My Strayway hat was still on the boardwalk where I had left it. In
water-form, I could nearly have curled up inside it; wearing it as hat was
impracticable. I curled around it, instead, and waited for Thory’s
noonish sun (dripping two long curls of flame, as it happened) to dry me off.
At a table, with a half-empty chalice of kathia and a mostly-empty plate
formerly of guinea-pig and noodles, was a tall and handsome black-furred Cani
man wearing a slightly wrinkled plum waistcoat and a slightly tilted plum
beret. He held a wood-bound copy of Basically Bereft in one hand,
occasionally glancing at it, mostly gazing across the pond.
I caught his eye, and smiled. He fidgeted with his beret, but couldn’t seem
to make it go flat on his head. This, by Jyondre’s advice, was quite
I stretched up. “Hello, O Cani of Eigrach!” My seductive repartee is
peerless and brilliant, honed by over a century of, um, neglect.
He nodded cheerfully down to me. “Ah, hello. I mean, well, hello.”
At this point I realized I didn’t have a good idea how to proceed. My usual
manuals of tactics recommend acquiring targets of conversation from materials
readily at hand. “Forgive me, but I’m new to town. I mean, newly arrived.
What is Basically Bereft about?”
“What, what?” He blinked down at me, then at his book. “Oh, that. It’s a
“Ah, a book … we have them in Ketheria as well,” I said. “What is it about,
if you don’t mind me asking?”
“It’s about my-colo grandparents, and others, arriving here with very little,
carving out the first of the city-state of Eigrach from the forces of General
Gerxghar,” said the Cani. He adjusted his hat, which still didn’t sit quite
properly. “My wife’s sister-sister wrote it.”
“It sounds interesting! I know regrettably little about Eigrach, and about
the inhabitants of Eigrach and their ways. I should like to look at it! Is
it in a bookstore about here?”
He nodded. “I imagine it could be bought in one with relative ease. I
appreciate your interest, to be sure.”
“Or perhaps you could tell me somewhat about it.” My fur was nearly dry by
then, and my watershape slipped away like water through my claws. I put my hat
on, rather off to the side. “Ho. I think I should go get dressed first.
Perhaps behind that crimson-flowering bush on the other side of the island…”
He smiled wide, and I scampered off. This was going to be fun!
Ten minutes later, no Cani had shown up. I peeked out. The Cani gentleman
exchanged a sizzling glance with a strapping and dripping Orren man striding
purposefully from Nupyup Pond to the café. The Orren scampered up the
stairs to the second floor. The Cani paid his tab in a relaxed and unrelated
manner, and sauntered into the first floor of the café. A moment later
a black-furred hand closed the drapes on a second-floor window.
Well, Eigrach is a small city. Probably the people who come to Nupyup Pond for
noontime assignations on the fifth of Thory have also come on the fourth, and
third, and the fifth of Thory the previous year as like as not, and they have
their regular patterns and their regular playmates. A newcomer has to work