She sighed and gave up. Sitting up, gazed at the fire in the center of the sleeping room the boys had constructed last fall. She just could not sleep. Thoughts ran through her head about Gabriella’s peculiar speech - it almost seemed as if she were sending them off. And she wondered what the world outside the forest would be like, how the people would treat her. Perhaps she could arrange to be left behind.... She shook her head at her thoughts and gathered her blanket around her.
After she fixed herself a cup of warm cider, she padded out into the main room. Lost in thought, she threw some wood on the hungry fire and settled back on a floor cushion to watch the flames engulf the wood.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there when she looked up to see the shadow that was Fiaz gliding silently toward her. Surprised, she watched as he sat down next to her and turned his amber eyes to her.
-- There is an itch, just behind my left ear.... --
As always, the thoughts of another person, or cat in this case, rumbling through her head amazed her. Elise smiled a bit to herself; Fiaz was a being to be reckoned with. As her fingers lost themselves in his luxurious black fur, her thoughts turned once again inward....
“You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow. What is keeping you from your sleep?”
Elise jumped. She had not heard Gabriella approach, yet there she was in the doorway of her bedroom. She shrugged self-consciously and mumbled something about having a lot on her mind.
Gabriella nodded wisely and said only, “Ah,” before she disappeared into the kitchen. The woman’s ability to ferret out discontent was amazing.
Gabriella reappeared with her own mug of warm cider. She pulled up a fluffy floor cushion and sat down next to Elise. For a while neither of them said nothing, though she knew that would not last. Perhaps she could get away before Gabriella said anything... she could feign sudden fatigue.... But no. If her red-haired hostess could sense that she was awake, surely she could sense the direction her thoughts were taking. She sighed and stared into the snapping fire, waiting for the inevitable.
“Something is bothering you,” Gabriella said.
“It’s nothing important,” Elise replied quickly.
That ‘ah’ spoke volumes of disbelief, Elise thought to herself. Gabriella was merely waiting for her to confess. Would they hate her because she resembled the Kin’keska, even though she was not?
Oh, all right. She cleared her throat.
“I’m... I’m scared of your people,” she told Gabriella.
Gabriella was silent for a moment and then she said, “In this Land, there are not only other peoples and cultures, but Keltoi and mira’setzu. Animosity exists among many cultures. If you were Brillabarics, the Danions would surely hate you, and you them. If you were of Triador, you would despise Avrez-Kar countrymen, and so on.” This Gabriella said with disdain.
Her eyes grew distant. “A long, very long time ago, when kyor of either kind was quite common in this Land, those who had the greatest power banded together and began their own... Dominion of sorts. No one paid them any more mind than any other race or culture. They were called the Kyorics. After a time, a political uprising began and a king was killed. In today’s time this would mean nothing, but at that time, the king ruled over the entire Land. The Kyorics were implicated in his death and the entire peoples were banished to what were then called the Upper Isles. Those people were my ancestors. My ancestors do not concern themselves with the people of this Land; they feel that these people are mentally inferior as they lack in kyor. The people of this Land feel they are well-rid of my people, for they think that my people are evil because of their greater powers in the arts of kyor.
“So you see,” Gabriella said gently, “I can perhaps sympathize with you in a small way. When I came to this Land I was all alone, for the friend with whom I arrived... we parted ways. I felt as though by simply looking at me, the people of this Land would know me for who I truly was and banish me back to Tallasesh, or worse.” She looked back then at Elise, who was spellbound by this new knowledge of the mysterious Gabriella.
That was mildly comforting, though Elise remained apprehensive. And to know that Gabriella was from Tallasesh, that she was a Kyoric! That was something she would have to keep to herself, but how fascinating!
“Come, you should get some rest. A busy day awaits us in the morn,” Gabriella pulled her up from her heated seat in front of the fire.
-- Yes, it is high time for young children to be in bed. -- Fiaz said, extending his claws as he stretched. Elise cast him a withering glance, though she knew he meant the comment to lighten the mood. She was grateful for his company, warm and supporting.
“Thank you,” she said over her shoulder to Gabriella as she followed Fiaz docilely into their sleeping quarters.