Chair legs groaned against the floor around the stove, but Bai Li heard irregular pulses of squeaking wood in the direction of the Shade smear, as if she were struggling to tug on the chair. The Graghn smear intervened, though, and once all three were seated around the light, Bai Li squinted at the Shade and managed to make out a rough form in the orange glow. She almost imagined the Shade had massive shoulders until she realized that the smear’s head barely cleared the back of the chair she was sitting in.
“Evening-- well, 'morning. I’m Bai Li,” she said, resting her ankle on her knee. “You are…?”
“Eiktyaghhurune,” said the smear, but without sound, directly into Bai Li’s mind. She flinched at the sudden mental word. She was used to telepathy, but from the Shade she felt none of the odd pressure on her brain that usually alerted her to a telepath’s presence.
“Sorry, say that again?” Bai Li asked.
“It’s okay,” said Eiktyaghhurune, “people who talk can call me Ekune.”
When she received the thought, Bai Li found herself inexplicably amused, like the nickname came from some in-joke. She paid the strange thought no mind, though. “Ekune,” she echoed. “So what brings you here?”
“I found her in this hedonist colony when I was coming back to Jesiid,” Graghn said. “She was about to starve and—”
“Graghn," Bai Li interrupted, "she can talk for herself."
Ekune said, with a musical tone that approximated laughter, “No, I can’t, silly! I think at people; I don’t talk.”
Both Graghn and Bai Li burst out laughing, and Ekune joined in with mental lilting. Pure delight flooded into Bai Li's mind, as if Ekune had made the most profound witticism ever told. Only a nagging idea in the back of her thoughts suggested that something was odd.