One-Eye-Green was excited. All the fighting on the Surface was done which was good, she didn’t want any of the cute things hurt, and now she got to go out on the Surface! There was small-soft Keri, and less-small-solid Annit, and shifty-fluffy Shayma, though they insisted to just be called Keri, Annit, and Shayma. Gossamers had very strange ideas about names.
“Ready to go to Wildwood, Green?” Keri asked, double checking the things she was wearing. Not just clothes or bags, but armor. One-Eye-Green was going to get some! It was part of adventuring, and while One-Eye-Green had tough scales maybe it would be good to not get hurt by things and apparently armor was its own weapon to which she didn’t understand but maybe it was a Skill thing.
“Yes,” One-Eye-Green said carefully. She had been practicing mouthspeech very hard because Sharing with gossamers was not good. They were fragile and they didn’t like it anyway and even though One-Eye-Green could see them, she was being very good and didn’t touch them at all. It was easier because Shayma had given her the circlet that made her Hard so One-Eye-Green couldn’t Share by accident, but she still kept wanting to.
“I told Grandmaster Monat, but I’m still afraid some people might not react well,” Annit told her. “You’re a monster after all.”
“I know,” One-Eye-Green said. She couldn’t help that she didn’t have a proper Status! But Shayma had said that they wouldn’t let anyone attack which was good because One-Eye-Green didn’t want to have to break any Gossamers.
Big Sister had warned her about how easy it was to break Gossamers.
“I’ll be good,” she promised.
“You’ll be fine,” Shayma said. “If anyone is really stupid, either Blue or I can pull us all out of there. But if you notice anyone thinking about attacking us, would you please say something?”
“Yes!” That was better than just waiting. It was harder since she couldn’t Share, she could only watch, but maybe this way she could see how Gossamer handled not-monsters trying to attack them.
“Time to go,” said Shayma, and the walls around them changed. One-Eye-Green had learned the Big Thing was called Blue and Blue was very powerful and could put anyone anywhere. Plus, Blue was invisible and didn’t Share with anyone but Shayma. It made One-Eye-Green wonder why anyone would attack Blue. If they tried to claw him, he could just put them far away and then they wouldn’t be able to claw him anymore, so it seemed better to ask nicely like they had.
One-Eye-Green could sense so many Gossamers beyond the walls, all doing Gossamer things and many of them moving very quickly. It made her glad that Shayma had let her borrow the Circlet because it would have been very very tempting to try and touch some of those minds more directly. They were so shiny and bright!
Then they went out the door and One-Eye-Green stared at all the buildings around them and the armored people going this way and that way and on beasts and of course the sky. The sky was something One-Eye-Green was still getting used to and felt that the Underneath was better because it didn’t have a sky, but it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Usually the sky was blue, but now the sky was grey and there was water coming from it, and One-Eye-Green stuck out her tongue to taste it and it was just water. That was a little scary to think there was so much water up there but nobody seemed scared so it must be fine.
Shayma passed out waxed-cloth covered sticks that operated by a clever mechanism and spread the cloth to protect her scales from the water. One-Eye-Green didn’t mind being wet but appreciated the clever stick regardless. Especially since it was so brightly colored.
One-Eye-Green followed them out into the streets, walking carefully so her toeclaws didn’t click against the smooth stone. Keri was in front, and Annit and Shayma were on either side of her, like a hunting formation except not exactly. One-Eye-Green was not stupid, she knew it was because she was a monster and Gossamers might not like that, so the better warriors were on the outside to protect the weaker and more vulnerable ones inside. That was a formation she’d been in a lot, when traveling the low roads. Some day she’d be on the outside instead of the inside.
Some of the minds rippled with surprise as they walked down the open-topped tunnel made by the buildings, but fewer than she would have thought. She could see and sense scores of Gossamers in the tunnels but only the closest or loudest ones even seemed to notice her. After a few minutes she realized there were some Gossamers matching them out of sight but when she told Annit that, Annit just nodded and said they were the ruler’s warriors.
Mostly One-Eye-Green just looked at all the different things on the Surface, and all the different clothes and weapons and armor the Gossamer had. She was a little jealous, but she already knew the Gossamer had lots of things that the Scalemind didn’t, which was partly why they wanted their own Status because only people with Status had the different things. Scalemind just had Sharing and Cutting and Enduring.
They went into another building and One-Eye-Green understood why it had a ceiling after seeing the water coming from the sky, because this building was full of clothes and they wouldn’t be very good wet. Someone came over that looked a little like Annit only all wrinkled and looked at them. Her mind lit up when she saw One-Eye-Green but it wasn’t the same way other Gossamer minds did. It was more like excitement than seeing a threat.
“Who have you brought this time?” The wrinkly Annit said.
“This is One-Eye-Green,” Keri said. “We need some ordinary clothes for her, and simple leather overwear. But since she’s a monster we’re not sure the best place to go for that.”
“Hi!” One-Eye-Green said.
“Well, hello there. A monster? That is exciting.” The wrinkly Annit peered at her. “I don’t get many scaled customers. I can absolutely make you an outfit, but to start why don’t I just get you a raincoat? That’ll only take a few minutes.”
“That’d be wonderful,” Shayma said, stepping forward. She held out one hand with some stuff that looked really magical on it. “Blue’s willing to offer you this Primal illusion Source for your work, as well as discretion with further, similar work in the future.”
“A what?” The wrinkly Annit peered at it. “Oh, goodness. Yes, of course. Let me get the raincoat done and we can talk.”
The wrinkly Annit went away and then came back and helped One-Eye-Green put on a long coat but she had to be careful with her claws not to shred the sleeves. It was dark green and blue, and it felt a little weird but also kind of nice and looked a little shiny like the clever rain protector. Now only her feet would get wet but the wrinkly Annit had an answer for that too.
“Digitigrade is a lot harder on footwear, but I have the plans for some sandals somewhere. Do you fight with your toeclaws, dear?”
“Yes! It is much easier to gut things with them.” One-Eye-Green was happy someone understood that. Most Gossamers she’d seen just covered everything up.
“I’ll make sure to take that into account when I make your clothes,” wrinkly Annit said. “Give me a couple hours.” Shayma gave her a magic thing and then they left. One-Eye-Green stuck her hands in her pockets and immediately poked a hole in one with her claws but that was okay because they were still pockets. She’d never had pockets before.
“Green, we’re going to see someone about helping you learn how to fight properly,” Shayma said, and One-Eye-Green didn’t like that. All Scalemind knew how to fight because the Underneath was like that. “I mean, fight like we do,” she clarified, which made a little more sense. “I could teach you a little bit but since you don’t have Skills, we thought we’d ask someone who knows more.”
“I can’t believe you talked Grandmaster Monat into it,” Annit muttered, taking out a piece of wood on a rope. She started swinging it around, and it made a weird growly sound, but One-Eye-Green liked the noise.
“Can I get one of those?” She asked Annit, poking at the growly wood.
“Um, I can make you one,” Annit said uncertainly. “It’ll have to be later, though.”
“Thank you!” One-Eye-Green bet all the other kids would like the growly wood too. She was distracted from the growly wood by a big long rainbow-colored thing that came down from the sky like the water did but it had a Gossamer mind which was weird.
“What do you lot want?” It asked. “And you brought a monster into Wildwood? What is wrong with you?”
“We’re supposed to go see Monat,” Shayma said. “He knows all about it.”
“Your funeral,” the rainbow thing said, floating around them. Then they were flying! One-Eye-Green screeched happily and wiggled, at least until she looked down and then it was less fun. But at least it didn’t last long and then they were on the ground, but it was up high and the sky wasn’t any closer. One-Eye-Green would never get used to that.
The rain made everything that was kind of far away blur and then just go grey, which made it feel like there was more sky than ground. One-Eye-Green ducked forward under the trees on top of the building until the weird feeling of being about to fall into the sky went away. Only then did she realize that she’d lost her clever stick, but the raincoat had kept her dry anyway! That was nice.
Shayma pointed her toward a little house on the building and there was a Gossamer there who was almost Hard by himself and he was large and muscled and just kept looking at her and it was weird.
“So, this is the monster Blue wants me to train?”
“Well, at least show some things to. We’re not sure what can be done without Skills,” Shayma said. “Her name is One-Eye-Green.”
“Hello,” said One-Eye-Green, looking at the Hard Gossamer. They were almost exactly the same height, and One-Eye-Green tried to measure it with her hands, but the Hard Gossamer gave her a look and she stopped. “Do you know how to use claws Skills?” She asked instead, waving her own at him. “Our Scythe Sisters don’t use claws. Or Skills.”
“I do know how to use claws.” The Gossamer looked amused. “I’ll be right back.” He stepped into his house and came out a moment later with metal claws on his hands. They were almost as long as One-Eye-Green’s but much shinier. One-Eye-Green wondered if she could polish her claws to be that shiny, too.
“Show me how you’d attack me,” the Gossamer said, and One-Eye-Green blinked.
“Shayma told me not to attack people.” She objected.
“Don’t worry, you can’t hurt me,” he assured her. One-Eye-Green wasn’t sure, but she went to take off the circlet anyway.
“Only using your claws,” Shayma put in hastily. “Your people are still the best teachers for mind magic.”
The Gossamer with the false claws made a weird face at that and his mind lit up, but he didn’t say anything. One-Eye-Green really wanted to Share but was good and didn’t. Instead she swiped at the Gossamer as hard as she could, but he wasn’t there!
“Yeah, we’re going to have to start with the basics for this,” he said. “First of all, you’re digitigrade and you’re trying to copy a plantigrade stance, plus you’re not taking your tail into account correctly.”
“Oh.” One-Eye-Green blinked at the Gossamer. He didn’t even have a tail! Either he was very smart, or he was just making things up.
“Here, move your legs apart a bit, relax your tail — you’ll want it closer to the ground.” The Gossamer circled around her having her change the way she was standing. It was very strange but it kind of made sense and it definitely felt different when she clawed the air. Soon One-Eye-Green was doing all kinds of stances and moves and claws and before she even knew it the grey was darker, and it was time to go.
“Thank you, Grandmaster Monat,” she said, having to concentrate very hard on the last two words because they were so unfamiliar.
“You’re welcome, One-Eye-Green,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever instructed a monster. We’ll have to see if you formed any Skills from that.”
“Monsters don’t get Skills,” she said sadly. If One-Eye-Green could have Skills she wouldn’t be there! Though she kind of liked it there so maybe it wasn’t all bad. Learning things that way was interesting, and a lot different from learning through Sharing.
“I didn’t know that,” Monat said, surprised. “I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.”
The rainbow thing brought them back down and One-Eye-Green was not certain she liked it, but there didn’t seem to be any other way to get up on top of the building. From there they walked more, only this time it was to get One-Eye-Green’s clothing and sandals. It was more dark blues and greens and greys and there was leather stuff she could put on over it and it was a little heavy but felt comfortable and she liked it. It was pretty.
“Thank you, wrinkly Annit,” One-Eye-Green said and Shayma put her hand over her eyes while Keri and the wrinkly Annit laughed before Annit dragged her back outside.
“Let’s stop by Taelah’s before we go home,” Shayma said. “You all haven’t really met her properly and The Village makes really good food.”
“I won’t say no to that,” Keri said, still giggling. Shayma held up a hand and after a moment things changed again and the sky wasn’t dropping water on them anymore but there was wavy green light that was very pretty and made her think of some of the stranger caves in the Underneath.
“Oh!” Annit said. “An aurora!”
“That’s been happening on and off since Blue put in the big Climates with stellar mana in them,” Shayma said. “Oh, hello Taelah.” One-Eye-Green blinked, looking down at the other Gossamers she could feel around them. Some of them were very small but one of them was about Shayma’s size.
“Oh, is that your monster friend?” Taelah asked. “She looks very professional.”
“Yep! And this is Annit and Keri.” Shayma introduced everyone while one of the little Gossamers wandered up to her.
“You’re tall,” he said.
“You’re short,” she said.
“Nuh-uh.” He denied. She measured his height with her claws.
“Yes you are,” she insisted.
“Well, they’re getting along well,” Taelah said.