Excerpt from Chameleon's Dish, my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel...
woke with a start, nearly falling from the branch before her claws
dug into the gnarled bark.
short, alarmed sound below her -
had fallen asleep, and slept, for the first time, in Lynxform.
there was a newling fawn, alone and staring up at her, but apparently
too weak to run.
thoughts spun for a moment in the fiery echoes of her dreaming...was
it dreaming, or did Father's soul truly Burn, this moment?
fawn settled back into its nest, bleating softly, but no doe came to
Tisira remembered the remains of the deer the bear had eaten, and
thought there was a possibility that the fawn's mother had been among
was a late fawn, and would not be strong enough to survive a harsh
winter even with a mother. Without, there was no chance it
would survive. It would be the bear, or the cold, or
starvation, or sickness - but the fawn would die.
if it had felt her thoughts, it stretched its slender neck forward,
bleating for milk.
could drop from the branch and end its hunger and suffering.
was regret - regret that the fawn had lost its mother. But sima
garo had provided, and her life would be fueled by its death.
breathed as Father had shown her, slowly and steadily - not at
all the way he had been breathing, in her dreaming - allowing doubt,
and fear and regret to leave her...
emptied of emotion, she filled herself, as Mother did, with the
details of the Hunt, the desire for the kill, becoming one with her
prey, simply part of the balance of these strange new Huntlands.
was no thought, no decision. Tisira dropped from the branch as
sima garo provided, snapping the fawn's neck and ending its suffering
in the same instant.
felt the echoes of Father's soulfire, and was aware that the
bear might be nearby - the wind did not carry its scent to her, but
that meant little. It would be hungry; the air spoke of a
freeze tonight, and cold tomorrow. Soon, the bear must sleep,
and it would be looking, now, for as much food energy as it could
she wasted no time, instead tearing into the fawn's belly to devour
the liver and stomach in huge gulps, scarcely tasting it. Then
she cracked the breastbone, and, soaking her muzzle in rich blood,
ate the lungs and heart.
the time, she kept her eyes and ears moving, so that no larger
predator would catch her unprepared. She wanted to drag the
fawn into the tree, where wolves, at least, could not reach. But
it was too heavy for her, so she would eat until she had had her fill
or until she was chased from her prize...
had just begun to gnaw away a leg when she saw the bear charging at
her from the low plain that ended in her ridge. 4.91 tenbreath,
and it would be upon her. She could not defend her prize
against such a large challenger, and so she must flee.
not without some reward for her effort. Ripping through tender
young muscles and sinew, she tore off thehind leg at the meaty
haunch, and sprang into the tree, leaping into the highest branches,
nearly dropping the leg.
did not think the bear could push the tree down, if it chose to try,
and it looked just slightly too large to climb. Still, she kept
herself tense and ready to spring away, if she needed to.
bear reached the carcass, sniffed it, then rose on its hind legs to
sniff at her, making a low, grunting noise. She swiped at it,
claws extended, and arched her back as her fur stood out, making her
seem larger and more threatening.
bear swiped experimentally, but could not reach her without leaving
the fawn to do so. It waited a moment, then let out a fierce
roar, its breath ripe with the meat it had already consumed. Then,
it shook its shaggy head and dropped back to all fours to seize the
fawn and drag it several lengths away, back up the ridge.
set to ripping and gorging on the carcass, back to Tisira, having
apparently decided that she was not a threat.
took advantage of its preoccupation with feeding and leapt from the
tree to the base of the ridge, still, somehow, holding to Lynxform,
and managing too not to drop the haunch in the process.
safely away from the bear - she had moved further from her den-place,
so that the bear, if it followed. would not know the direction - she
reclaimed her natural form, and tucked the leg into the bundled furs
she carried, so that it would not drip.
carefully downwind of the bear, she trotted, shivering a little with
the growing chill, looping around the space between the ridge and her
den, finding three small and fast streams to cross, and twice
climbing a tree to leap into another before descending, all in an
attempt to confuse the trail if the bear chose to look for her and
the meat she carried.
effort it had required to hold Lyxform so long, to cover her trail,
and the rich vitals she had eaten, brought about a sudden and
still, she felt the need of a fire, for protection and for warmth -
and she must consume the meat on the fawn's leg, lest it bring the
bear to her.
and shivering, she brought out the jar that held coals and ash from
her home fire, and carefully built up a bed of tinder around it, then
kindling. While she waited for the coals to ignite, she built a rough
spit for the haunch, then saw to it that she had enough firewood to
last through a twoday, because she might need this shelter again, or
remain longer than she had intended.
was sleepy, and so couldn't fully trust her logic, but it seemed
that, if there were people here, they would be likeliest to live near
a larger body of water - at least, they would if this was Earth, for
that was the pattern of human development. If the flowing water she had
heard was as large a body as it seemed, and if there were people
here, and if this was Earth, then it was possible if not probable
that she would find them by following the sounds to where the water
was, and investigating there.
are too many variables to formulate a strong theory." She
could almost hear Father's voice, in her mind, puzzling over the
problem with her. "But, in pursuing your hypothesis, you
will doubtless acquire further information that will refine or alter
the parameters of your search."
you're saying I should keep looking." Sometimes, she
thought Father forgot that she was not grown yet, and did not always
understand his meanings from the words he chose. Almost, it
seemed that he was still on a starship, Mother said, and giving
Mother always said it with a smile and with deep fondness in her
scent. And Tisira loved that part of Father, and didn't mind,
and, besides, he was always patient and willing to explain until she
she heard him, in her mind. "Yes, Tisira. You must
have more information, and perhaps it is better found where you are
than where you have been."
words seemed to be spoken into her soul, and they made her feel warm
and safe, with Father's devotion and his logic there, as they always
were, as they always had been.
as she stared into the growing blaze she was feeding, she was
reminded of her dreams, and how Father had been, in them - alight
with a fire that was somehow like Huntlust, and yet not.
hadn't seemed surprised or frightened by his burning soul; it seemed,
somehow, a part of him; a part she had not known was there, until now
had she? She thought back, remembering her first, dimmest
memories- those from before she had been born, when she and
Kirana, although they had not had names, then, had floated warm and
there been that fire, then, just as she was becoming aware? Was
it not a thing that she, too, knew to the core of her, but had only
forgotten, because it had ended, and, for so long, Father had simply
been as she now expected him to be?
had always called him 'fierce one'; and Father, although so very
gentle and peaceful in a way no Tacivaarii had ever been, had never
corrected her. She knew, because no one on Vulcan made any kind
of secret about it, that they had been a savage and warrior people,
for far more millenia than they had been peaceful, and that logic was
the answer to whatever had driven such passions.
it was not logical that those passions would simply vanish, was it?
Nor that there would be such a focus on emotional control, if
there were not emotions they thought they *must* control, lest they
become impossible to control....
was it only a dream, born not of some actual fire within Father, but
instead of her own worries?
just like Father's imagined words, she knew that, in this too, she
didn't have enough information. She would release her concerns,
but also remain alert to what she felt from Father....
realized that she had been staring into the fire long enough for her
legs to begin to ache and prickle. The spitted haunch sizzled, and she removed it from the fire, and then ducked outside
- it was full dark now, and clear, with something that looked
very much like Earth's moon waning in the sky - to be certain that
the smoke from her fire was filtering out through the small hole in
the shallow cave's roof.
scented the air cautiously - it was blowing toward her from the
direction of the ridge, now, and she could smell the bear, somewhere
near the fawn. She thought it might be asleep, or resting, but
it showed no interest in coming closer to her.
farther away, she picked up a different scent - hard to identify for
certain, but the spoor put one word into her mind, as though it were
written in the fire of Father's soul -
was too late and she was far too tired to investigate now, but she
determined that, as soon as she woke, she would go toward that scent,
and she whether she were mistaken.
might be. It smelled both like and unlike the people smells she
knew so well - but then, Vulcan and human and Tribed people all
smelled different,and each person, too, had their own unique scent.
So did each planet, and even a starship had its own palette of
scents, and each place on each planet, or each section of a starship,
had its own flavor built from those scents.
it felt like people, and she felt her heart beating quickly in her
side. People could get her home, or tell her where she was so
that she could find home.
still, there was Mother's voice in her mind, saying, "There are
more dangers in the Huntlands than you might know. Always
remember that there is more in reality than you may know, and remain
alert, wary, and ready to spring, or flee, if need be."
as so often happened, she could hear Father echoing the sentiment,
but in his own way, "No one can know all there is to know,
Tisira. The wise know that they do not know, and hold themselves
ready to learn more, or to act."
was truly beginning to shiver, now. A nightbird hooted softly,
signaling the beginning of its night's hunting; the crisp and
near-freezing air carried the sound, which was at once both haunting
took a moment to stare at the skies, trying to fix the stars into her
mind, so that she could keep them there as she fell asleep, or when
she meditated, hoping that her family, or the Huntthread, might sense
it, and know where to begin to look for her. That was one more
way in which she could open herself to sima garo.
it won't be serving s-sima garo to fr-freeze to death," she told
herself, then jumped at how loud and clear her voice sounded in the
still, chill night.
at her own nervousness, she went inside, to the warmth of her
snapping fire, to the haunch, now nicely roasted, and to the warmth
of her bed....
slept restlessly, woken frequently by that shadow of remembered
dream-fire, which twisted through the imaginings of what variety of
people these might be - if they did, indeed, exist, and weren't
simply her own imagining...
she awoke, in the cold of predawn, and her mind would not settle.
She fed her fire, which was burning low, then went outside to
relieve herself, and to stare again at the stars, trying to bring to
mind the exact images of Earth's starcharts, to see if this sky
she attempted to sleep; again, she could not settle her mind. No-
she must know. If there were people; and why she felt that
Father was, somehow, in danger from this soulfire he did not fear. If
she would be able to take the bear, or if the bear would instead take
her, perhaps while she slept.
was little point in laying here, wide awake. She didn't know how far
she would need to travel to get to where the people were; and she
didn't know, if she found them, if she would be able to seek their
help at once. She had observed that many adults of many species
treated children as lesser beings who must be controlled and
constantly under adult eyes. Who must - the word struck a
warning chord within her - "obey".
had never understood this. Mother and Father treated her, and
Kirana, and Seth, as people. "As we all are!" she muttered,
as she decided to begin the hide leggings - the air did not feel as
though it would warm much, today.
was not that her parents didn't know they were children; they were
very aware. They cared for her and her siblings; but they had
never sought to control. How she spent her time, how Kirana and
Seth did, was not according to Father or Mother's choice; but
according to their own natures.
tried to imagine either of her parents trying to limit her behavior
if her life or someone's rights weren't at stake; or of them not
knowing what her capabilities were.
as she had seen in both the Untribed and human worlds, not seeming to
care what their children's preferences were, so long as they did as
they were told to do.
would be best, she decided, as she thought about how to turn the
hide scraps into leggings, to move forward cautiously, watching the
people to try to get a sense of them before announcing her presence
and her lack of adult companionship - or her need for help.
decided that the tiny, sharp cloven fawn hoof would do to puncture
the hides, and the thornless vine she'd collected yesterday would
serve well to bind them, at least until she could collect and dry
enough sinew to replace it.
fitted the scraps together until she had a sense of how to piece
them; then severed the hoof and used one of the rocks from her fire
ring to drive the hoof into the hides, which she'd laid upon another,
nearly flat rock she's chosen because it was a good work surface.
needed to set aside three small scraps that she destroyed in the
process of learning the best approach for her punctures, and she
thought she would have at least one bruise from where her hand had
now she knew how to strike the hoof, and how much of its point to
allow to puncture the hide, and how far from the edge to strike.
From that point, the work was simple, and she completed
it before the sun rose redly into a sky that felt somehow heavy.
she began to thread the vine through the holes, and, as she worked,
she turned the seams inward, for added warmth. She would wear
them with the fur inside, and,if she could take a bear, she would
brush the outside with fat, so that she could wear them even in the
they were finished, she ate two handfuls of dried nuts and berries,
and then drank from her drinking jar. She decided that she
would eat no more of the provisions she'd brought until she had
foraged for replacements - something she would do as she moved
toward where the scent of people had come from, toward the water she
cold both hear and smell, today.....
placed her coals, with more ashes, back into their lidded jar, and
carefully extinguished her fire. She slung three empty jars and
one filled with water over her shoulder, strung on a length of the
vine. She had another length to use to make some snares, if she
found any current runs.
put on her outer tunic, then the grass one, and, finally, she was
ready to try her new leggings. They fit a bit too loosely, but
she solved that by cinching them tightly with an extra wrap of vine.
They would hold, for now, although she might need to tighten
them from time to time....and, once she had found a way to make
thicker winter clothing, they should fit snugly.
blocked the entrance to her cave after being certain she had left no
meat on the fawn's leg bone, and after having buried the bone itself
a short distance from the cave.
took a moment to scent the air, which steamed as she breathed, even
though the sun was well up, now. Yes, she could smell them
clearly - but the scents of cookfires and untreated waste and animal
dung told her that she would not be likely to find communications
devices among these people. Perhaps, then, she had landed in a
primitive zone - Earth had many, or so she seemed to remember Father
saying - places where the people had decided to forgo technology and
live as their ancestors had.
were a few such areas on Vulcan as well, but not many. Most
Vulcans followed a logical combination of technological and more
nature-centered balance, using technology where it benefited most,
but not wasting resources when a simpler approach would work as well
the Tribed and Untribed on Aletris, there were no such places. There
was already a natural separation - the Huntlands were not a place for
anything but the natural; although any Tribed could go to Osiiraan
and stay as long as they wished, making use of the advancements that
were becoming a part of everyday life, there. And the Untribed
had large tracts of land that were free for their own natural
pursuits - tamer ones than the Tribed tended to enjoy.
moved cautiously, aware not only of the possibility that the bear
might be about, and take notice of her once again; but also because
where there was a settlement of people, there were very likely to be
more outside the borders of that settlement, and instinct was warning
her that it was unwise to allow herself to be seen before she
understood the nature of these particular people, and whether they
would help her without taking her freedom.
the way, she dug four types of edible root, gathered nuts, and set
three snares where there was a tunneling path and fresh rabbit
leavings. She noted two groundbird nests, although one appeared
to have been unused for some time. Perhaps, though, she would
have a fat bird for her supper, tonight, as well as more feathers,
which she was using, padded between woven grass, to make herself an
overtunic designed for warmth, as her Vulcan ones were not.
could see the river, glinting in occasional glimpses through the
trees, and the sounds and smells of people and tame animals were
pungent, now, catching in her throat after the clean smells of
Vulcan, and the scents of the wilderness she had inhabited for the
stopped, not wanting, illogical as it was after the week of
uncertainty, to get closer to the settlement, yet. It was loud,
and it stank, even at this distance. The assault on her senses, she
knew, could only get worse as she came closer to where the people
suddenly, she did not want to come any closer to such noisome,
reeking creatures - because she could sense that they were a violent,
thronging, ravenous lot....
is judgment without adequate facts, Tisira. It is quite common
in childhood, and in those who do not value rational thought. It may
be wiser to consider IDIC and its meaning - infinite diversity in
infinite combination. Not all combinations will suit you, but
all indeed have their place in reality, if they exist, and so,
rationally, must be accepted."
had said this the first time she traveled with him among humans,
because she had found them odd in so many ways that she decided not
to like any of them - except Kiral Leonard. It had perplexed
her greatly to think that she, and Kirana, and Andrew, and even
Father himself, carried the blood of these objectionable beings. It
was no wonder that Father had chosen instead to honor the Vulcan side
of his heritage....
how do I accept what I do not like?"
does not equate to preference, Tidira. It is possible to accept
humans as they are without choosing to be among them. Many
Vulcans practice this, because humans tend to - unsettle them."
That is how I feel. Unsettled - "
can present quite a substantial challenge to one's logic,"
Father had said, in that amused tone that said he was remembering
many times when this had been so for him, all at once. "And,
perhaps, although certainly unsettling, there is value in that.
Sometimes, when one has been settled for too long, settlement
you are saying I should go out among these humans, Father?"
am not. I am saying, Tisira, that you may find them worthy of
study, and perhaps of companionship, as I have. Consider that,
if Sarek your grandfather had not done so, I would not have been
born. And, without the help of a great many humans, I would not have
lived to find your mother, and our family - would not exist. *You*
would not." He bent to stroke the backs of his fingers
against her cheek - like a whisper, or a breeze. "If,
as I have done, as Sarek has done, you choose to allow humans into
your life, Tisira, you are quite likely to grow in ways you would
not, else, But only you can decide if that path is one your
feet can tread."
remembering Father's words, she reminded herself that he had been
right, in that instance. Once she had overcome her aversions to
the chaotic differences of the humans, she had found many of them
most likable. Their curiosity and determination reminded her of
Vulcans, even if they were of a very different flavor; they
complemented her own. The flights of fancy they took - what
Father referred to as "hunches" in a tone that said that,
although he had much experience with this part of humanity, he had
never fully understood or fully trusted it - often led her down
trails of thought she wouldn't have considered, herself.
if I watch them from a distance," she mused. The trees grew
tall, near the river, and she could take Lynxform and climb to where
she could not be spotted or reached.
such a height, she would not need to be too close to the people, but
she could observe. Enough, perhaps, to be certain beyond
doubting that this was Earth, and where on Earth it was, and
whether it was safe to go as she was amongst these people.
while she was observing them, she could also observe the prey
animals, the vegetation, and the surrounding area.
she had the idea, she wondered why it hadn't occurred to her sooner.
"Maybe only because I would not have been able to hold
Lynxform so long, before this," she told herself, then
remembered that it might not be wise to speak, here.
scouted the area for a likely tree. She needed one with low,
sturdy branches to leap into - she was not yet strong enough in her
Huntskills to make a vertical climb. And it needed to be tall
enough to provide a good view. And to be an evergreen, because
the leaves were mostly gone on those that shed them, and she would
need cover, lest these people thought her worthy of hunting.
found a tree that looked like it would meet her needs, then spent a
moment in review, to be sure she hadn't forgotten something
important. Then, she settled her breath, focused on her inner
Huntress, Changed, and leapt to a low, wide branch.
tree smelled sweetly green, which was most welcome after the rising
stench of the settlement. Tisira leaned in close to the trunk
and sniffed deeply, cleansing her nose and her mind of the worst of
as pleasant as it was to stay and simply breathe the life the tree
exhaled, she knew that she would find no answers, here. No, she
must climb, and look, and see, and learn...
startled squawk of protest, and something small and grey zipped into
a hole not far from her ear. She had been so distracted by the
scent of the tree that she had missed the scent of rodent.
herself to attend to where she was and what she intended to do,
Tisira left off her sniffing and tipped her head back to examine the
branches above. She spotted a clear route up several branches
from where she now was, and made her way to the uppermost before
stopping to study the ground below, the trees surrounding, and the
most likely path to climb the next several branches.
each assent, she made a study of the ground below, what she could see
of the river and what seemed to be a walled settlement beyond, of the
life in her tree and those around it, and the route up through the
branches, taking note of any fallen or split branched that might pose
smell was getting stronger as she climbed - the smell of a
river teeming with life, and of farm animals, and carrion, and fetid
waste of the kind only created by humanoid creatures....
had never smelt anything like it, and she thought she might be ill
because of it. Her breakfast rose in her throat, and her eyes
stung, and her stomach twisted in protest.
she needed to, she stopped, and huddled close to the tree, and
breathed in its life, until she could go on again.
wasn't logical, she realized, that this was a primitive settlement,
on the Earth she knew. No Earth settlement, however primitive,
would overlook the health and well-being of its people. There
were too many ways to manage waste, from too many worlds, that would
fit easily with a more natural living.
Pridekeep was, by the agreement of all who chose to live there, kept
completely natural. In the Pridekeep, today, things were as
they had always been, as she hoped they would always be, there. And
there was never any such smell, nor the pall of an emotional sickness
so deep and wide that she could feel it from here, more sickening
even than the smell.....
didn't need to climb any higher to know that this was a place where
the strong ruled over the weak for no other reason that they were the
stronger, and that there would be wars and fighting and cruelty, in a
place such as this. She had read about such places, in books
Father had left in the basket above her cupboard...
Her cupboard. The familiar basket of books, always full,
always containing both old favorites and new promises, always ready
for her. And Father to read with her, to allow her to snuggle
into his lap, to allow her any flight of fantasy she wished, however
illogical, during those reading times.
who had said, often and incredibly, "Hold to your imagination,
Tisira, and yet, let it fly free. It will lead you to worlds
that are yours, alone; it will sustain you if you are alone and
lonely. It will make you far wiser and richer in soul than
logic alone ever could. It is your birthright. And, if,
one day, we are apart, and you wish we were not, you have only to
imagine me, and you will have the comfort of my memory, if you cannot
have my presence."
eyes were stinging more painfully now, but it was with the tears she
could not cry, in Lynxform.
she did as father had suggested, and held him in her imagination, as
though he was right here beside her (although that was illogical; she
had never seen him climb remotely as high as this),