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chapter twenty-three | talking to animals is quite normal and then there's a note from the author of this narrative (not klara - the other one)

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The pairing ceremony was about to start.

Lise stood in front of the platform, her feet on the cobblestones and her shoulder barely reaching the top of the wooden floor.

The audience had filed into the chairs available to them. There were two aisles and one reserved section, which was up front in the middle.

Andrè and Sebastian sat in the front row to the right, close to where Lise was standing, and excitedly watching the crowd filing into their seats. Except for the reserved chairs, there was not one left empty.

The suns had slipped behind the edge of the horizon, stars and planets and the moon visible in the dark blanket of the night sky.

Lanterns were lit, two larger fires burned to the side of the stage. Candles, placed in glass spheres and hung on a wire, were draped over the heads of the crowd and arranged to frame the platform.

Finally, a figure strode onto the stage.

"Hello, everyone," said the voice of Mr Rousse Ryefeathier. He spoke loud enough to be heard, the square optimal for public speeches as it echoed his words. "I'm here on behalf of the principal of the Akademie, our post-secondary institute for the young men and women dedicated to protecting and preserving all that Boeken stood for."

The audience clapped, though he opened his mouth to speak further. He paused, waited politely, then continued.

"I will introduce the graduating class after I introduce those they will be bonded with. I know many of you are eagerly waiting to see the Dtieren that have identified their human."

He turned to face the end of his stage and motioned at someone. "They can come out now."

The first one to step into the light was a small tiger cub, its fur glistening and its gait confident as it passed by Rousse and sat down on the other side of the stage.

The second was a racoon, the striped of its tails starkly contrasted and its eyes curious as they watch everything.

Then there were two porcupines, small, spiky things that waddled onto the stage to a chorus of 'aw's.

A snake followed them, slithering up to them and then pausing as it waited for the porcupines to walk further before slithering again. It was slightly impatient, the flick of its rattler voicing its frustration.

Then, finally, a bear cub. Bigger than all those before it, its dark fur was soft and standing on end. Its nuzzle twitched, eyes almost laughing at the world around it.

Andrè was in heaven. He leaned forward in his chair, almost to the point of tipping out, and watched the different animals in fascination. He'd always loved animals and a million facts popped into his head as he saw the different species that traipsed onto the stage.

"Alright," Rousse Ryefeathier stated, smiling at the animals around his feet. "That is all the Dtieren for tonight. Quite a few, all considering."

Six young men and women walked onto the stage next, accompanied by introductions and a summary of their traits. They were paired with the animals based on a list of attributes, due to both personality and performance in training.

Andrè was too absorbed in watching the animals to register the different names and lists, watching the way the porcupines interacted with each other. They were fooling around a little, the snake ratting at them in a warning to keep still.

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