Iniko followed Allen to the stream, carrying containers to refill. In some respects, she reminded him of his sister – tall, slender, sure. Yet there was an underlying sense of something more, too, something that warned Allen against fighting her needlessly.
“Razife likes you,” she said as she crouched down beside him at the water’s edge, head held up in a lookout for any signs of trouble.
Allen kept his head tilted, eyes cast downward as he scooped another handful of water to his lips startled she could speak his native tongue. His halting conversation with her, in the language he heard at the village, wasn’t something Allen chose to translate truthfully for his professor, nor was he going to translate comments made by the older man who grew grumpier by the mile.
“How can you tell,” he asked, attempting her language so as not to create suspicion from Chekton.
“He pounced on something that might be yours. I don’t know what it is because he’s hidden it from me, willful child. Thing is, once Razife’s hidden himself, he seldom comes out for anyone or anything – family, let alone strangers.” Iniko handed him a bottle to fill. “His eyes dance with stories he wants to share with you.”
“Maybe you could explain to me the deal about the small russet bird he had? I could only guess part of the situation, but the bird’s song wasn’t-.”
Iniko shook her head as they rose to their feet. “Willful child for sure, I say. I’ll tell you all, but only when it’s safe.”
Ella opened the door to two individuals just as they revealed themselves with the dropping of a dark animal hide. Allen and Iniko exchanged smiles as Razife rushed up to him, hugging his legs. In her native tongue, he asked, “How did you-?”
Iniko surprised him again in responding with the village language. “Razife…cheated.” She pulled her brother back, who continued to smile.
Ella ushered them to the room upstairs just as Alle Yomin and Professor Chekton came in through the front door.
Allen took in the room’s new appearance – three beds, a small candle, clothes, and other items that would have made sense for the two newcomers. Ella’s expression told him that she wasn’t the least bit surprised by it.
As soon as the door closed, Razife returned to Allen’s side. As if a very important secret were about to be shared, the little boy leaned over towards Allen and showed him the tiny bird who transformed from wood to life.
“That,” Iniko said, “is how he cheated. Raz, how you bribed that bird to keep quiet, I’ll never know.” The little boy turned and gave his sister a put upon look then extracted something from the bird’s beak Before Allen could get a peek, Iniko exclaimed, “Razife!”
Allen watched with amusement as the boy ran from his sister’s reach, the bird returning to wooden form before vanishing. Even though the boy didn’t make a sound, Allen would have sworn he heard youthful laughter.