“Um… hello,” said Felda, cautiously.
“This morning, I am walking,” the cat-headed man said conversationally, “and seeing something interesting. Do you know what it is I am seeing?”
“Um… no?” said Felda.
“No,” he said. “And why should you?” He dropped lithely to the ground beside her, then bowed. “I am forgetting to introduce myself. I am called Twill.”
“Ah,” said Felda. She took a step back and laid a hand on Brom’s flank. The man didn’t seem dangerous, but…
He looked up at her–he was very slightly shorter than she. “I see I am confusing you. I know; it is the first thing everyone always asks: ‘Like the fabric?’ The answer is yes. My parent hears the word long-ago and thinks it is sounding, errmm…” He searched for words. “Romantic. Exotic? From the faraway west.”
“Is that really the first thing everyone asks?” asked Felda.
“No,” he admitted. “Sometimes, I am saying it before they can ask, so instead they are asking something else.”
“Why are you a cat?” Felda blurted.
“Yes, that is what they are asking.”
“Sorry,” said Felda.
“No-no,” Twill answered, shaking his head. “Men having the heads of cats is not common. It is natural to be curious.”
“Oh, okay,” said Felda. “So… why do you have the head of a cat?”
He smiled, showing sharp-looking fangs, and said nothing.
“Um,” said Felda. “So. Yes. Uh, I think I had best be on my way. Gotta keep moving, you know?”
She backed away from him slowly. Despite how small and slim he was, that sword and the whipcord muscles of his arms were more than enough to worry her, even before fangs came into the equation.
“Please, at least wait until I am telling you what it is I am seeing, no?” he protested.
Felda paused. She was out of reach of his sword, and the dirt underfoot was fairly loose. She felt into the threads–yes, she would be able to throw a cloud of it in his face the moment he reached for his sword. “What did you see?”
“I am seeing a strange rock in the middle of a field. A person and a bull is coming out, and it collapses. It is strange to me. Who is this person? Why are they with a bull that does not act like a bull? What sort of bull neither eats nor drinks? And why does the person have the face of one who is trying not to be sad and afraid? And I am thinking I am knowing the answers to these questions.”
Felda took a long step back, Brom moving with her. She had never attacked someone with magic before, but it was starting to look like she had no choice.
Twill stepped forward, his white-gloved hands in front of him, palms spread and facing her. “I am not being an enemy, child,” he said. “You and your dragonchild are belonging to you. Who you run from, why, these do not matter to me. What sort of person am I being, if I am seeing a child running and not helping?”
Felda paused. “Who are you, really?” she asked.
“I am telling you the truth,” he answered. “My parent is naming me Twill. Many years ago I am deciding to walk to other side of world. In a year, two, I am finishing, and then maybe going back or doing something new.”
“Why?” asked Felda. “Who are you running from?”
“The same reason everyone is doing everything. It is seeming like a good idea at the time.” He looked contemplative for a moment. “I am thinking, but I do not think I am running from anyone today. Most who are chasing me do not like walking as far as I am walking.”
Felda looked him over again. No pack, no belt pouches, no pockets–maybe money hidden in his boots? But most likely, no money and no supplies, so how did he eat?
“What do you do?” she asked. “Other than walking?”
“If I see someone and am wishing to help, I am helping. Mostly I am finding those with power, and teaching them what power is for.”
What it’s for? Felda mouthed the phrase silently. Does he mean… is there some purpose my teachers never taught? “Can–” she paused. “I’m not saying I trust you or that you can come closer. I’m just asking, can you teach me?”
It was Twill’s turn to pause. “No one is ever asking for lesson before.” He considered, then brightened. “Yes, I think I can!”
Almost faster than she could see, and definitely far faster than she could react, his bright, needle-thin sword was in his hand. That same swift smooth motion somehow became a lunge, and then his sword was in her chest.
Then it was dark.