Fava's Second Story: The Girl on Green
Incanto set his story on Green. It was an unhappy one, as I think we can all agree. For me the saddest part was the death of the leader's son Krait. Incanto never told us how the two came to know each other, or why he had adopted an inhumu. That will be a very good story, I feel sure, and I am sorry I will not be here to hear it.
I am going to use that setting, too. Since none of us have ever been there, it will let my imagination play in any way it wants, and be a fit locale for a story as fanciful as mine.
On Green there was a little girl who lived happily in a warm, dark place. She could see nothing because the place was so dark, but she knew nothing about "seeing" anyway; so she did not miss it. She could hear only a little, though she could hear some noises now and then, and even wondered about them. There was food in the warm, dark place, of which she drank whenever she was hungry.
Her food dwindled away, and the warm, dark place grew more and more cramped until her arms and back and head were pushed against its sides more and more uncomfortably. Nor was that all. The harder she was pressed against sides of the warm, dark place, the more she understood that though it was her whole whorl, there was another whorl, a strange, cold, and frightening whorl, outside it. Her ears heard a few noises, as I told you. Her mind heard more, sounds of lust and hunger, both of which frightened her very much.
She drank the last of her food, and knew hunger not as a noise outside but as a need within. The woman in Salica's story, the woman who was pulled up the chimney by the storm, had eaten as much as she wished for years, and no longer wanted to move. This little girl's case was the reverse of hers. Starving, she soon began to long for another place, one where there would be food again.
That, you see, is the way of the whorl. The well-fed remain where they are, if they can. The ill-fed wander on.
I do not mean to imply that I, who will leave tomorrow to wander through many foreign towns with my father, have not been well fed at your table, Salica. You have always been more than generous with me, not only with food but with your love, just as your son has been a father to me while I have been with you. Nevertheless, I am hungry for the sight of others of my own blood. I hope you will understand how I feel, and even sympathize.
"I certainly do!" my host's mother exclaimed.
And Oreb, from my shoulder: "Bad thing! Thing fly."
A time came when the little girl could not bear her hunger any longer. Gathering her little body, she pressed outward as hard as she could with head, hands, and feet. And when that availed nothing, she clawed frantically at the walls of the warm, dark place that had been home to her for as long as she could remember.
The walls gave way almost at once, and she found herself among rotting reeds and leaves. She did not know what they were, you understand. She had no name for anything beyond her own person. To her, they seemed a further wall, an extension of the warmth and darkness that had wrapped her for so long. She clawed at them, too, and eventually, fatigued and weak with hunger, burst forth into the sunlit brightness of a riverbank.
As I have implied, she did not know who she was or where she had come from. She knew only that she hungered. Seeing the green water, she sensed that it was liquid, like her food, and pulled herself over the mud with her claws until she plunged in.
Soon she discovered that there were hundreds of other babies with her in the water. What games they played! Now and again one of the others tried to bite her, or she tried to bite them; but no harm was done. And every day they grew stronger and fewer, for the fish on which they fed, fed on them.
She was perfectly happy there, until one day-
Here Fava interrupted her story to ask me, "May I use your leader, Incanto? Your man on Green? I won't hurt him much, I promise."
I nodded, hoping that no one other than Oreb was aware of my agitation.
Until one day, as she jumped to escape a particularly large and aggressive fish, she caught sight of Incanto's leader walking all by himself along the riverbank. As soon as she laid eyes on him, she knew that everything she and her playmates had been doing in the river was wrong, and pulled herself up onto the bank. For a time, she ran behind him on all fours like a dog. But that too seemed wrong.
Swimming and eating and swimming again through the calm, sunlit waters had made her much stronger. She stood up as he did, and toddled along behind him, leaving her baby footprints in the mud.
Though she walked as fast as she could, she could not keep up with him, and once a green grabber burst from some thick leaves and snatched at her with claws that were those of a big owl, but ten times larger. Grabbers are horrible animals without feathers or hair, and they change color in ways that make them very hard to see. Think of a bad child as big as a grown man, with a long tail and hands like owls' feet, and you will have pictured one. This grabber forced her to hide in the water for a long while, while the leader walked on.