatch still unstained by the smoke of cooking fires. It was the minimal size for a new family; such buildings tended to grow in segments when families needed the extra room. That very noontime it had been finished and officially blessed by Missy Pohovic, the village’s equine Priestess and older brother of the Constable Angelica had kept a wary eye on since her highly unofficial arrival.

“Home?” Angelica felt a strange feeling running through her stomach. Since arriving in these islands her one desire had been to get away from them as fast as possible. She would have done anything to escape. Her tail twitched, and she blushed. If the smuggler Jan van der Veldt had guaranteed to get her and her Silver Angel away the month before – she would have done just about anything for him. Her tail twitched at the thought. Certainly, her curse could have been a lot worse than being willingly in Ada’s arms once a month. Ada was famously attracted to haughty, aloof ladies; Angelica shivered, recognising her own behaviour. Had the curse been an irresistible attraction to powerful, uncaring males, Angelica realised she might already have a kitten on the way and none of them would care.

Looking down, she met Kama’s gaze. “It is getting late,” she admitted “We’ll go home now.”

Inside, the villagers had generously stocked the palm-thatched house with the basics. There were two fire-pits, one of them a small, deep one meant for winter warmth and holding a deep ember bed rather than the spread-out cooking pit. The shallower one had an unlit fire all ready with driftwood stacked handily, and baskets of fruit were at hand together with a small covered basket of freshly caught fish.

Angelica’s own stomach rumbled. She was decidedly hungry herself after a day spent setting up the house. For a second she hesitated. She had been eating out of cans on her trip over from Sweden, using the patented heater that tapped near-boiling water off the radiator and piped it into a cooker in the control panel. Apart from that - she realised it had been a very long time since she had cooked anything from raw ingredients. It must have been back in England at Saint Winifred’s more than a year ago, she realised with a shock, remembering her final Home Economics exam.

“Fish pie,” she mused, recalling the recipe that best suited the ingredients she had. “Cut up the fish fillets ... poach in a bain-marie for three and a half minutes with a white wine and vinegar sauce. Make up a pastry with four ounces lard and ten ounces white flour, knead and roll out on marble pastry slab … line a Number Six baking tray with it and cook at Gas Mark Six in a pre-heated oven for twenty-five minutes to ready before adding fish filling. Bake an additional nine minutes at Gas Mark eight, sealing pastry with milk and egg glaze.” She smiled. Being able to recall the precise instructions had given her a better mark than many English girls who had learned to cook at their Mother’s side. Exams tested what exams wanted to see; improvising to make it closer to your family’s favourite recipe, was a sure recipe for a failing mark.

She frowned. It was a pity there was no bain-marie, weighing scales or marble pastry slab, let alone a well regulated gas cooker. Native food was primitive though, and should present no problems to a girl who could strip and reassemble an aircraft engine in the dark.

Lighting the fire took longer than expected, and gutting the fish was messier. She was at least used to that with her pearl fishing and oyster opening. The wood was dry but somehow refused to burn without smoke, and one side of the fire kept going out entirely. Angelica’s ears dipped as she concentrated. Mama Popoluma never had this kind of problem. Grabbing an armful of firewood, she dropped it in the fire pit as she turned to reach the rest of the ingredients.

“I wonder if that’s exactly Gas Mark Six?” she wondered, as the flames rose higher.

“Fish?” Half an hour later, a small kitten was looking at a sooty-faced Angelica, an expectant expression on her face. She sneezed a small sneeze in the smoke that billowed through the longhouse.

“Ehh...” Angelica’s ears dipped in embarrassment, hiding the burned skeleton behind her back. “Why don’t you start with some fruit, Kama, while I do some special fish just for you?” She had one more left of the first day’s supply that the villagers had given her. A hollow feeling was in her stomach that was more than hunger. It’s up to me now, she realised as her ears dipped. Kama adopted us, me and Ada. We’re her parents, for now. And I can’t even feed her. Ada would be visiting at the weekend, which would be good. Just having someone with a “Euro” background and a love of flying to talk to would be a welcome change. However friendly the locals tried to be, there was no getting around the fact that she had very little in common with them.

The second attempt was nearly as disastrous as the first. She recalled her Father’s maid back in Sweden, a vivacious feline who wore huge round glasses and had an unwavering enthusiasm for the family product – she could rapidly throw together a five-course meal involving bananas in every dish. “Crisp on the outside, succulent on the inside!” Had been her happy description of her new banana cakes that the Silvferlindh Company was experimenting with adding to the firm’s product line the week Angelica left. Angelica had thought more than once her Father should have adopted the maid as a family member; she might have been happy to be a poster-child for the company.

Burned on the outside, raw on the inside, is more like it. Angelica found a thin layer of more-or-less cooked fish in the middle, scraped it off and managed to half fill Kama’s small bowl. There was none left over for herself – and then the traditional first day’s food was all gone.

Kama finished the bowl and yawned, wriggling over to rest her head in Angelica’s lap. The fire had died to embers, and it was growing dark outside. Over in the Popoluma household it would be time for the kittens to be put to bed, with Mama P nursing her youngest by the fire while the older kittens cleaned and polished the coconut bowls used in the evening meal.

Angelica’s snout wrinkled as she looked at the cutlery and bowls, presented to her brand new that day but already black and sticky with greasy burned fish. She would have to wash those herself in the morning, before they could eat.

“Happy.” Kama snuggled into Angelica’s lap. The kitten wriggled comfortably. She could have found a welcome in any of the longhouses; this was where she had chosen.

Angelica found herself combing the long dark head-fur. With a twinge, she realised that Kama was the same age she had been when she had lost her mother in the shipwreck. She had lost a mother, and Kama now had gained one – or two, depending on the definition. Her gaze dropped down to the silver locket that always hung at her throat, now joined with the Tailfast ring of her fur and Ada’s blended to one. The silver locket had her parents’ portraits inside, and she opened it in the firelight to look over her mother’s image.

Kama looked up at Angelica’s face, at her expression and down at the locket. She fixed her gaze on the portrait of Angelica’s mother.

“That’s mother – I suppose, she’s now your grandmother. This could get complicated.” Angelica’s tail twitched. She had been trying to get away from these islands so long – and according to Oharu, some of that curse was already gone. What if Kama removed the rest of it? She imagined starting up her beloved Silver Angel, then looking back at the beach. There would be a small figure waiting there, looking at her departing – a small figure going back to an empty house and a cold fire-pit.

Her ears dipped. Kama would love the flight back to Sweden, if she took her with her. But then what? She imagined trying to explain it to her Father and the rest of the family, and what might happen if they refused to accept Kama. Spontoon did not have orphanages – Sweden did. Her tail fluffed out, as she made a silent promise to herself and Kama. That was not going to happen.

She hugged Kama tight. Picking the kitten up, she carried her to the sleeping mats, warmed in the glow of the embers. Most of the smoke from the fish had gone up, fortunately. Telling herself she would need to get up early to clean her new “kitchen”, Angelica slept.

Angelica dreamed. She remembered the great storm, being washed overboard with her father when the ship hit a reef and broke up – and she remembered that last sight of her mother being carried out to sea, lit by the fitful moonlight. It was a dream that had never really left her, playing like a stuck film loop.

Suddenly, the dream changed. The viewpoint shifted, and instead of Angelica seeing one figure washed away in the storm, she saw herself and her father vanishing towards a razor-edged reef. Anita Silvferlindh was caught in a fierce current the far side of the coral reef from her mate and kitten, and vanished into the night and darkness.

When dawn came there was a beach, a small island with natives tending to a castaway who had arrived more dead than alive. Some of them had basic first aid training, enough to bandage the head wounds the blonde-furred feline had taken being flung against the rocks and corals. Anita was looking around with a rather puzzled expression, rather than passionately gesturing for rescue boats, radio broadcasts for help or other urgent pleas that an isolated village would hardly be up to anyway.

More scenes followed. The island was tiny and only a temporary stop for ocean travellers – there was a pair of ocean-crossing traditional Polynesian family canoes pulled up on the far side. In a few days the natives departed, two extended families of spotted jungle cats now joined by a Swedish feline wearing the same costume. Anita had always been a respectable and impeccably dressed lady, and surely would have never consented to wear Polynesian undress even if her original clothes had been ruined in the shipwreck. It was very strange.

Another island came into view, this one larger, but further out into the ocean, weeks of sailing away. There was a permanent settlement there, but no sign of “Euro” influence; no trading post or mission. Like a silent film, shots of Anita repeating words and gestures like a child. The bandage was gone from her head, but she still rubbed it with an absent-minded expression very unlike her usual composed self. She smiled a lot though, especially when she pressed her paw to her swelling belly. Fish and poi were her meals, which she ate willingly as if she could remember no other food and no other way of life. Yet she had dearly hated poi, on the trip with her family across the Pacific.

There was a long succession of scenes of island life; years passed. Then there was one last scene like a summary; a jungle clearing with a well-tended garden plot and a longhouse that had obviously been extended several times. Anita was there dressed in Native costume, older but still slim and attractive, working the taro patch with a younger girl who looked very like Angelica had when arriving in England for the fourth form at Saint Winifred’s. There were other kittens who played nearby but looked up to her as their mother; a younger boy and two girls who were not as similar – their fur patterning was decidedly more like a jungle cat. Judging by the blue eyes three of them had inherited, these kittens were not adopted.

Angelica awoke with a start, the dream crystal-clear in her mind. “It can’t be.” She looked around; it was the middle of the night and the fire-pit held only a few embers. She shivered. It was only a dream, after all. Her night-wide eyes looked around the still unfamiliar hut.

“It’s not so surprising,” she told herself, settling down again and trying to get back to sleep. “What with getting this hut – and Kama - and becoming Tailfast – and thinking about Mother.” Her ears drooped. “Of course I’d have a dream with all that mixed together.” She had never believed in prophetic dreams. She had never believed in curses either, but now acknowledged her life was currently shaped by one. Just for a minute, she allowed herself to relax and run with the dream. If that had really happened … what then? Would she have a mother who no longer remembered her, but had built a new life with no memories of the past, speaking now only Spontoonie or whatever Polynesian dialect her new family had? Considering the alternative that she had drowned that night sixteen years ago – that was not such a bad thing. Just to meet her, to see she was well and happy no matter if her mother’s memories had never returned – that would be all Angelica could really ask for. Returning her to the family in Sweden with a plane load of mixed kittens would have problems of its own.

She relaxed, feeling a small shape snuggle against her back for warmth as Kama moved in her sleep. In minutes, she was fast asleep again.

Over the water in Songmark a few hours later, Ada Cronstein was dressed in her best third-year uniform with her fur brushed till it gleamed. Not to meet Angelica (worse luck, she thought) but for a rather more daunting interview.

“Well.” Miss Devinski looked over her desk, having read through the detailed proposal Ada had submitted as to the Silver Angel’s future “I can see you’ve put some thought into this.” She nodded slowly. “I won’t ask where you’re getting the money for hangar rental and initial maintenance; the answer might upset my digestion. Explain exactly what benefit we get out of it.”

“Yes Ma’m!” Ada was stood at attention; there was a comfy-looking chair on her side of the desk but no student ever sat in that office. “The Silver Angel is currently in need of some restoration; it will need a range of specialist procedures. All Songmark aircraft are kept in top condition, so we don’t get the chance there. We’ve worked on battered bush pilot aircraft they occasionally get in for practical classes at Superior Engineering, but we need more practice. And when that’s completed – it’s a unique aircraft. Very different from anything else we’ve got in the hangars, even the Sea Osprey. It will help fill the log books of our students.”

“Hmm.” The yellow-furred hound raised an eyebrow. “We already have Miss Bourne-Phipps’ “Sand Flea” to look after as a semi-official project. We’re not in the business of running an aircraft garage for friends and relations of our students.”

Ada felt as if the Tailfast ring around her neck was growing heavier. “It’s a much higher specification than the Sea Osprey, Ma’m,” she drew in her breath, aware that what she was about to say would be very dangerous. “The Swedish Navy use a variant for torpedo bombing. Apparently they can convert it very easily.”

Miss Devinski said nothing for a minute. Then she stood, leaning over the desk until her nose almost touched Ada’s. “If I hear you’ve discussed that with anyone outside your dorm – Ada Cronstein – or is it Silfverlindh, or Popoluma these days? You’d better hope your friend Angelica has a longhouse big enough for two on Main Island, because you won’t be here any longer.”

“No Ma’m.” Ada’s fur bristled on the back of her neck, but she held firm and stood her ground. “Assuming just for the sake of argument that we ever were interested in using it for that sort of training – we could load the conversion kit and … testing equipment aboard the Sea Osprey, fly them both out of sight of land, touch down on the water and make the conversion, practice and dismantle it again before returning. Nobody else would see it happening. Not that we’d ever need to do something like that. Of course.”

“Of course. It’s not in our printed curriculum, is it?” A very small smile flickered across the Labrador’s muzzle and was gone. “Very well. I’ll discuss this with the other tutors. If they agree, we’ll talk again. We would require the Silver Angel for our training uses, flying and ground training, as our priority. Not yours. We’d be training second and third-years only on it, you can tell your partners that. So no need to worry about what sort of mess first-years with big spanners will leave it in. Dismissed.”

“Yes Ma’m!” Ada stiffened, then turned and left to walk back towards the third-year dorms. Her heart raced; that had gone better than she had hoped. Suddenly she stopped. She had worked on the Silver Angel out on the beach, as had the rest of her dorm plus Amelia and a few others. They had had the engine in pieces several times, trying to find out what was wrong with it. Now Angelica knew no amount of tinkering was going to help her fly out in the pilot’s seat, and Ada had promised the Silver Angel could be taken to pieces for educational use that had nothing to do with getting it ready for Angelica’s escaping. Her ears and tail drooped. “What on earth am I going to tell her?”

Angelica had compromised about cooking. It was hard to burn water, however hard she tried – so she had borrowed a large pot and was resolutely boiling rather than roasting fish. The resulting stews and soups bore very little resemblance to Spontoonie food – in fact it reminded her rather of the school meals at Saint Winifred’s. But it was edible, which was the main thing.

Kama’s small ears dipped as she poked at the greyish mess. The usual fish dishes were roasted till crisp; something that slopped into a bowl was not her usual diet. “Fish?”

Angelica’s ears blushed. “There’s fish in there, Kama. Fish and vegetables. All good stuff!” She took a spoonful and swallowed – instantly almost choking, spitting out a bone. She had hoped the flesh would fall off the fish skeletons leaving them intact at the bottom of the pot for disposal – instead, the skeletons had broken up and mixed sharp bones into the stew like landmines in an orchard. Only now she recalled Mama Popoluma filleted all her fish before cooking, except when roasting them.

By the time Angelica had sorted and combed through her bowl and Kama’s too, the resulting mess was cold and congealing with a texture somewhere between wood pulp and glue. The kitten poked it sorrowfully, with a glance at Angelica that somehow reminded her of the quaint Native belief about the fish-spirits becoming angered if their sacrifices went to waste. Certainly, everything a Spontoonie fishing boat caught was eaten; even oddities such as starfish were dried to be fed to the chickens and the occasional tourist from Kuo Han where furs ate strange things.

"Bad Cooking" Angelica & Kama at home, from Stranded Angel, by Andersson, Barber, & Dorrycott -  art by Fredrik Andersson
"Bad Cooking" by Fredrik Andersson

Kama vanished, while a desperate Angelica tried to re-heat the overcooked stew over the embers. A minute later she reappeared, with something held concealed behind her back. Proudly she brought it out for approval. “Ba-na-na!” The kitten announced happily, presenting a large fruit now sweet, ripe and mottled black. There were some of the Fillypines bananas left that had washed ashore weeks ago, but they were rather approaching the end of their useful life.

Angelica had heard of people who were so compulsively tidy that the shock of living with a new kitten, a never-ending cycle of mess and nappies to clean, drove them to insanity. Her reaction was to run away from the overripe fruit that was rapidly scenting the longhouse. But she forced a smile to her muzzle.

“You have those all for yourself, Kama.” She sighed inwardly, turning to the scorched mess in the pan. “I’ll have this one myself.” Her stomach felt distinctly hollow, as she thought about the delicious Puso ng Saging that Mama Popoluma was possibly serving that minute. No doubt she could memorise the recipe – but there was as much difference between that and being able to put together a meal from available equipment and ingredients, as flying her Silver Angel and memorising every word of the instruction manual.

If it came right to it, she told herself, she could eat raw fish the way some of the reptilian Natives did. Or … there were more ways of preparing fish than cooking it. Her ears went up, as she reminded herself of the smoked, pickled and marinated dishes of her homeland. “Gravelax,” she mused, recalling the smoked salmon with dill sauce “I miss that, and the fine transparent, gelatinous lutefisk we used to have at Christmas. And Rakorret, that nice Norwegian fermented trout we could sometimes get in the market.” Her whiskers twitched. “I can’t burn that.”

She glanced up at the sun; it was setting and she had to be out with the fishing boats that night. She nodded, reminding herself to take her full share of fish the next morning to make a start on preserving it.

As she busied herself with preparations for her night’s work, she noticed Kama trotting in with a waterproof tarpaulin. Five minutes later she reappeared from the direction of the beach carrying a full bucket of water, her small face set in concentration as she staggered along under its weight.

“Silly Kama.” Angelica nuzzled the kitten’s head-fur affectionately. “I’ll see you tomorrow. You have fun, and keep out of trouble.”

The kitten nodded happily, and skipped back towards the beach, while Angelica struggled into her oilskins. The clouds were already building to blot out the sunset; it looked as if it was going to be a stormy night.

Dawn came with a sharp downpour of rain that pattered on the roofs of the native village. Kama woke up on her familiar mat in Mama Popoluma’s hut, before yawning a sharp-toothed yawn and stepping out into the still silent village. Her fur kept dry by a big plantain leaf held up as an umbrella, she trotted across to the new longhouse to check that Angelica was safely back. Satisfied, she took her bucket and carried on with the preparations she had begun the previous evening.

When all was done, she went back down to the beach with her bucket, filled it full of sea water and gave a surprisingly loud whistle out to sea. And waited.

Mid-morning saw an unusual sight for October; a Native guide in full fur-paint and feathers leading two canine tourists across the island. But then, despite their fairly standard “adventurer” bush-jackets and knapsacks, anyone who studied their behaviour would rapidly confirm they were not ordinary tourists.

Te’hame scratched his head-fur as the two halted again to probably change direction. He had been handed these two by a water-taxi guide who had brought them from Casino Island, and they had so far refused all offers of visits to the tourist attractions or “scenic Native villages.” Instead, the pair were tracking hesitantly across the island like a pair of first-year Guides in a fog using a compass that had seen far better days. What was fortunate was he had spent three years between tourist seasons working on South Island helping Herr Rassberg with his shop; unlike most Spontoon Guides, he spoke German.

<Max, anything yet?> One of the tourists, the schnauzer, turned to his companion. <It should be this direction.>

The other, a Doberman who wore an extremely dark pair of aviator’s goggles despite it being far from brilliantly sunny, shook his head. <Nothing in range, Moritz. That altar we found yesterday was a fake. It had carvings that looked right at first, but they were new. I don’t think they even made any sense.>

<Another verdammt film-prop. It’s like they’re deliberately trying to fool us. We’ll hold up, I’ll do another casting.> Max signalled to the guide to stop, and pulled out a small leather bag from his bush jacket.

Te’hame looked on in mild interest. He had once escorted a compulsive gambler who relied on throwing dice to make even the decision which restaurant to go to; this seemed not dissimilar. The difference was, the stones being cast were not the usual six-sided dice; he recognised the markings on them as “Futhark runes” from his visits to the Icelandic and Norwegian households towards the Eastern tip of the island.

Moritz threw five of the small stones down, seeing how they fell. <Direction’s the same. Perthro rune confirms it. The unknown, finding something lost. No Seig, I mean Sowilo runes in the pack. This is like trying to hunt a mobile radio station with a ten metre domestic garden aerial! There’s something, but I don’t know what.>

<I’ll tell you if I scent anything.> Max tapped his dark glasses meaningfully. <I could see what that altar was at twenty metres. A real one would have lit like a beacon, the way I spot things.>

Te’hame kept his face impassive; this was something he was quite used to, being in his “Red Indian” outfit and a chatty, voluble Indian Brave rarely fitted tourist expectations. So far the two were eccentric, but nothing alarming. They were nowhere near any of the areas he would have had to steer them away from – and indeed they had asked some quite intelligent questions about “taboo areas” already. They seemed unusually happy to avoid forbidden parts of the island.

Suddenly he frowned. One of them had pulled out, not the expected highly coloured tourist map, but an aerial photograph. The tourist maps were adequate to point towards beach-front bars and the like, but there were no accurate maps of the islands available for public sale. If any new Gunboat Wars bombardment relied on villages being where the tourist map said, the shells would fall a hundred yards away and more. Aerial photographs were not on public sale either, and various private aviators developing their own using local chemists often found the films inexplicably failed to develop.

<Village on the Northern coast, by the bay. That’s where we seem to be heading.> Moritz gathered up his stones and pocketed the bag. <Professor Schiller says to keep it quiet. We’re here for information we can use.>

<There should be a dozen of us on this job> Max grumbled. <If they hadn’t found those cities under Tibet this year – the Ahnernerbe wouldn’t be so short-staffed over here.>

<Be thankful it’s this job! My Uncle Hans was in this kind of job twenty years ago out in Africa, in Togoland. Archaeologist, officially. Just put it like this – if we find any ancient jungle cities the Natives refuse to talk about – we don’t go in. Most of Uncle Hans’ expedition didn’t get out.> Moritz sniffed the air nervously. <There were things living there, that he never described in so many words. But he was terrified of even the pictures of squid. He won the Iron Cross in the War, but he’d scream at the sight of a can of calamari.>

<If we don’t find something soon, Professor Schiller’s going to volunteer us for New South Thule. And not as skiing instructors.> Max stopped, and pointed at a village that had come into view as they crossed the ridge. <There! I’ll bet that’s it, get me near enough and I’ll tell you just what we’ve got. Tough job this is turning out to be. Still, beats driving armoured cars for the Reichwehr, like I used to do.>

For the next half hour Te’hame followed with great interest as the pair circled the village, basically playing “hot-hot-cold” and establishing that whatever was there was definitely in the settlement. There was nothing unusual to be seen; the place bustled as ever with furs mending nets, cooking lunch and maintaining the fishing boats that had landed their catches at dawn.

<There! That’s the line there, between us and the sea.> Moritz pointed, his heavy “beard” of whiskers trembling on his snout. <It can’t be out at sea, we’ve already checked that direction from the beach.>

<But there’s nothing there.> Max objected. Certainly, there was only an empty beach between them and the far horizon. Shrugging, he began to walk along the indicated line. Within twenty paces of the beach, he stopped. <I’ve got a very, very bad feeling about this.>

<Never mind that. If we don’t bring back some sort of report, our next investigation’s going to be the tourist hot-spots on the Antarctic Plateau. Get tracking.> Moritz poked him in the back.

Te’hame followed the pair, intrigued. The beach was not a smooth strand here but a wide hinterland of sand dunes, which a fur could hide behind. It would have to be a fur lying down, though – that or a rather small one.

Just at that instant, two things happened. There was a small giggle, and a kitten in lavalava emerged from behind the dune, carrying a metal bucket from which sloshing sounds emerged. Max gave an agonised groan as if he had been punched in the stomach; the hefty canine sank to his knees, his dark glasses falling off.

Kama cocked her head to one side inquisitively. “Play?” She enquired. The something in the bucket splashed and churned ominously.

<Driver Reverse!> Moritz gave a strangled shout, his eyes wide in horror as he looked directly into Kama’s wide, innocent eyes. <Out, out of here!>

His companion was evidently trained in such emergencies; Max grabbed him under the arms and dragged him backwards almost a run, out of the dunes and back towards the village.

Te’hame bowed to the small kitten, his face neutral. “Kama. I must stay with my customers. Good day to you!” He picked up a fallen set of dark goggles and carefully secured them in his bark pouch before following the two horrified archaeologists back towards Main Village.

Kama giggled. Evidently the sight of two hefty canines running away was entertaining. “Play!” She looked down into her bucket, and something sloshed liquidly. With a glance up at the sun confirming it was still only noon, she trotted determinedly up into the forest. There was a short cut she knew, and she loved surprises.

Two minutes and three hundred metres away, Max restored his dark glasses and some of his dignity. <Has it gone?> He panted, looking around. <Did you feel it?>

Moritz stopped and hastily cast the runes. <Ambiguous. It’s not where it was. I can’t get a clear reading.>

Max shuddered violently. <You’re lucky. That’s no ordinary kitten. I saw her – and everything else around her. Like – you saw a lightning bolt, but I saw the whole storm cloud by its light, filling half the horizon. She’s plugged in to … everything here.>

<What will we tell the Prof? Do we have to tell him? He’d order us back here for another look. I know he will.> Moritz took a hurried glance around. They were back outside the village in a natural cutting heading back towards the ridge, with dense jungle overhanging the track on both sides.

<We found nothing. Nothing at all – except that fake altar. If we get sent to New Swabia, at least it’ll be a long way from here.> Just then he started to shake again. <Oh no! It’s back! It’s here!>

There was a small but sinister squelching noise, like someone improbably managing to bounce a wet sponge. Their fur raised in fear, both canines turned to look at the track leading back to Main Village.

Something about the size, shape and colour of a large marrow was blocking their exit. But marrows rarely moved on their own accord, let alone bounced with an indescribable enthusiasm like a young puppy.

<It’s like the thing Uncle Hans used to scream about in his nightmares, from the ruined city!> Moritz shrank back. <And our guide isn’t afraid of it. That means … they know. They all know. They’re all in it!>

“Play!” A small kitten appeared on the track, carrying two items of sinister significance. One looked disturbingly like an ordinary stick, and the other was evidently disguised as a bucket. She raised the stick high, obviously about to cast some hideous spell, while the tentacle-fronted thing bounced and skipped eagerly on the ground at her paws.

That was enough for the two Investigators. With a combined shriek, Max and Moritz burst out of the trap in the other direction, out onto a jungle trail – and did not stop running till they reached Main Village.

While all this was happening, Angelica Silvferlindh was fast asleep in her longhouse. She stirred a little later as Kama entered, and at the slopping, splashing sound close by. But she had spent the night on a fishing vessel, and her ears were used to such noises.

It was the scent of roasted fish that awoke her. She was generally too exhausted on returning in the small hours to do more than take her oilskins off before falling into bed; every day she woke up exceedingly hungry and often with salt-matted fur that looked as if she had been trying to starch herself.

“Mmm…” Her nose twitched. Still half asleep, she rolled over – and her elbow unexpectedly dropped into a water-filled dip, the sudden splash of cold water shocking her instantly awake.

“Kama! What have you done?” Her eyes crossed in shock as Kama’s pet appeared from the depths of a pool like a surfacing submarine – though submarines rarely if ever slobbered a girl’s snout with their front tentacles. Recoiling back, she saw exactly what had happened. The small, unused Winter fire-pit had been lined with waterproof tarpaulin and filled with seawater to make a fish-tank in which something green and faceless was happily sloshing.

A small kitten appeared clutching a half-eaten roasted fish, her expression that of intrigued amusement. Fishing in her bark pouch, she pulled out some small wriggling larvae and held it up above her pet, which promptly reared up on its tube feet and “begged.” With a giggle, Kama dropped it and watched as the Holothurian house-pet snapped it up in mid-air with its front tentacles. Evidently, having eyes and a brain was something a creature could do perfectly well without if it really tried.

Angelica sighed. “Why me? I’m sure there’s people out there who’d be fascinated by this.” She stretched, grimacing at the sight of her stiff salt-caked fur, and looked around for something edible for breakfast.

Suddenly her ears went up. By the door was a small white envelope, held down with a stone. Picking it up, she recognised Ada’s handwriting and her heart raced. Tearing it open, she read the neat script within;

Dear Angelica:

We did it! The staff have agreed to have your Silver Angel over here, for the senior year to take care of. It took some persuading. If we can raise the money from our art project, I can be round with a drum of fuel to fly us back to Eastern Island. Of course you can come and see the Silver Angel as often as you can. Everyone’s very keen to help work on it.

Looking forward to meeting you at the weekend – and especially in 9 days time! Love, Ada.”

Angelica blushed slightly, recognising that nine days would be the end of the lunar month. She sat down, getting her thoughts in order while Kama and her Abyssal pet frisked around outside. The weekend would be nice; Ada was someone she liked to talk to at any time.

“It’s like I was looking forward to being able to eat grass like a deer,” she told herself, her tail drooping. “I’d be sick if I tried it now. I don’t even like the idea. But … I know I will.” Her tail twitched. “Ada. If I asked her to, she’d spend her last cowry on fuel for me. She’d fly me to Orpington Island, where I’d be out of range of the curse. Right now. I could be out of there tomorrow. She’d let me abandon her there on the beach, knowing I wasn’t coming back for her.” Her stomach gave a small lurch, thinking about it. Her life these days was one unacceptable thing after another, as far as her family back in Sweden would be concerned. She had worked for criminals, she was near enough engaged to another girl, she had taken a Native name and as far as the Spontoonies were concerned, she and Ada were now a couple with a child of their own. If she abandoned Ada, the canine would do her best to look after Kama, true to her promise.

“Well, that’s the Silver Angel with a home, as well as me – as well as us,” she corrected herself as Kama trotted back in, a contented smile on her small face. “It’s all perfectly sensible, to the Spontoonies – but I don’t know WHAT they’re going to say in Sweden!”


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