Daffak was still scowling when he walked up, planting his feet with a thump.
“Hey, Morganzer,” Lillibell was cheerful.
Morganzer looked up at her brother. There were many things that she could say. She was supposed to be thinking about how to send him down to the nemen so that he’d say what needed to be said to get them away. She could challenge him or order him or flatter him. She could . . .
“Can I see it?” It was a personal question. It had nothing to do with getting things done properly.
“The wolf cub. Can I see it?”
“Because I’d like to. We’re going to be arguing and stuff soon enough. And I’ve never seen one. Will it bite me?”
“No, she won’t bite you. Her name is Felt. I keep telling everyone that she’s not a wolf cub, she’s a puppy.”
“What’s a puppy?”
“A dog cub. Do you know what a dog is?”
“Do you know anything that isn’t is some stupid bowl?” Daffak’s voice rose with his anger.
I know that I’m going to win this argument, thought Morganzer. I’ve seen it.
“I know a few things. I saw her in the bowl yesterday, and the day before. But I didn’t see much – just her nose sticking up out of your shirt. She licked your chin a couple of times. She obviously likes you a lot. But that doesn’t mean that she’d like me.”
Daffak looked closely at his sister. He still wanted to argue with her, but it was hard to argue with someone who was agreeing with you.
“I don’t want to leave.”
“Neither do I. The old ones say they don’t see me coming back. I forgot to ask about you. Maybe you do come back.”
“Hmp. Just like you to forget.”
“I didn’t see who was coming with us, either, but it looks like it’s Lillibell. I did see what would happen if we stayed. You die tonight. I die tomorrow. There are other arguments. I don’t know who else is hurt. They said that the cub would die, too, but I didn’t look for that. The rest was ugly enough.”
“Why? What happens to kill us?”
“One of the young ones. One of the nemen who’s never been away from home before.” Morganzer noticed that Daffak flinched when she said nemen. I noticed that at least. “He wants to mate me. What he does – the old ones say that probably he doesn’t like wanting to mate me and he’s away from home. Somewhere where the home rules don’t apply. And he thinks having a clutch of foreign women stashed away, ready to wash and coddle you is dishonorable and soft.
They say he was probably full of boy’s tales of bravery and looting and spent the voyage being disappointed with a ship full of men who were real men and not story men.” She noticed that he was watching her closely. His face was still, which wasn’t the usual thing with Daffak. “Anyway, that’s the way they talk. I probably couldn’t confirm it even if I looked. You can’t hear what anyone says, let alone know what they’re feeling.
All I know is that he saw me when they came through to go south and he’s going to look for me and he’s going to hit me and yell at me. And you’re going to protect me and he’ll kill you. Unless you kill him, and then the men will kill you. And then the next day he strangles me. And it makes everyone edgy.”
“You know why, don’t you? Why it’s bad enough to prickle everyone’s back?”
Morganzer frowned. To her mind two murders were enough to prickle anyone’s back.
“I know who it has to be. He’s our brother. He’s Bron’s oldest child. He should stay away from you completely. Never touch you. If he can’t stop himself from doing that, well, it dirties everyone. You and me. Father. The men he ships with. He’ll probably be kill himself later or pick a fight with someone who can kill him easily. This is - - this is just bad.”
Daffak was clutching his middle. One arm cradled the cub against his chest and the other held his stomach. He was upset enough to spit sweat.
“Well, according to the bowls you can get us away.”
“By lying to father.”
“Yes. But I’m guessing that he’d want you to do that, if he knew. You know him better than I do. Would he lie, himself, to prevent this?”
Daffak looked up at the brightening sky. He rocked back and forth on his heels then bumped up on his toes a couple of times rocking the cub. He seemed to be relaxing.
“Yes. I think he would. I think he’d want me to lie, too. If he knew. But he’d have to know about Bronlet’s problem, first, in order to want it. And he’d have to know about scrying to know about that. Fernie, we lie to him so much already.” Daffak was wilting with unhappiness. Morganzer let the ‘Fernie’ slide. She had never really considered her father to be family. Daffak obviously did. It made things a lot harder for him.
“Did anyone tell you what you’re supposed to say?”
"Well, first, you need to talk to the chief, not Father. That's the proper way to do this, it's the men's way."
"You said you can't hear anything. How can you know that?"
Morganzer stifled the wave of scorn she felt. Asking how he could know so little about scrying after being raised by and with scryers would do her mission no good.
"I can think of you saying certain things and watch what the reactions are. You can tell by the set and movement of people's bodies how they're reacting. Whether they approve or not."
She waits a few moments, watching his reaction. Then as a quiet aside, "Father looks proud as you talk. Most of the men, do, but they don't interfere. They give the conversation space."
"OK. What do I need to say."
Morganzer talks him through the main points, including that he thinks he needs to sacrifice the cub. Daffak knows that it’s silly to stick at saying that, particularly, when he's going to be telling so many lies, but . . .
"It makes me feel funny to think of saying that. Like I'm wishing that Felt would die."
[About the upcoming blue sections - this story was written for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in 2005. Participants sign in and start writing on November 1. We all attempt to complete 50,000 words by midnight November 30. This requires 1,667 words per day, Thanksgiving included.
Many of us start out writing in a detailed and complete manner and then as we get further and further behind, we begin to summarize. By the end we may not even be bothering with coherent sentences and punctuation.
Hey, editing can come later. The important thing is the word count, and for those of us following a plot, getting the basic scenes and events down so that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
We are about to enter the summary zone. I've shifted summarized sections to blue to show that I know they're not finished.]
Morganzer says that she saw the cub in the bowl when he was talking to the men, but that it probably doesn’t have to be there if he doesn’t want it to hear that. He says that of course Felt can’t understand the words and wouldn’t believe them if she could. Felt is a wonderful friend who trusts him completely.
He lets Morganzer see her, but since she’s asleep, he asks that she not be touched and maybe roused. She’s playful when she first wakes up
“Does she pee after she wakes?”
Daffak remembers that she does and decides that it would be a good thing to avoid at the big sendoff. He hands over the cub. The cub is described in great honking detail and Morganzer reluctantly takes a liking to it.
I’ve decided that Morganzer has no problem lying to the nemen because she sees them as immoral. The fact that Daffak does not, but rather admires them is a source of conflict between the two. The whole preceding pages need to be rewritten to illuminate that conflict and it needs to flare a bit here, but not erupt. Morganzer is too relaxed by knowing that everything is going to go her way to be bothered by her brother harboring icky views.
The two siblings lapse into silence for a bit and, as a sort of background noise, Lillibell tells the two that she’s going to die in three days if she stays. That one of the men is going to throw her over a cliff. She won’t die from the fall, but she’ll be broken enough that she won’t be able to move out of the way when the tide comes in. Also it looks like it hurts a lot. She’d rather avoid it.
Of course, if she comes, she’ll die in about a week and a half. She says this quite naturally. It creeps Daffak off enough that he says well, he’d better get going. and he walks away, taking the cub with him.
not knowing what else to talk about, and definitely wanting to avoid talking about Lillibell’s upcoming death and how she’s probably going to have to find a way to avoid it, Morganzer asks if Lillibell thinks that Felt is a cub or a puppy. Lillibell asks if it has to be one or the other and Morganzer says of course. she references some bit of logic that sounds like she had to learn it by rote as part of a philosophy lesson.
Lillibell says that wolves and dogs are near enough to the same kind of animal to mate. and that sled dogs and wolves have done that in the valley before now. the dogs went with the folks to Farside, but some of the dogness probably stayed behind in the blood of the local wolves. It was possible for that dogness to pop back up, leaving one cub in a litter more puppy-like than the others
Morganzer asks what’s a sled?