Only Slightly

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Only Slightly graphic by Amy the Ant

Previously in Only Slightly

After sending Anneka off to discover her true potential and purpose in life, Yarek explained to Bidet and Fridgara that she and The Geraldine are two parts of a five-part magical spell, infused into five people, which he intended to use to prevent the Karema approaching human-occupied space, thus freeing humanity from the threat of total destruction. He charged Bidet and Fridgara with the task of finding the person imbued with the Spirit portion of the spell, who was located somewhere in Berlin.

On Arelon, Bill discovered that the man who survived the plague did so with the aid of his magical potential, which was able to nullify the plague spell. After some discussion, it was agreed to attempt a spell that would spread this nullification across the planet, curing everyone infected at the same time. The spell was completed as quickly as possible, but although it was successful Bill and Pen-Ghast both perished.

Part Fourteen

Bidet had never been to Berlin before, but Fridgara had spent two years there before going to Cambridge to study magic, and she led him confidently along various streets in the city centre, laying about her with locator spells like she was throwing confetti at a wedding. Bidet trotted along beside her, casting his own spells with a bit more care, and over the wider range afforded by his greater comparative strength. Unfortunately, the spells Yarek had taught them were necessarily complex, and weren't particularly effective when spread over too wide an area, so it took them the first day to search just a quarter of the city centre.

In a cosy little gasthaus that evening, Bidet set his knife and fork down after an excellent meal and stared out of the window. He felt like they were missing something, but what it was wouldn't come. They were doing the best they could - even if Yarek had been able to come (he claimed that if he moved around it would draw the Karema to him like flies to honey), he wouldn't be able to do much better than them, although he could probably search the entire city in two days instead of the four it looked like it was going to take them; and that was assuming they didn't manage to miss their target entirely. There simply wasn't anything more to be done - Yarek knew that Spirit was alive, and roughly where, just not who she or he was. Except that they were apparently only fourteen years old, which could prove a problem.

But they would solve that when they came to it. In the mean time, they did the only thing that made sense - they went to bed, and woke up in the morning to a delicious breakfast and another day walking the streets of Berlin.

By midday of the third day, Bidet was getting very frustrated. Nearly three-quarters of the city searched, and they hadn't found more than faint traces of Spirit's passing. Halfway down a narrow street somewhere in the east of the city, he stopped.

'There has to be something we're missing,' he said. 'I know we've found those trails that were only a few hours old, but why couldn't we follow them to where Spirit is now?'

Fridgara stopped and looked at him. 'Do you have a better idea?'


'Then perhaps we should carry on looking rather than standing about wasting time?'

She walked off, already working up another locator spell. She only got ten metres or so before Bidet called out to stop her again. 'What is it now?' she snapped.

'I think I can modify the spell,' he said. 'If the spell hunts down the trails we find, it can follow them to the source straight away, then we can head straight for Spirit.'

Fridgara looked doubtful, but she nodded. 'Worth a try, I suppose. We felt a trail a few blocks back. Let's go and try it there.'

They turned around and headed back to the place they'd felt the trail from, near the entrance to an extremely narrow passage between a hotel and a trendy nightclub. Under Fridgara's challenging stare, which said all too well that she thought he was wasting time, Bidet cast the modified version of the locator spell that he'd suddenly thought of. It was more complex than the one Yarek had given them, but since it was meant to do a more complex task that was only to be expected. In fact, the modification was fairly easy, and he wondered why he hadn't thought of it earlier.

Come to that, he wondered why Yarek hadn't thought of it earlier.

With a final flourish, he completed the spell and waited expectantly. Nothing happened. Sighing, he scowled at Fridgara's 'I told you so' look and followed her as she resumed their previous search pattern. Perhaps they would have to do this the slow way after all.

From beneath a large wheeled recycling bin full of plastic packaging, Rmurr watched the two humans walk away from the entrance to the passage. The spell the man had cast had tingled her fur and been most uncomfortable indeed - she had felt its like for the past three days, all over this part of the city, and had wondered why. Now she knew - these two humans must be looking for her.

She came out of her hiding place and sat on the tarmac to smooth her fur down while she thought about what they might want. They hadn't said anything about their intentions, although Rmurr knew her grasp of human speech was fairly limited and was willing to admit to herself that she'd missed something. This wasn't a new concept to her - she had felt like she'd been missing things since she was only two months old, when she realised that other cats weren't really anything like her, except on the outside.

Perhaps these two humans would help her find the answer to that. Although she'd never tried it, she was reasonably certain she could make herself understood to a human if she tried hard enough. She wasn't sure exactly how, but perhaps it was something of this magic which humans seemed to fling about so readily. Cats couldn't see that either, most of the time, although dogs could, and Rmurr wouldn't like to think she was a dog in a cat's body. She didn't feel like a dog, and dogs still liked to chase her, so she was reasonably certain that wasn't the case, but it was an unpleasant thought nonetheless.

Decision made, Rmurr ran after the humans, who were just disappearing around a corner about two hundred metres away. She covered the distance quickly, saw the man and woman ahead casting more spells, and got their attention in the best way she knew how.

'What the- hey!' Fridgara reflexively kicked to try and dislodge the cat which had just leaped out of seemingly nowhere and attached itself to her trousers with sharp claws, hissing loudly. Bidet dropped his spell and looked to see what the commotion was as Fridgara abandoned kicking and tried to prise the cat off her trousers. 'Ouch,' she said as the cat started digging its claws into her leg. 'What do you want, cat?'

I'd like to know why you are looking for me.

'Wow,' Fridgara said after a long pause. She looked up at Bidet. 'Did you...?'

'Did I what?' Bidet asked. Fridgara frowned.

'I could have sworn...'

He cannot hear me. Only you can.

Fridgara stared at the cat.

Yes, it said, it's me, the cat clinging to your leg. If I let go, will you stay and talk? I have many questions.

'Yes, of course,' Fridgara said. The cat disengaged itself from her trousers and plonked down onto the pavement, where it began to smooth its fur. Bidet was looking baffled.

'What is going on here?' he asked.

'That cat is telepathic,' Fridgara said, ignoring his look of incredulity. 'It says we've been looking for it, and that it has lots of questions for us. Such as why.'

'I can think of lots of questions for the cat as well,' Bidet said, slowly crouching down and stroking the cat behind the ears. Fridgara laughed.

'It says that tickles,' the witch explained, 'but that it's nice.'

'What's its name?'

'She says her name is Rmurr,' Fridgara said. Bidet found himself taking a quick peek to see if the cat was indeed a she, and was rewarded with a scratch on the back of the hand. 'She says not to do that again,' Fridgara added, stifling giggles. Bidet scowled.

'I got that message,' he said. 'How come she can't talk to me?'

Fridgara frowned briefly as she conversed with Rmurr. 'She says she doesn't know,' the witch said eventually. 'She ventures that it might be because I'm female, but she's never tried talking to a human before and perhaps she's accidentally bound her ability to me.'

'Yes, we've seen that in siblings before,' Bidet said. 'I suppose if a cat can be telepathic, a cat can suffer from the same restrictions of ability some human telepaths have.'

'She wants to know why we're looking for her,' Fridgara said. 'Shall we take her to Yarek?'

'Well, she certainly seems to be the genuine Spirit component,' Bidet said, having noticed the mark of the Ikhshiid in Rmurr's eyes. 'I don't know how it ended up in a cat - isn't she supposed to be fourteen years old? She looks about five.'

'She says she's fourteen and three months,' Fridgara said, 'but she has no idea why she doesn't age like other cats. She also says that if Yarek can explain what's going on, we should go and see him at once.'

Bidet looked down at Rmurr, who turned appealing green eyes on him. He smiled.

'I never could say no to a cute cat,' he said. 'I'll cast the beacon spell for Yarek to retrieve us.'

Fridgara explained what they were going to do to Rmurr, who sent a feeling of anticipation of answers but unconcern over the methods used to get them, then sat down to wash herself, explaining to Fridgara all the time that it was important for a cat to look her best at all times, but especially before such an event as this. Moments later the beacon was cast, and a few moments after that Yarek's magic reached out across the galaxy and transported them back to the mediaeval dining hall.

'You have Spirit?' he asked.

'Well, yes,' Bidet said. Fridgara picked Rmurr up from the floor and put her on the table, where she stalked over to Yarek and sniffed his hands. 'Yarek, meet Rmurr.'

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