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A Little Troubble Comes to the Tong Edit

Torryn read the lastest letter from her sister, Tori, and knew right away that drastic measures were in order. Fighting her tendency to panic, she gritted her teeth and sprinted across town breathlessly to Kya’s apartment. She jiggled the door, wondering why Kya was suddenly keeping it locked.

Slapping her palms desperately on the wood she shrilled out, “Open the door, or I shall bust it down!” Kya threw a large tee shirt on backwards and shuffled to the door, with sleepyhead hair and eyes squinting in the early morning light as she cracked the door to peer out. Her voice was the groggy raspy kind that came with three and a half hours of sleep. “What the heck, Torryn?!”

Torryn shoved all her dainty weight on the door trying to land herself inside. “Uhhhnnnnng… Uh! Kya, what has gotten into you!? Open the door this instant! This city is not SAFE!”

Kya heaved right back, the door becoming of tug of war of wills, then firmly planted her foot against it and stood her ground. “You really should see a Priest about this paranoia, sweetie, I mean really.” Kya rubbed her eyes, and sighed as the door jarred against her weight.

Each jarring of the door was Torryn’s hip jutting in near comic determination. “I…. AM….. A PRIEST!”

Kya blinked, unwavering, leaning against the door. She yelled through it, “Why’d you wake me up anyway?”

Suddenly Torryn stopped and snorted precisely like Kya does, the only real resemblance between them at all. She shoved the letter from Tori under the door with a hiss, “Betraying your sister is a SIN!” Torryn then scurried back to the safety of the sanctity she had cocooned herself in at the bank to say days of prayers for her both these troublesome sisters.

Kya saw the envelope slide under the door between her feet. She bent over to pick it up and plopped down on Von’s trunk to read it. She took note of Tori’s tiny and messy scrawl.

My darling littlest sister (yes you ARE smaller than me no matter how many times you make me measure and you always will be),

I fear I cannot come visit you EVER. And I won’t be sending you a thank you very much note for the lousy Christmas present you sent me. Fruitcake! How COULD YOU!? I tossed in out in the trash and it killed a RAT! You trying to poison me? I could die just like Momma from a poisoned fish and none of you would care!

Some sisterhood we are - all you stuck with your noses in your own lives. I am MAD I tell you! JUST FRIGGIN’ MAD. You all said, “Just call! Just write me a letter!” No one answers, no one writes back. Fine.

You want to live your lives, go right ahead. Without me. My time in this world is done anyway. No one wants to hunt with me, no one cares. I try to set up events for us to all gather and always an excuse.

Well I can do without sisters, thank you very much. And Kya was right! I can do without MEN too. Jerkazoids - every last one of them!

So count me out. Scratch me off your fruitcake list and just… just toss my remains to the sharks off the Vale. I don’t want a service, I don’t want a wake, I don’t want a burial or a gravestone or any stupid urn! I just want PEACE. So do me a favor and leave me alone to die.

Without any fond regards,
T.

Kya frowned after finishing the letter. Momma had nicknamed Tori “Troubble” for a reason. She never grew out of her temper tantrum stage. It was true, Kya had been so caught up in her own life lately she had failed to look much past her own nose. For one thing, the man-hating reputation was going to have to be rewritten. Wasn’t it that way when girls grew into women? They each had their own monsters to fight. But what had happened to their closeness? Was it truly lost? Is this what maturity meant?

Dangit, Kya thought. I cannot ever be sure with her. She’s reaching out for help. What if this is the one time we don’t respond? Will she succeed in utter loneliness and despair? Kya was quite convinced Troubble would not hesitate to down 17 vials of Silverleaf extract or carelessly barge into a nest of poisonous spiders.

It was for this reason she knew her only recourse was immediate action. She sent out messengers to all of her sisters but heard nothing back that morning from anyone but Arynnia, who was far off in Winterspring chasing some rare dream of an exceptional cat. Perhaps Troubble was right, maybe they really were so ensconced in their own lives that the ties of sisters were frayed. Time was of the essence here.

In frustration, Kya paced the floor. She hardly heard the various Tiger’s voices carrying across the comm. Deggar, Rob, Gerfank and Keldu, all were discussing the various merits of fine rum. Krelle’s voice chimed in with enthusiasm and curiosity, eager to test them all. Garond was giving Del directions on where to meet for some dueling lessons, telling him he’d catch up when diaper duty was over. Nargesh needed some kind of clarification on Rob’s vocabulary and use of the Tong Cant. Nerrok was patiently explaining this to him when apparently Sannia walked past him. There was a flurry of active sounds, Deggar struggling to retain Nerrok, and several choice words muffled. It was then that Nerrok’s voice broke through like a beacon on a foggy day.

“…… swear to you I will knock her… myself if she betrays ...... getting near him again! Tigers are SWORN to protect each other like family... and he ain’t family anymore… son of a ….”

Kya stood rigid in thought, remembering her oaths. After having entered the Tong I must treat the parents and relatives of my sworn siblings as my own kin. Kya knew what she had to do. No matter how distant or what was going on in their lives, her fellow Tigers were sworn to respond to a call. Like it or not they had to come.

“Tigers, I have an urgent situation. I need all females to meet me at Raven Hill Cemetery immediately.” She sent the same urgent message to Troubble, a cemetery being one of their favorite places to meet as kids, daring the dead to become undead. The last time they had been to one was at Momma’s funeral. Kya hoped beyond hope Troubble would recognize the significance of this and respond.

The males in the company were poking at her but she did not care. She interrupted their banter, “Hush up you Neanderthals, it’s a girl thing. Go smoke cigars or something.”

Kya arrived at the graveyard and gathered her co-workers in for a quick briefing. They agreed to give her idea a whirl, some more reluctantly than others. Many of them resisted being here in the first place but they were bound, by oath. So they waited in hiding until Troubble showed up.

A tiny little gnome with auburn ponytails and flashing green eyes, Troubble was anything but cute. She had a bulldog face and an upturned nose that almost looked snotty. Her face was smudged with careless dirt. Her clothing looked like it had not been changed in a week. Even cleaned up she would look like a sour puss. “This had better be GOOD, little Miss I-have-a-better-job-than-you! Just because I pick flowers for a living!” Troubble stomped her tiny booted feet, crossed her arms and waited for Kya to reveal what the summons was all about.

The Tiger females came out from hiding and surrounded Troubble in a circle, preventing her escape. “Sit down, Troubble, we’re going to have a little intervention here.” Kya commanded in her low but serious Officer voice. Korttie held her breath, knowing Kya only resorted to that voice right before all fel broke loose.

Phealea, always quick with the smart aleck comment, nearly choked out, “THIS is your sister?”

Kya and Troubble both said the same worn out response at the same time. “Momma had a thing for sailors.” They looked at each other then with a spark of shared memories and acceptance of whatever was to come set in. Troubble sat resolutely in the middle of the circle with a grunt, “You all want me to become a Tiger? Well forget it, no stupid shipping stuff for me. It’s not Magical enough for me.” A sarcastic wave of her wand followed.

By then Kennia had about had it. “Aren’t you just the little urchin!” Kennia stepped forth in her typical headstrong manner and took charge. She drew her sword and thrust it up and under Troubble’s chin, forcing her to scramble backwards. A gap was made in the circle to allow Kennia to back Troubble up against a headstone, knife point jutting into her throat skillfully. “I came here only because Kya called out for help. If I had any say in the matter I’d be back home with Tai rubbing my feet. So you’re just going to shut up and behave so we can get to the point of this.”

Troubble had wrestled just fine with her sisters but none of them had ever pulled a weapon on her before. She gulped and nodded, eyes bulging wide. When the blade was removed, she turned to Kya rubbing her neck. “Nice friends ya got here.” At least her tone was less haughty. “What is the point of this anyway?”

Kennia knew when to barge in and when to sit back and let her Tigers do the growling. She sheathed her blade and stepped back into the circle surrounding Troubble again. Kya sighed, “Look, honey, I know I have lectured you a thousand times. I know you likely tune me out. But I need you to hear me now more than ever. You cannot go on like this.”

Kya watched as her sister dropped the façade and crumpled over into a slouch. Her heart ached as Troubble’s voice cracked softly, “Go on like what?”

“Throwing tantrums, making threats, screaming in rage, crying in frustration. It’s got to stop, all of it. It’s all so… negative.”

Sannia’s voice spoke quietly but with uncanny directness that is reserved for family members only. “Hun, you just crave attention. Like us all.” She looked around the circle and saw each of the females glance up in sharp recognition. One by one they began to sit, seeing Troubble was not trying to escape.

Krelle, impatient to get a word in, spoke up, “I’ve felt that before. It’s like you lose yourself for a while, your sense of who you are. But it always comes back to me quickly.”

Troubble sat sullenly, her eyes following each speaker.

Kya asked gently and with love, “What happened to make you like this?”

“Fleabag found another toy to play with and it wasn’t me.” Troubble said grumpily, digging at the dirt with her heels while she sat and not looking at a soul.

Ollie laughed in spite of herself, “Oh sweetheart, you let a MAN get you down? I can see we’ve got a lot of work here to do, right sisters?”

Talula rose and marched over to Troubble. “I have a plan. Stand up, come on, heave ho!” Talula, being a gnome herself was not proportioned to lift this girl to standing, but something in her stature made her larger than life. Troubble was lifted with ease and set on her own two feet. Talula brushed some of the dirt off her and said, “Stand tall now. I have a ritualistic… uh… chant… that will get you in the right frame of mind to beat this funk you are in. I want you to repeat after me. She motioned for the females to join in the repetitions. Reluctantly but with growing conviction, the group repeated curiously as Talula led, shrugging at each other for not knowing this gnomish ritual.

Talula: “Owaaahhhhh….”

Others: “Owaaahhhhh….”

Talula: “Taggggu...”

Others: “Taggggu...”

Talula: “Siam!”

Others: “Siam!”

Talula smiled a knowing and confident smile, “Good, but louder this time and faster.” Waving her stubby little arms to orchestrate them, “Owaaahhhhh…. Taggggu.... Siam!”

Others: “Owaaahhhhh…. Taggggu.... Siam!”

Over and over the group repeated this chant with growing strength until Talula was no longer leading it but sitting satisfied with a smug smile on her face, nodding at how well they were learning.

“Owaaahhhhh…. Taggggu.... Siam! Owaaaah.. taguuuu.. siam, Owah tagu siam, Owah tagu siam, Oh what a goose I am, Oh what a goose I am.”

Taai dropped out first in a fit of giggles. Some of the others groaned and Troubble, who had been having trouble seeing anything outside her own misery for so long was the last voice left. Finally, in the undisguised mirth of the females around her, Troubble saw the joke and a small smile broke over her face.

Kennia looked at Talula with a wide grin, “Brilliant, ‘Lu. You never fail to astound me.”

Talula stood up and took a deep bow. “Ancient gnomish ritual - Laugh at yourself, daily.”

Ollie started the applause and the rest chimed in. The tension had eased among them and smiles were passed from one to another. Stinkin’ men,” Kya murmured. “Why should we let them get us to this point, huh?” Old habits die hard and the words escaped her lips before she could stop them.

“We don’t.” Kennia rose and walked slowly around the outside of the circle. “That’s it right there. It’s not about the men here. It’s about your own personal power. Put the focus on yourself. Who are you, really? Seek that, and you’ll find your answers.”

Troubble sniffed and swatted at a bug going past, likely attracted to her ripe unbathed scent. “Yeah, but when I put the focus on me, I feel needy. I don’t LIKE feeling needy.”

Kennia allowed that, continuing, “When I say to you ‘Put the focus on yourself’, I don’t mean allow yourself to be needy. I mean no one else is going to fix you but you.”

Troubble had clear trouble with that. “How am I supposed to fix myself when what I need is companionship?” Her grumpy frown returned.

Kennia, thought for a moment and the turned to the group and addressed them all, “Well, here’s exactly what I mean. What attracts you to a guy? Is it his swollen belly sitting around eating mystery stew and drinking Gordok Green Grog? Or is it the finesse with which he swings his blade – perhaps the strength of his leadership? You want a man who’s made something of himself, right?”

A few of the females nodded at that.

“Look at the man I caught, after all. He’s the most affectionate, passionate, charismatic, kind-hearted, sensitive, hard working, slave driving, demanding, compassionate, empathetic, pragmatic, solution-seeking leader I have ever met in my life. And… he makes a lot of money so I can afford any new dress I want. I mean, what else could a woman want in a man?” Kennia struck a pose then, with a model’s smile.

Kya’s hand shot up in the air, perpetually hungry, “A cook?”

“Oh honey, he can cook. Let me assure you.” Kya thought about that and smiled at the memory of Litto asking her for Tai’s secret of attracting the best women.

Phealea offered with a smirk, “But does he dance?” Her eyes met Taai’s and they both thought of Nerrok dancing simply because Taai beckoned him to.

Kennia laughed at that, “Oh yeah, in his skivvies – or mine.” A few giggles burst out.

Kennia noticed Sannia’s face redden with what she was thinking, pheromones of her recent tryst with Booth exuding from her very pores.

“Don’t even say it, Sannia. He’s got all that and more, too.” Kennia took a moment to fan her face, remembering the lamp that had broken just last night and why.

Then she continued, “My point being… look at it all backwards. Make yourself into what is attractive to YOURSELF, and the rest will fall into place. Someone like you will fall in love with ‘you’ if you become what you would fall in love with. Besides, whether or not you find companionship, it’s important you feel good about whom you are. If you want to feel better, it’s up to you and only you. Fix the only thing within your realm of control…. You.”

Troubble blurted out with stubborn resistance, “How the fel do you do that when you don’t feel good unless you have someone making you feel worthy?!”

“That someone needs to be yourself, hun. And that is the great universal secret of womanhood.” Kennia finished with a soft smile and went to lean against a tree.

A tingling of something profound was beginning to grow in that graveyard. It was the seed of hope Troubble needed to grasp. Whether she could grasp it was up to her entirely.

Sunya, a teacher of great strategies and mental games spoke finally, “You know what works for me?” All eyes turned her way. “I project myself into the image I want to create and become that. Many a scrape I’ve avoided by thinking myself through to the right end.” Sunya’s knowledge was absorbed by a few, agreed with by others.

Raimi had been hesitant to speak up much. This graveyard gave her the heebie jeebies for some vague reason she could not quite recall. It was not in her nature to be frightened at all, so this was not fear of the ghouls and undead hovering about. It was simple unease of a section of her life she did not remember well. To rid her mind of the negative, Raimi began focusing on things that made her feel good. When it hit her what she was doing, she added to the menagerie of ideas calmly, “It has something to do with acknowledging there IS negative, but looking past that to seek positive thoughts.

Viridia looked puzzled, “I like dem shiny t’ings. Dey make me happy.” Viridia’s mind wandered off, still wondering why Nerrok told Nargesh he needed to go to more strip joints… not that she knew what those were. She vowed to remember to ask Nargesh to take her to one. And if he wouldn't she'd try asking Deggar.

Murithi, a woman of wisdom seldom seen but always effective, summed it all up quite nicely, “It’s more than just mental discipline to allow the power of positive thinking into your life, it’s about finding your own personal groove. What makes you alone, unique? Korttie there, she has a way with Mange that I’ve never seen before. And you, Taai, you have more grace in your pinkie finger than an entire snake being charmed. Talula? She’s simply brilliant with technology.” Nobody contested that fact in the least.

Mur continued, “Me? My forte is cracking safes and spying on folks. As for Kya there, she is great at snorting. Oh all right, she’s good at bonking her head or tripping just when the job heats up. Not only has she almost drowned once, but also nearly cracked her noggin open. And she’s still lacking a medal for either of those.” Murithi teased Kya because she knew in her heart of hearts she could take the heat.

Phealea cut right to the truth without apology, “Hey, but Heart of the Tiger is not for doing YOURSELF in!”

Kya grinned sheepishly at that, seeing that Phealea’s intelligence was just starting to come into its own. That girl was going to be one imposing Tiger one day.

Troubble sat observing those around her, hugging and laughing with each other and felt a pang sharp in her gut. She wasn’t part of them, truly. The doom started closing in on her now, and she looked about wildly for hope. Words hovered in her mind, waiting to be found again. Yourself. Only you. Positive. Personal Power. Unique. Special. Laugh at yourself daily. Troubble was good at one thing - causing trouble. Was there anything positive in that? No matter how diverse a group they were, they all had one thing in common, they were females fighting the same monsters of survival. And at this time, Kya came over to kneel before her sister.

“Thanks sis, I know you meant well,” Troubble told her sister then sighed, trying to push the defeated feeling away. Kya could see her honestly making effort not to be so glum. With shining eyes, she hugged her little sister and told her gently, “No, Troubble, sweetie, thank you.”

Troubble gave her the famous Nali look as nothing could have been more wrong. “What the heck for?!”

“You’ve made us a sisterhood.”

The light beamed down into Troubble’s soul then, as she heard what Kya was really saying. Troubble got it. She really got it – all of it, and in her glee she wrestled unsuspecting Kya to the ground and jumped on her tight stomach shouting, “Owah Tagu Siam!”

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