Let me not stand next to your fire.
The geese were intent on getting somewhere, it seemed, and just as intent that the three of them should come with. Wherever they were leading was away from the others, the ones speaking Vauni, which suited Oram just fine. Those were most likely Aukari occult, and the traveler had no interest in confronting them, certainly not until they had a better handle on their situation.
Oram nodded appreciatively at the information Amoach gave him, albeit that gesture wouldn’t make much sense to anybody not inside the hunter’s head. Not a Spirit, nor an Immortal. And flickering. A ghost, maybe? He couldn’t be sure. Alyssia and Kalortah both shared information they had, from the Vauni conversations the aukari girl could overhear, and from the geese. Belatedly, Oram realized that he himself had been remiss in sharing information. He finally spoke up:
”You know that female voice we all heard when we were first brought into the tunnel?” he asked the other two, when they had a moment to breathe. ”I can still hear it. Not well, it seems to be fading in and out of hearing, and I haven’t been able to make much sense of it. So I haven’t said much until now.” He glanced at the avriel. ”But after hearing what you say the geese are telling you, Kal, I realize that the voice is saying most of the same things. That the big goose behind us isn’t part of this flock. That it stole the artifact that the aukari brought, that one of them dropped or misplaced. It also said the artifact is where she is, that it’s weakening her somehow, making it hard for her to ‘wake up’ as she calls it. My diri tells me that the being speaking is not an Immortal nor a Spirit, and that it’s ‘flickering’.” The hunter shrugged. He didn’t volunteer his guess that it might be some kind of ghost; he didn’t really know this metaphysics stuff, so his guess was probably wrong, anyway.
He looked pleadingly at Alyssia, who was getting more excited and upset by the trill. Her shoulder had been appallingly hot when he had touched it earlier. ”The voice said to tell you that it will be alright. I don’t know what that means, but I would ask again that you calm down.
Oram tried to remember what she had said earlier, about the Vauni conversations she had heard. ”Alyssia. The one you heard earlier, the one crying out in distress: did you ever hear her again after that one time? If the others are moving on, it is probably because they have…already done the deed.” He sighed, focusing on being as calm and understanding, yet as firm as possible. ”Your choice is not between helping the one you heard earlier and not helping her. It is between risking a confrontation with the others and trying to avoid one. Try to understand that. Imperiling everybody will save nobody. Stay with us.”
He shot a quick defiant glare at Kalortah as he said this. He could practically feel the contempt and indifference moulting off of the avriel; no doubt Kal would happily leave Alyssia behind -and Oram, too, for that matter, to save himself, nay, merely to *further* himself. But Oram had no intention of leaving anybody behind, not even the treacherous birdman, if it could be avoided. He recognized that they needed each other down here. ”Alyssia,” he stressed, looking back at her, ”your ability to understand Vauni could be as crucial to our success as Kal’s ability to talk to the geese. Stay with us,” he repeated.
They had come to a small cavern that contained several crates nailed shut. When Kalortah relayed what the geese were saying about the eggs, Oram frowned. He wasn’t sure what was meant by good eggs or bad ones. Did the geese themselves not simply lay them? There was something they were missing, even with all their pieces of knowledge pooled. He peered at one of the crates. ”I wonder what these contain. They seem intact. Who brought them here? Are they being shipped out, or brought in?” He shrugged, then looked back at the others.
”I agree with Kal: we should try to avoid the others. I don’t know about this important place; if it has any connection with the voice I’m hearing, we may well find the aukari’s artifact there, or nearby. But we should probably head there, and if so, we should definitely take the route the geese are talking about.” He looked once more at Alyssia, resisting the urge to say ‘Stay with us’ a third time.