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FICTION: Tails of Aspabibia, Part 80

The kittens turned to Viker for reassurance but his face was expressionless.

"First Lake of the Gemstone," Viker repeated. "It's sacred to the Kelpys."

"Kelpys?" Buddha murmured.

A tuft of wet hair was protruding from his mouth. He twisted his head and tried to spit it out but it held fast.

"What's a Kelpy?" he demanded, clawing at the errant fur.

Viker was silent for a moment.

"I hope it's good," Fawn Doll said. "I can't take much more of this."

What you've missed: Two talkative, rebellious kittens, from a royal family of vocal, rambunctious cats, connive, plan and then descend into the cellars and caverns below Aspabibia, one seeking milk, glorious milk, the other seeking adventure, glorious adventure but disaster occurs and one misadventure leads to another and another.

"Kelpys are said to be water spirits,"
Viker answered. "But spirits that can
assume any shape they choose."

"Please tell us what a Kelpy is," Buddha persisted with a thin smile.

Viker stared at him for a moment as if deciding how to answer.

"Oh, for the sake of Grace," Fawn Doll said. "Just tell us, Viker."

"Myth," choked Ferallon opening his eyes. "Not one single Kelpy has ever been seen by this generation. Nor the generation before it."

"My father's right," Viker said in an even tone. "It's all myth."

"Unless that bat ... ," mused Ferallon.

"The Albino on the trail?" Red Pearl asked.

"It's a possibility," Viker said.

"Are they bats then?" Fawn Doll shuddered.

"Kelpys are said to be water spirits," Viker answered. "But spirits that can assume any shape they choose."

"On land it's usually a horse," added Ferallon between coughs.

"I remember this now - from World Mythology," Red Pearl cried. "They haunted rivers and lakes and drowned unsuspecting travelers."

"Oh, great!" Pink Buddha peered around with nervous eyes. A wad of fur still clung to his lower lip. "That's all we need."

"It's a myth," said Fawn Doll uncertainly. "Just a story, right, Viker?"

Viker smiled at Fawn Doll. "I have never personally seen one," he assured her.

"Neither have I," croaked the Feral King. "No one has for as long as we can remember."

"But someone must have," Shadow said, "or we wouldn't know anything about them."

"Unless someone made it up," Buddha said hopefully.

"The legend goes that the Kelpys numbers were dwindling for a variety of reasons," Viker said. "So they decided to deed The Mother Of All Springs to the original Aspabibians in exchange for protecting their secret. Basically, making them virtually invisible, non-existent in the eyes of the rest of the world."

"So they do exist," Red Pearl said.

"Remember," Viker cautioned, "this was a long time ago. No one has seen or heard from them in a very long time."

Buddha glanced over his shoulder and shifted nervously. "That doesn't necessarily mean a thing," he whispered.

"They sound fascinating," Red Pearl said with enthusiasm.

"They sound dangerous," Fawn Doll groused under her breath.

"Far from dangerous," Ferallon said. "Water was a great gift. The Spring actually gave the Aspabibians the means to survive throughout the centuries. And the Kelpys taught them the art of preservation."

"The Spring has given the Aspabibians an endless supply of water," Viker added. "The envy of all animals."

"Then if the Kelpys are real ... '" began Pink Buddha.

"They're probably mightily pissed off at the Rogues for diverting the Spring," finished Shadow. "And any of their relatives."

Viker shrugged in agreement. "I'm sure they don't welcome any disruption of a centuries' old pact."

"This must look like an act of war to them," Red Pearl said. "Why, they probably blame the Aspabibians for not keeping the Rogues in check."

Viker and Ferallon exchanged a knowing glance. "It's possible," Viker conceded.

"If they even exist." Fawn Doll made it sound like a question.

"No one knows," replied Viker with a thin smile. "No one knows for certain."

"That is not comforting," Buddha said finally loosening the tuft of hair he had been wrestling with. He spit it out on to the rocks where it lay plastered to a boulder like a squashed spider.

"No, it's not," Red Pearl agreed. She turned to Viker. "But right now the real problem is, how do we get out of here?"

by Linda Towne
Part 80

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