Lacklee didn’t look up when the Wode came back in. She was too busy observing the street below to even
greet her properly. “You got mugged right outside your apartment.”
The Wode- no, Amanda, her name is Amanda- didn’t reply. “Any trouble from her?”
“No, aside from demands for her swords and questions about you.” Good boy. You’ll make a good
subordinate one day. A noncombatant one- too delicate, too squeamish for war.
“Really.” Lacklee listened, but didn’t hear any hair-swishing that would indicate a glance in her direction. “Thank
you. You may leave now.”
Lacklee suppressed a chuckle when Lieutenant Heckleson scratched his peach fuzz- always his reaction when
he wasn’t sure how rude something was. “You have to open the door.”
Good boy. Good memory, Lacklee thought as Amanda yanked it open.
Silence. Lacklee listened to Amanda pad into the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee. When she strode back in,
she said, “It wasn’t a mugging. I was paying their monthly protection fees.”
“Yes. It keeps their image intact; who wants to be known as a protector of Wodes?” She sat down.
The Lightfoot turned to regard her warden. With her paws tucked under her, she seemed comfortable and at
ease. But the Soldier saw her fingers clench the mug subtly, and anyone could see the feral, challenging eyes.
She glared defiantly back. “Not the police, obviously.”
A hand fluttered dismissively. “They’ve got drug rings to bust and gangs to scold. They don’t need to take the
time to help me cross the street.”
“That’s overprotecting and you know it.”
“Do I? Though, point of fact, I’m watched like a hawk wherever I go. Just to make sure I don’t knock things over
with my tail.”
"That's just as bad!"
“The assumption or the fact that I have a tail?”
“The… What now? Where did that come from?”
“Just checking. I shall require an answer, however.” Faint wisps of steam curled from the cup and swirled
around Amanda’s ears, tickling them and making them twitch.
“Well…” Lacklee hopped off the cot onto her good leg. “You’ve just told me that the police watch you because
you’re a ‘criminal,’ but ignore you when the real criminals find you.” She started pacing. “This is not only
allowed, it is apparently accepted by you people.
“Why? Why should you accept it? I don’t know- either you will accept it forever, or you’ll finally crack and revolt
like all normal humanoids do. Hell, even animals aren’t as docile as your kind!” She turned to glare into her
unwavering feral eyes. “Is there a point to this… This… passivity?”
“Most would respond that it is not passivity,” she responded without blinking. “They would merely call it
“Most Wodes would call it patience? What the hell kind of argument is that?”
“One I would not expect anyone who’s average lifespan is barely half a century to recognize.”
“Lifespan shouldn’t have anything to do with it!” Lacklee responded, reddening. How often had she heard that
one before? Sheesh.
“Because this will only ever get worse and worse and there’s no reason why you should put with it in the vain
hope that society will have an epiphany!”
“Why not? Got us out of slavery.”
“One, that was a thousand years ago. Two, that only happened because other nations got on their moral high
horses and refused to trade with a slave nation.”
“Half that, thank you. Also it’s interesting that you know that.”
“My friend’s a Historian, sometimes we get together and chat.”
“About anything in particular?”
“I’m a Soldier and she’s a Historian. What the hell do you think we talk about?”
“The latest pop songs, naturally, and how best to get your groove on.” Amanda snapped her fingers in a way
disconcertingly incongruous with the challenging eyes. “Ole!”
“You really can’t help yourself, can you?”
“You practically sent an engraved invitation for that. So you discuss modern times?”
“Yeah, politics, mostly.” She sat back down before her leg could give way. “Mostly we argue about which
revolutions I’ve taken part of are futile and which are not.”
“Interesting. She ever change your mind?”
“Nope, and I’ve never changed hers.”
“Let me guess- she says revolts against Acerbate are futile.”
“Not quite,” Lacklee corrected. “She says not much is going to change until large geopolitical bodies decide to
act, as opposed to the small guerrilla groups I prefer.”
“Ah, and she used the Wode’s enslavement as an example.”
“Interesting. Apparently you ignored the point she was trying to make and proved further to yourself that
Acerbate is morally corrupt and Wodes are weak.”
“You sound just like her.”
“Should I be flattered or insulted?”
“Neither. It’s just a fact. And for ----’s sake stop staring at me like that!”
“Like I’m a small delicious rabbit and you’re a hungry cougar! I am not prey, no matter how banged up I am!”
“The most dangerous prey are the wounded and the cornered. You appear to be both.” A small, lascivious
smile spread behind the thinning steam. “But how can that metaphor help you?”
“Metaphors aren’t supposed to help, you stupid animal, just explain!”
Her warden’s eye’s twinkled, and her smile dissolved into one of mirth. “How ironic,” she giggled, “that I’m the
animal, yet you’re the one behind bars!”
Her giggles were both confusing and comforting to Lacklee- cackles meant business, but anybody who giggles
basically chooses to be underestimated. Although, why would anyone giggle about a racial slur? “You’re
“Don’t you know? It’s a requirement for living.” She gazed at Lacklee with eyes that were no longer challenging,
just earnest. “And I know you’re not easy prey. If you were, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be dead.
“Now,” she said, placing paws on the floor, “How much pain are you in? And don’t lie or you’ll have to take two
“I know. You’d think magic would make it taste like anything other than cough syrup. So how ‘bout it? I’ve got all
strengths.” She looked at Lacklee with genuine concern.
Lacklee, naturally, narrowed her eyes. “Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Amanda responded innocently. “You haven’t forgotten your promise of an hour of
“Neither have you, apparently,” Lacklee allowed, tapping her headdress. “But a single hour- nay, less- doesn’t
usually warrant a healing potion.”
“Ah. Your usual interrogators let you suffer. Well, you are not my subject, you are my guest. And good hosts don’
t let their guests writhe in agony.”
Lacklee snickered at that, then laughed aloud when she noticed that Amanda was oblivious to the humor.
“Really? I thought good hosts didn’t put their guests behind bars.”
“Where does it say that? It’s important to provide references for such silly, unreasonable social laws.”
“It’s in the Book of the Painfully Obvious. The author died of redundancy soon after it was published.”
“You were sarcastic! Congratulations! I didn’t know Lightfeet had a sarcastic bone in their body.”
“Your kind didn’t invent sarcasm.”
“That cannot be proven, though we did perfect it. Anyway, the pain?”
“I’m in barely enough pain to ignore.”
“And that translates to…?”
“Make it a strong one.”
“Got it.” Amanda got up ungracefully and padded into the kitchen, taking her still-full but no-longer-steaming
mug with her. “Would you like food with your potion? I’ve got soup ready.”
“Anything that’ll expunge the aftertaste.”
“Ah. Noodles and vegetables should do the trick.” She pushed a tray through to Lacklee, conveniently close to
the cot. “There’s some cold charms too if you need them.”
“Thanks…” Lacklee’s grimace was only partly because of the taste. She watched Amanda stride out with a new
mug of coffee and seated herself at a desk, seemingly intent on letting her finish a meal with no distractions.
For a split second, she thought she saw the thin ears broaden into something larger and furrier. It was only for a
second, but nevertheless the Soldier tucked it away as something to never forget. Meanwhile, Amanda
glanced up with a mild expression. “You’re annoyed.”
“Well, yeah- either you’re the nicest interrogator in the world or you have some weird ulterior motive.”
“Well, you already know I’m not an interrogator. I guess you could call me… Your keeper?” She shrugged,
clearly uninterested in titles. “You should finish eating.”
“Maybe I don’t want to.”
Amanda just looked at her with a face that said she wasn’t going to dignify that with a comment. Lacklee
harrumphed again, then accidentally devoured the soup. Traitor stomach, grabbing the reins… Oh well. “So
“Hm?” She looked up, mildly surprised by the expediency of the meal. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“I’m a prisoner of war, but apparently you are not an interrogator. Why am I here? And no sarcasm in the
“Darn, I had a good rant ready, too.” She leaned back with her steaming mug and considered the question.
“Well, you’re mostly here to appease the powers that be… Partly for information we already have… No, the
most plausible reason I can think of is so you are no longer a menace to Acerbate.”
“That’s it? I’m locked away for who knows HOW long for being a ‘menace to Acerbate?’” Breathe. Breathe.
“I’m afraid so.” She pulled the mug closer to her face. “Although you have to admit you were a fairly huge
“Don’t be flippant,” Lacklee snapped. “I… How long will I be here?
Amanda’s face melted into true sympathy. “I don’t know. Until such time as… you are no longer considered a
threat to society.”
Despite her fear, Lacklee laughed. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just k-kill me?”
“It would, if your kind didn’t call it martyrdom.”
“News flash: being executed for your beliefs is the definition if martyrdom.”
“And the best way to start a riot is to martyr someone.”
“Oh, so in the interest of maintaining peace in the streets, I’m supposed to waste away to nothing?”
Amanda lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry.”
You are, too. I can tell.
But what can you do? Just watch me wither away? Well, watch closely, because it’ll be brief. If I can’t escape,
you’ll find out firsthand that Lightfeet don’t just waste away.
They go mad, then waste away.
She hardened herself against such thoughts. “Yeah, sure you are. You’re just being paid by the government to
baby-sit me till I die.”
“Better than dying alone,” she retorted solemnly, unstung. “Do you need anything? Cookies, blanket?”
“Unlocked door and my sword.”
“Anything less likely to get me fired?”
Tsk. “How about a pillow to scream into?”
“I can do that.” She tossed an incredibly fluffy pillow expertly between the bars, then flinched as the Lightfoot
actually started screaming into it. “Huh. Didn’t think you were serious.”
“If you don’t let your frustrations out, they’ll stay inside you and breed,” Lacklee gasped wisely. “And I need a
“Intriguing. Should I be concerned?”
“You betcha. You could get fired.”
They exchanged smiles.
And that is how the first session ended.
|Wodes and Lightfeet
Chapter Four: The First Session