With a resounding crack, Sora struck the brown egg against the edge of the frying pan and, grasping the twin halves of the eggshell in her wind-chapped fingers, dropped the silken white and the purple yolk onto the ground at her boots, right next to the pan filled with sizzling butter where she had been aiming.
“Kšev,” she cursed softly, as much to the wind as to the fluffy farav coiled on the other side of the fire. Her companion’s ghost-white fur blended with the snow that forced its way in from the far side of their hut, until the creature looked much larger than he was, a swirling beast of ice and fog.
The farav wiggled his round ears and squinted his red eyes, looking at her with an expression that was almost reproving.
“Don’t stare at me,” she whispered, a little louder this time, “I don’t see you moving to fix us dinner.”
An image filled her mind, of white cold and drifts so deep not even the scent of a rodent or snow-hopper could be detected on the feral winds. Of furry paws digging deep into a snow bank, and coming back bloody. Of larger predators, with paws and claws and fangs, waiting to strike from the bitter white clouds of snow.
Despite their sometimes exotic appearance, faravi were creatures of the desert, the same as Sora herself. She shook her head, looking back at her companion, and smiled wryly.
“I know, I know,” she whispered again, “you’re no ice weasel. But unless you want no dinner at all, you’re going to have to help me. Or did you forget that I’m not quite as spry as I used to be?”
She stretched her arms out from beneath her winter cloak. Her left arm was lithe, her olive skin chapped but otherwise healthy.
Sora’s right arm was pale and blue, like flesh that has sat too long without blood. An angry vein pulsed at her wrist, and tendrils of cobalt twined up her skin.
The farav watched her intently, his eyes narrowed to slits that glinted like embers in the firelight. He blinked once, and sent her another memory.
This image was of a small farav kit, dead in the sand. Cobalt blue tendrils ran along every visible vein in the kit’s body, and blood, strangely blue blood, ran from his eyes and nose.
“I know, I know,” she whispered softly, her voice barely louder than the wind, “but not yet, all right?”
She held out the broken eggshells in her hale hand.
“Not yet. For now, we’ve got to cook dinner.”
Together, they used the shells to scoop up what egg could be salvaged. Sora used one hand, moving slowly to steady her fingers, and keeping her wounded arm close at her side, out of the way. Her companion held his half of the egg shell in both of his paws, fingers wrapping around the shell almost like a human with a bowl of soup.
The ground was cold and hard, glistening with egg white, but the dark purple yolk hadn’t broken in its tumble. When her farav had tipped his portion of recovered egg white into her half of the egg shell, Sora stood and carefully poured their dinner into the frying pan.
The butter was browning, but the herbs and spices she’d added to the pan earlier had just started to toast. Sora reached for the leather belt at her hip and drew out a long wooden spoon, carved like a farav’s face.
When the egg yolk had started to set, Sora flipped it over in the pan, triggering a crackle of butter and the aromatic smell of the seasonings. From a pouch on her belt, she added the last of the precious smoked cheese they had brought with them, scrambling the ingredients together until they started to brown. Then, carefully, she divided their dinner into two small wooden bowls.
Together, they curled up next to the fire, opposite the drafty curtain that was still blowing in the occasional puff of snowflakes.
Her farav ate his portion in one large slurp, and then sat back watching her. His red tongue licked his teeth, and his eyes were wide and attentive. He didn’t have to share thoughts with her for Sora to know he was wondering if she was going to finish her portion, or if he would be allowed to help her.
With her good hand, Sora fed herself slowly. When she’d eaten most of her meal, she passed her bowl to her friend, who took it eagerly and began licking up the last traces of egg.
Gently, Sora reached out and ruffled the fur on her farav’s head.
“Tomorrow, Kiri, we’ll catch a snow-hopper. A big, fat one. You’ll get the meat, and I’ll make soup from the bones, and mittens from its fur.”
Kiri licked the last of the egg from his whiskers, snuffled happily, and nestled close to her. Within minutes, his feet were already twitching in a dream.