As Sel’ma approached, stealthing cautiously in order to move as soundlessly as possible, the odd sensation she had felt faded a bit. She studied the ground, but it was mostly soft sand and she saw nothing. If she hadn’t been sev’ryn and her only way to track things would have been to follow signs she could see with her eyes, the track would have ended there.
The sensation was fainter, but it was still there. She could still discern a ... presence. The feeling was distant, and thought it had nothing to do with physical smelling, it was something similar to a fragrance to her mind, a distant fragrance from an unknown source. It had the intriguing yet also irritating quality of an ambiguous perfume; a mix of enticing sweetness and acrid, repugnant fragrance notes. There was a doubleness to it, and this unexplained doubleness that left her mind puzzled kept Sel’ma’s curiosity alive.
Every living being had it’s own personal “spiritual signature”, like an aura emanating from it on the spiritual plane. She didn’t recognize this one, and she couldn’t know if it was a person or an animal she had sensed. But now she had found out something interesting: whoever or whatever she sensed was hiding from her. It had move away from her. This was the kind of small sign Sel’ma was used to observe and pay attention to. It could be the difference between life and death in the wilderness. The absence of tracks could be as important as finding tracks and pawprints. Silence could be as telling as sounds. This kind of thinking came automatically to Sel’ma, with her experience of taking care of herself in the wilds.
She concluded she had found something or somebody that wanted to stay out of sight and not be found. And this in turn could mean many things; it could be a shy wild animal, it could be a sev’ryn in the sad state of “animal soul” who had started to behave like the animal of its spiritual animal, or it could be somebody who didn’t want to be seen on the beach for reasons of their own; perhaps an apprentice who had skipped work without asking for leave. It could even be somebody who wanted to avoid Sel’ma for personal reasons, although she couldn’t even guess at who or why that would be. But the latter seemed farfetched. An animal, a sev’ryn or a truant seemed most likely.
There was no reason for Sel’ma to persecute a shy animal that wanted to be left alone. There was no reason for her to bother a sev’ryn in the state of animal soul who didn’t want to meet her. There was no reason for her to care about truants; she was actually a truant herself this day and had been trying to get a job on Wind Spirit.
She thought briefly of the ship. The crew had seemed to mainly consist of humans and bijaq. She didn't know where it had come from, but rumor had it the destination was Ne’haer via Strosdyn. These distant places were only names to Sel’ma, names and tales. But she had liked the idea of going to Strosdyn. That was a sev’ryn place too, and if she’d find her familiar there she would never have to leave her own people. It had seemed ideal. Despite how she had been rejected today, she was reluctant to give up. Perhaps she could sneak onboard on Wind Spirit as stowaway ? Then they would have to let her work her way to Strosdyn, she thought. It didn’t even occur to her that stowaways could also just be thrown overboard.
Then again. There was this odd acrid quality of the impression she sensed. It could mean it was an injured animal or person. It was natural for a sev’ryn to want to investigate this and try to help. In addition Sel’ma was a herbalist, a healer. The curiosity she had felt turned into worry. If the animal was a predator it might just not be hungry and thus not interested in attacking her, but if it was a sick animal it could be any kind of animal. And if it was another sev’ryn, gone wacky and behaving like an animal, it could be someone who was ill but hid in the wilds like an animal would do, instead of seeking medical help.
Whatever it was, she had to track it.
And so she tracked the unknown being, by following her vague spiritual expressions of it, as she went deeper into the foliage. Despite how three were no visible tracks to follow, and no revealing sounds to hear, Sel’ma tracked and tracked, with extra sensorial awareness, her whole mind focused on the task. She continued to track this way, until she saw what looked like the shape of a body.
She stopped again.
If she had been a common human and only seen what met her eyes she might have thought it was the being she was looking for. But the dark form on the branches of the bush didn’t have an aura, like all living things had. Even dead bodies used to have a kind of auras, sort of. Reminiscences of life could linger, and the organic tissue of life never really died; it just transformed, as other forms of life devoured the previous.
It looked like a cloak. A cloak hanging on the branches of a bush. Yes, it was definitely a cloak.
Just a cloak.
Sel’ma couldn’t know if the cloak had been put there right now, or if had been hanging there for a while, forgotten by its owner, or been tossed into the foliage by the recent storm. But she knew with her spiritual sense that the one she had been tracking was nearer now; in fact, it seemed to be hiding near the cloak or even behind it. Again, she started to think. This could maybe mean the cloak had been put there deliberately. And animal wouldn’t do that. So if the one she was tracking had something to do with the cloak, it must be a sev’ryn with animal soul or else someone who wasn’t sev’ryn and didn’t understand that Sel’ma wouldn’t be fooled.
A human ? The sev’ryn used to pity those limited people with their limited perception. But they treated them as equals of course. This said, Sel’ma wasn’t so interested in people who were ignorant and did stupid things like try to trick a sev’ryn to think a cloak was a person. If some brainless human goof who didn’t understand what they were dealing with wanted to hide from Sel’ma, that goof was welcome to succeed at staying away.
However. There were animals who used camouflage a lot. Owls. Some geckos and toads and frogs. Spiders. So it could be a sev’ryn with a bad case of “animal soul” who had put the cloak there, in an irrational attempt at camouflage. It was her duty to help the less fortunate sev’ryn. This mean Sel’ma was going to take the risk of meeting a human goof.
She advanced on the cloak, stealthing, pretending to not see that it was just a cloak. Her impressions of the “target’s” aura became stronger by each stealthing step she took. It was unsure what exactly emanated from the one she had been tracking; the doubleness that had been there all the time remained. Something sweet and something not so sweet, intertwined impressions, an unknown mix with an even more unknown meaning in practice. Sel’ma felt somewhat uncomfortable and didn’t want to become overwhelmed. As a reaction, she withdrew her awareness and detached herself.
“Sev ailewu ke’u awt tọ” she said firmly, in the patronizing, resolute but friendly no nonsense tone that used to work best with soul-confused old sev’ryn. “Sev'm tọ tä ise agbese ke’u. Jama'a ha'k tare, dav takip bou'eri lïkïtä”.
And then she put the basket of fruit on the ground, ran the few steps forward in a sudden surprise rush, jumped at the bush with a quick leap and grabbed the cloak.