Sleep was going to feel great, thought Elise as the last light was extinguished. Her sleep on that branch last night under Derrick’s bulky arm had been precarious at best. She hated to recall how protected she had felt there, though; she had never been so close to a member of the opposite gender before, discounting, of course, her father. As she snuggled under her blanket, a low noise began to fill her ears. What was it? She listened for a moment.
Purring! It was Fiaz, purring! How interesting. Just like a cat. He had settled between her and the fire like a loyal pet when everyone had retreated to their bed furs. How bizarre that he had chosen her out of how many more thousands of promising prospects? She didn’t even know how to talk mind-to-mind—she’d attempted to call his name mentally and he hadn’t responded. But he’d heard her out in the woods and she hadn’t even been trying. How do you do it? she thought with exasperation.
-- I should think you’d be asleep.--
Elise jumped. Fiaz had never even moved, though his purring had stopped. How did he know? Did he hear her?
-- Child, I can only ‘hear’ you if you ‘talk’ to me. You’re going about it all wrong. It comes from here -- said Fiaz and suddenly Elise ‘felt’ something, somewhere, in her head. She gasped at the strange sensation. He was extending his consciousness and touching a part of her brain, just as easily as breathing! Without even moving!
-- Mindspeaking is done through there, whatever you want to say goes through it, like a filter.--
Oh. Then why hadn’t anyone at home figured that out? All the thousands of years of human civilization and no one had figured that out.
But why had this creature, rare, highly intelligent, why had he attached himself to her? What kind of potential did she show? She didn’t even live here! She might be whisked home again tomorrow, or even to another world. She loved animals but until her stepmother married Dr. Graham, the boring veterinarian, Elise had never been allowed to even have pets. So it couldn’t be her underdeveloped way with animals that had influenced his decision. So... what?
-- You have questions.--
It was a statement, not an interrogative. Elise jumped all the same, unaccustomed to voices speaking in her mind unanticipated.
She tried the filter method, concentrating on that part of her brain. -- How did you know? -- While she was wondering if it had worked, Fiaz replied,
-- Very good. But you needn’t speak so loud. --
Elise colored with embarrassment and indignation and before Fiaz could say more she returned hotly,
-- At least I did it! --
Fiaz stretched in the dark next to her. -- I don’t recall that being a point of dispute, -- he replied, sounding bored.
Elise fumed though she reluctantly admitted that he was right. She guessed she was a little too defensive, and she hadn’t even been under attack. He’d been helping her, in fact, teaching her. But his supercilious remarks made her so mad!
Hoping not to wake anyone, Elise rolled over and decided to try a different approach. With as much contriteness as she could rally, Elise asked,
-- Why did you pick me? --
She ground her teeth at the pitiful way that came out, like a scared little girl.
-- Did I not tell you that why is never important after the fact? --
-- Why? Just because you say so? -- Elise taunted.
-- Because it is true, -- Fiaz replied.
-- At least according to you. You’re not God. --
-- I am Fiaz.--
He couldn’t get much more complacent than that, could he, Elise thought to herself.
-- So why won’t you tell me? -- she asked.
-- Because it is not important. --
Elise persisted. -- Maybe I want to know, though.--
-- Maybe you do, -- Fiaz agreed.
She sensed that he was truly playing with her (cat and mouse) but her patience, already brittle, was about to crack. She endeavored to fall under the enticing spell of slumber, but myriads of questions raced through her mind.
-- Do you know what I’m thinking all the time? -- she finally asked.
-- I can feel your emotions, because your mind is open. But unless you bespeak me, I don’t know what you’re thinking. Only what you’re feeling. --
-- What do you mean, my mind is ‘open’? -- Elise wanted to know.
-- Your thoughts are laid wide open for any unguarded person with kyor’rishtan to hear. You are unguarded, you must contain your thoughts within, which you have not yet learned to do. --
So that was how Gabriella picked up on Elise’s thoughts whenever she happened to think of her. Gabriella was hearing them plain as if she were physically yelling at her through a bullhorn! Well, that was going to have to stop!
-- How do I do that? -- Elise inquired of the huge cat.
-- I will teach you tomorrow. Tonight you must rest. --
The word ‘rest’ was inviting. Elise managed to staunch off the flow of questions and closed her eyes; the sound of Fiaz’s purring soon lulled her to sleep.