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A Trickster's Tail - Part 15

Copyright (c) 1997 Phaedrus; All rights reserved

As always, this is available on the Web at <URL:http://www.lycanon.org/trickster/>.

No, this will not be the last part. And yes, I swear to God that Part 16 will contain actual plot developments. Bear with me. :-)

Someone emailed me to ask about writing their own stories with Keith and Kickaha. I am extremely flattered. And I would really enjoy seeing what other people might do with them; for one thing, it would be a great way for me to see other people's visions of the characters. The only snag is that I don't think I'll be able to incorporate other people's stories into the Trickster's Tail storyline; I'm pretty darn sure that it would derail what little control I have. :-) So please, feel free (and heartily encouraged) to write stories with these characters; just be aware that they won't be "official", whatever the heck that means on a list like this...

It was a dark and stormy night.

Rain pounded down on the forest; a stiff wind blew through the treetops. To the east, just a hint of a reddish glow on the horizon marked the rising sun.

Three squirrels darted from under a thorny bush.

A moment later, the bush shuddered.


A pause. Then the bush began shaking again as... something slowly worked its way out from under it. Red fur mixed with black feathers in ragged patches all over its body. Its front limbs were weirdly elongated; the hind legs short, ending in clawed talons. Its head was... well, mostly gone.

Eventually, it made its way into the open. Then it rippled, expanded; limbs reshaping, feathers vanishing, head reassembling itself from thin air, something green spreading across its back...

In seconds, the change was complete, and a large fox stood on all fours, most of its body draped by a familiar cloak. It rose to two legs, felt its head with both hands as if to make sure it was all there, turned, and looked at the bush.

{Oh. That's what was in the way.}

{{Major style deduction. The Russian judge gives a nine two. Kiss the medals goodbye.}}

{How was I supposed to know? It's a little hard to take in your surroundings when your damn face... is...}

Keith's voice trailed off, as reality slowly sank in.

{Kickaha... we just died, didn't we?}

{{Yup. Weird, wasn't it?}}

{That... doesn't even begin to describe it.} The words spilled out of him--the strange world, the office, Jay, the Oversight Committee, the strange fox whose body he was now wearing... His own mental "voice" sounded different to him. That unnerved him. Through it all, Kickaha listened silently, never offering a comment... which unnerved him even more.

{{So. You ran into a fox that you think was you showing up to help you?}}


{{Uh-huh. I'd definitely call that weird, all right.}}

{So... what happened to you?}

{{You don't want to know.}}

{WHAT? We're probably the only two people on this planet that can have this discussion, and you're telling me that I don't want to know?}

{{Look. You don't understand. You were there. You told me. You don't want to know.}}

{Oh. Uhhhhhh.... Oh.}

{{It was really cool, though.}}

{I'm sure it was.}

{{Especially the part where we--}}

{I don't want to know, okay?}

{{Geez. Touchy.}}


{{No problem.}} A chuckle. {{You mellow with age.}}

{Not if you keep this up, I don't.}

{{Point taken. So, you're a fox now. Good choice. I mean, not as good as the obviously superior alternative, but good.}}

{Thanks, I think.} He looked himself over, twice shifting briefly into Kickaha's coyote form to compare. As far as body shape went, he wasn't really any different; the effort to change between the two forms was barely noticeable. But the difference was in the details. His fur was shorter, finer, more even; a deep red across his back, lighter across his chest. His muzzle was an inch or two longer, a bit narrower; his ears were longer, more pointed. The fur at his paws was nearly black, a sharp contrast to Kickaha's. His tail was bushier, and longer--long enough to drag on the ground if he let it. The fur at its tip was a dazzling white--it made Kickaha's seem dingy by comparison. Overall, he seemed a bit sleeker, more refined. And somewhat more modestly endowed.

{{Not bad,}} Kickaha observed. {{I mean, I wouldn't use it myself; it's a little too... nice. But when it's your turn with the body, no problem.}}

{Why, thank you ever so much,} Keith countered, laying on the sarcasm. {I happen to like it. It's a little more... dignified.}

{{I suppose. If you're into that sort of thing.}}

{Some of us try.} He stopped for a few seconds. He wasn't sure he wanted to think about this, but he wasn't sure he wanted to think about the alternatives either. {Kickaha, did you know this would happen?}

{{Not a clue. I'm a great fan of loopholes, though... and as loopholes go, I think we've got a world record here.}}

{No argument here. So... what do we do for the rest of eternity?}

{{How about the interview circuit? I mean, between our... physical eccentricities, and our harrowing tale of life beyond the grave, we could milk the talk shows for years. And think of the merchandising...}}

{Not a chance. If anything would get that committee to actually get off their ass and do something about us, that would be it. Besides, I've always hated talk shows.}

{{Yeah, but wouldn't you love to turn Geraldo into a...}}

{Don't tempt me. Forget it.}

{{Fine. Be that way. Well, what's your bright idea?}}

{Well, somebody did kill us just now... horrible vengeance is always an option.}

{{Naah. First, there's the slight technical problem that we don't have the foggiest clue who did it. And besides, when it comes right down to it, where's the harm? I mean, we're still here. And frankly, the change can only be considered an improvement. I mean, at least you're close to the right species now.}}

{You're just jealous because my tail is nicer than yours.}

{{Nicer for what? Dusting?}}

{Ouuuuch. Well, let's see. I guess this leaves us wandering around blindly and waiting for the next crisis to come up.}

{{Yep. Neat, huh?}}

Keith paused for a few seconds. {It could be a lot worse.}

He shifted to raven, and headed south once again.

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