“Hey, sweetie, what’s your name?” I asked the small girl, but I got no response. I tried Elven. “Dobrayet, malish, chito vee nazivayeatsa?” (literally: hello little girl, what are you called?) but still nothing. Looking up at Dorf, he just shrugged his shoulders at me.
“Don’t look at me,” he murmured. “You’re the one who’s always going on about how many languages you speak!” I gave him the one finger salute where the little girl couldn’t see it, and he just barked out a laugh. Strangely enough, not even that caused a reaction in the poor child.
Motioning Dorf over, I said to him, “Hey, check to see if her ears have taken any damage, would you?”
He frowned and said, “Why aren’t you whispering?”
“Just, humor me, would you? I have a hunch.”
Shrugging his shoulders once more, my partner peered into her left ear first, and then she fidgeted so he was able to look into her right ear. Standing back up, he looked me in the eyes. “Nope, doesn’t appear to be any damage. No blood, no blockage, nothing like that.”
Every instinct I had was screaming at me that this girl couldn’t hear us, and that it may be the reason that she was spared whilst everyone else –her family, the other Ronan, the village folk- had vanished. I knew that there was a type of language that people like her used to communicate, using their hands instead of their voices, but I didn’t know it, and I was positive Dorf didn’t either. That ruled out everything else but magic. And to cast a spell, I would have to pass her off to my partner, who must have sensed what I was thinking because he started shaking his head no. “No way, you can’t ask me to hold her! You know how I feel about kids!”
“Right now I don’t care if touching kids makes you break out in hives, she is our only lead and witness, so grow a pair and take her!” I growled at him. Scowling at me, he simply gave one terse nod and I passed her over to him. Have to say this about the little girl, she was a fighter. He barely had a grip on her before she started twisting and squirming, trying to get out of his grasp. She even flung out a wild kick that landed square on his tackle box, and I winced in sympathy as tears came to his eyes. Dorf was a trooper, and even though he was in agony he didn’t let go. If looks could kill, however, the glare he shot me would have struck me dead on the spot. Thankfully, he’s not part gorgon or medusa, and so I stayed breathing.
Ignoring my partner and his parcel, I started digging around in my duster pockets. This wasn’t something that came up often, and so to communicate with the young Ronan child I would need to do what my tradition does best: improvise. Hells, there are some that say that we practically invented improvising. I knew how to cast a translation spell for both parties if they didn’t share a common language, but for those I would use my tuning fork and since the little half-Elven girl was deaf, I wasn’t sure if it would work like normal. But otherwise, you just do that and there you have it, both parties can understand each other. Simple as can be.
For something like this, though, I really had to think how I could make it work. I had read something once about the tradition Mama Crea was rumored to belong to, psionics, which supposedly mentioned a type of psionics called telepathy. Apparently it was the ability to communicate from one mind to the next using just thoughts. If I could figure out how to replicate that, I was confident this little girl and I could exchange information.
“Hurry up, Jonas, she hasn’t stopped struggling since you handed her off to me. Plus, I owe you one punch in the nuts,” Dorf muttered sourly.
“Yeah, yeah, just give me a second, will you?” I answered half-heartedly, distracted by my predicament. Come on Jonas, think damn you! I chastised myself mercilessly. The answer had to be there, I just had to think outside the box to figure it out. Suddenly, I snapped my fingers. “I think I got it!” I yelled out.
“Great job, you want a cookie? Just do the damn spell already!” my partner barked.
Tuning him out was something I was good at, so I did that while I rummaged around in my pockets, hoping that it was still there. It was, and I pulled out this small block of black stone. The stone itself wasn’t interesting, but the purple crystals studded around it were. They were called amethyst, and they were commonly used in spells that targeted the mind, such as illusions and things of that nature. But, I was fairly confident that I could modify one of those spells that I knew to allow me to use something akin to telepathy with the girl.
First, I reached into my herbal pocket (yes, I have a pocket where I keep my herbs and whatnot, what of it?) and dug around until I found what I was looking for. Pulling it out, Dorf took one look at it and raised an eyebrow. “What, are you hungry or something?”
Even though I know he really didn’t want an explanation, I provided one anyway while I went to work. “This is gingko, a root that is used to help keep the mind working, usually when you’ve been stuck on a problem and can’t figure out how to solve it.” While I was telling him this, I was inscribing on the root in three spots some runes: one that meant girl, one that meant man, and one that meant share. Right where the rune for “share” was, I split the gingko in half.
Going over to where the little girl could see me, I showed her the root. I took the half that had the rune for “girl” on it and put it in my mouth and ate it. Pretending that it tasted good (it didn’t, it tasted like shit), I handed her the half root that had the rune for “man” on it. Staring at me like it was some kind of trick, she opened her mouth and popped it in, only grimacing slightly over the taste. Thank the Gods she’s a half-Elf, I thought, since I don’t know of any other kid that would willingly eat a vegetable that they didn’t know.
After we had both finished our root, I took out the amethyst stone block and showed it to her. Placing it against the center of my forehead, I leaned forward until the other end of the stone was touching her forehead. Well, here goes nothing, I thought briefly. “Hello!” I thought. “Can you hear me?”
I don’t know what was funnier, the look of sheer shock on her face or the way that she stopped struggling so quickly that Dorf almost dropped her before he readjusted his grip. “HOW ARE YOU DOING THAT?” she shouted in her mind, and I winced from the intensity of her sending.
“You don’t have to think so loudly,” I thought before pausing. If she had been born deaf, she never would have learned about volume, so it was unlikely she would know what I meant. “Do you feel how I am communicating, being soft? Try it like that.” I gave her a smile of encouragement.
“IS THIS better?” she sent to me, and I didn’t let on how much the first part had hurt me, instead just nodding at her. “OK, I think I GOT it,” she thought back, and I realized that it was unlikely she would be able to master her ‘volume’ so quickly and perfectly, so I would have to just suck it up and get over it, as I was wont to say to my partner.
“First off, I am Detective Jonas and this is my partner Detective Waldorf, and we are from the city of Aerendor. Do you know where that is?” I sent to her, including a picture of our fair city to help her out.
She nodded fearfully. “Mommy SAYS that the cities are bad and polluted, filled with all sorts of BAD things.” After this thought, new tears sprung up in her eyes. “And mommy says I’m not supposed to TALK to strangers when she isn’t around. She says a lot of people don’t like the RONAN, and she doesn’t want them to take it out on ME.” I couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t sent me her name yet, but that was understandable. She was alone and frightened, and I figured pressing her on that wouldn’t do any of us any good, so I left it alone for now.
For once, I was glad that I was excluding Dorf. “We aren’t like that, we want to find the bad people and stop them from hurting others.” I reassured her. “Can you tell me where your mommy and the other Ronan went?”
Squeezing her violet eyes shut tight, she shook her head no. “MOMMY and me and the others were all having dinner, when the BAD man came into our camp. He had all of the people from the VILLAGE behind him, but it wasn’t like they were before, when they said we had STOLEN some of their stuff and other untrue things. This time, they all stood perfectly STILL in a line behind the bad man, as if they were playing Follow THE Leader.”
“Can you describe the bad man?” I asked her softly.
Shaking her head no, the little girl went on. “No, because he was all BRIGHT and shiny, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone else to look at him. I knew HE was saying something, because his lips were moving, but I don’t know what he said. All I KNOW is after he finished talking, my mommy and all of the other RONAN got up and followed him away. I tried running after them, but I TRIPPED and fell down and bumped my head. When I got up, I couldn’t see them anymore, so I CAME back here. And that’s when I hid from you, because you guys are BIG and scary.”
I smiled at her, trying my best not to appear threatening. “We can be scary, but only to bad people. And right now, that’s what we are trying to do. Find the bad person that did this to your mommy and other Ronan and the villagers. Would you like to stay here, or would you like to come with us?” In truth, I had no intention of letting this scared little girl stay in this abandoned camp alone, but I knew that after all that had happened, having a choice –even if it was just the illusion of a choice- in what happened to her was important for her to get a grip on her fear.
“I would LIKE to go with you guys,” she sent to me. “And my NAME is Natalya.” The last was offered with a shy smile.
“It’s nice to meet you, Natalya. I just wish it was under better circumstances. Now, if my partner lets you go, you’re not going to run off, are you?” She shook her head no. “OK, would you like to hold either Waldorf’s or my hand?” She pointed at me, and I gave her one last smile before I removed the stone and stood up, knees groaning slightly in protest. “It’s OK Dorf, you can let her go,” I told my partner.
He didn’t question it, just let her go. True to her word, she came over to me and took my hand. “Did she see anything that could help?” my partner asked me.
“She saw which way they all headed, so that’s where we’ll start,” I told him. Natalya’s small hand held in mine, the three of us went off in the direction the ‘bad man’ had taken all of the people -willingly from what the little half-Elven girl had saw- hopefully not too late to help.