Jo opened her eyes. Today was a big day. They would finally get to name their baby. Because the child was a boy, Nim had picked the name, as was tradition. Jo would name any girls. While Nim hadn’t told anyone his choice, he’d given Jo enough hints she knew what it was.
Because they were members of the court and Nim was a representative of a foreign government, the event would last most of the day. First came a private ceremony where the boy’s name was entered in the record books. That would only include them, Jo’s parents, Ann and Andy as the officials, and Pt’this and Sapphire as witnesses. Then there would be a second ceremony for the Baj-tisk records since Nim was a citizen of the clan too. They had discussed combining the ceremonies so Pt’this and Nim had gone over them carefully. They found they were too different to combine efficiently. For the second ceremony, Pt’this would officiate while Ann and Andy acted as witnesses.
Later, there would be a public presentation where the child would be shown off to the citizens. Then the celebrations would begin, starting with the parade and ending with a banquet.
Jo felt sorry for Nim. He’d had enough anxiety dealing with the crowds yesterday for Jaidu’s party, and that was only for a few hours. Now, it would be most of the day and he wouldn’t be able to slip off to get some time alone.
Jo rolled to look at her husband. He lay on his belly, facing her as always. Oftentimes, he’d hold her, wrapping both an arm and leg around her. She brushed the hair from his face and watched him sleep.
Shortly, he opened his eyes. He smiled when he saw her. “Seeing you is the best thing to wake up to,” he said. He pulled her close and kissed her. “I should draw this.”
“I wish we had time. I’d love to lie here longer.”
Nim growled at the thought of starting the day.
“You’ll get through it,” Jo assured him. “I asked my dad to bring a pocket-size notebook for you to draw in.” While Amelia had stayed, Curt had gone back to Chicago. When Jo had heard about the long day, she asked him to pick up a notebook and bring it when he came.
Ann was picking up Curt sometime this morning along with Cari who had gone with Ann’s parents for a visit and was coming back today.
Jo leaned over him to check on the baby in his cradle near the bed. It was still hard to believe he was theirs.
“I fed him about an hour ago,” Nim said.
Jo nursed him, but since he was half-dragon, every other feeding was meat ground well since he wouldn’t get teeth for several months. Nim often took care of those feedings, especially at night.
“Thank you.” Jo smiled. “Did you change him too?”
Nim made a face. “Nah, I thought I’d leave you that part.” Then he smiled. “What kind of dad do you think I am? Of course I changed him. He was wet.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Nim called.
“Shh, don’t wake him,” Jo said.
A page entered. “Princess Annlonna asked me to tell you that she’s leaving for Paosij and you two might want to get up.”
Jo nodded. “Thank you. Would you let my mother know also? She’s next to our receiving room.”
The page bowed in agreement but hesitated. “Forgive me, my lady, but what is the proper way to address your mother?” He cast a nervous glance at Nim.
“Mrs. Thompson is fine,” Jo assured him.
The boy bowed again. “Thank you, my lady.” He hurried off with another glance at Nim.
Nim growled softly. “If those young ones are filling the pages’ heads with nonsense about me, I’ll roast them.”
“Most are rarely here. They aren’t are old enough to leave Baj-tisk on their own.”
Rumors about Nim had abounded for centuries. He was a wild dragon given to an immortal to tame, but he’d gone mad instead and killed several kids. He lived in the caves north of Baj-tisk because he couldn’t be trusted around others.
In truth, he had been raised by an immortal because he needed help with his Augmenter abilities. One of those he’d killed was a young half-dragon, half immortal that had gone insane and killed 200 people. He’d only been a child himself and couldn’t stop the boy any other way. The other had been an accident when he’d tried to protect his immortal mentor.
Nim lived outside the city because he wanted to be left alone.
One generation of young ones told the next to scare them until he returned to help Ann’s class. Once they got to know him, they learned he wasn’t so bad and the next class hadn’t believed the rumors.
“It’s probably just because you’re his teacher, and he had to admit he didn’t know something he should,” Jo reasoned.
Nim nodded. He didn’t want the rumors to spread here. He was tired of people being afraid of him.
Ann presided over the naming ceremony with Andy’s assistance. She normally didn’t do this since she was an ambassador and dealt with foreign affairs. But since Jo and Nim held dual citizenship, and so would the baby, she offered to do it.
“On this day, we officially recognize Koritin James va Joanne…” She paused, looking at Nim.
“Dentrias,” he said, referring to his birth name.
Ann nodded. “… va Joanne Dentrias, son of Lady Joanne Cora Thompson va Amelia Curtis and Emissary Dentrias Nimitinas va Sharzita Cormeliona Entista Chapado.” She wrote the name into the record book. “Born on the tenth day of the third month of the year 4892.”
She looked at the baby. “We welcome you, Koritin James.”
Then she traded places with Pt’this. He started the dragons’ ceremony. Since he spoke in Baj-tisk, Ann translated it for Jo’s parents and probably Andy and Jo too. Both were learning it, but neither was fluent.
Pt’this also welcomed Koritin. Then he stood and said something else in Baj-tisk.
“Pt’this,” Ann said. He turned, confused.
“Menthan,” Nim prompted. Dragons believed it was poor manners not to use the local language or to use a language others might not speak without a translator.
“Sorry. I said, ‘Let’s go show him off.’”
They went out to a balcony overlooking a crowd. Elos led the ceremony. He was the head royal tutor, but he also acted as the master of protocols. He led all public ceremonies that didn’t require a member of the royal family to lead them. Those, he supervised.
They were joined on the balcony by Ann’s parents, Remtani and Jaidu as the future king and queen, and Dae and Ti, who often stood in for Nim’s family.
“Who’s watching the kids?” Ann whispered to Ti. He and Dae helped Pt’this and Sapphire at the children’s home.
“We are.” He gestured to a group of kids. “And we have help.” Behind the kids, stood Mishtali, Shay, and Thailyn. Ruzi, Ann noticed, was with the kids, near Lamdi.
Ann noticed Nim had the pad Curt had brought balanced on his knee and he was drawing. It would help with his anxiety.
Ann saw her Uncle Tercala slip in next to his father. Welcome, she sent.
Shut up, came his reply.
Sorry, Father’s been giving me grief for being late.
I went to pick up one of the coaches for the parade from the smithy and the wheel was off. I had to put it back on.
Did you tell grandfather?
I’m still here, aren’t I? Did I miss the name?
Not yet. Just starting. There were two private ceremonies.
You were there. Can I ask you what it is?
You can ask. I can’t answer.
Why can’t we growl in human form?
Don’t you growl at me. I may be your niece, but I’m still your elder. There are rules I have to follow.
Cramda said rules are for the weak.
Look where that got him. Ask Drepal about following the rules.
We already had that conversation. I was joking. I guess I didn’t do so well.
Sorry. I wasn’t expecting it. Keep trying. Tercala didn’t have much of a sense of humor. They were trying to help him develop one.
The ceremony droned on. Ann swore Elos was making it longer and longer each time.
Finally, the ceremony was over and they had time to eat before the parade started. Nim compared it to a parade Jo had taken him to on her world. He started to describe every group, float, or routine that was part of the parade. Emeton suggested he just mention the types of groups or routines and maybe give highlights of some of the unique ones so his list didn’t last the length of the current parade.
When it was finally time for the banquet, Jo asked Nim to take Kory to the nursery, saying the baby needed a chance to rest.
“He slept almost the whole parade,” Amelia protested.
“Nim spent too much of his life isolated. He’s not used to crowds,” Jo explained. “The drawing isn’t helping anymore. He’s gone through almost the whole pad.”
“I should’ve brought a case of them,” Curt said. “Maybe next time we see you.”
“Someone said that names here mean something. What does Koritin mean?” Amelia asked.
“Loosely, Koritin James together means new beginnings,” Jo said.
“Very loosely,” Ann said.
“It’s a new start in our lives,” Jo explained.
“Nim means sun. What does Dentrias mean?” Jaidu asked.
Jo frowned. “He’s never said. He uses it so little. I never thought to ask.” She looked to Pt’this and Ann.
Ann shrugged. Pt’this shook his head. “That’s Tricot, not Baj-tisk.” He looked to Thailyn.
The healer frowned. “That’s not Tricot. I thought it was Baj-tisk.”
“It’s Ertonian,” Chapado said. “It was quite a surprise to find a Baj-tisk dragon with an Ertonia name. His dad explained he’d been born on Tricon and Nim was named after an uncle.”
“So what does it mean?” Ann asked.
“Little?” Ann laughed. Nim was the biggest dragon around.
“He was little once. And when the sun hits his scales, he looks like a flame. When his parents saw that, they chose to name him after his uncle. Uncle Dentrias was copper too.
“With colored dragons, the darker the color, the stronger the magic. With metallic dragons, copper is the weakest, then gold, and then silver is the strongest. But it’s the opposite with Augmenters. Copper Augmenters have the strongest abilities. I believe they are more likely to be Augmenters also, but I’ve never had a chance to look into that.”
“You know, I never asked, what does Annlonna mean?” Andy looked to Ann.
Ann frowned and looked away. “I was named after my great-grandmother.” Everyone there knew she had mixed feelings about it since so many on that side of her family had died untimely.
“Chapado? Do you know?” Andy asked.
“I named her grandmother, didn’t I?” Chapado muttered.
“It means shining star,” Pt’this filled in. “It’s fitting since she not only practically glows in the dark, her mother was called Shimmering Star.”
“Is that what Darina means?” Andy asked.
“No. It was a nickname,” Pt’this explained. “She did mage work, like Ann. It helped people remember her. Kith was the one to start calling her that.”
“He was the one to call me Shimmering Mage too. That’s how I got my nickname Shimmer,” Ann added.
“He said both of your magics shimmered in the same fashion. He didn’t make the connection until he knew you were related. He never said if your grandmother’s magic did, or your namesake.”
Amelia turned to Jaidu. “Do they wait a week before naming children where you’re from?”
“In Yarba? No, they wait a month.”
“You went without a name for a month?”
“Two. My father’s wife had died and there was a prescribed morning period that they had to observe first,” Jaidu explained.
“They couldn’t do them together? You wouldn’t be named until after anyhow,” Andy pointed out.
“They could have, but since he had her killed, he wanted to hide it,” Jaidu said.
“He did what?” Amelia looked shocked.
“He wanted to hide that Shay was my mother and for his wife to pretend she had given birth to me. She’d gotten mad at him for having a child with a servant and refused to have anything to do with me. There was no way she’d pretend I was hers. So he had her killed so he could hide who my mother was.”
Remtani put his arm around her. It had been difficult for her to learn the woman she’d thought of as mother for so long had hated her. Kamlia had told Jaidu to hurt her when she stood up to him. It had hurt, but she hadn’t given him the satisfaction of seeing it, and she’d held her ground. Remtani had helped her get through that time.
“Let’s change the subject before Tercala overhears us,” Ann suggested. He was sensitive about not having a name for seventeen years. He felt so self-conscious that they forwent a naming ceremony and gave him his name when Shay adopted him.
He’d always been called Wyrm. He’d asked to be named that so it would seem like he had a name right along. Mishtali and Shay felt he should have a proper name, but agreed he could use it as a nickname for a while to have something familiar amidst all the changes. He was still reluctant to give it up.
The party continued and Nim returned after a time, more relaxed. There was drinking and dancing, trading partners to include everyone, even Jo’s parents.
Because of Jo’s work at the home, and Nim’s relation to Dae and Ti, the kids had been invited along with Ruzi. They copied the adults both in a mocking fashion as well as in more serious attempts.
Everyone was having fun. Even Mishtali and Thailyn seemed to have put aside their differences for the evening.
Mishtali was angry with Thailyn for not raising Ann, and even hiding from her, despite that it was for Ann’s protection. It only got worse when the council had Remtani arrest Thailyn for crimes during the war. Mishtali helped Ann get him acquitted, proving the council violated treaty laws with its charges.
The council then tried to arrest Thailyn for abandoning a newborn. Mishtali pointed out that losing a mate and Thailyn’s heart condition would make it impossible for him to care for a premature baby. It was perfectly legal for him to allow her adoption in such a case and if the council hadn’t tried to banish him illegally, he could’ve gone to his sister and her mate for help.
Unfortunately, despite his words, Mishtali felt Thailyn had been in the wrong and refused to forgive his son. Tonight, however, it seemed they were getting along.
Ann hoped it would last. It wasn’t helping Ruzi, who was dealing with feelings of abandonment. Ann considered talking to Shay, but she hated to involve her. She and Mishtali had been apart for so long and had been through so much. Let them enjoy their time together.
The party wound down long after Jo and Nim had left. Jo still tired easily, and Nim claimed he wanted to keep an eye on her.