[Log, Gemini Wanderer, Days 15-20]
I swore softly but with real fervor. The Admiral ceased his narrative to regard me with infuriating calm. I gritted my teeth. No one, certainly not the Admiral, was at fault. The tape had jammed. With our fire the only source of light, I could not hope to repair it before morning. If then. The Diyalan shrugged and relit his pipe.
In fact, some improvisation would be required. It would be days before I could complete my repairs. Even though I could not record any more of the Admiral's narrative until my jury-rigged recorder was restored, his story was never far from our minds. We continued to discuss it in the evenings and whenever we happened to be together during the day.
I remember that he told me that Leede Southerly died only a few meters from the security of the shelter in which his famished son was waiting. The Tuathan had managed to take captive some deerlike creature with her offspring. Her milk would no doubt have sustained both her own youngster and Southerly's, but it was not to be. The terrified bleating of the two creatures attracted one of the lesser primates of Ashtar. The great beast overtook Southerly and slew him before he could raise his rifle in defense.
As luck would have it, the hunterfolk had recently wandered back to the territory for which the brook beyond the Southerly flyer was a major source of water. Among them was a recently mated pair who had only that first dawn lost their newborn. The Admiral gave them names -- Char and Lael -- though scientists deny folk any ability to vocalize in recognizable words. He just smiled at my insistence that all the most respected ethologists assure us that folk have no language and could not possibly bear individual names, because they are capable of no more than the most rudimentary vocalizations. My learned dissertation rambled on until I observed the Admiral watching me with unconcealed amusement. I bit off in mid erudite sentence and kept quiet thereafter. It was, after all, only a legend. The personal touch of names made for a better story. I grinned back and nodded for the raconteur to continue.
One of the hunterfolk pair was drawn to the shelter, probably by the hungry wails by then filling all the jungle for kilometers around. Of course, the two discovered the child. Thus was the newest legitimate Lord Charwick adopted by Char and Lael, who promptly dubbed him Ta'el, which the Admiral assured me simply means child. The low key sincerity of his quiet narration nearly convinced me to ignore the scientists.
The Admiral did agree with my observation that even his foster parents must have found little Ta'el something of a curiosity. This, my companion grinned, was reflected in, of all things, a nickname: Jer'anda-ta, or sometimes Jer-anda, the former supposedly translating to "son of the starfolk" or something of the sort. I was still taking it all with a large grain of salt -- then.
As time went on Ta'el must also have proved something of a disappointment to Lael and particularly to Char. The boy was extraordinarily slow to mature. Surely, Char must have believed the youngster would never learn the intricate calls by which folk communicate over phenomenal distances. That the pair bothered to raise this backward foundling to humankind adolescence suggests parental devotion of near-humankind proportions, not to mention enormous patience. (The latter seldom exhibited by many parents of my acquaintance.) Lael never did conceive again, so, perhaps, it was easier for her to devote all her maternal instincts to the foundling. But Char had to have taken his hand in child-rearing or Ta'el would soon have succumbed.
As a weakling member of the band, Ta'el was the object of considerable animosity. His ability to take an active role among them must be dismissed out of hand. It is no less than a miracle he survived his many enemies. His foster-sire’s protection was almost certainly all that kept the rest of the band at bay.
Survival on primitive Ashtar is no mean feat. If the natural phenomena – earthquakes, volcanoes, violent storms, and Stars only know what else – don’t get you, there are the denizens of the planet. And, by all accounts, the denizens of Ashtar must be something to behold. Thanks to the unregulated field experimentation of an earlier day, representatives of every known stage of Class M evolution, beginning with the age of mammals, are very much present, large as life _ and with more than a few surprises to boot.
In any event, Ta'el did not merely survive; he thrived. Before he entered his teens he had the musculature of a grown man. His agility was that of a normal Chimurian of his age multiplied several times over. Lady Sabratha’s predictions as well as those of Southerly were to be borne out. He was not yet as tall, but Jer’anda-ta was already a small replica of his true father.
As soon as Ta'el could leave Lael’s side with relative safety, Char undertook his further education. Between his two devoted foster parents Ta’el was taught all the secrets of survival in the Ashtarian jungle known to the hunterfolk. What they could not teach him, Ta’el managed to learn on his own. His powers of observation were uncanny even then.
One of the most important lessons to be learned was which of his fellow beings were good to eat. Hunterfolk, fervent omnivores that they are, are said to devour any of the dominant fauna, small or large, which do not succeed in eating them first. One does not survive the tropics of any solar system by indulging a delicate stomach. Still, it paid to be selective on Ashtar. One had to be more careful of the flora than of the fauna.
As a boy Ta’el was not slow to learn which of the plant life and tiny fauna of the forest, waters and seaside become angry if consumed. Some are known to become angry enough to cause those who consume them much misery, even if death is avoided. His occasional mistake made him consider an end to it all not entirely unappealing, but Ta’el never made a mistake more than once. He never took a chance on annoying such irascible types once he was made painfully aware of their unpleasant character. It was not until some years later that Ta’el gained the means to dispatch larger prey. It is said that in his youth Ta'el developed a taste for red meat that never faded.
I was curious about the relationship between Ta’el and his sire. It was hard to believe Char accepted the foundling with the enthusiasm of his mate. Among the hunterfolk it must be something of a disgrace when a male sires no more young. (Unlike their primitive human counterparts in Terran history, folk have not evolved to the stage of insisting upon placing the blame exclusively on the female when there are no offspring – or only those of the “wrong” gender.) Apparently, however, there was actually a warm father-son relationship between the mismatched pair. Ta'el never lost his respect for Char, and he was later to resent any suggestion that either his sire or dama was somehow lacking in the qualities humankind seek – too often in vain, the adult Leede Southerly was always quick to point out to doubters.
The Admiral said that Ta'el often found his sire in a pensive mood. But Char was never able to communicate his mental images adequately to the youngster. It is doubtful the hunterfolk male comprehended them himself. I have often wondered whether creatures so close to evolving humankind intelligence experience a sense of frustration with incipient thought which simply refuses to cross that final boundary separating humankind from beast. If so,perhaps Char was one who did.
More often than not during winter (“one shadow,” as the hunterfolk know that season) Ta’el would discover Char at sunrise or sunset engrossed in observing the birth or death of the sun. Even across the vast chasm that separates species, one cannot help but speculate what passed through the minds of the hunterfolk sire and his small humankind child at such times.
I gave the situation many hours of contemplation, until, at last, my repairs complete, I was once again able to record.
[Log, Gemini Wanderer, Day 26, Begin Transmission]
Narrative Transmission 2
TA’EL’S CHILDHOOD WOULD have been the envy of his peers on distant Chimur. But, then, they did not have to experience it day in and day out without respite. Fortunately for the child of Leede and Sabratha, he knew nought of any other life. For him the privation was as comfortably normal as the coddling taken for granted by any Tuathan boy nurtured in the bosom of a doting family.
Ta’el knew a nurturing of a different sort. It was hard, yes, but it was loving in its own way and the boy thrived on it. Often in the cool before near dark Char would lead his fosterling away from the band. Ta’el was always eager to follow the promise of a night’s adventure. It would not occur to the boy that he was being schooled as surely as his Chimurian counterparts. There is no tedium in the education Ashtar inflicts upon her youth. The price of failure is, however, high. Inattention can prove fatal.
Char and Char’s Ta’el often browsed as they traveled along the paths the Aranda selected. Sometimes they made a kill and feasted heartily before returning to the band. Even though the others understood that Char would be teaching the young one the special vocalisations unique to each band of hunterfolk, the buck wisely chose not to disturb their quiet periods of feeding. His corrections of Ta’el’s poor imitations of the calls were seemingly endless. The fosterling simply lacked the vocal range to project the crucial messages across any space much large than a small clearing. Yet Char did not despair.
His Ta’el was amazingly swift in every other lesson. Char’s mighty chest swelled with pride. In the daily life of Aranda survival more surely depends on an intimate knowledge of one’s immediate surroundings than on any other factor, however important. Char’s long life was testimony to his comprehension of that truth, and Char had to acknowledge that his young one already knew at least as much about the secrets of forest and open ways as the alata himself.
Ta’el had taken in all Char could teach him. Now the indefatigable student had begun to bring surprising new details home to his teacher. And the energy of the strange Jer’anda-ta!
Char moved through the primitive landscape with long, true strides, hardly ever hesitating in the constant vigilance Ashtar demands. But Ta’el was altogether another matter! He scampered and explored and tried every hanging vine or accessible tree limb with an abandon that amazed Char even as his throat closed tight with fear. There was no lacking in Ta’el’s courage and endurance. Indeed, each trait far surpassed that of the ta’els nearing their Naming Pers-Alata, marking the onset of adulthood.
More than a few times on every trek, Char would call Ta’el back to his side. The buck would hunker down at the boy’s side for a stern lecture on the prudence of greater respect for countless dangers, especially enemies of small ta’els oblivious to the most blatant of signs. But each time Char did so, Ta’el would gravely hear his sire out. Thereupon he would describe in far greater detail the reason he knew every situation either to be safe or to be well within his capacity to meet, should the threat become actuality. Then he would hold Char in a steady regard, awaiting whatever correction or reprimand was to come.
But either was rare and becoming more so. More often Char would simply place one great hand on the boy’s shoulder in a surprisingly human gesture of approval. Presently the buck would rise, and the trek would proceed as before. And Char would mentally clutch ahold the new information for later retrieval should the need arise.
HAD ANY BEEN present to make an entry in the chronicle of the disinherited Lord Charwick, he awoke on his ninth birthday to a bright and hot Sanjera. There was little else to mark the day’s start. As they ordinarily did during the daytime, the band dispersed under the alata’s watchful eye. No one paid the slightest attention to the Tuathan lordling.
Ta’el had no inkling that this day was in any way special. It is well he did not. The boy would have been shattered to discover his advanced age. Many ta’els of a mere eight or nine years entered into adulthood. Some of the tas were favouring certain of the comely tels with small offerings of the choicest fruits and tubers. Ta’el watched, a strange emptiness spreading like hunger from the place that beat within. His own maturity was still years in the future.
As the day progressed without event, the boy was feeding without interest not far from Lael’s side. He was bored, but nothing in this familiar territory tugged at his attention. He paused to scratch at a pesky bite. There wasn’t so much as a puddle in which to splash, let alone and inviting pond or stream. Ta’el stopped scratching long enough for an absent testing of the air before resigning himself to a nap to escape the boredom. He was looking for a comfortable clump of vegetation well away from the bucks when Char called him to his side. Ta’el wasted no time. No sooner had Char chosen a narrow game trail than the boy was scampering along in the lead – quite oblivious now to Sanjera’ searing heat.
Today’s trek proceeded no differently from past forays away from the band. As soon as he was satisfied that the two of them were well beyond the hearing of the others, Char found a small clearing, just large enough to offer protection. As usual, it took some time to contain Ta’el. Char allowed the youngster to make their kill and watched as the boy carefully apportioned it to offer his sire the choicest pieces.
Char chewed thoughtfully. When he finished, he wandered off to the waterfall they had passed not far from their refuge. He drank deeply, taking the moment to consider the night’s lesson. When his thirst was slaked and his decision reached, Char stood. For a long moment he scanned the forest framing the small pool formed at the foot of the cascading waters. Through instinct honed by the experience of his years, the Aranda buck’s brief glance took in far more than any human study could. But perhaps Char was pausing in an effort to sense the world around him as keenly as Ta’el described it.
Whatever was in his mind, the buck stretched mightily, as if in dismissal – or satisfaction. With one last glance around the jungle’s edge, Char turned back along the trail to the place where Ta’el was waiting, his impatience not entirely concealed.
Once Char returned, however, Ta’el settled down immediately. The fosterling was intent upon mastering his band’s calls. He knew them all by heart, but his young voice still could not yet utter them. Some he had learned to imitate with whistles. He experimented whenever he could, but the results were less than true. Char was more patient with the boy than was Ta’el himself, but the failures were a source of frustration for them both. Neither was aware that the man’s voice would someday master what the youth’s could never attain.
Char broke off the lesson before the boy’s throat sored. The Aranda had detected the trace of hoarseness to which Ta’el would never admit. The buck turned aside briefly in an effort to contain his pride. Any such unwonted show of feeling confused the buck and always seemed to disturb the boy. Char was unable to distinguish what it was the boy was feeling. The buck often wondered if it might be a Jer’anda thing.
That thought prompted Char to seek from Ta’el just how it was he knew the proper responses to the adult members of the band as well as to his peers. The boy knew his place. He never once made a wrong move – unless it was intentional. Even when he appeared not to, Char was observing his young charge. More than once the young one deliberately tried the temper of the newly named bucks. Char always managed to position himself so that his amusement at the discomfiture of Ta’el’s former peers remained concealed. But the buck’s cheeks did puff in silent laughter.
Tonight Char rose to find a more comfortable resting place while Ta’el collected his thoughts. The boy had gone for water and was now stretched out along a low limb at the edge of the clearing. Experience advised Char that the other’s distant gaze indicated a receptive frame of mind. Indeed, as Char settled in with a grunt of satisfaction, the boy lazily commenced describing how he perceived his fellows. The impression ordinarily conveyed by position and gesture were restricted to the motions of one arm and hand, but the fosterling had an intriguing way of combining Aranda sounds in new ways to concoct entirely new meanings. Sometimes Sanjera had come and gone more than once before Char came to comprehend Ta’el’s meaning. Then he would share his revelation with Lael. Into his mate’s eyes would steal that look associated only with the pride of dama in her ta’el.
For all his lack of progress with the calls that were essential to the fosterling’s full acceptance as Aranda, the boy, Char conceded, was hardly stupid. That he was profoundly different could not be denied.
Char’s undeveloped sense of a future prompted a vague curiosity about Ta’el’s delayed adulthood. The fosterling had already been left behind by the tas Char believed to be of the same age. But the young one did show a unique promise. Char might someday bask in Ta’el’s leadership of the band. The buck wondered if other sires had similar notions of their offspring. It was not a matter readily conveyed among folk.
Char returned to the present with a jolt. The vague images faded and were forgotten. Ta’el was waiting in expectant silence.
“What is it Char’s ta sees?”
The boy repeated his query when Char’s response was too long in coming. The buck sought to explain, but he soon slowed and then halted altogether. He knew of no way to express to the puzzled youngster just what it was that accurately apprised him of mood despite any outward indications to the contrary. Indeed, it is the rare Aranda who can conceal either mood or intent from his fellows. Even the frames of mind of stranger bands are easily discerned, unlike the distorted versions of folk calls, which can be most difficult to interpret from one band to another. But the revealing presence of the faint personal aura is not a thing hunterfolk language can convey. Neither can the ability in the son of Jer’anda to read it be adequately explained.
TA’EL EXPERIENCED HIS first tragedy on a softly quiet near dark. The Aranda had settled down for sleep, bellies taut with fresh berries. The boy, having rejected the fruit, was stalking game on his own, well apart from the band. Char was following at a distance to watch over Ta’el, taking care to remain downwind and well hidden from view. It was not his intention to discourage the boy’s instinct for independence; it had been too long delayed.
Char took great pains to be certain no predator surprised the young hunter, but he was proud to discover there was no need for his fatherly concern. Intent as he was on his quarry, young Ta’el did not fail to keep a watchful eye on his surroundings. He was heeding well Char’s latest warning.
[Log, Gemini Wanderer, Day 26: Transmission terminated]
From the Journals of the Terran
[Log, Gemini Wanderer, Day 26]
None did surprise Ta’el that night. But strong as he was for a Chimurian, he was still no more than a child by the rigorous standards of Ashtar. When challenged by two folk of a stranger band, Ta’el was faced with certain death. He must have known that as well as Char did. It is difficult to imagine what images entered Char’s brain as he rushed forward to the aid of Jer’anda-ta – to the aid of a son of the starfolk – as if he were truly his own.
The hunterfolk male and his humankind son would have prevailed but for the inevitable quirk of fate that is so frequently a part of legend. The two of them dispatched the smaller of the enemy folk. Then Char motioned Ta’el back while the buck took on the larger alone. The boy was obedient – to a point. Char could certainly hold his own. From the edge of the jungle Ta’el saw that his sire was not far from victory. But then the Stars intervened in the proceedings.
The fibre that held Char’s long hair back from his face broke. The thick strands of hair fell forward and were blown across the buck’s eyes by the wind, blinding him for no more than a second.
It was all the opening the enemy male required. He swung a savage swipe with the heavy tree branch serving as a weapon. Char dropped in his tracks, never to move again. His neck had been broken.
Surprisingly, Ta’el stayed put. Somehow he retained the necessary presence of mind to accept that his small strength was no match for a full-grown folk male. Moreover, his death could not serve Char now. The boy’s future life was a gift he had to right to throw away in senseless rage.
It was Lael who eventually found her mate and son. Without knowing what prompted it, Ta’el was maintaining a vigil over his sire’s body. Lael repeatedly screamed the hunterfolk cry of desolate aloneness while Ta’el stood at the side of his slain sire in silent dignity. When at last she calmed, Lael saw but did not understand the tears that, unnoticed, were running down Ta’el’s fact. It was the last time Jer’anda-ta was able to cry human tears. In the future his grief would be Aranda and would find other, less satisfying outlets before dwelling forever within.
With the coming of night Ta’el left his dama’s side to mourn alone. He had held the dead Char and was deeply shaken by the emptiness of the still-warm body as well as by the events resulting in Char’s last battle. Like all hunterfolk, neither Char’s mate nor his fosterling was inclined to share those feelings that we humankind recognize as deep emotions. In this the two were very like Ta’el’s lost family.
When his solitary mourning was done, the boy did not immediately return to the band. From that day forward Ta’el increasingly ventured into the jungle alone. He persisted in the endeavor of mastering his band’s calls until, years later, he at last succeeded. But his pleasure was vastly diminished. The pride of accomplishment left much to be desired in the absence of his patient tutor. But over the years with Char’s teachings and then on his own, Ta’el attained a comprehension of the world of his birth that would be surpassed by none.
With increasing boldness the boy investigated his jungle home on his own. As time went on Ta’el was beginning to accept that he was not of the band and might never truly be one of the hunterfolk. The knowledge shamed him, for there was no other standard of society by which he could judge his emerging abilities. With unconscious intent Ta’el, son of Char, set out to prove himself – to himself.
[Log, Gemini Wanderer, Day 27, Transmission 2/Ta’el, continued]
TA’EL FOUND HIMSELF at the edge of a large pool where he and Char had once whiled away many a near dark and not a few passages of Sanjera, when two shadows would follow them across the grasslands. Beneath the shelter of an overhanging ledge a large fish moved only slightly, but it was enough to catch the youth’s eye. Ta’el laughed in the soft Aranda way, deep in his throat, and – before he could catch himself – he pointed to the elusive creature, should Char have missed it.
But Char was no longer with him. Never again would his sire show him the ways of the jungle. In all his world, only Lael cared about the foundling now. Ta’el’s hand fell to his side, but a smile remained on his lips as memory obliged with the image of Char showing him that neither Na’lia nor Ta’el’s own grasping fingers were quite where they seemed to be. Nea could play tricks in aid of her children. Ta’el could almost hear Char’s low chuckle.
For a moment Ta’el considered stalking wily Na’lia, but it was never the same alone, and he discovered that any hunger had been displaced by a pang of a different sort. Instead, the youth slowly made his way downstream, mostly remaining close to the water’s edge. Fast-flowing Nea was a companion who seemed almost to be speaking to him. Where the sound of the water, rushing and swirling on is own journey, soothed Ta’el’s aching heart, the way he had chosen distracted him by presenting a challenge to his prowess.
After a while the vegetation grew so profusely tangled, the boy found a thick liana and drew himself up into the trees crowding over the widening stream. Now, wherever he could, Ta’el remained in the lower terrace, only moving higher when the trees were older and their low branches too thick with foliage and the growth of hangers-on to allow him passage. Engrossed with the voices of the water and the myriad of surrounding life as well as with his own journey, Ta’el paid scant heed to the passage of time. He never noticed when the aching inside dwindled and then dissipated completely.
Presently the trees thinned. At his side, Nea seemed to pause on her passage as she reached out to cover more ground. Ta’el could hear the roar of the endless Sa’nea-nox, the great bitter water beyond. The youth cocked his head at something he heard in the roar. Actually it was the sound of Nea’s fiercest broth, Sa’nea-ok-ta, the stormy sea. Although Ta’el could not yet see the turbulent waters, the taste of sea was on his lips.
Soon the youth was forced to return to the ground. His familiar Nea now traveled in a deep wide trail of her own with thick grasses covering both flanks. The sharp scent of the sea caused Ta’el to breathe deeply of its tang. If he opened his mouth, he could feel it on his tongue, and he found it exhilarating. The youth commenced to run when the grasses thinned to give way to soft sand, hot underfoot from the intense brightness of Sanjera.
Sanjera himself stood over the sharp line where Sa’nea came to an abrupt halt farther away than Ta’el’s keen eye could measure. Whatever had enraged Nea’s brother into his present fury held sway farther still beyond Ta’el’s vision.
The youth halted where the roaring, frothing walls of Sa’nea-ok-ta’s stupendous force were no more than darkness staining the fine stuff in which his feet were embedded. This son of Aranda was not often awed by the phenomena of Ashtar, but her vast sea was like nothing else he had ever beheld. The youth was neither the first nor would he be the last to be held in fascination by the sea roiling with the forces of a storm.
As he watched, Sanjera slid down toward Nea’s waiting brother, and the sky constantly altered with the descent of that great being into the realm of the other. Ta’el was awed and almost intimidated by the apparent struggle for supremacy, but he was familiar with the roars Sa’nea and Sa’nea-ok-ta uttered and knew Sanjera always returned from whatever fate dwelled behind the distant edge of water.
Ta’el, having once fallen by accident into the clutches of the lesser Nea, had discovered the joy of swimming and of deliberately pulling himself beneath her surface to explore her realm. The very first fall into her clutches had taught him the wisdom of not trying to take a breath unless he was sure his nose and mouth had escaped Nea’s hold. Thereafter it was a great challenge to discover what Nea kept hidden without succumbing to the hazard of remaining too long.
Now, as Sanjera dove into the mysterious depths of this greater Nea, Ta’el wondered, as he had at a greater distance, what he might discover should he strike out across its surface. Wisdom prevailed this time, if only because a great wall of water suddenly appeared out of nowhere to knock the youth off his feet. Before he could scramble back to a safer vantage point, a second wall picked him up and unceremoniously dumped him in the sand, but only after threatening to drag him under and into the endless line of waves coming from who knew where.
Upon being released, Ta’el wasted no time in moving out of the reach of the oncoming waves. He would not be caught by surprise a second time. But this was proving to be great sport! Ta’el was tempted to test his mettle against the fury of Nea’s kin. Another time, he promised himself, when the less cantankerous Sa-nea had replaced the more violent of Nea’s brothers.
Finding himself covered with sand from head to foot, Ta’el did venture into one of the lesser waves to wash the gritty stuff away, but he was swift in running back onto the beach before he could be recaptured. He would someday take up Sa’nea’s challenge, but he was far too wise to take on Sa’nea-ok-ta. He turned back abruptly to raise his voice in Aranda challenge. The sound of his perfect rendition caused the youth to swell with the pride of accomplishment, only to feel again the ache of Char’s absence as the sound of it was snatched away by Mael. How could the one remind him of the other? Here was another puzzle for which there was no Aranda answer.
Ta’el quieted instantly, secure in the knowledge Char would have been proud of his new-found mastery of this, his first call of Aranda. In fact, Ta’el was himself slightly startled. His voice had been touched with a timbre he had never noticed before. It was like Aranda but with a difference the youth found quite curious.
He looked out over the ocean with a new sense of self for which he had no expression. Inexplicable sensations stirred deep within. Sanjera was gone now; Ta’el was alone with Sa’nea-ok-ta and the crimson glow touched with Sanjera’s lingering hues of gold and bronze. The youth stared at the sight, profoundly touched by the sensations of the moment.
Then, even as he watched in wonder, a small, intensely bright Jera – far brighter than the multitudes of Jera that crowd the dark skies of one shadow – arose from the depths into which Sanjera had plunged. As the youth watched in bemused curiosity, the small Jera made its stately passage across the sky, a golden streak of lesser light forming a trail behind it. Ta’el’s eyes were bright with curiosity and something akin to anticipation.
The bright star that was no star disappeared from view. Ta’el waited until darkness descended and, one by one, the true Jera made their appearance, but there was nothing else in the darkness to match what he had just seen: the last ship making a final futile passage in search for his own lost family, now gone for well over a decade. This was the final formality prior to investing Charwick in the usurper, whose own son would one day take this watching ta’el’s rightful place in Tuatha and
THOUGH REMAINING APART the young Aranda tended to follow the erratic movements of his band through the jungle. From time to time their wanderings returned the hunterfolk to the territory where Ta’el had been found.
It was inevitable that the youth’s boundless curiosity would eventually bring him to the site of the Southerly flyer. The same curiosity lured him closer and then into the shelter and finally into the flyer itself.
From that point on the youth could not spend enough time among the amazing treasures waiting to be discovered beyond that beckoning entrance. It was not long before Ta’el found and took possession of the oddly appealing thing of scintillating crystal and a substance completely alien to him, which he found at the side of the skeleton sprawled just metres beyond the shelter.
Young Leede Southerly discovered the few written manuscripts and his true father’s diary, but the youth could discover no possible use for these peculiar items. Eventually he found the record and entertainment tapes Lord and Lady Charwick had included in their baggage. Some of these materials had been intended to serve in the education of the child who now eyed them with a healthy interest but little else to guide him in their use. Had his true parents been granted the time to educate him, Ta’el – Lee – would have long since outgrown these elementary materials.
Somehow the youth stumbled upon the function of the tape scope. The last tape his parents had viewed was still in place. Otherwise, Ta’el never would have conceived of the scope’s possibilities. He examined the whole thing with care and taught himself how to use it through the time-honoured technique of trial and error. As a result, he repeatedly studied every tape in the Charwicks’ compact store. Much to his relief he discovered that he was almost identical to the strange Chimurian folk revealed. At last his differences and the name, Jer’anda-ta, began to take on unexpected meaning.
Sadly, humankind language remained beyond Ta’el’s ability. At first Ta’el was more intrigued by his efforts to locate the source of the shadows than by their relationship to the sounds. The puzzle of source he could not solve. So he turned his attention to an awkward attempt to ape the sounds he heard emitted from the scope. In time he began to grasp an elusive connection between those sounds and the nature of the activity in which the incredibly detailed shadows were engaging. Perhaps the youth finally came to the conclusion that the written manuscripts were simply another form of the sounds that always went with the mysterious activities he avidly studied on the scope, but the connection was one he was never able to make on his own.
For the intrigued feral child of Leede and Sabratha, the two greatest treasures were the former’s crystal knife, whose function Ta’el soon gleaned from the tapes, and a chain of twisted metal of a fine colour like that of Sanjera. The knife he used first to cut his long hair in an approximation of the styles he observed among the Chimurians. This effort was not entirely a matter of new-found vanity. Young Ta’el had no intention of dying as Char had, because of the whipping of his own hair across his eyes. The gold chain Ta’el fastened about his brow as a functional decoration. It too served to keep the shock of dark hair away from his face.
Some of the hunterfolk males wove soft leaves together and wrapped them about their loins, but Ta’el had never bothered with any form of cover. He disliked the feel of the leaves against his skin, and like small children of every planet, he simply preferred being naked. No shocked adult of a prudish inclination had ever insisted that Ta’el’s slim, naked body was indecent. But now he saw that Chimurians usually covered themselves in a wide variety of textures, colours and styles. Ta’el sensibly compromised between the fashions of hunterfolk and of humankind. He would affect no more than the hunterfolk style, but it would be of Chimurian materials. He found just what he wanted on the flyer and spent many labourious days converting the colourful material into a suitable garment.
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