“Girl! LOOK OUT!”
In an instant I turned on heel, the arrow spiking through the air as I twisted and dodged, the sharp head slicing my cheek, and a lock of my hair floated wistfully to the ground. In frozen bewilderment I looked to Coonskin, and he looked to me, us both petrified in the surprise of the moment, his cat eyes the size of dinner plates and fur on end.
“…Whew, that was close.” I said.
In irritated relief he rolled his eyes, his pointy ears flattening to his head.
“Time to go!” I shouted, as we both sprung to our toes and bolted, the throat-rattling war cries of the Crow-kowae Natives exploding through the underbrush as a flurry of arrows erupted out, raining down upon Coon and I as we ran through the leaf-slapping-twig-cutting wood, my two feet and his four paws pounding the earth with the beat of our hearts, the Natives hot on our tail!
“So!” declared Coonskin next to me, panting, “Have you got anymore bright ideas, Girl!?” I shot him a looked, his sharp canines gleaming in that all-knowing sneer of his, albeit slightly less savvy with his running-for-his-life and all.
“Yeah!” I barked, an arrow whizzing past my head as I stumbled-leaped over a log, “Why don’t you give yourself up! I hear they fancy roasted pussycat!” And in unified fashion Coon and I both spun round, my sword unsheathed and brandished as I cut down a tackling Native as Coonskin leapt to two legs and brought his staff hurtling into another’s stomach; our weapons whirling in cyclone method as we cut down our enemies, with every one taken two more emerging – there were too many! – and in an enraged flurry of yelling and battle cries Coon and I bumped backs, our weapons forward as the Natives swarmed in, surrounding us.
My heart quickened as my blood swept like fire through my veins, and I felt the fight in me blazing, my teeth clenched and muscles tight. I could feel Coon’s heart pounding through his back against mine, and could sense his clawed fingers tightening around his staff. The Natives had formed an encompassing circle, with spears, forks, clubs and arrows at the ready. Boy, this time we had really stepped in it… But, why the hell weren’t we dead?
“Why have they stopped attacking?” Coon hissed.
I stood, baffled. “I don’t know, keep your guard up.” The sweat had turned to paste on our bodies.
“Peck-CAW!” loudly croaked an unseen Native, as soon a wave of raspy calls emitted from the Crow-kowae, their plucky chant turning to wild shrieks and flapping of feathered arms and feet, as from the back of the throng I could see a tall red feather, coming towards us as the Natives parted in ritualistic respect for Kwown-con, the Death Bird Shaman, emerging in all his eccentric plumage and guise. I slowly moved my eyes up, taking in the décor of the majestic extravagance of his robe, overbearing his thin, lanky form, the bones and bottles clinking as he stepped, and the enormous skull beak protruding out from beneath his small, piercing eyes. Back still against mine, Coonskin had craned his head, and he breathed solidly into my ear, “Hold your ground.” As both our gazes were captured by the Soothsayer Chieftain, on guard, gobsmacked, our angry and confused expressions were returned with steady, hawkish unwavering glare, the Chieftain halting before me and leering like a proud, feathered grizzly.
A silence had fallen over, with only the cooing of the wild wood encircling, and mine and Coon’s feet fumbled lightly, our restless nervousness betraying us, Coon’s tail swishing apprehensively about in between my legs and my fingers fidgeting around my sword. “Well,” I at last barked, “If you’re gonna kill us, kill us!”
Coonskin’s ears swiveled round as he scanned his side of the circle, “I’m not sure they need encouragement right now, Girl. Might I suggest negotiations through impromptu groveling or wild haymaker to the face—”
“I don’t think either of those choices are in the cards.” I said, eyeing the bone-piece heavily fastened over the Shaman’s face. The awkward standstill continued, and my blood was roiling in my ears, “What are you waiting for?!” I shouted.
Suddenly I noticed some hiker, in casual wear and about my age, standing before me in the middle of the path looking rather surprised and offended, and in a hurry I dropped my stick and sheepishly diverted my eyes downward, muttering out a forced laughed whisper, “Sorry, I was just -” and quickly scurried back into the bushes and plunged myself down the slope, scraping my leg and bumbling an “Ow!” as I skirted across the pond and up the dirt road I bolted without looking back.
Reaching the paved parking lot I at last came to a gasping halt, grabbing my knees and catching my breath, my disappointment and embarrassment all rushing to my face. After a couple deep inhales I stood up and adjusted my shirt and dusted off my pants, and scanned my surroundings, relieved to not see anyone. I shoved my hands into my pockets and headed on home, reluctant but deciding that the adventure would have to continue another day, and praying that obtrusive guy didn’t go to my high school.
“Reality isn’t all there is, after all.” – Isaac Asimov
That was the year of Chasing Foxtails, the year I spent most of my alone time out in the woods, and indeed all over the city, living out the venturesome journey I had spent many a day and night dreaming about. We made quite the dynamic pair, Coonskin and I (the Girl With No Name) and in the end we had succeeded, collecting the Nine Foxtails and rescuing his sister from the terrible clutches of the Watcher, and with heartfelt eyes we said goodbye, and parted ways. After all these years, my quest has carried on, but Coonskin was laid to rest long ago, because a cat can never live as long as we humans do.
I’ve lost all the Foxtails, to rummage sales and such. They were just those cheap rabbit’s foot key chains you used to be able to win at arcades, via purchase with cardboard tickets, but I like to imagine that someday, some youth will start the adventure anew, the world in jeopardy once more, and the hunt will begin again; the Magic of The Nine come together, and wielded by those of courageous hearts.
But that is a book well closed for me, although, sometimes, I think about Coon and I, alone on the pier, and his words of comfort to me as he placed the stone into my hand.
“We will meet again.” he said.
I do believe we will meet again, although, I do not believe either of us will be aware of it.
That is magic at it’s best.