A/n: Someone pointed out to me, quite correctly, that I shouldn't expect people to like my story if I haven't even posted the start yet… So here's the first chapter. But, please, don't expect me to update everyday.

openmouthblues: I just realized what a strange pic an iguana/centaur would look like…I'll remove the iguana part, but leave everything else. XD

Introduction

I was cooking salad.

Yes, cooking salad. Why? Got a problem with it? I love experimenting with the food; it gets too boring eating the same thing everyday. Besides, Father gave me complete control over what happens in our kitchen, and I'm the only one who can tolerate cooking.

Through a slightly-open door, I heard noises in the living room.

"I'm sure it will be a pretty girl," said Mia, my mother's best friend. "You already have a son, so it seems unfair for you to have another."

"No, it will be alright," counters Suzanne, the old lady who lives across the street. "I have 2 daughters, and one of them is also expecting. The doctor says it will be a girl. You will have a boy. My grandchild and your soon-to-be son will look amazing together." The three of them laughed.

"When will you give birth?" continued Suzanne. "My daughter plans to as soon as the first rain falls. But I won't allow her to give birth before you do."

I could almost hear the smile in my mother's voice. "You shouldn't dictate on what your daughter feels is best for her baby." I heard her impatient slap on the window to let in air; the house was getting stuffy. "I'm not sure when I'm giving birth, but it won't be this year. There have been too many accidents, and I don't want this baby to be part of that."

I heard the other two mumble their agreements.

Because of the hostile, ever-changing, unexpected environment of Foralun, the terra have evolved the capacity to choose when to give birth. And unlike humans, there is no accidental birth. All pregnancies are planned to the last detail. Aside from the fact that a mother can only conceive 5 years after the previous baby was born, the terra mate for life. Deaths are so prevalent among the terra that all pregnancies are celebrated, and when the mother gives birth and both of them survive, an even bigger celebration happens.

This is my mother's third pregnancy. My younger brother died two years ago when he was picking berries in the field. The vocar got him.

I sighed inwardly, watching the green leaves of different contadur and the bark of the agisa mix… It didn't look appetizing. But then again, nothing looked appetizing anymore.

Our house was built inside a rock shelter. As is any house of any logical terraeus who would like to live and see the sun rise the next day. It was made by packing dirt and soil to make a hollow, then using the thinner agisa branches as support columns, and the thicker branches to keep the dirt from falling on our heads. Rocks are then piled around the columns to make the hollow sturdier, and bigger rocks are taken from the coastal regions to pile over the house. They serve effectively as barriers against torrential rains and fast-moving winds, coolants on hot summer days, and protection against the searing cold winter storms. Walls are basically lines of rocks somehow glued together by what my father called gluten, but we all know it was magic. Doors are deliberate holes in the wall covered with strings of leaves. Windows are holes in the dirt that are closed by putting a large rock, or opened by pushing the large rock that covers the opening. Our floor is dirt that allows our hooves steady footing, even in running.

My mother squealed in delight. I guess Suzanne gave her a present, now. The old lady went to me a week ago, wondering what my mother would like to have for her baby. I pointed at the comforter that Suzanne had in her house. It was hand woven from dyed materials I wouldn't care to name by Suzanne herself. My mother had always wanted to trade for one, since money was short in the Liberi community, but anything that we are able to obtain from the fields needed to be used for food, or coal for heating… The one time she had enough things to make an acceptable trade, my father got into an accident, and she had to pay the doctor's fee instead.

"Ryan," trilled my famiscus, Ater. "Your mother finally got that comforter she always been wanting from Suzanne. She's screaming like a demented 4 year old." I grinned at that. "Here are some herbs you wanted. I nearly got caught by that stupid hound of Bock's. I told you to shoot it down long ago." I shook my head, as I always did when he would complain about Bock Little. I added the herbs to the salad and turned off the fire.

Now, you don't need to be scared about anyone hearing Ater. Each famiscus can only communicate to its terraeus or to other famiscus. They're probably what's commonly known as a familiar.

"Ryan!" my mother poked her head through the door. "The girls and I will be back in a little while." Her eyes saw my pale complexion. "You won't need me right now, would you?" she asked worriedly.

I shook my head and smiled at her. She smiled back. "Take care of yourself," she said. And I heard the front door – one of the biggest rocks on the outside – close with a somehow weird sound – a… finality – to it.

I sighed. It would be a long wait. I stirred the salad and put it in a bowl. I started cutting up the meat I caught earlier into really thin slices.

My eyes turned to movement outside the kitchen window.

"They're here! They're here!" trilled Ater, jumping up and down excitedly. I strained my eyes, trying to see from behind Ater's eager form, but the new neighbors already went in their house, and I wasn't able to catch a glimpse of them. I pouted, but caught myself. How childish!

Ater jumped away to see if he could meet new friends as I finished slicing the meat. I'm a good hunter, and I know how to cook stew, but there's probably something seriously wrong with my brain today. I want to experiment with everything I touch.

Lil, who just came from the north last week, told me about this interesting dish called fillet. I had to cut the meat up really thin, put in a powder of some sort, and then fry it… If only she had brought some home! I could guess the ingredients of that "powder" by the taste.

I was frying the meat and steaming some fish that was our welcoming present for the neighbors when I heard an impossibly beautiful sound.

I'm not normal, even for a terraeus. I'm mute. But I'm not deaf, obviously. They said that if you lose a sense, another would become much keener. But… talking is not a sense… is it? Whatever. I still have the best ears in Liberi; they say that's what makes me such a good hunter. That, and the fact that I'm unnaturally silent, even for a mute.

But there are downsides to that. When I heard that impossibly beautiful sound… the… music, as my father told me once, I completely blacked out. No one heard anything.

I guess that was what caused the fire in the house.

---

I felt a cool cloth drape on my head. "Ryan?" my mother. "Ryan, sweetie, it's Mommy."

Ok, there must be something wrong with her right now. I'm already sixteen, and she calls me sweetie?

… Hey, I can think clearly. That must mean I'm awake.

I tried opening my eyes. It was harder than I thought. I brought up my hands to my face and found out why. For some strange reason, they covered my eyes! I tore the cloth away from my head and blinked at the sudden light. Mother was smiling worriedly at me.

"I'm okay, Mom," I said, looking around, quite disoriented. "We're… not at the doctor's?"

I knew what the clinic looked like. This doesn't look like it. My mother shook her head, confirming my suspicion. My eyes caught a pair of eyes – a girl's – and locked. She grinned.

"Ryan Latro," she said cordially, "I hope you're feeling better now. Thank your famiscus for screaming as if he was the one on fire."

My eyes narrowed, looked around, and found Ater. He immediately jumped to my shoulder and snuggled against my neck. I smiled. Thanks, pal, I thought to him. He always knew what I was thinking.

I looked at the girl again and gave her an inquisitive look. I've never seen her around… wait. She's our new neighbor? What a way to greet her!

Thank you for saving my life, I said in sign language. I'm sorry for your trouble.

She smiled and replied, No trouble at all, also in sign language. Now, I was completely surprised. Hardly anyone understands, much less communicate, in sign language! My mom understands, but can't use with it.

I must have stared at her in open curiosity because she blushed.

I turned to my mom instead and asked, What caused the fire?

"The stove," my mom said simply.

Oh.

My mom looked at me with a look that said why would you sleep and leave the stove on?

I didn't, I replied to her look. I… uhh… fainted. I could feel heat rising to my cheeks at this. What happened to the house?

"The kitchen's burned," she said. "I don't think you'd be able to use it for quite some time. The bedrooms are open, we need to close them off before we could sleep – "

"Is he awake already?" interrupted another lady – I guess it's the girl's mother. "Oh, you poor soul!" she crooned to me and took my mom's place. She checked my eyes, mouth… things a doctor would have done. I looked at my mom and she shrugged. So… I am in a doctor's clinic. Just… not the one I've always been in. She stepped back and looked me over.

She mumbled, as a doctor would have, "No signs of burns; no internal bleeding; eyes, nose, mouth clear of mucus…" She made her voice louder. "Does it hurt anywhere?"

I took a few steps here and there and rolled my joints. I shook my head. She grinned. "Good. Has my daughter introduced herself yet?" She looked at the girl, who looked down and away.

"I suppose not," she mumbled again. "Well, I am Doctor Ave Aevum, and this is my daughter Sophie Aevum. Since I don't think that your house would be a good place to stay in for at least a week, you will stay with me," My mom squeaked, ready to complain. "No objections, Mrs. Latro. He needs to recuperate, and better under my eyes than a vocar's. Same with you and your husband, unless you have already asked someone?" Her eyebrows rose at this question. Meekly, my mother shook her head. Doctor Aevum smiled triumphantly. "Welcome to our home, then. I hope we'll have a great time together. Now, if you excuse me," She walked away, swirling the string of leaves as she did.

Sophie giggled. "I'm so glad you could stay with us," she told me when my mother ran after hers. "I think I know why you fainted," she told me mysteriously. I looked at her and said, So it was you? She smiled. She brought out some sort of wooden thing with circular things that cover holes and … things… What? It's my first time seeing this… thing… so I wouldn't know how to describe it.

"It's called a flute," Sophie told me. She placed it near her mouth and blew, her fingers pressing lightly on the circular things.

I already anticipated the beautiful sound, so I braced myself against it, but there was nothing to be afraid of. She played a beautiful song. I guess I fainted the first time because of sheer shock. I never heard, or imagined I would hear, something as ethereal as this sound. It's like, what the priest would say, looking at heaven and seeing yourself insufficient.

She smiled at me afterwards. "The same thing happened to me, the first time I heard it," she confided. "But it's great in slowing down the vocar. They get disoriented." She then switched to sign language. And there's magic in this piece.

My eyes flickered. But magic comes from magicians, not from wood. I reasoned out.

There are ways to place magical symbols onto things so that they become magical, she replied. Don't you ever wonder why the wizards always have a bag or pouch or something full of things? It's their mage kit, and that's how they become stronger.

Just then, the bell rang. It was the bell that called all terra below 18 years old to the plaza. Nobody really knew when the bell should ring, but since the weather is so fine, I guess we should have expected it.

They are about to pick the terra that they will train to be wizards. Sophie and I looked at each other.

Did they understand our talk? I asked her fearfully.

I hope not. She told me, just as our fam raced to us.

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a/n: haha, I edited some parts, I just saw the wrong grammar today, but the story's basically still the same. :)