The Forest of Tesznerov gave the impression of being a monolith of green and brown, a forbidding wall that slowed and even stopped progress.
But if you could get past the obstructions and into the forest itself, it was bright and sunny, with patches like meadows almost half an acre large. And if you got even further in, near the top of the hill called Thistle Mountain, you might encounter the Cheramia.
Oostely had been that – not lucky, to call it luck was an insult – skilled, the first in a century to get that far and (one hoped) live to tell about it. She perched on a stump and waited, listening, until a chermiach settled down in front of her.
It chirruped out a greeting. In return, Oostely bowed deeply and responded in her own tongue. The Cheramia were one of the truly foreign creatures to be found within the technical confines of the nation, but if she had to try to describe one, Oostely might do as her great-great-grandmother had done and say “a flying cat-snake with some sort of squirrel tail.” They might be as long as the distance between her ankle and hip, but they preferred to coil up like a spring, so they peeked at her through the fluff of their tail.
The chermiach whistle-popped a sound that could be a question, and then squeaked out what sounded like a human word. “Greeeeet,” it clucked.
“Greetings,” Oostely responded. She could not help but notice how sharp the chermiach’s teeth were, or how longs its claws were, or how close it was. But her great-great-grandmother had met one and lived to tell about it, so Oostely chirruped out what she hoped was the word for peace, and prayed it would work.
(the tip jar is a kitty for reasons)
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