(From Danielle Raver's short story THE ENCHANTRESS)Thick chains attached to the wall hold a metal collar and belt, restraining most of the tiger's movements. Open, bloody slashes cover his face and back, but he shows no loss of strength as he pulls on the chains and tries to rip the flesh of the surrounding humans with his deadly claws. Out of his reach, I kneel down before him, and his lightning-blue eyes cross my space for a moment. Get her out of there! I hear from behind me.Numnerai, I speak urgently to the tiger. They will kill you! He growls and gnashes his teeth, but I sense he is responding to me. Great white tiger, your duty is to protect the prince. But how can you do that if they sink the end of a spear into your heart? He looks at me for a longer moment. The fighters respond to this by growing still. In their desperation, they are overlooking my foolishness for a chance to save their fellows' lives. I crouch on my feet and begin to nudge closer to him. The tiger growls a warning, but does not slash out at me. Think of the prince, protector of the palace. Right now he prays for you to live.
Since well before the Kung's engine noise first penetrated the forest, a conversation of sorts has been unfolding in this lonesome hollow. It is not a language like Russian or Chinese but it is a language nonetheless, and it is older than the forest. The crows speak it; the dog speaks it; the tiger speaks it, and so do the men--some more fluently than others.