December 18, 2003

Leap in logic -- spoilers

And my mind ... jumps... and this is the result. Tinker will have to be up on the crane ladder for this. Yes, I'll have fun getting her there...

---

She sensed the shadow sweep across her seconds before she was jerked off the ladder. She cried out in panic, clawing for the rungs as her captor labored upwards in a loud rustle of black wings.

"Stop squirming or I might drop you." Riki growled through teeth gritted with the effort to carry her aloft.

She glanced down and went still in shock of being dangled mid-air fifty feet up and climbing. Far below, Pony trained his pistol up at them - but didn't shoot. Obviously, Pony knew if he hit Riki, they'd both fall - he didn't risk so much as a warning shot.

The scrap yard dwindled quickly as Riki climbed.

"Put me down!" Tinker found herself gripping his arms so he couldn't just drop her.

"No, not yet." Riki headed straight north, over the Ohio River.

The large dark form of a river shark swimming under the water, following their passage, killed any thought of forcing Riki to drop her into the river. On the other side, Riki crossed the Rim and climbed the steep hill that once was Bellevue. On the other side, he dove into the ironwoods. The forest canopy rushed toward them, seeming to her a solid wall of green. Riki though flicked through openings she hadn't seen, darting through slender upper branches to finally land on a thick bough, close to the massive trunk.

The moment they landed, Tinker twisted in his hold and swung at him hard as she could, aiming for his beak-like nose. He caught her hand and twisted her arm painfully up behind her back. He leaned his weight against her, pinning her to the trunk.
Cheek pressed to the rough gray bark, Tinker saw for the first time how far up the tree they stood - the forest floor lay a hundred feet below.

He bound her right wrist, and then catching hold of her left, tied both hands behind her. Once she was bound helpless, he turned her around. He wore war paint -- streaks of black under his vivid blue eyes and shock of black hair. His shirt was cut on the same loose lines of the muscle shirt he wore often during her captivity by the oni, but of glossy black scale armor. On his feet, with their odd bird-like toes, he wore silver tips that looked razor-sharp.

"What do you want?" She asked him.

"I'm going to show you something -- something you need to see." He produced a silk scarf and tied it over her eyes.

"I'm going to have a hard time seeing this way."

"I don't want you to know where we're going." He took firm hold of her and jerked her off her feet.

She felt him leap, knew that he left the safety of the tree, and nearly screamed at the knowledge. His wings rustled out, caught the air, and they swooped upwards.

Riki flew - as the saying went -- straight as the crow flies, but what direction? The cold rushing air made it impossible to judge the direction of the sun. How fast could Riki fly? Had the flight from the scrap yard to the ironwood been his normal speed or had that been a sprint?

And what did he want to show her?

She tried to form a plan to escape. Riki, though, wouldn't underestimate her - he knew her too well. Of all the people in Pittsburgh, he could match wits with her.

After what seemed like an hour, Riki dove down and wove through light and shadows to land again. Numb from dangling, her legs folded under her. Riki lowered her down to a prone position and then knelt behind her, panting with exertion.

Their landing site seemed too flat to be a tree branch but it swayed slightly with the rustling of the wind.

"Damn it, Riki, where are we?"

Riki tugged down her blindfold. She lay just inside the door of a tiny cabin; only eight-foot square, it would have been claustrophobic if it actually contained furniture beyond a cherry wood chest. While the cabin seemed to be made of scrap lumber, attempts to make it homey included a deep green coat of paint on the walls and a natural fiber rug. The one small round window letting in light held glass, and the high ceiling bristled with nails, indicating that the roof was shingled, so the cabin was weatherproofed.

"This is my house." Still panting, Riki worked at untying her wrists.

"There is nothing here."

"I'll get it, but you need to stay put. There's no safe way down to ground."

Cabin, hell, it was a tree house. Under any other circumstance, she would have been entranced with the notion.

Riki took a deep breath and stepped backwards on the door, spreading his black wings. "Stay," he repeated and flapped away.

Not trusting his word, she went to the door and looked out. There wasn't so much as a branch outside the door. The view straight down made her grip the doorsill tightly. It was a place strictly for birds.

Still, the tree house was cunningly made. A brace along the back wall provided the one anchor point so the stress of the shifting tree could not tear the room apart. The front of cabin rested on a beam yoked over side branches. A loft bed nearly doubled the floor space. A generous overhang meant the front door could hang open even in rain to let in light without the weather. The outside of the cabin had been painted gray and black in a pattern that mimicked ironwood bark. Only by careful study could she pick out other tree houses, perhaps twenty in all, tucked into the branches of neighboring trees. A little village of tiny houses -- but one invisible from the ground.

There were more tengu living on Elfhome than anyone imagined.

The chest held clothes, a folded quilt, a photo frame, and several memory sticks. She inserted one of the sticks into the frame and clicked through the pictures. Riki as a child in San Francisco with a large extended family.
A flutter of wings made her shove the frame guilty back into its space. Only as she shut the chest lid did she feel angry. Why shouldn't she snoop? Riki had kidnapped her.

She turned to the door - full of indignant anger - only to discover her visitor wasn't Riki.

Three tengu children crowded the doorway. Wearing blue jeans and torn t-shirts, they would have seemed like human children except for the way they clung to the sides of the doorway with bird-like feet, fanning the air with black wings. The youngest was a boy of six or seven, a boy around the age of ten, with the third a girl square between them in age.

"See, I told you, Robin." The girl said. "It's a girl."

Robin, the older boy, sported the black war paint that Riki had worn. He shook his head, looking sullen. "It's an elf."

"What's an elf?" The little boy asked.

"She's still an girl elf," The girl insisted.

"What's an elf?"

"It means I have pointed ears." Tinker said to forestall any more arguments.

The little boy flitted into the room; his flying awkward and he wore a look of concentration. "I have wings! See!"

"He just got his." Robin darted in to catch the little boy's hand. "I told we shouldn't be here, but they wouldn't listen."

The girl hopped into the room as if consent been given to enter. "I didn't think elves could speak English."

"I didn't know tengu could speak it either."

"We're American tengu." The girl said proudly. "We can speak Oni and English, read and write, and fly."

"Is everyone here American tengu?"

"Um." The girl wasn't sure. "I was born in California, but Jordy was born here."

Robin poked her, saying, "Lissa, don't tell her that."

"Why not?"

"Because we don't know if we can trust her."

"Why would Riki bring her here if we couldn't?"

"I don't know." Robin dragged the little one toward the door. "We should go before Riki finds us here, or we're going to be in trouble."

----

Originally what Riki wanted to show he WAS the kids to guilt Tinker into intervening between the tengu and the elves, now I'm not sure what he wants to show her. What he wants might change.

Posted by wen at December 18, 2003 12:17 PM
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