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Kingdom of Spirits</u>
By/(c) Rosanna P. Brost

Chapter 4

The next day I wake up and it’s raining really hard. The damp soaks into the barn and I run to the house to tell Brinna. She immediately comes and looks and then sends me to find the cows. I gallop off, hoping I’ll find them as fast as possible, because I hate getting wet. Big fat wet clods of muddy field are slashed up by my sharp hooves as I run and I wish it was sunny again, like it has been for so long. I can’t find the dumb cows though. I canter along, finally coming to a splashy halt finally in a low section of field, where the water comes up to my fetlocks. I’ve never been this far away from the farm, nor from the road.

I set out again, calling for the silly cows and splattering muck all over myself with every move I make. Then, ahead of me I come to a place where there’s a flat stretch of water, as though it’s really deep there. Everything is grey, brown and green as the grass is soaked in the mud here, which pulls at my feet. My poor tail has gone all ratty and I feel positively miserable. I walk out further, the water deepening like I feared.

“Reginald? Reginald?” I yell into the sheeting water.

No silly answering moo. Reginald always moos at me.

“REG-IN-ALD!” I screech.

Nothing again.

I’m starting to get really worried. I pace about, yelling the funny old bull’s name, but I can’t see him anywhere. I look at the water and decide that perhaps he crossed it. I step in and start walking and the water comes up to my hocks nearly. I’m almost there -

“You don’t want to be doing that.” says a soft voice. I spin about and fall on my rump. Standing behind me in greyish-blue sort of robes trimmed with white is a man. I can’t see his face. “You’ll drown. That’s a river.”

“Are you Reginald?” I ask hopefully, though privately I think if Reginald was a human he’d have a beer belly and be the sort of dude who spends his days watching women’s figure skating or something like that while sitting on the coach. This guy looks thin, but I can’t really tell, because his feet and the end of his robe are in the water.

“Reginald?” asks the man, who has his head bowed, so I can’t see his face under the cowl of his hood.

“I guess not. Have you seen a bunch of cows? Reginald is my bull. He’s rather friendly actually. He likes carrots.” I say conversationally.

“Uh, no. Haven’t seen any cows.” says the man. “You should leave.”

“Can’t until I’ve found my cows.” I say and I start walking out into the water again. Abruptly the man is standing in front of me, blocking my path.

“I told you, if you go this way you’ll drown.” says the figure.

“Heh. It’s just a field.” says I.

“No. It’s a river.” says the man. “It’ll kill you.”

The idea of a river way out here in the middle of nowhere-zodiac-province is ludicrous of course. I try to walk around the man but he reaches out and grabs me around the neck, then starts half dragging me away from the water I was going to walk into. I come along, but I fight and I try to step on his feet as much as possible.

“Go back.” says the man, seeming as though he didn’t feel my efforts to make him let go of me at all. “I’ll find your stupid cows for you. Go to your barn where it’s safe.”

This stops me in my tracks.

“How do you know I live nearby in a barn?” I demand.

“You just told me.” says the man. “You shouldn’t speak to strangers, ki-rin. They might not always be friendly.”

I decide that he does look decidedly sinister wearing that dumb cloak. I pin back my ears and paw the water. Maybe now is the time to find out what sort of damage my horn can actually do!

“I mean, other people might not always be friendly.” says the figure swiftly. “I’m nice though. I promise I’ll find your cows. You live near the road right?”

“I don’t know, do I?” I say, glaring angrily at him.

“Very well. Just go home.” says the man. “I’ll bring your cows and Reginald was it? - home safe.”

I still don’t trust him, but I am wet, so I wheel around and gallop off at an angle to where I know the farm to be, waiting until he’s out of sight before I charge straight for home. As soon as I’m home, I report to Brinna and Harl.

“I couldn’t find them! I met a neighbour though I think.” says I.

Brinna looks up sharply. “We don’t have any. Not for miles.”

“Then who’s the weird guy by the river?” I ask.

“River?” asks Harl.

“Yeah, that’s what the weird guy said it was.” I say. “Personally, I didn’t really believe him, because he looked kind of like a creeper, but -”

“We don’t have any rivers nearby. The closest real one is right by the mountains and yeh couldn‘t of ran that far.” says Brinna. “This rain is being caused by Captain Blunt and ‘is wife Private Rexy. It’s them exacting revenge on the town.”

This tastes bad somehow, and I’m confused. “Then where did the river come from?”

“It’s probably just flooding, we’ll go check it tomorrow.” says Harl. “We’ll need to hunt down the cows anyway, but for now it’s best to batten down the hatches as the sea serpents say. The cows’ll be okay. Just go hole up in the barn.”

This has to be one of the most miserable days of my existence. I sit on my haunches in the doorway, watching the grey rain and missing the internet. On a rainy day at home I’d just spend all day chatting with Nancy usually, or reading. But I have no books, nor do I have a computer. All I have is myself and the rickety old barn, which squeaks in the wind. I think back to times I used to spend making cookies and I’m reminded of how mom used to spend time with me sometimes on boring days like this. We used to watch interior design shows and dream of what we could make the apartment look like if only we could pry some cash out of Attila’s filthy rich paws.

As I lay down in the darkness, listening to the rain beating on the roof that night and not feeling at all tired, I hear soft plodding hoof beats in the yard, as well as the soft, barely audible sounds of something growling.

In the morning, the funny old cows are all standing soaked in the yard as the sun comes back out, Reginald standing guard in front of the barn door. I walk out into the rain and I gasp, because in the reflection of the water pooled in the yard I realize that I’m somehow a human again. My kimono isn’t even dirty or anything, which probably shocks me more than anything else. I’m also still wearing my mother’s tiara thing, which I hastily hide in my shirt and then forget about. Reginald lows at me plaintively as I look myself over. How’d that happen?

“So that’s what you look like.” says Brinna, a human as well. “Nice er, dress.”

“Kimono.” I correct immediately and I notice that the chain around my neck feels strangely light. Where’s my ring?! Then I remember that I have it on my finger and I relax a bit, hiding my fist against my side so Brinna won’t see it.

“Yeeeeahhh that.” says Brinna. “Not the greatest thing to wear on a walkabout, but anyway.”

Neither are my high heels. I shuck them and Brinna borrows me some old sandals of hers. Harl is an ox again and we set out across the fields, the cows following along curiously. We walk for a long time, but I see no man standing anywhere, nor do I see a river. The puddles are rather deep in places, but otherwise the world is quite normal. I look around, trying to see where the man and his river were, but nothing is left of that strange place of the day before. How odd. It was as though, looking back, I’d entered another world or something temporarily.

We walk back, just in time to meet a man who comes riding on a black horse. I sort of hide behind Harl, watching the horse nervously. The man is cloaked, but there’s a clear ki-rin insignia on his horse’s saddle pad, done in silver. The horse paws anxiously, as if it desperately wants to run off again. The man steers it towards us and I shrink back, hoping to merge with the ground.

“Kind farmers, have you seen any ki-rin? We’re looking for a young one.” says the man.

“Sorry, we haven’t. Your kind doesn’t come around here.” says Brinna and I’m thankful.

“You sure?” says the man, looking at the mud, where some of my tracks are.

“Quite.” says Brinna.

The man sighs, as he obviously can‘t see me hiding behind Harl.

“Well, thank you for your time.” says the rider, turning the horse out of the farmyard, onto the road. “Fly, flash of night!”

The horse is off like a bullet, no more than a blur.

“Why do the horses here run so fast?” I ask.

“Why are so many people after a rogue ki-rin?” counters Brinna.

“I don’t know. I didn’t even know I was one until a few months ago.” says I. “But what about the horses?”

“That was a ki-rin rider.” says Harl. “They’re agents of the king of the province of Ki-rin, where your kind is supposed to live quite exclusively. Your kind; you bring luck and you’re considered very valuable. I’ve never heard of a mean ki-rin. The riders basically serve as messengers and cavalry for the king of your kind. Horses are the fastest creatures in the world; never think they’re ordinary just because they don’t shape shift to look like humans. They can outrun the wind, even dragons. Nothing is faster than a horse. In battle they assist the ki-rin, who cast a spell so they can temporarily become light infantry soldiers. Your kind is powerful.”

“But I don’t even know how to transform.” I say. “How can that be true?”

“Transforming takes a few years to master.” says Brinna wisely. “You probably did it by accident.”

“Maybe.” I say. But there’s something in me that doubts that.

Back in the barn that night, I wish to be a ki-rin again, but nothing happens. When I fall asleep shivering from the damp, I dream of the man in grey, who kneels down beside me, touching my face with a few fingers. In the background, Reginald’s lonely moo is sombre. Then the man leaves and I know nothing but rain.

*

As the days go by, I get used to being human and almost forget being a ki-rin, though I certainly don’t forget the man in grey. I dream of him a lot, and always he’s standing in the rain, beside that blasted make-believe river as if he’s waiting for me to meet him there. I go to town with Harl and Brinna, where I see Arthur, meet his wife and visit Wolf again as Harl indulges Brinna’s obsession with shiny objects at the otter’s jewellery booth. Wolf is laying down this time and he rolls over as he sees me, grinning and demanding with his lovely eyes for me to pet him. It reminds me of a dog, though somehow I know he’s only doing it because he knows how lonely I am and that I miss Vancouver, where things are normal.

“I betcha don’t know about computers, eh?” I say, patting his thick ruff now that he has rolled over and he’s sniffing my face. He is one bear of a wolf; he’s easily as large as a small pony! But unlike a dog he’s all thin and he has this manner of holding his forelimbs really close together. We horse around a bit, me and him, which makes the otter glare, but one flash of a fang from Wolf and she looks away. He’s just reminded her that he could easily eat her for dinner if she’s not careful. I chatter with my friend, who replies with silent notions from his great eyes. I’m pretty good at reading his body language.

Such as the fact that he disdains the otter and that I believe he actually does know what a computer is, despite being a wolf and all. In fact, I swear he knows everything. Unlike the otter, he recognised me right off, even though I’m a human. If only him and me could chat everyday. He may just be a canine, but I find him fairly soothing to be around. I’m still not sure if he can talk or not.

“Time to go Jane.” says Brinna and I kiss Wolf on the nose, then I skip off after Harl and Brinna. Wolf stands up and whines, looking sad with one paw raised and his ears all droopy. I’ll miss him too.

Winter is here now, though there’s no snow and I miss Christmas. We harvest the precious hay, people like Arthur and his wife coming out from town to help. The cows stand forlornly in the yard, watching as we take away their fodder. The hay is shipped off, then the grass starts growing again. That’s the second time we’ve sold some now. We haven’t seen Captain Blunt or Rexy since that first time I went to town, but we know they’re around, because occasionally we see tracks on the way to town and it rains quite often. Eventually, I do learn how to become a ki-rin again, which is bliss.

In my dreams, Nancy is going to the University of British Columbia, studying advanced forensics. She wants to find me. I hope that maybe she dreams of a ki-rin, galloping through her dreams. I try to tell her I’m alright. But I don’t think she hears. What are dreams anyway?

That bloody pair of dragon soldiers has caused it to rain bad again and a cow is missing who we think might be pregnant by good ol’ Reginald. We spread out across the fields, all calling out for the cow and hoping to find her. I find myself going in the direction of the mythical river, thinking for sure that she must of gone that way. I’m a ki-rin, because I want to be fast, just as Harl and Brinna are in their animal forms right now too. I splash through the water, which seems to be oddly deep. At least it isn’t as dark this time. Onwards I hike, the swampy field making it hard going. Then there’s the cow.

It’s standing on the other side of a stretch of water that looks vaguely familiar, mooing anxiously, because somehow I know that the poor thing is in labour and that it can’t find any dry land. If I don’t help it, the calf will fall in the water and drown. Instinct I can’t comprehend drives me towards the stricken cow who I’ve grown to really care about and I don’t care that the water is getting deeper all around me. It gets so deep I start to swim and I’m sure that all anyone can see of me is my poor wet head and my horn. I try to keep my head above water, breathing hard and coughing, but the stretch of water between me and the cow seems to be widening.

“Come on! This isn’t fair!” I shriek at the river in torment as the poor cow lows sadly at me. “I need to help her!”

“Do you now? She’s just a cow.” says the soft whisper of the voice that is the man in grey, but I can’t see where he is.

“Her baby will die! She’s my friend!” I whimper, wondering if the man is the spirit of the river itself.

“You might call me that.” breathes the voice. “You could call me a lot of things…”

Oddly, I have the impression that the man is controlling the river and that he’s doing something to me, so that the other side never looks any closer.

“I did tell you to stay out of the river. I warned you fair.” says the man. “Perhaps if you swim back…”

No! I have to save her!” I yell, furious.

Then I feel the strangest thing, as though something is coiling around me or something.

“Who are you?! Let go of me?”

“Can’t ki-rin walk on water?” asks the voice.

“How should I know?!” I shriek. “I haven’t been one that long!”

“You’re wrong. You’ve been a ki-rin your entire life, you just didn’t know it. Your father is one and so is your mother, though she started out life as a unicorn. Just as you’re not going to be a ki-rin for much longer. I suggest you get out of the water fast if you want to stay as you are. I’ll bring your cow and its calf.”

“No, she needs me now!” I’m sure of it.

Suddenly the presence doesn’t seem quite so threatening, as if the man has changed somehow.

“Get out. Just get out…” says the man. But I’m drowning trying to get to the cow; my legs are getting tired and it’s getting harder to keep my head above the surface. I feel like I’m on a treadmill as the shore looks no closer and I’m getting tired. I kick hard with my legs, but I’m sinking, deeper and deeper and now my eyes slip under. Now I’m breathing just through my nose, and struggling to keep just that up. My fur streams in the current and I’m sinking, falling backwards towards the bottom, where water forms into something long and dark blue, something that circles me as I fall, pawing desperately, suffocating.

It’s too late. I touch the sandy bottom, staring at the rippling surface of the water high above me. The river is at least thirty feet deep, too deep for me to escape, but with my weakening muscles I try to push towards the surface, but I never get there. I’m starving for oxygen and as the world darkens, I let go of who I am.

Jane-!

Teeth.

*******************************************************************
Muahaha. Cliff hanger. Now I shall be evil and not submit the next chapter for a few days. :XD:

To find all chapters of 'Kingdom of Spirits' refer to the archive gallery at ---> [link]

Chapter 3:[link]
Chapter 5:

(c) Rosanna P. Brost DO NOT COPY, REDISTRIBUTE OR USE IN ANY WAY WITHOUT PERMISSION
Add a Comment:
 
:iconnakoami:
Nakoami Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2008  Student General Artist
teeth...?!?!?! How can you do this to meh!? *is thankful she got behind on her devwatch, since she is pretty sure ch.5 is in there* mwahaha.
Reply
:iconhelaris:
Helaris Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2008
Ooh I like it :D I wonder who that man is... Keep up the good work. You're really churning it out!
Reply
:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2008  Professional Filmographer
If I can finish the next preview pic, chapter 5 will be up today! :D I'm doing little avatar pictures of different characters and having them sort of randomly appear above each chapter. :)
Reply
:iconhelaris:
Helaris Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2008
You sure churn out quality art fast! I love the avatar pics.
Reply
:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2008  Professional Filmographer
lol I just like sharing the chapters
:)
Reply
:iconaleriacarventus:
AleriaCarventus Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2008  Student Artisan Crafter
*whacks you*
Bad falcolf, you're not supposed to leave things at cliffhangers.
Oh, and funnily enough, I've heard it said that dreams are sendings from the spirits.
Reply
:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2008  Professional Filmographer
*yelps* :XD:

Really? I was kind of wondering about that; it's probably true. Maybe the spirits are like thinking up these plots and they think they're cool so they're sending them to me or something. All of them are really good though, I definately want to write them all someday. Most are slightly on the weird side though. I've actually had quite a few dreams with chinese dragons in them. (Maybe I have an affinity with them or something? Dunno.) Eventually I'll have to tell you the original version of the dream, but I won't now 'cus I don't want to spoiler you like I have with Rimer. lol. I'm sooo bad at keeping secrets. Wolf thinks that you'll likely have SW's plot before long outta my paws and I'm like 'nooo! I wanna keep the end secret!' but knowing us he's probably right. :XD:
Reply
:iconaleriacarventus:
AleriaCarventus Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2008  Student Artisan Crafter
Probably. You just start blabbering on about Rimer a lot...
Reply
:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2008  Professional Filmographer
lol I kind of can't shut up about it sometimes
perhaps my current obsession with the randomness that is 'Kingdom of Spirits' shall protect SW for a while though lol
Reply
:iconaleriacarventus:
AleriaCarventus Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2008  Student Artisan Crafter
Perhaps.
*taps fingers together evilly*
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