Everyone murmured “May it so remain,” and, as Kalon folded his wing and the meeting broke up, I returned my attention to Dru, who was still rubbing his nose.
“Come along, I’ll put something on that for you.” Outside, clouds drifted on a warm westerly, and I paused to sniff the breeze that drifted over the lake and the island where Kalon had made his home. Avalox and kerzh-grass, both sprouting well in the centre of the island. Chalkmoss, camylvines, and a hint of kestox, their various aromas carrying distinct but faint from the lake’s western shore. The shoots and seeds we had planted there moons ago were surely almost ready to harvest. How good it would be to have kerzh-fruits again, to have camyl leaves available for balms and medicines. From the top of the hill where we stood, I looked out across the water to the islands that surrounded ours, and followed the flight-path of nine purple-clad females as they made their way from Rump Island to skim low across the water. Every few beats, clawed toes dipped below the surface and emerged with a wriggling fish. “That’s this evening’s meals supplied,” I said, my mind already running ahead to a bowl of baked white flesh basted in Rewsa’s herb sauce. Tomorrow it would be the turn of the drax on Doorway Island to provide our meals, and by then, perhaps, there would be fresh chalkmoss to add to the pots. We had no groxen meat, no zaxel, no hoxberries, but we had sufficient food to fill our stomachs, and enough variety to keep our palettes interested.
More importantly, we were safe. Though how long we would stay that way with battles and enemies to overcome, only the Spiral knew. I moved my gaze to the western shore, and nodded approval as I noticed the nines of younglings climbing the steep-sided bluff of black rock that towered beyond our crops. We would need their climbing skills soon, if my expedition to the Expanse went as planned.
Though Dru’s Vision suggested…
I shook myself. What he had Seen might mean any number of things, surely? Besides, in the Vision that my teacher, Vizan, and I had had for Dru’s future, I had been beside Dru when he defeated the Koth. If death waited on the Expanse, it could not be for me.
Jotto and Shaya emerged from Kalon’s dwelling and walked past us, their heads together, the words I overheard indicating that they were still discussing tactics for scouting the Expanse. As they headed down the spiralling pathway toward the log-built dwellings further down the hill, I looked past them to the place I had made my home. Blue fields of kerzh-grass at the bottom of the slope reminded me of the first time I had seen the island, the day we had lost so many drax to the rapids upstream. Two drax – Jotto and Manel I’d later discovered – had been sowing seeds as they walked to and fro along clawed ruts of earth. Enough for the two nines of adults and half-growns who occupied Kalon’s Isle at the time. Now, where that flat central section of Kalon’s Island had been cultivated, nines of females and younglings with baskets were already busy cutting leaves, gathering fruit, and batting away the flisks and mites that buzzed round them.
“Zarda?” Dru had taken several steps along the path before he’d realised I was not following, and he stood, hopping from foot to foot.
“Sorry, Dru. I was remembering.” We followed the path down to my dwelling, which was the next highest on the hill, and I took the time to light a torch and shut the door behind us before I spoke again: “Well, now that Kalon and his council know you have the Sight, it won’t be long before everyone else knows.” I pulled a jar of dried sweetleaf from the shelf and set a pot of water on the fire to boil, then indicated the logs by the hearth that I used in place of stools. “You might want to tell Cavel and your other friends yourself before they hear it from someone else. Sit down.”
Dru was still rubbing his nose. “Elver doesn’t believe me,” he said, as he lowered himself onto one of the stools near the hearth and edged it away from the heat. “And Kalon doesn’t think I See clearly.”
I pulled up a stool next to him, and considered his statement. “I think perhaps they won’t allow themselves to believe you,” I said, “which is not quite the same thing. The Sight is a rare gift, Dru, rarer still in one so close to the throne-stool, and your gift is more powerful than mine.” The pot was beginning to steam, so I threw the sweetleaf into it and leaned over to sniff the sweet aroma for a moment. “You must remember that I was not Vizan’s first apprentice, Dru, nor even his second. I was a poor third, taken under his wings only because the first two died of the Sickness.”
“But you learned. Vizan taught you.”
“Yes. But he was still teaching me when he went to his last nest. There was much he did not teach me, and much I still don’t know. One of the things I don’t know is how to control what I See, to sharpen the focus, heighten the smell.” I sighed, and brushed a paw across my black Fate-seer’s tunic, wishing I felt more worthy of it.
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