The Shape Of The World
[19:27] Athechelt had been observing the rescue in silence. At all times, his greatest responsibility had been to speak, but it was precisely that which nursed his silence – when speech was your weapon, you knew to keep it sheathed until circumstances demanded. The group would listen to him if he made suggestions and would outright do as he asked if he made a request.
In Evenatra and Idarago's absence, the group itself was mostly quiet. Ghregg, proving that he was without a doubt not a kavkem, was one to whisper, 'speaking' with a curious Edaaj about the technology that had brought them here, albeit in a tongue that was opaque to them all. It conveyed a friendly tone, regardless.
He'd been reminiscing about the dream and its troubling implications. The parallels were making him uneasy, but at least Nadani was here, with the group, as opposed to accompanying Evenatra.
But how close had that been? It had been her or Idarago. His dream was a crude template, there was no reason Nadani-in-his-dream could not simply refer to any of the Watchers, however new to the task.
Prophetic dreams were descriptive, not warnings. He almost surely wouldn't be able to stop the progress of events, leading to the rippling geometries that had struck him down.
The friendliest thing he could do is provide approval and encouragement along the way and, if his people were threatened, take the fall for them. Just as the dream had promised he would.
When the Watcher and Evenatra returned with another human, Athechelt watched with his anxiety carefully concealed. It was important that he keep a look out for the first signs of threat, the first signs that his intervention might make a difference.
He cautiously lifted himself himself off the ground – not into a full, proud stand, given it would make him visible above the rise, but enough to announce his attention and intent to speak, then crept over to the triad, warily watching the newcomer, as though wary that the bite from the dream might be quite literal.
Whispered: "Good to see you've returned safely. ...were there no others?" He was privately expecting another two at least, after all, but even without a dream to guide him, there was a group of humans to rescue and this was clearly just one.
[12:49] "There's at least one other human," Idarago confirmed with a grimace. "But they weren't sure if we were safe to go with. I'm not sure what they've been told by the Nayabaru, I'm hoping Ghregg can convince this one and we can go back for the others."
Going back was a daunting thought, and plausibly enough explaination for the younger Watcher's anxious feather fluffing, but he kept glancing over at Evenatra uncertainly.
[13:51] Athechelt clutched himself close to the ground, glancing up at the human in a kind of inter-cultural reverence, perhaps hoping to gesture a kind of humble servitude without the benefit of clear speech to do the same. His posture gradually reverting to normal, he whispered, bewildered and disconcerted: "Is it a matter of choice for them?"
Nadani had shuffled over to them by now – close enough to catch the conversation. Despite there being no venom in Athechelt's voice and only a hint of flustered alarm, she cringed as if personally scolded. After all, she'd led the group here with the full intent of rescuing the humans from the sunlight and the Nayabaru.
If they had free rein, she might have endangered them all for nothing.
[13:52] She looked at Athechelt pleadingly, but his expression wasn't soothing – he glanced back at her with confused displeasure, although it seemed as though he wasn't blaming her personally for it. This was, perhaps, simply difficult to predict and an unfortunate turn of events.
"Yes," Evenatra responded. "We think it might be a temporary ruse, but the Nayabaru haven't yet imprisoned the hyumans." Apparently, she wasn't going to go on the 'but I know something more' tangent without Idarago paving the way; perhaps out of respect whether he really wanted to go down that path.
[01:28] Edaaj, for her part, was vaguely aware that conversation was happening. What it was about, and the tension that had entered into it, entirely bypassed her. She was too busy watching Ghregg.
[01:38] Possibly he had recognized in Edaaj the kavkem equivalent of an engineer, or possibly he had (correctly) guessed that her undisguised interest in his device applied to the hyumans' other technology as well. Regardless, he had felt moved, despite the linguistic barrier, to try to explain how the hyumans had gotten to her world.
[01:39] Since his device was otherwise employed, he had resorted to hand gestures to try to aid him. It was hard for either Ghregg or Edaaj to escape the feeling that this was woefully inadequate to the task.
[01:53] For all that Edaaj watched Ghregg's every move with a desperate hunger, so many things escaped her. How did their vessel fly so far that it could go between worlds? Why did such a heavy thing not fall down during so long a trip? It seemed that it had to travel around the sun: what kind of protection did it have from the Tarnish?
[01:57] It was maddening. All the more so because it was dawning upon her that whatever world the hyumans called home, if it had made such vessels and devices as these merely to hurl into the sky, must have even more astonishing wonders that it had kept on the ground.
She wanted to see them. Every last one of them.
[02:17] Greg was in the middle of trying to trace out the concept of gravity-assist trajectories in the thin layer of dry soil between them, if only guessing whether she could follow along, when he began to pause and twist his attention away. For a moment, he sat still, staring toward the arrivals – it was almost immediately clear why he was staring.
Another of his kind was there.
He raised a hand high – it seemed like a bit reckless a gesture, but apparently he'd done it almost on instinct – and gave a small wave to the other. Then he dropped his hand and said something. Something in his suit sprang to life in response as the other human spoke – they apparently had something to carry their voices a little further.
Almost absent-mindedly, his attention only gradually returning to Edaaj, he brought one gloved hand around to try to touch the top of her muzzle to rub across it gently.
[02:37] Edaaj tensed when Ghregg turned his attention away, but seeing that the arrivals weren't Nayabaru, she began to relax, until she realized that he was touching her muzzle.
[02:43] She jerked away, baring her teeth, but her thoughts caught up to her before she could follow through with the implied threat. Biting him might cause him to cry out, which – single-minded though she was – she knew would not be a good thing.
[02:44] And, it occurred to her, it hadn't felt bad.
[02:48] Noting his tense stance, she closed her mouth, and then muttered quietly, "Hostile territory is a poor setting for surprises, Ghregg." It was probably pointless, but, she thought, maybe context would convey the message.
[02:50] She stuck her muzzle under his hand again, and, rather more cautiously, he resumed rubbing.
[03:02] Greg watched as Samanta, Idarago, Evenatra, Athechelt and Nadani formed a very quiet discussion group, running his fingers lightly through Edaaj's plume, the short feathers of the top of her head and the very top of her mane.
Unfortunately, he seemed to have forgotten about the drawing he'd begun in the dust, disturbing it a bit with some of his shifting since. But as unfortunate as that was, perhaps it was to be expected that he wanted to pay attention to what was happening to his pack-mate.