Mirrored from Sythyry.
I fluttered around in search of Lithia, in no particular hurry because I did not know precisely what I was going to say to her. I meandered through an assortment of parlors, some of them occupied by small fountains that I was sure hadn’t been there before. In the fourteenth of these, I discovered a Cani girl or young woman, sleeping on a couch. Floppy-eared, with tidy white fur: classic Pyrador [Great Pyrenees / Labrador Retriever hybrid dog -- not the magical Noun of Fire. -bb] styling.
She was wounded, though: a dozen spots of burnt fur and charred skin on her arms and cheek, as though tiny but very hot embers had rained down on her. Someone had cast a Heal Once on her today, badly, or she would have been more hurt.
Well, I am either the master of Strayway, or a master-healer; I wasn’t quite sure which it was just then. I tapped her muzzle with a claw.
“Mroof?” she asked, in a dull incurious voice. Well, a 90%-asleep voice.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I was wondering what you were doing, sleeping in my parlor with all those burn spots on you.”
She pried her eyes open, then yelped. “Ach, bloody poo! I was waiting for you, but I fell asleep.”
“Precisely why were you waiting for me?” I asked, none too kindly. “To tend to those burns?” I added, trying to be kinder. Whoever she was, she wasn’t responsible for any of the bad or good-but-disconcerting things that have happened lately.
“Oh, them … sure, if you like. I-low am Nalche,” she said, as if that explained everything. (Which it did, but not to me at the time.)
“I am Sythyry, as I daresay you have guessed, and it is a pleasure to meet you,” I said, because that is polite. “And I will be glad to treat your burns.” I did so with ruthless efficiency, since I had most of my cley left (which is very unusual and I must not get used to it!)
“Oh, that feels better!” she sighed. It certainly looked better. Talking to someone covered with small burn-marks is never easy. One always feels vaguely responsible, as if somehow it were one’s own breath that had gotten loose and burnt them. Or, if not that, one feels hideously obliged to play an agony-inducing game of Connect the Dots.
Being the brilliant wizard and incisive thinker that I am, I asked further, “Nonetheless, your answer is twice as uninformative as it is cryptic, and it is plenty of cryptic.”
She flattened her ears. “Phaniet said she’d gotten your permission. Maybe you’d better check with her.”
“I have no reason to doubt Phaniet’s loyalty and devotion. She is Cani after all,” I said. Nalche winced visibly, which reminded me of something Vae had said to me a few days ago. “Oh! You are the Cani girl whom Phaniet and Jyondre wanted to rescue! Yes, Phaniet did get my permission. And, from the looks of things, she in fact rescued you without my help… is that so?”
Nalche wagged her tail. “Yeah, that’s me. Got me out last night late-late. Phaniet and Jyondre and all were real nice.”
“Great staring gods, did it require a pitched battle to extract you?” I asked. I rather hoped not; that would make repairing my skyboat all the more awkward.
“The burns? Nah. Fire Bees. My family didn’t want me leaving,” said Nalche.
“It takes an unusual sort of family to cast Fire Bees at their child,” I said. “My ~mother~ occasionally did –” (which is not true, but she could have done in perfect safety if she paid attention) “– but that is a Zi Ri, rather than a Cani, means of entertaining a youngster.”
“A trap-belt, set to hurt me if I tried to leave,” said Nalche. “Raliet didn’t trust me a whole lot.”
“The story sounds interesting, and I imagine rather moving,” I said. “But just now, I must go cast Fire Bees at my own adoptive child.”
She didn’t much seem to appreciate the joke, and scowled at me. “Not quite sure why you really need to do that.”
“Just emotionally. She is about to get married, and neither I nor the bride’s parents much approve, so I am going to scold her,” I said.
“And why the skeck is it any business of yours?” Nalche demanded.
“Ah, right. You’re the Cani girl without any sense of authority or submission,” I said, because I am the Zi Ri without any sense of manners or self-control.
“Oh, bloody poo,” she said. “Did I just spoil my chances of getting a berth here?”
“Not really. My clients aren’t exactly a deferential lot. Except when they’re telling me I’m being an idiot, which happens several times a day,” I said. She laughed, which helped her chances of getting a berth here. “But you are spoiling my chances of finding Lithia. We shall discuss your berth more in days to come!”
“Can I have a cabin then?” she asked.
“Yes — get Inconnu to find you one. Have you met Inconnu yet?”
“Yeah, Orren lad who was hanging on my tentacles,” she said. She had no visible tentacles, of course. I presume this was some sort of obscure Eigrachter figure of speech, or that she is a Cani/Khtsoyis shifter hybrid, whichever was more convenient.
“Naturally. He’s rather a factotum; have him get you a cabin, and the proper garnishes,” I said, imperially and imperiously, and scooted off in search of Lithia.