Here I sit, on top of the big wall by the water. I’ve finally been able to return to my nest–the M’an-smell is fading, and no others seem to be coming in. It is good to finally be back in–well, if not comfortable, at least comforting, surroundings.
I often sit up here, looking out over the Bigwater, watching the ships of the Big Ones, letting my thoughts roam where they will. Most often, they are drawn back to examine the events of my life, short as it’s been. I suppose I keep thinking that if I revisit those memories often enough, telling them over as if to someone who is completely ignorant of my life, and even of the Folk, then somehow, I’ll see something that will tell me why. Why I am ostracized by the other Folk…why Shadoweye gave me the name he did.
And so I shall tell it once again.
My mother Dewbow bore a litter of four kittens in late winter–my two sisters, my brother, and I. We lived in a mostly-deserted alleyway, scorning a comfortable life with M’an to keep the hunting ways of the Folk. Mother taught us well, putting up with our kittenish distraction and playfulness to ensure we knew how to feed ourselves.
She did love us all–though I know I exasperated her at times. But something I would see, or hear, or something she told us, would set my mind to wondering and questioning. And one question would lead to another, and another… At first, I would ask Mother my questions, but she quickly realized that the more she answered, the more I asked, until finally, she would have to remind me emphatically that I was supposed to be learning how to hunt. I soon stopped asking so many questions–while hunting, at least–but my family could still tell when I was getting lost in questions. They teased me that a faraway look came into my eyes, as if I was staring far past whatever was in front of me. More often than not, only a brisk thwap by my mother would recall me to her lessons.
When we reached our third Eye, we were brought to a Meeting to receive our face names. All cats, of course, have three names–the heart name, the face name, and the tail name. We are given our heart names by our mothers at birth, in our own language of the Higher Singing. This name is shared only with siblings, close friends, and mates. The Elders give us our face names at our first Meeting, in the Common Singing that all warm-blooded animal share. Such a name is told to anyone who needs it. The tail name…well, that is a very private thing. We either discover it for ourselves, or we do not.
When Dewbow brought my siblings and I to the Meeting, where we and the litters of two other mothers would receive face names, I was immediately struck by the sight of the old, old male lying at the outer edge of the clearing where the Meeting was held. His gaunt, white face was turned toward the clearing, and his eyes barely seemed to reflect the Eyelight, staring lifelessly out. He simply lay there, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. I looked up at Mother, but before I could say anything, she said to all of us, “That is Oel-var’iz Shadoweye, Master Seer for our clan. Do *not* disturb him.” I heard others whispering around us that he’d laid down there nearly two weeks ago, and didn’t respond to anyone. Then we kittens were pushed together into one squirming, nervous group, as the Elders came to look us over.
Crooktail, one of the Elders, first pulled my sister Tealla out of the group. Looking at her, he said, “I name you Cloudpaw. Join the Meeting.” At those words, she jumped up and raced to the others waiting and watching, eager to share her new name. And so it went, one after another receiving names, until finally, I was the only one left. I didn’t even notice when the Elders gathered around me, as my mind was occupied with trying to puzzle out how the Elders were determining the face names. Some were obvious, but others…they were a real puzzle.
“Look at that stare,” I heard one of the Elders say. “It seems to go right through us.”
“Do you think she might become an Oel-var’iz?” asked another. That brought me blinking back to what was in front of me–which was Crooktail–and heard them sneeze in amusement at my abrupt shift to reality.
“Well, then,” said Crooktail. He looked down at me. “I name you Fargazer. Join the–“
(To be continued…)