'Time to go home, then; Papa will be worried about us by now.' Mamma was wearing a coloured sash around her waist, as she often did; she removed it, and wrapped it around Llandry's torso, fashioning a sling. She smiled fondly at Llandry.
'I used to carry you this way, when you were small.' She took the orting from Llandry's arms and placed it gently inside the sling, securing it with deft movements.
'Now you may carry him home. He won't fall.'
Papa was not at home when they arrived, but his measured step was soon heard climbing the stair that wound around the trunk of the lofty Sanfaer home. He patted Llandry's hair as he passed, and she shot up in excitement and ran after him.
'Papa, you must come and meet Sigwide!'
'Oh? School friend?'
Her face darkened at the word 'school'. 'No, Pa. He's my new pet. Look!'
The orting had been lovingly installed in his own box, padded with the best blankets from Llandry's bed. He had gone to sleep with his head under the thickest of them, his stubby tail twitching as he dreamed. Aysun Sanfaer tilted his head curiously, trying to get a look at the creature.
'Sigwide is what you've called it?'
'Yes. I chose it myself.'
'What is it?'
'Ma said it's an orting.'
He said nothing at all in response. Llandry looked up, puzzled. His face was set and his eyes glittered with some fierce emotion that looked like anger. Ynara came back into the room at that moment and went straight to her husband.
'Aysun, it's not as bad as-'
'It's an orting?'
Mamma drew her husband away and lowered her voice, and the conversation passed beyond Llandry's hearing. She sensed her father's anger, feeling his eyes on her as her mother spoke. She sat down next to Sigwide's box, confused and a little afraid. Her parents' voices grew louder, and she overheard snippets of conversation.
'...as stubborn as your father.' That was Mamma.
'...nothing like my father!' Papa sounded quite upset, and Llandry began to feel sick.
'The similarity is obvious. You take an idea, no matter how irrational, and refuse to be moved.'
'Because my father couldn't accept you, you persist in assuming-'
'This isn't about me! This creature is harmless and it will be good for Llan to have a companion. Why can't you see that?'
'If she wants a companion we will get her a pet. Something safer.'
Mamma snorted at that and walked away a few steps. When she turned back to Pa, she spoke too quietly for Llandry to hear any more. Llandry could only sit near Sigwide's box, crouched and miserable, and wait.
At length her parents' conversation was over. Papa approached and knelt down before her with a sigh.
'Llandry. Your mother's already received a promise from you, but I need you to promise me as well. If you ever see anything like that again, you must keep away from it. Understand?'
He was stern but no longer furious. Llandry was so relieved she would have promised anything at all. She nodded her head solemnly.
'I need you to understand why, Llandry. It's dangerous. You could be drawn away from us, and you wouldn't be able to come back very easily. We might not be able to find you. And the creatures you would meet there are not all as harmless as this one.' He frowned at the tiny grey body curled up in the box. Llandry bit her trembling lip, suddenly anxious.
'Papa! I may keep him, mayn't I?'
'I would rather you didn't, but yes. He must be trained, though. I'll get a summoner to come to the house tomorrow.'
Llandry beamed, expressing her gratitude with an enveloping hug. He patted her head a little awkwardly, then swung her up onto his wingless back.
'Let the little beast sleep.'