Monday, July 11, 2011

Ch9: Screaming "Theater" In A Crowded Fire

“Yay!” I exclaim, hopping off the couch.
    Azzen smiles at me.
    “I’m glad we finally got out of there.”
    “Yah,” he says.  “That place pretty much sucked.”
    “Let’s do something fun!” I say.  I’m suddenly full of energy and I don’t know why.  Maybe I’m just excited that we got away from the Master.  I bounce around like a little kid that can’t hold still and do fake karate in Azzen’s face, making light “Wah,” and “Yah,” noises.
    “Like explore the Amazon?” Azzen asks nonchalantly.
    I stop, mid-judo-chop.  “Uh…”
    “It’s something I need to do and I might as well bring you along with me,” he explains.
    “You need to explore the Amazon?”
    “Yeh, maybe, maybe not.  But I think so.  Sounds like a good place to start.”
    I calm down a little, curiosity getting the better of me.  “Start what?”
    “Oh, I’m just looking for something.”
    “Well looking for what?!” I ask in exasperation.  “Quit being so equivocal.”
    “Equivocal…” he repeats.  “Big word…”
    “I means vague,” I sigh.
    “Vague…” he repeats slowly.
    I smack him on the head.  “You know what it means!  Quit stalling.  Why are we going to the Amazon?”
    “Do you ever wonder if I’m nebulous on purpose?”
    “You’re a cloud of space dust?” I ask smartly.
    “Yes,” Azzen replies.  “We all are.  Now let’s go.”
    He grabs my hand and we disappear from my living room, poofing back into existence in the jungle.
    The first thing I notice is the noise.  I didn’t expect the jungle to be so loud!  There are whoops of monkeys, clicks of critters, whistles of birds, and warbles of whatever warbles.  Hundreds of animal calls pass rapidly through the air.
    “Walk quietly,” Azzen whispers in my ear.  “I don’t want any tigers to eat us.”
    “There are no tigers in the Amazon,” I whisper back.  “And I don’t think they’d eat you anyways.  You’re too stupid to taste good.”
    We wander around the jungle for awhile.  I follow Azzen silently through the dense foliage.  It’s really slow progress.  There are no paths and every inch of the ground is covered in viney growth.  I’m covered in sweat in about two minutes because it’s so muggy that I feel like I’m walking through a steam bath. 
    We see monkeys and snakes and colorful birds.  Azzen taps my arm and points out a small chameleon on a tree.  It’s mostly green except for a brown stripe that‘s set against the bark of the branch.  I “ooh” and he picks it up and sets in on my shoulder.  I’m nervous at first, but the little guy seems pretty docile and rides along without complaining.  In a few minutes, he’s blending in with the color of my tee-shirt. 
    The rain forest is beautiful, but after a while of walking in silence, I’m getting a little bored.
    “Hey Azzen,” I say.
    “You should read my mind.”
    I’m thinking that he should tell me some more story, in my head so he doesn’t have to be talking.  It’ll be a pain to write it out later without having it recorded, but I think I’ll manage.
    <Sure,> I hear his voice say in my head.

    Azzen and Fel found a nice spot on a hill to camp out for the night.  Fel said that the city wasn’t far away, but since neither of them had money, it would be pointless to look for an Inn.  They came to the top of the high hill and Fel pointed in the distance at a grouping of flickering lights.
    “There it is,” the catgirl said with a yawn.
    They stretched and relaxed on the peak of the hill that overlooked the city and rested under the stars.
    It was a warm night.  All the nights here were warm; in fact,
Azzen couldn't remember a gloomy day since he got to this strange land.
    Despite the pleasant weather, Azzen jokingly suggested that they
should cuddle together for the night.  Fel said it was the dumbest idea she'd ever heard, flipped him the bird and told him to skedaddle; Azzen just laughed though.  He went to gather some kindling for the fire he would build.  The boy was grinning as he trudged down the hill, tired and ready to spill out for the night... even sleeping alone would be alright.
    He came back with his arms full of sticks, but Fel had already managed to rouse a comfy fire out of three thick logs.  She had built it much quicker than she usually did, and with none of the necessary kindling and brush.
    "How'd you start a fire so fast?" Azzen asked.
    "Magic," she replied in a flat tone.
    Azzen didn't argue; in a place like this, he wouldn't be surprised if she was serious.  ~At this point, I had learned two tricks and one of them was lighting my hands on fire, so all I had to do was hold the log and it would start burning.  But I have to had to have absorbed the fire to release it.  I still had some left over because I had absorbed a lot before we ran from the Master.~
    "Well," he said, "I guess after meeting a crazy catgirl, anything's possible."
    Fel's ears flattened against her hair and her eyes narrowed.  She glared at Azzen from across the flames.
    "What," she said sharply, "did you call me?"
    "Uh, a catgirl?" Azzen replied.  He had never really mentioned
her feline features and wasn't sure if he was allowed to.
    "Did you just call me Crazy?!" Fel demanded.
    She leapt at Azzen right through the flames of her fire and snatched him by the throat.  Azzen tried to get loose, but he had never
been able to break Fel's grip before and sure couldn’t now.  He shoved his body into her, hoping to knock her down, but she swung him around and flung him at the fire.  Azzen landed face down, only a few inches from scarlet embers.
    He popped back up in a defensive stance, but Fel was sitting back, licking her palms and cleaning her ears, acting like nothing had happened. She looked at Azzen and her ear twitched.
    "What are you staring at, Weirdo?" she asked tenderly.
    "You..." Azzen said.  "Are so..."
    Fel's ears lowered...
    "...different," Azzen said, settling on a word that he hoped was less
    "Aw, thanks Azzo," Fel replied sweetly.  "But I bet you tell
that to all the girls."
    The catgirl covered a fake blush and turned her head to the
    "I never said it was a good thing," Azzen joked.
    "Yah?  Well who cares what you think anyways," Fel replied.
"Go to sleep, Azzen.  I want to be up before noon and it's already
getting early."
    Azzen looked across the horizon and could see hazy light peaking
over the edge.  He was reminded that it was still the same night that they had escaped the Master.  Fel curled up next to the fire and draped one hand into the flames, absorbing while she relaxed.  She yawned and closed her big eyes.  Azzen stared at her beauty as her breathing slowed.
    "Are you sure we can't cuddle?" he asked.
    "Only when you're man enough," Fel mumbled through her eyelids.
    Azzen almost asked when that would be, but decided it would be
just about the worst response possible in this situation.  Instead, he
found a patch of ground near the fire and tried to fall asleep.  Before
he did, he told Fel, "thanks... For everything."
    "Neh-Azzen," the girl muttered in her sleep.

Azzen woke up to another perfect morning; or maybe it was closer to
    He looked over at Fel, but besides her ear twitching, she seemed
to be fast asleep.  Azzen decided to take care of his morning business
before waking her up, but when he got back, she was already rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
    The catgirl rolled on the ground side to side and stretched.
She turned on her belly and raised her shoulders, releasing several pops
from her delicate spine.  Then she lowered her head and lifted her tail
end, stretching her arms and fingers as far as they could go.
    Her hair was ruffled, but Azzen admired the way the morning sun
made each stray strand glow like warm honey.
    "Morning, Sunshine," Azzen greeted with a smile.
    Fel smiled back.  "Good morning, Az-Achoo!" she sneezed.
    "Az-Achoo, eh?  Bless you."
    "Azoofoo" she grumbled.  "First 'catgirl' now 'sunshine'.  All
these pet names gonna make me sick."
    "Should I just stick with 'Kitten' then?" Azzen teased.
    "Shut up, dumb butt," Fel responded playfully.
    Azzen remembered a thought he'd had earlier.  "You know, you’re not much of a catgirl.  You don't even have claws.  What are you really?  Like, what‘s your race called, or whatever."
    "NawNeh..." Fel sighed.  "You really know nothing?"
    "I know you‘re pretty."
    The girl smiled.
    "We called Pria,” said Fel.  “And yes, we basically catgirl.  You call me
catgirl, fine.  I call you monkeyboy, fine too."
    The subject seem to bring out a strange accent in her.  It
carried melodiously but had a cutting edge.  Azzen liked it!
    Fel eyed Azzen as she finished what she was saying.  "No
'Kitten' though."
    Azzen laughed.  "What‘s that, kitty cat?"
    Fel rolled her eyes with a whimsical smile.  "For claw, I have.
Just not found yet.  All Pria have claw.  Just hard to find."
    Azzen was so taken by her new accent that he was barely
registering what she was saying... something about claws...
    "Why are you talking like that now?" he asked dreamily.
    "Talk this way in city.  Master spoke proper, made we spoke
proper.  Now gone, speak Common, yah?"
    "Yeah… sure." Azzen replied.
    He could understand her easily.  Basically, she was dropping
unnecessary words and ignoring some grammar and tense rules.  Nothing he
couldn't follow.  It made her speech sound poetically primal, adding to her allure.
    But the thought of “Common” worried him.  What if people in the city were worse than her?
    As though sensing his concern, Fel spoke.  "You'll know Common here.
No worry.  I am bad from accent.  None bad like me."
    "What is Common anyways?" Azzen asked.  The two had begun
jogging to the city.  They jogged because walking seemed so slow.
    "Everyone know Common.  Use to trade or sex."
    Azzen wasn't sure he heard the last part right, but didn't
interrupt the young Pria.
    "You'll understand here.  Mostly Human with bits of Elf.  Bits
of Goblin.  Faerie, Dragon, Dwarf, Wolf."
    Her accent seemed to recede, though it was still obvious.
    "Anything you don't understand, ask me.  And there are some
basic words used by all."
    "Like what?" Azzen asked.
    "Like No," said Fel.  "Most are easy, but usually come in
    "Three strength.  'No' is Nah, Noh, Naw.  Nah is polite.  Noh is
firm.  Naw is intense, like to fight."
    "Okay, that’s dumb.  But I get it," said Azzen.
    “Why dumb?”
    “Cuz,” Azzen replied.  Then added after a thought, “You don’t need all that.  It should just be how the word’s said.  Like the intensity, or something.”
    “Naw, you dumb,” Fel said.
    “Pff.  You wanna fight about it?” Azzen challenged.
    Fel giggled. “Now you get it.”
    Azzen winked.
    "More though," the catgirl continued.  "You can put them together.  NahNoh is polite but firm.  Careful though, NohNah is slightly rude.  And
NawNohNaw means you will kill soon.  If confused, just say one word."
    Azzen told her this seemed more confusing than it was worth, but he understood and repeated each word to her.
    "Other big one," she said, "is Neh.  Neh is part of Neh, Meh,
Yeh.  Different kind of threesome.  Neh is for barely don't care.  Meh
is for indifferent.  Yeh is for barely do care.  For these words, the
event must not affect your mood.  Yellows NehMehYeh a lot."
    "Nevermind.  Neh is special though.  It's also used for slight
optimism.  Put at end of sentence.  Like, 'road is long, Neh,' would
mean, 'road is long, but I don't care.  I am still happy.'  See?"
    "Or I could say 'Azzen-Neh' and it would mean I like you."
    "Oh really now?" said Azzen with sudden interest.
    "Shut up.  Not like that.  That way's a little different."
    The catgirl looked up at Azzen.  He saw a glimmer in her eye,
but didn't know what she was thinking.
    "Well," he said.  "Fel-Neh.  To say the least."
    He flashed the girl a smile.  She laughed and called him stupid and broke into a playful run so that he could catch her.
    After fooling around for a while, they reached some stony rubble
on the outskirts of the city.  It reminded Azzen of Greek ruins, though
he had never seen any.
    "So tell me," Azzen said.  "If there's Common, why is there
still a Human language?"
    "Because Common gets us by, but it's not good," explained Fel.
"I love language.  All languages.  Words make us smart.  Words let us
think.  All those intricate rules, the ones you probably think are
stupid... they might seem complicated, but they allow us to convey
complicated thoughts.  Without them... if there were only Common... we
could never say how we truly feel."
    The girl looked at Azzen, then looked away.
    "Our ability to express ourselves would degrade," she continued.
"And eventually, our ability to even understand ourselves would
disappear.  We'd live by emotion, but wouldn't even know what emotion
was.  We'd be like animals."
    "I guess that makes sense," said Azzen, who was slightly
disappointed that Fel's accent had all but disappeared through the
course of her soliloquy.  "So Common gets us by, but language lets us
    Fel smiled.
    "Common is really important though," she said, hopping up onto a
fallen ruin.  "These stones used to be a wall," she said.  "Many lives
ago, there was no Common, there was only war."
    She looked down as though remembering terrors, but she was too
young to have ever seen this wall when it had stood.
    "I guess they needed some Common ground," Azzen punned lamely.
    Fel smiled again.
    "So how did Common start up then?" Azzen asked.
    Fel smiled more broadly.  "To trade and sex," she winked.
    Azzen still wasn't sure he heard her right.

After a couple more minutes of passing through the ruins, the two
teenagers came to the first of the city’s shops.
    There were taverns, diners, casinos, and bars.  Stalls were set up to sell trinkets. 
    There were plenty of “locals” for Azzen to see.  Weird people.
    Strange strangers, thought Azzen.  The kids at the Master’s school had all been human, other than Fel.  And the only other alien creature he had seen was the Elf woman at the farm.  The variation in the shapes and sizes of these humanoids surprised him, and he would have been alarmed if Fel hadn’t taken the situation so casually.
    Some were eight feet tall.  Others were half his size, but bore heavy beards.  Many had jewels and beads embroidered into their vests or laced through their hair.
    Little kids ran in the street asking for money.  Fel snapped them away quickly, pointing to a particularly rich looking visitor.  The children of various colors and shapes began pestering the old, bespeckled, buzzard-looking, merchant.
    Azzen saw green people, blue people, yellow people, and black people.  Real black people, not brown.  Some had pointy ears while others had hooves for feet, but he didn't see any other cat-people.  Though he did see a scaly lizard-man that flicked a slim tongue at him as he passed.
    They moved through the outer shops and into a neighborhood of
old colonial style buildings.
    Fel told Azzen that they were headed to the city center to find
what they were looking for.
    "And what are we looking for?" Azzen asked.
    Fel raised an eyebrow.  "You want go home?"
    "Oh," Azzen said.  "Yeah."
    He had almost forgotten about home.  Maybe he took it for
granted that home would always be there.  Right now, he was just
enjoying his new fantasy life.
    "How am I getting home?" he asked idly, gazing around at the different sights.  Old housewives dusted carpets out their windows, but some had Bull heads, and some had two heads.  This world was fascinating to him.  He wasn’t worried about getting home. 
    And he had thought Fel didn't believe him anyways.
    "You need two things," the catgirl said.  "Two things to get
anything you want in life.  Money and connections."
    Azzen smiled.  At least some things were the same as in his world.
    "We make both, yah?" said Fel.
    "Yeah," replied Azzen.
    “Yah,” repeated Fel.
    The buildings were getting taller as they bored deeper into the
city.  Fel pulled Azzen off the road as a Troupe of Centaurs trampeded by.  Citizens who had to dodge out of the way shouted curses as they waved weapons angrily after them.  Including Fel.
    “Hey, where’d you get that knife?!” Azzen asked, surprised.
    “Oh, I’ve seen like three.  Here, you want one?” Fel pulled out two more.  One was in a small scabbard, the other folded closed. 
    “Sure,” Azzen said, trying not to worry about where they came from.  He took the folded one and flipped it open.  It came out easy and had a simple lock mechanism like he would have expected to find on any knife back home.  It was sharpened by hand, the blade was uncoated and the handle was just a simple flat metal, but it was a finely crafted knife.
    “Cool,” Azzen said after a moment’s examination.  “I’m surprised you guys have these things here.”
    Fel looked at him blankly.  “It’s a knife.”
    Azzen grinned sheepishly.  “Yeah, I know.”
    “We have swords too,” teased Fel.
    “Shut up.”
    “Ever seen a crossbow?!”
    “Leave me alone,” Azzen whined, “this place is weird.  You know what I mean.”
    Fel smiled. “Yah, I know.”
    Azzen smiled back and flipped the knife around in his hand a few times.
    “It’s just weird to find something familiar, I guess,” he said.
    “Jah, I know,” said Fel.  “Come on.  You hungry?”
    "Sure, but we don't have any money," Azzen replied.  "Or
connections, for that matter."
    "Don't worry," Fel said with a mischievous look.
    Azzen worried.
    The two friends wandered around the market area of the city.
Vendors were selling turkey legs and fish-on-stix.  The aroma of their
grills made Azzen's mouth water.  Fel made her way to one of the
fancier looking restaurants.  Azzen stopped at the swinging doors that
seemed similar to a western saloon.
    "Do you have money?"
    "Nah," Fel replied, walking in.
    Azzen grabbed her by the arm.  "Then what are we doing?"
    "Don't worry about it," said Fel.  "It'll be fine."
    Azzen had an idea of what she was planning and didn't like it.
He gave the catgirl a look and she rolled her eyes.
    "Look," she said.  "We order, we eat, we run.  It's not a big
deal.  People do it all the time."
    "Just because other people do it doesn't make it okay," said
    "Big city," said Fel, her accent returning.  "No catch,” she winked.  “We fine, no whine."
    Azzen was instantly mesmerized but proceeded to feebly protest.  "That's not the point…"
    He was about to say more, but was interrupted by shouts from inside the restaurant.
    A pretty voice carried loudly out the doors.
    "…just because I won't degrade myself for your low-life
    Someone else yelled something unintelligible back at her.
    "I'm not one of your little hussies!" the girl shouted.  "I'm
leaving.  And I'm taking the money you owe me!"
    "Yah!" agreed a small squeaky voice.
    There was a ruckus inside that sounded like tables turning over.
Azzen moved forward to investigate, but before he got to the doors, they
flung open and he was knocked backwards by a flying mass of black hair
and frilly dress.
    The girl who had been shouting landed on Azzen in a disheveled
heap, but in a flash, she was back on her feet.  Azzen popped up quickly
too when he saw two large green men file out into the open street.  By
the looks in their eyes, Azzen assumed they were the guys who had tossed out the girl, who was quite petite.
    Azzen clenched his fists involuntarily, but kept his arms loose
so that he could react quickly.
    The girl with black hair seemed to want to face off in the square.
    "How dare you!" she shouted as she strode forward.
    Azzen barred the brash girl's way with an arm and took a step
back, keeping his eyes on the tall green men who were grinning
    A touch on his shoulder let him know Fel was with him.
    "Careful, Azzen," she whispered.  "Those are Trolls.  Watch
their range."
    Azzen understood what she meant.  Not only were the Trolls seven
feet tall, but their knuckles hung down around their knees.  They'd have
A much longer reach than a regular human their size.
    Azzen took another step back and sized them up.  He pushed back
the boisterous young girl who was now screaming obscenities in a language he didn't know.
    The Trolls were a safe distance away, even for their size.  Assorted locals were gathering around the rowdy group to get a view of the ruckus.
    Azzen studied the enemies while waiting for them to make a move.
    One was bald and the other had a thick Mohawk.  They weren't
ugly, like he would have expected a Troll to be.  In fact, their strong
jaw bones and cut facial features were statuesque.  Their shirtless
attire showed that it wasn't only their faces that were chiseled.  Thick
thighs supported their firm masculinity and all together, they looked
like they could rip trees out of the ground.
    "What do we do?" Azzen muttered, glancing back at Fel.
    "Duck!" she shouted.
    As soon as he had looked away, one of the Trolls launched a
punch at his face.
     Azzen had thought he was at a safe distance, but a heavy green
fist clipped his cheek while Fel pushed him out of the way.
    The Troll's arm had stretched out of its sockets and went a lot farther than Azzen had anticipated!
    "I told you to be careful!" Fel scolded.
    As she said it, the other Troll swung a long whipping kick at her
midsection, Fel flip rolled over it, but was hit in the air by the first
Troll.  She slammed against the ground and “Oofed” as the wind was knocked
out of her.
    Azzen charged at the enemies, upset that they had hurt his friend, but with no idea on how to fight them.
    One kicked high from the right and the other kicked low from the
left.  Both connected.
    Azzen's body did three cartwheels in the air, but miraculously,
he landed back on his feet.
    Everyone in the crowd was shocked and amazed, including Azzen
himself.  The Trolls seemed stunned as well.
    Azzen took the opening to dart in and shove a hard fist into the
belly of the Troll with hair.
    It felt like he had punched a boulder.  The Troll didn't budge at
all, but it did realize they were still in a fight.  It reached both
arms around Azzen and pulled him into a crippling bear hug, squeezing harder and harder.  The boy grunted and groaned.  He heard a rib pop and was certain that he was going to be squished in half.  He almost flipped out until he saw Fel stagger to her feet while choking in air.
    "You guys think you're tough?!" she shouted.  "you don't scare
me!  All you do is piss me off!"
    Suddenly, Fel's skin began to glow.  Several people in the crowd
gasped as the Pria's veins boiled bright red.  Her hair began to raise
as though it were statically charged and she let out a low reowl that
would make a wolverine’s heart skip.
    Some of the smarter onlookers decided it was time to leave.
    Fel burst forward, leaving a cloud of dust where she had stood.
Azzen had never seen her move so fast.  She was like a flying arrow and
hit the bald Troll in the belly with a fluid side kick.
    The Troll shot back like a cannon and smashed through the wall
of the restaurant, leaving a seven foot hole.
    Next, Fel crouched low and swung a roundhouse kick at the back of
the other Troll's knees.  The big green man dropped Azzen and windmilled
his arms to keep his balance, but fell anyways.  Fel grabbed him by the
Mohawk and yanked with a hard twist of her body.
    Azzen watched in slack-jawed amazement as the small girl hurled the Troll through the swinging doors of the restaurant.
    The boy groaned to his feet while clutching at his broken rib.
It was hard for him to breath, but he managed to gasp out, "Promise me you’ll never to get mad at me like that."
    "Jah," Fel muttered.
    "You saved me!" the black haired girl squealed elatedly.
    She ran up and scooped Azzen into a hug almost as tight as the
Troll's had been.  Azzen yelped in pain while Fel started shouting at
the girl.
    "HE saved you?!"
    Her veins had cooled, but her hair was still a frizzy mess.
    "I'm the one that did all the work!" she said.  "I saved BOTH of
you.  All HE did was get punched in the face!"
    "Oh my gracious, you're hurt!" exclaimed the black haired girl,
noticing Azzen's injury and ignoring Fel's complaints.  "Here, here.
Lie down."
    The girl eased Azzen onto his back.  As he laid down, he closed
his eyes and heard several people in the crowd muttering similar things.
    "A Red?"
    "A Red."
    "Could it be?"
    Azzen felt his chest cool as though someone were fanning it.  He
cracked his eyes open to see the strange girl with her hands over his
chest.  She was muttering something and staring intently at her work.
    Suddenly, his chest popped again.  Azzen gasped.
    "Oops!" the girl cried.
    It hadn't really hurt, it had just surprised him.  It felt like
nothing more than cracking a knuckle.
    "I'm so sorry!" she apologized.  "It popped too fast.  I‘m not very good at this."
    "No, no," Azzen said.  "You're fine."
    Fel snorted.  "A Purp that can't even set a bone right."
    "I feel fine," Azzen said, standing up.  The pain in his chest
was gone and he could breath easily.  "In fact, I feel great!"
    Fel rolled her eyes, but the crowd was getting excited.
    "A Purp?"
    "A Violet."
    "A Violet!"
    "A Red and a Violet!"
    "Then he must be the White!"
    "They're here!" someone shouted.
    "They're real!  The prophesy is real!" another yelled.
    “Prophesy…” Fel mumbled to herself.  Azzen glanced at her, but the girl seemed lost in her thoughts.
    A young man in white robes pushed through the crowd.  He approached Azzen.
    "Please!  Sir and Ladies," he said.  "You must come with me.  The High Priest wishes to see you!"
    "The High Priest?" Azzen asked.
    "The High Priest!" the black haired girl exclaimed.
    "I don't know..." Fel muttered.
    "Is he important?" Azzen asked Fel.
    The man in white robes stared blankly at Azzen.  The black haired girl looked at him like he was crazy.
    "Um, yeh," said Fel.  "Hee prre’ti important."
    Azzen loved the way she rolled her R’s.  But she seemed distant for some reason.
    "Well okay, let’s meet him.  Money and connections, right?" Azzen prodded.
    "Yeh, sure," said Fel.  "I guess."
    She looked away for a second, then shook her head and snapped
out of it.
    "Yah!" she said with a grin.  "Let's meet dah ol’ mahn.  Maybe
he kin teach you girlfriend ‘ow to heal properly," she teased.
    "But Fel..." Azzen said, "you can't heal at all."
    Fel snorted a laugh and told Azzen he was a “doonka doofah”, then the group departed with the robed man.

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