A year ago,
“Felix. I have questions.” Siphokazi said.
There was still plenty of work to do. Most of the ships had been tied together. There were a few crazy fishermen with some crazy ideas. At least for now everyone was safe. Felix was bouncing from ship to ship checking where he could help, astounding those present with his strength and speed. But they were out of danger; that could wait. Siphokazi’s questions could not.
“Ah, Siphokazi.” Felix said, realising this. “You look troubled.”
“I’m disturbed. These last few hours have been surreal and I’m struggling to come to terms with it all. Not only that but I’ve completely broken away from my timetable.”
Felix stared at her unblinkingly. He gazed with a mysterious and powerful scrutiny.
“Come with me.”
She followed Felix over a number of recently set-up gangplanks. Each step rocked the giant floating mass. She’d never been one for the sea and her stomach sloshed sickeningly. Felix finally halted at the door of an ancient looking boat. It was rough and sturdy, appearing as if it had been on the seas for a hundred years. But, though it was scarred and rotten in some places it showed no signs of surrendering. The waves barely affected it. Felix scratched at the large wooden door that led to the depths of the ship. Siphokazi opened it and they entered.
The innards were as worn as the exterior. This ship had been well-used in every way. However, it gave Siphokazi the sense that it would be able to endure the end of the world. At this rate it may have to.
“This is a very special ship.” Felix said.
“Judging from the design I’d say it was a Molish vessel from the Age of Exploration.”
“Not just any Molish Vessel! This is Gong-Gar: the ship of SnrGnrsh. Grgl and Chang found it floating around between Hat Island and the desert. There wasn’t a soul on board. I spent most of my time recovering in here.” Felix said. There was a moment of silence as Siphokazi considered her approach and Felix considered her consideration of her approach. The ship creaked, as they do.
“Would you mind if I asked you a question first?” Felix said.
“Alright.” Siphokazi said. She stayed on her guard, wary that he might attempt to change the subject.
“How did you survive after falling out of the ship?” Felix asked curiously.
“Straight to it then. Excellent.” Siphokazi said. She looked downwards. “Very well, I doubt you’ll report me to the Librarians.”
“The thought never crossed my mind.” Felix grinned. There was something different about Felix now. His grins and grace were no longer reassuring. He seemed almost farcical. An impostor. Nevertheless, she would tell him the truth. It may cause him to do the same.
“I was saved by my armour.” Siphokazi said.
“Yes. Warrior Librarians are equipped with armour enchanted with magix. Apart from being incredibly hardy and lightweight they possess a special purpose. In the event that a Warrior Librarian’s life is in danger the suit will detect this and activate a reactive mode. In this reactive mode it can change shape to cover the Warrior’s entire body, rendering them invulnerable for a short time.”
“Amazing! The librarians will never cease to amaze me with their wealth of knowledge. What manner of magix would they have used to do such a thing? I imagine the wizards would have followed suit.”
“They cannot. For, in truth, there is no such magix that would allow such a thing to occur. I only realised this after I studied the armour deeper. I became fascinated with the armour and how it worked. But, when I sought knowledge about them I was dissuaded and misdirected at every turn. I managed to sneak into a forbidden section of the library under false pretenses and with the aid of my brother. There I learnt the truth of the armour. You see they are not enchanted with magix at all. They are living beings. Living metal.”
“They’re alive?” Felix gasped.
“In the Age of Expansion the predecessors of the librarians became obsessed with the underground. Excavations were commonplace. One such excavation discovered these metallic beings. The librarians collected them for research. But, there was a terrible accident. The beings had survived underground, lying dormant peacefully. But, when they emerged from the ground and were robbed of their earthen sustenance they found they had a taste for our iron-rich blood. Many died, drained of every last drop. But, the librarians were able to use magix to pacify the creatures, make them forget their taste for blood. While the beings were confused the librarians trained and enslaved them. Now, decades later, they have become the perfect symbiotic armour. They have been robbed of all sense of awareness, it was stripped away from them and replaced with a purely instinctual will to survive.”
“Is your armour the same?”
“No.” Siphokazi smiled. “Are you, Yuuth?” Felix leapt back as Siphokazi’s armour burst into chaotic expansion. It spread from her chest up her neck, down her legs and arms until her entire body was covered in a shiny mettalic fluid.
“No, I’m not.” said a disembodied voice.
“What is this!?” Felix cried.
“I’m Yuuth.” said the voice.
“You see,” Siphokazi said from somewhere within the armour, “if the armour got a name it was no longer an inanimate piece of metal. It gained individuality, self-awareness. So, I went to a secluded island. I gave it a name. Unfortunately, as soon as I did Yuuth awakened and started sucking all the blood out of me.”
“Good times.” Yuuth said.
“Of course, I feared this eventuality: so I made sure to be in a desolate area with no other living beings around me. I managed to persuade Yuuth not to kill me, as if he did so he would have nothing else to feed on and would eventually die himself. ”
“She drives a hard bargain.” Yuuth said.
“Also, if anyone aside from me knew about his existence he would be hunted and enslaved all over again. So, I told him…”
“‘Stay with me and enjoy my blood from time to time or go back to being a mindless tool’.” Yuuth said in a convincing impression of Siphokazi’s crisp voice.
“We’ve formed a new symbiosis. He can gradually absorb my blood and in return he protects me. From the odd fall, for example. Of course, it’s no way for anything to live. But, a partner beats a slave.”
“Indeed.” Felix said warily. In this metallic form she exuded a deadly aura as if she might leap forward and tear apart whatever was closest. At the same time it was still the calm, quiet, controlled Siphokazi. But, Felix couldn’t shake the fearful nervousness.
Then the metallic fluid retreated, revealing Siphokazi again, and returning to its solid state. Felix’s jaw hung open.
“Now.” Siphokazi said. “Would you mind if I asked you a question?”
“Uh… certainly!” said Felix uncertainly.
“How did you survive?”
“The Fish-Kin!” Felix exclaimed, instantly regaining his cheerful composure. “I was blown to cinders. I could hardly keep myself together. But, Chang and Grgl came to my rescue. I stayed with them for a long while, recovering. I wish I could have come sooner, but here I am.”
“Thank you for answering my question. It seems reasonable enough. But, I have another thing to discuss.”
“We spoke to the Seer.” Siphokazi said.
“Ah.” Felix said in a monotone.
“He said Trubbleclutsh died 50 years ago.”
“So, I was wondering: who are you really? What are you really?”
Felix sighed and shook his head.
“So much for that plan. Well, no matter. This may prove more interesting anyway. You’re quite right Siphokazi. Trubbleclutsh did die 50 years ago. But you see… cats have many lives!”
Siphokazi said nothing. She merely stared intensely at him.
“No, you’re quite right. A poor attempt at a joke.”
“What are you Felix?” Siphokazi said. Her heartbeat quickened.
Felix hopped up on the table and started to fidget violently. His body contorted and transformed.When it finally came to rest he was no longer a cat but a jet black dagger on the table. The dagger spoke:
“I am Vis: Valiant’s legendary shape-shifting weapon.”
Siphokazi said nothing. She blinked vehemently and then asked:
“How is that possible?”
“Well, after Valiant and I destroyed the Slain Salvatora decided to reward me and gave me life.”
“Hm. That makes sense. Thank you, you’ve cleared up my questions.”
“Excellent.” Felix said transforming back into his cat form. “Cup of tea?”
“Habbuwuh?” Jack said.
“Look, I’ll prove it to you!” Felix said. Before their very eyes he started to shift and morph. With a slight poof he turned into a jet black katana and landed in Jack’s hand.
“It is I! Vis, Valiant’s ultimate weapon.” said the katana. Then with another slight poof Felix reappeared atop Jack’s bewildered head.
“I had wanted to keep it a secret until the end of the journey. But, circumstances have changed dramatically!”
“Oblibliblibli…” Jack spluttered.
“It’s not that hard, Jack.” Jean said. “He can change his shape! That’s what the Seer meant. He’s not actually Trubbleclutsh, he just looks like him.”
“And, I must say, he’s the most dashing of cats I’ve ever laid eyes on! Apologies for the subterfuge, Jack. But, I had the best intentions. Maybe some day I’ll tell you about Plan A. But, for the moment, Plan B is what we’ve got to deal with. Actually, we’ve gone through quite a number of plans over the past year.”
“And your rescue featured in none of them.” Jean said with unconcealed indignation.
“Yes, I felt I should personally apologise, Jack. That’s why I came! I must say, it is good to see you, Jack!” Felix said warmly. His paw transformed into a hand and patted Jack on the shoulder.
Jack’s pupils vanished.
There was a crashing of water as the bus fish arrived.
Beardface was standing on it, drenched to the beard. He had the raised eyebrow of one who had been kept waiting. But, upon seeing Jack he roared with delight and leapt up to embrace him.
“Brahrahra! Good Jack! ‘Tis a wonder! A wonder, to see you again!” Beardface laughed as he hugged Jack hugely. Jack realised that he wasn’t letting go. His vertebrae were starting to click and pop. Beardface also grabbed Jean and Felix hopped atop his hair.
“Ah! ‘Tis truly a joyous reunion but it must be delayed. We are savagely late. Now come! We must away.”
“Let go of me!” Jean shouted.
“Ah! Apologies.” Beardface said and he put Jean down.
“I’m not a kid anymore Beardface. So, don’t toss me around like one.”
“Quite right! Quite right!” Beardface said. Then he whispered to Felix and Jack. “Poor thing. Well-stressed before her trial.”
“Her trial?” Jack exclaimed.
“There’s no time to explain! Make haste! The bus fish departs!” Beardface cried. They all hopped on and held on tight. Moments later they were submerged in the watery depths.
A lone Djulok ran breathlessly up to the fish bus stop and collapsed. She cursed savagely. Fortunately, she’d been smart enough to bring a book with her. She sat on the nearby bench and tried to quiet her loud breathing. It was a good thing she’d gotten that takeaway cup from Dizzy’s Oasis. Tea really did make everything better.