Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


   Home      Issue #17 Nemesis
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EPISODE 17

Nemesis

 

 

The Trapper roused from his sleep, something tugging at his consciousness. He sat up, pulling the blankets around him in the pre-dawn chill of a cabin with the fire burnt out.

Took you long enough.

The Trapper listened. A long, slow scratching noise slid across the bottom of the door. He could see the planks give slightly with the pressure. The hinges creaked as they took the strain.

He fumbled for his axe, laid it across his knees, and looked around in the dimness for his bow.

It’s over by the door.

He made out the bow, leaning in the corner.

The bottom of the door gave again as a weight pushed against it. A rank smell wafted through the cabin.

The final dregs of sleep driven out of his mind, the Trapper began to swing his feet out of his bunk.

I think you forgot …

 Unhampered by the splint, his feet swung smoothly to the floor.

… that you left the splint off last night.

The pain of the man’s unprotected injury hitting the planks raged through the Cat’s senses, blinding her for a moment. His cry of anguish as he toppled to the floor caused the dog to cower away from his protective position facing the door.

Owee! That hurt! She scanned the leg. No serious damage done, though she could see the blood rushing to the injured area. The feel of his pain still reverberated in her senses.

There was an increased scrabbling at the door, as if some huge creature were trying to dig a hole in the wood.

She regarded the Trapper, writhing on his back in agony. It took considerable effort for her to wall off the pain he was radiating. Well, if that thing gets in here, he’s not going to be much good. Time for other methods.

She reached out, opening herself to the being on the other side of the door. She almost retreated in disgust, but she pushed through.

It was a nasty mind, full of a fiery independence. And blood-lust and anger. There was pain there, too. The left hind paw, to be exact. She checked. Yes, three toes missing in a straight line. Probably caught in a trap. Doesn’t like humans much, it seems. Can’t say as I blame him.

The questing mind tested along the bottom of the door, found that it moved more on the latch side, and began to dig again at that corner: swift, powerful strokes that hewed splinters away at every stroke.

       The door gave a bit, and the Trapper wrenched himself into a sitting position on the floor, sweat streaming down his face. He scrabbled in his blankets for the axe, and started to inch himself to his feet, using the bed and the table for support. His injured foot touched the floor, and pain flared again.

I can see this is going to be my problem. It would help me think if you weren’t always banging yourself around. That pain… wait a moment. The pain. Why keep it to ourselves? Rather selfish, when you think about it.

She gathered the agony that raged through the Trapper’s leg and launched it at the nasty mind on the other side of the door.

The animal snarled and turned, snapping at its injured foot as if something had attacked. Its jaws closed on empty air, and the Cat sent another wave of pain.

And I can do better than that!

She began to create a picture. An image of the Trapper, standing firmly on two feet, Sword in one hand and axe in the other. She added a huge, snarling Ruffie, crouched at his side. She hurled this image at the animal, including the door breaking open and the horrible duo launching themselves in fury through the splintering wood.

The wolverine gave a despairing wail and backed rapidly off the porch, stumbling over its injured foot. The Cat sent another wave of the man’s pain to increase the creature’s own agony. She sent the sound of a screaming human voice, underlain by the snarl of the dog, and slung it after the animal as it scrambled in panic away from the cabin.

The wolverine humped off down the trail, its bounding run hampered by the pain in its injured paw, and the Cat sent the avenging Trapper image soaring after. She reached back into the mind of her Hand for Power, even calling on the dog’s feeble intellect to help, and kept the image alive for as long as she could as their attacker raced away, his terror becoming fainter and fainter with distance. Finally it faded to nothing.

The Cat’s consciousness returned to the cabin. The Trapper was standing, a stunned expression on his face, staring at the cabin door. The dog was whimpering and trying to rub against his master’s good leg.

“What the hell just happened?”

I sent it packing.

“Who? The bear?”

That was no bear. It was a wolverine with an injured hind paw.

The Trapper eased himself into his chair. “Injured paw? That would explain a lot. Usually they wouldn’t attack a human, especially in my own den.”

Oh, so now he talks to me.

“So now she admits it was a wolverine. Not so imaginary, I suspect?”

The Cat took a moment to think this over. You mean this whole thing was just a way to punish me for not believing in your wolverine?

“Not really. There might have been some of that. But I really did have to make a decision. If I was going insane, I had to combat it every way I could.”

And now you’ve decided that you’re sane.

The Trapper grinned, wiped a hand over his brow. “A blast of pain like that goes a long way towards persuading a man what is real and what is not.” He reached down to pick up the sticks and bandages of his splint. “And I could sort of see what you were doing. I got a backlash of that animal’s mind. Nasty thing. Just about what you’d expect from a wolverine.”

An interesting sort of mind, don’t you think?

“If you consider anger and bloodlust to be interesting.”

Also pride and a fierce independence. Sound like anyone we know?

“Oh, come on! You don’t really think…”

When you get to that level of the mind, you see what its owner does not want the world to know. And there are some striking similarities…

“Between me an a wolverine? Do you want to rust away the rest of your life hammered through a pine tree on the top of the nearest peak?”

… and anger and bloodlust…

“All right. Fine. I call for a truce.”

How boring.

“Maybe I like it that peaceful. Maybe I come up here in the winter because it keeps me from having to put up with the rest of humanity. Thus allowing me to stay sane. Which you are not, at the moment.”

That is not a problem. I am trained in the art of catering to my Hand’s mental well being. I will tend to your sensibilities. I will be the ideal companion.

“In other words, you’re going to be manipulating my emotions all winter. I think perhaps I’d prefer my insanity. It wasn’t fun, but at least it was my very own.”

The Trapper hoisted his injured foot gently onto the bed. “Someone must have created you. Surely he didn’t turn out a Sword that was going to be the bane of his Hand’s existence.” He settled himself so that the anxious Ruffie could push his hairy snout up on the man’s lap. “Why didn’t he make you more like…like Ruffian, here?”

Ruffie is a dog. In case you hadn’t caught on yet, I have the soul of a cat. Get used to the idea.

“Hmm. That does explain a lot.”

I’m not sure I like the sound of that, but with the objective of keeping the tender mind of my Hand from all tension and worry, I will be dignified and refuse to respond.

The Trapper bent and began to replace the splint on his leg. “I’ll have to figure out how to make that happen more often.”
Yes, it was going to be a long winter

 

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