PART ONE: THE PROPHET OF THE QUAG
Over the past two weeks, Evi's life had changed in ways she would never have dreamed possible. Grundig's prolonged stay had fundamentally altered her human-centered view of life. Appearances could be deceiving and, in the case of the quatic, they were.
Even after fourteen days, she wasn't sure why he was with her. At first, it had seemed likely he was seeking shelter from the inclement weather, but there had been several breaks in the snowy pattern since, and he had not taken the opportunity to depart. Not that she wanted him to go. For the first time in recent memory, she felt alive and could see a purpose in waking up each morning.
At first, it had been difficult to teach Grundig the basics of human language. During the initial part of his stay, communication had been difficult, beginning with hand signals and progressing to a few select words. Evi learned she didn't possess the vocal ability to master the quatic language, so Grundig was forced to attempt her less-guttural tongue.
The breakthrough had come on the third day, when Grundig revealed something wondrous to Evi. Through a simple magic trick, he exposed his powers and, after obtaining her consent, used them to form a mind-link. The connection of their thoughts was not deep enough to be intimate, but it gave Grundig the opportunity to absorb a portion of Evi's vocabulary, which he was struggling to master.
Evi had not been out of the house since Grundig's arrival, except to help him fix the front door he had burst from its hinges. Given the unpleasant weather, she might have spent most of the time inside anyway, but the quatic had decided to provide for her during his stay - it was the least he could do, he claimed, since he was sharing her "shelter." Every morning, he went out hunting, and usually returned with a sack full of small animals. Evi didn't eat much, which was fortunate, since Grundig had a huge appetite and devoured most of what he caught.
Today was Midwinter's Day, which caused Evi nostalgic pangs. Once, when she had been a child, this had been a special day: a time of singing, playing, and gift-giving. Central Tsab had a huge carnival from dawn to dusk, and her parents had always taken her into town to join the festivities. Now, although she would find little joy there, Evi felt a wistful sadness remembering those days and regretting that they would never come again, at least not in this lifetime.
At the moment, Grundig was on his daily meat-gathering expedition, and Evi found the house empty without his presence. Until his arrival at her door on that cold, snowy night two weeks ago, she hadn't known how lonely she was. The idea of finding companionship in the person of a quatic was bizarre, but after she had gotten over her initial reaction of fear and awe, she had found Grundig to be warm and generous, an impression belied by his physical appearance.
She dreaded the day he would leave. Even though she had no idea when that might be, she awoke every morning with fear in her heart that his space by the common room fireplace might be empty. Thus far, he had been there with the approach of each dawn, either resting or strengthening his understanding of the written word by perusing her book. Evi sensed, however, the time was approaching when he would move on. To where, she didn't know, but it was apparent these blissful moments of companionship could not continue indefinitely. So she fretted, and perhaps enjoyed his stay less because of her worrying.
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