WORDCOUNT: 982 words
RUNNING TOTAL: 2101+982 = 3083
“I hate it when you do that.” The fictive glared grumpily up at the Writer. She was still sitting on her pack, but looked none the worse for wear.
“Cut away when we’re in the middle of a conversation. It’s rather rude to just walk off.”
“Right, now we’ll ignore the fact that no time at all passed for you and it’s now tomorrow for me.” The Writer rolled her eyes and started off with a handful of art supplies to paint her fictive a background. “Now care to give me a hand here?”
“Hrmph.” Nahyl glared at the Writer, but as it was having no apparent effect, she gave up after a moment and got up to investigate the various paints and markers.
“So let’s see.” The Writer eyed the rather blurry landscape for a moment, then sketched out one of the bramble-trees. “Let’s see, since there aren’t that many large herbivores, lets go with smaller thorns, and a less intense color scheme than the forests. Sort of desert-ish flavorings… hmmm”
“Do I get to point out using desert colors in an area with abundant flora is a little strange?” The fictive snagged one of the markers and started doodling in garish yellow moss on one of the mostly-defined rocks. “Plus you’ve colored the forests dark maroon and green as I remember.”
“Hey, non-earth flora, non-earth colorings.” The Writer deftly added small thorns to the vaguely fractal-looking branches. “I’d give you two suns just to hammer it home, but that’s a bit over-done I think.”
“‘Two brother-suns in Kazimar.‘”
“Hey, no quoting other ‘verses, it sets a bad precedent.” The Writer sat back, eyed the brush with something akin to annoyance, and then leaned in again to paint a small flurry of tiny burnt-orange leaves. “Besides, technically you’re a lost colony.”
“Very very lost.” Nahyl had moved on from the moss and was adding in a small field of chest-high grasses in tan and lemon yellow. “So lost in fact, the only person who knows it is you.” She added a slight stripping to the stalks, then stepped back to eye her work. “Plus Kazimar was also a lost colony, as I remember.”
“Remind me to start locking those entries.” The Writer finished with the bush, gave it a contented pat and then swore interesting curses when it scratched her.
While they were distracted –the Writer with the unhappy discovery that the bush was mildly poisonous, and the fictive by laughter– a large shadow lumbered into the picture. It ambled over towards the fictive, and started munching happily on the grasses she’d draw.
“Hey, backup,” she pushed it and it grunted contentedly. “Don’t suppose you can take a minute to finish outlining the fuzzballs?”
The Writer muttered something unrepeatable, but grabbed a handful of colored pencils and got to work…
The khail are young, not quite the massive beasts they will become, but still ponderously slow. They are prized more for their stamina than speed. But it’s summer, and they are winter beasts. They’ve already shed most of their winter coat, and are constantly eating.
Thus the herd moves very very slowly. Nahyl walks beside them instead of riding since a normal walking pace is about they speed they move. The cats are there to bring them back if they stampede and to direct their general direction.
The khail still have the wide curling horns of the adults, since those are never shed, but they are much lighter and haven not been threaded with brass rings for riding. They are comfortable around humans, but have not been introduced to saddle or harness, so they are still relatively unpredictable. Sort of like very large untrained puppies… if puppies were concerned mainly with eating and slobbering kisses on their handlers.
“Oh joy.” The fictive pushed away one of the khail with a mutter as it lipped companionably at her hair. “Not only have I got, what, eleven large herbivores to manage by myself, but now they have the brains of a young golden retriever.” The khail rumbled happily and leaned back at the ficitve, who stumbled backwards with assorted curses.
“So, erm, yeah…”
The cats are much more intelligent than one would expect, and there are some arguments for sentience among the humans. They are not tame, nor domestic, and work with the humans by choice. They understand complex hand signals, but how much they understand and how much they’ve simply learned to respond to is up for vigorous debate.
They are omnivores but their diet is mainly carnivorous except for certain seasons. In the winters they are almost pure carnivores and in the early spring they swing back to herbivore. At the moment they are in the ‘long shift’ back from plants to animals. They hunt on their own, but do so in shifts so that one is always there to help watch the herd. If hunting is good, they’ll share with Nahyl, but only the leftovers. She does the same to them, turning over whatever is left from her meals when she’s finished with them.
The cats summer coats are a dappled burgundy and deep green, as if someone had played with the color filters on a leopard. They blend in very well with their normal hunting ranges, but don’t do so well in the hills which are primarily rusty oranges an dark greens. Their winter coat is almost pure white, and they start shedding a few weeks before the first snowfall and a few weeks before the last. The humans find it amusing that they can tell the weather by the cats.
“Well that’s more than I’d expected.” Nahyl eyed the sudden appearance of highly detailed cats with something akin to alarm. “Am I allowed to point out the fact the animals have a better back-story that I do is slightly insulting?”
“Can’t hurt to try.”