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Posted on July 8, 2010 at 08:01:20 PM by georgia
“Little ’uns, huh?” Right Paw Missing Two Toes hisses, his ears flattened warily against his skull.
One Ear pays no attention. The girl – White Fur, she had introduced herself as – is unusually cold. Not just the generic post-life chill, either; her skin feels like ice. Her body temperature has gone down unnaturally quickly in a very short space of time, which strikes One Ear as strange, even for a fairy. The rat has seen a good deal many dead creatures before, including fairies, and has picked at numerous still-warm corpses – something about this situation feels wrong and it’s making the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
Right Paw Missing Two Toes creeps cautiously forward. “One Ear!” He squeaks as loudly as he dares; “little ’uns! Huh, huh?”
Twitching her tail in annoyance, One Ear spins round and nips him on his foreleg so that he squeals in indignation. “You go, huh?”
Sticking his nose in the air, her mate scurries speedily away, muttering mutinously under his breath. One Ear watches him go, making sure he’s out of sight, before turning her back on the semi-frozen body of her friend and scampering determinedly towards the door. Even without the complex message system which allows the rats to communicate information about the movements of the other inhabitants of the castle, it wouldn’t be difficult to find the large dog-familiar who had accompanied her and White Fur in their race for survival across Shaman. The general crashing and banging as he clumsily navigates can be heard from a reasonable distance.
“White Fur down,” One Ear squeaks.
“What is the point,” Penguin growls sullenly from underneath a broken chair, “of a tail if it doesn’t give you balance?”
Clumsily he clambers out, muttering incoherently under his breath and further demolishing the chair into a state beyond repair. As his tail moves, he staggers from side to side, crashing into various objects and sending a reasonable number of them flying. One Ear watches him with an expression of deep curiosity.
“Big Dog?” She queries with interest, using his rat name.
“Alright,” he growls back. “No need to rub it in.”
Penguin’s fairy (whose name One Ear doesn’t know, having never formally met her, but if she had to give her a rat name it would probably be Wild Fur) had been lying back on the bed, grinning from ear to ear as she watches her familiar tumble haphazardly around the room. Now she sits upright and attempts to bounce off the bed – I say ‘attempts’, because although she manages to get onto both feet she instantly does a face-plant onto the floor. Penguin sniggers. After several attempts at trying to stand, the fairy eventually plods over to them on hands and knees, looking extremely put out.
“This is much easier,” she complains. “Why don’t fairies walk on all fours like the rest of the animal kingdom?”
“Yup yup,” One Ear agrees. Penguin scowls at them.
“In an interesting turn of events,” the fairy explains to One Ear; “Poppy and I seem to have swapped bodies.”
“The fifth curse!” The dog (Poppy) cries dramatically.
“Divinity gone nuts, more like,” the fairy (Penguin) mutters darkly. He peers at the dog/Poppy. “You haven’t got that little white thing following you.”
“What white thing?”
“Yeah, long and white, like a sausage except sausages aren’t white. It follows me everywhere. I’ve never been able to catch it.”
Poppy-dog looks at him piteously. “That’s your tail, Pingu.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Penguin-fairy replies loftily. “No dog would ever be so stupid as to chase his own tail.”
Poppy-dog and One Ear exchange looks, and One Ear hastily changes the subject. Backtracking to the reason she’d come, she explains how White Fur collapsed and her heart stopped beating, as well as the unusual chill emanating from her corpse. Penguin-fairy is out of the room almost before she’s stopped talking, but Poppy-dog is standing stock still. Her expression is hard to read (mostly because dog faces are different to rat faces and One Ear isn’t familiar with their facial expressions) but she’s staring unblinkingly at the rat and seems even paler than usual – the usual pink of Penguin’s lips has gone pallid. Twitching her nose, One Ear scampers after Penguin-fairy and, after a few minutes, hears the clatter-snack of claws on the stone floor as Poppy-dog hastens to follow.
The world passes like a bullet beneath Adonis’ paws.
He’d always admired the wolf’s physical qualities but only now, in Itzal’s body, can he fully appreciate them. He can smell the wood-burning stoves in Falcon Point from here, and can even identify the type of fuel being used on them (coal). His other four senses are equally sharpened; his reflexes are instantaneous and he can travel at speeds to rival a horse. Past and present are his for the taking – he knows not only where the wildebeest are now, but which route they took to get there and where they were an hour before. He doesn’t need to think; his body reacts to things before his brain has even registered their presence.
The true freedom, though, is in his stamina. As he slows from his run and starts to pad at a slower, steady pace towards the door of his own home, he isn’t even out of breath. Adonis knows that even on an empty stomach and without sleep for days, he could still run forever.
The door bursts open before he gets there, and a thing tumbles out. Adonis can’t stop his hackles rising and his tail thickening, even though he recognises the Egyptian Sefert and knows that Seth would do him no harm. The great, dragonlike beast stares at him curiously, tilting his head like an inquiring kitten.
“Adonis?” It asks cautiously.
Even under Seth’s gravelly tones, Adonis recognises the defining quality of Lilith’s voice (or, perhaps, it’s because he’d been half expecting it). He nods.
“It’s the fifth curse,” Lilith confirms his suspicions. “The fifth curse has caused the souls from the bodies of fairies and familiars to swap places.”
Aura’s white skin is tinged blue by the time One Ear, Poppy and Penguin arrive, and her body is glistening with ice. Penguin-fairy whines pathetically and scoots over to her on all fours, sniffing at her with Poppy’s inferior nose. One Ear follows Penguin-fairy slowly, constantly shifting her gaze from Aura’s deadpan face to Penguin-fairy’s stricken one. The familiar offers no suggestions, merely touching the deity with one cautious finger and yelping at the cold.
“Mortuus per os,” Poppy-dog utters softly from the doorway where she’d been hovering.
“Huh?” One Ear and Penguin-fairy ask at exactly the same time.
“It’s Latin, it means ‘dead by sight’.” Poppy-dog plods forward slowly, taking the time so she doesn’t stumble. It’s difficult to get the balance with the tail right. “The spell to switch souls between fairies and familiars is a simple party trick; I’ve seen it performed before. Mortuus per os happens when there’s only one half of a soul because the other half has died or moved into another realm. The person’s soul leaves their body to go in search of the other body – their familiar’s – to inhabit, but there is no body available so it just floats aimlessly around. Meanwhile, their own body shuts down and the magic in it causes it to ice over to protect it from decaying while the soul is gone.”
“Magic, huh?” One Ear twitches her whiskers expectantly. “Magic fixes all things broken, yup yup.”
“It’s one of the curses, which means there’s nothing I can do. We just have to wait for the curse to wear off.” Poppy-dog has turned her face away. Penguin-fairy, who is still finely in tune with her emotions, suspects it’s to hide her relief; Poppy cares a lot more than she says she does. “There will be other people like this, whose familiars have died.”
“What about people who don’t have familiars?” Penguin-fairy asks.
Poppy-dog shrugs. “Dunno. Their souls are complete so they won’t shut down and ice over – they’ll still be conscious and walking about and all. Either they’ll be unaffected, or their compressed familiar part of their soul will just take over.”
The huge Great Dane turns away and plods out of the room. After a few minutes the girl follows, leaving the rat alone with the frozen goddess and this new information.
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