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11 November 2008 @ 12:16 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 05  


Chapter Four: Buttercup


By the end of their first week of travel, Cairre started doubting the wisdom in offering his assistance to the Summorn family. It wasn’t that the price was not enough (on the contrary, he would have done much more, for this particular one), but he felt that the assistance he had given wasn’t much of one in the first place. Abe and Watanuki were pleasant company, by all rights, and even Rebi had her good points, but nothing of what they did seemed to be saving Autopia at all and the compass refused to indicate just how far they were from their goal. They’d come across another swarm of locusts, and had repaired a stretch of bridge, but other than that, they were not being useful at all to the country. Autopia was still on its fast way to destruction.

Cairre was contemplating returning to the Witch of Dimensions and demanding an explanation when Abe called for all of them to halt.

“There’s a monster in front,” he said by way of explanation as he floated back to their group. After the first night that the boy kept watch, Elsith had taken into his head to send him off constantly to scout for danger ahead. This seemed to keep Abe thankfully occupied, and he often came back with questions about their surroundings that Cairre was only too happy to answer. He was a traveler himself, and he liked the boy, quiet and smart as he was.

“Hey, les’ go kill it!” Rebi said somewhat excitedly. Cairre found her to be strangely bloodthirsty, and he knew that all the obstacles they had encountered so far had only served to bore her.

“Not that I agree with young Rebi,” Kalien said, sitting tall on his mount, “But there is no other way to leave this valley but to exit through that pass or go back. I feel that no matter what, we will have to go through it at one point or another, and we’ve already spent a lot of time just marching on as it is.”

“It’s just one, right?” Rebi demanded. At Abe’s irritated nod, she grinned widely and patted her guns. “Then les’ just take care of it. Shouldn’t be too hard. Anyway, it’s prolly eaten people here before!”

Elsith snorted, and Cairre turned his attention to him. He snapped his gaze away before anyone noticed (except for maybe Abe – the young ghost was very perceptive when he put his mind to it) and spoke up.

“Let me do it,” he said. Everyone looked at him, and he fidgeted slightly in his seat. “It would be easy for someone like me to handle a single monster. And it would be quickest, would it not?”

“Certainly not,” Kalien objected. “I can handle it myself.” Which was true, he supposed. Cairre had never seen anyone with Kalien’s skill with swords, except for Elsith. This, Kalien had explained a few days before, was because Elsith couldn’t use magic and insisted to be the best in something. Pride the size of Autopia, indeed.

“Shut up, ya stupid bitches,” Rebi spat. “This is mine.”

And that, Cairre guessed, was that. Still, he wasn’t about to let a foreigner whose skill they had not seen in combat yet go alone to face whatever beast was waiting for them at the pass. It seemed that no one agreed with it either – they elected Watanuki to stay with the horses and followed her, much to her distaste. In a way, Cairre thought the situation was, to an extent, comical if a little dangerous.

The monster was something that Cairre recognized as his master’s creation. It was the mutated, transformed, and enhanced version of a wolf that his master had left in a cave somewhere north, its fur matted and stuck to its skin with dried blood, and thick saliva dribbling out the corners of its snout. It was a massive thing, easily five people large, and had grown so disfigured that its back was hunched and its legs were twisted. It looked painful to look at.

That the monster was in this pass was very telling of the effects of the disaster the late Roderick Twilight had set lose on Autopia, if it was luring the strange creatures he had made out of their dwelling places. The end of the world had to be stopped, and their party was going to do it no matter what.

“We’re downwind from it,” young Abe was saying, already starting off with the strategy. He seemed fond of strategizing, which was an odd thing from someone so young. “We should take it by surprise. I can lur--- What are you doing?!”he hissed as Rebi climbed out from the rock they were hiding behind, cackling manically as she did something to the guns.

“Hey there, ya ugly fuck!” she called, and Elsith gave her an appalled look. “Come’n get me!”

It stared at Rebi like she was a particularly tiny and generally unappetizing meal (probably true). Nevertheless, it roared and reared back in its haunches before breaking into a dash for the girl, leaping into a pounce soon after. And Rebi…

The weapons were long-ranged, Cairre could see that now. They made tiny explosions from their tips, which he figured were caused by the small projectiles launched from them. Like mini-bows, with very fast ammunition.

Unfortunately, his master’s creations were often not only fearless, but were also not smart enough to back off even when they were hurt. The monster roared once as the projectiles pierced different parts of its skin, but continued on trying to cut Rebi down. The girl was dodging its swipes fairly well, and Cairre thought that she was going to tire it out enough to kill it when her weapon stopped firing.

She was out of projectiles, that much was clear. Abe had taken it as cue to play his usual role as indestructible bait, and Kalien immediately ran in to drag Rebi, kicking and screaming, back behind the rock by her small shirt.

Cairre stepped out at that moment, eyes focused on the beast. He saw it as an object that he could dismantle like so many puzzle pieces falling to the floor. Lines that no one could see became visible to him, along with it the many different ways he could trace them, turn them into wounds that had no other purpose in the world but to cut, hurt, destroy. He concentrated on these lines, touched them with his magic, and sliced with all the viciousness that he reserved for such things, speaking the words to make his will Absolute and the outcome a certainty.

A deep line formed itself on the monster from neck to belly and it ceased moving, its insides spilling out of its body. Cairre had disemboweled it with three words and a thought.

Magic in Autopia worked through a combination of will and imagination, by imagining something and forcing it into reality, turning illusions into truth, and manipulating possibilities. In theory, everyone should be able to do magic, but not many people in Autopia were gifted with the kind of thinking and the amount of will required for this. It would not be difficult to imagine fire where there was not, but it was another matter entirely to will it to existence. There were aids, of course, words that gave the speaker confidence and encouragement, rituals that added some semblance of certainty, patterns that one could follow. Anything to arrive at the same end.

Most people could do simple spells. Some, like Elsith, could not manage even that, so set were they on the reality in which they existed. Sometimes, Cairre envied these people. Reality was something that they could face without the need for conveniences like magic.

His master had been a genius with incomparable will and strength of mind. He had also wished for the destruction of the world.

------

“I still can’t believe you can do that!” Abe said, looking disconcerted. The guts had passed through his form, and while none of it touched him, he had gotten a rather clear view of the gore. It figured that it would be a little too much for a fifteen-year-old.

“That is what comes of being the apprentice of a mad wizard,” he shrugged, and didn’t deign to tell his companions that he could bring the dead back as zombies if he wished. Rebi seemed less pleased that he could cause mass destruction with the snap of a finger than the fact that he had stolen her kill. He supposed he could live with that.

He leaned back tiredly at the rear of the cart, letting Watanuki handle the horses for now. Their pace was too slow for the horses to be able to do anything troublesome, and Kalien and Elsith were in front. It also stopped Watanuki from fussing over him. Cairre did not feel very comfortable, being fussed over. He wasn’t even injured, just a little tired and maybe somewhat pale.

Overall, the day was actually rather nice, he noted. Staring up at the sky hurt his eyes, though, so he turned to look at his companion to filter it out. Abe had been looking a little more transparent lately that it was starting to worry him. Was the young ghost straying too far away from his body? He couldn’t think of a proper spell to fix it, and probably nothing but finishing the quest would help the boy get back home with his wish safely granted.

Vaguely, Cairre thought it was a little amusing that Abe’s tail was looking a little long. It floated behind him like a thin flag in water, some sort of current bringing it along. Is that how would it feel like to fly as a ghost?

“Why are you staring at me now?” Abe demanded, hackles raised. Cairre blinked in surprise. “You’re usually staring at the donkey, so why’ve you been giving me that psycho look?!”

Cairre started, and was lost for a moment. “Ah. I was thinking that it would be nice to be able to fly again.”

His companion looked suspicious, but seemed willing to believe him if he explained himself properly. “What, you used to fly?”

The question made him uncomfortable, and he looked around to make sure no one was listening. Watanuki and Rebi seemed busy arguing the finer points of… Cairre didn’t really understand what sake was. “I… ah… when I was apprenticing under my master…” he started, but had difficulty finding the words to explain it without making the situation sound bad.

“The guy who sent this country on the road to hell?”

“If you want to put it in those words, yes,” he nodded, resigned. “When I was younger, he used to transform me into the form of a hawk and keep me caged when he couldn’t keep an eye on me,” Cairre finished a little hastily.

“Wait, what?” Abe looked startled. “Why?”

Why must you ask so many questions, in the first place? Cairre thought. But magicians did not lie if they could help it. Cairre did not want to weaken his resolve nor his magic, not at a crucial time like this.

“So I wouldn’t escape?”

“What, was it a kidnap-random-boy-and-declare-him-apprentice kind of thing?”

Cairre winced. “You have a way with words, has anyone ever told you that?”

“Once or twice,” Abe answered in a matter-of-fact way.

“I see. But yes, that was the case. He took me from my home and burned my family down while he was at it, and told me to study magic under this tutelage.” He was unused to talking about his experiences with the late Roderick Twilight. His master had been a difficult taskmaster, and an even more difficult parent, at best. Cairre had been treated much like a slave the first decades of his apprenticeship, getting the idea of magic beaten into his system until he could will fire and ice into existence without thought or effort. He had been very resistant as a child, but it had only served to desperately want that magic to be true, rebellion a good reason as any to force himself to be good.

Young Abe was giving him a look. It made him fidget a little in his corner of the cart. “I tried to escape many times, so he resorted to that method. I could get out of the cage if I tried hard enough, but I’d always come back after flying around a bit.”

And even more strange looks. “Why would you, if you could fly away just like that?”

His eyes turned to Elsith without him noticing. The white mount had gone ahead, a small dot in the distance. He liked galloping, sometimes, perhaps to release energy. Cairre had not expected him to be high-strung, but all evidence pointed to it. “I like being human. It’s not very pleasant to find yourself in a body that does not belong to you, or you don’t belong to.”

“Hey, you made a wish, didn’t you?”

Startled, Cairre snapped his gaze back to the ghost, who had moved closer to lower his voice. “What makes you say that?” he asked a little sharply.

“You’re here, aren’t you? If you own the horse, you could have just sat this quest out, yet here you are.”

“You are mistaken if you think that something like my ownership over his person would make the prince abandon his duties to his country. The only thing larger than his pride is his sense of duty, believe it or not. I know his type. If I had forced him away from this, he would have made my life miserable.”

“Which makes me wonder why you wanted to have him, in the first place.”

Abe, Cairre thought a little bitterly, was a wise child for his years. He searched for words, but the image of the prince in war burned into his mind was impossible to convey. His master’s curse, his own, instinctive act to save the prince from the worst of it, and later on, the heavy guilt of being unable to do more… they were not things that Cairre himself understood. “That… is a question that I cannot yet answer.”

“So you didn’t make a wish?”

“You’re a smart boy, young Abe,” he replied tiredly. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re weird,” Abe said dryly. And then, surprisingly: “But I sort of understand.”

------

Cairre fell asleep soon after his conversation with Abe, tired as he was from the long travel and expending his will so much in so short a time. The past week reminded him a little of the tasks his master set out to test his expertise. Though thinking about it like that, Cairre thought the obstacles they had faced so far in this quest suddenly seemed so easy.

He woke up near dusk when Elsith gave an alarmed whinny, jerking awake and out of the cramped corner he had somehow managed to fit himself in. His muscles felt stiff and ached from not moving so long, but his mind was alert.

“Elsith!” he cried despite himself, moving through the obstacles in the cart to get to the front. Cairre bumped his hip hard against a jar and nearly tripped; Watanuki gave him a startled look from his seat, but moved aside to let him pass. “What is the matter!”

“Calm yourself!” was the ringing command. Lost, Cairre blinked the sleep from his eyes and peered through the hair matted against his forehead. It was quickly darkening around them, but he could still see what the commotion was about.

A man was lying prone on the ground, just under the mount’s feet. Carefully, he made his way to the rest of their party examining the person, and noticed that the man’s clothes were different from the usual peasant wear in the country. Wrong shade of brown, perhaps.

“Look, brother,” Kalien was saying. “He has the same color of hair as we do, albeit darker in shade.”

Rebi was toeing the man by his side to turn him around. The magician went down on his knees to check the man’s pulse, and to see if he was injured. Clearly, the stranger was a foreigner to the country, the cloths stitched differently from what he was accustomed.

“He seems to be all right. Merely unconscious,” he announced. Abe gave him a look. Cairre blinked, nonplussed. “Yes?”

“In what world is unconscious a sign of being all right?” the ghost muttered next to him. “The donkey tripped and nearly fell on him. Maybe he’s broken a bone somewhere. Elsith looks heavy.”

“Stop taunting him,” Cairre suggested in a low voice, just for Abe to hear.

“When you stop staring at him,” Abe retorted.

Cairre colored, and tugged his collar higher over his chin. Instead of reprimanding the ghost, however, he focused on identifying the stranger and said out loud: “Does he look like he is from your world, young Abe?” he asked.

“Yeah. Not from Japan, but a country in the same world.” The ghost was studying him. “Show me the inside of his scruff.” Cairre did as told, and blinked at the small tag on the clothing, unable to read the words. Abe blinked as well. “Italian clothing. Or was it French? Yeah, same world.”

“Let us take him with us, then,” Kalien declared cheerfully, reaching down to pick the man up. Cairre took him by the legs, and they easily hefted him up onto the cart, depositing him in the corner Cairre had occupied just minutes before.

He felt the loss of that corner keenly, but didn’t say a word. The interruption had apparently prompted Watanuki to insist on setting up camp for the night, and the boy was already busy looking for ingredients to cook something up for supper. The compass hung at his neck, heavy and golden, the needle quivering at the boy’s every move.
 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absent: foodmiir on November 11th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)
“Stop taunting him,” Cairre suggested in a low voice, just for Abe to hear.

“When you stop staring at him,” Abe retorted.


COUGH.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 11th, 2008 08:40 am (UTC)
COUGH INDEED.
a mind as vivid as it is absent: thinky creammiir on November 14th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
MOAR CHAPTERS PLZ
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 14th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
MY FILE JUST VANISHED FROM MY FLASHDRIVE. ONE MOMENT IT WAS OPEN, AND THEN I TRIED TO SAVE IT AFTER I EDITED A LINE, AND IT ERADICATED ITSELF. GOOD THING I DID NOT DO ANYTHING ASIDE FROM EDIT THAT ONE LINE SINCE STOPPING WRITING YESTERDAY. RETRIEVING FILE FROM LYN'S SISTER'S LAPTOP.
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 14th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
...O-OMG.

(BACKUP IN GOOGLE DOCS?*)



* ulterior motive: to become a viewer of the Google Doc and get updates faster!
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on November 14th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
I DO NOT. I JUST EMAIL THE DOCUMENTS TO MYSELF. IF YOU WANT, I CAN ADD YOU TO THE EMAIL, IT DOES NOT MATTER TO ME. D:
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on November 14th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
YES! YAY. <3
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on November 14th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
OKEY. D:
Lynlynkye_kestrel on November 14th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
I-I can't think of anything right now except how much my Nano sucks compared to yours. TwT
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 14th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
:< You idjut, your Nano is very entertaining, and I love your details! I admit that it seems v. difficult, though. 8D Mine is v. easy.