Chapter 2

From high above the street Keer•la watched Reesori and the two cloaked figures. She could hear in the stables below the 4 tarnicks moving about restlessly. The sheer size of the tarnicks frightened her and the large ears of the pailkit, well she didn’t know what to think about them, she had never seen a creature whose ears appeared to be larger than its head. Perrcia pulled Keer•la away from the window.

“We have to get you ready to travel,” she said curtly, a scowl marring her lovely face. Keer•la hadn’t decided yet if Perrcia was friend or foe, if she should like her or not. She was different from anyone Keer•la had ever met.

“You don’t like me.” It wasn’t a question or a statement, it was more like a challenge. Perrcia turned her amber eyes toward Keer•la’s face, “I was sent here to do a job, my personal feelings don’t matter.” It was a lie, both girls knew it. Perrcia turned her attention back to the belt she was fastening around Keer•la’s waist. This was her first assignment outside the castle, her father would be so disappointed if she failed. She couldn’t let her personal feelings about this wimpy female get in the way of her assignment. “Why don’t you like me?” Keer•la persisted. Scat! Thought Perrcia, she’s like a dog with a bone!

“Quiet!” growled Perrcia, “I have to concentrate on what I’m doing.” Keer•la was really starting to get on her last whisker, she was scared of everything it seemed. Now she wouldn’t shut up. Perrcia’s ears flattened against her head, a sure sign she was annoyed, she wasn’t aware of it, but Keer•la noticed.

“What is that belt for?” She had always changed the subject when Vendall was angry, sometimes it worked. She hoped it would work with this strange girl.

“It’s an image adjuster. When people look at you, they won’t see you. Pretty cool huh?” For the first time since they had met, Perrcia smiled. Her ears relaxed and went back to standing straight up, attuned to everything around them.

“Do we have to ride those,” Keer•la gestured downwards “huge beasts?” Perrcia’s smile vanished, “Well, do you want to walk off this island?”

“No, but there are other things to ride, like vingarts.” The large winged creatures were popular on the island and could run as fast as any beast. Best of all, when you got to where you were going, you could just release them and the vingart would survive on its own until needed again. Perrcia looked at Keer•la, her face was deadly serious, “Could you picture the Captain on a vingart? He would crush it!” Keer•la thought of the pailkit in the stable below. He could crush a pailkit, she thought. “We could ride them, we’re small enough.”

“Winged creatures don’t exactly like creatures with claws.” Perrcia extended hers for effect. She went back to working on the image adjuster, it had to fit around Keer•la’s waist just right to work.

Perrcia was not the first Leonite Keer•la had met. There had been plenty in the jail with her, they had been kind to her. Keer•la was a small Ronen female not yet full grown, but the Leonites were smaller then her even fully grown. Females were considered adult at 14, married and having babies, or kits as some called them. Covered in soft yellow fur with amber eyes and whiskers above and to the side of their mouths. Their ears were pointed and could be moved at will, and extremely sensitive as were all their senses. It was very hard to sneak up on a Leonite. They had sharp claws that shot out from the ends of their fingers making it also very dangerous to take one by surprise. But Perrcia was different. She had no fur on her face and her eyes, nose and mouth looked Ronen, in fact the only thing Leonite about her face were her whiskers and she had a tail, it curled around her legs. Her ears were pointed like Leonite but they were on the side of her head instead of toward the top. She also had hair, long red hair, like a Ronen, and long fingers like a Ronen. Except they were covered with fur and had claws inside them. Those fingers were now working on the image adjuster, trying to get it to work. Something was wrong.

“Why do you have hair?” Keer•la blurted out. A noise from the street caught Perrcia’s attention and she ran to the window. The two cloaked figures were returning to the barn and they were in a hurry. Once inside the smaller figure removed his hood, revealing his Leonite face, he had the thick mane of a full grown male, he hissed and growled. “Coming Pappir” Perrcia ran to the edge and jumped down to great her father. Keer•la watched the fluidity of Perrcia’s movements, lithe limbs unhampered by a heavy skirt such as Keer•la was forced to wear. She followed more slowly, carefully climbing down the ladder. The tall man Perrcia called Captain reached up and lifted her down, Perrcia and her father were getting the animals ready to leave and talking in their own tongue.

“We have to hurry little one,” Captain said to Keer•la.

“Reesori saw you following him?” All eyes turned on Keer•la, Perccia gasped, “You know our language?”

“That will come in handy. Won’t it Bud?” Captain turned to Perccia’s father, who was checking the baggage attached to the pailkit. Bud grinned back, his whiskers shaking with laughter.

“Sure thing, another little kit you can’t understand.” He looked at Keer•la, then turned to Perccia, “Why do I still see a small Ronen female with long blond hair?”

“The belt won’t fit. She’s too skinny.”

“They must not feed you very well in jail.” Bud looked closely at Keer•la’s face, concern in his kind amber eyes.

“They don’t feed you at all, your family is instructed to bring you food, or you have to buy it. I have no family and no money. If not for the kind Leonite women, I would have starved.”

“Don’t worry, when Masi sees you, you’ll be turning food down or end up as fat as Pappir!” Perrcia poked her Pappir in the mid-section and giggled. Captain interrupted them, he had finished saddling the tarnicks.

“Time to mount up, Finister put on a good show, but who knows if Reesori believed it. He’s smart enough to figure out it wasn’t a coincidence a drunk showed up as soon as he noticed he was being followed.”

Perccia had donned a cape, she wrapped another one around Keer•la, pulling the hood up to cover her blond hair. “Masi packed an extra cape.” Perccia then mounted a tarnick, Captain picked up Keer•la and placed her behind Perccia before mounting his own tarnick. Bud opened the doors and the Captain led the way, followed by Perccia. The little pailkit followed behind, a well trained animal, he needed no urging to stay with the larger tarnicks. Bud came last, leading his mount and the fourth tarnick, he stopped to close the doors.

“I’ll get Finister and catch up with you.” Captain nodded and the three animals proceeded down the street. The tarnicks moved silently, Keer•la needed no urging to hang on tightly to Perrcia, she could see herself tumbling off the massive beasts. She was shaking like a leaf, convinced she was going to die before the night was over. Scat! Thought Perrcia, she’s scared to death, but determined to follow through. Not such a wimpy female after all.

Within minutes they were out of town, when they reached the edge of the woods, Keer•la relaxed a little, she was getting used to the movement of the gentle tarnicks and the more distance between her and Reesori the safer she felt.

“My mother is Ronen.” the words came out of the blue. Perrcia turned her head to look at Keer•la, “That’s why I have long hair. And no, I am not the only Ronen-Leonite on the planet. But we are very rare.” Perrcia’s ears twitched, “Captain! Riders behind us!”

They quickly left the path, the Captain motioned for the girls to be quiet and drew his weapon, then holstered it and moved into the path. “Bud, Finister, you two made good time. Lets keep moving.” Keer•la leaned against Perrcia, she was so tired. She was also determined not to slow down the others. She closed her eyes for a minute . . . . and when she opened them she was being carried onto a ship by the Ronen male the others called Finister. He set her down on the deck of the ship and bowed to her. She swayed, or was it the ship? Were they at sea already? Then she was in a bunk, wrapped up in Perrcia’s cloak and snuggled up against her was Perrcia. “We’re on our way,” the little feline purred. “When you wake, you’ll have a new life.”

Chapter 3