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I groused last week about how fantasy is hard. And it is not least of which because it is hard not to fall into the same patterns, the same type of characters and even situations that others have already perfected. Often when I think I’ve had a brilliant idea I have to double check myself to make sure that I didn’t unconsciously lift it from one of the many fantasy books I pour myself into. However, I do know that Alice is all of my own mind, what’s left of it, and this is the story of how Alice and Syten met. Syten is telling this story to the Queen.

“Nearly all go on quests but Phenoia’s are rare and picky and the bonding time is short, not even a year, or a season as you say. If the time comes and passes it is gone forever. I almost missed my time.

I had been in the wilds for months, my time coming to an end. The need was ebbing away from me and I tried to make peace with that. I had made camp at the base of a Firetree and befriended most of the animals in the area, including a rather playful pair of wolves. We had hunting contests in the afternoon, of which they nearly always won. I’m sure I was great for their confidence. Then one afternoon when they came out of the woods to get me, they took one look, lowered themselves to the ground bellies nearly touching and backed up, turned tail and ran. I stood frozen not wanting to turn around to see what was standing behind me. Wolves don’t scare that easily. Slowly I turned and I didn’t see anything, which was worse than seeing something, then my eyes travelled up the trunk of the Firetree and there she was, her tail and claws dug into the tree blending in almost perfectly. She was looking me up and down with those eyes of hers.

“Well, well. Hello there. You can come down now. I think that you have sufficiently terrified the local wildlife. Those wolves are nice fellows once you get to know them.” I babbled. “Can I offer you tea?” I walked very slowly towards my camp and pulled out two rabbits that I had caught and cooked from the night before. “I can warm them if you prefer.”

At first there was nothing. No response at all and I briefly considered that I was losing my mind, affected by too much time alone with only wolves for company.

Did you make friends with them before you killed them too?

No, but I did offer them thanks for giving their lives for mine.

She just hung there on the trunk I was trying not to stare at her too much but I couldn’t help it, she was still a little fuzzy and about half the size she is now, I very much wanted to touch her but it was far too soon.

I’ll have tea. She said as she came down the tree to the edge of the fire pit. I of course didn’t have tea, I had been kidding.

“I don’t, I can gather some herbs and make a tea, but I didn’t, I’m sorry that was rude.”

Tea. And I’ll take the rabbits warm, I prefer warm and juicy. I hope you didn’t over cook them last nightime.

I didn’t want to leave to gather the herbs, I was so afraid she would leave. Fortune smiled and I found mint and a few red berries near to camp. I made the tea, warmed the rabbits and served her astonished when she blew across the surface of the tea, cooling it before she delicately lapped at it.

Not bad. Could use some beehive sticky juice.

Honey?

Sweet?

Yes.

Then, as you say, honey.

We spend the next few months learning to communicate, move and hunt together. We also had to learn when to leave each other alone. It’s easy at first to get confused, intertwined and it can become difficult to separate out who is feeling or even thinking what.”

“She chose you because of tea? How did she even know what tea was,” asks Queen Ascial, skeptical.

“I’m not sure that she did, but in my defense I make great tea.”

“I see. You made that up didn’t you?” accuses the Queen.

“I can see why you would say that, although I would argue not many tales that people make up about themselves leave them looking quite as foolish as I do in that one,” points out Syten.

“True enough,” says the Queen laughing.

 

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