+ + +
1. having a partly animal, partly human form
2. being able to shift between human an animal form
+ + +
Toini squirmed. Her cheeks burned, and she didn’t quite know where to look or what to do with her hands. In the end she grabbed her pint with both hands and stared down into it.
Paivi kept laughing.
Of course her sister would find it funny – hilarious even – she’d known that. This though. It was a bit much.
“Yes yes.” Toini took a deep breath. “I get it.”
Across the table from her, Paivi gasped for air, unable to stop herself from laughing.
“Hey! That’s enough.” Toini sat down her pint and slapped the palm of her hand against the table. “It’s not that funny.”
Paivi set a hand against the table to steady herself. “But it is…” She grimaced. Tried to compose herself. “I’m sorry… It really is.” And then she couldn’t keep it together anymore and burst out laughing again.
Toini crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her nose in the air. “Okay then. Go on then. Just keep laughing will you. I don’t care.”
Revers psychology didn’t help.
Over in his chair, Raoul looked back and forth between the two of them, a confused frown on his face.
“Stop it!” Toini slammed her fist into the table and fixed Paivi with a glare.
Paivi clamped her mouth shut, pressed her lips together, and sat up straight – but her eyes still sparkled with mirth.
At least she’d stopped laughing.
Toini waited. Said nothing. Sat still.
“I’m sorry Toini.” Paivi ducked her head, tried to look sheepish, but failed miserably and started to giggle. “This is just too good. Your god’s pulling your leg.”
“What? No. Stop laughing. I’m serious. I need to find Roy.”
“Toini, Toini, Toini.” She heaved a deep sigh. “He’s messing with you. Roy’s in Tin Jian.”
“What?” Toini’s jaw dropped.
“What?” Raoul gasped.
Paivi looked back and forth between the two of them, her smile fading a little. “Roy. He’s in Tin Jian.”
“No.” The world spun. Her stomach filled with ice, and she gasped for air. “He can’t be. It can’t be.”
“Seriously.” Paivi paused and smoothed out her face. “Roy’s in Tin Jian.”
It was wrong. It couldn’t be. They’d come all the way up here. There must be some kind of mistake. A misunderstanding. Something. Anything. They’d been in Tin Jian only half a year ago.
Toini took a deep breath and looked her sister straight in the eye. “Are you sure? Are you really really sure?”
“No. I just made it up.” Paivi stuck out her tongue at her. “Of course I’m sure. I’ve got his number here. Do you want me to call him?” She pulled out her phone from the pocket of her jeans and tossed it onto the table.
“What?” Toini felt her face drain of color. That must not happen. Roy couldn’t know. He mustn’t. “No, no. That’s fine. Don’t call. We’ll go see him.”
Raoul jerked upright. “But that’ll take months.” Eyes wide he stared at her “You can’t possibly get any further from here.”
“Heh.” Paivi raised an eyebrow at Toini. “You’d go to Tin Jian just like that? It’s at the other end of the world.
“Seriously? No!” Raoul threw his arms wide, his voice nearly a shout. “We’re not going to Tin Jian. I won’t stand for it. You’ll have to find another chronicler first.”
“Shut up!” Toini yelled and slammed her fist into the table. “Shut up, both of you.”
Chest heaving, Toini glared at them. They needed to shut up and let her think. She was missing something important. Ek wouldn’t send her here if this wasn’t where she needed to be. At the same time, Roy wasn’t here, and there was no way it could be anyone else.
Her vision had clearly said she had to meet her childhood friend. Paivi didn’t count, and then there was only Roy. She hadn’t had any other friends. They hadn’t – she and Paivi.
Toini closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. Shut the others out. Retreated inside herself.
Something was up. It was important to Ek that she met Roy – so why had he sent her here if Roy was in Tin Jian? Why?
Silent, she waited. Alone in her own mind. No visions. No answers. Ek, always present, kept silent. She was on her own.
Apparently this was as it should be. She had to figure it out herself.
Very well then.
Taking a deep breath, Toini opened her eyes. “Okay. I’m good.” She reached out and grabbed her pint, not looking at either of them. “What’s Roy doing in Tin Jian?”
“Fighting,” said Paivi.
“You heard me.” Paivi paused and cleared her throat. “Look. It’s a long story. Give me a moment. I’ll explain.”
Raoul shifted in his chair. He reached for his pint, but stopped himself, and leaned back again. His mouth opened and closed, and he drew breath as if to speak.
“Shut up Raoul.” Toini snapped her fingers at him.
Raoul lowered his eyebrows and glared at her, but remained silent.
Toini glared back, and a moment later she turned to Paivi and nodded.
Paivi nodded back. “The last time you saw Roy…” She paused for a moment, and her eyes grew distant. “Something happened, right?”
“Ehm…” Toini squirmed in her seat.
How did she know about that? Had he said something? What had he said?
“Just before you left on your tour of duty abroad, right?” Paivi paused and waited. “You two had fight, didn’t you?”
She lowered her eyes. A fight. Yeah. You could call it that.
“Thought so.” Paivi nodded. She sipped her pint. Took her time about it.
Of course she’d know. Of course he’d said something. He was her sister’s friend too.
Toini pressed her lips together.
“So, anyway…” She set her pint down. “A few days after you left, Roy showed up and told me he’d be going away for a bit. He needed a break or a change of air or something like that.”
“Did he…” Toini steeled herself. “Did he say anything?”
“About you?” Paivi raised an eyebrow. The hint of a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “No. Nothing. Just said he’d go down the river, see the valley, maybe all the way to Komost and the sea. He didn’t seem to have much of a plan.”
“Yeah, exactly.” Nodding, Paivi reached for her pint again. “I didn’t think of it until later, but it wasn’t really like him.”
Not like him at all. He always had a plan – not necessarily a good one, but always a plan.
“Anyway, he left, and he never came back.” Paivi sighed. She drank her beer, and her gaze drifted off into the fire.
Toini waited, but her sister said nothing else.
Paivi shook here head. Slowly – back and forth. “No, not since then. He got a job somewhere. Security guard for a shipping company. I got a postcard now and then, and sometimes he’d call.”
He’d stayed in touch. That was something at least.
“And then you died.” Paivi made a face, and her shoulders slumped. “I had to tell him, off course.”
Toini’s heart sank. Of course he’d had to be told. “How did he take that?”
“He disappeared.” She clutched her pint with both hands and stared down into it. “No calls. No cards. No nothing.”
Poor boy. That news would have done a number on him. That wasn’t her fault though. She couldn’t be held responsible for what ideas he got into his head.
“Yeah…” Paivi nodded. “He didn’t even send a note for your memorial ceremony.”
Toini closed her eyes. Of course they’d have had a memorial ceremony. They all thought she’d died.
She’d used to think it was best like that. Now, she wasn’t so sure anymore. Not even a note.
Raoul shifted in his seat. “But he got back to you eventually, right?”
When they both turned and glared at him he paused and swallowed. “I mean, you said you have his number, right?”
“Yes. Eventually.” She took a sip from her beer and thought for a moment. “It took a few years. He wrote a letter – told me he was in Tin Jian. He had his own little company in the security business.”
Toini nodded. “That’s nice…”
“I thought you said he was fighting?” said Raoul.
Paivi nodded. “Yeah. The thing with the security business is just something he tells me so I won’t worry.”
“Heh…” Toini frowned. “Are you sure?”
That wasn’t like him. He’d always been honest about what he did. If he didn’t want Paivi to worry he could have just told her. The Roy she remembered would have.
“Yes. You know how it’s legal for terries to fight professionally down there.”
“It’s therianthropes,” Toini glared at her. “But yes, I’ve heard about it.”
“Whatever…” Paivi shrugged. “Anyway, he’s doing really well with it.”
“Really? I know he’s into martial arts, but I couldn’t see him doing that for money.”
A big lump of worry formed in Toini’s stomach. That didn’t sound like the Roy she’d known at all.
“Hey, Toini.” Raoul raised a hand in the air. “You didn’t tell me he was a terry?”
Toini glared at him. “He’s a therianthrope. What’s that got to do with anything?”
They should show some respect – both of them. Ray was Paivi’s friend too, and Raoul really should know better.
Raoul’s face brightened up. “Wait, I get it.” He turned to Paivi with a big smile on his face. “This is Roy van Waldenberger isn’t it? He’s really famous.”
“No…” Toini frowned. That wasn’t his name.
“Yes, that’s him.” Paivi nodded. “Three times world champion. He changed his surname.”
“Why? What’s wrong with Stugknutsson?”
Paivi shrugged. “Easier for the people down there to pronounce I guess. Looks better in print.”
“Oh…” Definitely not the Roy she’d known.
She’d missed so much. She hadn’t even known.
Raoul sipped his beer and set the pint down on the table with a light thud. “Too bad… He’d probably have been a good replacement for Lorang.”
Toini stared at him. “Probably? He’s perfect. What do you mean by that?”
“Don’t tell me you still think it’s him.” Raoul rolled his eyes at her. “Not after Ek had you go all the way up here.”
Lazy git. She couldn’t wait to be rid of him, but it looked like she’d have to drag him around for still some time. A quest was a quest, and she couldn’t just take a break from it for personal reasons. Her god trusted her to do as she was bidden, and she would live up to that trust no matter the cost.
“We know where to find him.”
“But he’s in Tin Jian.” Raoul threw his arms wide and stared at her.
Toini’s jaw set. “Yes. So?”
Raoul’s mouth fell open. “You can’t seriously drag us to the other end of the world on just a hunch.” Sputtering, he waved his hands in the air. “What about that other guy? Adrian?”
“Adrian?” On the other side of the table, Paivi burst out laughing. “Yes, Toini, what about Adrian? It could be him.”
“No.” Toini groaned. Not this. Anything but this. “It’s not Adrian.”
“But it could be.” Raoul clasped his hands in his lap and put on his most reasonable face. “He’s in town and everything.”
“Yes! And I’m sure he’d love to come.” Paivi’s eyes sparkled with mischief enough to light a bonfire. “He could be your Prince Charming.”
“Shut up!” Toini snapped.
She did not need this. It was bad enough Roy had gone to the other side of the world to beat people up for money. There was no way she’d let Adrian onto her ship as long as she had a say in it. That was not part of the quest.
Paivi smiled so wide her head might as well split in half. “I can call him.” She picked up her phone from where it lay on the table and wiggled it between her fingers. “I’ve got his number too.”
“That’s enough!” Toini slammed her fists into the table and shot to her feet. She stared down at her chronicler and her sister. Miserable nuisances both of them. She had to get out. Get some peace and quiet. Think.
“You two shut your stupid mouths,” she yelled. “Leave me alone!”
For a moment, she just stood there looking at them – eye’s burning – and then she marched out of the snug and made for the door.