Part 1  H.Q.

Part 2  Biwako-Ohashi-Bridge

Part 3   Rustling in the Dark

The sight of Lake Biwa had me in a headlock of a peculiar mix of joy and dread. The water surface shimmered with the natural and artificial magic mist, walled in by the lurking whispers in the trees around the shore. It could have been a gust of wind if this wasn’t a sacred place. The darkness of a starless sky moved. It hopped from tree to tree like a curious beast, deciding if the newly arrived people at the lake were prey or toy.

I heard the beating of multiple wings, the rustling of feathers ‘n claws, probably the menacing clicking of beaks. Several pairs of eyes fixed me and Lou. My skin tingled where the gazes touched me. The shadows whispered in a distant language, in their breaths: a distinct lack of innocence.

We stood at the edge of a big playground, surrounded by plastic slides and monkey-bars painted in happy, bright colors.

We could perceive the Moonlight Market already. Laughter and chatter, glasses chinked and water lapped against the hulls of wooden boats. Distant music. Faint singing. The sliver of bright in the dark, richness and depth. Hope hit me, hope to escape from the flat experiences of a human world. This was a dangerous notion. If I kept this thought, I’d get stuck. The Gatekeeper would find us on the shore.

I wondered what Lou saw and heard. His smile was a snarl, his tired looks changed to unease, fear. He seemingly wasn’t as welcomed as I was. His eyes went big, he kept yawning, licking his lips. I knew the signs of distress with werewolves. We had been in too many fights together.

The Moonlight Market was something different for every individual, like a personalized psychic welcome mat. For me, it was the scent of freshly baked bread, caramel almonds, hot sweet potato wedges, and roast chestnut. A warm hug. Forever. The desire to stay. All magical creatures had this dangerous urge. That was how the Market was created in the first place.

I felt my mind being leaned on, but this time it wasn’t a foreign mind. Nancy knew I was coming. She was expecting me. There was urgency at the edges of her mind.

“Kuro, I sure hope you have some aces up your sleeves.” He shook himself to change. His eyes flickered with a golden light of prayer candles. I stared at his back, as he casually jumped the chainlink fence that kept the playground separated from nature. With a crunch, he landed on all four on the gravel of the shore. Strong gusts made the pines sway. The rustling called me too.

I made it to the shore slowly and deliberately. I picked up three little pebbles and charmed them. As I reached Lou I gave him one. “This will protect and help you return.” He took it from my palm gingerly, only touching it with his black claws. He tucked it away into a leather belt with a secret compartment. Being a proud warrior, it had been hard for him to learn to trust me and my magic. We had our disputes, shouting matches, and long hours of sparring sessions, while only our fists spoke. Set two magically enhanced beings on each other, be prepared for a long, extensive and vicious fight.

“FELIX?” I crowed into the clouded sky. A ball-lightning answered with the sizzling hum of a live wire. It flittered through the dark atmosphere like a deadly, melon-sized butterfly. “All in for a dramatic entrance.” Lou snorted. He always made such a show of cramming his elemental ass into a more or less human form. I gave him the pebble meant for him, as soon as he had ars and hands to catch it. He examined it like an unknown insect, then made a sour face as if he remembered why he was here.

“Everybody ready?” I shifted my shadows, tensed and stretched them. They swayed over the pines, over the littoral waves, tasted the air, the water, the soil. The rustling in the trees cooed and cheered. “A word of warning. The Market is a living thing. Just remember: we have work to do.” Felix looked at me as if he anticipated a motivational speech. I wasn’t in the mood for that. My shadows fanned out and weaved towards the blob of glowing mist on the surface of the lake. I connected, and the Market answered my request by solidifying the shadow bridge and sending the Gatekeeper over.

A light wobbled towards the shore. From afar, it looked like regular foxfire, but I knew her. I was there when she was born. The form she chose for us, was of a Shiba-Inu, my favorite. She sat down on my shadow bridge, just before the waters reached the shore. “Password, please.” She sounded a bit flat. I made a step forward and showed her the spot Nancy had woven her seal into my skin. The Gatekeeper bit down on my pinky and licked the blood dripping out. She wagged her tail. “Welcome home.” She stood up and walked back the thin black line, as we followed her to the borders of this reality.


to be continued:

Part 4 (Moonlight Market) /

Part 5 (Giant Magic Spider) /

Part 6 (Woven) /

Part 7

original Art by author, 2000 ( ink, pencil, paper)

5 thoughts on “Fox, Wolf and Dragon (3)

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