The years passed largely without incident. Felda's family worked their fields, took the crops into town. Her younger brothers, when there wasn't planting to do or crops to bring in, walked down to the village school four miles away, learned their letters and numbers and the history and literature and songs of the Taufen. The only real change from how things had been before was that when Felda's father took their crops to Weizenstadt, he no longer spent a week there or more, no longer had to sell from a patch of the market square and watch as whatever inn he stayed in ate his profits one night at a time; now he delivered them at the Guildhall, along with Felda's mother's meticulous records in official Guild ledgers, and received in return the family's salaries and operating costs for the year.
And of course there was Brom, now Felda's constant companion. Mother wouldn't allow him in the house, but he slept beneath Felda's window--in the second year after they joined the Guild, they rebuilt the house; it had three bedrooms now, one Felda's own--and from dawn until dusk, while she did her work, he was by her side.
Every few weeks, that first year, somebody came up from Weizenstadt to teach Felda and Brom how to work the fields together. There were at least half a dozen teachers, but they largely blurred together in Felda's memory in later years; they were all tough, and stern, and stubborn, hard workers themselves who demanded Felda do the same. She rather liked them, but they rarely stayed more than a day.
The first visits were frustrating. It was hard for her to learn to work with Brom, so very different from anything she'd done before. Her first tutor, a broad squat woman named Gertr whose bondling was a rust-red, short-legged, floppy-eared hound the length and girth of a pony, worked patiently with Felda, sympathizing with her struggles by claiming it had taken her much longer. Unfortunately, then Felda made the mistake of calling Brom by name.
"Never name it!" the woman shouted. "No wonder you struggle at reaching across the bond--your bondling is not a pet, or a companion, it is you. Do you name your hand? Call out to it when you want it to do things? 'Here, Hans, lift my spoon for me?' 'Hans, wipe my bottom please!' No, of course not! You will it and it does, because it is a part of you!"
Felda wilted in the face of the woman, a head shorter than her but broad and muscled as a particularly fit brick wall. "I--I'm sorry. I just thought he--"
"He!" snapped the woman. "It's 'he,' is it? Do you make friends with your nice, big, strapping bull? Are there no lads your age in this village? Do you fuck it?"
Felda stared in open-mouthed horror. "No, I--"
"From now on, it has no name, you understand? It is as much an it as your hand, you hear me?" Gertr frowned as Felda hesitated. "Understand!"
Felda bowed her head. "Yes, ma'am." She noted to herself to be careful not to mention Brom by name around her teachers again.
Nonetheless, by the time Gertr left, Felda had made little progress--the best she could do was sense Brom's location, which was interesting, but not particularly useful.
Her progress continued to be slow, and it became increasingly obvious that she was lagging. Bit by bit, however, she learned to do more, seeing with Brom's eyes, hearing with his ears, feeling the air in his fur and the soil beneath his hooves. But that was nothing compared to what happened with her fifth tutor, Elmun.
He stood out from the others; he was younger, a tall, skinny boy all knees and elbows, only a couple of years older than Felda herself. His bondling was a badger, which snuffled about his feet continually while he struggled to explain what he wanted Felda to do. "Your affinity was never strong," he explained. "But the bonding changed that." He gestured at the space between himself and his bondling. "There's a connection now, invisible, but real as the connection between your eyes and your hands. You've learned to see and feel across that connection. Now I want you to try to feel the connection itself."
Felda closed her eyes and concentrated. By now, her connection to Brom was effortless and automatic; she felt his heartbeat as constantly as her own, saw his surroundings as clearly as Elmun in front of her. But this was different; she knew where he was, so she tried to envision the connection between herself and Brom as a sort of thread extending from her to him and back. She focused on that thread, until she could almost see it--
She gasped, and her eyes snapped open. Thousands of threads, from tough cables to delicate filaments, stretched between her and Brom, shining and humming. Brom himself was like some complex, abstract tapestry, mighty cords of incredible strength anchoring a web of un fathomable complexity. But his threads were woven in her and through her and into the ground, where they vanished into a still vaster tapestry, a singing, pulsing, glowing, ever-moving, constant, infinite, eternal...
Elmun caught her as she swayed. "It can be a little overwhelming the first time," he said gently.
"What is it?"
He smiled. "That, Felda, is Earth."