Fauna thanked me and held out her hand to shake.
"We can start right there. We use body language, too. Normally, you would give me a high-five, not a handshake." I showed them how to do it. Then I had an idea.
"While I'm teaching you how to talk like me, could you guys teach me how to act like you?"
Jay and Fauna nodded and gave me high-fives. I looked at Flora.
"Anything you want to know or anything?
Flora shook her head, then beckoned for me to come closer. I crawled over to her sleeping bag. Then she whispered into my ear,
"I don't need anything, but I can teach you how to talk to birds. If you want. It will help you. And I think it will work both here and at your home."
Astonished, I stared at her.
"You can talk to birds???"
"It's easy, all you need is one simple thing."
She was about to tell me when a loud chirp came from my sleeping bag. And another. Frost trotted over and started whining and looking at me, kneading his paws on the sleeping bag.
'The weird-smelling bird is hungry! I think! It tried biting my nose.'
I hurried over, Flora behind me. It was true, the little mechanical baby bird was chirping loudly, flapping its whirring wings and opening its mouth widely. We fed it gemstones, which kept it quiet for a bit. While it was eating, Jay and I told Flora and Fauna the Mech Tech bird story. Suddenly we all heard chirping. Again. Not as loud, but still very consistent. We looked down at the tiny bird as it continued to make noise.
"What does it want?"
Jay was scratching her head. I crouched down and tried petting it. Flora leaned down and scooped it up. She held it up to her face and looked it in the eye.
"Shush. You are making much too much noise for one as small as you. Be silent. Hold your peace. Be you girl or boy."
The bird sulkily tweeted, then tried to hop down from Flora's gentle but firm grip, to no success.
"Well, a lady such as yourself should not be making such an undignified fuss. It makes you seem arrogant."
The chick chirped irritatedly, then bit Flora's hand and didn't let go. Her gemlike eyes gleamed with anger. Apparently, she had matured quickly and disliked being insulted or held. Flora didn't blink. She just looked at the chick, waiting patiently. Finally it let go, but turned its head and averted its eyes. Flora rotated her hands to make it so it faced her. It turned away. She twisted it. Turn. Twist. Turn. Twist. Until finally the bird looked her in the eye. In an even, steady, quiet, powerful, controlled voice, Flora said
"I am not going to tolerate fussing, whining, arguing, grumbling, objecting, and most certainly no if's, and's, or but's. You are going to behave like a good bird. Alright?"
The bird tweeted something and ruffled its wings.
"Now. Tell me why you were making such a fuss, please."
The bird chirped indignantly, rolling its eyes.
"Well, you didn't have to be such a drama queen about it. You surely have the Sense. You could have hopped over to me and said please."
She put the bird down, then whispered to me
"This bird is your responsibility, you must learn what it wants."
Jay nodded and added
"Think about how you have been treating it and what it may be lacking."
Ok, that did not seem fair.
"I only just got this bird, how am I supposed to read its mind? Flora, can't you teach me how to speak bird first?"
Flora shook her head. Jay shrugged and said
"It's pretty simple. What do all pets need, and this one in particular? Think about its ancestry and where it came from."
I humphed and crossed my arms. After a minute, I turned away, knowing I would get no assistance. I studied the bird, 4 inches tall, 4 long and 2 and a half wide. It would be incredibly cute if not for the impatient shining eyes. I thought about what kind of bird it was; mechanical. It was probably one of the Mech Tech bird's kids. Nothing there. The Mech Tech bird was originally a royal automaton, or a robot. It had children, and in the forest I had met one that had given me one of its feathers, which opened the box and released the little chicky near my feet. But why had the bird given me the feather to open the box? I racked my brains for the memory. It had flown in front of me while me and Jay had been hiking to Tigress's... It had frozen, stopped moving... And I had turned the key in its back to start it again! That was it! The Mech Tech bird was a toy to be played with. The children had keys to keep them going. This one I had was a baby, and kids love to play. That was it. I turned back to my friends, who had been waiting. Fauna and Jay looked incredibly curious. Fauna spoke first.
"Did you figure it out? What is it? What does it want?"
"I... Haven't been paying enough attention to it. You know, playing with it, and maybe cuddling it too, I guess. That and it might be running down. Needs to be wound up again. But I don't have a key..."
Flora beamed at me.
"Good job. You figured it out."
The bird tweeted again, loudly. Flora gave it a look and it fell silent, glaring at her. Fauna and Jay looked thoughtful for a moment. Fauna snapped her fingers.
"I've got it. You still have that feather that the other bird gave you, right?"
"Can I see it? Just for a second. I might be wrong, but might as well try."
I fished it out of a pocket and handed it to her. She took it gingerly and examined it. She smiled and spoke, while staring at the feather.
She felt around the nib, or the tip of the feather, tapping and scratching gently
"Things from the forest..."
She put her finger underneath the small tip and pressed it firmly
"Are not always..."
The tip telescoped under her finger back into the stem of the feather, making a small clicking noise as it did so, while small tips of metal popped out from the stem
"What they seem to be."
Smiling triumphantly, Fauna handed the feather back to me. The wavy feathery part of it was still there, but the area where it was bare had turned into a skeleton key. By clicking the tip, Fauna had activated some miniscule gears and devices hidden inside the feather, pushing out the teeth of the key. Nervously I picked up the bird. Gently grasping it between both hands, I carefully rotated it while looking for a keyhole of some sort. While I did this the others went to a private area to change. Finally, underneath some feathers, I found a promising looking indent. Right at the base of the neck. Setting the bird down on a root, but still securing it with one hand so it didn't fall, I gently tapped the area.
"Is this the right place? Does that hurt?"
The bird seemed much calmer and happier now that it could not see anyone else except me. It chirped cheerfully, so I twisted the key around in my hand so it faced the hole. I put the key in and twisted to the right. I heard a metallic winding sound. I continued rotating it until it wouldn't go any further. I twisted the key backwards a little so it would fit coming out of the hole, then pulled. The key slid out and the bird was struggling against my hand. I let go and it jumped around, singing like a jack in the box. Dinging and clicking, it was making a lot of noise. I put a finger to my lips and said tried shushing it. I then snatched the bird midair and gently placed it on my shoulder, where it seemed content to hop up and down and flap its wings. Sometimes it would get enough momentum to hop up on top of my head and down on my other shoulder! I walked over to Jay, who had finished dressing and was walking back to the tree with her clothes held in her arms. I still hadn't changed, so I handed the bird to her and asked her to take care of it. I put on the pajamas. They were as soft as my cat when she's finished grooming herself, and warm too. I dumped my clothes down a hidden laundry shute showed to me by Fauna, and walked to the sleeping bags where Flora and Jay were talking about names for my bird. Fauna and I sat down across from them and we debated about it for a while. Finally we reached a decision. She was to be named Evangiline, pronounced E-van-JUH-leen. According to Jay, it came from the word 'evingilan' meaning 'beautiful metal one'. It was a good, proud name, and Evangiline had no objections. For obvious reasons, we decided on a good nickname. Eva. She had no problems with us calling her this either, and then Jay did a small ritual that bonded us. She used a lot of that strange language, but the end result, was as she told me, her name was Evangiline or Eva and I was her master and friend. She would be able to find me wherever I was and once she could fly, she would be able to take messages anywhere I wished. Eva seemed more friendly towards all of us after that. Well, as friendly as a baby mechanical bird can seem, at least. We did all this as quietly as we could, for footsteps were heard clopping down the hall a lot. Fauna always shushed us when they were heard, and we all stopped eating or talking or laughing. Frost spent most of his time sitting next to me, wherever I went, observing. Silently. I was kind of creeped out at first, but I got used to it as the evening crept by. In no time the neat sleeping bags were messed up and most the food eaten. I taught them all a little more slang, which they used a lot in experiments. Jay was a fast learner and adapted easily. Fauna was decent, but Flora we all laughed at whenever she tried. She had such a proper vocabulary it was hard for her to understand the new words and put them in the right place. She didn't seem offended though, always just shrugged and smiled. I suggested that she should just stick to her usual way of speaking, and she agreed. We played truth or dare, which I taught them, and Jay and Fauna taught Frost tricks, like sit, play dead, attack, (I wasn't too eager about that one, but they insisted) follow, scent, and others beside, some that only Frost could do with his magical powers, including a command to stop time. Jay and Fauna were pros at training him, almost like those professional trainers you see on tv, but better. Fauna used this technique where she snapped her fingers in front of his eyes, and then demonstrated the trick using a small dog plush she had grabbed from a chest of her old toys. Jay created a dog that looked just like Frost by using magic (if that's what those strange words were) and made the dog do the trick correctly. She then gave the fake dog a treat and showered it in praise and affection. Jealous, Frost would practice the trick until he executed it perfectly, then show off to Jay, who in turn gave him his reward. I didn't know how he could eat, being made of mist and all, but Jay explained that he didn't need to be fed, but treats didn't hurt. Flora suddenly put a finger to her lips and quieted us as I tried out some of Frost's new tricks. From the door a tapping sound was heard. A very whiny, loud voice sounded from the hallway.
"Fau-NA, I KNOW you're in there, I want to come in and play tooooooo! You PROMISED you'd play baby dinosaur fights tigerrrr! You PROOOMIIISED. And you STOLE food from the kitchen AGAIN. I SAW you sneaking it! And if you don't unlock this door right NOW I'm going to go tell your tutor! Fauuuunaaaaaaaaaaa-"