Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Sage Advice
Meanwhile, on an island paradise in another dimension.
“Magic.” Dr. Callyco spoke up suddenly. He and Dr. Cutie Pup were laying out on a beach sharing a towel.
“Excuse me?” Dr. Cutie Pup asked.
“Magic. That’s what tonight’s tale is about.” Dr. Callyco shrugged.
“Don’t you usually have like… Some kind of weird tangent you go on before getting to the story where the readers at home are confused as to if you’re doing it on purpose or not?” The wolf cub raises an eyebrow.
“Wow… Just… Wow. Explain the entire schtick why don’t you?” Dr. Callyco pouted. “Just for that, this intro had no punchline.”
“The absence of a punchline is also a punchline.” Dr. Cutie Pup sat up and smiled smugly.
“What? How does that make sense?” Dr. Callyco squinted at him.
“Comedy is all about messing with expectations. If they expect a punchline and none comes then that’s the joke.” The wolf’s smugness resonated off him. “I mean there’s a whole brand of comedy called anticomedy that’s funny because it’s not funny.”
“You’re messing with me.” Dr. Callyco narrowed his eyes. The wolf continued to just be smug. “Well fine! Look tonight’s guest is Kickaha! What kind of vague warning can I give! Honestly, at this point, it’s less that a tale is happening to Kickaha and more Kickaha is happening to a tale.”
“Yes, I have noticed he seems to be the only one who gives you a run for your money in the chaos department.” Dr. Cutie Pup nodded sagely.
“Exactly! So… I’m just going to introduce the tale then take a nap! Welcome to our ninth tale. The Tale of Sage Advice.”
Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Sage Advice
Kickaha’s life existed in a very delicate balance of knowledge and ignorance. The thing was, the universe had a bit of a rhythm to it. And if you were observant, you could figure things out and see certain patterns. If one really wanted to, it could even be possible for them to predict the future, or at least what type of things will happen in the future based off the current situation. But there was one problem. The universe tended to hate a wise guy and anytime anyone got too savvy would change all the rules up just to mess them up.
There were advantages of knowing what to expect, but failing to act on this knowledge was the only thing that protected you from the universe’s sense of humor. And so, Kickaha knew how certain parts of his life were going to work out and when certain types of things would happen. However, doing anything to avoid them or prepare for them would only lead to much bigger and worse things happening. And those tended to be a lot less fun than what the universe originally had planned.
Given the time of year something weird was going to happen. Well something weird always happened. Just it either happened to Kickaha or Kickaha was the weird thing that happened to someone else. Sometimes both at the same time. But something always happened. And it’d likely be two things. Except the universe hated two and was obsessed with the number three so it’d likely be three things. And so Kickaha had done his best to prepare to not prepare for whatever happened.
Still, even he didn’t expect the universe to do something so brazen.
The rusy colored foxyote was sitting outside his burrow. As usual, he had his green cloak on that covered most of his back while leaving his white colored fur in front and the brown mark on his chest visible. Kickaha was doing his absolute best to not move. He was attempting to get lunch. Most rodents were smart enough to stay far, far away from Kickaha’s home. Meaning any that did show up were bound to be just normal dumb mice instead of clever ones and free for the pickings. Kickaha did love when he got delivery.
He had seen the mouse briefly when he first came out of his burrow, but the noise he made spooked the mouse and it bolted. But that was fine. He could wait. Sitting among the tall grass he practically invisible. He could have been actually invisible but then that wouldn’t have been very sporting. Still… It would be difficult for any creature to detect his presence. All he had to do was continue to sit still till the mouse felt it safe to come out again. And then it was snack time!
And so he sat, and waited, and sat.
And abruptly found himself on fire for absolutely no reason. Anyone else might have panicked, but Kickaha did not fail to notice he was not actually burning up. Also, the flames for purple in color. This was clearly some kind of magical fire. And given that it wasn’t hurting it probably didn’t have any malicious intent. Still, it was making it hard to see as the fire grew larger and brighter. Kickaha gave a sigh. There was no way the mouse wasn’t going to completely freak out and leave the area now. Why did these things always happen at meals? Well nothing he could do now. So, he might as well figure out what this weird magical thing was.
“Alright so-“ He started to speak, but stopped. He was no longer in the forest. He was in some kind of building that judging by the color and quality of the wood was either some historic sight, or he had been transported into another universe and/or the past where technology was less advanced.
There were a number of humans in the room. Mostly children, all dressed identically in the same-colored gray robes. Then one adult, who had a dark green colored robe. Kickaha approved of the style, though still thought it a bit less functional than a cloak. As he glanced around the area it became clear what this was. Several desks lined up with the kids sitting at them, a teacher at the front of the room, and one child standing directly in front of Kickaha. This was a school. Probably a magic school, and the kid in front of him was most likely the reason Kickaha was here.
“Oh wise and magical ancient beast.” The child in front of him, a young girl with short red hair spoke. “In this moment I seek your guidance.
“Well… I do meet at least two of those qualities. Maybe three.” Kickaha gave a shrug. He was definitely magical. And if you were using beast in the broadest term to refer mostly to animals that would include him, even if he did walk on two legs and wore a cloak. And he might be ancient. It was hard to say. When you had a certain someone in your circle of friends you tended to have multiple childhoods. And some of them blended together after a bit and sometimes he remembered them out of order. He couldn’t remember when his actual first childhood had been and so chronologically had no idea how old he was. But it was likely somewhere between thirty and two hundred years.
“Uh…” The young girl seemed unsure how to respond. Kickaha couldn’t imagine that he looked intimidating. He wasn’t any taller than her. Kickaha was three feet tall and some change. Combine that with being fluffy and you were not exactly the image of terror. Except to nutritious rodents of course.
“Can I help you?” Kickaha asked as he quietly looked over his own body to see if his appearance had changed. Same foxyote body, same green cloak. Everything was normal other than he had been yanked into some other world. As he looked down, he saw a glowing circle on the floor with intricate runes drawn all around it. He was in the center of the circle. This was clearly a summoning spell of some sort. Kickaha slowly lifted up a finger and tried to push it outside the radius of the circle. He got a nasty shock for his trouble. “GAH! Was that really necessary? I’m shocked enough just suddenly appearing couldn’t you just do invisible walls or something?”
“What?” The girl asked.
“Stephanie, you are still being graded.” The women in the green robe who was clearly the teacher spoke up.
“Right, it’s just… He… Doesn’t look like what the textbook showed…” Stephanie stared at Kickaha eyes wide in awe. “And… um…”
“Maybe…” The teacher replied. “Or maybe you’re just talented enough to summon a truly powerful spirit.” The teacher didn’t sound very confident. It was clear she was trying to be supportive to the student but also clearly thought something was wrong.
“Sooooooo…” Kickaha interrupted. “As much as I enjoy listening to people talk about me right in front of me as if I wasn’t here, I do have to ask, exactly what is going on? I can tell this is some kind of lesson… Apparently in summoning.” Kickaha looked down at the circle he couldn’t escape. “But I imagine there’s a point? I mean, I wouldn’t be offended if there wasn’t, but this does seem to be a school environment and some kind of test so I imagine there is some reason behind it all.” Kickaha paused. “Unless schools are just as underfunded in this timeline or universe as my own and it’s all pointless busy work.”
“Um… This is my Summoning Magic test.” Stephanie spoke up. “I was supposed to summon a wise animal spirit, ask them a question, then end the spell.”
“And you got me.” Kickaha shrugged. “Well, something definitely didn’t work right, but don’t worry too much about it. These things happen. Especially when they involve me. But, I am a foxyote of many hats, and I do have some experience teaching, so I can answer whatever question you have, I just can’t promise the answer will be correct, useful or even coherent.”
“Uh right…” Stephanie paused.
“Well then… You have the…” The teacher looked at Kickaha. “Wise spirit’s attention. Go ahead and ask your question and we can wrap up your exam and move on to the next student.”
“Uh right…” Stephanie was hesitant. “So um… I spent so long studying how to draw the magic circle I forgot to prepare a question in advance.”
“You’ve completed the summon, ask any question.” The teacher explained. “You just need to prove you can summon and broker an agreement to have your question answered. I’m sure the wise spirit has other things to do so you should try asking a question now.”
“Well, actually, I didn’t have any plans today.” Kickaha shrugged. “I just assumed something would happen, and there’s a high probability this is the something.” He reached for the edge of the circle again and once more received an electric shock. “Though as a ‘wise spirit’ I would like to personally request you invest in magic circles that are less painful.”
“The circle is important.” The teacher spoke up. “Some spirits can be dangerous… And as the spirits are wise… Usually they don’t poke the circle.”
“Well, how do you know something is working without testing it?” Kickaha asked. “It would be the height of foolishness to assume that every circle was built properly. I’m enhancing your lesson by checking it. The least you can do is not shock me.” Kickaha crossed his arms and tried to act affronted. He didn’t do a very good job. Mostly, because it was taking everything he had not to burst out laughing every time they called him a ‘wise spirit.’
“Right… A question…” Stephanie twitched uncomfortably. She had a very familiar look. One many students had when put on the spot during an exam.
“If you don’t have any ideas why not just ask what question you should ask?” Kickaha suggested. “Or you could ask about recipes involving nutritious rodents and the best way to acquire said rodents. I have lots of knowledge in that area.”
“Uh, no, I’m good.” Stephanie looked slightly sick at the idea. “Um… I guess I’ll go with the first one. What would be a good question to ask?”
“Ah, obviously you should have asked how to release me from the circle so that I could grant you ultimate mastery over magic and allow you to enslave this world and rule it with an iron first.” Kickaha grinned mischievously.
“What?” Stephanie asked.
“WHAT!?” The teacher echoed.
“I’m just having a bit of fun with you.” Kickaha wagged his tail. “Trust me world domination plans never end well. Having said that, you could have asked me to teach you a spell outside the normal curriculum. Not to discount the importance of school, but independent learning is important too.”
“So… The wise spirit wants you to study on your own outside of school.” The teacher stated slowly. “It seems your spell was successful after all. Even if he looks a bit strange. Alright, you’re earned yourself at least a B+, send him home without any trouble I’ll give you an A.”
“I mean I never said that.” Kickaha whispered under his breath then looked up at the teacher as she mentioned the grades. “Huh, what are the odds whatever universe or timeline this is would you the same grading scale as my own?”
“Um… Right…” Stephanie looked at Kickaha. “I guess I’ll send you home and then this will all be over. This wasn’t so bad.”
“Oh boy.” Kickaha gave an amused shrug. “You really shouldn’t have said that. That kind of thinking is dangerous.”
“What?” Stephanie asked.
“I don’t know how they teach magic here, but you see, it’s not a science. It’s an art. The Art to be precise.” Kickaha explained. “It tends to work how it wants more than you want. Whatever you do, when you try to send me back, it’s not gonna work.”
“Why not?” Stephanie asked.
“Because that’s what you’re expecting.” Kickaha threw his paws up. “But Magic is like a wild beast, it does what it wants. You can direct it but never completely control it. If I just go home with no issue that would be normal. And magic is anything but normal. Especially when I’m involved. There are all kinds of things that can go wrong. We might swap positions. You might banish me to a dimension of endless torture and pain. The circle breaks and creates a portal where these spirits can come and go as they please. Or maybe… The price of gas will go up.”
“Gas? As in the state of matter?” Stephanie tilted her head.
“Okay, no cars in this universe probably. Gives me an idea of the technology level.” Kickaha swished his tail. “Anyway, best not to put it off. It’s like ripping a band-aid off. Best to get it over with.”
“What’s a band-aid?” Stephanie looked even more confused.
“It’s like a bandage but much easier to apply for smaller areas.” Kickaha explained quickly. “Anyway, let’s get this over with and be prepared for anything.”
“Uhhhhh.” Stephanie looked even more unsure than she had earlier. It was possible that Kickaha might have frightened her a bit. While that wasn’t his intention, he wasn’t going to lie to her about how magic worked. If you knew not to expect what you expected then you were much more ready mentally to handle whatever happened. And since magic has its own strange sense of humor, sometimes by expecting the unexpected it caused the expected to happen. Those were the really weird days.
“Look it’ll be fine.” Kickaha tried to reassure her. “I mean I’ve been through more mishaps than I can count. And I’m still alive. Just… Don’t get too attached to your humanity and you’ll be fine.”
“Uhhhh.” Stephanie just stared at him. “Right, I’m going to send you back now.” She paused. “Um… What was the incantation for that again?”
“I don’t know, this is your magic circle not mine.” Kickaha gave a playful grin. If he really wanted to, he could probably try to find out how this magic worked. But he figured it wasn’t going to matter for much longer.
“Maybe… I just need to…” Stephanie closed eyes.
Immediately, Kickaha could feel a will other than his own. It was the girl of course. It seemed she was reaching out with her mind and poking and prodding at the spell. And that included him. It was rather rude really just to examine him like that, but he kept his mouth shut if only not to ruin the poor girl’s grade. Instead, he simply allowed his own magical senses to expand and observed what the girl was poking around. She was mostly concerned with the circle, and how to shut it off. Kickaha supposed he could help her examine the spell and nudge her in the right direction if he figured out how it worked. He felt his mind touch hers right as she was concentrating intently on something. She was… Attempting to break the circle!
That might work. It could also cause an explosion and kill everyone in the room. Kickaha tried to mentally nudge her away from that… Apparently, when she had reached out to the spell with her mind she had not been prepared for anything to reach back. Kickaha felt her panic, pulled her senses back in, and in doing so broke the circle she had been pulling at.
There was an explosion of light. Kickaha covered his face with his cloak and prepared himself for the worst. He wasn’t a pile of ashes, so at least he hadn’t exploded. That didn’t mean everyone else hadn’t. But a summoning circle was a gateway. One which both he and the girl were currently tied to. They might pull some horrible monster through. They might themselves both be sucked through and thrown into a universe of powerful spirit monsters. Or it could cause spirits to be released and possess every inanimate object in the room that immediately start trying to kill people.
Kickaha was prepared for the worst. The light faded and he fell over as he did. It took him a few moments to realize the room was noticeably bigger than it had been before the light faded. He also couldn’t balance on two legs anymore. He glanced over himself.
Oh. Breaking the circle had just changed him into a cat.
“Well, far from a purrfect outcome but this is something I can work with.” Kickaha twitched his tail. Then he reached out a paw and reached for the edge of the circle again. No shock. The spell was completely gone. He could easily trot out of the circle. Of course, that meant, the girl had failed to send him back home. But by this point he had assumed that was a doomed endeavor anyway.
“What just happened!?” Stephanie asked staring down at the rust colored cat wearing a small green cloak.
“I don’t know…” The teacher replied.
“Well…” Kickaha thought for a moment. “If I were to hazard a guess…” He paused. His thoughts were mildly distracted by another presence. It was Stephanie! Their minds were still connected from when they touched before the circle broke.
‘This is so weird.’ Stephanie thought to herself and Kickaha heard it. She could feel Kickaha’s presence, but still being a student of magic didn’t fully comprehend what it meant.
‘I mean yes but weird is normal.’ Kickaha thought back. ‘If anything was normal it would mean something had really gone wrong and then I’d be concerned.’
“GAH!” Stephanie shouted. “The fox! Coyote! Cat! Thing! It’s inside my head!”
“I don’t think that’s quite the case… I can’t like dig through your memories. Not that I tried.” Kickaha was truthful. He respected people’s right to privacy. “But we definitely have some kind of telepathic connection now. Huh…”
“So… You’re going to hear everything I think!?” Stephanie asked.
“I don’t… Think so?” Kickaha was still figuring this out himself. The summoning circle had broken, and he had turned into a cat. And now they could hear each other’s thoughts. “It might just take some practice learning to keep thoughts to yourself.’ So, what had happened?
Aha! Of course! It was obvious!
“It seems to me that you turned me into your familiar.” Kickaha paused. “You know you really should have asked me about my fee before you’re doing that. I hope you can produce a steady supply of mice to pay for my services.”
“I… What?” Stephanie stared at Kickaha.
“A familiar?” The teacher’s eyes widened. “But… That’s advanced level. You’re lucky to be able to form a bond with a familiar after ten years of studying! Happening on your second year is unheard of!”
“Uhhhh so… Does that make my grade better or worse?” Stephanie asked sheepishly.
“I don’t even know!” The teacher threw up her hands. “We’ll have to have a faculty meeting. On one hand, you were supposed to do a simple summoning spell, call forth a spirit ask them a question then release it. You didn’t accomplish that last part… But a summoning spell shouldn’t be able to create a familiar… The magics involved aren’t even related. Class… Dismissed… I need to talk to some of the other teachers. Stephanie, don’t let your familiar out of your sight.”
“I mean, I don’t exactly have anywhere else to be right meow.” Kickaha swished his tail.
“Uh… Why are you making cat puns now?” Stephanie asked.
“I cat help myself.” Kickaha chuckled. “Sorry, the puns and my services come together as a package deal.” He paused. “And I was serious about that payment of mice. But… Familiars often give their masters guidance and help then push their magic to new levels, right? Don’t worry. I actually have a bit of experience in that field. And as it would turn out, I’m not a terrible teacher.”
As Stephanie listened, she sat down at her desk. Kickaha followed then jumped up onto said desk without asking permission. He also accidentally knocked her pencils to the floor and didn’t apologize. Being a cat came with certain perks and while he was stuck like this, he was going to use them.
“Alright what do you have here…” Kickaha examined a book on her desk. Spell book or textbook? He opened it up and revealed it to be the latter. He scanned a couple pages. The information was pretty basic. Too basic for this Stephanie. Anyone who could screw up a summoning spell this badly had far too much talent to be practicing only the basics. And worse, the book was dry and made magic boring. “Yeah… Keeping up on your school work is important but I think you’re a bit beyond this. You need some advanced hands-on lessons.”
“Beyond it?” Stephanie gave the cat a look. “But I screwed this spell up bad! You didn’t even look like a proper animal spirit! And now you’re my familiar? I completely screwed up.”
“Yes, but you screwed up in a way that was very interesting.” Kickaha purred. “And that is worth far more than a success. How does one take a simple summon inquiry and make it both cause a physical transformation and bind the subject to you? That is the screw up of a true Artist.” He was still trying to figure out how it had happened himself. Their minds had touched when they were both examining the spell. Perhaps his own magic had mixed with hers? The cat transformation certainly tracked with how he did things.
“But…” Stephanie objected.
“Look, here’s the deal.” Kickaha gave Stephanie a deadpan stare. Cats were good at that. “Magic is an Art, with a capital A, not a science. That means unexpected things happen. The better you get at it, the more potential for unexpected things there are. You’ve got talent, and if you’re willing, I can teach you a few things in a month that would take you decades to master trying to learn magic from a textbook.”
“Really?” Stephanie looked at him.
“Really. But only if you’re up to it.” Kickaha lowered the intensity of his stare. “If you want to learn, you’re going to need to be ready to mess up a lot more like you did today, and in a lot of different ways. The only way to really learn is experiment, try things, and make mistakes. So, so, many mistakes. Coincidentally, did you know that recreating a complex children’s boardgame to catch a mouse is not only a terrible idea but actually trains the mouse to be smarter making it harder to catch?”
“You had me right till that last part…” Stephanie muttered. “But… My grades are kind of… Not great… If you can really teach me… I’m willing to try things your way.”
“Great… Let’s get out of this classroom and somewhere with a bit more space.” Kickaha grinned like a Cheshire cat. “Oh… And if you’re one of those shy types you might want to get a spare set of clothing.”
“What? Why?” Stephanie responded.
“Come on, you don’t think I’m the only one who’s going to change form as we practice magic together do you?” Kickaha teased. “Relax, I’ll help you get back to human form if you get stuck. Assuming you want to get back. Once you have a tail you might find yourself unwilling to give it up or to surrender back to the tyranny of pants.”
“Alright… I feel like this is a bad idea, but I’m ready to try it.” Stephanie nodded.
“Oh, it absolutely is a terrible idea.” Kickaha purred smugly again. “But that’s how we know it’ll be interesting. Now then, come along. I have no idea how long this familiar thing is going to stick so we better get started if you want a shot at actually learning anything.” He jumped down from the desk and headed for the door. Then patiently waited for Stephanie to open the door before following her out since he didn’t actually know his way around. It was time for the lessons to begin.