That voice in her mind felt familiar.
The little lizard. That was the source of the voice? It had a lot of clicks in it, giving it not only a strange accent but also an air of brusque authority. Knowing the lizard had saved her once convinced her to push back the next wave of fear that threatened. Then she looked down at her skin and panicked. She glowed again, just as K’kor had, in spite of there being no light here. That must be what the voice in her head meant.
“The dust needs no light to be seen,” the voice came again, answering her unspoken question as though the creature had read her mind. Had it read her mind?
M’rain looked toward where she knew her feet must be and gasped. There it was. She could see it now. It had the same blue glow.
“Follow me.” It scuttled silently away in front of her. When M’rain did not immediately follow, it turned back. “Would you prefer to be caught again?” M’rain sensed a definite impatience in the tone.
She looked back in the direction she had come. No, she certainly did not want to be in K’kor’s clutches again.
When the lizard turned and headed away into the darkness once more its tiny blue glow was the only thing M’rain could see. She took a few hurried steps toward it, stubbing her toes on a stone and nearly falling.
The lizard turned back. “My apologies. I will go more slowly. Come.” Now the tone sounded somewhat contrite, which helped quell M’rain’s panic. She decided she had no choice but to trust this creature. With that decision made she calmed more and concentrated on placing her feet one in front of the other in the direction the lizard led her.
With no more stumbles to interrupt her she had some time to think. She wanted to speak with the lizard but did not know how. What was its name? Why was it here? Why was it helping her? What did it know about K’kor and his little band? She dared not break the silence by asking aloud. Somehow she knew that even whispering would meet with censure from her rescuer.
When her stomach growled so loudly the lizard could not help but notice, M’rain heard, “There will be food soon. Come.”
Of course, the message came into her mind without sound. That made M’rain wonder if she, too, could send a message with only her mind. Perhaps if she concentrated very hard. “Who are you?” She stubbed her toe on a stone and stumbled again, causing the lizard to turn back to look at her.
“Not now. You will learn. Later.”
It worked! The thrill of discovery vanished as soon as she saw the lizard scurry forward again and realized she would lose sight of it if she did not pay attention. She watched it turn left and disappear. Then it stuck its head back out just enough so she could see it. “Hurry. There will be food soon.”
It gave her no time for even a sigh of relief but twitched around again so that only the tip of its tail remained visible. M’rain hurried after it and found herself in another small cave with an irregular hole in the ceiling that let in some light. The walls of this cave had no blue patches. It was all grey stone.
The glow on her skin faded as did the lizard’s. But she could still see it, waiting beside a small mound, twitching its tail back and forth as if losing patience. So does the glow only show when there is no other light?
At the mention of food M’rain’s stomach emitted another loud growl. She moved to the mound indicated. There was nothing there she recognized. It resembled a small pile of dried fungus, no different in appearance from the stuff K’kor had given to his band. Certainly not appetizing. She wasn’t sure it was even edible. Nor did she want to be drugged into sleep.
The lizard seemed to understand her hesitation. “Eat. It will sustain you.”
With nothing to lose, and recalling her decision to trust the lizard, she reached into the grey mass and pulled out a small lump. She held it to her nose but could discern no odour other than that of the rest of the cave. It felt squishy. She put a small piece into her mouth. When she began to chew she almost spat it out again in surprise. It tasted like the stew her people made in the communal pot at home. How could that be?
She sensed an amused satisfaction from the lizard. Then she heard it in her mind again. “It is the food you were thinking of when you put it into your mouth. It will taste of whatever you wish it to. I can do that.”
With the familiar flavour making her saliva run freely now, M’rain dropped all caution and gobbled the entire mound in a matter of moments, followed by a long draught from her waterskin.
Finally, replete, she remembered the lizard, and looked around wildly to make sure it had not left her. She spotted it, apparently asleep, under a slanted shaft of sunlight that made it onto the cave floor. Indecision followed relief. Should she speak to it? And if so, should she whisper aloud or try to use her mind again?
The lizard stretched and seemed to yawn. It looked so comical M’rain almost laughed, clapping a hand over her mouth just in time, fearing the lizard might be angry.
“Time for your lesson in mind-speak.”
When M’rain jerked in surprise it said, “No, I was not asleep, only resting. The sun felt good. Now, ask me a question, but do not speak aloud.”
M’rain concentrated and thought, “Who are you?”
“Do not shout. That hurt.” Its tail twitched in agitation.
Chagrined, M’rain hung her head.
The lizard did not answer her question. Instead it said, “Try again, more softly.”
“I am sorry. Who are you?”
“Better. Still loud, but better. Next time send it even more softly.”
M’rain tried again. “Please, may I know who you are?”
“Ah, much better. You are beginning to understand this.” M’rain warmed with relief when he added, “You learn quickly.”
When M’rain made to try again it stopped her. “You may call me Glick, although that is not my true name. I am known by many names. No one may know my true name. I am your guide, and yes, I have magic.” It gave her a studied look, curled into what M’rain assumed to be a comfortable position, its tail settled over its front feet, and said, “Sit and listen. Do not interrupt.”
M’rain settled herself cross-legged and waited. She needed answers.