“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
“She has made it abundantly clear she does not consider you to be anything but a friend, Fallen,” Turin said glaring at his friend.
To punctuate the message, Morogh stepped out of the bushes hissing and spitting.
Fallen threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Of course she is my friend; I’m joking with you,” he said slapping Turin on the back.
“I did not find your joke amusing and Xander is expecting us, so if you’ll excuse us…” I said.
“Of course your highness, it was Turin I wanted to talk to anyway,” Fallen said inclining his head.
“As Daeris said, Xander is expecting us. I’ll see you later,” Turin said then turned to me, “After you.”
We found Xander at his desk reading reports. “Ah, you’re back,” he said looking up as we walked in. “How did it go?” he continued, motioning for us to sit with him.
“I did what I could, but we weren’t able to save her,” Turin spoke selecting a chair.
“I figured that when I saw Daeris’ puffy eyes,” Xander replied studying me.
“I don’t think she wanted to be cured,” I said thinking back to the cat’s calm demeanor, “she had already accepted her fate.” I finished, collapsing into an over stuffed chair between the wall and Xander’s desk.
The bushes along the path trembled. “What an unexpected turn of events,” Turin said following the movement as a bushy black ringed tail emerged, its blunt tip brushing against my leg.
“Who would have thought she would have a kitten with her,” I agreed, remembering the old cat’s last words. This is my final kitten, Morogh, which I’m entrusting to you. He will come and go at will, but he’ll also be a great asset during your greatest time of need. My greatest time of need, troubled times ahead, what kind of future was I heading into?
“We have company,” Turin softly said breaking me away from my thoughts.
I looked up in time to see Fallen approaching.
“Are you checking on us, Fallen?” Turin asked.
“Now why would you think I’m checking on you instead of waiting for a report?”Fallen said, turning his gaze on me he added, “Is there something I should know about?”
I bristled at Fallen’s insinuation, but it was Turin who faced Fallen.
“Such as …?” Turin asked icily.
“Well, you two looked pretty cozy walking down the path…you’re not trying to woo her away from me are you?” he asked stopping inches from Turin’s face.
To add to the confusion, she had told me to choose my confidants carefully then said to trust Turin. The guy who hangs out with Fallen the agitator, the corruptor, the instigator, take your pick, Fallen fell into all those categories. Yet she wanted me to trust Turin? What about the human saying, “Birds of a feather flock together?” Like things are attracted to each other it is common knowledge. Why am I the only one who thinks of this? Has he used an enchantment spell on everyone, but to enchant the whole colony would take considerable strength not to mention knowledge of dark magic is forbidden. Besides, father and Xander are too strong to be fooled. What do they see that I’m missing?
My head turns slightly to look at my companion. What do I know about Turin? Thinking back to the times we have been together I see the incredulous look on his face as Fallen introduced me as his bride to be. Up on the mountain he was competitive, but not boastful; not even when I had called him out about spying on me for Fallen. He had walked down the mountain silently with me not trying to explain what he had done.
In the classroom he had never forced conversation; instead, he respected my desire for space. Then today with the old cat he had been gentle, caring, even shedding a tear when she acknowledged him as a friend. Not a single memory paralleled Fallen’s behavior. Is this the side of Turin father and Xander see?
I am a reader, not because I don't have a life, but because I choose to have many.
Trust that little voice in your head that says "Wouldn't it be interesting if..." And then do it.
~Duane Michals, "More Joy of Photography"
Daeris, I jumped, surprised by the cat’s use of my proper name, you have pleased the ancients with your wisdom and courage. But beware, troubled times are ahead, observe, trust your instincts, choose your confidants carefully.
I looked over at Turin. Sometimes it’s hard to know who is friend or foe I sighed.
The journey home was a somber one and I was grateful for Turin allowing me to process my grief in silence. What did the old cat mean there are troubled times ahead? There was always some turmoil brewing usually by a disgruntled elf that felt he wasn’t compensated correctly for a service and sought to stir up trouble. If the local clan leader couldn’t smooth the elf’s ire, the matter would be sent to father who quickly put it right. No one questioned father’s decision. Not just because he was king, but he had a way of making everyone feel like they had been heard, understood, and fairly treated. Relations between elves, dwarves, and giants were balanced so no threat there…what could the cat be speaking of then?
“I’ll brew something to ease your breathing,” Turin said reaching his hand to stroke the cat.
“She doesn’t like to be touched,” I said holding his wrist firmly in midair.
He looked at the paw still resting on my hand then back to me brows raised in question.
“If she wants contact, she will initiate it,” I said in response.
It is alright; I’ve studied his heart and I trust him, as should you, the cat said before taking her paw from my hand and raising it toward Turin’s.
I could not believe my ears. It was one thing for Arandur and Xander to trust Turin, but animals could see into one’s soul. What was she seeing that I wasn’t, or was she so close to death that her perception was skewed? I shook my head and started to translate, “She said…” I began letting go of his wrist.
“I know, she is speaking to me as well,” Turin said his tone soft and understanding, his hand slowly lowering under the paw so the cat to make first contact.
Observe, young one, all is not as it seems, she said lowering her paw.
Turin acknowledged the rarity of the moment by bowing his head to her. A tear ran down his cheek before he spoke. “I’ll prepare something to comfort you old one,” he said, turned to his pack and prepared to brew the tisane.
“Turin, help me roll the log a bit,” I said shrugging off my pack. Turin did the same and we both knelt on either side of the den facing the log. It had been down a long time as evidenced by the many flakey decayed bits that tremulously clung to it. I was not sure if it would hold together enough for us to move it, or if it would collapse around the poor cat. Turin looked at me after we had positioned our hands. “Ready?” I asked.
“Okay, on the count of three: one, two, three.” We pushed, debris rained off the log before it budged enough for us to see her. Her normally thick, sleek fur was matted and falling out in places; her skin clung to bone instead of muscle.
What happened to you? I asked choking back tears.
The cat tried to lift her head, but she was too weak. Instead, she turned it enough that our eyes met and she began to purr. Nothing has happened except the passing of time, young one; it happens to us all no matter what species we are, a comforting paw touched my hand. I glanced away, tears falling to the ground. Don’t be sad for me; I’m going to continue my journey with the ancestors. But before I do, I need to talk to you one more time. She paused, her breathing labored.
Michelle Craig Snively sees the world through the lens of an artist. Life is not simply black and white, but an array of beautiful hues that blend to create stories of magic and mystery.