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"This is Kirtra'a." Fawn made an elaborate rolling gesture of greeting with
her forearms. "He's a young male on the cusp of sexual maturity." '
"I can see that." While Pulickel studied the young seni, it gazed back at him
out of narrow, solemn eyes.
Not yet fully grown, Kirtra'a's head barely reached Pulickel's chest. To the
young native, Fawn
Seaforth must have seemed like a true giant. The average mature seni would
just be able to look the newly arrived male xenologist in the eye.
Leaping into the air on its powerful hind legs, the native did a complete
backflip, landing exactly where it had been standing. Taking into account
regional variations, this was a fairly universal form of greeting on Senisran.
It was the gesture Fawn had attempted to simulate by rotating her forearms.
So both she and the seni were more than a little surprised when Pulickel
promptly duplicated the native's athletic move. He staggered slightly when he
landed, back on his feet and attributed his unsteadiness to the presence of
the small backpack. Without it he was certain he could have performed the flip
perfectly. While Fawn could only gape, the young Parramati experienced a
paroxysm of delight, barking and tootling excitedly.
"I couldn't do that if I practiced for a year. I'd break my neck." Fawn eyed
him admiringly.
"You don't have a gymnast's body," he explained modestly. "Poor
size-to-strength ratio." Kirtra'a continued to squeal and jabber in wide-eyed
wonder. "Don't feel diminished because of it."
"I don't-but I really wish I could do that."
When the juvenile finally calmed down, Pulickel found he could understand it
clearly. All the long hours spent listening to and mimicking language
recordings paid instant dividends.
"My name is Pulickel Tomochelor."
"Pu'il To'chor." The youngster did his best to duplicate the sounds, many of
which were more guttural than a seni could manage. "I am Kirtra'a. Welconungs
to Torrelauapa, Pu'il. You do the
Greeting!"
"A poor effort." His back had begun to throb but he was damned if he was going
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to wince. "Not as good as I could do when I was younger, I'm afraid."
The seni had long, narrow, blue, catlike eyes with slitted pupils. The
meter-long tail that protruded from the back of the elegant woven skirt was
naked as a rat's. Exotic, intricate patterns decorated the skirt, which was
worn by both males,and females, the individual designs telling another
Parramati all there was to know about the wearer, from age to family lineage
to status within the wearer's village.
Bipedal and completely hairless, the seni's smooth, featureless skin was the
color of finely milled raw cocoa. Each of the two short arms ended in delicate
hands that terminated in the three fingers, the central one being considerably
longer than the other two. In contrast, the three toes on each foot were
thick, strong, and of equal length. There were no nails or claws, fingers and
toes alike ending in blunt fleshy pads. Crouching on powerful legs, the seni
rested with elbows
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in an attitude resembling that of a hunting praying mantis.
The seni were the first intelligent species encountered by either humanx or
AAnn explorers whose principal mode of individual locomotion was hopping. They
were perfectly capable of taking one step at a time, but for anything faster
than a crawl, they preferred to hop. They kept their hops short, though
according to the literature they could, when startled, leap extraordinary
distances.
The seni face was reflective of the species' gentleness and intelligence.
Beneath the slitted eyes a long, narrow snout held a mixture of cutting and
grinding teeth, terminating in a constantly active black nose. Snout and head
were boldly striped, but the high, bladelike, independently rotating ears were
not.
The seni were omnivores, taking fruits from the forest, edible invertebrates
and coelenterates from the sea, and vegetables and tubers from their elaborate
gardens. It was a robust mix, and by and large they were a healthy species.
Epidemics were unknown. Clever and adaptable, it was no wonder they had
populated nearly all of the larger island groupings and many of the smaller
ones on the planet. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]