With Words Like Magic, a rather odd story

This was written for [personal profile] jjhunter‘s prompt in return for the purchase of Dreamwidth paid time. It’s… a little weirder than I intended.

It was raining, the water coming sideways at gale speeds. Strange for it to be raining tonight, to give Cassna the cover of the storm when she most needed it.

She didn’t bother with an umbrella. In this weather, it was worse than useless. Instead, she murmured a poem, not even bothering to be quiet about it; nobody could hear her. There was nobody to hear her; aside from the hobo crouched under an overhang, the street was empty.

“Yaku, kanaa, blow,” she murmured,
“Tempero thýella, pass,
“Move past me tonight.” She skipped three times in the blowing storm and finished the verse.
“Swing your stormwinds around me,
round and sideways but not here.”

She bowed to the storm as the winds slipped around her – sideways and upwards, as the storm was pressing harder, but no longer touching her.

With a modicum of protection against the weather, the storm was actually a boon. There was no-one but the hobo to see her, nobody to wonder why she was stepping out of the doctor’s office at eight at night. There was nobody to stop her, and that, more than anything, is what Cassna needed right now.

She turned off of Monroe and on to Alexander, bracing herself against the wind. There was only so much a poem could do, when the whole world was distilled down to the wind and the rain.

There was one hobo sitting on the porch of an abandoned house, and a sad street cat hiding under the same porch. A third hobo. Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times… She ducked a curtsy at the hobo and murmured a couplet of luck at the cat.

The cat mewed in response, probably just at the attention – there were cats who spoke the language of magic, and a few who spoke of poetry, but rarely were they combined, even more rarely than in human-likes.

Alexander slid into Clinton with another turn, towards the city. There was a bum watching her from the shelter of a bus stop, and three big yellow toms perched atop the same shelter.

Cassna nodded politely at them. What was four times, then? No longer a coincidence, that was certain, even in this weather.

In this lucky weather.

“My footprints are wind, my path is the sky.
My inscrutable ways should be given a bye.”

She whispered the couplet under her breath, wincing at the stretch that the last line was, and twisted her way into the path of the wind.

Three dance steps put her an inch above the ground; a twist and a pirouette turned her down one street while her reflection cha-cha’d down a second. She was three blocks from her goal, and she had to get there before the storm truly hit. A tanka could hold off some rain, but not a hurricane.

The bridge over the 490 was tricky in the blowing wind. Cassna held onto the railing and skipped herself across, murmuring haikus about the bird’s flight.

She made it to Court Street buffeted only by flying newspapers and, once, a banana peel, turned left there and nearly stopped her dance at the sight of a hobo leaning against a lightpole. Leaning against a lightpole and looking straight at her, however impossible that might be. But she’d gone far past coincidence and far past enemy action.

“It’s far to dire to be outdoors; you should find shelter somewhere warm.” She pressed the first bill that came to hand into the hobo’s chapped fingers.

He looked at the bill, pocketed it, and looked back at her. “So should you, little bird, so should you.”

“There’s a place to be and I have to be there, nothing to see,” she shrugged, “nothing to see here.”

“Indeed. Inside and warm.” He half-bowed and slipped into the parking garage.

Strange. The world was strange and the weather was getting only stranger. Cassna skipped and swirled, getting the feel of the storm again and the feel of the poem still holding the edges of the rain off of her.

The poem-spell was wavering and the storm was growing. She had to hurry. She cut across the street, twisted twice to still the storm for a moment, and turned onto South Ave with a hop-skip and a jump.

Between the two sandstone faces of the Library, the storm seemed to still. Cassna tilted her head to the sky and breathed in slowly.

“Here we stand,”
She reached her arms up to the storm.
“Hand to hand,”
She let the air dance around her, picking her off her feet.
“Far from land,”
A twist, a swirl, and a bow to the storm.
“Knowing songs like fire,
“Knowing love like water,
“Knowing Magic like poems,
“Knowing always
“Here we stand.”

She found herself on her feet again, and bowed once more. The bow was deep, and showed her a hobo watching, his hands in his pockets. The rise was a flourish, and showed her another, at the far end of the block.

A pirouette showed that their numbers were growing; three on each end. No coincidences. Not when you were in the midst of a poem.

“You’re surrounded,” the tallest informed her. Cassna only smiled.

“Yes, I am.”

“You have something we want.” All of them stepped forward. The oldest-looking one had his hand out, beckoning, suggesting. He looked like he was calling a feral cat.

It wasn’t the worst analogy. Cassna nodded at him, not losing track of the others. “Yes, I do.” She touched her pockets.

“You will give it to us now.” Again, they stepped closer. Now the skinniest one was reaching out to her, too. He’d been the first she’d seen, back on Monroe Ave. No coincidences.

“No.” She took a step, not going anywhere, just the first step in a dance.

“You have no choice.” They were nearly close enough to touch her now, and all of them reaching out for her. “You are surrounded.”

“There is always a choice.” Cassna threw out one hand to the Library building which hunched out over the river, her other hand out to the new building, its sandstone still bright and yellow. “I am surrounded,” she agreed. “With words like magic.”

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0 thoughts on “With Words Like Magic, a rather odd story

  1. Oh, ho! I don’t know what’s going on, but even so, I hope for more of what may be of magic mixed with poetry. • My inscrutable ways should be given a buy. → a bye > def.; also spelled by • It’s far to dire to be outdoors → too

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