Year 9 Day 241

“They’re hot,” Songbird said when I insisted she put on the garments Rainbow had made. “And these bags on my feet are hot and clumsy. How do you stand them?”

“You’ll need them where we’re going,” I said. “Ready? Turn on the distort. Now let’s go.” And I teleported her invisible self to a small clearing, not far from where the hunters had been yesterday, but far enough to be out of hearing. Don’t speak aloud, I cautioned her mentally. Just think at me if you need to communicate something.

She blinked a time or two and squatted down to touch the snow-dusted ground. It’s like the stuff you brought WildDog when he was teething, she thought at me. She didn’t actually sub-vocalize it, but I also picked up her decision that those hot clothes might be a good idea, and that in fact it was going to be hard to warm her hands. I grinned and handed her a couple of fur-lined bags just big enough for her hands.

I opened my mind to the hunters, and nodded in satisfaction. The men are off hunting, I thought at Songbird. The two older women are in camp, preparing hides. I’ll teleport us to where we can watch.

Songbird watched the two women like a vulture searching for carrion. After what seemed a very long time to me, she thought, Can you put their thoughts about what they are doing into my head?

It took me a little time to find what she wanted, because it was not near the top of their minds. Tanning hides was something they had learned from their mothers, and was done simply because that was the way it was done. They did not have to think about it, any more than I thought of how my starship worked when I flew it, or how to walk. But I did manage to find the knowledge that went into their hands without thought, and passed it on to Songbird.

I felt her satisfaction, followed by sudden tension. Listen.

The hunters were returning, at least two of them were, and they were shouting at each other. The third, the leader? I touched minds with one of the shouters, and stiffened. The leader was dead, trampled by the antlered creature they had been hunting. The two were in a race to seize the bearskin he wore as a symbol of leadership, but had left behind at the camp.

I didn’t realize that I was still feeding the mental images to Songbird until she ran forward, grabbed the bearskin, and screamed mentally, Get me out of here! The distort hid the skin as well as Songbird; to the hunters bursting into the clearing the skin had vanished before their eyes and they were too startled to continue their argument. I was too startled to do anything but get Songbird, myself, and the bearskin away.

You can’t just steal things like that, I thought at her.

She grinned. It stopped the fight. The owner’s dead, and you need it. Leave them some salt where the skin was, if you want.