The Way of the Word

22. September 2010

The Gatherers – Chapter 3

“There they come,” Ankhoro said. Miki didn’t look up from the mound she was building.

“I’m scared,” she said.

“No need,” Ankhoro said. “Not if Habbassin comes through for us.”

“He will,” Ghenni said. “It was his idea. And we know he can do more magic than Elomei.”

“Remember how he fixed the shells?” Miki said.

Zoltan walked up to Ghenni. Xulia, standing next to him, kicked in Miki’s mound.

“I thought I’d told you not to get in our way again,” Zoltan said. Ghenni rose and brushed the sand off her sarong.

“I don’t care,” she said. “You’d better start getting out of our way.”

“What?” Zoltan laughed. He turned toward his friends. “Did you hear the runt? We, get out of their way.”

Ghenni folded her arms across her chest. She patiently waited until her enemies stopped laughing.

“You heard me,” she said. “We’re not afraid of you anymore. We can fight back now.”

Zoltan pushed Ghenni, who didn’t budge. The force of the shove was deflected back at Zoltan. It was enough to knock him off his feet.

Lying down, he gaped at Ghenni.

“How’d she do that?” Xulia said. “I never saw her move.”

“Shut up,” Zoltan hissed, jumping back to his feet. He waved his fist under Ghenni’s nose. “You’re history, runt.”

“Go ahead. Try.”

Zoltan drew his arm back and smashed his fist toward Ghenni’s face. It never connected. Instead, Zoltan stumbled back with a bloody nose. It looked bent.

“Hoo diddu dodad?” Ghenni thought Zoltan mumbled.

A column of smoke rose from the mound Xulia had kicked in. It grew, solidified, and became a huge bald man with funny clothes and an earring.

“With a little help from her friends,” Habbassin said. He winked at Ghenni. “Don’t worry, nobody but you can see me.”

Habbassin waved his hands. Zoltan and his friends rose a couple of inches into the air. Ghenni, Ankhoro and Miki each took hold of one of them and pushed them away from the beach. Ghenni could feel the tension in Zoltan’s body as he tried to struggle against the magic that held him, but his paralysis was part of the spell Habbassin had woven. He was as helpless as he usually liked his victims to be.

The first to notice the parade was Lejani. Her cries attracted the attention of other children, younger and older.

“Say, Zoltan, aren’t those the other kids you usually hang out with?” Ghenni asked sweetly. Zoltan blushed. Ghenni grinned and waved at them. Their laughter at Zoltan’s predicament made it all doubly worthwhile. The bullies would need a long time to live this down. She particularly appreciated that the spectators all decided to follow them.

When they reached the latrines, Ghenni gave Zoltan one last shove. He slowly drifted over the stinking mass. Habbassin winked at Ghenni, spinned Zoltan head-over-heels and returned his weight. Zoltan crashed head-first into the latrine.

He sat up, sputtering, when Xulia and Yanag joined him. Ghenni, Ankhoro and Miki enjoyed the spectacle. They also enjoyed that this time the laughter wasn’t directed at them.

“If you ever bother me or my friends again,” Ghenni said when she was sure she had Zoltan’s attention, “this will seem like a bath in orchids to you. Do you understand?”

“I’ll get you for this,” Zoltan screamed. The crowd around the latrine appreciated the joke.

Ghenni nodded at her friends and they left the crowd.

“They’re having so much fun, they never notice your leaving,” Habbassin said after a while. Ghenni looked around.

“Where are you?”

“Right here.” Habbassin became visible right in front of her. “That was fun. I never did like bullies.”

“Do you think they’ll leave us alone now?” Miki asked. Habbassin shook his head.

“I think they’ll try again. They have to, or they’ll lose even more face than you’ve cost them already.”

“Will you help us?”

“I’d planned on leaving now. But don’t worry. The spell that deflects everything they try to do to you back atz them will last another couple of says. That should do to discourage even them.”

“Do you really have to leave?” Ghenni said. Habbassin nodded.

“‘Fraid so, kid. I’d like to stay, sure. I’m quite fond of the view. But I gotta find a way to get home, to get the lamp-curse taken off me.” He tousled Ghenni’s hair. “Take care, kid.” He winked at the others. “You two too.”

Habbassin took a step back and squared his shoulders. The big, massive man turned into a column of smoke and vanished.

“Well,” Ankhoro said, “at least he helped us get rid of Zoltan’s bullies.”

“Yes,” Ghenni said. Somehow, this didn’t feel like a proper good-bye. No, something else was sure to happen.

But would it be good?

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