This was supposed to go live yesterday. I forgot to schedule it. I’m sorry, folks.
Previous subchapter here.
A few days later, Angriz and I arrived at the Weirdling’s glen. My guide placed my hand upon a tree. “Wait here, until I’m able to introduce you. She doesn’t like strangers to be brought unannounced. I’ll bring her to you, first.”
“Alright,” I said.
“One more thing: she’s not like anyone you’ve met before.”
“Alright,” I said again.
I waited until Angriz tromped off before I laughed to myself. It seemed heartless to remind him everyone here was unlike anyone I’d ever met. Still, I found myself wondering what he meant. I soon found out. About ten minutes later, Angriz returned with someone who had a much lighter tread.
I noted an unfamiliar odor. I recognized Angriz’s scent. He smelled like hot steel, with a faint tang of pine. This came from his preference for sleeping on pine boughs. This new scent, while not unpleasant, unfamiliar; flowery, but with a faint acrid undercurrent. They stopped a few feet from me.
“Carter, this is Soo-jau. She is the Weirdling I told you of.”
“Angriz,” a soft voice said. “I wish you would stop using that common term. Please identify me the proper way.”
Leather creaked as Angriz bowed. “I’m sorry, Lady Soo-jau.” He directed his next words to me, “She is Vaush-Tauric.”
“What’s in a name?” I said.
“Well said,” said Soo-jau. “A flower by any other name smells the same.”
‘She misquoted William Shakespeare to me, and has no idea who he is. I find that funny as hell for some reason.’
“Thank you, my lady.” I held my left elbow in my right hand, and tapped my lips with my left index finger. “Speaking of scents, yours is interesting. What is it, pray?”
“Carter!” Angriz sounded shocked I would ask such a question.
Soo-jau chuckled. “You are smelling my relaxation salts.”
“Another scent is beneath. Something acrid,” I said.
“Indeed,” she replied. “Tell me, how does Angriz smell to you?”
“Huh?” Angriz sounded confused.
I ignored him for the moment. “Like hot metal and pine. He likes sleeping on pine needles.”
“Can you guess why hot metal?”
“Maybe because he breathes fire.”
“You are correct. What breath weapon do you think I possess?”
“I would say one of acid.”
“Are you a full dragon, Soo-jau?” I asked.
“I am. Only full dragons can ever be Vaush-Tauric.”
“Angriz tells me you will be able to restore my sight.”
“We’ll get to that, but first, I wish to perform a test. Come here.”
She took me by my hand and led me further into her glen. Water gurgled into a fountain. She released my hand and moved away. I marked her movements by listening to her footsteps through the grass. I turned my head so I would be able to follow her light step easier. The sward sprung up as her feet left the ground. She levitated.
“Why are you flying?” I asked.
“You heard me rise?” she asked, head titled to the side.
She nodded as if my answer was what she was expecting. “This is part of the test. I suspected you might be able to track my movements by sound. Your head movements confirmed my suspicions.”
“Hunh,” I grunted.
“Carter, does magic exist in your world?”
“Not real magic,” I answered. “We possess tricks we call magic, or illusions, but they are really slight-of-hand and misdirection.”
“Were you always blind?”
I told her about what happened. I got chills reliving the experience. As an atheist, to have witnessed the appearance of a real angel was…startling to say the least.
“You seem to take the existence of magic rather well,” she said.
“In my world, I deal with things which to others would seem to be magic more often than not. Something we named nuclear physics deals with splitting atoms. We call this process fission. This generates an enormous amount of heat. My friend and I once experimented with creating the opposite, called cold fission which generates a tremendous amount of cold. I am used to the unusual.”
“What are atoms?” she asked with interest.
“In simple terms, they are the building blocks of everything.”
“What about not simple terms?”
“Well, as I learned, an atom is the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element, consisting of a nucleus containing combinations of neutrons and protons and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus by electrical attraction; the number of protons determines the identity of the element.”
“Hmm. I think I prefer the simpler way of saying it. I can learn a lot from you.”
“And I from you,” I said. “Now, what about the remainder of this test?”
She laughed. “Alright. This part is simple in concept: Catch me.”
“That’s all?” I asked, suspicious.
I sighed and agreed. ‘This is silly.’ I lunged to where I had heard her voice from last, hoping to catch her off guard. This time, the laughter came from my right and a little behind me. I whirled and leaped. I landed hard on my stomach, my hands clutching the empty air. The air left my lungs in a rush as I slammed into the ground. Belly flops on the ground are painful, let me tell you. I groaned and rolled to my feet with care, cussing as I did. Further laughter came from my left, close by, so I swung my arm outward, intending to grasp her at the last moment. Soo-jau laughed again as my hand closed on empty air. Though I sensed no mockery in her constant laughter, only fun and enjoyment of the game, I found myself growing angry. I whirled left, then right, becoming angrier and more disoriented as I flailed about. I ceased talking, my only sounds grunts and gasps. I think she sensed my anger because her laughter also halted.
I found a scaled face with a flailing hand, and clamped down. A grunt and faint “Ow.” To my shame, I realized I had Angriz and caused him some pain. My anger melted away to be replaced with concern.
“I’m sorry,” I said, releasing my grip. “Are you okay?”
He pulled away. “No worries.”
With a clearer mind, I had a flash of inspiration. I stretched my hand out until I touched his leather clad chest. I moved to my right, stretching my arm out. I took two steps further away.
“Angriz,” I whispered. “Do me a favor?”
“Hold your breath for thirty seconds.”
He took a deep breath, and did as I requested. I shouted, startling Soo-jau. A brief gasp of surprise revealed her presence to my left. I waited, counting to three in my head. She moved to my right as I anticipated. I leaped at her without turning my head. I manage to wrap my arms around her waist. Our combined weight overcame her levitation spell, bringing us both crashing to the ground. I released Soo-jau, and rolled to my back so I lay beside her. She lay panting in unison with me for a bit. Angriz resumed his normal pattern of breathing. A moment later, she sat up.
“Congratulations,” she said. “None ever caught me. How did you?”
I smiled, happy with my own cleverness and another chance to teach.
“After I hurt Angriz…-”
“You did not,” he said.
“My shame caused my temper to evaporate,” I continued as if he hadn’t interrupted. “When able to think again, I had a flash of inspiration: my hearing improved tenfold after I’d lost my sight, so I wondered if I might be able to hear you moving through the air. I had him hold his breath, and shouted. I guessed the suddenness of my shout would surprise you. You gasped and I knew where you hovered. I figured that you wouldn’t stay in place after giving your position away, so I listened as hard as I could for you to move. When you did, your mass caused a breeze. The day was otherwise calm so I knew where you ended up. The rest, you know.”
“Ah. Excellent,” she said with some pride in her voice.
I tingled with the sincere praise. I rose to my feet and held out my hand to her. When she accepted, I pulled her up from the grass.
“So, did I pass your test?”
“You did, Carter Blake. All of them.”
“All?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes. I wished to test your character, you adaptability, and your hearing. I figured you might get angry, though the speed with which you regained your composure surprised me. I admit, though, I did not expect you to catch me. I planned to call an end to the test when you tackled me.”
“So, what happens now?” I asked.
“Now, I begin my preparations. We will learn if I am able to aid you. Return tomorrow.”