Coming Of Age: Chapter Twenty-One Of “Bounty Hunter”

I slip quietly back into the swamps. I know every way into the bayou. I even know ways that no other person knows. I have come back more than once since the compound was destroyed. I come to place flowers. To pay respects. To remember.

I know that McCall is gone. But maybe he is still alive. If his enemy from the Fallen hasn’t gotten to him. But I must hold out hope. After all, he is my mentor.

I have also begun to rebuild here. My own compound. My own arena. My own home. My own sanctuary.

But not in the exact same spot as his sanctuary was. No. I have chosen a spot deeper into the bayou. Nearer to the water. Harder for my enemies to access.

I think he would be proud. The cedar planking used is rough. But I am no carpenter. Still, I continue to work on it all. Smoothing. Sanding. Making it as ornate as possible. But not losing it functionality.

I will not decorate the arena. It is strictly for working out. Not for living in. Rough walls are good enough. The house is more of a treehouse. I have raised it off the ground. Up into the trees. Four large trees.

I was lucky to find four large trees spaced far enough apart to accommodate a large and spacious house. I braced a floor frame between these with arched braces that run from tree to tree and are fastened with wooden pegs, not rusty nails. I have found a way to help the trees heal a bit from my constructive intrusion. A sealant made from pitch. I have weather-proofed the beams of the arches. as well as the bottom of the flooring.

For the most part, the house is built. My storage is the bottom space, where the floor would normally be. This, I lined with stone, with heavy mortar–as a fence would be. Over the stones I placed some fireproofing material I was lucky to discover on one of my hunts.

This compartment has become a sort of safe where I have hidden my books and other things I value. Since I have enough room, I have taken up experimenting with papermaking when I am not hunting. I place the dried paper here in the safe as well. Since I do not eat or sleep, it is always good to have some hobbies.

I can’t wait to get home. I have been away for way too long. Just thinking about it makes me long to be there. Peace. Quiet. Safety.

Where my friendly little ‘watch dogs’ keep intruders to a minimum. Gotta love them gators. Anyone who isn’t used to the bayou can easily end up a tasty meal for a hungry gator. But not me. I catch feral hogs and wild chickens and feed them when I am around.

I smile. I have forgotten just how much I missed this place. One year away is too long. It is good to be back on the bayou.

***

I go to the arena. I need to gain control of this telepathy and telekinesis. Before I accidentally kill an innocent person. I also need to finish building the arena. At some point.

I focus on a loose log. Lift. It begins to vibrate. Then shake violently.

Finally, it lifts. I gradually guide it over to the wall with my gaze. I smile. A good way to finish the arena.

I am careful not to get too excited. Can’t afford to make any mistakes. One log after another. One on top of another.

I wonder if I can use this to bend the logs into something of a circle. The square is alright. But I need to rid it of corners. I am just full of ideas.

I focus on the logs collectively. Bend. Suddenly, I feel something else coursing through me. A warmth extending from my chest and running down the length of both arms.

Involuntarily, my arms raise and arc outward. The logs give a loud groan. But there is no splintering. Or explosions.

The light that has enveloped me is now fading. Not only has the logs bent, but they have become smooth. A voice floats down to me.

“Amazing isn’t it?” Someone has intruded into my arena. I look around and find a changeling.

“Did you follow me here?” I am alarmed.

“Oh, no.” She laughs. “I have lived in this bayou since before McCall lived here. I was here when he brought you. You might say that I am the first defense. Who else do you think gives the gators the order to eat anything that doesn’t belong?”

“What did you mean by your question?” I am still alarmed.

“Only that whatever that girl passed onto you has opened up more powers than you expected.” She flies down from her perch in the cedar and takes human form before me. “Or awakened sleeping talents within you. Did you ever have dreams that warned you of impending dangers?”

“Yes. I do not sleep anymore because of them.” I look at her. “And also because of the…disease.”

“Do not be afraid of your dreams, dear one.” She smiles sadly. “You may not be able to prevent the event shown. But you can serve as the one who heals others from its effects.

“Ah, but enough about that. The power your young friend passed on to you have bonded with your oracle. That is the ability to dream the future and to foretell it. It has opened the other powers that go with that. Oh, if only Voodoo was here. she could explain it better than I.”

My head snaps up and I look at her. “You know Voodoo?”

She sees the anger in my eyes. “Yes, child. And whatever you thought she may have done, rest assured that she did not.”

“How do you know?” I am now demanding.

“I witnessed all that happened to McCall. They have him.” She is frank. But I doubt her words. I heard Voodoo’s name mentioned that night.

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