At a young age, the aunt discovered that her sister had the gift of people-speaking, a gift that she herself very much did not have. Their parents would always believe her sister over her. However, the aunt was born with the gift of animal-speaking and learned how to communicate with birds and horses. Unfortunately, her fellow Kildenreans grew suspicious and frightened of her talents, causing her to retreat into the woods.
Somehow, the aunt feels the world shift to make a place for her niece, comes out of her home in the mountain woods to the palace nursery, and sees that the infant is asleep. The little girl was born with either the key to people-speaking, animal-speaking, or nature-speaking, and has been asleep for three days straight in an effort to unlock the language on her tongue. The aunt sings songs of patience to the young princess so that the girl would wake. Understanding that one day, she will eventually learn the words to the language hidden deep inside her, baby Anidori finally opens her eyes.
The two become very close. The aunt, as the young princess's nurse-mary, takes her niece on walks along the place where the palace gardens merge with the forest, teaching Ani the names of everything they saw. Ani learns quickly and begins to speak whole sentences at only a year old, an accomplishment uncommon enough to make the palace staff uneasy. Nevertheless, the aunt continues to tell her niece stories and takes her on walks along the swan pond. Five-year-old Ani loves the graceful birds and begs them to eat bread out of her hands, but when the bread is all gone they ask her for more. The aunt tells the birds that there wasn't any bread left in their own language, and young Ani repeats the sounds perfectly. Delighted that her niece has a talent for mimicking sounds and learning language, the aunt tells her a story about the beginning of their world: When the world was created, everything was able to speak with everything else, the rock to the snail, the tree to the wind, the horse to the girl, but as time went on the knowledge of the languages was forgotten. Yet, some people are born with one of the three languages on their tongues, though it may take some time before they can taste it. Ani's mother is gifted with the talent of people-speaking and uses her skills well as queen of Kildenree. The aunt herself is gifted with animal-speaking and knows the language of birds and horses. However, she knows of no one who knows nature-speaking, though she is certain that someone would one day discover how to learn it again.
An eager Ani learns from her aunt how to speak to the birds and asks to speak to a horse, but her aunt explains that the language of horses is much different from their feathered friends. When a horse is born, it speaks its own name, once. If a human hears that name and repeats it back to the horse, they will be able to speak to each other silently, without anyone else hearing a sound. Her aunt says that some day, her niece will be old enough to have her own horse, but for the time being she'll have to be content talking with the birds. One day as Ani happily trumpets to the swans, the key-mistress's young daughter, Selia, strolls by and tells the princess to visit sometime. The aunt notices that the little girl has people-speaking and warns her niece about Selia's ability.
As seasons pass, the aunt grows more and more uncomfortable behind palace walls and longs for her home in the mountain woods. She takes her young niece on one last walk and points out the direction of her home, gently announcing that she's going back. Knowing that Kildenree is uneasy with wildness and anything uncommon, she tries to stress to the young princess that her knowledge of wild things must be kept secret, or else her mother will take it all away. The aunt gives Ani a final kiss on her forehead before walking away through the trees. That winter, the aunt passes away.
- Animal-speaking. The aunt can:
- Detect tiny differences in the sounds and movements that animals make and can puzzle out their meanings.
- Speak the language of birds. Although the dialect may differ, birds generally speak the same language.
- Speak the language of horses. The key to unlocking a horse's voice is hearing and repeating the name it speaks only once at birth. The aunt has tried this trick with other animal species, but only the horse has responded.
- "If we don't tell strange stories, when something strange happens we won't believe it."
- The aunt had a horse friend named Yulee whom she could communicate with.