Tercala went out the steps to the servant’s entrance. It was closer and less busy. He saw a girl sitting on the ground nearby. Her eyes were red, like she’d been crying.
“Are you okay?” He asked, approaching.
She nodded and looked up. He recognized Shuli.
“Then why are you crying?” He asked, sitting next to her.
“That’s a rude question.” But she sort of laughed.
He shrugged. “I’m still learning her manners. You humans have different manners.”
“Us humans?” She frowned. “I think I’ve been insulted.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being human. I’m part human myself. But I’m also part dragon and we’re family. You have to tell me what’s wrong.”
“Dad had another stroke.”
“He had one when I was little.”
“Shun and Thailyn will help him.”
“I don’t know. Thailyn couldn’t heal my dad.”
“My birth father, I mean. He died when I was little. He had a stroke, and he looked just like Tolin does. What if they can’t heal him?”
“But Thailyn was stronger back then. That was before he had all of his heart problems.”
Tercala shifted uncomfortably. He’d caused some of those problems. He’d lashed out at the man when Mishtali showed Thailyn compassion, while Tercala was still under the impression Mishtali had abandoned him.
“But he’s got Shunati and Lamdi to help him now,” he pointed out.
Shuli nodded. “I know, but I can’t help but worry.”
“Jo tells me to try to think of other things when worrying won’t help.”
“You go to Jo for counseling?”
He grinned. “I’m an unstable white wyrm. They had me sedated for months.”
She frowned. “That’s not funny.”
He shrugged. “But it’s true. I was pretty messed up. This immortal, Cramda, took me away from my mom when I was little. He lied to me and told me my parents had abandoned me. He told me all sorts of lies and was horrible. I was confused, scared, and angry. So for everyone’s protection, they kept me sedated for several months. Shunati would bring my dad or Jo into my dreams to work with me.”
“I remember when you first came. I thought you’d come with your mom and Jaidu and that you’d been hurt in the attack.”
“I was part of the attack. Shay’s not my birth mom. I didn’t meet her until after I woke. Cramda brought me. I’ve never met my birth mom.”
“Don’t be. I’m okay now.”
“But you still work with Jo?”
He nodded. “It’s more of a socialization thing now. I didn’t have much contact with anyone in Ertonia.”
“Was it scary for you when you first came here too?”
“A little. You?”
She nodded. “My mom died when I was five. The orphanage was horrible. They told us all these lies about what our new parents would be like. When I found out he was the brother of the King, I figured there’d be no one to protect us if he was so bad.”
“I’ve been to the orphanage. It’s not great, but they don’t seem that bad.”
“Not the orphanage here. The one in Thager. It’s improved a lot since then. The old keepers never cared for us and starved us. And they never cleaned. Kids were always sick and I wasn’t allowed to see Chirin.
“They beat Rejenn so bad, they almost killed him. Ann was a runaway then and she was friends with him, so she snuck back here and left the message for her dad and Thailyn went to the council in Baj-tisk. Tolin brought the army and arrested the keepers and hired half the town to clean up the place. Then he got us new keepers that were much better. Chirin really liked him so I asked him to adopt her. A few months later, he came back with his family and adopted both of us. We lived in Veslin for a while. But Dad was stationed here so we moved here too.”
“Things worked out,” Tercala surmised.
“Yes, and I even get to see Rejenn and Ann still.”
“I don’t see anybody I knew from Ertonia. They’re all dead. I wouldn’t want to see any of them anyhow.”
“Wasn’t anyone nice to you there?”
Tercala shook his head. “I was just an animal to them.”
Shuli frowned. “That’s terrible. We at least had the other kids, Kith, Darkham and Thailyn.”
“Pt’this’s nephew. He died several years ago. Ann was in love with him. It almost killed her to lose him.”
“I can’t imagine her with anyone besides Andy.”
“It’s hard to imagine now. But she was just as close to Kith back then.”
“So how did she meet Andy then?”
“I don’t know. She was always traveling. She was gone someplace and then disappeared. Everybody thought she was dead. Then, she came back about two years later with him.”
“I bet she met him when she was where dad was,” Tercala guessed.
Shuli shrugged. “I don’t know anything about that.”
Are you coming home for dinner? Mishtali sent.
I’m going to be a little late.
You already are.
Sorry. I’ll be a bit later. This is important. I’ll explain when I get home.
Will you be eating then?
It doesn’t matter.
Are you eating elsewhere?
Then you’ll eat when you get home.
Fine. I need to go.
“Are you okay?” Shuli was frowning.
“It was just my dad.”
“Telepathy is weird.”
Tercala nodded. “The first time I heard it, it was Ann, and she was right in front of me. I could hear her, but her lips didn’t move.”
“That must’ve been confusing.”
“It was in a way. Cramda had told me about telepathy, but there were no other dragons for me to use it with.”
“It must’ve been an adjustment to be around other dragons.”
He nodded. “I don’t mind other races, but I had so many questions. Chapado said there were a few dragons living in Ertonia but I never saw them.”
“Kind of like me and Chirin at the orphanage. She was in the next room, but couldn’t leave it, and I couldn’t go in there.”
Tercala wanted to growl. Instead, he shook his head. “That’s terrible.”
“It’s much better here. Of course, the orphanages are better now too. Rejenn and Bacna are looking to start homes like they have for the runaways.”
“The homes seem like a good place.”
She nodded. “I thought about applying to work in one. I know they want married couples, but I thought, maybe if they needed extra help or something, I can do that.”
“I’ve no idea what I want to do once I finish school. Mostly, I’m helping with odd jobs and making deliveries.”
“You’re still in school? How old are you?”
“I’m twenty-two. I only started school four years ago. My dad wanted me to go to the dragon school also but Nim talked him out of that. Most of what they work on there, either I already know or is taught at Nim school, so I just go there and my parents and the other dragons help me with the rest.”
“When I first came here, there was only one dragon. Now there are lots,” she told him. He was about to ask for her feelings on that when she continued. “It’s good. We influence each other, make each other better. And now, elves are coming, not just those at the college but living here too. They’re starting to see we aren’t simply a bad influence.”
“From what I’ve seen, we need each other,” Tercala told her. “The Yarbs treat everyone like dirt. According to Shay, what was done to Jaidu and Sapphire was quite common.
“And the Tricots are just as bad. They don’t abuse kids or anything but, shades, the way they treat the whole family just because grandpa didn’t have much magic. And they act like Thailyn’s practically a criminal because he developed new techniques for healing. It doesn’t matter how strong any of us are, what we can do, we’ll never measure up.
“Here, people take care of each other. Yes, sometimes they’re like your keepers, or Ruzi’s birth dad, but most are good and will help with problems, like Ann did, coming home when Rejenn was beat.”
Shuli smiled. “Or, you did when you saw me crying.”
He smiled too. “I guess. Are you okay now?”
“Better, thanks.” She nodded.
“Should we go check on your dad? See how my brother did?” He liked having brothers and sisters.
She nodded again. Tercala took her in and found her parents. Tolin was still sleeping.
“How is he?” She whispered.
“A little better. They’re still talking with the kids to find out what was done,” Nambi explained.
“He’ll be okay?”
Nambi frowned. “Of course he’ll be okay. You don’t think a little thing like this will stop him do you?”
“I hope not,” Shuli admitted.
“I’m glad there’s been an improvement. If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” Tercala offered.
Shuli nodded. “Thanks.”
“I need to go.” He hurried off. When he got to an area of the palace he was allowed to cast in, he transported home. Mishtali was not going to be happy about him being late. He put up a shield as he entered. He wanted to explain before he was punished.
His dad growled. “Where have you been?”
“At the palace. Tolin had a stroke, and Shuli needed someone to talk to.”
“You barely even know her.”
“She still needed help. Everyone’s either busy with Tolin or Vishom. Shuli was scared because this isn’t Tolin’s first stroke and her dad died of one.”
“You couldn’t let us know?”
“Sorry, a person alone, in tears seemed more important than food.”
Mishtali nodded. “You’re right. Go eat.”
Tercala was surprised he wasn’t being punished, that he’d done the right thing.
“How’s Tolin doing?” Shay asked.
“He’s stable, not conscious. I didn’t get a lot of details. Thailyn was in a conference or something. Sorry for being late.”
Shay nodded. “Helping people is more important.”
“Who was he conferring with?” Mishtali asked.
Tercala shrugged. “Nambi said the kids. I don’t know who.”
“Don’t interrupt, dear,” Shay warned.
“I won’t,” Mishtali assured her. “But maybe we should check on Pisha and Ruzi.”
jdwtrxk 9:30PM | Thu, 26 January 2023
Very nice. Always good to have a story attached...