Pinecone has built himself a temporary shelter in Virla's front yard, with her permission. He just can't get used to sleeping inside a building, and it's a good place to hang around during the day, too.
Katsura is glad that Virla has a large front yard, with a tall hedge.
Pinecone is also getting a kick out of zlinning the passersby when they can't see or otherwise detect him; the mixed snow and branches and the hedge don't do anything to block his Sime senses. He feels really ~~ safe ~~ for the first time since he left the Free People.
Pinecone has also learned two ways to chop wood. One is only good for jumping up and down; the other is good for making firewood.
Belle approaches Aunt Virla's house, with her bag of schoolbooks over her shoulder. She's not feeling too energetic today; she had a bit of a headache earlier, and it hasn't entirely gone away. She hopes that zlinning it won't bother Hajene Katsura too much. She has neither a fever nor an upset stomach, so she's pretty sure this headache has nothing to do with changeover.
Pinecone zlins the arriving headache and figures it's someone coming to Lady Virla's to be healed.
Belle opens the front gate, steps through, and closes it carefully behind her.
Pinecone tries to decide whether to stay hidden or to run. He knows some Egg People are Sime-friendly but others aren't. Pinecone decides the best thing is to get out, but not Sime-swiftly, so he wriggles out of the shelter feet-first and starts to walk around Virla's house to the back yard.
Belle turns to walk around the house to the back door and sees a flicker of movement.
Belle: Aunt Virla?
Pinecone turns back to look, sees it's a girl, and decides to risk speaking.
Pinecone: Lady Virla is inside the house, daughter-of-her-sister.
Belle starts moving again, then belatedly remembers her manners.
Belle: I'm Belle.
Belle is pretty sure this voice belongs to no one she's ever met.
Pinecone: And my name is Pinecone. Of the Free People. Well, not of the Free People any more.
Belle: Pleased to meet you. Um, who are the Free People?
Belle takes a step closer to the invisible voice.
Pinecone: They are the people that I grew up among. We live deep in the woods where there are no Town People.
Belle decides that Aunt Virla's house is a much more interesting place than she'd ever before realized.
Belle: How did you end up here?
Belle takes another step closer.
Pinecone: I came with Hajene Katsura and Sosu Nick, Belle of the Egg People.
Belle: Egg People? What are Egg People?
Belle's after-school chore is to collect the eggs from her parents' henhouse, but somehow she doesn't think it's an important enough job to define her life.
Pinecone is surprised.
Pinecone: Why, you are. All the Town People here, I mean.
Belle: Why do you say that? Don't your people eat eggs, too?
Pinecone: Yes, we do. But I heard Sosu Nick say that we were going to the village where the Eggs live.
Belle steps a bit closer, hoping for a look at this odd stranger.
Belle: The Eggs?
Belle rolls the word around on the back of her tongue.
Belle: Oh! Do you mean the Geggs? I'm sorry, they're away right now.
Pinecone: Oh. So you are not all the Egg People, only the ones who are at Sat'htine now?
Belle: Just that one family is the Geggs. My family's the Hantons. And the town... the whole town is called Gumgeeville.
Belle is still edging towards the voice, trying to get a glimpse of this odd boy called Pinecone. He doesn't sound much older than Belle herself is.
Pinecone commits these names to memory, and resolves to ask Nick for an explanation later.
Pinecone: Belle, you should know that I am a Sime. I did not want to surprise you.
Belle isn't particularly startled. There are a lot of other things about Pinecone that seem odder than simply being Sime.
Pinecone steps out into plain view. He's wearing a pair of cast-off pants that Virla found in the upstairs rooms, but no shirt or shoes.
Belle: Aren't you freezing?
Pinecone: No. Simes are warm by nature, it seems. Are you cold?
Belle feels cold just looking at the young man. And she was right; he's not much older than she is.
Belle: I wasn't, until I saw you.
Pinecone is ~~ puzzled ~~ by this remark -- Belle doesn't zlin particularly cold -- but lets it go too.
Pinecone: You are coming to see Hajene Katsura to get your headache healed?
Belle: Um, no. Actually, I'm coming so she can check whether I'm close to changeover yet.
Belle figures mentioning changeover won't upset Pinecone, since he's had it happen already.
Pinecone zlins Belle as well as he can.
Pinecone: I think you are not, but of course Lady Cat can tell for sure. She is much more... She can zlin much better than I can.
Belle: She said she should be able to tell a couple of days ahead.
Pinecone nods slowly.
Belle: So I'm supposed to come here every second day, as long as she's here, so she can check me.
Pinecone: And this is the day.
Pinecone smiles suddenly.
Pinecone: May I go with you, Belle?
Belle thinks Pinecone may not be feeling the cold, but she'd still be a lot happier seeing him go inside and get warm.
Belle: Uh, Pinecone... if your people live so far out in the forest...?
Belle leads the way towards the kitchen door as she speaks.
Belle: How did you manage to meet Hajene Kat and Sosu Nick?
Pinecone follows her, as he may be able to walk faster but he hasn't mastered the intricacies of doorknobs yet.
Pinecone: My People had sent me out on a Vision Quest, and I changed over. They were walking through the forest at that time.
Belle: Vision Quest?
Pinecone: We go into the forest by ourselves and do not eat until we have a vision that tells us what our grown-up names are, and what we will do when we are adults. All the children of the Free People do this.
Belle tries to wrap her mind around the idea of a kid her age actually being encouraged, rather than forbidden, to go out in the wilds alone.
Belle: So you were in changeover, and Hajene Kat zlinned you? Or you zlinned her?
Pinecone smiles thoughtfully.
Pinecone: Some of each, I believe. I was running wildly, I do not know why. Everything seemed dark to me, and she and Sosu Nick were the only lights, so I ran for them. She knew, of course, what had happened to me, and caught me and gave me transfer.
Belle wonders if Pinecone realizes how lucky he was. She thinks again, and realizes she may be making a lot of assumptions.
Belle: What would your people have done, if Hajene Kat hadn't been there?
Pinecone: Well, for me, nothing. I would simply have not returned from my Quest. I do not know what is done with other changeovers -- only initiated adults know those things.
Belle is afraid that she knows more than Pinecone does about that.
Belle: So, after that, they just... brought you with them?
Pinecone: I would not leave them. They are my People now.
Belle, who had had her hand on the doorknob, pauses and turns back to look at Pinecone.
Belle: Pinecone, what's it like? Changeover? ~~ intense curiosity ~~
Pinecone: I missed it! I felt sick, but I expected to feel sick, because it was my Vision Quest. Then I passed out and woke up Sime. Of course I had no way to know what had happened to me. It's not usual for a Sime to change over with no Gens for daywalks in any direction.
Belle: Oh. I was just wondering because... well, it's going to happen to me real soon. Anything you could tell me about how it feels, what to expect... but you don't remember. ~~ disappointment ~~
Pinecone's eyebrows go up.
Pinecone: You think you will be a channel?
Belle: I don't know if I'll be a channel or not. But I do know I'm going to be Sime.
Pinecone: Sosu Nick told me that the only Simes who truly know they will be Simes are the ones who will be channels.
Belle: Maybe I'll be a channel, then. I don't know.
Belle finds it an exciting but slightly scary thought. A channel has a lot of responsibility. She turns, opens the door, and steps inside.
Belle: Aunt Virla? Hajene Kat?
Belle glances back, notices that Pinecone has left the back door hanging open, and reaches past him to close it.
Katsura: Belle? I'm in the parlor.
Katsura is feeling wretched with entran, especially in the absence of Nick, and the presence of Virla's friendly but uncontrolled nager. She's left the kitchen because the cooking odors are turning her stomach.
Belle hurries towards the parlor.
Pinecone is not sure what to do now.
Katsura: Come warm up, Pinecone.
Belle: We met out in the yard.
Pinecone goes to the parlor too.
Katsura sees Pinecone's unclad state and realizes that he must not understand that keeping warm by augmenting wastes selyn. They did a fair bit of it in their travels, so perhaps he thinks it's harmless to enjoy it.
Belle: I shouldn't stay too long. I've got chores before supper. But I wanted you to check me again, Hajene.
Katsura: Of course. I don't zlin any sign of changeover.
Belle looks around.
Belle: Where's Sosu Nick?
Belle had thought Donors always stayed with their channels.
Katsura: He's gone to Hannard's Ford on some errands.
Belle: Oh. Um, Hajene Kat?
Belle: Pinecone seemed to think you might be able to do something for this headache. It's not as bad as it was... earlier, it ran all the way from here to here.
Belle points from the base of her skull to the bottom of her spine.
Belle: But now it's just here.
Katsura is reluctant to touch the child without parental permission and Donor support.
Katsura: Come closer, Belle.
Katsura leans forward from her seat on the sofa.
Belle doesn't realize she's just described a typical transfer burn headache. She steps closer to the channel and holds out her hands.
Katsura: Turn around and I'll zlin your back.
Katsura knows Nick will not be pleased if she takes the risk of extending her laterals without immobilizing the girl's arms, in his absence.
Belle: It's okay to touch me. Should I open my collar?
Belle glances shyly at Pinecone.
Pinecone continues to watch and zlin, having never heard of nudity taboos.
Katsura: No, it's fine like that. I don't want to touch you without permission from one of your parents.
Belle is getting very tired of being only twelve years old.
Katsura extends her laterals and carefully zlins Belle's head and back. She can zlin the residue of the headache, an unusual type for a child without a differentiated selyn system. Some of the back pain is from tightening the back muscles in response to the original headache.
Katsura: Stay very still now, Belle.
Belle holds her breath.
Katsura: You don't have to hold your breath.
Katsura grasps the child's faint nager and influences her to relax her tight back muscles. Few channels can manage this.
Belle suddenly feels very much better. She lets out her breath in a gasp.
Belle: Wow. What did you do?
Katsura: I just helped you relax some tight muscles. When people are in pain they tend to tighten up, which makes it worse.
Katsura knows that Belle hasn't had changeover training, so wouldn't know any relaxation exercises.
Belle: Oh. It felt... it felt like warm water washing through me, washing all the pain away.
Katsura: You can do that for yourself, too. Just remember how it felt, and make it happen again.
Belle nods gravely.
Pinecone is as always ~~ hugely impressed ~~ by Lady Cat's skill at snakery.
Belle: So it's... just an ordinary headache? Not part of changeover or anything?
Katsura: No, no sign of changeover.
Belle: Pinecone was saying....
Belle hesitates, glancing at Pinecone for permission to speak.
Pinecone misinterprets the look, and takes up the explanation himself.
Pinecone: Sosu Nick told me that if a person expects to change over, as Belle does, she will probably be a channel. Is that not so?
Katsura: Most higher order channels develop premonitions of changeover, but unfortunately many children who will become renSimes or Gens think they'll change over too. It can be hard to distinguish a true premonition from wishful thinking, especially early on.
Pinecone smiles wryly.
Pinecone: Sometimes the Free People have similar problems with visions.
Belle turns to Pinecone, startled.
Belle: What do you mean?
Pinecone: Some visions from Vision Quests turn out to be false visions. When that happens, a person's life may be wasted, or worse yet, the People may go down the wrong trail for a time.
Belle: You mean your visions aren't just about yourself? They're supposed to be for the whole town?
Pinecone: Not always, no. But one might have a vision that leads one to become a war leader -- and a war leader is nothing without war.
Belle puzzles over that for a minute, then turns back to the channel.
Belle: But believe me, there's no wishful thinking in knowing I'll be Sime. I'd really rather just grow up ordinary, help Mom and Dad with the farm, eventually get married.
Katsura realizes she used the wrong term for the out-T context.
Pinecone nods sympathetically.
Pinecone: I wished to become a hunter and then an elder. But it will not be so.
Belle glances at Pinecone with a feeling of real ~~ sympathy ~~ .
Pinecone looks down to the floor.
Pinecone: I am lost in the forest, and I fear I will never be found again.
Katsura beckons Pinecone to her, projecting much more zlinnable ~~ comfort ~~ than a child can produce.
Belle: There are lots of other roads, besides the one you were on before. You'll find one. Just like I'll have to.
Pinecone shrugs. Town Gen or Town Sime, he doesn't think it will be so very different.
Belle: Hajene Kat, tell him. It'll be okay.
Belle wants the reassurance as much for herself as for Pinecone, of course.
Katsura: It's difficult to get used to big changes in one's life, but new Simes are much more adaptable in their First Year than anyone else ever is. Pinecone will do well, and have a good life.
Belle grins at Pinecone.
Belle: You see?
Katsura knows that the fear and anxiety under Belle's grin and cheerful words are quite zlinnable to Pinecone as well as herself. She wonders if they can find a place for him at one of the Householdings in a thinly settled area. Mountain Bells, perhaps.
Belle: Anyway, thanks, Hajene Kat, but I'd better get going. Give my love to Aunt Virla, will you?
Katsura: Of course, Belle. See you again soon.
Belle grabs her school bag and hurries out, closing the back door gently behind her.
Pinecone: Hajene Kat, I trust you. But I do not see what kind of life I will have among the Town People.
Katsura: There are people in-T who live in the woods somewhat as the Free People do, but of course they must go to a channel every month so they aren't quite as isolated. Perhaps you can find a place among them.
Pinecone looks up ~~ hopefully ~~.
Pinecone: Perhaps so.
Katsura extends more ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ optimism ~~.
Pinecone soaks them up with ~~ gratitude ~~.
Katsura: You've had a hard time since your changeover, but soon you'll go in-T where you'll be safe.