Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dancing Like Nobody's Business (Cecil, 4)

Narrowing his eyes at the stocky dwarf for a moment, the elemental looks at the group one by one and then eventually regards the bag with some interest, "Sacrifice?"... He nudges the sack with the toe of his boot. Seeing some sign of light from it, a faint smirk comes to his lips...

The elemental raises an eyebrow and runs his hand across the woman's face, ignoring how she tries to pull away from the touch. He gives a faint, chilling smile. With one sweeping motion, he sends the dwarf over the edge of the volcano, shouting as the dwarf falls...

Cecil sat bolt upright in bed, images of fire sweeping through his head, burning away the bigger details of his dream. His head ached like it itself were on fire, and he climbed out of bed and splashed some water on his face. As he finally brought his breathing under control, he heard a sound from outside; two almost simultaneous yips, and a pair of blurred forms darted through the cat-flap on the door to twine between his feet.

He raised the clay flute that ever hung around his neck to his lips, and even as he blew a few quick notes, a shout called from outside.

"Noah! Come test your reputation against mine, and your fur against my flesh! Come outside if you dare, or I'll come inside to take you!"

Cecil rolled his eyes, finishing the command, and Huginn and Muninn launched themselves from the window sill. He walked to the door, opened it, his foxes following closely behind. "Can't this wait until after breakfast," he shouted back.

"You are breakfast! I will grind your bones into bread, smear your... um..."

Cecil sighed. "Fine, fine, whatever, let's get this over with."

"Don't you want to put on some clothes first?"

"Why?"

"It's a little chilly out here. I mean, I don't want to take an unexpected advantage just because you take a bit of a chill."

Cecil looked down at himself, wearing nothing more than loose knit pants. "It's not that cold out. You want to do this, let's do this. What did you say your name was?"

"I didn't."

"Nobody it is."

"I'm not nobody."

"You sure look like one." The boy, although probably not much younger than Cecil himself, held his pimple-rotten face up with ignorant pride, wearing all manner of well-kept and stiff hiking gear, only just introduced to dirt, water, and mud. He looked like the clothes made him more uncomfortable than his challenger.

"Don't change the subject. I came here to fight you, to take you down a few pegs."

"Oh, well, in that case..." Cecil leaned back into the shadows of his home, knocks a couple of winter-weather coats, thoroughly broken in and layered with whatever grime hadn't let go since the past spring, and wrestled with his coat rack for a few long moments, before stepping outside. "Here." He tossed part of the rack down onto his front lawn.

"What-- No, I didn't mean that literally. Are you really that stupid?"

"No, but you clearly are." Cecil clicked his tongue, and Rama and Sita bounded out of his cabin and off the porch, staring down their visitor.

"Wolves? Seriously? Dude, that's so old hat." Nobody clapped his hands. "Bill, George, come." Two hulking dark forms stepped out of the brush on either side of him. "What do you think of them apples?"

Cecil yawned, not intending to seem cocky, simply because he was genuinely tired. He covered his mouth politely, despite not being convinced that the audience warranted it. "Sorry, just woke up. What apples?"

Nobody snapped his fingers, and one of the bears let out a bellowing roar. The other looked like he was thinking about it, but then decided not to. His alpha smacked his nose with a stick. "Bad George Cooper." The bear flinched, and then roared obediently.

"Bill and George Cooper-- Wait, Bill as in Bill Robinson? Do they dance?"

"As a matter of fact, they do. Bill, George: go dance." The bears charged.

Cecil blew the highest note on his flute, and two dark forms streaked in from out of the sky: the trouble twins to the rescue. They flapped their wings in the bears' faces, blinding them, and leaving them bellowing and distracted.

Nobody shoved two fingers in his mouth and whistled. "Shirley! The crows! Bombing run!"

A large brown bird dropped out of the sky from higher than the crows had been, narrowly missing Huginn, pulling out of the dive and going for Muninn.

Cecil clicked his tongue, and Rama and Sita added themselves to the equation, while Nobody stepped back in surprise, at a loss for words.

The biggest difference between them was one Nobody would never realize. Nobody ordered his pack around like pawns on a chessboard, being the strategist and commanding officer in one; Cecil let his pack work on their own initiative, doing a little nudging here and there to bring their attention to changing situations, but letting them decide how to handle it. It gave Cecil's pack a lot more flexibility and allowed it to respond faster to practically anything.

Rama had his paws full keeping George occupied and from coming to Bill's aid, even with Huginn's help, but he was keeping the balance; Sita and Muninn, on the other hand, were having trouble, Shirley (presumably Temple) were running them into the ground.

Cecil wistled a low note, and Rudabeh jumped up into his waiting hand, raising her up so they saw the world at the same height and pointed their heads toward Bill. She growled and pawed his fingertips, eager to rebalnce the scales. He took the few paces to the edge of his porch and tossed her underhand.

Nobody snorted, starting to say, "You throw like a guh---" until the fennec landed on Bill's back.

At that point, it was as good as over, though it was a matter of too many minutes before Nobody was willing to acknowledge the fact and call his trio off. None of them were terribly or irreversibly injured, one fact of training Cecil worked hard to instill in his packmates, but even Shirley herself was so tired she insisted on perching on Nobody's shoulder despite his failure to accommodate for that eventuality; he was going to need stitches, and he wasn't the only one.

On the other hand, Rama and Sita laid in the grass with Rudabeh bouncing between them, burning off a little excess energy while Zal looked on jealously. Cecil poked him with his toe, and Zal leaped clear over the porch from the doorway to join her.

"You've not heard the last of me, Noah. I'll see you again."

"Sorry, what did you say your name was?"


Dream text excerpt from "Awakening the Inferno Prologue" by Rach Burns.

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