“What on the beard of the Nolens twins was that?!” cried Arnulf the cuddlecreep, more intrigued than startled, picking himself off the ground and dusting his sleeves.
The Nolens twins were instrumental to the smooth running of all affairs in Falushtain. Joint at the hip, they shared everything: one body (an arm and a leg each, judiciously distributed and fiercely protected as valued private property), one vest, one beard, one place of employment. Their boat carried travellers across the river Painn, the only way in and out of the city gates.
But the little ball of fur cowering in the middle of the path did not know that. He was obviously not from those parts. It looked up at Arnulf with large, pitiful, apologetic eyes, but said nothing. He obviously had not stopped there intentionally, for Arnulf to trip on him, as was the habit of other tricky creatures of the forest. He looked quite lost and out of place, dragging along the ground a fork that looked twice his size, as he moved cautiously to the side of the path.
Arnulf, short as he was, had to bend to have a closer look at the strange creature.
“What are you?” he murmured. “And what’s with the fork? Are you into shiny stuff too?”
Many of creatures of Falushtain loved stealing people’s teaspoons, keys, coins or everything else that had an irresistible metallic sheen. But this furry thing? He certainly didn’t look like he was from around there! Apparently it could not speak either. It just blinked and held on to its fork.
“Ahem, terribly sorry to interrupt, my dear sirs. But being that the little cutlery-loving gentleman here seems of an entirely novel species, I felt compelled to conduct some research into his nature and origins. I do hope you don’t mind. At first inspection, he seems to be a Furball of the Home and Living subspecies.”
It was Basil the zombie. With a mighty yawn, he sat on the leafy ground, trying – rather unsuccessfully – to look friendly. He stared attentively at the creature’s fur, examined the dusty fork, made mental notes of height, width and colour and even ventured to touch one of the two fangs that protruded most unevenly from the creature’s mouth. But the creature still seemed clueless and mute. It blinked at the inspection by the zombie intellectual, and remained silent.
“Where have you come from, sir?”
“Hmm” said Basil like a knowledgeable doctor. “Trust must be gained one way or another in order to facilitate communication. Do you not agree, Mr. Arnulf?”
“Munication?” said Arnulf, now as clueless as the creature. The creature blinked.
Basil produced a wrinkled apple which seemed to have survived as many centuries as its owner. Carefully, he offered it to the creature. Arnulf suddenly felt sure he understood what munication was. He pulled a half-chewed liquorice stick out of his sleeve, brushed the lint off it and offered it to the stranger, with a wide smile.
The strange creature blinked and sniffed and blinked. A silly two-fanged smile stretched over its entire face (which incidentally also constituted its entire body). With amazing strength, he lifted the fork over his head, in a little dance of joy.
“Ready for namnam!” he cried in delight. “Ready for NAMNAM!”