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

Author's Rambling:

Well, we're heading for the finish line! (Breath of relief) I've been getting some letters of admiration and complaint, asking how in God's name I could have punched out this much material -- over 1.5 MB worth. My reply was that I did it 6 pages a night, whether I wanted to or not -- until I hit May and I had to take it easy. But still, it's amazing how much this story seems like my very special child. At first, it was a young child that could do no wrong -- and now it's a rebellious teenager, and I can find loads of fault with it!

I've also gotten some queries about whether I wanted to write fiction professionally. The answer is: I am! I just have to learn about those little important details about how it's done. When I do, it'll be original fiction, rather than fanfiction -- fanfiction is fun, but I intended this to be more of a bohemian scratching post exercise than anything else. It's been one hell of a ride, though, and an experience I know that *I* am not going to forget -- in a good way!

That's enough of a rambling for now. On with the story...


Chapter 32

In the Paris museum, Amanda rubbed her eyes, moaning in pain. "Mmmmph..." She opened her eyes, and got assaulted by the strongest Buzz that she'd ever felt in her life. A lot of converged immortals, and something that made her feel slightly ill...

She got up with effort, and noticed that she had blood all over herself. They were from healed wounds -- someone had slit her major limb muscles, and they still felt a bit weak still. "I'll have to have a talk with Lenny!..."

She had no memory of her most recent experience with the odd illusions and dreams. All she knew was that she had a screaming headache and an odd curiosity about the sensations that she was feeling.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better." It was an old man with some sort of Scandinavian accent. He was a dressed in the clothes that a Norman might have worn during the old days -- and they wouldn't have been out of place nowadays, what with the way fashions were going. The rhythm of his speech was a galloping one, almost yodeling.

Long, gray hair hung down to his belt, and his face was clean-shaven, revealing a very angular, bony face. His face was old, but it showed steel underneath, and a lot of the invisible scars brought on by life. Though he showed pain, his smile was warm.

"And you would be?..." She was too exhausted to react wildly and draw her sword.

"Hodr. You'd better come with me if you're going to save the world."

"What are you talking about?!"

He looked at her sympathetically, "Lenny gave you one hell of a sucker punch, and he released the Seed's contents. At this very moment, Duncan, Connor, and Mev are engaging him. They're saving the world too, but in a supportive kind of way -- they're delaying Lenny so that we can do the real work."

Amanda wasn't just a thief -- she also knew how to listen, and had listened to a lot of what the Normans had said. They might have been Christian and 'more French than the French,' but they'd still been Vikings inside. "Hodr? Aren't you Aesir?"

He smiled like a grandfather, "You remember my name! I wish we could chat like this, but we have work to do. Are you healed sufficiently?"

She nodded. "What do we do?"

"Help me walk to where we need to go. I may be Aesir, but I'm an old man who can't move as fast as you."

She noticed that he walked with a staff, and so she put her shoulder under his armpit -- as it turned out, he was just the right height for this to be convenient -- and they began to walk away from the sounds of the fighting towards another part of the museum.

"Has the question ever crossed your mind, what the Seed really is?" asked Hodr. "How could any object bring about such chaos so effectively?"

Amanda shook her head. "I don't know."

"Obscurity. Darkness. Duplicity. Think of it this way; what kind of environment do you need to create conditions of chaos and fear in your own soul? Anger and hatred? Lies and duplicity?"

Amanda shook her head helplessly. "I always thought of it as the human condition."

Hodr laughed, "It's not necessarily part of the human condition. Here, help me climb those stairs, it's going to be hard. Anyway... all humans are endowed with the potential for good and evil. Some is enhanced and encouraged to grow by environment and stimulus; some comes about by virtue of the soul. Evil or good can thrive. What conditions must exist to encourage the evil to flourish?"

Amanda still shook her head. "I'm not good at guessing. Tell me."

He laughed, "It's the absence of light that brings about evil, and I'll tell you why. Light isn't just some ideal -- it's the physical light of day, the truth, or the ability for someone to see into your daily habits, your personality, your activities, your financial patterns, or so on. Single men and women live their lives the way they want to, but when they invite a special someone into their lives, the probing into their own lives reveals the evil within, and they scramble around to change their inner selves so that they might be more presentable.

"Why else keep secrets, else to hide the evil? If you have no evil, then you have nothing to hide, in light or darkness."

Amanda nodded. "I can understand that. I just didn't think about it in those terms."

"So the Seed encourages the evil within the world to flourish... because it's only a symbol."

"You lost me there." Amanda stopped cold.

Hodr looked at her. "The Seed isn't doing a damned thing to cause the chaos in this world. It's a symbol. A symptom, rather than the cause. And it's a crutch. Invisible One and mortal alike have forgotten the true function of the Seed -- to act as a symbolic lesson: lack of scrutiny and light breed disease... and its cure."

He smiled and gained apparent physical strength, moving away from Amanda. His smile was mischievous.

"You lied to me!" she gasped. "You aren't weak... and we *aren't* saving the world!"

"Yes, I did lie," he smiled, "and yes, we *are* saving the world. First off, I'm teaching you a valuable lesson -- I lied, which is supposed to be a sin, and yet I have my soul open for scrutiny. Think about it. Second, we're saving the world by changing *your* attitude!

"You, an immortal, have far more influence than a politician, when it comes down to it -- and you're the only immortal I can reach with any ounce of common sense! So, what you're going to do is spread some sense. Just as the Seed's influence spreads, so will mine... through you. You will knock sense into the heads of two people, and they'll do it to two people, and so on. Common sense will expand exponentially, and in a few years, the symbolic sickness of the Seed will be counterbalanced by a common sense so common that people shouldn't need to be told about it."

He walked away from a stunned Amanda, and turned back around with that smile, "Sweet and simple. It doesn't cost the taxpayers billions a year, it's healthy, and it's a gift that keeps on giving."

Amanda was still struck with disbelief. Disbelief that she was having this conversation... but it was a lot more believable than a tale about an obsidian orb that spread chaos.

"Duncan!" she suddenly remembered what was happening on the other side of the museum.

Before she could scramble over there, she heard Hodr's voice float down the hall. "I wouldn't worry about them... they'll do all right -- just having a little fun..."

Amanda ran like the wind, remembering the path she'd taken, and where she needed to go. It only took her five minutes to reach the spot where she'd met Hodr, and when she did, her heart stopped, because she no longer heard the sound of fighting.

"No!" She feared for the worst, and ran even faster.

When she reached the room, she found a decapitated and dismembered giant, a room covered with ponding, coagulating blood, and three very wounded and exhausted immortals high- five-ing and whooping.

Amanda breathed out sigh of relief and ran over to Duncan, who had been cut quite neatly through the kidney, and was holding it in with his hands. His face was pale, and his eyes almost shut from shock.

Though she knew that he would heal, tears fell from her eyes anyway. "I'm so glad you're alive," she whispered, kissing his eyes and putting her own hands over the wound, pressing them down over his own hands. The blood mingled with the dried blood on her own hands.

Duncan didn't ask himself how Amanda returned to sanity. He only savored the feeling of her hands on his own, and of her concern. He closed his eyes and let the healing take place.

"So at last, he is dead," breathed Mev. "The healing takes place!"

Amanda sighed, "You might want to listen to what I was told by a very old man..." And so she related what Hodr had told to her.

Connor, a life-weary man, began to nod. It made sense -- it just happened to be ideal advice for an ideal world. Mev just dismissed it as philosophy.

Amanda sighed. Duncan began to snore, which made everyone wince in pain.

* * *

I watched the battle near the flaming ruins of Axer's and Kate's home, and saw that the fighting was almost over. Axer had killed the Invisible One, Powys had become involved, and the two vampires were taking care of the vampire killers. The sight of holy water sprayers -- the kind you use to water indoor plants -- and garlic bullets made me laugh. Sort of like whipping an S and M addict with a wimpy whip, and being surprised at the scowl from the bearded, leather-bound man, who whips out some real pain- delivering devices.

I don't think I've ever laughed as hard in my life.

It was almost over, but not quite. I turned the page and found myself facing Kate, who was still in stasis. I laughed to myself -- stasis occurs because individuals believe that it is possible. Rather than go through those grand motions of casting a spell, I broke the stasis in a much more humorous manner -- or at least I thought it was funny.

I pinched Kate's behind, and moved back in time to avoid the slap. It was reflexive on her part, and it took a few more moments for her to realize the situation. I don't even think she was aware that I had pinched her.

"What --?"

I interrupted her. "It's over. You can relax."

It took a few more moments for me to get the message across, and get her to look over the edge of the building. "Why don't you join your husband? I think he needs your help."

While she flew down to help him -- his broken body still lay on the broken concrete -- I looked around for the signal, and found it. I disabled it and scattered its parts. Though it was a simple signaling device, it was also technology of the Invisible Ones, and if any smart electrical engineer could see the sheer art of the circuitry and efficiency of the flows -- because of the carefully designed layering of the conductors -- it would truly revolutionize the electronics industry, and perhaps make Canada ruler of the world for the next fifty years.

Can't let that happen... yet.

I turned the page and found LaCroix, who was draining the blood from the last of the vampire killers. He spun around reflexively, having sensed me in some fashion, but not in the manner he was accustomed to.

"You'd win the Godan test every time," I laughed.

"So you're a ninja?" he rasped.

"Tear me, no!" I laughed. "I'm just well-traveled and well- versed. Call me one of the last bards, for that is what I am."

He stared me deep in the eye, "You're not human."

I laughed again, with genuine feeling. "And that concerns you? But no, I am very human. Perhaps what you see is something that reflects an experience that is not normally attributed to humans?" I looked at Vachon and asked, "Would you be terribly offended if I pulled LaCroix away for a while?" Testing a theory, I asked in the Catalonian spoken in the 1600s.

He didn't even blink, and returned in a Catalonian of a slightly later time, "I have no problem with it. Be my guest."

So I *was* right! Vachon is a Catalonian!

I hid my inner cry of delight at yet another theory confirmed, and said to LaCroix, "How's your taste for thin air, bells that scare away the demons, and ethereal tea?"

He looked at me strangely, and answered me with another question, "What are you?"

"The question is," I smiled, "what are *you*?"

Nicely diverted question, I think.

I scratched my face, my fingers digging through my thick, curly beard, slightly combing it a little. "Time to ride the wave."

I touched LaCroix lightly on the shoulder, and turned the page. We now stood at an abandoned Tibetan monastery, ravaged by the Chinese, but its spirit intact. I waved my hand, and a table appeared. It was a solid oak table, with burning incense, a tea pot, a bottle of blood, and two porcelain cups.

"Please be seated," I motioned, and he graciously sat. "We have a lot to discuss, you and I."

* * * *

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