Chapter 13:

The Riddle

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

 “Bring it on, then,” Nanna hissed back.

Paltar still hadn’t said anything, and he was perfectly fine with that. The lioness was so focused on Nanna that at least now he felt like he could breathe. So he tried to listen to Husina’s words without looking at her directly. Or her teeth. Or her claws. Or her…

“Listen well,” Husina replied. “I will now tell you my riddle. You have only once chance to answer; whatever you say after hearing the riddle will count as that. If you are right, you may continue your journey.”
She yawned. “But if you are wrong, those will be your last words.”

Paltar cast a nervous glance at Nanna. She was still staring at Husina, as if she was ready to bite her at any moment. Fortunately, she didn’t try to do that. Paltar could already imagine those huge claws tearing poor Nanna apart. Even though he was trembling, he took another step forward so that he was right next to his friend. If she tried to do something, he would be able to protect her. Or stop her.

Husina smiled at them.

“Well, here it goes.” She tilted her head.

“Today you have me,
and tomorrow, even more,
as time goes on
I’m hard to store,
yet I don’t take up space,
I stay in one place,
you cannot see me
yet I am what you have seen."

"So tell me,” she said with a grin, “what I am.”

Paltar had no idea what Husina meant. And when he looked at Nanna, he was sure that she though the same. And yet there was no way for them to talk, to exchange ideas and discuss them. Quickly, he crouched down next to her and looked into her eyes. Would she be able to understand what he was thinking?

Nanna looked back at him and now he wondered if he would be able to understand what she was trying to say. He sighed.

This was even more difficult than the riddle itself. What could it be?

Husina didn't interrupt them, and he was grateful for that. If he could get her and her claws out of his mind, he might even be able to think clearly. Not that it mattered much. It was something he had... but it couldn't be a possession, could it? After all, she couldn't see what he had in his bag. Nanna only had her dress, and he was pretty sure that ‘clothes’, ‘dress’, or ‘seam’ weren't the answer, because they all took up space in one way or another

Nanna was also thinking hard, he could tell. The way she tilted her head and the way her feet tapped the floor were all signs that she was turning the riddle around in her head. Perhaps she was having more success than he was?

But then she flapped her wings and glared at Paltar. No, she was probably just as frustrated as he was. He shrugged and tried to think more about it. How could they solve this puzzle? He had never been good at such things. Not that he had solved many puzzles in this life or the one before. It was child's play. Even if it didn't feel like that now.

Instead, it was almost as if he could feel the hot breath of the lioness touching his neck. He jumped and turned around. Husina was still in her place, looking as if she was asleep. Still, he saw her ear flicking, and he certainly wouldn't dare break the silence. Not when he didn't have the answer to the riddle.

Suddenly there was a weight on him that was familiar by now. He didn't even say anything when Nanna landed on him. The look in her eyes said 'trust me'.
Paltar nodded.

He might not know what she had planned, but he was sure she could do it. After all, he would trust her with his life. In his arms, Nanna became completely still. It was even hard for him to feel her breathing. The sounds that Husina made behind him were louder than her. He stared at her, and for a moment, she stared back at him, ruffling her feathers. Quickly, he nodded and looked away.

Whatever she was trying to do, he shouldn’t disturb her.

The silence stretched into something unbearable. Husina’s heavy breathing was the only sound that filled the room, louder than his own heartbeat. Nanna, on the other hand, was that familiar weight on him. He didn’t dare to move or look at her.

She knows what she’s doing,’ he thought.

And if she needed his help, she knew exactly how to get his attention.

Suddenly, he felt her wings flap against his arms, and with a jolt, he looked at her. She smiled at him and nodded her head excitedly. Had she found the answer?

He grinned back at her, his heart racing. She must have.

“A memory!” Nanna exclaimed.


Husina sat up and slowly approached them.

“This is your answer?”

Paltar hugged Nanna tightly. He couldn’t tell if she had found the right answer or not, but he would protect her. He would always protect her.

With that, he felt a gust of wind behind him. Paltar turned around, still holding Nanna.

“Hah! I knew it!”

Nanna fluttered excitedly.

For a moment, Paltar couldn’t see anything through the glittering dust around them, but slowly, he could make out a shape on the other side of the room that hadn’t been there before. Husina stretched out her arms and grinned a toothy smile at them. Her feline eyes twitched, and then, she went back to curling up on the bed.

“You are free to go.” she said. “And I’ll take a nap.”

With that, she went to sleep. Paltar looked at Nanna, still holding her tight in his arms. There was a question on his tongue, but he held it back. Nanna, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly what he wanted to ask.

“I won’t tell you how I found out the answer,” she said with a wink.

And with that, she freed herself from his grasp and flew to the door.

“Come on! We have no time to waste!”

Paltar could only shake his head, and followed her.