“Class, today is set aside for our recent graduates. Before embarking on his or her individual quest, each of them must complete the Sophist's Emancipation Course.
“Successful completion of the SEC requires a demonstration of virtue, vigilance and vigor. Intelligence without purposeful action is as wasteful as an upended jug of water. Our graduates will share with you their gifts, so that you might apply them to your continuing education here at Swamp Logos.
“During today's presentations, I ask that you observe the graduates–not with pride, for you had nothing to do with their achievements; not with prejudice, for you are not as good as you think you are–but with hunger and desire. To give less is to do injustice to this hallowed tradition of passage.”
The Acolytes clapped as the old Mentor concluded his remarks. The children were primed and ready to absorb whatever the graduates had to offer.
Swan Vee looked out over the eager faces. She was more than happy to share her mastery of stealth movement and non-violent subjugation of adversaries. Ironically, these skills were the exact opposite of those she would employ on her very first journey from Swamp Logos.
* * *
Swan Vee considered her options. The ink was barely dry on the sheepskin before her Mentor had banished her from Swamp Logos. Her home since birth, the Swamp represented the womb of familiarity, the hearth of confidence and the shield against the unknown. Now she was ready to deal with the landscape beyond the Perimeter. She sauntered.
Swoope Caliente watched the pretty girl in the distance. He tried to control his growing excitement at the prospect of snagging one of the Swamp sophists. Tired of directing moronic soldiers on the parade grounds of Swamp Campo de Batalla, Swoope hungered for the mental challenge of a Sun Tzu campaign. Yet, because of the idiotic and unfair lifetime ban from the Academy, his actions were restricted to the blasted no-mans zone that separated the wetlands. He waited.
Swoope Caliente called upon his primitive senses—patience and stealth—to counteract his genetic disposition towards restlessness. Having been coddled by the modern conveniences of humanity, his predatory instincts were duller than a butter knife. Caliente's gritty and determined attitude more than compensated. He crouched and waited.
Swan Vee paused to admire the long shadows on Chicago Road. She had thought she'd have abundant time to reach the Perimeter before sundown. She shrugged. No schedules, meetings or professors remained to gyrate her with a sense of urgency. Unfettered volition tasted too delicious in its newness. Still, atavistic hairs began to rise on the nape of her neck. She sniffed inquisitively.
The Perimeter was an abstraction. The sophists never dreamed of erecting physical barriers in or around Swamp Logos. To do so would generate unnecessary ill-will between the able-bodied and Paralympian residents. No, the Perimeter merely represented the boundary between known and unknown, reality and possibility.
Swan Vee heeded the strident inflection of her inner voice. She realized that the teachings had served to fuse memory and musing into a practical toolkit that included the physical sensations of caution that dogged her stomach, skin and nose. This must be the Perimeter! She spun around, sipped the muggy swamp cocktail breeze and felt another tingle lift the hair from her neck.
Emboldened by the moonless evening, Swoope Caliente vetoed common sense in favor of measured action. After burying the remains of his Spartan meal—a couple of banana peels—he rose from his cramped squat. Taking short, shuffling steps, he closed the distance to his quarry.
Swoope Caliente's decision to abduct a sophist from Swamp Logos wasn't as rash as his sudden, swift motion toward the unsuspecting figure silhouetted against the night sky. Years of training, studying and field maneuvers commingled with relentless propaganda from the Minister of Territorial Defense to conjure a muddled zealotry. His ban from the Academy merely deepened his delusions. Caliente fancied himself a general, author of a brilliant campaign for the glory of Swampland.
Swan Vee fought the urge to run. She had to budget her strength for the battle against the malevolent shape that slithered toward her. If it was one of the recruits from Swamp Campo de Batalla, she would be fine. Part of her learning covered insider information on the military's preferred close-quarter combat tactics. However, she would be no match for any of the trained operatives. If this snake was an Adept, Vee would have to resort to mental gymnastics to remove it.
Swoope reached his quarry. Swan felt a warm hand grip her ankle. Before the hand could yank, she pre-emptively fell toward it. The unexpected motion made Swoope loosen his hold. As he reached upward to grab her throat, she twisted violently to the side, trapping his outstretched fingers in her armpit. She flexed her thigh muscles, pushed down into the earth with all her strength and was rewarded with a crunch and a scream.
Swoope blacked out.
Swan Vee ran.
Swoope Caliente woke up abruptly, shivering. Through the lightning bolts of pain, he recognized the damp night breeze cooling the not at all appropriate regions of his body. He urged his muscles to twist himself into an upright position. That's when he noticed his erstwhile quarry studying him.
Swan Vee warily eyed the injured warrior. His sculpted body may have been bronze, but strong, broad lips and wide nostrils suggested African ancestry. She contemplated his exotic physiology as she waited for his mind to go through the various states from confusion to lucidity.
His demeanor contorted. That was not a promising signal. However, she ignored it and cleared her throat.
“I have a proposal,” she began.
Caliente spat. “Pox you, dirty sophist!”
“Fine. Then you may remain unclothed in unfamiliar territory. Perhaps I wasted my time coming back for you.”
Caliente glared, defiant even in defeat. “You got lucky.”
“No! You got stupid! You fell for the illusion that brains are no match for brawn. Did you miss the class where they taught you to know your enemy?”
Caliente grimaced ever so slightly, not even aware of his physical reaction to the embarrassing question. Instead of answering, he asked her, “Why did you come back?”
Swan Vee walked toward him. The deep black pools beneath her angry furrowed brow had the power to rock him back on his heels. Her words delivered the push.
“Unlike you warriors, we eat what we kill.”
Copyright © 2016 by Mitchell Allen
Originally appeared in five parts on CreativeCopyChallenge #339 – #343. Subsequent backstory and continuations will be added from time to time, because this is a fun story to spin out!