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A Viewtiful Waste

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The mountain resisted. But only at first.Once you pushed past that, it shifted along the ground as smooth as you please. Elda was in too terrible a temper to appreciate the mountain's obligingness. Her mood had not improved, even with energy-expending bullying of a geographical feature.

She pushed it, head down, wings spread out so that the very tips quivered at full extension. Her tail swished in anger behind her. She was not physically touching the mountain. Still, the mountain moved forward with every step she took.

Her progress was rapid as she walked out her anger. Then, of course, the mountain ran out of space for shoving. But Elda continued forward and the mountain contorted around her. She pushed and pushed. The mountain warped more and more with each step.

A small figure approached from the south, with quick reptilian movements. The closer it got, the more annoyed the tiny clicking footsteps sounded out. Elda was aware of this, on the edge of her consciousness, as she worked out her frustrations on the mountain.

When Querida yelled at Elda to stop, the mountain was less a mountain and more an arch.

"Oh, do leave me alone," said Elda, scowling at the little wizard. "Everyone else did."

Querida crossed her bony little arms and glared at the griffin. "That was my best view, you know. There's not a great many views here in the Waste and you've gone and ruined it."

Elda hunched down, her wings low to the ground. A twinge of guilt pulled at her anger.

"It's not fair," she said. It was plaintive. As plaintive as a griffin's voice could get, which meant it had an eagle's shriek hiding in it.

"Nothing's fair. What's not fair now then?" said Querida. Her voice was stern. Elda ducked her head, feeling like she'd been caught doing something naughty.

Well, she supposed bending up mountains wasn't strictly her best behaviour. But she didn't know anyone lived near enough for it to matter. It was the Wastes after all!

"They've gone off! They left me! They said I couldn't come," wailed Elda. She hunkered her head lower. Her crest drooped. The mountain stayed up despite its new bent over shape. It was humiliating getting caught and lectured. At least there wasn't rubble raining down on them too.

Querida rubbed her snakelike face. "Oh, that bloody war. Right. If you can't control yourself enough to not destroy the landscape? Well, I don't see any sense in them bringing you along either."

"That's not fair!"

"It's perfectly fair. Look what you've done. Is Callette with them?" Querida asked, in a casual tone. Elda sighed. It was yet another case of people preferring her sister over her.

"Of course they took Callette," said Elda. "I've got ever so much magic but it's Callette they took!"

"Damn," muttered Querida just on the edge of Elda's hearing.

"And I don't want to stay with mother's friends. I want to go to the West Continent with mother and father and help with the war and use my magic and--"

"Silence! I'm calling your parents. Stay. Here." Querida pointed where Elda was sitting.

The message was clear: Try to escape your punishment? Become the world's first formerly-griffin frog.

Querida turned and shuffled back to her little home. Behind her, Elda made a decision and started trying to get the mountain back into place. Worrying about consequences went by faster if you occupied yourself. It was like trying to reform clay: Not easy if all you had was claws and were a fraction of its size.

Summoning up Mara was simple enough. There was no wait, Mara jumped right on, like she'd been expecting a call. But her face showed distinct surprise when she beheld Querida at the other end.

"I'm-- I'm sorry, I can't talk right now, we're looking for Elda," said Mara. In her arms was a sweet little toddler with downy soft pink wings. The toddler clearly had no concerns.

"I found her," said Querida. "She's ruined a perfectly good mountain."

Mara's face held an expression of deep relief. She either hadn't processed what Elda had done. Or considered a mountain acceptable collateral for a safe and sound daughter. If a child with wings, claws, and a body the size of a rhino could be endangered so easily.

"Put her on?" she asked Querida.

The mountain looked no better for Elda's efforts to fix it than her efforts to break it. Querida hobbled out. The walk from her home to the mountain just as long as before. This time she was in no hurry, so she shuffled. Mara and Elda both in silence until Querida arrived. She placed the sphere in front of Elda.

"Your mother."

Elda fluffed in panic.

And rightly so, thought Querida.

Mara's lecture began.

"That's not fair!" Elda tried to protest. Querida noted with pleasure it had about as much effect on Mara as it had on her.

By the end of Mara's lecture, Elda had sunk to the ground, wings spread out in despondency.

That was when Mara surprised them both.

"Clearly we've been too lax with you. I don't care what your father says, Elda. You need more attention than we can give you with the babies and this business on the West Continent. You're going to university."

Elda's head snapped up. So did Querida's.

"You mean it, mother? I can go learn to be a wizard?" Elda had stood up, dancing from foot to foot.

"I do," said Mara. "This is our only choice. Unless we want you to completely remodel the Wastes."

Elda crowed gleefully.

"And Querida, I would be most grateful if you could keep an eye on her until the term opens," continued Mara.

Elda looked frantic.

"Gladly," said Querida. "I know just what we can do while we wait."

"You're not allowed to keep her," added Mara.

"Wasn't even considering it," said Querida. The toddler began to cry and Mara cut off communication with a swift wave of her hand. Elda looked over at Querida, clearly caught between apprehension and joy.

Querida clapped her hands.

"While we wait for admissions to open, I believe I shall give you a few lessons in landscaping," she said.

She was going to get her view back, by the gods.