Act 1: Chapter 7, Part 3

Posted on November 05, 2017

In Which Angie Seals the Deal

Angie. First Day of School. Time to Make a Deal.

“Thank you for coming, Ms. Rainflipper,” Angie said. She was opening her mouth to say more, but an owl hooted not ten feet away from her, a long note followed by several shorter hoots, and it wasn’t the one in the circle. She started despite herself, twisting and looking around, as the storm owl in the circle started chuffing at her again. There were owls sitting in the apple trees all around her, owls of all sorts. Barn owls, short-eared owls and long-eared owls, spotted owls and barred owls, one huge great horned owl that had to be three feet tall and was probably the one that had startled her, based on the call.

“What can I dooo for you?” the storm owl asked her, the ‘do’ sounding more like another hoot than it did the human word, tilting her head pretty far to the left, certainly farther than a human might be able to. “I understand the matter is urgent?” Her huge yellow eyes blinked several times.

“Yes, my apologies,” Angie said, feeling a touch of heat creep into her cheeks. “Your escort startled me. I have a friend, Evan, who is acting the fool, out walking through the streets tonight. I fear he will find a Beast that is more than he can handle.”

Ms. Rainflipper sort of bobbed her head, a motion both like and unlike nodding. Angie didn’t know if it was meant as such, so she continued. “I’d like you to find him and watch him, and protect him if he is in danger from a Beast.”

Ms. Rainflipper bobbed her head a little more, then said, “You ask for a great deal of my time, Angie dear. I am a busy owl; storms do not just direct themselves, after all. You indeed ask me to risk some small danger to myself, in engaging with an Empty One; I am in little danger from the sort that can scrabble through your walls, but little danger is still more than no danger, and any Empty One can be dangerous if you’re not careful, after all. However, I have some friends who have been asking around for some help, and I do so appreciate being your first ever calling, really quite a pleasure my dear, so I think in this case I think we can probably come to an agreement.” She fell silent, regarding Angie steadily.

After vacillating for a few moments as to whether the owl might go on, Angie asked, “What do you propose?”

“There has been quite a buildup of trash and litter in the outer reaches of the Bear’s Remaining Woods,” Ms. Rainflipper said, “Around the areas where you all spend your time walking. Your kind are awfully blasé about scattering the borders of his territory with your rubbish.”

“I know, right?!” Angie said, anger twisting to wakefulness down in her guts at the mention of the subject. “Interrobang!? There’s signs saying that no one cleans up in there, the peril valuation makes it too expensive, and that the spirits remember people who litter in there! It’s totally crazy that people would and do still leave behind all their shit!” Angie paused. She’d said interrobang again. Why did that keep slipping out?

The owl seemed to be laughing again, the chuff-chuff-chuff noise itself pretty funny sounding; Angie couldn’t help smiling in response. After a moment, Ms. Rainflipper said, “Well, you should be pleased by this price then. In exchange for my service tonight, I ask that you remove litter from that which you call Bridal Trails park.”

Angie blinked back at the owl for a moment, apprehensive but also confused. Ms. Rainflipper blinked in return, the motion’s exaggerated slowness due to the size of her eyes a little surreal. Angie said, “Just some litter? A couple of napkins enough?”

“The amount,” Ms. Rainflipper said, not sounding super amused by that one, “Will be determined by the specifics of the service you wish from me.” She blinked several more times, one eye and then the other, which was something Angie knew owls to do; she didn’t mistakenly think she was being winked at.

“What do you mean?” Angie asked.

“Yoooou want me to watch this boy, and protect him if he encounters one of the Empty Ones,” Ms. Rainflipper replied, sort of wobbling her head back and forth, tracing out sine waves. “But the manner in which I might intervene will determine what the price is. What did you have in mind for that?”

Angie paused, for a moment, taken off guard by the question, though she realized she shouldn’t be. “I don’t know, I kind of figured you’d blast the Beast with a lightning bolt or something?”

“Dangerous for your boy, if he and the Beast are in close proximity,” the owl responded, “And quite an expenditure of energy on my part, as well, so if that’s what you would like, that will be twenty-five of those big bags your kind usually use when cleaning up such rubbish.”

“Twenty-five?!” Angie said, aghast. “That would take me days!”

“That is the price of such an overt display of power,” the owl replied, her tone, to the extent that Angie could read her tone, final.

“Okay, um,” Angie said, thinking for a second. “How dangerous are we talking about?”

“The thunderblast of a lightning bolt can expand thirty feet or more out from the path the bolt takes,” Ms. Rainflipper replied, “And can rupture eardrums, fling larger creatures than humans through the air tens of feet, break bones, and damage the internal organs of the unlucky. Plus it’s not always easy to control where lightning goes. If he carries one of your iron1 guns, the bolt may be drawn to him despite my best efforts, even if he’s outside of the probable area of the shockwave, based on the distance between him and the Empty One. Lightning is a dangerous weapon around those who fight with metal.”

“Crap,” Angie said. “Maybe not lightning then. Um. What would you suggest?”

“My advice has its own cost, my dear,” the owl said in return.

“Faaarts!” Angie exclaimed, trying not to freak out. Spirits were a pain, and the time they chatted was time Evan wasn’t defended. “Could you make a big gust of wind?”

“Of course,” the owl said, sounding a bit miffed. “I’m a storm owl.”

“Okay,” Angie said, gnawing on her lower lip. “If it looks like a Beast is about to kill him, can you knock him out of the Beast’s path of attack with a gust of wind? And then blow the Beast further away from him with another gust? How much would that be?”

“Yes, that would be simple, if still fairly dangerous for the boy,” Rainflipper replied. “I think two gusts of wind would be… oh, let’s say, five of your normal bags full of your garbage.”  

“Phwibf,” Angie phwibfed, letting the sensation of the flapping of her lips quell her annoyance of how high the price still was. She was trying to save Evan’s life, after all. Then she realized, and said, “What is the price if you never have to use a gust?”

“Three,” the owl supplied. Well, that explained that. Fair enough.

“Okay, let’s do that,” Angie said, nodding.

“Then we have… a deal,” Ms. Rhodo Rendron Rainflipper said. The word seemed to reverberate around the clearing, and it was only after a second Angie realized it was because all the other owls surrounding her had said “Deal” as well, with varying rates of delay in repeating it. Spirits fucking love making bargains. Angie couldn’t tell you why. No one could, really. It’s just how they were.

  • 1. Spirits, except for select varieties of earth spirits, tend to have a difficult time understanding the differences between iron and steel.