by Susan O'Fearna

AKA herald-in-training Flora Greywolf

In the year and a half following my exile from the clans, I traveled to many of the places described to me as I grew up. Going north as Choyles suggested, I searched for people who would accept me with all my idiosyncrasies. The terrain changed from desert to mountains and forests, all green and beautiful in its own different way. The green was not new to me, the abundance was. Cacuts and tumbleweed don't have much green and what they do have is less vivid, a dusty approximation of the green I saw as I traveled through the forested hills. My choice to avoid larger settlements led to the discovery of amaller settlements, where life was not much different much from life with my clans.

Shayla, my beautiful mare, I had to trade for a hill pony when the locals in one of villages noticed that she wasn't growing the thick under-fur that she would need to survive in the colder climates. I really miss Shayla. The gelding I traded her for ate something that made him ill and he died before I could find out how to heal him, poor pony; which left me afoot, traveling through the forested mountains to the North of my known experience.

The locals of Last Village told me that my chances of finding other humans in the hills and forests to the North ranged from nil to none; though my chances of finding monsters and savages living in the area were quite high. Skeptic that I was, I went there anyway, though I did thank the villagers for their concern. After paying the visitors' dues of three furs and the meat from their former wearers for two nights of room and board and some travel-food and hunting enough travel-meat, I went North again, into the real wilderness.

Three days out of Last Village I began noticing things out of the corners of my eyes; by the end of the third day, these things were blatantly staring me in the face. Plants with dead things skewered on buried roots, as if the plants themselves were carnivorous; these I avoided. I saw animals with mixed characteristics: river-dwelling squirrels, ground squirrels with rabbit ears (else they were rabbits with squirrels tails'), and lizards with glowing eyes. Strange things, scary things; I kept on, sure in the knowledge that I would get back to normalcy soon or late.

After being in the Pelagir Forest (though I didn't know then what they were called...) for ten days I met a fellow traveler--a kyree.

I was hiking up a small mountain the locals called hills when I heard the most gods-awful noise, as if a child was in pain, accompanied by a noise I can only describe as victorious. After carefully hurrying to the top of the hill so I could see a fair distance, I shucked my travel pack and covered it with rocks, grabbed my hunting bow and arrows, and went looking for the creature that was in such obvious pain. About a fingermark away I saw the source of the horrible noises in a small valley near a springbed.

What I saw was a large animal that defied everything I ever heard of, attacking a smaller figure with golden fur; an obviously pregnant canine-like feline (or maybe a felin-like canine...). The thought of that ugly monster attaching the smaller, pregnant creature enraged me.

I went back to my pack and got the new bow and some of the spear-like arrows the Last Village-ers had given me. I'd been practicing a bit with it and was hopeful that I'd be able to use it effectively, it being the only weapon I carried that had any chance of killing, or even wounding, the bully-ing creature. Tunning back to the spot of the skirmish, I strung the bow and nocked an arrow. I snuck down the hill quielty, hoping the monster wouldn't smell or see me before I had a chance to determine how to kill it, or at least drive it off.

The beast didn't notice me, but the female did. She stared at me for a few seconds with her cat-slitted eyes; I felt/heard a strange buzzing in my head and ears, which I noted then ignored. I aimed my arrow at the creature's small eye, praying my aim was true enough, and let fly.

It hit home and I scarecely damped my own triumph as the arrow buried itself to the hilt in what I assumed was its brain, killing the monster dead. Moments later there came a flash and ll that remained was my arrow, the mothe's wounds and light flowing fot. The light dissipated completely within seconds.

Wary of the wounded creature I retrieved my arrow, inspected it and, judging it undamaged, replaced it in the quiver. I went to fetch my pack; when I got back I noticed the she-beast was out cold and still bleeding, very vulnerable. I put my gear near the wounded animal after unpacking some rage. I soaked the rags in the springbed and began cleaning her wounds, noticing as I did that her golden fur was short, like cats, but rough like dogs or wolfs. I then set about making a prope camp and lighting a fire.

Figuring the fire would deter predators, I took my sling and hunted some squirrel-rabbits for an evening meal. Back at my impromptu camp I spitted half the meat and placed the rest, raw, near the pregnant creature. When she woke she ate it like she was starved, though she did not look starved. I soaked the rags again and warily approached the new conscious being who I was determined would live past labor. Again I heard/felt the strange buzzing.

Her eyes, a soft amber that complimented her golden fur, were pain-filled and fevered. As I began washing the wounds I felt the contraction that gripped her form.

:I'm losing them, my precious babies.:

"Huh?" Looking around I saw no-onw who could have spoken, though what was said was certainly appropriate to the situation; the mother would likely give birth to still-born babies. This left the unlikely idea that the laboring figure in front of me had spoken, somehow.

:My babies are dying. Help me!:

"How?" I noticed this time that the voice was in my head with the buzzing. Before she could answer a massive contraction gripped her form and, shortly, four small unfinished baby-things were born and died before my eyes. The mother had, again, passed out.

Over the next two days I left her only to bury the stillborn cubs and to hunt. On the third day I woke to find her at the springbed, drinking. As this was the first time she'd been able to get up on her own since the attack, that she could do so encouraged me to believe she would be fine. By that afternoon she was able to walk into the river to clean herself more thoroughly than my sponge baths did.

:Can you still hear me?:

"How do you speak in my head?"

:Never mind that. I owe you my life and for that I thank you.:

"What are you?" Having midwifed the creature I felt a little curious as to what she was.

:I am a kyree. My name is Jhran. You buried my babies?:

"Yes. My name is Flora Greywolf."

Two days later the sore-muscled kyree was ready to travel. She decided that in order to repay me for her life, she would at least escort me to the edge of human territory. She tutored me in the mindspeech as we traveled. I hunted daily and she told me which plants were edible and which were poisonous as well as which were carnivorous and how to read the signs. We bacame close friends during our brief association in the Pelagirs.

Within two moons we reached a large lake she said the humans of this region called Evendim. As we walked, I told her of my exile and how I came to save her life after traveling from the South, where my homeland lay. She told me the names of places I'd been. From my home in the extreme South of the known continent up through Velvar I'd traveled, North into the Andures plain to the East of the Dhorisha plains, through Jkatha and into Rethwellan, where I met Jhran. At Evendim she gave me directions to Zoe, the large human settlement on its eastern tip. As my new friend and I parted, I cried; she'd been my only friend, other than my Shayla, since leaving home and my closest friend ever.

The End

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