They appeared outside the throne room.
“Shades,” Ann swore.
Thailyn frowned. “Again? Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”
Ann held out her hand. “Check me.”
Thailyn did. “No, you’re not pregnant. Why is your aim so off?”
“I don’t know. It always is.”
“Not this bad. Tomorrow, we need to look into this.” Thailyn transported Pisha and Ruzi transported Ann down to the private dining room.
“Problem?” Mishtali asked, looking at his son’s expression.
“Where did you end up this time?”
“The throne room.”
“The throne room?” Mishtali frowned at Ann.
“We were outside it,” Ann assured him.
“You shouldn’t be having these problems,” he insisted.
“What problems?” Emeton asked as he entered. He frowned, glancing at his daughter.
“Ann almost ended up in the throne room,” Mishtali said.
“Ann, you need to be more careful,” Emeton scolded her.
“Does anyone know what we’re having?” Ruzi asked, hoping to change the subject.
Jo shrugged. “He’s keeping it a secret. You can’t even get close enough to the kitchen to smell it.”
“I bet I could get close enough,” Ann said with a grin.
“Yeah,” Janta laughed. “If you try transporting to the north tower.”
“Are you pregnant again?” Shunati asked.
“No. Thailyn just checked.”
“Perhaps she needs a shunt,” Morina suggested.
“Oh, not another shunt.” Ann frowned.
“You’ve had a shunt?” She asked.
“I’ve had three. Do you know what it’s like going months without casting?”
Thailyn frowned. “Months? The shunt should only take a week or two to heal.”
“We’ll worry about that later. Who shunted you before?”
“Nim?” Thailyn turned to the dragon.
“I can see where she needs it.” Nim shrugged.
“Pisha!” Sinta cried as she entered. She hugged her friend. “I missed you. How are you?”
Pisha smiled. “I’m back with my son. I’m the best I could ever be.”
“It’s so good to see you. Have you met everyone yet?”
“We were waiting until everyone got here,” Ann explained.
“Well, I think this is everyone but Andy, Chapado, and Tylan. They’re on their way. I don’t know what he made, but it smells fabulous,” Sinta said.
Ruzi took over the introductions of Emeton, his children and their spouses, Pt’this and Sapphire, Mishtali, Shay, and Tercala.
“Call me Wyrm,” Tercala said.
“Don’t call him Wyrm, Mom,” Ruzi said.
Tercala made an attempt at a growl. Ruzi ignored him and continued the introductions. “And this is Morina. Nim’s mentor is her sister.”
“You don’t seem old enough to have a sister who mentored a dragon.”
Morina smiled. “You mortals are so kind.”
“Mortals?” Pisha paled at the idea of being in the same room as an immortal.
“Don’t worry, Mom. She’s nice. Not all immortals are bad.”
Morina huffed. “We are most certainly not. And we’re working to deal with those who are.”
“And this is my mom’s cousin, Sinta.” Ruzi grinned. “And her husband, Shunati.”
Both hugged her again, as had at least half the group.
“Get used to hugs,” Shunati warned with a grin.
“Find a seat,” Andy announced, walking in with a tray of food. He was followed by Tylan, Chapado, and a couple of servants all of who also carried trays.
Sinta frowned. “I thought you were right behind me.”
“We stopped at the kids’ party first,” Andy explained. “I made them pizza.”
“What are we having?” Jo asked.
“Chinese?” Jo frowned.
“Sorry. Don’t worry, I saved you a slice.”
“Slice?” Pisha whispered to Thailyn.
“Of the pizza. Jo doesn’t like Chinese food. Andy likes to tease her because her grandmother came from China,” Thailyn explained. “Though I don’t know if he’s ever made anything based on his own heritage.”
“You must be Pisha.” Andy came and hugged her. “I’m Andy, Ann’s husband. And this is her mother, Tylan, and her mentor’s mentor, Chapado.”
“So good to meet you.” Chapado hugged her, as did Tylan.
“Welcome to Sen-gan.”
“Thank you. And thank you all for your help.”
“You’re family. How could we not?” Tylan smiled.
They all sat enjoying the meal. Andy had acquired chopsticks for all to try using. Most struggled, except for Jo, Ann, and Shunati.
“You three are pretty good,” Bacna observed.
“Ann and Jo have had practice. Shunati’s using magic.” Andy laughed.
Shunati frowned and switched to his fork.
“He used to do stuff like that when he first came to Sen-gan,” Pt’this added.
“I was just trying to fit in.”
“I understand. Growing up the only dragon in Resdelk, I often felt out of place. I think that’s how I became a peacock. I constantly worried about looking or acting differently.”
Pisha enjoyed the conversation. It had been too long since she’d been around real people. In her mind, it was just her and Ruzi.
Pisha found the food unusual, but not unpleasant. Andy had made a variety. It seemed everyone found at least one thing they enjoyed, even Jo, though she still ate something that looked like cheese, on flatbread.
As they were finishing, a group of kids came in. There was a human girl who was almost as light as Ann, an elf boy whose red hair marked him as Shunati’s son, and three half-elf children.
The pale girl walked right up to Pisha and said in flawless Elvish, “Grandma Pisha, welcome to Sen-gan. We’re happy you’re better.”
Surprised, Pisha responded in Elvish. The little girl gave a half-smile but looked lost.
“She said thank you for your welcome,” the elf boy translated. He looked at Pisha. “She doesn’t speak Elvish. She asked me how to say it,” he explained using Elvish.
“That was very nice of you. And thank you for translating,” Pisha said in Menthan, smiling.
“Oh, you speak Menthan!” The girl gasped, clearly delighted.
“I speak several languages. I used to be a translator for King Arlin.”
“Which languages do you speak?” Ann asked.
“Elvish, of course, Menthan, Baj-tisk, trollish, gnome, dwarfish, and Kripdoman. I was working on learning Tricot. Maybe one of you can help me.”
Ann smiled. “Dad, I think we found our new translator.”
“If she wants the job.” Emeton nodded. “Though she doesn’t speak Ertonian.”
“No one speaks Ertonian, just me, Ter, Nim, and the Ertonians.”
“Ertonian?” Pisha asked.
“The native tongue of our land,” Chapado explained.
Morina said something to her and she replied, to everyone’s surprise.
Pisha frowned. “I thought that was called Lerton.”
Morina shook her head. “Not for several thousand years. Where did you learn it?”
“There were some ancient books brought from Dragon Castle in Trito to Erilu. A few included it. I’m a linguist. I study languages.”
“Dad, push her papers through so she can start,” Ann insisted. Since Ann also spoke so many languages, she was often asked to fill in as a translator. She didn’t mind occasionally, but it was too frequent and interfered with her own work.
“I haven’t got them yet,” Emeton said.
“She filled them out the day she woke up. I helped her so they were right. Then I brought them here to turn in.”
“Her citizenship p-papers?” Bacna asked. “Those were m-mixed in with some papers I got about the home. I gave them to the clerk’s office to p-pass to Dad. There was a question about it being in Ann’s handwriting so I added a witness signature since I knew why Ann had filled it out. You should g-get it any day now.”
Emeton nodded. “Ann, schedule a ceremony. As soon as it’s approved, we’ll have it for both her and Sinta.”
“And Tercala?” Ann asked.
“Tercala?” Emeton frowned. “I didn’t see his papers either.”
“It just came in this afternoon,” Pt’this explained. “I put it on your desk.”
“Is someone going to introduce me to these children that claim me as grandma?” Pisha asked.
“Sorry,” Ann said. She laid a hand on Cari’s head. “This pale one is Cari, Andy’s and my daughter. She’s a bit confused by all the relations. She calls everyone an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. The redhead is Vaila, Shunati and Sinta's son. The oldest of the group is Bremul, and the others are Jix and Til. They’re Pt’this and Sapphire’s oldest three. The youngest is at home with Dae.”
Pisha nodded. “I met Nas this morning.”
“You have a cane like Uncle Bacna,” Cari observed.
“Do I?” Pisha asked.
“Why?” Vaila asked.
“I hurt my hip. The cane helps me walk.”
“Grandpa can’t fix it?” Cari looked like she didn’t believe there was anything her grandpa couldn’t fix.
“It’s complicated. It happened a long time ago. It kind of healed on its own but not very well.”
Cari patted Pisha’s hand. “Then Lamdi can heal it.” She paused for a moment and then nodded. “Yep, Lamdi will fix it.”
“She’s working on a way so emergency healing won’t even hurt,” Vaila said.
Thailyn laughed. “Emergency healing that doesn’t hurt? I’d like to see that.”
“Don’t laugh, Dad. She’s making progress. She’s tried it on Cesni. She only has two more scars to go,” Ruzi told him.
Thailyn frowned. “What’s she doing?”
Ruzi shrugged. “You have to ask her. She told me, but I’m not a healer. I don’t understand it all.”
“It hardly hurt at all when she fixed my ankle,” Vaila added.
“What happened to your ankle?” Sinta asked.
Shunati clamped a hand down on Vaila’s shoulder. “He broke it. How did you break your ankle?”
“I fell out of a tree,” the boy admitted. “I wasn’t climbing trees alone. Lamdi was right there.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“It was just this afternoon. I was going to do it tonight.”
Shunati nodded. “She did a fine job.”
Thailyn laid a hand on Vaila’s arm. “She did very good.”
“When I’m a healer, can I heal myself?” Vaila asked.
“If you have healing abilities, you can learn to heal yourself,” Thailyn told him. “It’s not the same as healing others, though.”
Vaila nodded. “Okay, I’ll learn when I’m ready.”
“Guys, come on. Let’s play raging river,” Bremul suggested.
“No, let’s play tearing bull,” Cari suggested.
“Yeah.” Jix nodded. Soon the five were gone.
Shunati watched them leave. “That boy’s going to be lost when you guys go to Tricon.” He shook his head. “If he’s not following Ruzi, he’s with Cari.”
Ann nodded. “Cari keeps asking to go to the real school with all her friends rather than lessons here.”
“It’s a real school here too,” Nim said.
“When are you going to Tricon?” Pisha asked.
“We don’t know yet.” Remtani shrugged. “Nim, are you and Jo coming?”
“We haven’t decided,” Nim said.
“You said your mom’s parents were born there. Maybe you have cousins. You know your Augmenter abilities come from your dad’s side.”
“But when are you going? I don’t want to leave Sinta alone with the class again. And who’s going to take over my classes at the college? Andy’s going to be gone too. I don’t want to ask Dae. She’s not strong enough.”
“Both the college and school have a break next month. If you go then, you wouldn’t have to worry,” Sinta suggested. “I can handle the kids for a day or two.”
“There’s still the problem of how we’re going to get there,” Jaidu pointed out. “We’ve got nineteen going and only seven of us can fly.”
“Eight can fly,” Thailyn corrected.
“You’re not flying all that way. Your heart can’t take it,” Shunati said.
“I’ve done it before without problems. How do you think I got back here?”
“That was before you did all that damage. You can’t make it.”
“Even if Thailyn doesn’t fly, there’s still only twelve who can’t and several are little. If each carries two, that’s fourteen,” Jo pointed out.
“I can’t carry two,” Ann pointed out. “Neither can Jaidu. We’re too small.”
“But, Nim and Tercala can carry three. We can divide the little ones up to lighten the load. And there’s only twelve so you two can still carry one each,” Remtani reasoned.
“Didn’t Ann transport you all back the last time?” Janta asked. “Why doesn’t she do that again?”
“And have her drop us in the ocean?” Pt’this frowned. “No.”
“Don’t you remember the last time she tried to transport me to the stable?” Remtani grinned. “I ended up in Paosij.”
“And we just ended up near the throne room,” Ruzi added.
Chapado waved it off. “She needs to be shunted. We’ll take care of that. But almost 20 is a lot for her.”
“What about if Tercala did half?” Janta asked.
“Me? I don’t want to drop someone in the ocean.” Tercala frowned.
“What about that taki-sphere?” Emeton asked. “Practically anyone going can use it.”
“Is there one still around?” Morina asked.
Ann nodded. “I have one. I used it to transport the elven children from Erilu to Dragon Castle.”
“How many was that?” Jaidu asked.
“A hundred and twelve kids, Rejenn told me.”
“A hundred and twelve kids, and one very beautiful aid.” Shunati grinned, putting an arm around his wife.
Sinta blushed. “That wasn’t my intent.”
“I know, but I’m glad it happened. I don’t think I could’ve gotten through that time without you.”
Sinta smiled but said nothing.
“Looks like Vaila might be getting a new little brother or sister soon,” Janta teased.
“Jan, be nice.” Barin frowned.
“He will,” Sinta said.
“Are you saying…?” Jaidu asked.
“Eventually. No, I’m not pregnant.”
“No, she’s not,” Shunati agreed.
Sinta pulled away. “Stop doing that in public.” She frowned.
“Sorry.” He grinned, looking anything but sorry.
Soon, the group dispersed, leaving only Ann, the healers, the immortals, Andy, and Nim. They were going to look into Ann’s need for shunts.
Nim had Ann draw in magic so he could see her pathways.
“Can I do that too?” Andy asked.
“No,” Nim said. “It was one of the visions we tried.”
“You’d need your regular sight for that one,” Thailyn explained. “It’s also very rare.”
“You know, I can actually see bonds with this,” Nim said. “For someone who’s only lived together for two days, your bond with Pisha is quite strong.”
“It started in Erilu, before I even started healing her,” Thailyn admitted.
“What were you doing in her mind?” Ann asked.
“As if that was any of your business, we were talking. Even if we had done more it wouldn’t have mattered. Bonds need physical contact. It was me holding her hand that started it.”
“You can bond by holding hands?” Andy asked.
“You can start bonding that way. You need to mate to finalize it. In between, the more contact you have, the stronger it gets. The more intimate the contact, the faster it strengthens. You sleeping with Ann to keep her nightmares away would have encouraged it.
“Nim, are you ready?”
Nim nodded. “This is what I see.” He made an image of Ann’s pathways. It reminded Ann of the images she’d seen of veins and arteries on Andy’s world.
“Ann, release the magic,” Thailyn instructed.
“Let Andy drain you,” Nim suggested. “With as much as you’re holding, you’re risking backlash, no matter how careful you are.”
Ann allowed Andy to drain her while they examined the image Nim made.
“These are where I shunted her before.” Nim pointed. “And here’s the damage this time.”
“There, and here, here, and here.” Thailyn pointed out other areas.
“And this area is weakening.” Chapado’s gesture covered a large section. “Most of the damage seems to be in this region.”
“One large shunt would probably be best,” Morina speculated.
“One?” Thailyn frowned.
“I had over half my pathway shunted at one time.”
“Why does this keep happening?” Andy asked.
Chapado shrugged. “No one knows why it happens. All of my requests to study it have been turned down, as well as all others. But I had to guess, the original damage was done when Lyra ripped her.”
“Will shunting be as bad as patching?” Andy asked.
“No. It’s pretty simple, but we should move to a healing room,” Shunati suggested.
Once they had relocated, Shunati, Thailyn, and Nim discussed their methods for shunting. They were all almost identical. Thailyn insisted it shouldn’t have taken months for Ann to heal. Morina agreed, saying hers had only taken days.
“It could be all the damage we didn’t see,” Shunati guessed. “And she did damage it a couple of times with telepathy and helping Mirimar out of the trance.”
“Telepathy shouldn’t hurt it,” Thailyn argued.
“It would when it’s nine young ones all sending community calls at once.”
“The kids learning in class?” Thailyn guessed.
Shunati nodded. “We’ll do the shunt and wait and see how it heals.”
Chapado agreed. “There could’ve been any number of reasons for the delay.”
Thailyn did the shunt with Nim’s guidance, covering the whole damaged area.
“Now, remember, no drawing in, just like a patch. Limit your casting. And use your addiction plenty,” he reminded Ann.
“That’s easy to do. Anything I read helps, even paperwork and forms.”
Thailyn smiled. She’d picked a good choice.