It had been her idea to buy gifts for the other members of the Liberator‘s crew. It was an Auronar custom to give gifts to close friends and immediate family members after being absent for a time, showing how their company had been missed and how one's thoughts had been with them. Avon had snorted, but had seemed willing enough to indulge her.
So he had followed her readily enough into a shop specialising in alien curios, ducking under a display of sankat skins and beaten brass tail-bells from Tarquin. While she had begun bargaining with the proprietor, a greenish-skinned Malparian, he had moved away through the shop, listening to scraps of conversation and studying the goods on display.
When Cally had rejoined him she had found him staring at a mummified crocodile-with-fur that could have come from anywhere beyond the Coal Sack and should have been shipped back on the first craft out.
"Finished?" he had asked.
"Yes." She had smiled a secretive smile, then noticed the furry crocodile. "Valska! What is that?"
"I hope we never find out," Avon had replied, with feeling. "Let's get out of here before someone tries to sell it to us."
As they had stepped out into the rose-silver light, Cally had telepathed to him, //Avon?//
He looked at her questioningly. She was good at remembering to use his assumed name, even when they were alone, and no doubt he found it strange that she should use his real name now, even telepathically.
//Have your people any custom against giving gifts to someone when there is no particular reason to do so?//
"No. Of course not."
"Good," she had replied, aloud. "I have something for you." Then she had taken his hand and pressed something hard into the palm.
He had looked at the small figurine as if it might bite him. Carved from an auburn coloured wood and humanoid, save for an extra pair of arms and a face that seemed large in comparison to the body, it was grotesque, despite the exquisite workmanship.
She had watched Avon twisting it in the light, trying to understand why she had given it to him, until he had burst out laughing as he realised that from a certain angle the non-human face bore an astonishing resemblance to Vila Restal in a fit of pique.
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Last updated on 17th of November 1999.