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We decided we had to go back, take another look around.
Especially me. I'm getting really close to that shadow cat and it is getting a little homesick, but it doesn't want to go without me. But its feelings are kind of my feelings, if that makes any sense.
It is funny. Since I've been adopted, I'm not a shadow any more. I'm not sure what I really am, and mom and dad just say that I'm "a daughter" and smile at me in kind of a happy way when I ask. The cat fills a void in me.
At least I'm not "J.R." any more. After some teasing (telling me they were debating names like Nova Firestorm and Starbright Diadem) they let me know that my name on the court papers was Amber.
I was surprised at the name, until they had me look at myself in a mirror.
Now shadow vampires don't reflect in mirrors. We can see each other, of course. I knew that I was just different shades of gray, some dark and some light. The more I've become an earth shadow, the more my color has been shifting towards the quartz colors that that species of oread seems to favor. Most of the time I'm covered by the glamor that makes me look normal, and I hadn't even looked at my "real" self -- after all, I don't think of mirrors and there isn't much to look at. Much to my surprise, I've kind of ceased being a shadow creature at all, other than the earth power to move through earth wherever there is rock. Turns out that isn't a shadow power at all. "Earth shadows" is just a shorthand used by my father for what we became, to make us feel not quite so changed.
I was surprised to see myself in the mirror. I've always had this idea of what I looked like, and the idea hadn't changed. Of course I realized that not being a vampire, I could see myself, but I expected just lots of grays, with a little quartzish short of color.
Well, my skin doesn't have much color at all, other than a yellowish/tan/taupe sort of color. Like a gray with all the dark shades gone, but with lots of subtle shades, like milky quartz. Turns out that the shadow part of me has been leaching out, being replaced with human the longer I've been in the household. My hair is a reddish/yellow color -- just like fire quartz. My mom gave me some fire quartz on a white gold chain while I was looking at myself and told me it was a naming gift. The fire quartz was from her, the white gold was from my father. She admitted that she had been responsible for my hair taking a fire color -- my inheritance, so-to-speak, at becoming her daughter. My eyes are a dark, dark gray. I like my look, all in all, but they are right in naming me Amber, it suits the way I look.
Anyway, I, and the little girl I've become friends with, decided to go back and see more of that place we could reach through the shadow in the back yard.
The fun part is that just like she can see through her hawk's eyes, and think with it, I've been able to start hearing and seeing through my cat's eyes. I can see in the dark again, and I can move through shadows again. The cat has kind of restored part of myself that I thought was gone in the change. It really likes me, because the shadows are so natural to me. I like it.
Anyway, we went back. She took a day packs with us, and we were careful. My mom had taught me to focus on the fire quartz and I learned to cast a fire shatter spell with it -- just like shatter, only with fire. Well, almost just like shatter. Armor tends to soak some of the damage up, and it also starts fires. But it doesn't cast much light. My mom tells me that I'm following the deep earth fires, ones that have heat, and burn, but that don't have light. Kind of the other end from the high fires that are all light and no heat (how much warmth do you get from starlight?). My dad says the true light will come to me some day, but not to worry about it. He told me the word I need to use to make my chain form into a sword that is partly magic and partly light.
Anyway, I was ready and that little girl has her staff. She is pretty good with it, and she picked up a frost rune that she wears around her neck. Makes her more intense with what she does. She has also been training with the short staff. She is better at it than I am with a sword right now -- especially since I'm not good with a sword at all. My dad has promised me lessons. Both of "us girls" would rather run than fight, but at least we can fight if we get caught in a pinch. Which I knew, from experience, was bound to happen some day.
So, we went to look again.
My cat was happy to be home with the stars, though he seems to really like my house just as much. We were making good time, though we were being really careful. The roach monsters last time were a nasty surprise.
Which meant we were ready when we ran into the brindle cats. They were tormenting these little six legged creatures, about the size of large mice or small rats. They looked like miniature elephants, with a cluster of trunks -- kind of like oversized roaches with elephant skin, and legs,and trunks instead of feelers. I later learned that they are a by-product of dead roachephants. Sometimes they can get pretty big.
But these were almost all killed by the brindlecats. We saw them from a distance and were going to move on, when the hawk gave out a cry of defiance. It recognized the brindle cats as the same ones that had tormented it before. They spotted me (and not the little girl, even though it was *her* hawk) and decided that they would eat two shadow creatures now that they were tired of killing the phantroaches.
Well, I hardened up and pulled out the sword. The little girl got very cold and suddenly we were in a fight.
The cats didn't have enough heat to bother me -- I'm as tough as quartz when I choose to be. My cat had to run, but it was faster than the brindle cats (it just can't take fire creatures, though it is slowly getting that quartz-like resistance to fire that I have). I had hoped to just bat them away, but they were out for blood, and they wouldn't be stopped by half measures. I and the sword drank them down. It wasn't very dignified, but it worked to get them off of me.
The little girl would freeze them, which made them turn blue and slow down, then I would drain the fire out of them by striking with my sword. They were in some sort of rage and nothing else would stop them. By the end I'd picked up a bit more fire power -- to the point that I can now melt rock with my bare hands and when I use the sword, it is really hot.
The little girl got to where the frost rune will freeze fire creatures even if it doesn't put out their flame. They aren't frozen solid -- they don't stop moving -- but they are sure slowed down. It is a neat effect.
When we finished, we looked around the roachephant nest, were we had almost been before.
It was pretty nasty, but the hawk spotted a leather pouch tangled up in what was kind of a midden. We opened it up and it had a book and a key ring with three keys on it -- all three the same. I looked at one and the little girl looked at one of the others and then we both realized we could "feel" where the other was -- the keys let us connect a little. We each put our key on the necklaces we wear around our necks -- mine went with the fire quartz and all (not to mention my house key) and hers went with the amethyst beads and the frost rune she has on the necklace she wears under her shirt. The third key I put on my cat's collar.
I decided to keep the pouch. While the little girl has a day pack, I don't. There is lots of stuff I don't have -- I never really needed "stuff" before. Just having a bed and blankets and a pillow seemed like more things than I would ever know what to do with. But I'm learning <g>.
Anyway, once we found the keys we both felt a nagging feeling. We followed it to the edge of the land and there, hidden in a bit of illusion, was a boat. The keys are what let us see it.
When we got closer, the keys pulled towards a key hole that opened up in space under the bench (it just looked like it was a solid bench -- like my dad's boat where the floatation foam is -- until the key got close). Inside were several bags. Most had copper pennies. Some with people's faces, a lot with fruit and grain pictures on them, a few with glyphs. There must have been three or four hundred copper pennies. There were also two smaller bags of silver pennies -- about thirty dime sized coins in each bag.
The boat also had some fishing nets and a place to sleep.
It was only about 14' long or so, with a pretty set of sails. They rippled in a wind that wasn't there. The little girl took it out to try it out first (because she could jag like lightening back to the land if something went wrong). Nothing went wrong. That boat could move faster than a horse -- and smoother too! I'd say it could get up to thirty miles per hour or so -- that is fast for a boat sailing on nothing with a magical breeze that only its sails notice. It sure beat walking though. Gave us a place to take naps.
Of course it also got us started on our next adventure, but that is another story.
|Copyright 2001-2003 Stephen R. Marsh and
Heather N. Marsh
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