Maybe humans are just getting too easy to trick or maybe it’s just a mood, but Kickaha is in rut. So, he decides he needs a change of location to mix things up a bit with his karmic tricks.
A More Exotic Locale
“It’s not exactly that I’m bored of it.” Kickaha sat on a bench in the middle of the park. He was in his normal rust colored foxyote form, with a brown patch of fur on his chest and his green cloak over his back. He was currently holding a very terrified rat by its tail. “I mean, dishing out karma, making fools of people like you, I love my job. I just… Feel like I’m in a rut lately, you know what I mean?”
“Squ-squeeeeak!” The rat responded, terrified.
“I suppose you’re probably lacking in creativity.” Kickaha shrugged as he continued to dangle the rat. “I mean, purse snatching at the annual police union picnic? I guess I’ll give you points for guts, but not brains.” Kickaha shrugged.
“Squeak! Squeak squeeeeeeak!” The rat protested.
“I’m not sure what you’re so upset about.” Kickaha looked at the rat idly. “You needed to hide from the police, I knew a good spot, but you were a bit too big to fit into the drainpipe. So, as requested I helped! And look at you, a free rat, no police around.” Kickaha paused. “Though you know it was kind of not the smartest move to seek me out again after you were done hiding. I mean, when I saw you my first thoughts were lunch.”
“SQUUUUUUUEAK!” The rat quivered in fear.
“Calm down I’m not going to eat you.” Kickaha gave the rat a disapproving stare. “That’d be barbaric. I don’t eat sapients. That’s wrong. I’m just saying, though, had I not recognized you at the last second, this could have ended horribly for both of us! I mean, who needs robber-turned-rodent consumption on their conscience?!”
“Squeeeak.” The rat calmed down slightly.
“Maybe it’s just too easy now. There’s always someone in the city up to no good, or someone wandering into my forest with ill intentions.” Kickaha paused. “Hmmmm. That might be it! I just need a change of locale! Freshen things up a bit! Someplace new!” He snapped his claws with his free paw. “That’s exactly it! Just too many similar cases in a row. You know, this was a good talk. You’re a surprisingly good listener for a small-minded criminal.”
“Squeak.” The rat was indignant, it wasn’t as if he had a choice.
‘Well, I’ve got an idea now!” Kickaha stood up from the park bench then bent down and gently set the rat down in the grass. “Well, good luck with your future ventures! Hiding should be super easy for you.” Kickaha paused and considered for a moment as he was still knelt down next to the rat. “Although… You’ve already made some pretty poor life choices. I’m feeling slightly concerned about just leaving you like this. I feel like you’ll get into some kind of trouble…”
“Squeak?” The rat got excited as he thought he was about to be changed back into his human form.
“Ah I got it!” Kickaha pointed. “There’s a gray house with a fenced in yard and a large treehouse in the backyard. A small orange kitten lives there, and while he’s a great pal and much sharper than he acts, he does suffer from a terrible madness. The poor feline is under the delusion that rodents are to be treated as friends rather than food. I know, absolutely insane right?”
“Squeak.” The rat just fixed Kickaha with a blank stare.
“Well, the point is, his territory is a safe zone for rodents and other predators have agreed to stay away. The kitten can be very persuasive.” Kickaha had not experienced this ‘persuasion’ himself. But after witnessing it he had decided it was best to have his meals somewhere far away from the kitten. “Just know he may occasionally want to ride you.”
“Squeak?” Now the rat was just confused.
“It’ll make sense later. Trust me.” Kickaha gave the rat a light pat on the head. “Now off with you, I need to get back to work.” With that remark Kickaha stood up and strode out of the park, leaving the former human to his own devices.
Kickaha went straight back to his burrow in the forest. The type of magic he was about to perform was easier to work here. He was going to create a portal, and portals could be tricky. It was very easy to miscalculate and wind up in the wrong place or even the wrong world. Sometimes it was even unavoidable no matter how good you were. But, there were things that could make it easier.
Kickaha went to his bedroom. Other than the floor being made of dirt (and yet surprisingly clean) it looked much like any normal bedroom. He approached a full-sized mirror hanging on his wall and looked at it. Well, technically, the mirror wasn’t actually full-sized. But for someone who was barely three feet in height it was full-sized by comparison.
“Alright then… Where should I go?” Kickaha’s paws glowed with a green aura and he gestured at the mirror. The image in it shimmered and changed and took on the appearance of rippling water. “Hmmmm, should I just try something at random?” He snapped his fingers and the mirror’s image changed again. Now there was a frozen landscape on the other side. A cold wind blew through the mirror and Kickaha found himself being pelted by heavy snow. After a couple of seconds a snowman stood where Kickaha had been. An annoyed growl could be heard from somewhere inside the snowman, and then the foxyote’s paw shot out the side of it and snapped his claws and the mirror returned to its image of rippling water.
There was a brief moment of silence, and then a small ball of fire appeared in the paw that had broken free of the snowman. A few seconds later, and a second paw emerged also holding a ball of fire, and the snowman melted completely releasing Kickaha. He held onto the fireballs for a couple of minutes until he was completely dried out and up to an appropriate body temperature.
“Perhaps Spring is a bad time to visit Antarctica.” Kickaha muttered. “Wouldn’t go there without my winter coat.” He snapped his claws again and the mirror showed a new locale.
This time it was an enormous castle sitting atop a cliff. It was storming, getting Kickaha’s bedroom floor wet. There was a flash of lightning and the shadow of some monstrous creature could be seen clinging to the side of a castle tower.
“Hmmmmm, maybe for Halloween. Feels a little inappropriate for this season.” He dismissed this image. “Alright, I’ve had two misses. That means the next one should be exactly what I’m looking for.” He snapped his fingers as an image appeared again.
The exact same city he had just walked back from.
“Okay, now someone is just making fun of me.” Kickaha rolled his eyes, as he very much knew this only happened because he had said something. He dismissed the city again, and summoned forth yet another image.
This time there was a large grassy landscape with scattered trees. Kickaha could make out a herd of grazing animals in the distance, antelopes it looked like. It was a savannah.
“This will do!” Kickaha smiled and quickly jumped through the portal. On the other side there was a glowing hole showing his burrow behind it. Kickaha quickly moved his paws in a circle and the hole closed as the green light faded from his paws. “Though this is a lot of ground to cover.” Kickaha didn’t usually go looking for targets. They usually came across him. It didn’t exactly feel right to go hunting for someone to swindle out of their humanity.
How to handle this? Kickaha sat down in the grass and waited for a few minutes, seeing if maybe the situation would resolve itself. However, after twenty minutes when still nothing had come by other than a couple of meerkats it became apparent this wasn’t going to work.
“Just going to refuse to work with me today huh?” Kickaha’s tail bristled as he stood up. It was time for Plan B. Kickaha suddenly shrunk in size as his arms became wings and his muzzle a beak. After a few seconds a crow wearing a green cloak stood where he had. The crow flapped its wings and took off into the sky. “I’m just going to take a tour of the savannah. Take in the sights. If I just happen to see any form of trouble, well then I have a moral obligation to intervene.”
As Kickaha explored he saw the place was pretty much devoid of human life. That was a shame, he was sure he would have encountered someone by now. He considered heading back to where the portal could easily be re-opened when he saw a dust trail approaching in the distance.
“Now what do we have here?” Kickaha flew in the direction of the trail, and it was soon apparent it was being caused by a truck driving through the grass at less than safe speeds. Kickaha was going to have difficulty keeping up with it, but the truck suddenly swerved and came to a complete stop.
Kickaha flew closer to the ground, getting a look at the truck and its owner. A man got out, dressed from head to toe in camouflage pants and shirt, he even had a matching hat. He walked to the back of his truck and unrolled a canvas from it that had been blocking the contents from view. The truck bed was full of guns, and big ones. The type that could take down an elephant.
Kickaha frowned and looked in the direction the car had been driving. He flew ahead trying to see if there was anything of interest. It didn’t take long. A pride of lions, the two males laying in the shade during the day while the females were preparing to head out for a hunt.
And realizing what was about to transpire, Kickaha felt he had all the justification he needed. He flew back to the truck where the man was putting together his equipment. Kickaha landed on the opposite end of the truck and grew back into his foxyote form. He adjusted his cloak to make sure he was presentable and prepared to approach the man. Then he paused, realizing that as a foxyote he was technically a rare species… In fact, a one-of-a-kind species. And while Kickaha was used to people wishing they could mount his head above their fireplace, he did try not to encourage that fantasy.
And so Kickaha’s body began to change shape again, but it was less drastic. His tail lost some of its fluff as his fur shimmered and changed to a simpler color scheme. He had temporarily given up his fox heritage and gone full coyote. And now that he was something much more common and less likely to be mounted on a wall, he walked around the car.
“Huh, what are you doing?” Kickaha asked as he approached the still much taller human.
“GAH!” The man dropped the gun he was assembling making a clambering noise. “Are you crazy? You can’t just sneak up on someone! I could have–” The man paused as he realized he had to look down to see the source of the voice. Standing there was a coyote standing on two legs who had just talked. “What the heck are you?”
“A Hunting Coyote.” Kickaha responded, his cloak rippling in the breeze as if to provide emphasis. “We’re a very rare breed. We’re bred to be intelligent and learn how to help our masters hunt prey. We’re great trackers, know how to attract or repel every type of animal imaginable and can walk even the most incompetent of hunters into getting the biggest of prizes.”
“I’ve never heard of a Hunting Coyote before.” The man narrowed his eyes.
“Really?” Kickaha acted surprised. “Though then again it’s not that surprising. Because of how hard we are to breed, we’re very expensive. Pretty much only the greatest and richest hunters ever even get to see one of us in person. I thought you looked to be of high caliber when I saw your equipment. Perhaps I was mistaken, I can leave you alone if you wish.”
“Wait, maybe…” The man didn’t want to look ignorant, and in doing so proved himself. “I remember, I had a chance to get a Hunting Coyote a way back, I thought it’d make the game too easy so I passed.”
“Yes, we are very tricky when it comes to dealing with our prey.” Kickaha grinned.
“Wait… If you’re some kind of rare talking coyote, where’s your owner?” The man looked at Kickaha with suspicion.
“It would seem I have gotten too big for him to keep.” This was a statement that was sort of true based on previous experience staying at a friend’s place for a bit. “And so wouldn’t you know it, now I’m all out here by myself. And I must say, I’m bored to tears. When I saw a car appear I got excited for the chance to get back into the game.”
“What do you mean?” The man asked.
“Well I’m assuming you’re not driving around the savanna with a truck full of guns for a picnic. It’s obvious you’re here to hunt. I have needs too, and so I’m offering to help you out. Congratulations, you just became the temporary owner of a very rare and expensive animal.” Kickaha took a small bow. “And based on how things go, I may even consider making things permanent.”
“Uh huh.” The man was still unconvinced. ‘’I’m not sure I actually need you.”
“It’s your choice, but if you wish to test me, tell me our target and I’ll tell you where the closest one is.” Kickaha grinned.
“I’m going to bag me a lion.” The man who Kickaha had just confirmed to be a poacher said. He had already known that, but it’s good to double check your facts.
“Isn’t that illegal?” Kickaha asked.
“So what, you’re just an animal right? So why should you care?” the man sneered.
“Oh I never said I was judging you.” Kickaha had never said it, but he absolutely was. “But you’re in luck, there happens to be a small pride of lions directly north of here. Two males, six females. About this time of day the females would have just left to go hunting leaving just the males. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s what you’re–”
“I knew about that pride,” the man interrupted brusquely. “I’ve been watching them for two weeks. But Okay, fine you’ve proven your point, you can come along but I expect you to follow commands.”
“As you wish.” Kickaha gave a polite bow. “And may I ask, what is my new master’s name?”
“Dave.” The man grunted as he resumed getting his equipment together. “Did your old master give you a name?”
“I’m called Kickaha.” For a brief moment Kickaha considered giving his full title, but decided that it would be out of character for his current role.
“That some kind of weird foreign name?” The man sneered. “It’s ridiculous. I’m calling you Spike.”
“Spike huh?” Kickaha nodded. “Oh, I do believe you and I are going to have a lot of fun together. Lead on Dave, I’ll follow along. Am I free to speak freely, or would you prefer I only speak up when I have important information related to your hunt?”
“The second.” Dave replied. “Animals shouldn’t be talking. It’s just weird.”
“As you wish.” Kickaha bowed just to hide his mischievous grin.
“Good now let’s get going.” Dave started off in the direction of the lions.
“Ahem.” Kickaha tried to get his attention. “If you’re approaching them straight on you are more likely to be seen, spook them and risk them running away.”
“That’s what the camouflage is for.” Dave snapped. “They won’t see me coming.
“It might make a difference, but I estimate you will be 43% less likely to be seen if you circle around and approach through a patch of tall grass. Your camouflage will be more effective and you’ll be able to get closer for the shot.” Kickaha paused. “Not that I doubt your accuracy, I’m just trained to inform my master of the most strategic position for them to take the shot from.”
“That is a very specific number.” Dave squinted.
“The calculations behind it are actually quite simple.” If you ever wanted someone to lose interest in an explanation, a good way to do so was to make it as convoluted and wordy as possible. Both things that Kickaha excelled at. “First we account for the wind speed and direction to give an idea which direction our scents will travel and how far. Next take into consideration the humidity, as this not only affects how the animals will behave and the possible trajectory of your shot, but also what body aromas you may be producing. Now based on your current height and estimated weight based on your build with the current humidity-“
“That’s enough, you’ve made your point.” Dave growled. “You’re absolutely certain this will be a better spot?”
“Oh I guarantee, once we’re in position you’ll be glad you’re in the grass and not among the rocks.” Kickaha nodded. I can lead you.” He started in the direction he had advised and Dave followed.
Dave kept twitching as they did. He would occasionally hold out a hand. At one point licked a finger and pulled it up. It was clear he was trying to figure out the wind direction. Kickaha managed to avoid snickering as he realized Dave was trying to figure out his ‘calculations.’
“We’re getting close, after we round that series of rocks the lions will be in sight.” Kickaha pointed at the rocks in question. “You’ll want to stay low to the ground to avoid being seen and… Well…” Kickaha trailed off for a moment. “Maybe it’s not that important.”
“What is it?” Dave was starting to believe in the coyote’s abilities more as they went.
“Well… Your camouflage… I mean it’s… Alright.” Kickaha acted as if he was having trouble finding the words. “But there’s still a risk of being seen. You’d be much better off with a disguise that draws their attention, so that the lions come to you if you’re sighted.”
“And how do I do that?” Dave looked at Kickaha debating how solid his advice was. “Alright Spike, what do you advise?”
“Lose the hat.” Kickaha explained. “What you need is a pair of antlers instead.”
“Antlers?” Now Dave thought Kickaha was crazy.
“A lion sees your head stick out of the grass, they think something is wrong and run away.” Kickaha made a little running motion with his paws. “But they see a pair of antlers poking out of the grass… And suddenly they think they have an easy meal, get up and come to investigate.”
“I guess that makes sense…” Dave thought on it. “But where am I going to get a pair of fake antlers now?”
“Don’t worry!” Kickaha puffed out his chest. “A Hunting Coyote always comes prepared.” He leaped into the air as one of his paws began to glow. He snatched Dave’s hat with one paw and with the other slapped the top of his head and a pair of actual antelope antlers grew out from them.
“W-what?” Dave could feel the antlers and started to reach for them.
“Don’t touch them!” Kickaha responded. “It’s important they stay in perfect position. Ever see an antelope with a crooked horn? We have to sell this image.”
“Okay! Okay!” Dave lowered his hands. “But I feel ridiculous.”
“Many geniuses are thought to be mad at first. But it’s amazing how quickly a big success can turn ‘bizarre behavior’ into ‘charming eccentricities’.” Kickaha then followed this up with some actual good advice. “And if you’re constantly worried about looking or feeling foolish, you’ll deny yourself so many possible successes. Maybe you try something crazy, and it doesn’t work, and you’re embarrassed, but that fades. Maybe you succeed, and you become a legend. But without being willing to try new ideas-“
“I get it Spike you can stop the speech. I’ll keep the stupid horns.” Dave growled as he followed along after Kickaha. Just as promised, they arrived at a patch of tall grass and were only a short distance from the lions.
“Down on all fours.” Kickaha whispered. “The grass is tall but not that tall.”
“How am I supposed to see them?” David hissed.
“That’s my job.” Kickaha assured him. “I can track their scent. So I just lead you into the proper position and then we’re good.”
“Okay…” David muttered.
“Though…” Kickaha paused. “Right now I estimate your chances of a successful hunt at 79%. I have a few other tricks that can increase those odds…But they are already in your favor.”
“How much of a difference would your tricks make?” Dave asked, quite curious.
“I could increase your chances by roughly 15%.” Kickaha grinned.
“So 104%?” Dave nearly shouted and barely caught himself.
“What? No.” Kickaha had not counted on his target being that bad at math. “94%. I can help you beat a lot of things, but the laws of probability aren’t one of them. And of course nothing in life is guaranteed..”
“And why not?” Dave demanded.
“Because you can’t account for freak accidents.” Kickaha got up on his knees so he could hold up one paw as he explained. “Your gun could explode on you, a random bolt of lightning could strike, a meteor could come out of the sky and wipe this entire area out, or the lion might suddenly get a dinner invitation to a fancy restaurant.”
“Okay, I get it, can’t account for every possibility.” David hissed. “Wait… What was that last one?”
“I’ve done this a long time, master Dave. I’ve seen a lot. I still can’t account for every possibility, but it is my job to think of them and how to mitigate them.” Kickaha got back down on all fours. “But we’re going to be too close to risk making any changes to the plan soon. So if we’re setting anything else up, gotta do it now.”
“Okay, fine, let’s do it. What do we need to do?” Dave demanded.
“Start by taking your clothes off. All of them, shoes and socks too.” Kickaha grinned expecting a certain reaction.
“You want me to hunt naked?” Dave sounded terrified by the idea.
“Relax, I didn’t say that.” Of course, Kickaha did intend to leave him naked. But again he didn’t say that. “I intend for you to be covered in fur. Remember the antelope disguise?”
“Okay you’re recommending I change clothes.” Dave calmed down a little.
“Right, I just want you to get changed.” Kickaha grinned. “I’ll take care of the fur, you go ahead and strip.”
“In front of you?” Dave recoiled.
“Dave, I may talk but I’m still an animal.” Kickaha gave him a deadpan stare. “Would you be shy about the family dog seeing you naked?”
“Point…” Dave began to undress. As he did, Kickaha’s paws began to glow with magic.
“Now…” Kickaha waited till David was completely undressed. “Close your eyes for a moment, this is going to cover your entire body, and I don’t want to mess up, and you don’t want any fur in your eyes.”
“Alright…” Dave closed his eyes. Kickaha held out his paws and green light leaped from them to the poacher’s body. “It feels tingly.”
“Hold still.” Kickaha warned while grinning. He watched as brown and white fur grew in over Dave’s entire body. His human hair faded as it covered his head as well. The only thing he was missing to be an actual antelope was the tail, muzzle and hooves. “All done.”
“Whoa…” Dave opened his eyes and looked at himself. “It looks so real and…” He looked downward.
“Yes it is as realistic as possible.” Kickaha interrupted him.
“Say…. Where have you been keeping these costume items?” Dave asked.
“You would be amazed at how much you can fit into the pockets of a good cloak.” Kickaha spun around showing off his green cloak. His statement was especially true when the pockets of said cloak were enchanted to give them extra storage space; not that the extra space or pockets had anything to do with what Kickaha was actually doing.
“Okay, now for your face.” Kickaha prepared to extend his spell.
“Oh, so you’ve got a mask for this too.” Dave responded.
“Trust me, by the time I’m done with you, you won’t just fool the lions. You could trick a human into believing your disguise.” Kickaha chuckled. “There’s no one alive who could tell the difference. Now close your eyes.”
“I would doubt you… But after seeing the fake fur I think you might actually know what you’re talking about.” Dave followed orders and closed his eyes. Kickaha gently booped him on the nose as his face stretched out into a long snout while his entire head became smaller by comparison. His ears moved to the top of his head, stretching out into long fur covered forms.
“Perfect.” Kickaha grinned. “Though you know what… Since we’re doing this disguise, let’s do it all the way. Let me get you a tail.”
“Just how much stuff do you have in that cloak?” Dave asked. His eyes were still closed as Kickaha moved behind him and gestured at his backside. The tail slowly grew out and began to move on its own as it reached its full length. The only thing separating Dave from an actual antelope now was the fact he could still stand up, and that he lacked hooves.
“Alright, I think we’re ready.” Kickaha grinned. “Go ahead and crawl forward and get in position for the shot.”
“Nothing else you can do?” Dave asked.
“I have nothing that can further increase your odds of hitting the lion. It’s all on you now.” Kickaha grinned.
“Right…” Dave strapped his gun to his back and began to crawl forward. Kickaha followed behind as he used the last bit of the spell. Dave didn’t notice as moving on all fours became easier as his spine realigned and his fingers and toes vanished as his feet and hands became hooves. He was now 100% antelope.
And it was at this point that Dave poked his head out from the grass and could see the two male lions sleeping. He tried to grab the gun off his back, only to discover that his arms, or forelegs now lacked the range of movement to grab it. Dave let out an animalistic cry and as he stood up in panic with the gun sliding from his back and landing on the ground. Luckily, there was no misfire.
Kickaha had already enchanted the gun to make it useless from the first moment he was within range of it. He had done that specifically to avoid any accidents when the gun was dropped as part of the transformation.
The two lions awoke from the noise Dave was making and noticed the antelope that had wandered right up to them. They both stood up and advanced on their prey.
Dave bleated and made a humming noise. He didn’t fully understand what was going on, but he knew he was in trouble. He broke into a sprint, running away from the lions as fast as he could. Both lions gave chase.
“Huh.” Kickaha shifted back to his normal foxyote form. “Does this count as ‘the hunter becomes the hunted’? I mean the lion was a hunter too…” Kickaha shrugged. “Well I probably better save him before he gets hurt.” It was time to get both himself and the new antelope out of here. Shame they weren’t near the point he had made the portal coming in. Trying to create a portal for both of them to escape through while Dave was being chased by lions was going to be slightly harder. Well, hopefully they’d at least wind up in the right universe.
Well, if anything went wrong it’d probably still leave Dave in a better position than he was now.
“Alright here we go.” Kickaha focused on the portal spell and then threw it open straight in front of Dave. The antelope ran through before he even had a chance to realize what was happening. Both lions skidded to a stop confused by what happened. “Gentleman.” Kickaha came out from his hiding and bowed to both lions. “I thank you for your assistance in teaching someone a very valuable lesson today. And that lesson is… Um…” Kickaha thought for a moment. “Don’t do terrible things or magical tricksters will turn you into an antelope. Important life lesson. Well, see ya around!” Kickaha jumped through the portal and it closed, leaving two very confused lions behind.
On the other side of the portal was the city zoo near Kickaha’s forest. However, as Kickaha looked around he saw that they were currently inside one of the monkey cages instead of the antelope enclosure.
“Ah, drat.” Kickaha muttered. “Well at least I was only a little off.”
“Baaaa!” Dave, who was still an antelope and very confused demanded an explanation. And…The coyote he had known was different now, with more colors and a fluffier tail. But he recognized the cloak and general form.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure one of the zookeepers will notice you in the cage any moment.” Kickaha looked around noticing all the zoo patrons staring at the antelope and foxyote that had just appeared. “Especially since we’ve made a scene. But… As I promised! No one can tell you from a real antelope. Though because of that it’s probably best you avoid trying to poach any more lions.”
Kickaha glanced around the area, the crowd of people were getting larger, and now some of the employees were starting to arrive. The new arrivals were demanding to know how the antelope had gotten in the cage and wouldn’t believe the ones who had witnessed it when they claimed it just magically appeared. Soon there were accusations of this being a prank pulled by some teen, despite no teenagers actually being in the zoo today.
“And I think it’s time I make my exit.” Kickaha shrunk drastically as he turned into a mouse and quickly squirmed through the bars of the monkey cage. He got a few steps away then turned back into a foxyote. “Blech. I hate that form.” A few people had noticed his escape from the cage so he decided to leave the zoo completely rather than stick around to let them ask questions.
He transformed into a crow again and took to the skies. Before flying off he did a circle around the zoo to ensure that Dave was being safely escorted to his proper exhibit. He was probably pretty angry… But he was about to get free room and board for life.
“You know…”Kickaha mused out loud as he flew away from the zoo. “I just got an idea for a way to reform the criminal justice system and overcrowded prisons. I’ll write to my congressman when I get home.”
Kickaha had the satisfied feeling of a job well done, and the satisfaction of having done something different. Mixing up the location was exactly what he needed. Maybe he should consider doing a world tour. For now he was satisfied with his day’s work and was ready to go home and resume his normal form.