The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995


Chapter 10

"Don't *try*! Don't *concentrate*! Just *do* it!"

Coleen sat facing Kwai Chang Caine, both of them sitting alone in the middle of the storm. The wind ripped at them, and punched through them, sending down torrents of ice and snow. The cold poked at them from all directions: from the ground, from the air, and from the inside with the air that they breathed in. Their eyes were plastered open by the intense cold.

Caine was totally relaxed and unaffected by the storm, but Coleen was anything but relaxed and unaffected. Her face was crumpled with pain and exhaustion, and though she made an effort to relax, she couldn't.

//Relax... It can't be that hard -- so why can't I do it???//

"Your mind is as easy to calm as your muscles. Just untense them!"

//Yeah, then how come it's not that easy??//

She had tried relaxing Caine's way, and she realized that it just wasn't going to work. But she also realized that she could still do it -- it just had to be her way.

Instead of concentrating on tranquillity, clearing her mind, and 'all that Zen stuff' as she called it, she went in exactly the opposite direction. She opened all the flood gates.

That's when the maelstrom hit her.

The vajra seemed to turn her into a lightning rod. The storms hit her with the most intense lightning from all directions. Pain was all she knew. Pain, and spasms that made her look like a severe epileptic having a seizure.

The thing that she noticed from the beginning was that Caine was not there to criticize her or help her. She was alone. Minutes passed until she could even open her eyes, but she knew that much.

When she opened her eyes, the first thing she wanted to do was close her eyes, but she couldn't. All she could do was scream.

Scream.

Scream.

"Come back to me!" spoke the commanding, iron voice.

Coleen found herself lying flat on her back, staring at the storm, which had grown much more severe.

"You're just like your master! You are unable to pick up even the most basic essentials, and then you rush into the center of the chaos, unable to tame it!"

Caine was angry, that was for certain, but she could also see the concern in his eyes. "How long was it?"

He understood her vague question. "Only a minute, but a minute is long enough. For you, an eternity could have passed. Remember the nature of what you are touching."

She rubbed her eyes. "Now I understand how Odin could go insane. I- I saw--!" She choked on her words, unable to continue. Her face crumpled up in her efforts to bottle in whatever was going on inside.

He put a kind hand on her shoulder, "It is good to maintain control, but control requires release. If you hold in your emotions, they will explode at the worst moment. You must learn to let loose your emotions at the right times."

If he thought he would cause her to lower her shields, he was wrong. The wall she built around herself grew instantly stronger. She gained her composure and spoke with a cold voice, "I don't have that luxury. Let's do it again."

"It's too dangerous! I cannot allow it!"

Her eyes probed into his, ^^We don't have any choice!^^

Caine looked at her with a puzzled expression, "As you wish."

They sat once more, facing one another. It didn't take as long this time for Coleen to enter the maelstrom. Caine knew this, because her whole body would tense up as if she were on the torture rack. She didn't scream this time, but he could see fear in her face. Fear and shame.

Her hands tensed once, then closed into fists.

* * *

Odin jerked. He felt as if someone had just done a merry dance over his grave. He stood up once more and looked into the storm.

"So, one of you at least follows in my footsteps. Let's see how you handle *this* trail."

His whole body spasmed, collapsing onto the ground with all his limbs stiff as a statue's.

His two wolves tilted their heads, making confused whines. One of them ambled over and licked his face.

* * *

Coleen thought she was beginning to gain some sort of equilibrium now. It was totally indescribable, the sensation of looking at any point in space and seeing infinity. Infinity wasn't just a concept or a number: it was a very tangible thing.

She stood up, nearly falling down in disorientation. Nothing seemed to work right. The landscape rippled. The storm was both there and not there.

Natalie was there, holding her hand, "How are you feeling?" One moment she was not there, and the next, she was. There was no transition.

"Better. How did you get here?"

Natalie laughed genuinely, "What kind of a question is that?" Her voice instantly gained a scraped-quality. "I have *always* been here!" Her hand crushed Coleen's, and her face began to transform into something indescribably horrid.

Screaming in total disgust at this indescribably horrid monster in front of her, she drew her sword and cut off its arm, then slammed it through her gut.

The monster didn't seem to notice. Grimacing, it grabbed at Coleen's neck, grasping so tightly she couldn't move, no matter what she did. Any normal man or woman should have long-since died, but this monster wasn't any ordinary human.

It chuckled in that same raspy tone, "Give me a kiss..."

...Caine was slapping her in the face. "Leave that place!" he was commanding.

Coleen threw up her hands, "All right! All right! You don't need to repeat yourself!"

Caine let her loose, and waited while she collected herself.

"I've had enough for one day. Let's go back."

Caine nodded. They made their way back to the bar, where Methos and Richie waited.

* * *

Odin opened his eyes. "Not bad, but not good. It's a pity for you that I use fixed dice. So, better luck next time."

He cackled and howled in merriment, his insane laugher audible for miles around. The two wolves started running around his feet, barking. One had a caribou leg bone in his mouth, and he held it in front of Odin, whining.

"All right," he muttered, throwing it into the distance. Both wolves ran after it as if their lives depended on it.

* * *

"Give me the whole bottle of scotch!" demanded Coleen, ripping open the whole bottle and guzzling down a whole quarter of the bottle.

Richie looked concerned at this from the safety of a few tables' distance. "You know, I wonder if it was a good idea -- her meeting up with Axer. I hear he solves his problems the same way."

"Or it could be a good thing that she met Axer," suggested Methos. "Maybe she would have had the tendency to drink, and he taught her the science of drinking. Now, she has a tool to help her out."

"Or maybe escape?" Richie sneered.

"That too. But that's her decision. I just hope whatever she'd doing with Caine is worth it. By the looks of it, she's going through hell."

Richie nodded. Coleen knew her alcohol, but he'd never seen her go off the deep end like this. It must have been something pretty horrible.

Some drunk ambled over to Coleen, grabbing her shoulder from behind. He was fresh in to camp, and didn't know the rules. "Hey, pretty. Give me a kiss!" He was a big ape of a man, with probably the brains to match.

Coleen had totally ignored the man up until his last statement, then she whirled around on the bar stool, her face a mask of fear and rage. Screaming in anger, she lifted up the man by the muscles and fat of his chest, just underneath the ribs.

The man was more shocked than anything else, and was even more shocked when she threw him fifteen feet away. He landed with an audible thump that made everyone jump up an inch. A few shook their heads in sympathy.

Everyone stared at her in shock and disbelief. She might have been stocky, but she was short, and the sight of her tossing around someone three times her mass and over six feet tall was a bit unbelievable.

Coleen stood still, here eyes wild with rage, holding herself back. After long moments, she regained some semblance of sanity and left, snorting, "Back off, I mean it!"

The bar remained silent long after Coleen left. They knew strangeness when they saw it, and this was getting to be pretty strange.

Richie looked at Methos, who shrugged.

Caine had also watched this, and silently left to follow Coleen.

* * * *


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