The Fast Way Home


Talis felt relief to be heading back to Westgate, and she was in a happy mood. It was amazing how some things just worked out if you let them. For so long now, Talis felt like an intruder in the jungle. She always felt lost and was often worried sick about losing Moccan, for he was really the only one who could help her talk to the natives, and he always knew which way she needed to go. In fact, she rarely ever stepped into quicksand anymore, a definite bonus.

Meeting up with Rebecca and her wonderful winged-horse and convincing her to join their team was another such boon. They rarely ever got surprised anymore, and she was good with maps.

When Talis would look over Moccan and Rebecca’s shoulders as they discussed the route for the next day, it was all just a jumble of lines to her, but these two were incredibly smart and could decipher any squiggle and mark that the paper showed. She was glad it wasn’t her job to do that. She was glad she had a team she could trust to get her home safe and quick.

After the third night on the way back, Talis awoke from a nightmare. She’d dreamed she was alone at a Gathering, and she had dire news she must somehow communicate to those in attendance. The danger was nearby, yet all at the Gathering went about their normal business of trade and discourse. She tried several times to communicate, but no one spoke Muchen or Flen. A Darkness enveloped the Gathering and she battled it with her nimbus, but she could hear the dying screams of those that needed her. She was there to warn them, and they’d died before she’d found the right words.

She awoke in a sweat with a start. Moccan was leaning over her and she could see Tabitha looking around in agitated alarm .

“Easy there, Tal. You’re safe. We’ve got you.”

She sat up and wiped her brow, “Ugh, I had a horrible dream. I was at another Gathering alone, but there was a danger nearby, and I needed to warn the Gathering. Nobody could understand what I was saying until too late.”

“Well, we’re not going to let that happen,” said Moccan.

“But it might happen. What if you’re not there to get my words across? What if someone’s in danger and I need to tell them?”

Moccan nodded in acknowledgement. “There’s a lot of what-if’s in this world. Though some of your fear might be abated if you set your mind to confronting it.”

“If it was moving something, or practicing a speech I might be able to confront it, but I can’t speak all those languages. I’ll never get be able to do it,” Talis exclaimed.

“Ah, Talis.” Moccan patted her consolingly. “We have spent a lot of time together, and you’ve told me some of your story before you came to Areiystis. Didn’t you say some Flenoush rescued you from a slaver once?” She nodded. “Well, were you able to understand the Flenoush who rescued you?” She shook her head and gave Moccan a questioning look wondering where he was going with this. “I seem to remember you now speak Flen.” She nodded. “How did you learn it?”

“Well, yes, but that was because of the lady who nursed me back to health and taught me about the Light. Her name was Tender Madrigal Lorithen. She was wonderfully patient with me as I learned the language. It took me forever.”

“Well, how about that. You were able to learn a language. I bet I could teach you Polyglot. It’s probably a lot simpler than Flen. And then if your fears ever do come true and a group of people is in danger, you could communicate it.”

And with that, Moccan’s lessons on Polyglot began in earnest the next day. Hunting and gathering was actually a very good way of learning the language.

Ts’ao Hai

The jungle at night. Tension in the air, pressure dropping. Rainy season was coming. Ts’ao Hai could feel it in his bones. Halfway through his watch, the embers burned down to almost nothing in front of him. Bea’txo eyes didn’t need a sentinel fire. He scratched his neck, feeling the shallow cuts Moccan had left there. A playful cuff, after Ts’ao Hai had inserted himself into Talis’s polyglot lesson, trying to teach her all the words she’d need to outcuss anyone on the continent.

Across his lap, the long shape of cold steel, covered in shark’s leather. He tried to remember where he had found it. The hold of some ship, perhaps? In the cold, dead grasp of a fallen foe? No, he couldn’t recall. He’d never gotten attached to a sword before – he loved himself and his own skill too much to spare any for the instrument that made it possible – but that fight at the Gathering. The fiery ape beast. His sword, having saved him from two snakemen, coming out of the thing’s chest, reduced almost to slag. Wandering the field, wounded and disarmed, lost for a moment. Seeing Talis, confident and triumphant, gripping her own blade over the tattered scallops the Night Hunter had dropped. It came to him then, how lost he was without the sword.

He remembered how Moccan had reworked the steel, calling out to the earth and coaxing it back into shape, healing the breaks and divisions. He glanced over to where the tigerman slept, saw the glittering of Tabitha’s eyes. He nodded. A debt acknowledged, a debt to be repaid.

He looked down at the sword across his knees. He half bowed to it, his eyes closing. A debt acknowledged. Now to repay it. A soft hiss as he drew it out, holding it up to the stars. “Hali-ki-shi,” he softly pronounced, Bea’txo flowing form his lips as sweet and slippery as a sea breeze. Halikishi. Salt-Upon-Wounds. He returned his newly named friend to its shark-clad sleep and stabbed the fire, prodding the coals back to life.


Amused at how grateful the rest of party was for the break, Moccan eased himself to the ground. As predicted, no sooner had he made himself comfortable, than Talis trotted towards him, wanting yet another lesson on Polyglot most likely. With a sigh, he decided that he has only two choices, settle in for yet another lesson in the jungle trade language or flee.

Smiling at Talis, Moccan closed his eyes and focused on the Realm of Nature, shifting his form from one realm of existence to another.

“Let her follow me here,” he smirked to the vibrant, primordial trees that suddenly appeared around him, the clearing now gone.

Motionless, he looked around, breathing in the fresh, rich air of this realm.

“Ah, so you’re the new one,” a voice called from some nearby trees. Startled, Moccan instinctively whirled into a fighting stance to face the voice, extending his claws.

“Impressive, but unneeded,” called the voice. “I mean you no harm. Far from it, in fact.”

In impossible silence, a figure of a monkey-man dropped from the trees.

At first, Moccan mistook the figure for Bon, but then realized that the stranger was older, but healthier and taller, than Bon. A relative perhaps, or maybe they all look like that.

“Greetings. I am Gon Dow,” the figure said with hands out, palms up.

“Hello,” replied Moccan, hesitantly mirroring Gon’s action.

“Welcome to the Realm of Nature,” stated Gon. “Looks like I’ve finally found you. The way you keep popping between realms, you have been harder to track than a night-bird-man.”

“Wait, you have been tracking me?” asked Moccan.

“Well, more like looking for you. You have caused quite the stir popping in and out like that. You need some instruction before you hurt yourself, or worse, everyone else.”

“Please, slow down. I’ve been traveling to more than one realm? I thought it was all the same realm.”

“You have much to learn, cub. Much indeed,” sighed Gon with a gentle smile.

And so began Moccan‘s formal training in the ways of Realm-crossing. Night after night, as soon as camp is set, Moccan slipped off. He faded from the others to another realm, to lessons about the many Realms of existence, and how to cross between them safely. And to think, this all started with the nymph’s gift, a gift he came so close to refusing, a gift he could no longer imagine living without.

The Fast Way Home

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