Zehell woke to her mother's gentle nudging. Groaning, she shifted away and tried to curl up tighter. Sleep deprivation nausea was the worst.
"Is she okay, Mother?" Anawan asked quietly.
"Yes, Anawan," Mother replied. "Just tired."
"How can you be tired after not doing anything yesterday?" Craven asked loudly from the mouth of the cave.
"No need to shout, Craven," Mother chastised gently. "When one is bogged down by something mentally or emotionally—even though physically they haven't done much of anything-- they can still feel the fatigue physically."
"Sounds like she's sick when you put it that way."
"They do act similarly in the body. We'll let your sister rest. Is there anywhere the two of you would like to visit today?"
"Can we go back to the lake?" Anawan asked.
"Yeah! Go see the fish."
Mother chuckled. "We can go to the lake. And I am sure there will be more to see than just fish."
"Really? This is going to awesome!" Craven's voice faded as they left the cave and started for the lake.
Zehell remained where she was for several more minutes before she brought herself to slowly leave the cave. She returned to the top of the cave and rolled over in the grass to watch the clouds. But there weren't very many clouds today. Nor did they form animals shapes. Still, Zehell continued to watch. She thought about the other day. Elyon the tiny green dragon fae. The hope for more friends. For interactions with more animals than what minimal contact her mother currently allowed. And of coming face to face with a Eranoth.
She shivered slightly and brought her tail up. She held onto it while she continued to stare listlessly at the sky. His paws were huge. His claws sharp. But Elyon had flown near him. Even landed on Eranoth's back without harm. Then there had been Fire. As bulky as Eranoth, but calm and respectfully distant. Not that Panda's were predators. At least she didn't think they were. And then after Naz had bopped Eranoth on the nose and made him sit, he almost looked harmless. Almost.
Zehell let go of her tail. Was there a way to find out the truth on her own without running into danger? Was there really and danger from those Mother and Father called predators? Or was it a lie to keep them from interacting with animals who killed other animals? She frowned at the thought. But she wasn't any different, right? She ate the fish Mother had introduced them to. She ate the meaty leg from… some kind of animal. So didn't that mean that she herself was a predator? And if so, why should she fear other predators?
Yes, according to Mother, they preyed on smaller animals. She was smaller than mother. But she wasn't as small as a rabbit or a squirrel. Nor was she as small as Elyon. But he and Naz had interacted with Eranoth without fear. So then who was right? If one was right the other had to be wrong, correct? They couldn't both be right. There was no way they could both be right.
With a sigh, Zehell rolled to her feet. It would be several hours before Mother and her siblings returned to the cave with food. She would have more than plenty of time to go to the clearing, watch for a while then come back. The clearing also wasn't too far from the end of the safe zone. Bile rose in her throat as she thought about just asking her mother instead of trying to face Eranoth again. She coughed and nearly threw up. Zehell swallowed hard with a grimace.
If she waited for mother, so many things could happen. She wouldn't get an answer. She wouldn't get an answer and be chastised for leaving the safe zone. She would get lectured about the dangers predators present because she is small and be grounded. And most likely be stuck in the cave with Craven and Anawan for several days. Since that was what had happened when Anawan wandered into the brush and nearly stepped on a baby King Cobra. Needless to say those were the most boring days of Zehell's life and she would rather not repeat them.
Zehell took a deep breath and turned in the direction of the clearing. Hopefully she remembered the way. It was almost a straight line as far as she remembered. Zehell shifted her wings back and raised her head a little more. She could do this. She could find Elyon's clearing again. She could watch the animals he called his friends without being seen. Go. Observe. Leave.
"Go, Observe, Leave," she repeated aloud. "Go, Observe, Leave."
She took one more deep breath before venturing off into the trees.
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