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First Star to the Right by WitnesstoitAll
Chapter 5 : The Character of a Man
 
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The rocky cove spread out ahead of the small exploration party for what had to be kilometres. The fierce wind that had accompanied them on their hike through the mountains now purred around their bodies, domesticated in the peaceful expanse. Patches of shimmering iridescence rolled out around them in obscure waves that only nature could have designed. Somewhere, hidden within the waves lived a population of Demiguises – Mother Nature’s most cryptic of creatures. Luna felt her breath catch in her chest. Her feet moved forward of their own accord, and her hand slipped out of Rolf’s grasp. “There must be hundreds of them.” Awe danced on the tip of her tongue.

“At least.” Rolf strode forward, eyes wide and slowly sat down on a large stone. Not far away Professor Davin had assumed a similar position.

“Once they acclimate to us, will they show themselves?” Luna stepped softly towards Rolf and slid down to the ground, leaning back against the stone where he sat. Her voice was barely a whisper and her movements were slow as though anything too loud or sudden would shatter the snow globe world she had found herself a part of.

He dipped his chin in response. “Well, that’s the theory at least. “ The light of discovery still radiated form his eyes and played at his lips. It was a good look for him. “You must have read about them before? My grandfather had published his theories about them decades ago, but nobody has every studied them in their natural habitat, much less a herd this size.  We’re literally in uncharted territory for this field of study. This is, it’s just so –”

“Amazing.”

Luna studied his face as he basked in the simple truth of her answer. The passion that burned there accented the soft palette of his face, adding another dimension to the warmth of the earthy tones. It was a colour that could exist only for finger painting, and hers itched with a desire to glide across his broad cheek bones and to see the colour of passion spread out against her skin’s pallor. A blush crept across her cheeks as the thoughts of finger painting pulsed in her mind, and she retrained her attention to the natural wonder thriving just beyond their vision. To her surprise, Rolf’s eyes were not on the Demiguises, but on her face, and heat washed across her chilled cheeks as she struggled to find her voice. “I suppose you actually got a real adventure out of today, then.”

A short distance from Luna’s feet, a sheet of iridescence shimmered and was replaced by a shaggy, blue-grey creature. Its back arched forward and its front knuckles drug on the ground. Its eyes looked like two shiny black beetles. Three small bundles hung from the creature’s chest one a pale purple, the other two a deep charcoal grey colour. Barney rose from his position beside Rolf on the stone, his ears cocked and his head tilted in curiosity. A soft whine emanated from his muzzle.

“Down boy.” Rolf turned and placed his hand on the great dog’s back. Nudging Luna’s shoulder with his knee to capture her attention from the spectacle standing in front of them, he whispered, “If this is a real adventure, I’ll take it over my proper adventures any day.”

Turning their attention back towards the mother Demiguises, they watched. The wind floated slowly though the cove, gently coaxing the clouds forwards across the sky. Whether or not time actually passed was difficult to discern. Tucked away from the outside world, the rocky plain seemed to exist on its own axis turning lazily about beneath a sun and sky all its own. Life persisted in the simplistic beauty of it all, soft colours and shimmering iridescence, sparse blades of grass and rich clumps of moss. It was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. Then, almost as if the exploration party was as much a part of the rocky plain as the stones themselves, the herd of Demiguises slowly began to take visible form, inviting the onlookers into their private world.

They appeared one by one in a ripple of pastel coloured fur. Luna felt a sharp intake of air fill her lungs. The scene spread out before her eyes was something of which she had never even dreamed. Young Demiguises ran, chasing and ducking amongst the rocks and their elders. Infants hung from their mother’s chests, not yet sure enough on their feet to frolic with the others. Wary-eyed adults dotted the periphery of the group, occasionally paying glances towards the exploration party at the mouth of the cove. None of the creatures functioned on their own, Luna observed, but rather each was an integral part of a finely tuned whole. A great bubble of awe filled her chest at the master design of the earth, every creature from great to small fit together in perfect symphony with the energies of the sky and rock and grass. This moment splayed out in front of her grasped her hand and in its infinite perfection, and whispered approval into her ear. Its message was clear, she too had a place somewhere in the scheme of it all.

Luna reached her hand behind her and grasped the broad, gloved hand. Squeezing it, she hoped to pass along the secret whispered in her ear. The gloved hand returned her gesture, enveloping her slim hand within its broad frame.

“I still cannot believe this is actually happening.” Rolf said, his voice breaking the delicate membrane of silence that had settled over the cove. His hand slipped away from Luna’s as he continued staring at the field. Slowly he unfolded himself from the rock, rising to his feet as though some puppeteer had gently tugged at the appropriate strings. Cautiously, he took a step forward, and gaging no response from the herd of creatures, he took another and another. Each step was as careful as the first and carried him within arm’s length of the bluish grey mother Demiguise.

“You know,” he said quietly over his shoulder towards the rock where Luna and Barney had remained seated, “their fur is said to have been used to weave all the invisibility cloaks fashioned before the turn of the twentieth century. Charms Masters have always wanted to study the properties of their fur. They’re smart creatures though, the more demand there was for them, the harder they became to find in the wilderness.”

Luna listened as he spoke. Rolf’s voice was smooth as glass, a gentle lullaby that curled through and around the herd. It was difficult not to feel perfectly at ease listening to the baritone in his element, and so she stayed seated next to the rock, rhythmically scratching Barney behind his ears, absorbed in the simple melody.

“Are we just going to stand there with our chins slack to our chests, or are we going to take some notes.” A jarring dissonant laugh, like metal gears grinding against stone followed the interruption. Professor Davin had risen from his rock seat and stood leaning jauntily on his walking stick. “I know we’ve got company with us, but I have waited too many years for this chapter of my book to be written. I’ll expect your notes from today included in that draft. I want the whole thing on my before this week is out. In the meantime, I’ll be back at the inn. I have to contact my publicist, a find like this will warrant a change in marketing strategies. Don’t let that girl delay you any.” The old naturalist nodded at Rolf and turned on the spot, Disapparating into the thin mountain air.

If Rolf had heard his employer’s words, he gave no notice. Rather, he had dropped to his knees near where the mother Demiguise lay, watching her three young scamper through the rocks and mosses. Luna watched as the pale purple one tottered towards him. Lifting an arm, it prodded his knee gently as though the bearded man was an apparition than may vanish into the air before it clambered up into his lap. A sad smile slid across her face as she wondered if Rolf realized how different he and his advisor were beyond their mutual interest in the natural world. She once read that the character of a man is always evident in his treatment of creatures that can offer him nothing in return. Rolf rose to his feet, cradling the infant in his arms and stroking its head. There was a softness in his face, a look of wonderment and awe. Professor Davin too had had an awestruck look when they had first stumbled upon the rocky cove and the herd of Demiguises, but there was nothing gentle or loving about his offhand mannerism just now. Perhaps it had been a field full of grazing Galleons and book sale numbers that had prompted his initial awe.

Luna quickly shoved this thought back into her mind. Rolf had worked under Professor Davin for years, and revered him. Who was she to judge? Pulling her attention away from the kind eyed naturalist and the young demiguise, she extracted a neatly rolled scrap of parchment and a bit of pastel from the small bag she had brought along on their expedition. Next to her, Barney shifted his weight and rolled onto his side.

“You know something Barney,” she said quietly to the large dog, “your master is a good man.”

~::~

The warmth of the inn enveloped her body, and she could feel the cold melt away into the air. Her adventure today had been better than she’d ever imagined a planned adventure could be. Her mind danced with the notion of spending her every day immersed in this ancient and icy world, floating lost in the beauty of stone and crystalline water. Here, nestled in the peaks of the great mountain range, time had a way of hovering just beyond the sphere of tangibility. Forever young and uninhibited, she could twirl under the stars each night and the snowflakes every day.

Humming a bright tune to a song she did not recognize, she began her ascent up the narrow staircase leading to room four. The muscles in her legs were heavy and sore from her adventure through the mountains, but she spun and swayed as she climbed nevertheless.

Just past the second floor landing, a stair gave a loud groan, pulling her from her dreams of dancing at the top of the mountains, just below the stars. It was as the the stair was reminding her that the Himalayas were but the first step in her journey. No matter where she was or where she went, there’d be a night sky whispering out the secrets of life, approval and encouragement. She knew the song of the stars, and listened for it often. When it was time for her to gather her things and move on, she would know it.

Several loud foot falls on the landing below crashed tthrough her contemplations.

“I saw the draft and the notes from today that you left on my desk.”

Luna listened, curiosity tingling beneath her skin. The notes Rolf had taken in the rocky cove were amazing. His words were magic, nearly replicating the impossible grandeur of the scene.

“I wanted to be sure you had them.” Rolf voice answered Professor Davin’s. “Today was just -- I can’t even put it into words. It’s going to be a great chapter and book.”

She could almost see the wide smile on his voice.

“Oh, will it?” Professor Davin’s voice sounded incredulous. “I am publishing a scientific text, Rolf. Not some child’s book about fantastic creatures. That’s already been done, I shouldn’t have to remind you of all people. It appears that’s all you Scamanders have going for your claim to expertise.”

“Sir –”

“This is my book son, not yours. That draft will need to be redone. And you will write me a new set of notes on the Demiguises, or you’ll be finding a new Naturalist to fund your little adventures. Your name means nothing in this profession anymore and will get you nowhere without me. You have three days.”

The sound of one set of feet descended from the landing, probably down to the kitchen of the inn while the sound of the second set approached where Luna stood, hovering on the squeaky stair. A wave of gratitude washed over her as Rolf appeared on the staircase behind her.

“I can pretend that I didn’t hear that, if it’d be better.”

Rolf froze, mid-step. Luna felt far too visible as his kind, water colour eyes looked at her. They did not shine with the same enthusiasm that they normally did. She felt badly that she had over-heard the private conversation. His round mouth was pulled into a tight line. He made no attempt to speak and just stood there as though he had forgotten where he was walking.

“Though I did think your notes were lovely.” She took a step down towards him on the staircase. “And more people should read with the eyes of a child, they’d see a far nicer world.”

“Luna, it’s alright. Don’t worry about – ”

“So you’re writing his book for him?” Luna cocked her head, watching his face. “My dad always used to tell me that to write or create something was to waltz with the spring. You shouldn’t let somebody else dance your dance.”

The corner of his mouth pulled upwards, whether from comprehension or amusement she couldn’t be sure. The rest of his face still looked drawn and used.

“Really, it’s not a problem.” He said at last. “Just the way business works.” His voice trailed off and he dropped his gaze to the ground. She watched him, and was still studying him when his eyes flicked back up towards her face. They still looked dreary, but a hint of their normal light seemed to flicker beneath the surface. “Would you maybe want to go to dinner with me tomorrow? I was going to go into town, and well, I would love some company.”

Luna felt her face split into a wide smile and her head nod.
 

Author's Note:  It's been a while since I updated, so thank you if you're here reading this now!  Luna is a delicate character and is sometimes difficult to write.  I'd like to extend my gratitude to Sarah, Gina and Helena who's reviews for past chapters helped to place me in the right frame of mind to write this, and to the rest of the puffins who are just awesome.  I must take a moment to give credit to Immanuel Kant for the chapter title and the corresponding quote "the character of a man is always evident in his treatment of creatures that can offer him nothing in return."  And finally, I'd love to hear what you thought of this!  Please leave a review if you have the time.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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