She stepped carefully over a prickly berry bush, eyeing shady corners for more of the dewsfoot Fiorra had asked Emanuella to retrieve for her. Usually she accompanied Emanuella on these occasional trips to the marsh, but this morning, Fiorra looked as if she hadn’t slept at all last night.
That was all right. Emanuella wanted some time alone to think, anyway. She glanced back over her shoulder where Fiaz was sauntering behind her some several paces back.
-- So, Furface, you haven’t told me your thoughts of this new Gift of mine. --
-- You haven’t inquired. -- Fiaz yawned. Herb expeditions, particularly those to the bogs and marshes, were not his favorite pastime, to be sure. Emanuella suspected her mindmate did not like getting the malodorous mud between the pads of his paws, where it often dried, but whenever she teased him about it, he never deigned to respond.
Emanuella was prepared for a game of wits this morning. -- I usually don’t inquire after most of your opinions, but you bestow them freely anyway, -- she pointed out. Something like a mental humph drifted through her mind in return.
-- Can you speak to any animal you like? –- she asked, pursuing her original course of discussion.
-- Of course, though some are less sentient than others. --
-- Oh, of course, after all, you’re a zary’andu, only the most worthy of creatures should consider themselves honored enough to converse with you, -- Emanuella snickered mockingly.
Fiaz ignored this and drawled instead, -- Pray you, attempt to interact with a sheep, and then you may reconsider my words. --
Emanuella grinned and uprooted several dewsfoot plants, careful to pull out as many of the roots from the boggy earth as she could. After a time, she asked,
-- How is it that I am only now discovering this talent? –
-- In humans, gifts of kyor begin to awaken within once puberty has begun. It is merely a matter of maturing, -- Fiaz explained.
Was it her or was there a smug overtone in his words? She hated that word, puberty. And as usual, the phenomenon was leaving her behind even in this world. She remembered with a pang of homesickness her best friends Diane and Carol, who had been infatuated with a new boy each week, it seemed. And here, in this new land, still all was well with everyone. The boys had expressed their maturity at the Pearl in Velvet and even Fiorra had found a romantic interest who would be waiting for her return to the Academy of Healing in the fall. Perhaps Emanuella would just stay behind here in the forests and bogs of the Illyth and forgo the entire social experience. She had not the slightest interest in the opposite sex beyond the casual appreciation for an attractive individual.
-- Human men find self-pity attractive in their mates, did you know? – remarked Fiaz dryly.
She controlled the urge to snarl at him. She really worried about herself some days. How was she supposed to think of herself as normal? She wished darkly that she were like everyone else. Was that so bad a thing? Emanuella realized she was yanking out the dewsfoot plants and endeavored to slow her breathing. She sat back on her heels and glared at the tree the dewsfoot sheltered under.
-- Little one, there are many mysteries of life that cannot be solved simply by wishing. You cannot hunt the answers, they will hunt you, and most often only when you have forsaken the search. More often, patience is the mystery you must solve before all others. --
Patience. That was another word she hated, although she chanted it to herself often enough.
“All right, you win,” she muttered aloud, sighing. She filled her sack with her harvested crops and stopped to pluck a few berries from the berry bush on her way past. A wicka chattered down at her from the widespread tree above. Emanuella smiled a little at the garrulous creature and started to leave. Then she stopped.
“Fiaz, have you ever spoken to a wicka before?”
Her mindmate snorted derisively in her mind by way of reply and stalked away, his tail waving in the air.
Emanuella shaded her eyes and stared up into the tree at the wicka, who began chattering at her again. How had she spoken to the owl? Finally, she extended her senses out to the wicka as if she were going to speak to Fiaz.
-- Nonono you go ’way. --
Surprised at the squeakiness of the little animal’s voice, Emanuella replied politely, -- I mean you no harm. –
-- No, you mean eat berries. Our berries. Now go ’way. --
-- I don’t want to eat your berries. I only had a few. – she said, taken aback.
-- You eat our berries. We wait all cool, cold, and warm for them and you eat! -- The little animal would not be assuaged.
-- Look, lots of berries are left. I only had some. -- Emanuella knew the wicka did not count the way that she did, but as she bent toward the bush to point out the rest of the berries, the little wicka nearly went mad jumping in the tree above, showering her with bits of moss and leaves.
-- Some for big you is all for us. My cubs eat not berries again. Go ’way, our berries! --
Emanuella understood then and backed off, her hands raised in a conciliatory gesture. The little wicka mother was fierce in guarding her cubs’ food supply, even though the berries were admittedly a treat for them. Evidently, her cubs were born last summer and they had waited all year for the berries to ripen.
After she caught up to Fiaz, she remarked, -- I see your point. Excitable little things. --
Fiaz was sniffing the air however, his paw frozen in midstep. – I will accompany you as far back as the creek. From there, I will turn back. A marsh cat has entered the northern bogs and should be… dissuaded. --
-- The northern bogs? That’s… leagues and leagues from here. You can sense that far? -- Emanuella was ever incredulous at her mindmate’s abilities.
-- A word about your gift of Mindspeech. -- Fiaz turned his great head to her, his somber amber eyes regarding her. -- Not all animals will be friendly. Most wickas – Emanuella sensed his patronizing tone -- are agreeable enough should you care to listen to their chatter, given you have not threatened their food supply. -- She sensed his amusement but chose not to interrupt, realizing he had a larger message to impart. -- But other animals, particularly those who might pose a threat to your well-being, may not welcome your intrusion and indeed may be strong enough to overpower your senses. Very rarely do we use our minds combatively, but in a situation where an animal may consider you a threat, they may decide to do so if you have established such a mental link, so you should be prepared. Guard yourself well. --
-- You mean predators, like limbas and woodscats, wolves? -- she questioned.
-- Yes, these are creatures you should stay away from at all costs, physically and with your kyor. I do not intend to frighten you, but understand that your gift has dangers and should not be used lightly. We shall have to find some sort of training for it before you go about using it. -- Fiaz’s tone was serious and she knew he did not emphasize things unless he believed them important. Usually, she thought wryly, he allowed her to make her own mistakes, even when he knew she was about to make them. Many times she had railed about this, but he refused to shelter her, maintaining that she must live life as any other human might.
They had reached the creek. – Be careful, -- she told Fiaz soberly. The image of a marsh cat she had from him was a shaggy, husky cat much smaller than he, though still dangerous. Nevertheless, she did not want him to take any unnecessary risks.
-- As always. I am not a human, after all. -- His amused laughter set her at ease again.