Chapter Four- Threatening Gestures.
My head hurts. Lots. What is surprising, however, is that the rest of me isn’t. Hurting, that is. Well, it is, but nowhere near as much as before—
I’m not making any sense, am I?
Put that down to… to… what ever happened to me.
What did happen to me? The last thing I remember is that bird and—
—the Hawkbrother— I’m not dead?
A moment of contemplation and I decide that I am indeed still alive, although I’m definitely not in the forest any more— the smells that my nose is starting to inform me off are all wrong. There’s far too much raptor musk and two-legger stink-
I think I’m in a lot of trouble…
I slowly deepen my breathing and try to pull myself awake without giving away any sign that I am waking up. As I do, the smells increase in strength and sounds begin to filter into my head. Voices? Maybe, I think so… human ones… the deeper one is male and I think I recognise it somehow. The second one is higher sounding and female. Whoever they are, they are talking, the sounds of which are underscored by the chirps and rustles of a large bird and the clinking of somethings.
I’m lying on my side and appear to be on something soft, which is strange. Why would they put me on something soft?
I’m now completely awake, behind the darkness of my closed eyes. Now what do I do? I can’t just keep on lying here for infinity, but if they see I’m awake—
But I can’t just lay here.
I crack open both eyes cautiously, feeling my pupils contract down almost painfully at the sudden influx of light and resist the urge to blink to clear the dazzle. Instead I wait patiently until my eyes adjust and I can actually see—
—pale wood and splashes of colour and some furniture and that bird from before. Which looks up and lets out a caw of delight and starting chirping and speaking.
Movement at the far end of the room, near to the bird that can only be the owners of the voices.
Shut up stupid bird! They’ll see! They’ll se- they’re looking!
Instinct takes over at that point and I’m over the back of the whatever-I’m-lying-on and bristling against the wall before I even realize what I’m doing.
The man— and I recognise him as the Bird-man I pulled out of the stream— lurches across the room and halts on the far side of the seat-thing I have just dived off and stares at me in utter shock.
I bristle warningly and hiss. I’m not stupid.
The owner of the second voice I heard, a woman who is done up in a similar kind of outlandish clothing as the man, is edging closer to the man— towards me. She bumps into the Bird-man and he stumbles forwards.
Threat! Fear-alarm-anger! Fight! Try it and I’ll bite you I will! I will! I don’t even notice the yowling hiss that spits around my whiskers and sends menacing shivers through my fur.
The man stiffens at my response and seems frozen in place. Same as me then, but I’ll fight if I have to—
Noisy bird, the one who told them I was awake suddenly drops out of the air, landing of the chair-thing in front of me and I tense and half rear up— freeing my front paws and claws to deal with the threat—
—Bird-man yelps something that sounds panicked—
—growing pressure, as if a huge storm is coming and I can feel it clamping around my head, except that it’s wrong and there’s no storm and—
:Don’t do that little Changling—:
A strange voice, in my head—feeling of plants and four legs and…deer?, and it’s the one making the pressure, trying to smother my mind and myself and I don’t ever want that to happen again. I’m not going to be like that again—
I twist inside the confines of my own head, trying to make my ‘self’ small and slippery to evade the mental grasping and it works, I shrug off the clutching mental hands and I’m free and I rear up more and bristle and pull my paw back and flex my claws—
—and freeze as another mental voice echoes through my head, this one keening in panic.
Who is that? What is that? What is happening to me!
What do I do?
I can kill the bird and that will put the man into shock for long enough for me to escape—and go where?—and the woman will probably be occupied with the man—but what about the whatever that just tried to grab me?
For the first time I actually look at the raptor in front of me and it’s golden-brown eyes catch my green ones. The stupid thing doesn’t seem to be scared of the fact that I could kill it without a second thought.
It looks puzzled more than anything. :Why cat scared?: The bird tilts it’s head to one side and fluffs it’s feathers slightly as it continues to stare at me.
My only response is to struggle to control myself, to prevent my eyes from widening in shock any more.
I should think that was fairly obvious! A small part of my mind laughs harshly to itself. This is worse than a disaster. I’m trapped and out-numbered and I haven’t got anywhere left to run and I’m about to most likely get killed— or worse stupid animal…
So I stand frozen. Staring dumbly at the bird, who is staring back at me, whilst in the background stand the two Hawkbrothers. The man is sheet white and looks on the verge of tears.
:Why cat not talk to Reeka?:
My gaze is dragged back towards the bird who is giving me a somewhat peeved look, and is still apparently not bothered by the carnivore looming at him. Speaking of which, my hind legs, whilst not chewed up like before, are starting to burn and tremble with fatigue and the muscles in my back are starting to protest at my stiff and awkward position.
I slowly relax somewhat, sinking back on my haunches, tail and rear sliding down the wooden wall I’m pressed against, until I’m sitting more naturally, but still in a defensive posture and blink slowly at the bird.
:Name is Reeka.: The hawk points out helpfully. :You have name?:
:I—uh…no—: I stammer a reply, utterly confused as the Bird-man takes in several large gulps of air and sways almost imperceptibly, the woman laying a steadying hand on his shoulder.
:Reeka— please come away—: Any more shocks and my eyes will be wide enough to simply roll put of my head and around on the floor. This mental voice—yet another one— is male, and sounds like the mental keen from before and the noises that the Bird-man was making with his mouth, except that I can understand these.
The hawk, Reeka, chirrs in disapproval and fidgets with his feet. :Talk to cat, want know cat’s name.: He insists, and then looks back at the man, before switching his gaze back to me. :Worry-worry Reeka’s Bondmate, called Shadowstar.: Reeka informs me. :Sure not have name?:
:I don’t know…I don’t think so.: I admit warily, my fur continues to prickle and the humans murmur to each other— both sound very confused and are staring at the hawk and myself.
:Reeka?: The Bird-man again, his sending focused on his bird. :Reeka, are you speaking to Nadran as well?:
:Tccah! Silly Shadowstar.: Amazingly, the bird manages a derisive snort and the man, Shadowstar, blinks in a surprised fashion. :Reeka talk to cat-has-no-name.: At that, Shadowstar’s expression goes blank with shock and the woman nudges him repeatedly in the side, whispering something, until he replies in a dazed sounding voice.
Whatever he said must’ve been pretty exciting as the woman’s tone changes to shock and excitement and she gestures in a significant looking fashion before turning piercing blue eyes on me. The man follows suit and I find myself under the scrutiny of two sets of bright blue eyes. Admittedly, the man still looks rather shocked.
The being stared at is very uncomfortable and I can feel my fur prickling up and down my back as my hackles rise somewhat.
The man swallows and looks nervously around before sliding one foot forward slightly, edging closer. I tense up and rumble a slight growl in reflex response and the man freezes as the woman clutches at his arm, before he shakes her off and steps closer again, this time sinking down onto his knees as he does so.
This puts us at level height, which unaccountably makes me feel the tiniest bit more relaxed, despite the fact that he is continuing to shuffle closer, until he is leaning his arms on the seat of the chair-thing, next to Reeka-bird.
Reeka chirps happily and bends to nibble affectionately at his Bondmate’s fingers, obviously urging him to scratch his crest. Which the man does absently as confused dark-ice eyes stare at me. Finally he seems to come to a decision.
A faint tingle spreads across my head. :Hello?:
I stare steadily and blankly at him.
:Hello? Can you understand me?:
I don’t respond, and he sighs, before trying again. :Look, Reeka seems to think that—that— I don’t know…but we don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you. I just want to know if you can understand me—: At that, the man breaks off the thread of Mindspeech, but he continues the thought, and loud enough for me to pick up, —or if I would be having a more productive time talking to the wall.
A silent snort and I focus on Reeka. :Tell him to go talk to the wall then.: I say shortly to the bird, who burbles in amusement.
:Cat-no-name say Shadowstar go talk to wall.: The sun tail hawk says to the man.
His eyes widen and dart between his Bondbird and myself. :You’re really talking to her, Reeka?: He asks, before his eyes settle on me once more.
:Say so, so am.: Reeka points out with slight annoyance. :Why cat-no-name not talk to Bondmate?: Now I’m the focus of the irritated bird. :Make Shadowstar ask stupid questions, give Reeka ache-head.:
Well excuse me! Stupid bird.
:Cat talk to Bondmate!:
:No I will not!: I’m not going to do anything on the say-so of a bird.
:Reeka, what are you doing?: That’s the Bird-man, who has been staring at the pair of us, obviously he can hear what his bird is saying.
:Make cat talk! Want cat talk!: The hawk hops from foot to foot and looks up at his Bondmate’s face.
:I’m not going to talk to that human, bird.: I insist flatly.
:Cat talked!: Reeka whips his head back around to look at me. :Name Reeka, not bird!: As the hawk and myself engage in a staring match, the man sighs and says something in a confused sounding voice, in response to an equally puzzled—and impatient—sounding question from the Bird-woman. They seem to be disagreeing over something. Finally the man shrugs.
:Nadran—: Shadowstar-man is reaching out again, this time to someone else, :—can you hear her?:
And who does he think he’s talking to? I find out within short-order, at the man’s calling a presence fills the room, and once again I get the sensation of horns and hooves and plants and power.
:I cannot, young Shadowstar. I can try to speak to her however.: It’s that voice, the one from before, the one that tried to crush me and it’s a threat!
:Can you hear me, little Changling?:
Mental bristling, make myself bigger, scarier, I’m not scared! I’m not! I’m not!
:I’ll fight you if you try attack again! I will! I will!:
The presence, the ‘Nadran’ lurches back in obvious surprise at my threat. :She spoke!: He sends this startled statement reverberating around the room and I tense into a defensive posture and attempt to brazen him out.
:Not lie! Bite you, I will! Can’t catch me! Can’t trap me!:
:Wait!: The male Nadran-voice cuts across my ranting. :Please… didn’t you hear Shadowstar? We don’t want to hurt you—:
The Bird-man is reacting with shock, he can hear the Nadran’s voice, but not mine still. I’m very good at coning down my Mindvoice to specific people. Or not-people as is currently the case. He stares at me, and starting babbling something in his Bird-man language, which makes about as much sense as a flying fish to me.
:She can’t understand you Shadowstar.:
Man blinks and mutters something. :Hello?: He’s trying Mindspeech again. :Nadran’s right, we don’t want to hurt you…I you know you can’t lie mind to mind? Please believe me—us.:
That is it. I have had it with stupid birds trying to boss me around! I whirl and fix the hawk with a glare.
:Stop shouting at me, stupid bird!: I do a fair attempt at shouting myself, sloppy sending and all. Well… at least Bird-man and Nadran-thing will stop trying to get me to talk, they certainly heard that.
:Called Reeka!: The bird insists loudly.
:I don’t care!: I shoot back hotly, as Shadowstar-man rocks back on his knees, face blank with shock, a look that is mirrored on the woman’s face.
:Bad shout cat.:
:You’re the one that started it bird!:
Reeka glares at me, and I glare back at him in silence, my tail lashing from side to side and fluffed up.