There was a rustling in the bushes and the sound of hushed cursing. Shanku pricked her ears up and crept slowly over to the bushes. She crouched down, coiled herself, and sprang. A yelping, bushy mass was under her foreclaws. Shanku looked down and was completely confused by what she saw. She sat up, releasing her catch.
"What the heck are you?" Shanku asked it.
"I be a Dwarf, ye galoot!" the bushy thing snapped, righting itself. It couldn't have been higher than to Shanku's waist and had a strange mass of hair around its head. Shanku leaned forward and poked it.
"Leave me be!" the Dwarf snapped and swatted away Shanku's hand.
"You have breasts..." Shanku trailed off and stared at the dwarf's chest. "What kinda female has a beard!?"
"What kinda human be havin' animal parts!?" the Dwarf challenged back.
"Touché," Shanku grumbled. She slowly circled the Dwarf, still not sure what to make of the strange, short creature.
"Do ye be havin' a purpose fer ye starin'?" grumbled the Dwarf as she firmly placed her hands on her hips.
"I haven't really met another creature with skin so similar to mine... Or that could talk, for that matter," Shanku said and attempted to poke the Dwarf again.
"Ye do that again an' you'll be sneezin' it for a week!" the Dwarf roared and grabbed Shanku's hand.
"Okay, okay," Shanku grinned and tried to withdraw her hand. The Dwarf held on and raised an eyebrow at Shanku.
"I don' believe ye will stop," the Dwarf glared.
"I will, I will! Miss... Um, what's your name?" Shanku dropped her ears sheepishly. "I forgot to ask!"
"What be ye's?" the Dwarf asked suspiciously, not loosening her grip.
"Shanku!" The Kurach stated and half bowed. "And who might you be my good dwarf?"
"Arloda," the dwarf said at length. "Arloda Shimshiner." Arloda finally released her grip on Shanku's hand. "What ye be doin' out here, Shanku?"
"Rumors," Shanku said hushedly with as much mystery as she could add to her voice.
"Rumors?" Arloda asked incredulously.
"Rumors," Shanku said with finality and a nod.
"Rumors of what?" Arloda asked, becoming impatient.
"Rumors of unnatural things. Monsters even scarier than the minocentaur!" Shanku exclaimed and stood her full height with her wings on full display. Arloda jumped back in surprise and eyed the Kurach warily as Shanku dropped back to her knees and drew in her wings.
"And do ye be havin' an idear as to where these 'monsters' are?" the dwarf asked.
"Eh, not really," Shanku shrugged shoulder and wing, and became the most serious the dwarf had seen her so far. "I hear they do dark, deceitful things. They look kinda like us, but their ears are bare like yours, but pointy like mine, and they are skinny little things unlike us," Shanku paused and bared her fangs. "I hear they practice magic."
Arloda examined the young Kurach before her carefully and stroked her beard. "This be ye first time out and about, eh?"
Shanku nodded. "Cubs aren't really allowed to leave the nest and we rarely stray from our territory."
"Is that so, now? What ye be doin' out here then, eh?" Arloda asked.
"Well," the Kurach grinned impishly. "From time to time, some of us feel it in our blood that we must roam! And if our elders are feeling benevolent, off we go! 'The only way to cure you of your Wanderlust is to let you become a Vagrant' is what they told me before I left. I don't think they understand though, I did not want to be a vagrant, I just wanted to see what all else was in our forest," Shanku finished, a little sadly.
(*Vagrant is an insult, and Wanderlust is considered a mental problem or curse. Kurach are very pack/flock/family based and it isn't common for them to go off alone. Many Kurach get the urge to explore, but they do not act on it because they're taught it is a sinful temptation they must avoid. Feral Sylvan Kurach believe that magic is inherently evil and devoutly refuse to let any practice it.)
Arloda nodded. She grabbed Shanku by the hand and led her further into the forest. "Pup, it be time ye gat a better education."
Shanku pricked her ears up in curiosity and followed her new friend. Arloda first took Shanku underground to her clan. There Arloda gathered her gear and bid temporary farewell to her family before taking Shanku back out into the world.
Over the next few days, the Dwarf brought the Kurach to the nearby Elves, Gnomes, Fairies, and other Fey Folk, giving Shanku a rather harsh and quick enlightenment of what she had previously known as "demons".
Shanku sat reeling as she watched a Faun and a few Gnomes perform a small but dazzling magic display. Arloda stood triumphantly nearby.
"I don' understand..." Shanku stared at the little creatures. She had thought that a fellow beast-type as the Faun would have shared her convictions, but with a swish of his tail and wink of his eye, he had conjured a phantasmal butterfly of the rainbow to flutter harmless around before it dissipated. Shanku looked to Arloda. "I thought magic was... evil."
"Nah, cub, magic is not evil. Magic users are the ones that can be evil," Arloda said softly. The Faun and Gnomes nodded.
"Especially the human ones!" the Faun huffed. "They do perverse and destructive things with magic. Like becoming Liches and commanding fire."
Arloda sighed, not in the mood to fight that battle with the Faun again. She had explained many times that some of the Liches merely sought to further their education be granting themselves extra time to do so and that fire was a necessary element for their survival, but the Faun was stubborn.
The Dwarf and Kurach bid the Faun and Gnomes farewell, and each departed. The Dwarf wished the Kurach well in her travels and returned to her clan of Dwarves as the Kurach wandered off pondering what she had learned.