The riverbank folk had few dealings with humans. Granny Wytcher’s offspring was an exception due to her mother having saved Dog Otter’s life. She became a semi-permanent fixture wandering through with her small dog although she couldn’t communicate. Otter supposed they sometimes did “feel thinks” to each other because she could not explain how she knew what the woman was trying to express. It was difficult enough with other animals, using the common language shared by all, only having complete understanding of their own species.
Being a fish-eater herself, Otter understood the need to catch enough to eat, feed the family and then stop but the “men with sticks” drove her to near fury. They did not understand. Often they would catch a perfectly eatable fish, look at it, then throw it,bleeding and injured, back in the river to flop about wailing. Consequently, as a big favour, if Otter saw the sticks-men coming she would put her head underwater and burble a warning. Cheating did not sit well with her Bardic spirit so the fish were told to make themselves scarce for a while.
On a slow sunny afternoon, Granny-pup arrived with some other humans and pointed down-river. All the friends hid close-by to see if they could guess what was happening. The men indicated a dead tree by otter’s holt. Granny-pup howled loudly and pointed downstream. This happened again until the female was not only howling, she was growling. Any animal could tell there would be trouble soon. The men made angry noises but moved away in the direction she wanted. Shortly afterwards there came a ferocious sound made by no animal. The woman sat with her back to the lone walnut tree, her paws over her face, shoulders shaking and otter could feel a mixture of frustration and sadness coming from her. Did she dare? Dog Otter nudged her forward.
They are good creatures, her kin. Go help.
Moving through the long grass as stealthily as possible, Otter came within touching distance of Granny-pup and thought hard at her. She thought of Granny Wytcher and help. She sent pictures of Dog-Otter coming home after his near-death accident. Removing one paw from her face, the woman made small sounds and extended a claw nearer to Otter which the animal sniffed cautiously. She rubbed her chin to mark it with her own scent. The claw stayed motionless so Otter peered up to see the one eye not hidden by a paw smiling down at her. Otter opened her spirit and felt confusion and conflict – something to do with a good thing needing a bad thing doing to make it happen. She did not understand but realized that her contact was helping. Granny-pup didn’t feel so alone.
There was a loud crash, followed by a splash before the men appeared again, spoke to the woman then left in their travel-box. Granny pup risked a tentative tickle on Otter’s chin and sent a warm, cub-hug feeling to her. Otter loped off before the woman got to her feet to leave.
The next morning as Otter and Dog Otter were feeding, two new animals arrived at the bank. They were not dissimilar to otters but had flat tails and enormous front teeth which hung down close to their lower jaws. Dropping her half-eaten fish, Otter went to investigate and sniff them out. Both male and female seemed harmless so she backed off, making space for them to come ashore.
Dog Otter joined them and noticed that their overgrown incisors made them quite hard to understand.
We otters. What you?
Be-furff. Here for confferfayshun
The otters didn’t understand at all so the new female explained.
Liff here. Make cubff. You haff cubff?
Last year. Gone big. Gone away. Dog Otter was getting the hang of their speech impediment.
Deciding that they would never understand humans, the two otters shared the rest of their breakfast with the Be-furff and introduced them to some of the other neighbours. In the end, to save confusion, they called them “Him and Her Toofy”. It looked like they would fit in well. Better than the men with sticks. When Granny-cub came by she saw Toofy and his mate, did not come close but held a box to her face and made a click sound. She was smiling.