Carves-the-Foundation made a noise like grinding rocks while moving forward to meet the beast.
“Oh, rock one. Regret my actions,” the beast said in a frighteningly clear voice.
“This wizard is with me. No quarrel?”
“Yes I see a lightning eater.”
“Yes, and a friend. No quarrel?”
The beast stepped forward. I saw a lithe body covered in dark fur with a wolfen head on top. Standing upright, the creature towered over me. It’s gold eyes shined in the gloom of the dusk as it looked me over. I felt a quaver of fear under its gaze.
“No quarrel, rock one. This one Lookout.”
“I am Carves-the-Foundation, and the wizard is called Dorua.”
The beast dropped to all fours, moving low to the ground and looking up at Carves-the-Foundation.
“I hear the old one. Elders howled it before me.”
“Thank you.” Carves-the-Foundation said. I didn’t understand what had just happened.
“Take to pack?” the creature asked in a low voice.
“Yes, it has been too long. Please lead us, Lookout.”
Carves-the-Foundation motioned to me, and I followed. “What is going on?” I asked in a low voice as I got close.
“No need to whisper, he can hear easily.”
“This is one of what we call the speaking creatures. This one can speak your language, which is rare.”
“They have their own language?”
“Yes. They are ancient friends with the Korodan, and we have talked to them many times in the past. I mentioned them before.”
I thought for a moment. “You fought an ancient enemy together.”
“You were listening to my stories!”
“A good wizard learns as much as she can.”
“The speaking creatures have shorter lives than we do, but they pass down stories about us so that they remember us when we visit.”
“He called you an old one?”
“How old are you?”
Carves-the-Foundation looked up at the sky.
“My name in your language is Carves-the-Foundation. Do you know what that means?”
“The foundation is the bottom of something?”
“Yes, the foundation is the first thing.”
“Nobody knows for sure. I was there when we first fought the green enemies of the speaking creatures many of your lifetimes ago.”
I fell into a stunned silence. Is this what it is like to talk to the first person who ever existed? What would it be like to have such a long life like that? I was in awe of my new-found friend.
We entered an empty clearing and the speaking creature stopped. He let out a series of three, short barks and the area exploded with motion. From under bushes, out of trees, through the grasses, and even seemingly appearing up out of the ground a whole group of creatures appeared. Some were wolfen, but there were a myriad of other types, too. They seemed to be clustered into similar groups; cat-like over here, other wolfen ones over there, and a few I couldn’t even try to recognize over in the back. They started barking, yelping, and howling all at once. These sounds must have been their own language.
A few of the speaking creatures came over and bowed low to the ground in front of Carves-the-Foundation. A few came up to me, particularly the smaller and younger ones, sniffing me and poking at my clothing with interest.
The first creature we met, Lookout, came over to me. “You have name Dorua?”
I tried to give my friendliest smile, despite the slight feeling of dread I had. “Yes. You are the lookout?”
“Yes, have name Lookout. You are lightning eater?”
“You mean… do I have magic? Yes.”
“Please, show the pack?”
I almost called out to Mhorik, then I realized that I was the wizard now. I grasped the pouch of ashes I was carrying, and found the courage to continue on.
“Yes. Have everyone move back.”
Lookout turned to the crowd and gave a short yowl. A few barks and wave of his arms and the group moved back to the edges of the clearing.
I took a deep breath. It was almost completely dark now, so I started small. I summoned a small gout of fire, and a spark of light. I had them move in a slow pattern, growing in intensity. There were animal sounds from all around the clearing. I heard small feet scamper and bushes rustle. I moved the lights lazily, slowly building up.
I then drew pictures in the air with the light and the fire, mostly to see if I could. I created an image of myself in crude form and made it wave. I formed a scene of my village, with waves of the sea lapping up against the shore. I drew images of the friends I had made along the way: Calvis, Cloud’s Reflection and his son, and Carves-the-Foundation. I drew an image of a bearded figure at the end, but I couldn’t bring myself to draw his details. With that, I snuffed out the flames and it all fell into darkness.
The night erupted into howls and calls. Many surged toward me, and I felt and smelled their breath upon me. The reached out to touch me and nuzzle me. Although I couldn’t see anything, I felt a strange sense of comfort as the speaking creatures surrounded me.
“The pack seen what beauty!” I heard Lookout speak to me nearby. “All impressed.”
The celebration when on for quite a while. I created a small bit of light and saw the animals capering and dancing all around.
But, it was too much for me. Exhausted, I fell asleep where I was when the activity calmed down. I awoke the next morning part of a pile of bodies. Some were stirring, and I took the opportunity to free myself.
Someone offered me a bit of raw meat, but I politely declined and got a bit of food out from my pack. Carves-the-Foundation saw me and came over.
“That was truly beautiful last night.”
“I think the pack approved.”
I heard the low rumbling laughter. “Yes, I have never seen these speaking creatures so excited.”
I chewed on my breakfast a bit more, taking in the scene. Feeling a bit of pride in my show from last night.
“Dorua,” Carves-the-Foundation said as I was eating, “I have some sad news.”