Snow Job: Part Two
The next morning I was even less in the mood to face that lab ray more than
ever, but it didn't take long. It never does. The results were disappointing
to my owner and myself, but at least I didn't change physical form. That was
good--sort of. As soon as possible, I slipped away and set out for the Terror
Mountains.... the 'scene of the crime' as I'd called them the night before.
As it happened, blchocobo was on the same train heading north that I was. We
ignored each other and sat in different areas of the compartment. I hopped out
into the snow of Terror Mountain, and my nose twitched violently before I sneezed.
The cold air always seems to catch me off-guard. I pulled my knapsack of supplies
on tighter and headed up towards the mountainside, not bothering to look back
to see what blchocobo was doing.
An hour or so later, I was high in the mountains and had just decided I needed
a rest. Panting with exhaustion, I dropped into a partly cleared area underneath
a small evergreen tree, and pulled my knapsack off. I was in the Throat-mail
mountain range, which the news said was the place the last avalanche had occurred.
The only problem is that just being in the same mountain range didn't get me
much closer to the area I was interested in. Mountain ranges have a lot of areas
in them, and these areas all looked the same: as white as my fur, and a lot
brighter as the sunlight bounced off the snow.
Just wandering around was going to get me nowhere except an emergency room,
being treated for frostbite. There had to be some way of narrowing this down.
I mulled over the problem, my chin braced on a paw. How would I find where a
huge explosion had occurred....
My new shift in magic helped me to the next conclusion. Earth! The earth would
know, if I could "ask" it in the right way. I immediately began pawing the ground,
clearing away snow in search of the ground underneath. To my delight, I found
bedrock. Before long, I had a sizable area cleared of pure bedrock, flat enough
to serve my purposes. Opening my knapsack, I took out the bottle with which
I'd originally seen the explosion, and tubes of paint for earth and fire. I
quickly drew alternating lines of paint, with curves between the rays intersecting
at compass points. I finished the design by putting the bottle in the middle
of it. Then, taking a deep breath, I pushed my new earth senses to their maximum
and the lines of my magic icon responded in glowing ribbons of fire. It flickered
about the little clearing that I was huddled in until it suddenly flicked into
one huge line, shot out, and was gone.
I groaned as the headache hit me. I'd extended myself too much, and having
it ground that way had taken me off guard. Blinking away the blurred vision,
I peered in the direction all of my energy had headed and saw a path melted
through the snow. Terrific. Now if I didn't lose it, I was all set. I took enough
care to make sure things got packed right--with my supplies, the wrong sort
of packing could result in something a bit more spectacular than a simple mess.
I set out, feeling better as the crisp air revived me. Then, too, I might have
been absorbing earth energy back from my trail as I followed it.
All I know is that my headache was soon gone and I found myself trotting down
a small line of clear ground that wound through the mountains with a minimum
of turning--almost ruler straight. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, I
stopped. I stood, puffing, in a circled of melted snow about four feet across.
This must have been the blast area, I thought. Good. Now to figure out where
our perpetrator had gone from here.
I sighed at the thought of more magic. That last spell had almost been my
undoing, but a few minutes spent searching the area showed that any ordinary
trail was long gone, wiped out by the blast and resulting avalanche. I looked
around and chewed my lip thoughtfully. Far below me, I could see the partially
ruined village and could make out some activity in it. I hoped no one was going
to come up here investigating and find me. Well, no help for that. My best defence
would be to get this over with as quickly as possible.
My usual paint techniques wouldn't do much good with this one. I hadn't brought
Sun Pegasus, either. My baby fireball was a pet from some time back, but I'd
been afraid to let him out of his tube since I'd turned into a Cybunny. I didn't
know how he might take the change--or how I might take him, I had to admit.
Still, I needed something like that...
I opened my knapsack again. Out came my supplies, and this time the bottle
was set in the middle of several rods of various woods-- and some metal ones,
as well. Which woods and metals, though crucial, need not concern you. Energizing
the resulting contraption, I had a glowing cage of energy surrounding my bottle.
The bottle glowed as the sympathetic resonance hit it. Remember I said that
'crying' bottles can't see through time? That's mostly true... but what you
see in them leaves its mark, and that was what I was hoping for. Sure enough,
my guide rod that I had laid on top twitched. It turned around slowly, and with
great care I extended my magical energy and gently gathered the net into it.
The glows had vanished, but the route of that Lupe for at least an hour or
two had been engraved into the rod. A few minutes of packing (again, no less...
who said magic wasn't work?) and I set out through the snow, my rod held loosely
in front of me in one paw. It twitched and turned as I followed its lead.
Perhaps if I hadn't been so intent on it, I would have seen what happened
next before I heard it. A nasty whizzing sound startled me out of my concentration,
and a bright blue streak nearly blinded me. I didn't bother looking around.
I knew the sound of a frost arrow when I heard it. It only took a split second
to energize my burrowing capabilities--even more effective now that I was a
Cybunny--and my white tail disappeared into white snow before whoever it was
had time to let off a second shot.
Sure, it was dark underneath all that snow, and I had to breathe at some point,
but I wasn't even thinking as I frantically dug my way through it, tunneling
almost as fast as I could have run aboveground. My rod was gripped between my
teeth now, and I followed its lead by feeling the vibration in my teeth.
A couple of minutes later I broke out into clean air again, and snorted out
a pint of snow. Cleaning another pint out of my ears, and feeling them to make
sure I hadn't gotten that frostbite, I looked around the patch of woods in which
I found myself. The shallower snow here had let me come out in relative safety.
I didn't think my mysterious attacker would find me here but I wasn't going
to wait around and see. After a minute of cleaning, I was off on the trail again.
The trail didn't last long. Another quarter of a mile passed through the woods
before I stopped at their edge. There, in the middle of a clearing stood a small
Not just any cabin, mind you. A cabin in the middle of nowhere that had footprints
in the snow up to its door... and a few wisps of smoke coming out of the chimney.
I had found the hideout of our mysterious Lupe. Now to hope he didn't find me.
I stared into the clearing at the cabin. There were footprints in the snow
leading up to the door. A few wisps of smoke still curled from the chimney as
I pondered the situation. Holed up in that cabin was a purple Lupe who had deliberately
set off at least one avalanche-- and maybe more. Also, I had just been shot
at with a frost arrow, and I didn't think that was a coincidence. The next question
was how could I, a Cybunny (admittedly, armed with magical equipment and knowledge),
capture a Lupe with a criminal mind?
I skulked around the clearing, huddling in the snow to hide my red collar
as I studied the cabin from all angles. Coming upon the spot where the footprints
ran into the woods, I paused to inspect it. After sniffing it, looking it over,
and using my magical abilities, I came to the same conclusion. No matter how
I looked at it, the last trail here led away from the cabin, not towards it.
I looked back to where the last remains of smoke were just vanishing.
A small whisper spell to the air was all it took to confirm my suspicions...
the whistling reply told me that no one was in the cabin. I rapidly hopped into
the clearing, up the steps, and inside. A quick look around showed only the
remains of a fire in the fireplace, a few crude wooden pieces of furniture,
and a lot of spyder webs in the ceiling rafters.
The dust had been disturbed and even swept away from some areas. Padding around
the single room carefully, I put together what must have happened. The Lupe
had been using this cabin as an operations headquarters while he did his sabotage.
Then I had surprised him earlier as I tracked him down. He'd fired at me, and
while I burrowed into the snow, he'd sped straight here, had cleaned out everything,
Well, not quite everything. I looked suspiciously at the fire and realised
that his garbage was in it. He'd taken everything of value, and had burned the
rest--or left it to burn, rather. I gingerly poked among the rubble, hunting
for anything that would be useful in determining something about him.
At this point, you might be wondering why I wasn't setting out after him. After
all, it was a hot trail, only minutes old, and clear as well. The answer comes
in several parts. One, he was a Lupe and I was no longer a big strong Uni--I
was a timid little Cybunny (Well, OK, maybe not all that "timid", but you get
the idea.) And second, my instincts turn more readily to magic than to physical
fighting. That was true even when I served in the Tyrannian army. I had been
in a secret scouting corp, using my magical abilities to spy on the enemy. I'd
seen enough fighting to fill my stomach, to be sure, but I hadn't been just
a common grunt out there slaying evil monsters all day. And, too, I like to
have a skin with no holes in it... and pursuing someone armed with a frost bow
was not a good way to keep it that way.
It didn't take me long to find what I needed. An empty can of baked beans,
no doubt courtesy of the Tombola game, was the prize I needed for my own use.
I pulled it out and set it on the table. Taking out my "crying" bottle, which
I used to see other places by magic, I quickly set up a simple sympathetic spell.
The beans were now inside the stomach of my quarry--or had been recently. With
only a little urging with my earth element magic, the link was strengthened.
I stared carefully into the bottle with the open mind I needed to activate its
freeform mode. When it clouded up, I very carefully sent tiny tendrils of the
connection into it. A scene immediately formed of a powerfully built purple
Lupe bounding through the woods. Every now and then he'd jump behind the trees
and stay there for a few seconds, holding his bow at the ready. Just as well
that I hadn't gone after him.
To be continued...