Akira bowed his head as Hikage placed the pouch around his neck. Akira felt the pouch's weight grow light as the drawstrings shortened, moving the bag from between his forelegs to a snug position at his chest. "You spoke truly, Father. The pouch _is_ magical." Hikage, whose name means Wind Shadow, nodded gravely. An elder female checked the pouch to see if it was secure, then once more tested the bindings holding the message tube on his foreleg. Akira bore this with all the solemnity of a pup being fussed over by his mother. "Hold still, my son." she said. "Aw, Mom, it's fixed already!" "AKIRA!!" Hikage intoned, voice cold as the arctic winds. "Mind your manners, boy, or I'll knock you so far through the ice, you'll think you were a seal!" "Yes, Father. 'Sorry, Mom." Inwardly Aya, Akira's mother, smiled. The responsibilities of being pack leader weighed heavily on Hikage's lean frame, and the times when the three of them could act as a family were all too few; and all the more precious for their rarity. Akira then turned to his packmates, his brothers and sisters. They gathered around him, nuzzling, poking; some giving him playful nips about the ears. Akira was young: too young to bond with a female, but old enough where this kind of pack-play seemed a bit babyish. He welcomed it, though, and nuzzled and nipped in return. As one, the pack howled, their voices rising to the firmament and uniting in a cry of kinship; their voices celebrating life, not loss; beginnings rather than endings. Akira felt his spirit soar as it never had before, so high, he left he could touch the Northern Lights and see the face of his grand sire, the legendary Akashige, whose name meant Red Storm. He moved away from the pack toward the direction of the ice arch, with Hikage following closely behind. "You know the road to take" Hikage said, not so much a question as a statement. Akira nodded. "You know what you must do." Again he nodded, his breath turning to white mist in the pre-dawn cold. "Are you afraid?" "No, Father" Akira said. Hikage chuckled. "You are a lousy liar, my son. What is it that you fear?" Akira stared fixedly at the ice below him, absentmindedly pawing at it. "Not seeing you or the pack again." Akira finally answered. "But I accept that possibility, and so I do not fear." Hikage nodded gravely. "Remember the pouch and the lesson it holds. Now go, before the wind rips a tear from my eye." Akira ran full speed for the arch as the pack watched. As he leaped into it, the whirling snow seemed to envelope him as he disappeared from sight. And the pack howled again - a howl not of sadness, but of pride and ferocity. A howl that said "Stand aside, Gatekeeper! A Son of the Akita is coming!" ***** As Akira hit the gate, any sadness at leaving his family and friends evaporated in a rush of youthful exuberance. His first solo quest! And to rescue a real, honest-to-goodness Princess, yet! He had to hurry and complete the first leg of his journey; there was no telling how old that note was. Truly, there was no time to lose! He came though the gate at full speed, expecting to hit the ground on a dead run straight towards Rainbow Palace. He didn't expect anything to be directly in _front_ of the gate... Murky Dismal sneered as he surveyed his prizes: Red Butler, Canary Yellow, La La Orange and Shy Violet, manacled against the outer wall to Rainbow Land, in the direct path of his most insidious destructive device yet! "This is your finish, Color Kids!" Murky gloated. "Once you've been hit with my Color Leecher (tm), your colors will be mine -- and you will obey my every will!" "Rainbow Brite will find a way to stop you, Murky!" Red Butler scowled, pulling at his fetters to no avail as they held fast. "Hah! By the time Rainbow Brite figures out what's going on, half of Rainbow Land will be under my control - and not even her color belt will be able to restore the damage fast enough!" "Duh, gee Murky," Lurky said as he lumbered towards the device, "can I fire the gun?" "Get away from that, bone-brain!" Murky rudely shoved the lovable but dumb brute away from the machine. "This is a very delicate work of art! One wrong move, one button pressed out of sequence and it will explode! However, that will not happen if I fire it!" Murky peered through the scope, fixing the Color Kids in his sights. "And I'm going to fire it NOW-- what in the!?" A flash of light from the gate momentarily blinded everyone as Akira shot through smack into Murky's back, sending him, Murky, and the machine head over heels. the rays from the machine shot out wildly hitting trees, rocks, the wall holding the Color Kids - and Lurky! The wall turned grey and crumbled, freeing the kids. As the ray passed over Lurky, his fur went from dirty brown to dirty grey-and his eyes went even more vacant than usual. "You miserable mutt!" Murky screamed. "I'll have your hide for this!!" As murky advanced on the still-dazed Akira, the Color Leecher (tm) exploded, the force knocking murky down to the ground. The explosion was enough to clear Akira's head. He had no idea what it was or who it was that he ran into, but he knew evil when he smelled it -- and that little guy with the big mustache and steel helmet fairly reeked of it! "GRRRRrrrr.." "Now, now, boy -- niiiice doggie, nice doggie.... Here, you want a snack?" <Just what I had in mind...>, Akira snarled. Moments later, the color Kids laughed and cheered at the sight of Murky hotfooting back up the path towards his dark castle, hypnotized Lurky in tow, with Akira looking on, tail wagging and the seat of Murphy's pants between his teeth! "Did you see Murky run?" "Serves him right!" "Oooh, what a brave doggy you are!" Now, Akira had heard stories from some of the older pack members about the rambunctiousness of human cubs, but this was the first time he'd ever experienced it first hand! Being gang tackled*hugged*petted by humans was a new experience for him - not altogether unpleasant, he found. "My name's Canary Yellow, you cute thing! Do you have a name?" <Yeah - my name's Akira!> He licked Canary Yellow's face, causing her to giggle. "I wish I could understand dog language, " Red Butler said. "It's not as if we see that many dogs around here!!" <Wait! Can't you understand me? I have to get to Rainbow Palace!> Akira shouted, jumping up and down frantically. "Calm down mon petite!" cooed La La. "We'll find a way to get you home, don't worry!" <BUT I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME! I'VE GOT TO RESCUE PRINCESS KACEE!!> Akira sighed. Why is it that humans can have such empathy with dogs and yet not understand what they say? "Uh guys", Canary Yellow said, "He looks upset about something. Maybe we should take him to the Palace. Rainbow Brite should be able to talk to him." "Wait a minute!" cried Red Butler. "Shy Violet knows animal speech! Violet - we need you over here!" Shy Violet poked her head up out of the mass of smouldering technology. "Guys, this machine is really fascinating! Murky really outdid himself this --" "Not now, Violet mon chere" La La said. "We need you to translate for us." Shy Violet reluctantly pulled herself out of the wreckage and went over to the group. "Oooh, what a cute husky! <And what's your name, you adorable little husky, you!> <I an NOT lit-- hey! You can speak - I mean, I can understand -- but Humans can't speak...> Akira stammered, slightly unsettled by the girl with the purple hair and glasses. <I'm Shy Violet, and this is Red Butler, Canary Yellow, and La La Orange>, Violet said, motioning to her friends as she spoke. <You're in Rainbow Land, but I think you already know that. Thanks for saving us from Murky's Color Leecher (tm), by the way...> <Color Leecher (tm)?> <Long story. Anyway, what's your name, and why are you so far from your arctic home? does it have something to do with the pouch around your neck?> <THE POUCH!!> Akira started jumping again. <Please, Shy Violet, can you tell me how to get to Rainbow Palace? I have to see Rainbow Brite so I can rescue the princess and there's no time--> <Hey! slow down! I can barely keep up with your talking!> Shy Violet said, trying to calm Akira down. "What's he saying?" asked Canary Yellow. "Well, he has to see Rainbow to save a princess or something like that..." "Tell him we'll take him to the castle." Canary Yellow said. Shy Violet stood up and motioned to Akira to follow her. <C'mon, boy! We'll take you to Rainbow Brite!> The group ran into Rainbow Brite, her sprite Twink, and her horse Starlight on the way to the palace. The color sprites had alerted here to the Color Kid's capture and she was rushing to their aid. She rode down on her rainbow towards them. "Red, Violet! Canary Yellow! You're all all right!" Rainbow jumped off Starlight and ran to the group, closely followed by Twink. "What happened?' "Murky was about to turn us into his slaves with his Color Leecher (tm), but we were saved by this dog!" Red Butler said, rubbing Akira's head. "You should have seen it! He was so brave!" La La cooed. "He just came through a light in the air and bowled Murky and Lurky over!" "Well, we'd better put a post on Rainbow Bridge just in case Murky comes back anytime soon!" Rainbow said. "Oh, I don't think Murky will be back in quite a while!" giggled Violet. "Yeah," laughed Canary Yellow, "not unless he's got a spare pair of pants!" While all this went on, Akira padded over to Starlight, looking at him with undisguised amazement. <Excuse me, b-but are ... are you a horse?> "Why, of course!" he said, shaking out his mutlicolored mane. "I'm Starlight the most magnificent horse in the universe! But, what brings an Akita-ken to Rainbow Land?" "Yes, I'd like to know that myself," Rainbow said, looking at Akira's pouch. "Let's go to the palace; we can talk there." ***** "Here it is! I knew I recognized that pouch from somewhere!" Rainbow Brite said. The Color Kids, Akira, and Twink gathered around the Great Book of Color Lore. "Sidhe's Pouch of Sharing. Fill it with whatever food you want to share. As long as you share whatever food's in the pouch, the pouch will replicate the food, keeping the pouch full. If the food isn't shared, the pouch will not refill and will stay empty until recharged." "But why would Akira have to come here to activate his pouch?" queried Patty O'Green "Surely and true, that coulda been done afore he set out on 'is quest." <Let me see your bag, Akira,> Violet said. <Maybe we can get a clue from what's inside.> Akira lowered his head, allowing Violet to take the pouch from around his neck. As she poured part of the contents of the pouch onto the table, Akira's eyes widened in delight. <CANDY CORN!! My favorite!!> "Candy Corn!?" said Violet. The Color Kids looked at the pile of candy in disbelief. "White candy corn?" asked Twink. <Sure! What other color does it come in?!> Realization hit each of the color kids' faces, as it did to Rainbow Brite. Of course, in an area where the predominant colors are white and grey, orange and yellow _anything_ is rare. "La La, Canary, front and center!!" "Okay, Rainbow! WE know what to do !" Taking color sprinkles from their pouches, the two Color kids sprinkled them over the pile of candy, turning it from snow white to its more traditional tricolor form. <Cool! So that's what candy corn really looks like?> "Uh-huh!" Rainbow Brite said. "Now put those pieces back in the bag. Everybody add some of your sprinkles to it, put the pouch back on Akira, and I'll activate the spell." Once the Color Kids did as they were told and the pouch once again shrunk to fit around Akira's neck, Rainbow Brite began the spell of activation. from her color belt, a rainbow appeared and quickly surrounded Akira. True to his heritage, his facial expression didn't betray his fear; his eyes, though, stared wide in wonderment as a moving wall of color (Such colors! he thought, like none he'd ever seen before) surrounded him, encasing him in a multi-colored cocoon. And then, just as suddenly, the cocoon vanished in a flash of golden light as Akira stood, slightly dazed. "Are you okay, boy?" Red Butler asked, coming over to the husky. "A little woozy, but fine, I guess -- hey!" Akira, cried. "I can understand you!" "Uh-huh!" Rainbow said. " A side-effect of the spell. One that'll come in very handy once you reach Cuddleland." Once again a rainbow appeared from the color belt -- this time forming an arch, colors swirling inside. Rainbow Brite knelt next to Akira, playfully hugging him around the neck. "The next leg of your quest lies through that gate. Don't forget the lesson of the pouch!" Akira nodded. "Tell Princess Yva for me that the red sprites just mined a whole bunch of red licorice- colored color sprinkles!" Red Butler said. "She shouldn't have any problems with shortages for a long time!" "Okay!" Akira turned to the Color Kids. "Thanks, everyone, for your help. May the Gods always keep the winds at your back!" The kids all hugged Akira, and waved goodbye as he ran through the arch and disappeared in the colorful, swirling mist. Shy Violet came up to Rainbow Brite, a worried expression on her face. "Shouldn't we have told Akira just _where_ that gate leads to?" Rainbow Brite shook her head, smiling. "He knows what's waiting for him on the other side," she said, "and that's all he needs to know. It's his quest, after all..."
John T. Carr III ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please see the copyright notice.
Last modified: November 05, 1998 by Locksley