Talking to the Animals
The third variety of animals are those controlled by another person. The evil shaman sends a polar bear after Kat and Rune. The forest elemental Ajatar uses snakes for her army.
Wherever Kat goes, she is a witchy Dr. Doolittle, talking to the animals. Her power as a witch allows them to talk to her. She will admit she hasn't had much luck with fish.
Excerpt Note: Kat is stuck on yet another island, Ultima Thule. With no way to get home, she decides to send a message to her family. The only means available happens to be a green sea bird who's willing to help her out, but for a price.
Excerpt from Midnight Oil
As she looked around, she felt the chill up the back of her neck telling her somebody was looking at her. She whipped her head to the side and found herself staring nose to beak with a large dark-gray bird with a white chest and ring around its neck. The bird studied her intently. She listened to him and got a stream of scrambled thoughts. “Food, nest, what? Who? Food, female, nest, where?”
The bird’s mention of a female led Kat to believe he was male. She sent a simple message to the bird, moving her lips silently, so she wouldn’t scare him off. “Hello. I am Katrina.” The bird’s thoughts abruptly halted. He stared at her with beady black eyes.
Kat smiled. Contact! She sent soothing thoughts to the bird. He might be just a teeny bit hyperactive.
“Hello. I,” she said, pointing at her chest, “am Katrina.” She smiled. The bird stared at her, tipping his head to one side and then the other. Next, he tucked its long, hooked bill down and scratched the feathers on its chest. The bird ruffled his wings and then hopped backward.
“Food, nest, what? Who? Food, female, nest, where?” The bird continued its mental ramble.
Kat groaned. She glanced around for another target, when a sharp jab on her upper arm made her yelp.
“Oh, okay. I didn’t think you were listening.”
“Can talk, listen same time.”
“That’s a useful talent. I couldn’t do it,” Kat replied, hoping to get on the good side of the big bird. She recognized him as a skua. A nasty creature in many ways, it liked to steal food from other species. It didn’t surprise her that the rest of the aviary avoided him. The skua would steal and eat other birds’ eggs and hatchlings. The faint whiff of rot told her he also dined on carrion.
The bird swiveled his head and whistled a sharp tone. “No birds here have a brain.”
“So, the rest of them are all just birdbrains?”
“Yes.” The skua coughed in what sounded a lot like a snort of disdain. “Only one, me.” The bird sighed then perked up and said, “I am Skua!.”
Kat heard the up-click at the end. Skua! must be his name. “Pleased to meet you, Skua!.” Kat surveyed the other birds, wondering if he told the truth. Was he the only one smart enough? She guessed it didn’t matter, since he did seem willing to talk to her. “I could use some help.”
“What in it for me?”
“Well, let’s see. What do you like?”
Kat wrinkled her nose. She was afraid the bird would want meat. Besides, lemmings were cute. “How about, um, bird seed?”
“Well, how about we work out the payment later?”
“No fool, me. Pay now!”
“Don’t you want to know what I’d like you to do?”
The bird twitched its head upward and was silent for a moment.
“Good idea. Tell.”
“I need a big, strong bird who can fly across the ocean to an island called Galdorheim. I need to deliver a message to the witches who live there.”
“Big strong, me.”
“I can see that. Which is why I’m asking you and none of these other birdbrains.”
The bird croaked a laugh. “Witches pay good?”
“Very good. Part of my message will be to reward you with whatever you’d like. Except lemmings.”
“Why no lemmings?”
Kat sighed. “It’s a long story, and I don’t have time to tell it right now. Trust me, though, the lemmings are my friends.”