There were several large trees nearby. Turan chose one and quickly ascended into its upper boughs. There, he found a secure seat against the trunk and removed the satchel. It was wiggling. He unfastened the cover and then took a deep breath. He might change his plans depending on what was inside. If the kit was severely deformed, it might be best to just abandon it deep in the forest rather than curse some desperate couple with raising it. It wasn’t the way of the Wayein to abandon their kits … except in extreme cases.
No. Turan had been told to take it away, not to leave it in the forest. That meant that whatever was wrong with it was not so severe that it would make life for it difficult. What was wrong with this kit that it had been turned away as unfit to be a king or queen?
Turan lifted the cover and then gently pushed away a light covering cloth. He breathed a sigh of relief. Inside as far as he could see, was the normal round and slightly squished face of a newborn cub. Its eyes and ears were still sealed shut and short reddish tan fur covered it. It had a perfect formed round black nose and its mouth was working as it searched desperately for something to eat. A little pink tongue stuck out as it cried and two hands clenched in tiny perfect darker furred fists reached out.
Turan cocked his head at the kit, ears forward in wonder. What was wrong with it? He lifted the kit out of the satchel and balanced it in the crook of his arm. At that moment, a stray beam of moonlight filtered through the uppermost branches and Turan could now see a faint spot on his forehead, a white star spot. Turan smiled, his ears going back in confusion.
Spots and patches were not unusual in Weyein. They were often determined to be charms or omens. Patterns in the fur were carefully scrutinized. Most were used in naming more than any sort of predestination, but a star spot was not a bad omen. It was lucky and considered beautiful.
Turan unwrapped the rest of the cloth holding the squirming kit and lifted it free of it for a proper inspection, still confused about what was wrong with it.
It turned out to a boy and from his strong squirming and cries, a very healthy one. His feet and legs were perfectly formed and kicking in protest. Then, Turan almost dropped the kit. He snapped his jaws in surprise and turned the kit around.
He had a split tail. That was why he had been sent away. It was a horrible physical flaw, one that marked him with a weakness of mind. In this case, it wasn’t simply superstition, but science. It was a birth defect that commonly went in line with a low mental capacity and other physical problems.
Turan rewrapped the kit and rummaged through the satchel to see what else had been put inside. Surely the kit had been sent with food and clean wraps. Mother’s milk was important, but in the birthing chamber they also kept warm bottles ready so the mother would not be additionally stressed. Turan’s hand closed on a warm cylinder and he smiled. They had thought ahead. Such a young kit would need to be fed several times before he ended his journey. Carefully, Turan unscrewed the lid on the bottle, popped out the nipple and pushed it toward the kits mouth. It mouthed the nipple awkwardly, then found it and hungrily suckled.
Turan watched for a moment, then looked out into the darkness with a scowl. What was he going to do? He knew of two couples that would welcome a kit. One already had kits, the other didn’t and were likely not going to be able to. It was his own sister he was thinking of. She had been unable to have live kits and she and her mate had given up on it. She wanted kits, Turan knew she did, and one such as this would require more attention than any one kit. But it was his sister and this kit … was marked with good luck and a deformity that cursed him.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. Still, the kit in his arms felt perfectly normal. Maybe they were wrong. Yes, they were all trained in determining the fitness of a newborn and Turan was not, but to him, it seemed a perfectly normal kit as it was. He had never seen a two tailed Weyein, just heard about them.
Turan decided that the decision would be up to his sister.
The kit fed with small breaks as Turan took care to burp it, hopeful that it wouldn’t spit up all over his uniform. Then, with a very round and full stomach, he fell asleep. Turan carefully rewrapped it and laid it back in the satchel, making sure it was securely diapered after a quick change.
Then, he was off again, back down the trail with his mind full of questions and his heart heavy at the secret he was carrying. He decided at once that he would not tell his sister where the kit came from and began working on a story to tell her, deviating as little from the truth as he could without coming out and saying, this is the high prince!
The sky was beginning to lighten when Turan reached his destination. His legs were weary from the all night jaunt, as even as it had been. He would be able to spend a few days with his sister, then would return to his duties at the great tree.
Turan slowed to a walk as his feet hit a well worn path wide enough for two wagons to pass over it at once. He walked across it and onto a much smaller path that led further into a valley. His ears were up and nose twitched at the oncoming smells. Humans.
The human smell was strong here, much smaller than Wayein. He circled around a small cluster of houses that were little more than huts. They were nothing as nice as the lowest Wayein. Turan wanted to avoid running into any of them so he kept to a small outlet of the forest that served as a windbreak to the little town.
Turan spotted a few humans among the huts, going about early morning duties. They were likely preparing to go hunting or fishing and Turan’s shoulders quivered slightly. Humans made him nervous. They were unpredictable in their ways and lacked the many expressions that a wayein had.
Then, he came to where his sister lived just outside the town. There were several caravans arranged in a horseshoe shape around a central fire. Turan strode into the camp, ignoring a staring human female who was sitting by the fire preparing a pot of food. He didn’t want to startle her any further by making eye contact and trotted quickly to his sister’s door, banging on it hard with a fist several times.
These humans were friends of the wayein, but they were still humans in Turan’s eyes. His sister might have chosen to live among them with his mate as healers, but he avoided them if he could.
The door creaked open and Turan was met with a snarl. He took a step back as his sister snapped at him, “What are you doing here this early in the morning, Turan?!”
Turan’s ears went back and he crouched, hands out, “Tirian, good morning! I brought you something! Can I come in? I came all the way from the tree overnight!”
“What is it?” Tirian seemed to be in no mood for company. Her red and black ears were flat back against her head and the fur along her neck and shoulders was standing straight out. Her black muzzle was still fixed in a toothy snarl and her golden eyes were narrowed. She looked exhausted. “Oh, come in, Turan, and be quick about it.”
Turan meekly entered the small caravan and closed the door behind him. Tirian had already gone on to the back of the caravan and laid down. Turan removed his satchel and was about to open his mouth when he heard a noise. A crying noise that was not coming from his satchel. Turan’s jaw dropped and he stared at his sister.
There were two small red and black furrballs laying on the bed near her. Squirming crying furrballs. “Tirian??” Turan’s teeth clacked unintentionally. “You didn’t tell anyone?”
“Last week, Turan.” And now, his sister smiled a sweet closed mouth smile. “After so many lost, we didn’t want to tell anyone until they were born and … then they were … and then we were soooo busy.” Tirian yawned and laid down so that her head was between the two fat squirming kits. “Both girls, my darling little Dawn and May.”
“Where is Marvlin?” Turan’s mouth suddenly felt dry. He licked his jaws and was at a loss for what to do now.
“He’s out getting us pheasants for dinner. Are you going to stay for dinner? I know you love pheasant.” Tirian was suddenly very talkative and affectionately nuzzling her kits at the same time. “What did you bring me?”
Turan’s blood ran cold and he stiffly removed the bag. He didn’t have a choice. He was here and wouldn’t be leaving quickly. “If I had known …” He murmured, hears back in apology and tail hung low.
Tirian sat up, curious at her brother’s posturing. “Turan?”
“If I had known,” Turan carefully picked up the kit he had brought and took a step toward his sister. The kit cried out at being jostled from his warm sleep. “I would have taken him to Miranna, Tirian. You have your hands full and -”
Tirian reached out and took the crying kit from Turan abruptly, shushing it and holding it close. It immediately quieted.