As the morning progressed into afternoon, Krim was reminded that he hadn't eaten anything since yesterday. The cub still slept. He wasn't quite sure how to proceed. The wolf he had left in the cave without a second thought when he went hunting. It was a grown animal. Even with its side almost completely healed, it had never attempted to climb the almost vertical mountainside outside the cave. Regarding the cub, he was less certain. Young ones were notorious behaving completely irrationally without a second thought. Krim did not see why this human cub would be any different. He decided to wake it. Maybe once he had spoken to it for a while, he could decide what to do.
The cub had somehow managed to curl itself closer to him during the course of the day, and was now lying safely tucked against his side, head resting on his hind paw. Not sure how to wake it gently without nudging it – he couldn't get his forepaw around to nudge it without moving the hind paw, he tried to blow some air on it. The dark hair fluttered, and on a second try, the cub wrinkled its face together and lifted its hands to rub its eyes.
"I am sorry to wake you, cub", Krim said. "But I have to hunt, for both of us." At the sound of his voice, the cub immediately dropped its hands and jumped at the sight of an immense orange hide towering over it. It looked positively scared out of its wits.
"My name is Krim", Krim said politely. The little cub turned to stare instead at the giant orange head with large green eyes looking down at it. Krim didn't know that from a downwards angle, the most protruding features of his face was not his eyes, but rather his fangs; long, sharp and jagged towards the point.
It worried him that the cub was so quiet. Cubs weren't usually quiet, were they? He lowered his head for a closer examination, opening his mouth to ask if it was hurt somewhere. The cub seemed to gulp some air down and then, to Krim's surprise, it opened its mouth and screamed. As it started desperately scrambling backwards, Krim almost wanted to do the same. He had never heard anything like that sound; a sort of high-pitched continuous screech, leaving even the injured lynx's wailings far behind.
He hunched his shoulders and drew back his head, his large wings unfolded and folded a few times as he seriously considered putting his head beneath his wing just to let his ears rest for a moment. He had had no idea such a small creature could make such a terrible noise. When it had crawled a few meters away and had to stop to regain its breath, Krim took the opportunity to make himself heard without roaring, which would certainly not aid the situation.
"Please, I will not hurt you-" The cub started screaming again, then abruptly stopped. Krim heaved a sigh of relief as the cub continued to stare at him with its mouth hanging open.
"You can speak", it said, eyes large with amazement.
"Indeed I can", Krim answered, trying his best to look as little frightening as was possible, coiling his tail to cover his sharp talons. "And I am not going to eat you, if that is what you are so afraid of, cub." The cub nodded, not able to take its eyes of him. That settled, Krim decided to move on to the next subject.
"As I tried to tell you, my name is Krim." The language came to him more easily already. "Do you have a name, cub?"
"I am Naya", the cub said. "And I am not a cub; I am a girl."
"A 'girl' you say?" Krim asked, slightly amused. He wasn't quite sure about the meaning of the word, but some distant memory told him it meant the cub was female.
"Very well then, Naya." The name was not one he had ever heard before, but he quite liked the soft sound of it.
"How can you speak my language? I thought ferals only spoke the dragon tongue, and that they were only boring colours and that they were only small. You look just like Risha, but orange, not blue", the cub – the girl – said before he could continue. She looked up at him with those large eyes shining black. She was right in what she said; he was a great deal bigger than any of the ferals he had met, it was the reason he had been able to acquire this very nice cave.
"My egg was found on the southern plains; I was not born to the mountains. Who is Risha?"
"Risha is my mother's dragon. She's still in Westhagen. Where is my mother?" Krim had never himself had a cub, or a girl for that matter, and didn't quite know how to tell her. He truly didn't want her to scream again. The silence grew longer and he still hadn't reached a decision.
"I will tell you later, girl", he chickened out. He was starting to get really hungry, and if she was going to scream, he wanted to at least be full and content. Perhaps some food would make her feel better too. "Now I have to hunt. We are in the mountains, in my cave, and if you go too close to the edge here", he indicated it behind him with a slight jerk of his head. "You might fall down. Will you stay inside?"
"We are in a mountain cave?" she asked, delighted, and bared her teeth in what he assumed was an expression of excitement. Remarkably quickly, she got to her feet and ran towards the edge. Krim sighed as he reached out his paw and caught her well before she reached the edge.
"Naya", he said, putting her down closer to the cave. "As I just said, you may not go near the edge, or you will fall. I will be back soon. Do you understand me?" The girl nodded, a bit chocked at how gentle such a large paw could be. "Very well then", Krim said, turning around and leaping into the air in one swift motion. He decided to get two or three of the mountain goats. They did not taste quite as good as the bison grazing farther to the north, where the mountain became immense grassy plains, but he didn't want to leave Naya for so long.
The girl in question stood in the mouth of the cave, looking into the sundown after the enormous orange beast which turned out to be no beast at all, and suddenly felt very lonely. She could not remember how she got to the cave, she could not remember where her mother was, and she could certainly not remember why she had left her with a strange, although polite, mountain dragon. She sat down with her back against the hard wall, which had been quick to turn cold again once the warming sun had left it to its own devices. Naya wrapped her arms around her legs. Only now did she notice that her head hurt, and there was a strange deep ache in her breast when she breathed. She drew her legs tighter. It would all get better when her mother arrived. If only she would hurry.