Ayre of the Last God
(Book III of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY


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"Purr... They are beautiful..." R'Narr purred quietly, looking over his kits as they lay asleep in their crib.

L'Sala smiled. "Mrr... Thank you, my lord, but we should leave them be for the moment. It's time for their nap," L'Sala replied, her voice soft, and crooked a finger at R'Narr. R'Narr grinned and followed, and L'Sala closed the door to the bedroom as quietly as she could.

"Mrr... Have you decided on a name for your new daughter yet, my lord?" L'Sala asked, once they had stepped away from the door.

R'Narr shook his head. "Mrowrrr... No, I have not. Her brother's name was easy - I'll name him R'Maril, in honor of my grandfather. As for her, however..." R'Narr replied, and sighed. "Mrr... My daughters all made suggestions when they visited their new sister the other week, yet none of the names they suggested seemed right. I considered naming her after my late mate, but V'Nisa never really liked her name much, and her spirit would probably disapprove. I considered your suggestion, naming her after L'Valin, but V'Valin seemed a name of dark omen - I would not have what you said happened to L'Valin happen to my daughter. More, the name is too western for my liking... It does not roll smoothly off the tongue, my mate, and is displeasing to the ear," R'Narr said, and held up his paws helplessly. "Mrowrrr... I am at a loss, 'Sal."

"Mrr... Well, perhaps you'll think of something soon," L'Sala replied, smiling.

There was a knock at the chamber door, and R'Narr turned to look. "Mrowr... Enter!" he called.

The door opened, and D'Viall stepped in. "Miao... My lord, a message has arrived for you, brought by a mus-rider," he announced, bowing as he held out a small folded parchment, sealed with a wax seal.

"Mrowr! Excellent!" R'Narr yowled, quickly striding over to take the message from D'Viall's paw. "Mrr... See that the messenger is fed well, D'Viall. I believe the mus prefer cooked meat - is that right, L'Sala?" R'Narr asked, looking to his mate.

L'Sala nodded. "Miao... Yes, my lord. They prefer their food to be dead before they eat it, and prefer it cooked," she replied, then looked to D'Viall. "Miao... Lord D'Viall, simply have a servant take a chicken, gut and skin it, then impale the carcass on a spit and place it over a fire. Turn the spit slowly for about half an hour, or until all is a golden brown, then remove the carcass from the spit and present it to the mus - on a platter, of course."

D'Viall brightened. "Mrowr! I see, my lady - like the mus did when they were camped outside our castle. I'll see to it personally. Good evening, my lord, my lady," D'Viall said, and after exchanging a brief bow, the young seneschal left, closing the door behind him.

R'Narr then turned his attention to the letter. Snapping the seal in half with his paws, he eagerly opened it. Inside were two letters, which R'Narr perused, his smile changing to a frown. After a moment, he snarled. "Fsst! I can't read either of these, L'Sala," he growled, and held them out to her.

L'Sala nodded, taking the two letters, then looked them over. "Mrr... The first is in the language of the mus, my lord, and the second appears to be in the language of the Little Ones. Shall I read them to you?"

"Mrr... Please," R'Narr replied, taking a seat by the fire and patting the chair next to him.

L'Sala sat beside R'Narr, then looked over the first letter again. "Mrr... My lord, the first letter is from Lord Xaa'ap'Gasha, the Slayer. Here is what it says, loosely translated..." L'Sala said, then began to read.

'My dear ally, R'Narr:

It was indeed a pleasure to receive your missive, and hear that you are well, and have secured the Empire of the Cats for yourself and your posterity. As you may have heard by now, Lord W'Mefa has been selected Emperor of the Mus - by a spoon, in fact, which we view as a good omen.'

"Mrr? By a spoon? What does that mean?" R'Narr asked, interrupting.

"Miao... I've no idea, my lord - but that is what it says. Perhaps as time passes and we come to understand them better, we will find out."

"Mrowrrr... And he calls me his 'dear' ally?"

"Miao... A mere polite formality of their letters, my lord. Were he to write to me, he would probably begin 'my dear lady L'Sala' - even though we have met but twice, once at the Battle of Three Armies, and once when I signed the treaty restoring his lands to him."

R'Narr nodded. "Mrr... And that was a good decision, my mate. I plan on handing all the remainder of T'Mrr lands to him, as well. I want our people to understand that further expansion is to be done to the south, beyond the Southern Mountains, not to the east. D'Zhin opposed it, and sparked his stupid war with the mus to gain extra lands in the east - too difficult to manage the empire from the capitol in the west with mountains splitting it in two. But, with a new capital here, in my castle, in the east and nearer the easier passes through the mountains, it could be done. Go on reading," he said, waving a paw. L'Sala nodded, and resumed.

'In answer to your first question, yes, there are now quite a few of your former slaves that have arrived in our lands. While the mus are returning to their original homes, the horses have no homes to go to, and seem to be gathering on my lands for the moment. I do not know why they choose my lands, yet already there are over two thousand of them here. Feeding them doesn't seem to be a problem, however, as they eat nearly anything green. More, seeing as how much of my lands yet remain weed-filled farmlands, the horses appear for the moment to be providing a useful purpose by eating all the weeds - even ones djuducu won't touch. However, we cannot have them simply wandering our lands and grazing at will, so we are currently deciding with what to do with them before their numbers become to great to be managed. The horses appear to wish to join our people - though we have no idea why, and have no real need for them. Still, this may be the best solution. Though they cannot fight, all of them are strong, most are swift of foot, and many are skilled at healing as well as posessing other useful skills, so it seems likely that in time, they will simply be accepted as servant-caste among our people, particularly as healers, messengers, craftsmen and laborers.'

"Mrr... Good. I'm glad to hear that the mus will be able to do something with them," R'Narr muttered, then shook his head. "Mrr... By the nine hells... At times, knowing that they can read one's thoughts... They chill me, and seem horrifying alien things. Then again, at other times... They strike me as being gentle, noble creatures."

"Mrr... So you have said, my lord."

R'Narr chuckled. "Mrr... Of course, my allies among the western clans screamed for days about losing their slaves - they faced financial ruin, with none to farm the fields, work the mines, haul lumber... Your solution, however, has made them happy again."

"Miao... Well, my lord, it seemed only logical to take those clans who had refused to join you and allow your allies to enslave them. This solves both your western allies' economic problems and your problems in having to subdue the loyalist clans who might have sought to rise against you at some point in the future - two birds with one net, as it were."

R'Narr nodded. "Mrr... That it does, my love. As I have often said - with you at my side, I could rule the world," he replied, and chuckled. "Mrr... Go on with the letter, please," R'Narr said, waving a paw again. L'Sala nodded, and resumed.

'In answer to your second question, yes, we appear to be able to communicate with them - though with great difficulty. The Little Ones, however, appear to be able to communicate with them easily, thus, I have left answering your third question to my vassal, Smith, whose reply I have enclosed. I regret to say that Smith cannot write in your language nor mine as of yet, however, he informs me that it is his experience that your mate can speak his language, so it seems likely she will be able to read it, as well. Do write again if you have any further questions or other needs, or if your mate is unable to translate Smith's letter for you.

With Respect,

Xaa'ap'Gasha, Lord of Clan Xaa.'

"Mrowr! That must be the second letter! Read it, please," R'Narr exclaimed, looking at the papers in L'Sala's paws.

"Mrr... Of course, my lord - though I warn you, it is not nearly as polite as The Slayer's letter," L'Sala replied, and began.


Lord Xaa asked me to write you. He is my liege lord, and I will obey him. So, here is your answer.

I went among the horses, and asked around. There are thousands here, now, roaming about the unused lands belonging to my liege. They spend much of their time talking to each other, and sharing the strange vision of the mare, Amani. I don't understand it, nor have I had the time to ask about it - but I digress.

At first I tried just looking around for a dun mare - but that was impossible. There simply are too many of them. So, I just told them what you asked, and waited. They talk with their minds, and it didn't take long for them to spread the message around. Eventually, a dun mare came up to me, and introduced herself. She says she is the mare you were wondering about. She says that yes, she and her people from the village did arrive safely. She also says her name is Omoi, a seer of the Crimson Cloud clan. She then said that she knew why you asked, even though I do not, and she said she feels honored.

There - now you have the answer you want. Lord Xaa says I should be polite to you. That is the way of their people - they are polite even to those they hate. It is our way, as well - politeness is very important to a mouse. Still, I find it difficult to be polite to you, R'Narr. I still remember what you did, and what you forced me to do. I still see Cooper's dead eyes staring at me in the dark of night, R'Narr, in my dreams. So I will simply close this letter by saying that it is probably very fortunate for the both of us that I was born a mouse, and not a mus.

- Smith.'

R'Narr guffawed. "Mrowrrr... I did indeed forge a warrior of that one, L'Sala - and I believe he's right. If he were a mus, one or the other of us would be dead, now," he replied, then laughed again. "Mrr... Well, at least I finally have my answer," R'Narr said, and looked to L'Sala. "Mrr... We shall call my little daughter V'Omoi - for certainly if it had not been for that dun mare, I'd have been caught in D'Zhin's trap and killed. It's only fitting she be honored this way."

L'Sala smiled, folding the letters. "Mrr... I agree, my lord. Having heard the story you told me of that mare, I believe it to be a very fitting name."

R'Narr smiled at L'Sala, looking her over. She was, to his eye, still as beautiful as she had been the day he first saw her in D'Zhin's throne room, nearly two years ago. Giving birth hadn't soured her figure, to him - far from it. Her breasts were now larger, allowing her to fill out his late mate's dresses much better, and she carried herself with an air of pride she hadn't back then. As R'Narr's eye ran down her lovely form as revealed by the black velvet dress she wore, his gaze fell to her waistline, and he chuckled.

Wrapped about L'Sala's waist was a long, thin, silver chain. The clasp for the chain was at about her navel, the chain itself passed around her back, though a small retaining clip, then to the front again, coming together in the front of her dress. Attached to the ends of the chain was a small coin pouch with a silver clasp, hanging at about the level of her sex. It wasn't much, really - just a little pouch, covered in soft black fur. Yet, the sight of it still made R'Narr chuckle.

L'Sala, seeing R'Narr's grin and seeing where his gaze lay, simply smiled back. "Mrr... I am glad you are enjoying your little gift to me as much as I am, my lord. I have found it has other uses, as well."

"Mrr? Like what?" R'Narr asked, a furry eyebrow raised.

"Miao... Well, my lord, though you and D'Viall always treat me with the utmost respect, as is proper, a few of your allies and a small portion of your servants and vassals have had a difficult time adjusting to the idea of a Mentalt as your mate - particularly now that you are not merely the Overlord of the East, but also Shazad of all the Cat-Clans. I have found that wearing your little gift has caused even these few hold-outs to begin treating me with the utmost deference - particularly the males. It is, at times, quite satisfying," L'Sala replied, then grinned wickedly.

R'Narr did a double-take, then burst into gales of laughter.

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