After supper, the kids hurried off, hand-in-hand. Pisha frowned at that.
“She’s your apprentice, but what is she to him?”
“A friend,” Thailyn shrugged.
“They were holding hands.”
“He’s an unreadable. Her healing started when she was six months old. She’s never known a time that she could touch someone without pain. She never got to cuddle with her parents, never knew the comfort of a hug. He indulges her. He’ll hold her hand or hug her when she needs it. They’ll cuddle in the hammock.”
“And you allow this?”
Thailyn nodded. “As long as that’s all they do. I know what she went through. I was a baby when my healing started too. I was lucky my parents knew the problem and on Tricon, they knew a way to block the healing. I had a blanket similar to our gloves that my parents would wrap me to hold me. I got my vial early so I could shift and be small enough to be wrapped up in it as I outgrew it in true form. Lamdi didn’t have that.”
“So he’s not courting her?”
“Not yet. He says he won’t either, but I think that’ll change once they get older. Do you disapprove of her?”
“No. I was wondering if I needed to arrange a pledge.”
“No. No arranged marriage. Her foster family would never agree.”
“You don’t approve of arranged marriages?”
“No. Let kids grow up first. Then let them worry about getting married.”
Pisha nodded. “I used to think similarly, but after what happened with Vishom, I started to have second thoughts.”
“From what I heard about this guy, he was good at fooling parents. You could still have ended up with him.”
“Not likely. My parents would never arrange a marriage with a human.”
“Okay, not him specifically, but someone just as bad,” Thailyn relented.
“Honestly, I don’t know that my parents and I would agree on a man.”
“And what kind of man would you want?”
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Thailyn frowned and answered it. “Jerta? Is everything okay?” He stepped aside to let the elf in.
Jerta grinned. “I heard my cousin was here. I wanted to see her.”
“Jerta!” Pisha cried. She made her way to him and hugged him.
“It’s good to see you. How are you doing?” He took her hand to read her. “I wanted to come see you so many times, but your brothers wouldn’t let me in. One time, I was able to see you from the doorway. For the rest, I had to look through a window. They usually chased me away. It looks like Thailyn’s taking good care of you.”
Pisha nodded as Jerta helped her to the couch. “He is. It’s just my hip left.”
“And the scars on your arms. What did that?”
“I don’t know what it was.”
Jerta looked around. “Where is Ruzi? He’s not hiding again, is he? Or is he next door with Lamdi?”
“He had a test at the college,” Thailyn explained.
“Well, tell him that now that he is officially my cousin, I can’t be sent to kill him.”
Thailyn and Pisha glanced at each other.
“Officially, I can’t confirm anything, but a healer would read if someone had an assassin’s brand. And a cousin who practically lived with my father for months probably would have seen it at least once.”
“So we both know?” Pisha asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about," Jerta claimed. "But Ruzi has been nervous since we met that I might be an assassin sent to kill him. The elders don’t even know we’ve met.”
“Do they know you’re here this time?” Thailyn asked.
“No, all anyone knows is that I have the evening off and was leaving town.”
“Most times, he would put the merchant he was supposedly meeting with to sleep and sneak down here to check on Ruzi,” Thailyn explained to Pisha.
“Merchant? What merchant?” Pisha asked.
“Princess Ann arranged for King Arlin to allow a small caravan of merchants to use the pass with an escort of Elven soldiers. For several years, I was the one to lead the group. Recently, Queen Deyama arranged for me to be a liaison for the Menthanlan army in Resdelk. I’ve been teaching some of my special training to the honor guards up there and have been learning some of their training. Princess Ann’s husband, Prince Andy, has introduced a new fighting style. When he’s trained a few teachers, one will be sent up there to train the soldiers. I’ll be joining them for that.”
“As if you haven’t had enough training,” Pisha frowned.
“Andy took down a berserker, unarmed.”
Pisha raised an eyebrow.
“It’s a long story,” Thailyn explained. “I’ll tell you about it later. Jerta usually doesn’t have long that he can stay.”
“Unfortunately, he’s right. Until your citizenship changes, I’m not supposed to be visiting. My old team will cover for me if needed, but if an elder scries me directly, I’ll get caught.”
“If that happens, I’ll claim I needed help with a patient and Shun was busy,” Thailyn assured him.
“Thanks, but it would be better if they didn’t know I’m here yet.
“How are Ruzi’s eyes? Is the potion helping?”
Thailyn nodded. “I haven’t needed to heal him yet, and his vision is better than what it’s been for several months. I still think it would be good to make the potion with his dad’s eye fluid.”
Jerta turned to Pisha. “What does the dad look like?”
Pisha cast a spell to make an image of him. Jerta used another spell to copy it to a piece of parchment. “I’ll show this to the escorts and merchants. They’re willing to help look for him. And the brotherhood owes me a favor. They can look too.”
“What did you do?” Pisha knew Jerta wasn’t liked by most of the other assassins because he was too much of a round-ears.
“A few years ago, the kingdoms were attacked. An immortal brought some trolls to the valley and took all of the kids hostage. They confined the soldiers in the stables, but I’d been in Yarba at the time. I was able to sneak weapons to the soldiers so they were armed when the children were freed.”
Pisha snorted. “You could sneak into the stables even before you became an assassin.”
“Not down the chimney with the fire lit. But it’s done now and the valley is safe again. And the school is protected. Princess Ann and Tercala helped shield it.”
“My brother,” Thailyn explained. “She hasn’t met anyone yet.”
Jerta nodded. “You will in time. Maybe once Thailyn finishes your hip.”
“Unfortunately, that’s the best I can do.”
Jerta took Pisha’s hand and frowned. “It is?”
Thailyn removed one of his gloves and took Pisha’s other hand. Jerta’s ability to read someone was so acute, that the feedback healers experienced from other healers caused him to have convulsions. The only way he could read another healer was through someone else. His eyes grew wide. “What did you do?”
“Pushed myself too hard and then broke my sternum again. Lamdi helps me with a lot of the more serious healing. It’s hard for Shunati to work with her with them both being sensitives. Maybe you can help her with Pisha. She’s good about not touching other healers and you’re strong enough to do it.”
“He is?” Pisha asked.
“He’s one of the strongest healers I know.”
Jerta cringed as Pisha looked at him. “You are?”
Jerta shrugged. “I don’t know what healers he knows.”
“He’s almost as strong as Shunati,” Thailyn said. “Why are you hiding it?”
“I don’t want the elders to know. I can’t imagine what they’ll make me do then.”
“You’re too much of a round-ears. They’ll still go to Quilto,” Pisha assured him. “Besides, they know how much you hate being an assassin. They’ll worry you won’t help. But I won’t tell.”
“Thanks. I’ll see about helping if you need it. But Lamdi is good. She is stronger than I am. And she has a great teacher.”
He grinned. “And once your citizenship is changed, you might want to talk to her parents about a pledge for her and Ruzi. They are so cute together.”
Thailyn growled. “No forced marriages. If he wants to court her, that’s fine but let that be their choice.”
Jerta rolled his eyes. “Dragons. It’s just an agreement. I’ve been pledged twice. My dad arranged the first.”
“Wait, you’re pledged again?” Pisha asked.
Jerta grinned but before he could say anything, a voice called. “Jerta, get back up here.”
Jerta pulled a small mirror from his pocket. “What is it?”
“One of the elders. It’s about Mins.” Whoever it was had a Menthanlan accent. It wasn’t anyone from Erilu.
“I’ll be there.” Jerta looked at his cousin. “I gotta go. I’ll scry you soon and tell you all about it.” He disappeared.
“Did you know? You two seem to be friends.”
“I knew he was involved with someone. I figured he’d want to tell you. I’ll let him, but I’ll just say they make a perfect couple.
“And that leads me back to the question I asked before Jerta came, what kind of man do you want?”
“I don’t remember everything that happened in my mind, but I do remember one thing. Don’t tell me you forgot.” And with that, Pisha pulled him close for a kiss.
Thailyn returned the kiss a moment before pulling away. “Pisha, we can’t.”
“Why not?” Because I’m an elf and you’re a dragon?”
“I don’t care about race.”
“Is it because I was with someone else?”
“I was with someone too.”
“Are you involved with someone?”
“Then why not?”
“I don’t know.” He gave up fighting it and kissed her. He pulled off his gloves and put his arms around her, purring.”