I find myself in Andrei’s parents new home nestled in the heart of the island’s town. It’s remarkably similar to the house we visited before, in Toronto, though with some slight alterations. Ylenia drags me through the house, barely stopping for me to take off my shoes as she shows me around. The whole house is filled with the aroma of herbs and bread and so many other things. Normally, I would enjoy the smell, but now it starts to make my stomach churn.
I stumble as she pulls me by the hand into the dining room. “This is your seat!” She proclaims, pointing to a chair with vigor. The table is already set with fine dishes and cutlery and three small handmade pizzas sit along the center ready to be eaten. I hear movement in the kitchen and a humming. I assume that’s Andrei’s dad, still cooking.
Ylenia climbs up onto the chair next to me. Her little green dragon chirps at Scoria, urging her to follow. She leaps off my shoulder and glides across the room to land on a second table where another pizza has been laid out covered in meat. I cover my mouth and nose with my hand when I see it, forcing back a gag. God, this is going to be a long nine months… I carefully take my seat as Andrei sits across from me, next to his other sister, Kira.
His mom goes into the kitchen, coming back with a glass of water and places it in front of me with a sweet smile as she rests her arm on the back of my seat. “Seems like the vegetable pizzas will be preferred tonight,” she glances up. “Would you like me to move the dragons?”
“No!” I feel a clench in my chest. I cough, embarrassed. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine, thank you.”
“You don’t have to force yourself. It’s no trouble,” she insists.
I gulp. The thought of the hatchling out of my sight worries me. “It’s okay. It’s not that bad, really.”
“Well, if that’s the case,” she moves away, taking the seat at the end of the table, leaving the seat nearest the dragons open for Andrei’s dad.
I feel more out of place now than I did in Camelot, sitting with the king and queen. Why does it feel so awkward being at the table with his parents? I’m not really sure how to behave in front of parents, let alone Andrei’s. What if they can tell we’d been arguing before they arrived? I dread the idea of her finding out what we were discussing. I doubt they’d approve of their son dating a murderer.
“So, why did you make pizza tonight?” Andrei asks.
Ylenia reaches a hand for the pizza and her mother swats it away. “Wait for your father,” she scolds. Ylenia pouts while Kira watches silently.
“I thought it’d be nice to get the whole family together,” Andrei’s father steps into the room carrying another two pizzas. “It’s been a while since we all sat at the same table together, don’t you think?” he asks cheerfully, placing the dishes on the table.
“Yes,” his mother adds as his father sits. “Andrei came by the other morning for breakfast, said you were busy training a new student. It reminded me that we haven’t had a family dinner yet in our new house.” I blink at her. Family dinner? What does that have to do with me?
“Oh, that’s right. You’re a teacher now. How are the lessons going? What do you teach?” his father asks, motioning for us to eat. All at once, the girls and Andrei reach out, grabbing multiple slices. Andrei takes one from the meat pizza between him and his dad, and a tomato one with green flakes on it. Kira takes a slice with eggplant and Ylenia takes one with tomatoes and red and yellow peppers. I find myself overwhelmed with the spread, unable to decide which I want first.
“I, um…” I find my voice as his father watches me curiously. “I’m teaching him combat and how to control his magic…” I answer quietly. I wonder how they’ll take that implication. I timidly take one of the veggie slices on a platter closest to me and start to cut it up into smaller pieces.
“That’s fascinating,” he grins, “Knowing that this place exists, I only wish we’d known about it when Andrei first showed signs of his magic. Erin and I have been thinking, it would be nice for the girls to get some training. Do you think there are there classes for children here?” he asks with interest.
I nod slowly, finishing the bite I’m chewing. “Yes, each element has a professor, some more than others. Usually, you work with that professor to learn your element, or at least the core elements. For example, there isn’t a professor for the Lava element, so my student is studying under the parent element… Which is me.”
“I see. Is there one here for Time?” Erin glances at Andrei as she takes a bite of pizza.
“Um… No,” I purse my lips. “Time is a very rare power. Some can do limited time spells, but it seems there’s only one alive at any given time period.”
“Yeah, but I’ve found someone who can teach me things. Ceph, for one, who we met in the past and is currently visiting us, and also the woman in the Veil,” Andrei says casually. His mother’s eyebrow raises with interest, but Andrei doesn’t continue.
“The Veil is a place outside of time,” I explain quickly. “The space between life as we know it, and whatever is beyond. The Catholics call it Purgatory.”
“That sounds dangerous. How is there someone there that teaches you?” she asks.
“It’s a bit complicated, mom. Maybe I can explain it later,” Andrei groans.
“If it’s dangerous, there might not be a later. Petre, can you pass the oil?” his moms asks. His father hands me a jar of oil, nodding for me to pass it along. Right, that was his name.
“So…” Petre coughs. “Kira and Ylenia have a different magic from Andrei’s. More simple it would seem. Would there be teachers for them?”
“I can make sparks!” Ylenia says excitedly. “Shimi likes to chase them!” she grins, twisting around to look at the other table. The green dragon looks up from the meat pizza, curious as to why she’s been called. It makes me smile.
“So I’ve heard,” I snicker. “And Kira, if I remember correctly, you make ice?”
“Yes,” Kira replies in a small voice. “But only a little ice.”
“We are somewhat accustomed to magic in our family, as you can see. It’s hard to keep it from becoming known in the outside world, but we’ve managed well so far, I’d say,” his mom muses proudly.
“Well, I can look into the professors, but if there aren’t…” I grin, “Ice falls under the umbrella of Water and Air” I glance up at Andrei, “and Lightning falls under Air and Earth. We happen to have very capable friends in all three of those elements.”
“That’s true,” he hums.
“Do they have teaching experience?” his mom asks.
“Yes, in fact, the Guardian of Earth has been helping me with training my Lava student.” I think I’m starting to feel more comfortable as we talk. At least it’s a topic I know well. “Andrei has forbidden me from taking part in any sparring, so I have Nik stand in to help with the combat maneuvers,” I say with a roll of my eyes.
“Oh? That’s reasonable. You are with child, after all. The early months are the most critical for development,” his mother agrees.
“See?” Andrei leans over the table smugly.
“I see where you get it,” I retort. “I still don’t see the big deal about not letting me spar. I can flatten any of you before you hit me,” I retort. He huffs, grabbing another slice and stuffing his face.
“You may be able to, but your body responds differently when it’s with child, and you’re now carrying life enough for two. A baby cannot defend itself if you are hit in the stomach. And I’ve heard that you have been injured before,” his mother reminds me with a pointed look.
“Many times,” I agree, meeting her gaze. “And I would do the same if that happened again.”
“I would hope not to ask that of you, but thank you for the assurance,” his mother smiles. I catch Andrei looking at me with a dark expression and I blink innocently. What’s that for?
“Princess Kitty, when can we see the dragons again?! Shimi misses her friends!” Ylenia pipes up, drawing my attention. I stare down at her and I feel my breath catch in my throat.
How do I tell her they’re all dead? That the plateau is nothing more than a rotting graveyard… I look at her, her eyes round and hopeful. I can’t even find the words to lie to her. “I… T-they’re gone. They left,” I stutter through a half-lie. Maybe being so young, she won’t see through me so easily. “I’m sorry.”
“What? Where’d they go? Why’d they go without Shimi? Why would they leave?” she asks sadly in rapid succession. Andrei sighs heavily.
I gawk at her. “I don’t know…” I mumble weakly.
“Well, that doesn’t make any sense. Kitty can talk to them,” she huffs. “Kitty’s a dragon princess.” My jaw hangs open. I know I’m a terrible liar, but I’ve never been called out by a kid.
“Caught,” Andrei coughs, hiding his face. I glare at him. His parents glance between us, confused.
“Gone means dead, Lini. Something happened to them,” Kira says bluntly to her sister. “Lying isn’t nice,” she looks up at me accusingly.
I blink at the elder sister, stunned. “I was… trying to spare her…” Was that wrong?
“What?!” Ylenia’s shriek interrupts my thought. “Dead?! That’s not fair! Dragons can’t die! That’s impossible!” Tears start filling Ylenia’s eyes. “You’re lying!” I recoil from her, eyes wide. That’s what I was trying to avoid. What do I do now? She’s going to hate me.
“Lini dear, calm down. Let’s not accuse Kaitlyn of lying at the table,” their mother soothes.
I look up at her. “I-I’m sorry. I’m not good at this.”
“It’s alright. You don’t have to apologize. Parenting can be difficult at the time,” she smiles. I lean back in my seat, defeated. I’ve lost what little appetite I came with.
“We have a family rule that we don’t call people names at the table. It’s a communal space where we share the meal and conversation, not politics and difference of opinion,” Petre adds. I wonder if I’ll ever understand the family dynamic. I stare at my plate, a single crust resting in the middle.
“Kira, you know better,” their mother scolds. Kira pouts with a sigh.
“Are you wanting another slice? If there’s something you would prefer, I can whip you up another pizza,” Petre offers.
I blush and try to smile back at him. “I’m okay, thank you.”
“A case of a light stomach?” his mom hums. “I have a tea for that. It’ll bring your appetite back,” she pushes her chair back and moves to the kitchen. I open my mouth to stop her, but she’s already gone.
“I liked the dragons…” Lini pouts, arms crossed in her chair.
I sigh, shoulders sagging. “So did I.”
“Who would hurt them? They’re so beautiful!” she sobs.
“I wish I knew,” I answer honestly. If I knew for sure, I would hunt them down. I suspect it was Mortecai, but given recent events, I’m not so sure.
“Why don’t you tell her about the new cave they built for them. She could see the babies,” Andrei reminds me.
“I suppose. It’s not really a cave, just a shelter. About a dozen young ones are still around, and also Blue,” I explain halfheartedly.
“Really?!!” she perks up instantly.
I flinch at her sudden shift. “Yes…”
“Hooray!” she gasps, throwing her hands up. I think I’m going to get whiplash with her mood swings…
The green dragon, Shimi, throws her head back and squawks, sensing Ylenia’s excitement. It startles Scoria, who stumbles off the table, scrambling to her feet from the floor. She scurries to me and curls up on my shoulder, under my hair. I reach up to stroke her scales, trying to comfort her.
Andrei’s mother brings out a cup of tea and sets it down next to my plate. “What’s all the commotion?” she asks. I shrug as I take the tea in both hands, I breathe the scent of it before I take a sip.
Petre holds out his hand toward me, and I pause. “You might want to wait, that’s still boiling.”
I blink. “Oh, that’s okay. I prefer it that way.”
“Kat can’t be burnt. She’s a fire mage,” Andrei adds, licking his fingers.
I don’t feel like correcting him right now. I’m more than just a mage, but I doubt they would care about the distinction. I drink the tea instead. It’s sweet with honey and ginger. The conversation turns to other topics as they continue to eat. I manage to eat one more slice, feeling guilty that they went to all the trouble.
“Oh, that’s right. We finished the renovations and Petre and I have a surprise for you two,” his mom smiles.
“Surprise?” I echo nervously.
“That’s right,” Petre grins. He gets up from the table and his wife follows, gesturing for us to join them. We comply, wiping out hands of the oil and sauce. They lead us back into the hallway and I hang back waiting for Andrei and catching his hand before I continue.
“We thought about things and you and Andrei of course. Family’s important, especially when you’re about to become one. We thought, it might be nice if you had a place of your own, outside of the Guild, but close by, in case you needed advice or help,” his mom continues, stopping at a door in the hallway. She pulls it open to reveal stairs leading down into the basement.
I glance up at Andrei, unsure. He shrugs, equally confused.
“We hope you like it. Of course, you can add your own touches later, but we might have added a few of our own touches,” his mother grins, holding up a key.
Petre switches on a light and we walk down the steps into the room, or rather, the apartment. The stairs lead into an open living room and kitchenette, furnished with a couch, coffee table, flat screen TV, and several paintings on the walls. A hall to the left has three doors. Curiosity leads me to investigate.
The first door on the left holds a large bathroom, complete with a bathtub and separate shower. It’s absolutely stunning. The door at the end of the hall leads to a large bedroom, with a king-sized bed, even bigger than the one in my room now. There is a desk, two dressers, and a set of doors leading to a walk-in closet. I almost forget about the third room as I wander around the bedroom. I wonder what it would be like to live here. I’ve only ever lived in my room in the Guild.
“Well, what do you two think?” his mom asks from the doorway.
I turn slowly to face her, in awe. “You made this… for us?” It seems surreal.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t we? You and Andrei, you’re family,” she smiles. I gawk wordlessly.
“But mom,” Andrei takes a step toward her, shock all over his face. “This is a whole house! We aren’t even married,” he breathes.
“A minor detail. Don’t you think you should be on that?” she grins.
“Mom, not now,” he growls, cheeks growing red. I must be red too, but I can’t tell. My whole body tingles.
“You haven’t even seen the best part,” she laughs, stepping back into the hall. I command my stiff limbs to move, following Andrei to the third room on the right.
As the light comes on, I don’t know where to focus. The walls are lined with images of clocks and gears, on a background of reds, oranges, and yellows. There are several pieces of furniture in similar design around the room that I have no idea what they’re for, at least, until I recognize the main one in the corner on the right side; a crib.
“Your mentor, the Headmistress, had a lot of ideas for this room,” his mom muses as she looks around. Why does that not surprise me? It’s just like when she redid my room…
“This is amazing,” Andrei whispers to me. “I can’t believe her… I…” he seems to be at a loss for words.
I nod once. I don’t know what to say either. I turn to his mother, leaning against the doorframe. She has a wide grin on her face as she watches us. His father stands behind her, similarly giddy. My eyes sting and there’s only one thing I can think of to do. I move back to the door and with brief hesitation, I reach out to hug her. It feels awkward, but comforting too. It seems like the appropriate time.
“Oh, my. Well, I didn’t expect this,” she chokes, wrapping her arms around me. “It’s nothing really. We just wanted to help.”
“It’s everything,” I mumble in response, struggling to keep composure. I’ve never felt like part of a family. It’s all new, but it’s more than I’d ever imagined.
“Well, it’s not much, but If you don’t like anything, just let us know and we’ll change it for you,” she hums. I step back, not wanting to make her uncomfortable as I sniff, nodding.
The tender moment is interrupted when my phone buzzes loudly. I pull it out, confused. Who would be texting…. Caroline?
“Oh… Oops,” I mumble out loud, looking up to Andrei.
“What, what is it?” he asks. I offer him the phone to read it. “Oh no, now? Great timing,” he rolls his eyes.
“What should I tell her?” I frown.
“If you’re busy, I understand. Here are the keys. You can move in whenever you’re ready,” his mom holds out a pair of keys. “Well don’t keep your friend waiting,” she hums.
Andrei takes the keys and my hand, “Shall we skip?” he offers. I nod. “Thanks, mom, dad,” he smiles at his parents before taking a step.
When we step into the room Gwen is there, sitting at the desk, her green eyes looking around curiously as she waits.
“Hi, I hope you weren’t waiting too long,” I blush.
She stands up, pointing to the chair. “Sit,” she orders, looking at me. I obey, worried by her tone. “This does not look good,” she states, pointing to the dried blood on the surface of the desk, and the floor. “What has been going on?”
“A-an accident,” I lie. Why am I lying so much lately? “It’s okay now. Andrei healed it.”
“It’s true! I healed her. She’s fine now,” Andrei confirms, hovering close to me.
She gives me a hard look that says she doesn’t believe me. “What kind of accident? Caroline told me you were having sickness from the smell of food, but blood is not a good sign. Let me see,” she asserts, placing a firm hand on my forehead.
“I cut myself, that’s all. It’s not related to the nausea,” I explain reluctantly.
“And why in the world would you do that?” she snaps. “You and the baby need as much blood as you have. It carries nutrients between the two of you. You can’t afford to lose any. I want you to lay down,” she directs me to the bed. “I have prepared a tea to help with the stomach sickness, but I need to check some other things.”
“Oh, okay…” I mumble as I move to the bed. “Oh, um, the other day, Caroline was trying to heal the black scars and she pulled out this icky black stuff. She said it was more like an infection,” I remember meaning to mention it to her.
“Oh, did she now. I’ll check this too. Did she manage to keep a sample?” Gwen asks, holding a hand to my forehead as I lay down, the other hovering over my stomach. A pale gold-green light shines between her hand and my body as she assesses our health. I turn my gaze to her face, a look of growing concern forming in the corner of her eyes.
“I don’t know if she did… Andrei, do you remember?” I shift slightly to see where he went.
He stands beside the bed, on the other side of Gwen. “No, not that I recall.”
“Oh, that’s too bad, I should have liked to have a look at it. Well, it seems that the tainted darkness that was there before is now gone. Caroline is a gifted healer. She’s removed it all. However, I am concerned about your energy levels. They appear to be extremely lower. Have you been using a lot of magic in the last few days?” Gwen asks as the light dims from her hand.
“Uh…” How do I explain without telling the whole story? “When the dragon egg hatched, I think I used a lot of energy. I wasn’t really thinking,” I reach to pull Scoria out from under my neck.
“You aided in the hatching of a dragon?!” she gasps. “Your scenario is unique, to say the least. But you must be careful. I do believe your child is connected to you in more ways than one, physically and magically. You must maintain a certain level of magical energy for the both of you. You should work to replenish this energy soon, so I’m ordering you to bed for at least twenty-four hours.”
“Is the baby okay?” I feel panic in my throat.
“It is just okay, it could be better. That’s why you need the rest. Not only do you seem physically exhausted, but you are magically exhausted. What have you been allowing her to do in her condition?” she rounds on Andrei.
He throws his hands up in defense, taking a step back. “Nothing! I swear! I’ve been trying to get her to rest!” he tries to convince her.
“Well, you aren’t trying hard enough.” Gwen huffs.
“It’s not his fault,” I reach out to touch her arm. “He had some issues of his own. Please don’t be too hard on him.”
“Hard? This is hardly hard enough. You and your child’s health are important. If you want a healthy, successful birth, you need a balance or rest, exercise and nutrition. These are things the parents must try to adhere too. It would seem, parents who are magically endowed have a harder time accepting this than regular parents. I wonder why this is,” she moves to the desk, retrieving the cup of tea and a tin.
“I’ve prepared a tea that you should drink before you eat. It will help lessen the aversion you are experiencing so that you can actually eat. It will also help increase your appetite since Caroline was kind enough to tell me how little you’ve been eating. A baby cannot grow on magic alone. It also needs food and so do you,” she explains, helping me to sit up and handing me the tea.
“I-I understand. I’m sorry.” I feel like like a kid myself, getting scolded. “I’ll try harder…” I take the tea. It doesn’t smell very nice. Not nearly as sweet at Andrei’s mother’s tea. Still, under her sharp gaze, I force it down as quickly as I can.
Gwen sighs, blinking slowly. “I understand the flavours the desert tribes are used to are different from your own. Feel free to add a sweetener like honey if you wish. I will learn more about Western flavours. I recommended you try to refrain from using excessive amounts of energy. Also, if you are to train at all, try not to lift anything heavier than yourself. Perhaps half days of rest and half days of doing what you must, would be my best recommendation.”
I try not to laugh at her comment about lifting anything heavier than myself. I wonder if she’s had to give that advice before. “I think I can manage that. Nik does most of the physical instruction in my place anyway.”
“That’s good to hear,” she watches me sip the tea, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “Is there anything else you would like to tell me? Or any questions you might have?” she asks, tone suddenly gentle and calm. “I’m here to help in any way I can. I know I can come across strongly but, the health of you and your baby are my top priority.”
I chew my lip. “Do you think that inky black stuff could have any, I don’t know, lingering effects?”
“I’m not sure. I will talk to Caroline and see if she can tell me anything about it and if she managed to save any. I’ve never seen anything like it before now. The least I can assure you is it is no longer in your system, or your child’s. To say if it will have an effect on you or the baby long term cannot be determined with what I know now. But I promise I will look into it.”
I nod slowly. The worry eats away at the back of my mind. “Thanks.”
“Anything else?” she asks kindly.
I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, if that is all. Andrei, why don’t you bring her something to eat. The tea should kick in soon and she should be able to eat without concern of being sick. A balanced dish is recommended. But I’m sure you know this,” she gives him an amused look.
“Yes, I’m well aware. I’ll do my best. We actually just came from dinner with my parents. Thank you, Gwen,” he nods to her.
“Oh don’t thank me. It’s the least I can do. Let’s just try and keep them both healthy until it’s born, hmm?” she smiles broadly, her bright teeth shining.
“Yes, let’s,” Andrei’s eyes slide to me, his expression a little hard to decipher. I hold his gaze, curious as to what he’s thinking as Gwen gathers herself up and heads out.
“Well, take care, and remember to rest. I left my number on the desk so you can reach me more easily and Andrei knows where to find me if you need me. I’ll see you both later!” she waves before disappeared behind the door.
I wait a moment before speaking, staring down at the half-empty tea in my hands. “So…” I pout. “Let’s hear it.”
He rolls his eyes with a sigh. “Now you’ve gone and got me in trouble. She has no idea how impossible a task she just gave me. I think it’d take an army to keep you two in bed. It’s hardly a one-man job,” he crosses his arms with a smile. “So, looks like you’ve been prescribed cuddle time with me for the next day,” he winks.
I find it hard to resist smiling back at him as he practically purrs. “So it would seem.”
By Krystyna Yates