She looked around her, scanning the trees for signs of Fiaz, but she saw none. He blended in so well with the shadows that she never knew where he was unless he made some kind of noise.
“Man, my ass is sore!” Rick complained. Huh. Try walking for five marks, she thought. She couldn’t wait for her turn to ride. Only two iros could be ridden, so they took turns riding, walking, and sitting in the wagon. She had gotten the first turn walking and her feet were nearly numb.
She watched with amusement as Rick rubbed his sore rear end. Then she noticed how he was sitting in the saddle.
“Rick, try riding in the middle of the saddle instead of the end of it, and you might not be so sore.”
Gabriella turned in her saddle to assess the situation. “Elise is right, Rick. Slide further up in your saddle.”
“Doesn’t matter where I sit in the saddle, I’m still gonna get blisters in places blisters were never intended,” muttered Rick. “Whoa! Give a guy some warning!” Gabriella had stopped her iro suddenly, causing Rick to nearly ride into her.
Elise stopped walking gratefully, glad of the chance to rest her legs. Gabriella was studying them, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. Derrick brought the iros drawing the wagon to a halt.
“This is something I fear you will not care for, yet the more I think of it, the more it is necessary.” Gabriella turned her iro, whom she had named Rasha, around to face them. “Your names. They are the most obvious of all.” She sighed and tapped her finger against her chin in thought.
What was wrong with their names, wondered Elise. If no one had heard of their names, couldn’t they just say they were from another Dominion? Just then, Gabriella slid off her mount.
“We shall break for lunch now, so that we may consider this further.”
Elise breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t dare sit down yet, for she would have to help ready their food, and if she sat down now, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get up again.
As they sat eating their light lunch of bread, cheese, and fruit, Elise waited for Gabriella to say something regarding her decision. Finally, the red-haired woman spoke.
“You will have to assume new names. They are simply too foreign, particularly yours, Elise, and yours, too, Andrew. I say this with great regret, you understand. I know how much you have given up by living here; your own names are all you have left.” She looked at them sympathetically.
A new name? That was a difficult concept to absorb for some reason. How would she ever get used to it? Wouldn’t her lack of response to a new name be just as obvious as the strangeness of her own name? Although, if she could change her name to anything she wanted, it could be a little fun....
“I think perhaps if we find names for you that are similar to the ones you have, that you may not have as much trouble. Rick, yours is the only name that is a name in this language as well.”
Rick looked relieved at Gabriella’s statement, though Elise could see that the rest of her comrades were looking rather dubious.
In the end, Gabriella gave each of them a list of names that were similar in sound to their own to choose from. Derrick lucked out, two of the names he was able to choose from Dar and Rick, so he naturally chose Dar. Fiona had similar luck; of her list of names, the closest-sounding were Fiorra and Felara, of which she chose the former. Andrew chose “Ander.”
All of those, thought Elise bitterly, came closer than Elise’s list of names similar to ‘Elise’. For, as Gabriella had told her, there just were no names like ‘Elise’. Nor were there any desirable similarities to ‘Alexandra,’ which was Elise’s middle name. So she promised to choose from one as soon as she could, but having to choose from names like Elasora, Alanda, and Elliarenne was going to take some time.
Fortunately, Gabriella deemed it time for them to switch modes of transportation, so Elise was able to get off of her feet and ride one of the iros. She was worried about this name thing. Either the name was close enough to her own that she might answer to it and she despised it, or she sort of liked the name but it sounded nothing like her own. And frankly, none of them felt like her; she just couldn’t connect to any of them. Since she was getting nowhere in her decision-making, she finally appealed to Fiaz, hoping for him to make the decision for her.
-- Do you not care for any of these names? --
-- Not really. Maybe I should just choose a name totally different from mine and hope I’ll get used to it soon enough to please Gabriella. --
Fiaz did not reply right away, so Elise brooded for a little while, rubbing her cold hands together. She could not help but feel a little sad at having to discard her name and leave it behind as if it were a childhood toy she had outgrown. Gabriella was right; it was all she had left.
-- There is a name.... It is an old one, and not quite as similar to your own as you might wish. The name is ‘Emanuella’. In the tongue of the Lost Ones, Eman means ‘force or strength’ and ella means ‘dear one’. Perhaps Gabriella will remember it. --
Elise raised an eyebrow. Emanuella. She kind of liked it. It was sort of like Gabriella’s name, the way it rolled off your tongue. She guided her iro closer to the wagon, where Gabriella sat with the reins. Gabriella looked at her inquiringly.
“Have you decided upon a name?”
“Fiaz gave me another name: Emanuella. He says it’s very old.”
Gabriella’s brow furrowed in thought. “It seems familiar....”
-- It is the name of a queen. Emanuella of Serendor. --
“Fiaz says it’s the name of a queen,” Elise said. The name of queen would be neat. But where was Serendor?
“Ah, King Regis’ queen. Emanuella of Serendor, yes?”
Elise nodded. “But where is Serendor?”
“Serendor no longer exists. It was partly where Pendymonon is now, two or three thousand years ago, for Pendymonon only came into being in the latter part of the sixth Era.”
“Can I use Emanuella then? Will people know it?”
“Not many will recognize it as a Serendorian name, but I am sure it is still in use here and there.”
Then her new name would be Emanuella. She didn’t feel like an Emanuella, but then she was sure the rest of her comrades didn’t feel like their new names, either.
They rode through the forest for the rest of the first afternoon. Parts of the forest were so dense that the sky could scarcely be seen through the trees and little sunlight filtered through to the forest floor. Other parts of the forest were only lightly wooded and often gave way to meadows, where the sunlight warmed their backs as they continued their way north.
Finally, Gabriella stopped them for the night. By this time Elise was falling asleep in the wagon, for she had finished her turn riding Rasha not long ago. All that walking that morning had exhausted her. Fortunately, dinner was not a complicated affair and she was able to lie in her bed furs and stare into the fire. She thought about her new name. It was much different than her old name, yet she didn’t feel any different. It was the final step in leaving her old life behind. That thought made her sad; she thought of her family, her home, Carol and Diane....
-- Emanuella is a good name for you. Your namesake was a very strong woman and a good queen. -- Fiaz said quietly. The underlying concern in his tone made her feel better, though if someone had told her that one day a huge, black jaguar-looking creature would be one of the most important... presences... in her life, she would have suggested that they seek the services of a therapist.
-- How do you know so much about history that happened two thousand years ago? -- she asked curiously.
Fiaz, lying in the grass behind her, stretched and replied somewhat loftily, -- We zary’andu are not limited to the bounds of age in the way that you other creatures are. --
Elise could only marvel at his perception of himself and his species. Were they all so cavalier, or was it only Fiaz? She had the feeling that they were all that way. ‘Other creatures’, indeed, as if she were a small forest creature!
-- So just how old are you, really? --
--That is not important, -- Fiaz replied vaguely.
Elise grinned slyly and laid her head down. He always said that when it was something he didn’t want to discuss. -- Wow. You must be really old if you’ve lived thousands of Cycles.... -- she said, pretending to be awed.
-- Not ‘thousands’, -- Fiaz replied haughtily. A long, bored sigh resonated through her mind. -- We have long watched the races of the Land, as scholars and historians might. We are perhaps better authorities on the events of history than the races themselves, for we zary’andu are objective in our observations, as the races are not. Your people learn only what your rulers have decided you should know, as opposed to entire, unbiased truths, which, in most cases, are not flattering. -- Fiaz paused in his commentary. -- We have always been quite aware of the happenings in the world around us; we have merely chosen not to involve ourselves. --
Elise thought that his portrayal of the majestic zary’andu species was descriptive of cats in general, but she decided not to offend Fiaz’s delicate sensibilities on the subject and kept her observation to herself.