A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 23byTaLtos6©
***There's a lot here that is not what it looks like at first glance, but then there's a lot going on in the background in a lot of places. We move ahead, back at the home of Dahlgren. 0_o
Book of the Merren Part 9
"She's got a lot of innate grace," Selena said as they watched Nahl'een practice what she'd learned from her sister that day. It turned into a smirk as the little girl almost fell over for a moment, but the smirk was replaced instantly with a warm smile and encouraging words by the time that Nahl'een looked at her.
"You've just got to get used to things," she said to Nahl'een. "It'll seem very strange to you at first, but you'll manage. You're doing so well."
Selena saw Nahl'een's face beaming at her just before the girl began again. She almost missed the sound of Ny'Zeille speaking to herself. "What did you say?"
"I was talking to myself," the demon said, "but what I said was in response to when you said that she just has to get used to things. 'So do we all,' I told myself."
The rogue had no idea what was meant, but she decided to leave it alone. Ny'Zeille has been growing more and more snippy as the day went on. The day before had gone badly enough.
When Nahl'een had finally had enough for one day, her grandmother prepared her bath and asked her if she'd mind it if Selena sat in the room with her, and after wheedling the promise of a tale out of it, Nahl'een was happy. Not long after the story came to its end and she'd asked her sister a few questions, she fell silent and Selena wondered about it.
"I am happy because of you, but I miss Dahl now," she said quietly, "You know Dahl?"
"I do," the rogue smiled, "Maybe tomorrow, I'll tell you about a little adventure that I had with him. Maybe it might help how you miss him so much."
Nahl'een nodded and said that she'd like that, and after a moment, she looked at Selena a little curiously. "You miss him too, Selena?"
She thought about it, "Yes," she said, "But nothing like the way that you do. I only knew of him, mostly, until I finally met him one day, not long ago. But I did something that I guess I shouldn't have and I don't think that he likes me very much. I stole his horse, and I guess that I made him angry. I'm really hoping that he comes home to you soon. I'd like to say that I'm sorry."
"I can help." Nahl'een said as she hung onto the side of the tub, smiling at Selena, "Dahl get big surprise that I have sister, Selena. Dahl never stay angry."
No, Selena thought, Dahlgren wouldn't remain angry. He'd just apply that distant coldness that he was famous for. It didn't matter, she decided. She'd found out enough things about Nahl'een and herself to have made this trip worthwhile, never mind the ten coins. She was absolutely smitten with her new little sister and wanted to make up for the lost time.
She just didn't know about anything else for now.
"Are you ready to get out now?" she asked, "I've got a big towel for you, and after you're asleep in your bed, I have to go see to my horse again to make sure she's got enough water to drink."
Nahl'een's jaw dropped, "You have horse too? I ride with Dahl, but I want to learn to ride horse all by myself one day."
"I don't know why you would, "Selena laughed, "I've seen you ride Shaevre. You looked like you were doing just fine then. Anyway, you need to get a little bigger before you can ride a horse all by yourself. I'll talk to your Gramma. Maybe I can find you a pony to learn on."
"You steal a pony for me?"
Selena shook her head, "I didn't say that. I think that I need to teach you about what I do, Nahl'een. I don't go around stealing things from everyone. I usually do it for someone because they pay me to find what they need or want. I've even stolen something to give it back to the one that it was stolen from in the first place. It's almost the same thing, but it's a little different. I need to talk to your Gramma about that too, so you can understand.
Don't go wishing for a pony just yet. I think that I'll be here for a while, and you have a lot more dances to learn, little sister."
After going to see her grandmother and walking to her room, Nahl'een yawned and climbed into her bed. To Selena's surprise, she said goodnight to both her and the hellhound on the floor in the corner lying unnoticed by the rogue. The girl addressed the Xer by name and it was not Shaevre this time, but Nahl'een explained that Shaevre didn't sleep in her room every night, and that the duty of guarding her while she slept fell to two different female Xer, though most nights it was Shaevre.
Once she'd seen to her horse, Selena wandered for a time, looking at things in the arboretum and the stone garden. Her travels took her not too far from the garden of sighs and she was reminded that she'd wanted to see what was there. As she wandered in, she heard Ny'Zeille calling to her softly.
Selena rounded a large curious sculpture and found her friend sitting with Shaevre, who blinked and looked down and away after a moment. Selena found this a little unusual, because since she'd been here, she'd known the Xer to be friendly to her, but also a little reserved whenever Selena was with Nahl'een.
"Please sit," Ny'Zeille said, "I've brought you a cup of tea the way that I know that you prefer it. We have a few things to speak of, the three of us."
Selena thought the statement very odd. She sat and smiled a little. Shaevre looked away again.
"The Xer have long been our friends," Ny'Zeille began, "as I've said. At this home, and related to its function as the home of a ranger, we have been accorded a small contingent of them to act as guards -- but not servants, I must point out. Once you have been here for a little while, you'll find them to be very helpful, especially as they come to know you. While the majority cannot speak to us directly, they all understand spoken human words of almost any language, and if one tries to be a little receptive, you might find their speech coming to you in your mind.
"Wait, please," Selena interjected, "I've gotten to know Shaevre at least a little, but I've never seen her like this. I usually say hello when I see her, but now she looks as though she doesn't even want eye contact with me. Have I done something wrong?"
Shaevre looked up then, shaking her head vigorously. Her eyes looked a little large for a second before she began to look to Selena as though she felt ashamed over something. What the rogue did feel from it was her discomfort, and so she moved to sit closer to where Shaevre sat on the floor. The Xer seemed to both appreciate the gesture and want to leave at the same time.
"As I was saying," the demon began again, "Like ourselves, the Xer are advanced creatures and also like us, they have evolved an advanced sociological hierarchy with many levels and castes. Like many societies, some of those social lines may be crossed, while many may never be bent even a little. This is one of our Xer friend's problems.
Shaevre has two things to ask of you, but she is very shy and does not know how to begin, and so she has come to me. You know her as Nahl'een's playmate, friend and also her personal guard a lot of the time. But the Xer which are here are not slaves, and have lives of their own.
Shaevre is fairly new here, coming not long after Nahl'een arrived. As she is young, and not of any real social standing, she has not succeeded at making any friends among the Xer which are here, and they are a very social people, so the result is that she is often lonely. She has asked me if it might be allowed for her to seek your friendship. I've told her that it is up to you, and so she's a little stuck.
One reason for that is her shape here. She cannot speak to you like this, but she likely could in her other form. She just doesn't know if you would be prepared to allow it."
"Well if she remains like this, then it will only be harder to see if we might even be able to have a friendship." Selena smiled, turning to Shaevre. "I think it would be a little one-sided, Shaevre. If we can speak to each other directly, then do what you have to. I won't run away screaming."
The Xer looked a little hopeful at that at least, Selena thought, as Shaevre looked at Ny'Zeille as though asking for permission.
"Go ahead, Shaevre, " the demon laughed, "Stop being so shy."
The Xer looked down a little uncomfortably for a moment and the Selena stared as she watched the hellhound begin to change. As she did, she also rose from a squat into a standing posture. The feet and claws were still there, but they'd changed somewhat. Shaevre's legs looked the same, though longer somehow, if it was possible. From the thighs upward, the Xer's structure became a lot closer to being human-like in its general appearance, though the head remained largely as it had been.
Many of the features in that face which evoked the dog analogy in humans shifted, becoming softer. Selena saw that Shaevre had eight nipples peeking out through the soft fur on her front, though the top two sat on swells very much like human breasts. All told and including her ears, Selena guessed that Shavre topped six feet and maybe more. When Arrax was in this form, he easily topped seven feet in height, and also like Arrax, Shaevre was fit and muscular, with rather slim hips, something of a wasp waist, and a deep and very strong-looking chest.
"I am not too ugly for you to talk with?" Shaevre asked. Her voice was a bit lower than Selena's and like Arrax', hers carried a gentle accent to it, not unlike what Selena imagined a soft Russian accent must sound like. She'd gotten some English translations of a few Russian classics a few years ago in with a collection of jewelry that she's stolen for a collector. He was going turf the books, but Selena had gotten a bagful for nothing and those romances were her favorites to read. There was no commonality between the Russian here on Earth and the Xerian language. The emphasis was on the wrong syllables, but Selena didn't know any better and wouldn't have cared anyway.
Selena was gobsmacked, but she recovered and shook her head grinning, "No, Shaevre. You're very beautiful like this, and you can speak! This is so much better." She held out her hand, and Shaevre looked at it curiously.
"While she is not strictly human," the demon smiled, "Selena has learned the mannerisms of humans. Offering you her hand is a form of greeting. You should take it and grasp it lightly for a moment before releasing it."
The Xer tried it and they smiled at each other. Shaevre's relief was written all over her face as they sat down on the bench and began to talk.
"Well," the demon smirked to herself, "I can see that my task here is done. Why don't you both run along now and find some other place to begin your friendship. I wish to stay here for a bit of fun."
Shaevre's face immediately took on a look of concern and she groaned at Ny'Zeille a little plaintively.
"You have a lot to talk about," the demon said, "What you wish might take a day or two, Shaevre. And anyway, I can't do everything for you all at once. Ask Selena yourself, and if you find that you can't, I'll be pleased to help, but not tonight anymore. Now please leave."
Selena was mystified, but she took her mug of tea and motioned Shaevre to accompany her with a wave of her chin, "Let's go sit by the fire in the kitchen, and I'll make us some more tea. Do you drink tea?"
"I have never tried it," Shaevre replied a little thoughtfully, "but I wish to now."
Once they'd gotten out of the garden. Selena turned her head as they walked. "I wonder what that was all about. Ny'Zeille seemed almost a little rude at the end."
Shaevre smiled a little, "Ny'Zeille wishes for some pleasure this night. She is not shy at all, that one, but I think that she wants to play in the garden a little until Arrax can meet her there."
"Oh." Selena smiled, "Well I guess that would explain it, then." The pair laughed as they walked into the kitchen. "Forgive me for asking, Shaevre, but since you are allowed in the garden there, I would think that you must be an adult among your kind."
"Yes," the Xer nodded, "I am young for this duty, but I am the age that I feel from you as what you would call twenty-two years. I love the little one very much, Selena, but I have no one to talk with. That's why I asked if I could meet you. "
"I think it was a great idea, Shaevre, "the rogue smiled, "I've found another surprise in this very strange place, and I'm happy for it."
They became friends over just the gallons of tea, it seemed to them. Shaevre found that she liked it and the talk so much. As different as they were to each other, they seemed to have a lot in common and Shaevre was in a little awe of her new friend. "I was told of what you have done and I have watched you as you danced. It is so beautiful to see that. I wish that I could learn it."
Selena shrugged, "Well I'm already going to be teaching Nahl'een. Why can't I teach you at the same time?"
"That is not possible, "her friend said a little sadly as she looked into her cup. "It might be, but we would need to ask permission for me to learn, and it could not be while I am guarding the little one. The duty requires that the one of us on her guard must be in the other form. We are better able to protect her then."
Selena was a little confused, "Why is that?"
"In that form, we are much more able to withstand an attack," Shaevre said, "we are tougher then, but a little, ... limited. Anyway, permission would be needed from Dahlgren, Ny'Zeille, and Arrax. Mostly Arrax. He is most often here when his female is here as well, since they travel together, though sometimes he comes alone. But he is the one in command of us when he is here."
"How did you come to be here in this job?" Selena asked.
"I should not have been chosen," the Xer said, "I have no real family, and what there is does not even know me, and anyway, it is much too low for me to have been considered. But I am young and fast, even though I am not heavy. I learned what was taught of the fighting well. Our fighters do not live long, Selena, and I needed the work. There are no wars at present, so I left to join this service. This duty offers me a longer life, though until now, it has been boring, other than playing with Nahl'een."
Sheavre looked down a little shyly, "Why are you staring at me? I know that I am different -- "
Selena shook her head and leaned forward to place her hand on Shaevre's forearm, "No, I've embarrassed you and I didn't mean to. I'm just listening to your voice, Shaevre. I like the way that you speak. I think that I could listen to it all day."
Shaevre blinked for a moment, and then she shrugged with a helpless look, "Even if I told to you my life story, I would run out of things to say in only minutes."
"What was Ny'Zeille talking about and what did she tell you to ask me about?" Selena asked, "Or is it too soon to speak of it for some reason? I saw how uncomfortable you looked right then. If it makes you uncomfortable even now, then we can talk about it later, if you wish. I'm a thief, and that means that I'm always curious."
Shaevre's face grew that expression again and Selena waved her off before the Xer's shyness caused her to want to leave. "Forget that I said anything, Shaevre. You mention it whenever you think that you can. You looked as though you were ready to leave right then, and I don't want you feeling that way, alright?"
"Thank you," Shaevre nodded with a very shy smile, "there is something which I would ask -- if I ever find my courage. This place is not one where it can be spoken of."
The rogue smirked, "Now you're just being cruel, my friend. To say something like that to me is the same as dangling a baited hook in front of a hungry catfish. I want to know more than anything now. But I understand. I just hope that you'll find it in you to tell me sometime soon."
Shaevre looked up, thinking hard and considering for a moment, "Please, Selena, can we walk to your room? I think that I can feel safe enough to talk there."
Selena was surprised, but she nodded, "Of course, let's go."
Once they had the door closed behind them, Shaevre pulled Selena toward the bed. "Sit with me, please. I have things to say that will need your trust and mine. I wanted some days to get to know you more, but there may be little time."
Selena sat down with her eyebrows rising, "What's this all about?"
"You said to me that you are a thief and that you are always curious, "Shaevre said in a whisper, "I have something to ask you and much to say. I do not know the ways of the kind of thief that you call yourself, but from what I have seen and heard while you have been here, you are not much like what a thief is where I come from. From what I think, there is some honor in what you do, yes?"
Selena sighed and nodded, "I try, Shaevre. I always try to think of how things fit, not just if it will fit in my pocket, though that is always at the bottom of things. Go on, please."
"You love the little one, yes? You are sisters and I see love between you growing as it should, I think. I love Nahl'een as well. Listen, Selena, there may be danger soon."
Shaevre looked around for a moment as though she was afraid that they were being watched. After a moment when she seemed to be a little satisfied, she grabbed Selena's hand. When Shaevre took her hand away, Selena stared at the gold coins in her palm.
"You're paying me to ki -- "
"Shhhh," Shaevre almost whimpered as she looked around, "Sssh, you must keep your voice down. This place is for both Merran and Xer use. It is almost as an embassy for both, though it is Dahlgren's home. We must be very quiet. Whispers are far too loud."
Selena was startled at Shaevre's strength as the Xer pulled her down onto the bed so that they were on their sides facing each other.
"I am sorry," Shaevre began in the barest whisper, "I know that this must seem very odd, but we must whisper about this. Yes, if you look at the barest terms of it. That is what is wanted and required. Ny'Zeille is so smug and acts as though my desire to speak to you is sweet and awkward and she laughs at me for it. It is that I guess, but I needed to be alone with you like this so that I could ask. She knows nothing of this, so ..."
Selena looked at Shaevre's face in front of hers. The Xer looked so familiar because of the loosely canine features, and yet there was an other-worldly exoticness to everything about her. She supposed that it was why she always looked to see her for the briefest moment just for a glimpse. It didn't matter, Selena was happy that the Xer had expressed a desire to seek her friendship. Selena liked her anyway. She threw her arm over Shaevre and pulled the two of them so that their eyes met in a straight line. Shaevre's eyebrows rose and the ear that she could see swiveled forward in surprise.
"Ok," Selena whispered, "you're confident enough that I'd do this that you'd lay golds in my hand right out of the gate? Explain that to me."
"Was it wrong?" Shaevre looked suddenly worried.
"No, it is just not the way that things such as this are usually done, and you need to know the one that you're offering a job to a lot better than this. I might not be interested, but I might want to sell the information to one who might be, that's all." Selena whispered, "now please ..."
They whispered to each other in the barest sighs as Shaevre explained it all. As she listened, Selena didn't notice that her hand was still on the side of Shaevre's face, and without even thinking, ...
"Why do you do that?" The Xer suddenly stopped at the end of her explanation.
"Huh?" Selena blinked, "Do what?"