A note from Wutosama

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Edited 13/01/20



Thanks to Gwen's crocodile tears, the rest of the morning passed without incident. Elvia and Yue picked out their horses and quickly took up riding thanks to Tommy. Rhodes came through and shouted the girls a luncheon of Roo steak and heirloom vegetables. Tommy was asked to join at Gwen's behest, but the jackaroo insisted on eating alone on a hay bale. Social status, Gwen was reluctant to admit, was far more ingrained in this world.

Gwen's gaze fell over Tommy. While the rider dug face-first into his Roo back-strap, she felt the germination of a remarkable idea within her mind.

Tommy was by all accounts, an indigenous bloke.
Gwen, was by all accounts, tied to the Rainbow Serpent.

Discretely, she excused herself from the table and approached the jackaroo from an angle where he could see her walking up shyly, hands tucked into the pockets of her riding pants.

"Hey Tommy, can I ask you something for a minute?"

"Sure thing, Missus Boss, what do you need?" Tommy swallowed, his face full of happiness.

"Remember when I asked if I could come and see how your people lived these days, out in the Wildlands? Are you up for that offer still?"

"Sure thing Miss, but are you sure you want to go see? It's no picnic Miss, I gotta say, the old mob, they're not much for the civilisation."

"How so?" Gwen inquired.

"Not too sure myself Miss," Tommy confessed. "Old bickerings. Bad Eye. Our guman don't like it when we leave the Spirit Land. He says we are losing our young folk."

Gwen tried her best to recall the names she had heard from her vision.

"So Tommy, does the term Pintupi sound familiar to you at all?"

"Yeah Nah, I got nothing."

"How about Purtardi, Triinya?"

"Not even a dingo of an idea, Missus Boss."

"Karli Karru? Muruntji? Wimparraku?"

Tommy whistled smartly.

"You speak the old tongue real glib."

"Any of those familiar?"

"Some of the words sound familiar. Are they nations, maybe? I am not so sure."

"How about the Yirriti?"

Tommy's brows raised an inch, stretching his leathery face.

"How do you know that, Missus Boss?" His voice filled with wonder. "They are old stories me Gran used to tell! The Yirriti people were the old singers of Spirit Magic!"

Gwen's eyes formed two smiling half-moons.

"Do you have one of those where your people camp, Tommy? A Spirit Singer?"

"Aye, old Goolagong, she be the singer of the mob, the Tjukurpa— Spirit Walker, ya know, the Dreaming."

Gwen stopped herself from punch the air.

"Tommy, I want to take my friends and I out there for a few days, we want to be back on the 30th or the morning of the 31st, do you think we could make it? I'd very much like to speak to your shaman."

Tommy counted the days on his finger, puckered his lips and made a sucking sound.

"I think so, Missus Boss, we take the horses to the Gate, my mob usually camp about a day's ride through the bush. They're usually camped around the Goorangoola, easy to track, just follow the water."

"Well Tommy, if you can spare a few days for us, I'll make sure everyone gets together a nice bonus for you. Think of it as a quest request from us!"

Tommy's grin was split ear to ear.

"Glad to help, Missus Boss, Tommy is best for mish!"

"Thanks, Tommy." Gwen gave him her best smile. "You're the best."

"Shucks!" Tommy laughed. "You embarrass me, Missus Boss! I'll let Mr Rhodes know!"

Gwen returned to her friends with the good news. She was already thinking of team-building exercise. A few mildly exciting encounters fighting Roos and Giant Goannas should smooth the antagonism between Yue and Debs.

Tommy returned with more details once Rhodes gave him the thumbs up. The jackaroo mapped out a lovely picture of Outback extravaganza. Once they exited the Singleton Gate, they'd take the old fire trail through untamed Green Zones until Goulburn Pass. With any luck, they should run into his tribe, south of Barrington, then Gwen could get some answers, and they would be back on the night of the 30th.

The girls squealed and gushed. An Outback adventure! Four days and three nights in the bush, camping under stars! Fighting Kangaroos and God knows what, eating bush tucker and building up their friendship. That was the stuff brochures advertised.

Ever the helpful manager, Rhodes offered to drop off the horses at the Shield Gate by Singleton. All Gwen and the girls had to do was meet Tommy at dawn.

Having now planned their activities for the next few days, the girls wanted to stock up on appropriate attire for four days of rough riding. Thankfully, Cessnock was having a Boxing Day Market. Tommy borrowed Rhodes' jeep and acted the girl's chauffeur.

At the market, the girls enjoyed themselves. This time, each of the girls had resources to spare. Elvia had LDMs and HDM given to her by her father; Yue was currently in possession of a small fortune; Debora was flush with cash from their prior Roo expeditions, and Gwen was the benefactor of a sugary Opa. Arm in arm, the girls roamed from store to store, building rapport through the ancient and revered female bonding ritual known as retail therapy.

The girls returned to Surya's by nightfall, where they shared a nip of sweet Moscato with the old Enchanter. After a few glasses, Surya queried Elvia and Yue about their families, curious as to the lineage of Gwen's closest allies. Elvia's heritage was within Surya's expectations, but it was Yue's lineage that truly surprised him.

"Your father is an Evoker with tier 2 Water, but you're tier 5 Fire?!" Gwen's grandfather was shocked by the odds.

"Yeah, and my mother is an NoM!" Yue declared proudly.

"That's... amazing." Surya raised his glass in a toast. "To beating the odds!"

Yue tapped Surya's flute and drank her fermented grape juice. Gwen watched the bottle like a hawk. After her last debacle, she wasn't going to give Debora or anyone another opportunity to get tipsy and handsy.

"That said, be careful out there. It's only the Green Zone, but call me if something, anything, goes wrong."

"Yessir." the girls concurred.

Gwen capped off the busy night with a kiss for her grandfather; then they were off to prepare for their Great Outback adventure.

At dawn, Tess drove the girls out on the four-hour-long journey to the Shield Gate at Singleton. Gwen inquired about what had happened to that Wollombi Shield Gate they had investigated, but the Apprentice knew scant more than Gwen herself.

"They're still looking into it." Tess avoided yet another pothole with a deft swivel of the wheel. "Who knows, the Tower usually takes care of these things. I can tell you the station is re-garrisoned though."

Gwen glanced at the rearview mirror. Yue and Debs were getting along better now. They didn't make small talk, but they at least left one another well alone. Elvia was napping away in the middle, her face angelic as always. Hopefully, the trip could build some rapport between Yue and Debora.

When their car finally stopped, Tommy was already waiting with the horses. "Ready to go?"

The girls bid Tess goodbye and saddled up.

Tess produced a Lumen-Recorder and asked the girls to line their horses up.

"One, two, three - Doggies! Beautiful! Have fun!"

True to his word, Tommy knew the lay of the land like the back of his hand. Even as they ventured off the main road, the jackaroo seemed well aware of their heading.

Quickly, the flat terrain of stunted shrubbery turned into rolling hills and vast, open prairies full of wild grass and early summer flowers. On a ledge, they watched a herd of Roos, a hundred or more, hop across the sweeping plains like a school of synchronised fish. Yue wanted to immediately Fireball them, but Tommy stopped her, teaching her that these were not monsters but creatures of the land. He instructed the girls that they should only kill what they could eat, and that senseless killing was disrespectful to the spirit of the nation.

Yue was disappointed but agreed to abide by Tommy's wisdom. She was a stranger to these lands, while Tommy was their host.

Past noon and past Yengo, the plains came to an end, and the hilly rockscape of the Barrington Tops began. Unlike the tectonic mountains of Europe, these hills and valleys were eroded sandstone, flats weathered by the flowing of water, shaped by the aeons.

Riding through a gully, the girls marvelled at the wonder of the bush, its white-barked forests of gums and its verdant bursts of Waratah and Banksia. There were Blooming Dogwood as well, juxtaposing the Flame Trees that turned their surroundings into founts of blood.

It was late afternoon when they finally found the estuaries that flowed from the Tops. Tommy returned some half an hour later, relieved that he had discovered signs of his people's encampment.

By now it was getting late, and the girls settled in for their first night on the bush. After a supper of oats, spiced jerky, and buttery damper, the conversation turned to who would occupy whose tent.

"Let's draw straws." Gwen had anticipated a dispute, and so made moves to absolve the conflict. She felt no desire for Tommy to sleep out in the open while she or Debora took a tent for themselves.

"Okay, I am with Debs."

With sleep sorted, the foursome dimmed the Dancing Light. As their eyes adjusted, the sky came alive with celestial bodies burning bright.

"Tommy, can you tell us some stories about this place?"

Tommy gazed up at the stars dreamily, his expression unreadable.

"Sure thing, Missus boss." The jackaroo cleared his throat. "Long ago, in the time of the never-never, before there was the Dreaming, the world was flat, bare, and cold. The Rainbow Serpent, Almudj, slept under the ground with all the animal tribes in her belly waiting to be born. When it was time, she pushed up, calling to the animals to come from their sleep. She vomited forth the land, making mountains and hills, then scattered water over the earth, making rivers and lakes. She made the sun, the fire and all the colours. Our nation loves Almudj, because she is a great protector, bringing the wet season each year, allowing life to multiply, appearing in the sky as a rainbow. Our nation also fears Almudj, for she also punishes invaders."

"Thank you Tommy, that was wonderful." Gwen's eyes refracted the milkyway above. Here in the Outback, the sky was heart-achingly beautiful, so overwhelming that she felt insignificant, minuscule, irrelevant.

"Was that the serpent we saw during the Field Trip?" Debora asked.

"I don't know," Gwen lied.

Yue and Elvia also gazed upon the magnificence in silence, trying to picture a serpent sailing through the night-time sky.

Gwen spent the night brushing off a wayward hand that kept sneaking its way into her sleeping bag. Half-awake, she listened to Debora's muffled breathing, unsure if the girl was awake or if she was naturally a nocturnal grabber.

When dawn came, the insomniac sorceress, finally asleep, felt something tingly on her face. Drearily opening her eyes, she was met with Debora's face hovering an inch away, her amber eyes gazing longing into her own.

"Morning," Gwen said cautiously, not moving a muscle.

"I wish days like this would last forever," Debora muttered strangely, her voice full of melancholy.

Gwen didn't reply for fear of inciting Debora. Instead, she reached out and squeezed her friend's hand reassuringly. Debora's hair, which she had cropped around the time of the Field Trip, had astoundingly returned to shoulder length. In the dappled light of the early morning, her friend was uncommonly comely. It wasn't the striking, exotic manner in which Gwen's appearance was head-turning, but a wholesome, girl-next-door appeal that Gwen could never affect.

Gwen propped herself against the bedroll while Debora dressed in the cramped space of the two-women tent. An Earthen Transmuter, Debora's toned musculature was well-defined beneath her honeyed-skin. Compared to herself and her well-visible ribs, Gwen reminded herself that she needed to eat more.

Gwen waited until Debora left before she changed, slipping into a long-sleeved cotton shirt, and her full-length riding pants. Emerge from the tent into the morning light; she buckled on her boots.

There was a delicious smell of sizzling bacon. Tommy was making breakfast, aided by Yue, who excelled in survivalist cooking thanks to Alesia's deadly culinary ineptitude. Together, the girls shared tea and coffee, then saddled up for the ride to the Indigenous encampment.

"Oi! Appa! It's me, Tommy Kuranga, how are ya?"

"Niiyalang!" replied an elderly man, "What's with the puk komans? You bringing migloo girls home now Tommy?"

Gwen and the girls dismounted as they approached the settlement.
The word settlement was perhaps, an inappropriate observation, for they were looking at a dozen humpies made from sticks and cross-hatched gum leaves, forming rudimentary burrows where one or two individuals could shelter from the sun or rain. Comparatively, some distance away, modern-material tents replaced the traditional humpy.

The man Tommy had spoken to was a 'bushman' as Gwen would put it, but he had on jeans and a red t-shirt faded by the sun.

As they strolled into camp, Gwen noted that almost all the residents of the settlement were wearing modernised clothing. There were little signs of the classic, Indigenous appearance that she had come to expect from her old world.

Feeling ambivalent, she attempted to rationalise the scene before her, realising the idiotic expectation brought by her subtle prejudice. Just because they were in a magical world, she told herself, it didn't mean the indigenous folks strolled around naked and in body paint.

"Good afternoon Sir. I am Gwen Song, and these are my friends, Yue Bai, Debora Jones, and Elvia Lindholm," Gwen spoke to the old feller who had accosted their party.

Discretely, Tommy led the horses away while Gwen introduced her and her friends.

"Ha! Old Jurangi is no 'Sir'!" the old man hollered, studying the girls, his eyes lingering a moment longer upon Gwen than the others. "Call me Jura, that's what the old stockmen used to call me. You Migloo are a long way from home!"

"I am sorry for disturbing the peace, Jura," Gwen replied respectfully. "I was wondering if it is at all possible to speak to your Spirit Speaker."

"Goolagong? You want to see the old lady?" His voice took on a tone of caution. "You want to malp kee'AN? Or perhaps you are more interested in the ngeen-wiy? No?"

Gwen blushed.

"I don't understand what you mean," she confessed. "My apologies for the inconvenience."

Jura looked over at Tommy, who was brushing down the horses and unsaddling the camping gear.

"Well, I better get you mob settled then." Jura pointed to a clearing beside the rest of the camp. "Help yourselves."

Gwen led the girls over to the clearing and materialised their supplies.
Jura's eyes almost popped out of his sockets.

"You migloo Magic?" Jura spluttered, suddenly alarmed. "All of you?"

"Yue and I are Evokers, Debora here is a Transmuter, and Elvia is a healer."

Debora placed a hand upon the earth and incanted a Minor Stone Shape. The ground rippled and warped before flattening out. Likewise, she planted the tent pegs by wrapping the stone around the spikes.

"Ngench pekan!" Jura spat alarmingly. "Ooo this proper cheeky Tommy! Bringing us trouble!"

Gwen watched the man stalk angrily off toward their jackaroo, proceeding to slap the young man on the head.

"Gwen—" Yue questioned. "What's happening?"

"Are we unwelcome?" Elvia said worriedly.

"Yeah, we don't exactly share a nice history with these folk," Dobora noted, observing Tommy ducking this way and that, trying to avoid the older man's slaps. "You know that we chased the savages out and took their land, right?"

Gwen nodded uncertainly. Old Jura had seemed perfectly fine until they started using magic. "Is there a taboo or something about modern magic?"

"I don't know about these days," Debora answered. "But when the Purge came through in the 70s, the Indigenous people were caught up pretty bad. It's all in the history books, Gwen, don't you recall junior high?"

"I was preoccupied," Gwen replied. She didn't even remember those classes. Yue knew about Gwen's family circumstances, but Debora had not.

The commotion seemed to have alerted the rest of the camp. Men, women and children all emerged from their tents to see what compelling drama was unfolding at the settlement's edge. In a few moments, the girls were surrounded by at least a hundred of the Indigenous folk, pointing and speaking in their musical language.

Elvia hid behind Gwen demurely, hiding herself using Gwen's stature. Yue stepped up aggressively, as did Debora, who looked ready to fight. Gwen swallowed nervously as the gathering crowd came closer to inspect the intruders. She could see in their eyes that not all of them were curious while some, Gwen gulped, looked very much hostile.

A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref :: 

Volume 1 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
Volume 2 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
V1 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link
V2 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link

Paper back in near future


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Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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