[Vfw-times] story: MK Strange Growth parts 2 and 3
orenoter at peakpeak.com
Sat Oct 14 10:35:06 CDT 2000
Here are parts 2 and 3 together. I wonder if someone could do me a favor
and post this to our sister lists, TSA and Furry-Lit. I'd like other MK
writers to know about this one.
It's called Kudzai. Oren explained to his Duke. "My ancestors took a
fast-growing plant and bred it to grow even faster. The idea was that it
would camouflage our entire town from Devil's Strand. It worked, too.
Before the betrayal, Hipocc was nearly impossible to find.
"And they planted their Kudzai here in order to protect their settlement
from the lutins." Thomas reasoned.
"Yes, your grace."
Thomas put a hoof-like hand to his head. "You don't have to call me
that." he said. "I get that from Desuka all day long."
"Is he still driving you crazy?"
"He's trying to do well, and he's getting better. But Oren, about this
Kudzai. You realize of course that it presents a very serious problem."
"I do, Sir."
Thomas continued as if Oren had not spoken. "You know firsthand the
strength of a lutin. They can climb up an almost vertical wall with some
difficulty. These vines are uncontrollable. Their growth rate is
unbelievable. In days, they'll overrun the walls and give the enemy an
easy way in. Our defenses will come to nothing! This weed which protected
your homeland is threatening to destroy us!"
Outside in the palace courtyard, Vitra sat with Phil, who had been among
those who excused themselves when the Duke had summoned Oren. Though
normally a very busy rabbit, Phil took advantage of the momentary pause in
the day's activities to relax in the sun and eat some clover.
"I learning to read." said Vitra, just to make conversation.
"Well good for you!" said the rabbit happily. "I'm glad to hear it."
Vitra smiled. "Oh, yes. I read very much, now. I read books about
science and far places and magic."
"I hear you study magic."
The lapine's head began to withdraw into his shoulders.
"I... I say something wrong?"
"I've stopped studying magic." said Phil.
"Oh. May I ask you why?"
Phil sighed. "The curse has made me a timid animal, Vitra. I admit that.
I thought that if I had a few spells under my proverbial belt I might be
able to protect myself. But when I saw what happened at Hipocc..."
Vitra's eyes widened with realization.
"It was my days as a firemaster all over again. I can't.... I don't want
The kindly weasel reached down and stroked the rabbit's fur. Nothing more
At midday, Oren was pouring over notes he had made up for the festival
while Gornul and Vitra sat nearby trying to help him organize his thoughts.
"All right... we've got Harry the super-intelligent sloth. Then there's
the giant wolf, then Blake does a knife act... do we really want to trust
Blake with knives?"
Then comes Ferris, then Shaun, followed by Thaddeus, Kevin and lastly Rob
and Earl with their dance routine. Well, this is no good... we've got two
strength-acts one after the other. Is there anyone we can put inbetween
"There is the fox who juggles hamsters." said Vitra.
Oren stared for a moment. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"We have fox with hamster friends. She juggles them."
Oren stared again.
"Husband, what are you thinking?"
Oren breathed a sigh. "I'm sorry, goblin love. I just can't stop
thinking about this Kudzai."
"Yes. The fact is that it's even more dangerous than Thomas said. I'm
worried, Vitra, that this is going to be the thing that puts the Hipocci
and the Keepers against each other. We'd be fighting each other long
before the lutins came over the walls."
Vitra looked at the vines which were now making their way over the tops of
the walls, having advanced significantly since morning. It seemed oddly
fitting in a place like this that a thing of such wonder held equal menace.
It seemed to fit right in here where curses became blessings and monstrous
appearances became cherished as beauty. Where women were warriors and
Vitra smiled. "Oren," she said. "I know just what to do!"
* * *
"It is absolutely nuts." said Natalie.
"I'm in complete agreement." said Wessex.
"I don't see that we have much of a choice." said Christina. "I mean
there's no arguing with what Oren and Vitra have told us. This kudzai is
dangerous. It grows to fast to be cut. You can't poison it. You can't
pull it. And you can't use magic on it because it's Hipoccian. We have
only one spell we know can stop this thing."
Natalie nodded. "I know... it's just... it's THE spell."
"But this time, it's being used for good." said Jesse Roo. "Besides,
what's the worst that could happen?"
"You could become a dandelion." said Wessex. "I want it known that I'm
supporting Vitra only because I want to be there to make sure she doesn't
bring about greater harm.
"Fair enough." said Vitra. "Are we all agree?"
"We'll do it."
Oren signaled to Gornul to do his part in preparation for Vitra's
spell-casting. Focusing all of his projection powers, he etched out lines
on the ground, which Vitra followed with a stick. Wessex, Natalie and
Christina, meanwhile, made their way into the Keep.
The lines on the ground now connected Jesse-Roo and Vitra in two intricate
magic circles. The magical energy which the kangaroo hid within would be
harnessed to power Vitra's spell. Oren would stand nearby to jump in and
absorb that energy should anything go wrong.
The weasel-lutin steeled her courage. This would be one of the most
difficult spells she had ever cast since Ushka had introduced her to the
She would recreate the curse of Nasoj.
* * *
"Are you sure you can do this?" asked Oren. On his shoulder, Gornul
echoed his question with a quizzical look.
"No." Vitra replied. "I not sure."
"Good." said Oren. "That's what I wanted to here."
"Good? Why is good?"
"Because if you were sure, you'd be certifiably insane."
"Us all study curse." said Vitra. "No person knows how to break it, but
we know plenty how is done."
Vitra allowed a nervous shiver to pass through her body. "I not know why
I do this. I healer. This... this... not healing."
Oren wanted to reach out and put his paw on his wife's shoulder, but he
knew that to do so would disrupt the building magic. "Think of the Keep as
your patient. The Keep has a disease. You've got to cure the disease."
Gornul flew up over the walls of the Keep. Watching carefully, he made
sure the three mages within were in place. He watched them place their
anti-spells and counter-spells just as their predecessors had done years
before. When they had reached the crucial point of near-completion,
Natalie signaled to her flying friend.
Gornul projected an image of a flag coming down sharply.
Vitra began casting. Magic poured into her, now. Not only from Jesse
Roo, but also from the very land on which he was standing. The power was
staggering, and it burned as it flowed through her. She worried
momentarily about the children in her womb, but was quickly reassured that
they were fine as their minds touched. Relieved, she turned her attention
to the Keep.
The energy within the animal-woman continued to build. Jesse now hung
limp as if held in the air by an invisible hand. Arcs of lightning flowed
from him and from the ground at his feet into Vitra, burning her clothing
where it entered, making her fur stand on end until the green skin could be
seen clearly beneath. Vitra whimpered from the heat and the pain, but
there was no other way to accomplish what she set out to do. She let the
power continue to build inside of her until she knew it was enough to power
her spell, and when she could stand it no longer, she cast her
With a scream, Vitra crumpled to the Earth.
* * *
The next thing Vitra was aware of was lying in bed. She heard breathing,
and became aware of others near her. Jesse Roo was there. So was Natalie.
Gornul was perched nearby. And slumped in a chair beside her sat her
The otter was startled awake. "Vitra?" was all he could say.
"You are here... so this can be home, or can be Heaven, I think."
"Neither, you beautiful, silly goblin. You're in Coe's infirmary."
Vitra looked around and took stock of her surroundings. With a shock of
dismay, she realized that she was laying in the same bed in which Oren had
last seen Ana. She could not remain here. It was not for herself that she
was concerned. The last woman Oren loved had not risen from this bed. For
Oren, she would let him see the woman he loved stand up out of it. "I want
to go for walk." she said.
"No, no! You're still much to weak to stand up."
She looked stubbornly into his eyes. He looked just as stubbornly back.
"All right, then." she said, beginning to shrink. "You carry me."
"I not stand up. I lay in you arms and grunt grunt grunt." she said as
her mouth became more weasel than humanoid.
"All right, then. We'll go see what your magic has done."
* * *
With his wife in his arms, Oren stepped out of the Keep and began to
circle it. At the bottom of the first wall was a stunning array of flowers.
Blossoms of every color of the rainbow swayed in silent blessing of every
eye which looked upon them. Roses, orchids, tulips, lilacs, daisies,
sunflowers, edelweiss, honeypitchers and more, even species no one had ever
laid eyes on before lay in resplendent beauty.
When they had gone a third of the way around the Keep, the flowers gave
way to more mundane plants. Upon closer examination, however, it became
apparent that there was a definite theme. Belladonna. Spearmint.
Wintergreen. Witch Hazel. Aloe. Every conceivable variety of medicinal
plant was gathered here like some sort of vegetative healer's convention.
Already, both Keepers and Hipocci locals were gathering the valuable herbs.
But the last part was still the best. When Oren stepped around the corner
and New Hipocc came into view, Instead of Kudzai on the Keep walls and the
newly built houses, the land was strewn with trees and bushes of every
possible type. Apples, strawberries, pears, peaches, plums, blueberries,
cherries, grapes... and even the more exotic fruits which one could only
sample when traders came from distant lands. Kiwi. Pineapple. Carambola.
Banana. Date. Coconut. Papaya. Grapefruit. And as they went, they saw
some humorous examples of where the transformation had taken a surprise
twist. In one house, a matronly bear sat staring upward where a crop of
turnips had suddenly come through her ceiling from above.
Truly a pleasant crisis if such a thing existed.
* * *
Emily sat moodily, staring into the fire at the tiny turkey leg which
roast there. It was not much, but it was all she had to feed her family at
the moment. She looked over at her young husband, and at the mouse who was
her son. She loved them both very much, and felt so very badly that she
did not have more to feed them.
There was a knock at the door. Who could it be? Emily glanced at her
husband's face for a possible answer. Seeing none, she got up to answer.
How surprised she was to see the friendly striped weasel-woman there with a
basket of fresh vegetables. "Hello." she said. "Remember me?"
"The otter's wife!" said Emily cheerily. Yes, I do remember you."
"You gave me some vegetables several days ago, and I wanted to return your
"Oh, bless your heart, Missus! But you really don't have to... will you
look at the size of that parsnip! It's as big as me arm, it is!"
"Yes, well... there is more."
Up to the door came Oren with his old rock-hauling cart, now loaded with a
tremendous assortment of fruits and vegetables. Watermelon. Oranges.
Olives. Cabbage. Peanuts. Plums. Cranberries. Walnuts. Avocados.
Tomatoes. Apples. Plantains. Zucchini. Coffee beans. Cocao Beans.
Cola nuts. "I've got some great recipes for these." Oren explained. Even
as he said this, he continued to load down their table with more of the
wonders of the transmutated garden. Passion fruit. Almonds. Mint.
Maize. Carrots. Onions. Broccoli. Brazil Nuts. Bananas. Limes. Emily
and her husband stood flabbergasted. Their son had long since begun
tearing into a juicy kiwi.
"I can't begin to express out thanks." said the boy farmer. "We didn't
think we could make it through the winter, but with this... How can we
ever repay you?"
The last thing Oren took from the cart was a tray of Kudzai clippings
nested into moist peat. "You can repay us by giving these plants a good
home. We've been keeping a crop of these in the mountains, but they won't
last long here in the Valley."
Emily gave an inquiring look.
"These plants will become mature in only a few days." Vitra explained. "A
week after that, they transform into food crops, medicines and flowers.
Because they still part Kudzai, they hardy enough to survive winter. You
can sell food, medicines and flowers in towns to south."
"Then," said Oren, completing the plan. "As you warm the people of towns
like Halfway to the wonders of Metamor Valley, you spread the wealth around
Lorland and make life better for everyone."
"Oh, we will, Sir! We will!"
As Oren and Vitra left that house, the otter turned to his wife and said
"It was a stroke of genius you had, saving a crop of Kudzai out of range of
"Not as genius as what you did with fruit up north."
"A simple leap of logic." Oren explained. "If Keepers still have human
children, then it only stands to reason..."
* * *
"In all my life, I have never seen such a wondrous variety of food!" said
the lutin captain as he shoved one of his inferiors aside to get a better
"We stole it from a pair of Keepers." explained one of the lutins who had
drawn the enormous cart full of fruits, vegetables and spices. "They were
taking it to Glenn Avery when we attacked them. They surrendered
immediately and said we could have the food if we let them live."
"Those cowardly Keepers know we're too strong for them." the Captain
"They also told us that these fruits came from magic trees. They grow up
and make fruit in only a week. We saw some of the trees ourselves. They
weren't there seven days ago."
"Stoke up the fires!" cried the commander. "Tonight, we feast!"
And feast they did. The next morning, the ground was littered with seeds
and pits which the lutins buried. Soon, they knew, they would have an
orchard from which they would be able to supply a full-scale invasion force.
A week later, the camp was swamped with Kudzai.
The Changing Workplace
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