The water looked good to Brad now. He arose, about to head toward the nearest pond.
“You can wash off the yamran sap, but that would only take away the effects,” said Teyata. “It would be best to leave it on and take effect. It’s up to you.”
“What if I put on some sap from a barlus flower?”
“Good; you’re learning, but no. It would have the same effect as the water. Wait here.”
She sped off among the trees and returned a few moments later, carrying two types of plants. One; a stalk covered in deep blue poppy flowers along it’s length. The other, crimson, resembling a waratah flower, but made up of hudreds of petals.
“Eat one of the blue flowers,” she said.
Brad plucked one from the stalk and chewed and swallowed. It didn’t taste much of anything.
“What does it do?” he asked.
All at once, his stomach rebelled, forcing him to turn away and heave violently.
“Now chew one of petals from the red flower,” said Teyata.
Brad stared at her, still heaving as he wondered what else she might inflict on him. Despite himself, he picked a few and reluctantly went to eat them. Teyata’s hand slapped over his mouth. She stared hard into Brad’s eyes.
“But don’t swallow,” she warned.
Trembling, he placed the red petals in his mouth and began to chew. It tasted both bitter and sweet, yet the effects of his nausea rapidly diminished. A few seconds later, he felt totally restored and spat out the chewed pulp, convinced of its toxicity to swallow .
“Some plants will feed you,” said Teyata, “and some will kill, and others will heal. You’ll have to learn them all. Let’s go back,” she said, already walking off.
Brad got to his feet and hobbled after her.
“So have I passed the first test?”
Teyata slowed her gait to allow him to keep pace.
“Yeah, and there’ll be a lot more. My first lessons are to make you stronger and fitter. When you’ve learnt that, I’ll show you how to track and hunt. Then, you’ve got to learn how to fight.”
She waded through the ankle deep ponds, taking Brad beyond the trees. Then the heat and irregularities of the ground lanced at his feet like a thousand knives. Step after painful step, he limped on, mindful not to stop, lest Teyata disapproved. He said nothing for at least half the walk back.
“Tell me about your father,” Teyata said.
The phrase took Brad by surprise. Teyata’s silence made him think she didn’t want to talk either.
“Why do you want to know?”
“It’s true what you said; I don’t remember my father. I wanted to be a mother.”
Brad sensed and edge of regret in her voice. He didn’t want to talk about his parents either, but felt she needed some connection with a life she couldn’t recall.
“My dad was a Yank.”
“I’ve never seen one of them.”
Brad snorted. “You’re thinking that’s a merge mutation?”