As they wandered the fresh cave, unfamiliar, and given only of a general direction to follow, Rottkap fell behind. It was not out of feebleness or the limitations of her shorter size, but there walked Ishmael, who trailed. She was independently minded and the others didn't seem too worried she would actually fall behind. In truth, save for the fairy and the mature Death Clan woman alone, their minds were all elsewhere despite their purposeful march. And for this, had Rottkap slowed. For she could still see the twinkle of light in Ishmael's eyes in the gloom, whereas the others exhibited little on this subterranean dawn.
Ishmael's pace kept up, yet was more casual in nature, as she watched the environs as any good Xibalban would. There was no issue so close to the Mimi's home, but only sensory confirmation would confirm such a thing ultimately. "Is something wrong, Rottkap?"
"It's the others... I'm getting an uncomfortable vibe from all of them, save for maybe Tom on Metis' abdomen." She paused, keeping her voice low, although they weren't terribly close to the other members of the pack. "Karolina is as dour eyed as Tulsan. Siouxsie seems to be on the verge of tears or terror, I don't know which. And Metis... well, it's hard to put to words, but she's unlike what I've seen of her. I want to help them, somehow. But I don't know how. I'm worried about them. As far as I can tell, we all spoke with the Mimi, but they shared nothing troubling with me. And you didn't talk to them either, I think?"
Ishmael nodded calmly. "Whatever truth I am to learn comes from the end of the road at Uluru, not before. I do not willingly cross the advice of my people's spirits. But we are all different people, of different backgrounds. What we seek, Uluru aside, is not necessarily the same. We will see things unlike each other. If you've walked the forests, did you see the exact leaflings your friends did? When they blew high and fro? A shared trail is only partially a shared experience."
Rottkap seemed unhappy. "I wish I knew what troubled them. I feel powerless. I can tell they're not ready or able to share what they saw, but I don't know how to brighten them up. I miss how they were before. Or at the very least, when we were all dancing together. I had never felt closer, I think. Even Tulsan, who spoke to me before we went underground, is mute now."
Ishmael patted the fairy on the shoulder. "Rottkap, regardless of what troubles them, you must give them time. Sometimes a little distance is all someone needs. Whatever they've learned or seen, is still very fresh with them, I'm sure. Maybe the best thing that you and I... can do, is grant them that space until their mind and mood come to terms. Then maybe they'll open up or ease out of their gloominess. It might not be that long... or might be a while. Until then, let's just try to be there for them, even if that means being unobtrusive."
"And if I see Karolina cry? Should I do nothing?" inquired the fairy, trying not to sound impertinent in tone, because she immediately realized how it sounded. It was an honest question, in all truth.
"Maybe then. Don't feel they're denying you in some way. Karolina and I shared time the other night. She's been nothing but pleasant with me. But right now? I can't really catch her eye. Before we left, she mentioned from behind her door she simply wanted to be alone and study when I asked if she wanted company. It was short and to the point. I suppose she might have been altering her garb then, too. We can't force our love and kindness on others. Even for compassion, there is a time and place to demonstrate it. The best thing we can do right now, Rottkap, is be patient and understanding with them."
"But, keep this in mind..." Ishmael gently warned. "Everyone here may have more than a few demons. The Mimi might have brought some of them to light. Or in their visions, reminded them of things they were not ready to acknowledge, perhaps even about themselves."
The fairy studied the mature Xibalban curiously. "Even you?"
Ishmael smiled, showing an old glint in her eye. "That's hard to say. I've lived a life of great challenges, make no mistake. But I've often left my traumas, at least as I knew them, behind eventually. I'm not particularly driven by the memory of my own misdeeds or scars, necessarily. Rather, my history has been a composite of the lives of others. And I've been trying to make sense of it. There's something important about that mountain, that's all I know."
"Getting to Uluru will show you what you don't understand? What is so special about it, I wonder?"
"I couldn't say with any certainty. But such is the journey, Rottkap. Whether my insight comes along the way or at the end, it'll likely be something of a blur to me when it's all over. So what does it matter? I just have to make it that far. I wouldn't worry about it much for now. In the meantime, if you're feeling lonely in the company of others, you can hang back with me. I don't mind."
"I'd like that..." smiled Rottkap. "Say, uh... while you're here... do you mind if I ask you something personal? I only know so much about you."
"Such as?" Ishmael quietly asked.
"What's your family like? I'm kind of curious about where you come from. You're the first full-blooded Xibalban I've really spoken with."
Ishmael smirked. "They were... as night and day together. Completely different approaches to life. I was raised in a nice, well-hidden place. Mmm... you're probably looking for something more interesting than that, though."
"Well..." Rottkap chuckled, failing to be sly. "Maybe."
"Alright, here's a gem for you," Ishmael shared. "But don't go spreading it around too much. It makes for awkward questions."
"Technically speaking, I have two mothers," whispered Ishmael.
Rottkap blinked. "Wait... huh? How?"
"A LOT of creativity," chuckled the Xibalban. "And one of them-? Was like YOU." She pointed at Rottkap's nose almost teasingly.
"What. I don't-" Rottkap stammered, trying to process what she was just told. She could feel smoke coming out of her ears. Two mothers and someone like her? What did that even mean?
"Sorry, that's all you get. I'm afraid this is one of those reasons I don't like to talk a lot about myself upfront. It gets more complicated the more I explain it. Let's just say they were interesting well-experienced people and they did a lot to teach me about the world outside of where we lived."