Hand in hand, Sita and Han raced through the colony until they reached the new building on the North side. Its roof easily reached three stories high. Thick log columns, with bark still on most, supported the roof and held up a massive patio that shaded a smooth area, adorned only by a well-polished wood floor. Wisp caught up with the pair and gusted past Sita, her cold breeze causing the other girl to shiver. Han took in the sight in wide eyed awe.
“What is this place?” The boy asked while climbing one of the logs.
“This is the temple Craygarta built. All the Craygarta who live in the colony live here,” Sita told him.
Han climbed up the ledge, inspecting the hidden upper alcoves from end to end. “Is that why there are perches up there? It looks like there is plenty of room to hang out, maybe watch what’s going on, down there.”
Wisp whirled around the boy- apparently every bit as curious as her friend. The pair reached the back wall of the ledge, the wall which separated the patio like space from the inner temple. Below them, a wooden wall and a massive carved doorway, depicting a forest scene, lay waiting. The girl’s yellow vaporous substance slipped through a crack between the boards.
“I’ve met some Craygarta before,” Han said. He had dropped himself down from the ledge and joined Sita as she crossed the wood floor on her way to the door in the rear.
“You may have seen them just hanging around, or buying food, or getting some chores done, but I really doubt you’ve seen a Craygarta doing what they do best!” Sita said.
“Wood carving?” Han rubbed an intricately carved portion of a woodland scene depicting a Liberty monkey fighting a massive Anzu bird. The Anzu’s body a blend of lion and eagle attributes. Han’s band of Liberty monkeys usually steered clear of the ancient forest, where the feline-bird hybrids made their nest.
Before Sita could reply, Wisp burst through the carved door from the inside. Bright pink and yellow bursts of light indicated her approval of what lay beyond. Dozens of young Craygarta were paired up sparring one another in a blur of motion.
Craygarta, a name which indicated their species and served to address each individual, looked a lot like the insect called Praying Mantis from Earth. Fully grown, the adults towered over human adults by a full foot. Their wedge shaped heads and large black eyes sat atop slim frames. Two sets of middle limbs served as arms, ending in opposable digits. They danced about one another on long lean legs, crouched slightly in sparring stances. Their top set of limbs were scythes, which they whirled about one another in arching sweeps.
There were also adult Craygarta in the back of the room sparring with other species, who held their choice of staffs or night sticks that served to emulate the scythes.
“Looks like our Craygarta family has some out-of-colony visitors,” Sita said. “Normally that one,” she pointed to a Craygarta adult who walked about the little ones’ sparring matches, “is the only grown up here. It’s also the parent of all the younger ones.”
“Where’s their mom?” Han asked.
“It is their mom. You think Craygarta are men because they have sweet kung fu?”
“I guess so…”
“Craygarta don’t get married or anything. They have kids all by themselves. I think that is why they all answer to the same name.”
The room was full of Craygarta of varying heights. There were close to fifty young fighters in all. The largest of the brood were around the same height as Han, Sita, and Wisp. One lone Craygarta youth did not have a sparring partner, instead it practiced moves alone, off to one side. The lone Craygarta fluttered its wings from beneath a mottled green carapace spider-webbed with dark brown, evidence of healed cracks.
“Looks like that one is lonely,” Han said, his eyes began to glow and he smiled a broad, silly grin. Han loped on all fours, tail up high, toward the lone insect-monk. Wisp followed along, shrouding the boy in yellow mist.
Sita ran behind Hanuman, muttering to herself that they were just here to watch.
“Hi,” Han tipped his head in a nod. “Looks like you could use a partner.”
“I’m the odd bug of my brood today, my siblings and I rotate who trains alone.”
“Why don’t you try those moves on me? You guys look awesome when you fight!”
Wisp gushed a pink burst of agreement and poked her girlish head out from behind Han.
“Alright, but you’ll need something to block my blade arms, they’ll take your arm clean off if you try me bare handed.”
Sita tossed Han a staff from a nearby wall rack. It had dozens of nicks marking its prior use.
“Okay!” Han was grinning and twirled the staff around with his inhuman wrist flexibility. “Are you ready?”
The Craygarta youth gave a curt nod. Han jumped straight up into the air, staff raised in both hands. His body was shrouded in Wisp’s yellow vapor, it appeared that she was unwilling to let Han spar alone. One scythe arm swept over Craygarta’s head to block. Han’s blow connected with the scythe, a few chips of wood flecked off and Craygarta bent its knees to absorb the shock of the blow.
With its other scythe arm, Craygarta swept low, careful to turn the dull side to Han. The green haired monkey boy fell in a tumble while entering the roll, his tail wrapped around the shoulder of the scythe arm and dragged the Craygarta off balance.
Craygarta stumbled toward Han, a blur of green fur, as he rolled onto his feet once again. Craygarta threw a kick with one leg while still flapping translucent wings, propelling him forward. Yellow vapor intercepted the calf of the thrust leg, sending it off its mark, while another puff of yellow wafted in Craygarta’s face.
Han swung the staff like a baseball bat toward Craygarta’s side. Han’s eyes opened wide. The bug stepped closer and caught the staff under one of his middle arms, rotating further in the direction the swing traveled, pulling Han off balance.
Han lost his feet. Craygarta’s counter swung him through the air, still gripping his whirling staff. Wisp, hovered in the spot Han had departed, unaware for a moment that her partner was in motion. Craygarta fluttered its wings furiously, sending the yellow cloud girl up and away from the battle. Small bolts of lightning sparked to announce her angry surprise.
Han landed on his back, but rolled his legs overhead in a backward somersault out of instinct, his monkey reflexes so smooth that the unaware observer might have thought he planned to get tossed. Craygarta shoved the stick in Han’s direction, causing him to backpedal. A scythe arm arched in to strike and Han got the staff up just in time to block.
Craygarta, clearly stronger than Han, bore down on the boy, who was forced to put one knee on the ground to hold. As Craygarta raised the other scythe arm to strike, something odd happened. Han rumbled a low growl and the staff began to push back against the Craygarta, not from strength, but because Hanuman was growing rapidly beneath it.
Wisp, who had closed the distance and cloaked Craygarta’s head and back in a yellow-grey fog, paled and took her girl form, retreating to a spot near Sita, who stood, mouth agape.
Craygarta held scythe at first in a position to bear down upon Han. Craygarta shifted the stance as Han grew until his scythe was holding Han’s staff, now a club, in one hand of a giant green boy, and preventing it from crushing down upon him. Han had somehow become twice the size of the Craygarta who had looked him eye to eye at the beginning of their bout.
Han battered the Craygarta’s upheld scythe with three quick strikes until Craygarta took a knee. Han stepped back and lowered his staff into a ready pose, a look of concern on his face. “Are you okay? You look…smaller.”
Sita and Wisp rushed up to Craygarta, helping the mantis monk to his feet. “You grew!” Sita yelled up at Han, who towered over them around eight feet in height.
Han gasped and looked at the staff in his hand, no more than a stick now. The room had gone silent. Sparring had ceased and wedge shaped heads eyed Han intently, most cocked to one side in contemplation.
“Just like your namesake,” sang the voice of Craygarta’s parent, who wove its way around the other staring children to its offspring and the big green monkey boy. “Humans have an ancient text called Ramayana that describes a monkey prince bearing your name, young one. That Hanuman could alter his size at will. Do you move mountains, son of Crispin?”
“I don’t know what happened Mister Craygarta.”
“I do not have gender as other beings do, so mister doesn’t apply, you may call me Master Craygarta.” The monk approached Han, standing near the same height and peered at Han’s intense orange glowing eyes. “It would seem that your normal stature and intelligence aren’t the only gifts within you, youngling.”
Han looked down at himself and blushed. His cloths had shredded off during the transformation, leaving him bare skin and fur. Wisp dutifully shrouded Han, forming the shape of a toga, allowing the boy to feel comfortably garbed once more.
“Pringar is going to get upset about my school uniform,” Han replied, looking sheepish.
A laughing sound rumbled from Master Craygarta’s chest. It rubbed two arms together, producing its sing song voice, “I’ll speak with the Crispins right away. I think it would be best if you came by to practice with my brood every day after school.”
Sita inched forward, bright eyed and eager. She raised one hand and opened her mouth, preparing to speak.
“Yes, you are welcome to join us too,” Master Craygarta said peremptorily, putting a hand on Sita’s shoulder. “Han, this Craygarta,” the master nodded his head toward Han’s sparring opponent, “will accompany you all the time. We share a telepathic bond that will alert me if any other unusual powers emerge.”
Han whooped in delight, “I love making new friends!” Unaware, his form began shrinking to his regular height.
“Why don’t you four head on to home for the night. I’ll speak with Pringar on her slate to confirm the arrangements. She is familiar with young ones developing extraordinary abilities, and I expect she’ll be pleased with the situation.”
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