Following is the fifth in a series of cuttings from my short stories book, Tales of the TREVEL.

Pocket Ninja           {2 years later}

The downpour soaked the mud in his field rows and saturated the flat leaves of the tobacco plants.  Fhell smirked as he surveyed his extensive lands outside the white walls of the great, circle City, Atlantis.  He stood alone in the field, or so the city dwellers thought.

Many rumors surrounded this year’s sudden abundant yield for the humble tobacconist.  Many theories and contemplations circulated the lower slum levels as to how such a low-caste business man could accomplish such prosperity of harvest in one short season. He’d not done it in past years, and most believed he’d not be able to do it again in the coming seasons. But, Fhell continued to smirk alone, or perhaps, not alone.

There was a twittering and he bent to gently touch a flat flabby leaf by his knee, from under which a voice nattered,

“You are pleased with our yield, yes?”

Fhell spoke in a low voice,

“Indeed, how could I not be?”

“Then, as all is well in this our new world, so may it continue in yours.”

Fhell, stood and adjusted his hat in a quiet salute, repeating,

“As in mine: be it in yours.” He nodded and turned to leave.

The twittering called to him through the lightning and the rain,

“Have you the hidden guard?”

Fhell shifted in his great trench coat and a shrill nattering rose from the folds, he smiled and said,

“Safe now and always.”

Sloshing all the way back to the edge of the Trevel Underland trade city, Fhell shook himself slightly as he stomped the mud from his boots and climbed the steps to the lowest level of the circling wall tops.  The rough guard that congregated there out of social necessity rather than military worth saluted him in greeting as he passed out his usual rolls of leaf to those he knew would keep the curious from prying closer into his fields.  He then crossed the bridging pathway over the grubby road to his second level back yard. Straight through the rain drenched garden, he made a beeline, not for his own kitchen, but for the back gate of his neighbor’s tavern, “The Rusty Rabbit.”

A cheer rose up from the dingy crowd as they all welcomed their favorite bastard in from the wet night.

“A drink for this low down, good for nothing, arrogant mole tagger!” Jarhan, the Blackguard, or blaggard, as he was more fondly known to his mates, slapped Fhell on the back and gestured to Mason who roughly tossed a small green grenade drink to each of the men.  They snagged the top in their teeth, tore it open and sculled the licorice Fae drink within.

Jarhan smiled a lushy grin at his friend and punned in mispronunciation,

“You’ve been absinthe from us, my friend.  Where’ve you been?”

“Just checking my fields.”

“Leave the fields to their own tending on a night like tonight.” Jarhan encouraged, “You’ve more n enough this year.”

“Well now, perhaps I have more than enough because I check them more than enough.”

“Bahhh!”  The alcohol on Jarhan’s breath nearly burned Fhell’s eyeballs. The military Strategist leaned in and whispered loud enough for the entire Tavern to hear,

“You be wanting to check the gardens of the lassies on a wet night like tonight.”

One of the Tavern she-locals, a florist from the ‘Nightshade Blooms’ store in the next level up, cried out,

“Then that’d be making you the sun of the desert, Jarhan, for you’d dry up any woman’s garden.”

The tavern burst with raucous hilarity.

“Aye, Mistress dark flower, and ye can suck my streams dry anytime.”

She threw him a deadly stare that was met only with a twinkle of winkings so instead she threw a tomato from her dinner plate that landed square in his face.  He licked up the juices and turned to Mason,

“Ye be wantin more salt in yer salsa tonight, man.”  Then turning to the master of music lodged in the corner stage, Jarhan called,

“Grimm, ya bastard, check your lady for a dance and let’s have some shenanigans!”

A sound “Huzzah!” filled the room and the music began thumping again as did the empty drink glasses that Mason filled with speed and aplomb.

The thunder rolled without and the music and hilarity rolled louder within, so much so that no one heard the crack outside the front door until it boomed open and the screaming donkeys could be heard clearly over the celebrations.

A random bolt of lightning had struck the burdened donkeys of a passing carriage and completely fried one, leaving the other terrified by the stench of burning fur and muscle foaming in his mouth.

A hooded figure crouched over the burning carcass and as the rain extinguished the flames, her gloved hand reached out and beckoned the donkey spirit form up from the ashes and kissing the translucent nose sent it on its final journey up into the night sky.  The second donkey quieted also at her touch and settled enough to be unhitched.

The Florist whispered in appreciation,

“Ferque me, it’s the Priestess’ Carriage.”

Fhell watched through the smoking doors, with all the others, as the lightning continued flashing on the elegant carriage of the Oracle Priestess as it burned before them.

One of the guards, kneeled to the hooded figure,

“M’Lady, I’ll fetch an air transport.  We can no longer continue ground travel, even with the skies so turbulent.” The hood nodded and the guard glanced behind him, his eyes fell directly on the drunken Blackguard, Jarhan.

“You are now responsible for the welfare of the Oracle of Atlantis. Do not fail in keeping her safe,” he then surveyed the grubby crowd warning, “and untainted.” He lifted his hands to usher the winds of the storm and was carried off on his errand.

Jarhan, drooling his last gulp of beer, jumped when he felt the gloved hand alight on his arm.  A gentle purring came from the behind the veil,

“Thank you Second Officer Jarhan.  I feel safer now already,” and she steered him inside as the doors closed behind them.

The once loud shenanigans were silent until a tiny kitten crawled out from under the folds of the Priestly skirt.  It wasn’t a real kitten, but the translucent blue of an energy form, but still as cute.  He bumbled over the rough floor capturing everyone’s attention as he chased the light reflections of the glow ball hanging from the ceiling. The tiny fur ball ran directly into the stage in his distraction.  Grimm bent down to pick up and scratch the energized head.  Its purr echoed into Grimm’s hand-bound sound amplifier and a high pitch technical squeal sparked everyone from their sleepy allusion.

The veiled and hooded figure inquired of the Barman,

“Mason, is it?”

“Yes, M’Lady” responded the Tavern proprietor with a quick grin.

“A drink for all my new friends on this ghastly night, please.”  She gestured to the whole room, dumped a bag of coin on the bar, and was immediately welcomed as family with a loud cheering.  Grimm returned the energy fur ball to her and she lifted her head to thank him causing the draping hood and veil to fall back onto her shoulders.  She revealed a genuine smile and requested,

“Your loudest of beats for a night of storms, please, goodly music man?”

“At your willing, M’Lady.” Grimm bowed and backed to his corner to turn up the tunes.

Jarhan, suddenly more sober than he liked, escorted the Priestess to a table, but she pointed to the bar and he sat her two seats over from his friend who lingered as usual in a swirl of sweet smoke twisting up from his ever lit pipe.  She placed the kitty on the bar top and fed him a handful of treats, of the same translucent, energized blue, as its own form.  It purred loudly, crunching them.

Fhell studied the woman from under his hat.  She was not so striking as to cause wars for her beauty, but there was certainly a presence about her that intrigued him.  She caught his eye and smiled right into his soul.  The embers of his pipe glowed bright and his own eyes gave off the usually hidden fire within.  She spoke,

“I have heard tell of a humble tobacconist that has been met with mysterious fortune in harvest this season.  Do you know of him?”

“Aye,” said Fhell as he shifted somewhat uncomfortably in his seat, dislodging a few of the hidden that twittered in anger at him, but only loud enough for him to hear. He cleared his throat to cover the grumbling.

Kitty’s ears pricked up and it hissed at him.

The woman took a closer look for what seemed forever, but then relaxed,

“I am sorry.”  She said, “I don’t usually pry without prior approval.”

Jarhan turned from speaking with Mason,

“M’Lady, I have ordered the best rooms of the house for you to retire in until your new transport arrives.  I will escort you upstairs and see to your comforts if you like.”

A mischievous grin glinted across her face and she teased the Blackguard charmer,

“A tempting offer, my Metal friend, but I think perhaps you should set up your guard at the base of the stairs tonight.  Besides,” she turned to the smoky one, “I believe I should like to rest with some sweet weed this evening.”  The Priestess extended her hand to Fhell and he took it without hesitation.

With a natural grace in chivalry, that few in the Tavern had ever seen, the humble tobacconist escorted the Oracle of Atlantis to the upper rooms as if he’d been a grand Duke all his life.

A fireplace stood empty in the cool room and she looked to him, knowing he could easily tend it, and he did, as she stepped out of her dripping robes behind a shadowy curtain and reentered in the simple attire of a traveler.  Her jeans and shirt fit well and a light woolen cover hugged what Fhell had missed before as an ample, curving figure.  He could not understand how in all Trevel, he’d not noticed that first of all.

They had an easy conversation over a hot meal, bitter drink and sweet smoke and soon fell into a quiet of reverie that seemed to cause the time be still, but for a regulated thumping in his ears he hoped she could not hear.

He wondered if now were the time for courage in his typically bachelor life and ever so slowly, with the occasional sudden stretch, he inched closer toward her.  He thought she noticed and saw her amusement.

She was laughing at him!  Well, ferk that and all.  He stood in hurt pride and stoked the fireplace that flared to suit his anger.  She poured and offered him another drink without the teasing grin.

“A Flora Energist with a bend for the Fire, too, that must be a difficult combination.”  It was an understanding, not a question.

He answered her,

“What of you? I mean you’re obviously Fauna, with your energized kitten, anything else?”

“Oh she’s not a real kitten.”  There was a deep growl from the bed and Fhell’s heart jumped as he saw a great blue-white lioness washing her paws on the feathery down. “I only manifest her as that so as to not terrify the public.”

Fhell swallowed as the lioness blinked at him sleepily,

“Probably a good idea.”

“And, no,” the woman continued, “not just Fauna, I have a minor knack for Flora and Water as well, thus my love of a good harvest.”  She took another breath of the shared hooka, smiled into his soul again and it responded too well for his comfort.  She reached out and fixed his collar. “But if I may,” running her hand down the lapel of his trench coat she asked, “what hast thou in thy trenches?”

Fhell’s voice cracked slightly,

“Excuse me?”

She leaned in and whispered,

“Your pockets are not empty.  You are a guardian of Little Ones.”

He was flustered and denied it all.

“I . . . there . . . No idea what you mean?”

She whistled a merry little ditty and the rustling in his coat sprang to life.

The tiny Leaf Fae creeped from their hiding folds and bowed in gracious adoration,

“Mistress Oracle, we have missed your face at our harvest moon banquets this year.”  The Captain of the tiny hidden Guard saluted the Priestess.

“And I have missed your dances.  But it seems you have found a new dancing ground to play within?”  She smiled at the tobacconist, complimenting him, “and you must please them well to benefit so fully from their residing in your fields.  How did you come to this arrangement if I may ask?”

Fhell blushed,

“That tale is not mine to tell.”

“Indeed, I understand.” She smiled and nodded to the retreating Fae warriors.  She restudied the humble man before her.  “You and I are quite alike, are we not?”

Fhell, humphed in disagreement,

“How do you figure that?”

“No one sees you for who you really are, or what heroics you perform every day.”

“I don’t see how offering refuge to an almost extinct Nation and being the one to benefit from such a relationship is all that heroic.  I’d call it just a profitable business arrangement.”

The Oracle relaxed into her soul and spoke,

“The Fae offer themselves to only those worthy of carrying the burden.  It is rare to find a wielder of the Pocket Ninja.”

Fhell laughed aloud,

“Pocket Ninja?”

She giggled too,

“It is my own goofy term, I admit, but still, it is a mighty burden, no matter how small.”

He shrugged it off,

“It’s no big deal.”

The woman placed her hand upon the man’s,

“Aye, but it is.”  She left her fingers heavily upon his.

In a brilliant five seconds of terrifying courage, he closed his fingers around hers and lifted them to his lips.  He kissed the soft skin.

She grinned that cheeky smile again and teased,

“That wasn’t so hard now was it? You’ve wanted to do that all night, haven’t you?”

She was laughing at him again!

Fhell tore his hand from hers and stomped to the window.  That old pain, of loss and neglect gnawed at his insides with a fresh burning.

She spoke quietly from behind him,

“Do you know how the Scorpion mates?”

“What?” he snapped at her.

“The Scorpion male takes a hold of the female’s pincers and together they dance for hours, sometimes even days like that.  Then the male deposits his bag of seed and guides the female over it until she absorbs it into her body. Which I think is a bloody waste and much prefer the dance of two Scorpio’s who find more passion in their love making than any other coupling in the whole zodiac, due to their dual intensity.”

Fhell couldn’t comprehend what he was hearing and just started at the woman back lit by the fire, his fire.

She continued,

“Unfortunately, though, the Scorpion female will often devour the male after they mate, as would I consume you, before walking away and leaving you behind.”

Her tears ran freely from her eyes and Fhell recognized the pain in her heart as that which he knew all too well.

He reached for the fragile girl,

“Then don’t leave.”

She stepped into his embrace and he held her close as she whispered,

“It is easy for one with no faith to ask that, but impossible for the one who lives in Faith to live without it. Yet know that I have enjoyed and needed our dance tonight, and that my desire beats harmoniously with yours.”

There was a loud knock at the door,

“M’Lady, the airbus is arrived.”

She nearly kissed Fhell, but dropped her resolve and set aside her personal wanting, calling out,

“I come.”

The door opened as Fhell watched the hooded and veiled Priestess ushered from the room and he followed numb beside the lioness that did not return to kitten form and terrified the dwindling crowd in the lower rooms.

“We will need you to guide through the storm, tonight, Mistress.”  The Guard smiled at her in sad encouragement, “No rest for the weary, aye?”

As the airbus rose above the Tavern, the Oracle called down to the Guardian of the Pocket Ninja,

“Would you dare see those for whom I am guardian?”

Fhell looked up as the sky exploded before him in brilliance. A light so bright as to burn the very sun gave no harm to his eyes.  He saw it burst from her heart and cast aside the darkness.  Not the darkness of the night, but the Darkness in the night, for there, before his eyes he saw as never before, a winging and a clawing, and heard the screeching of Dark beings scratching at everything, desperate to devour, but kept at bay only by the brilliant shining of her heart. And she was gone, but the Light lingered over the city, expanding across the sky, keeping all the Darkness at bay.

The Pocket Ninja bowed to the Light from his shoulders that slumped as he trudged into his cold kitchen.  He threw a fire into the fireplace and felt the warmth.  Perhaps, after such a connection tonight, his loneliness might not gnaw quite so much?

No, no such luck.