by Amanda Cast
by Amanda Cast
Chloe and Oola
Pandora took a shower after oiling the hatchlings. She felt much better. Her lung still had the burning sensation of being healthily worked and her skin was clean. Her muscles were loose and ready for anything. She gave each hatchling a kiss on the head before she left the room to go to lunch. She didn’t have much time left.
Pandora turned to the sound of the voice and saw Chloe. “Hello, Chloe,” she said mildly.
Chloe stared at Pandora for a long moment and jerked her leg uncertainly. “How are you related to that half elf?”
“Our mothers were sisters,” she said, purposefully ignoring the pointed comment about her cousin.
“I see she’s abandoning you for those bitches.”
“I wouldn’t call them that. Retarji seems nice enough. Maybe not brilliant, but she seems nice enough. Look, I need to go down and eat.” Pandora turned away from Chloe, but she wasn’t done yet.
“What are you going to do if she likes them more than she likes you?” she asked.
Pandora turned and stared at her. “You’re a very sad girl, Chloe. I feel sorry for you.” She stepped through the mirror.
Chloe followed after her. “I was Terabeth’s roommate once, you know. She abandoned me for them.”
“Who is the ‘them’?” Pandora asked. “They’re a group of friends. That’s that.”
“It’s more than that,” Chloe insisted. “They’re the prettiest girls in the class. They’re the smartest or at least get the most help. They rule everything. They’re all little pretty rich girls.”
“Then it might be good for Serene. She’s pretty, smart, and rich,” Pandora said without ire. “Those are things in common that I cannot give her.”
“How can you be so calm?” Chloe screeched. “She’s going to abandon you!”
“No, she won’t. She can’t. We’re bound together by destiny. She might be friends with them and do things without me, but that’s just fine. I’ll do things without her too. She loves magic and I love fighting with fists, wood and steel. We’re incredibly different, she and I.” Pandora sighed. “She’s my cousin and my only friend. I’ve gone most of my life without a friend and if she doesn’t want to spend time with me, that’s fine too.”
Chloe looked near to tears. Her enchanted black eyes were watery. Pandora gave a heavy sigh. “Tell me about it while I eat. I’m ravenous.”
“All right,” she agreed.
When they were seated in a secluded area of the dining hall and Pandora’s plate was sufficiently full Chloe was given a silent go ahead.
The girl took a deep breath. “Terabeth and I were friends since we were five. We both wanted to go to the Academy. We both knew that we had the power. I was a plain little girl and she was so pretty. I adored her and she loved me for it, I think. Anyway, she was the only real friend I had.” She gave a longing sigh. “Now she won’t talk to me anymore. She met… she met Britlyn and Jankyla and forgot about me. They didn’t want me around because I was plain.”
“Were you doing that thing with your eyes and hair?” Pandora asked.
“Well, after a while. I thought it looked neat and it was good practice for illusions. That’s what I’m going to be mastering in.”
“Well, it looks weird. It might have creeped them out,” Pandora supplied.
Chloe’s expression was one of shocked hurt, but Pandora was not apologetic. “They didn’t want me around before that. You know they don’t want you around either.”
“Serene does not love me because I love her Chloe. We’re family and friends, but mostly family first. Please, don’t worry so much. It isn’t all bad. I promise. So Terabeth decided that she didn’t need you. One day she’ll probably realize what kind of people she’s with now and want you back. Now, you have to decide if you’ll take her back. Stop worrying about things you can’t control. If you’re going to be bitter about it you’re never going to make friends.”
Chloe frowned. “I have friends.”
“Then why are you so hung up on Terabeth?” Pandora was irritated because she had to do a lot more talking than she liked.
“Because she hurt me!”
“Forgive and forget, Chloe. It isn’t for her. It’s for your sanity and piece of mind. You can’t go along hating someone just because they grew up and changed too much for you. You’ve probably changed a lot as well—or were you always this bitter and hostile to innocent people. Serene has done nothing but been accepted for what she is. Do you know how hard that is for a half breed? My mother called her filth and wouldn’t let her in her home. Her own niece, Chloe. I’m a bit of a freak myself, but at least I’m completely human.”
Pandora set down her fork and folded her hands in front of her and leaned in closer to Chloe. “You go out of your way to look different and be different. Serene and I are different. We’re set apart. I’m unnatural in my strength, speed, and agility. Serene is a half breed who, I am certain, will prove to be a more powerful mage than many of our teachers. We take care of four dragon hatchlings. We speak Draconic in a way that no humanoid mouth should be able to speak it. We are not accepted often. You have not accepted us. You were cold and rude when you could have been kind and generous.” Pandora leaned back.
Chloe had the good grace to look abashed.
“You want me to listen to your warnings? I listened. I feel for your loss in the best way that I can, but you have friends. Enjoy them and cherish them. Do not let your jealousy destroy you.”
“This isn’t how this conversation was supposed to happen,” Chloe told her. “I had it all planned out.”
“I’m not a normal human girl Chloe.”
“I can see that,” she snapped and then looked away. Her enchantments were starting to fade. Her eyes were the same boring brown as Pandora’s and her hair the same boring brown as well. Pandora could almost see why she wanted to stand out so much. It wouldn’t be boring if so many people didn’t have the coloring.
“If you don’t want me to reach out to you and be your friend than I’ll just leave,” she said and stood up so fast the bench rocked backwards. “You can eat alone and be alone all your life.”
“Oh, I’ll never be alone ever again,” Pandora said. “I am a mother of children whose childhood will outlast my life.”
Chloe looked as though she was about to explode and then she stormed out of the dining hall. Many of the students stared hard at Pandora’s back. She simply picked her fork back up and started eating leisurely.
When the meal was over Pandora decided to explore the campus. She entered a random mirror and heard music. It was a chaotic jumble of notes and clashing rhythms. It was almost enough to make Pandora go back into the mirror, but then she heard a voice that rose above the rest of the noise.
It was clear and solid, but it could be off pitch and Pandora would never know. She had no ear for music or at least making it. She edged down the hall, peering into the clear squares that revealed the contents of each room. Only a few of them were empty. Most of them were filled with blue robed students playing stringed instruments. Some of them looked as though they were singing.
She focused on the one voice and attempted to block out the other noise. She found it in the third door from the end. The wide room contained a girl with shortly cropped brown hair that was streaked with blond. She had a dull tan that was lined with thin white scars. Her eyes were shut, but her mouth was open wide. Pandora had never seen such a large mouth on a human before.
Pandora stood there, staring rudely into the window. She focused entirely on the sound of the girl’s voice. It captivated her and when the song ended she was rooted in place. She simply stared until the girl’s eyes opened. It felt as though something hit in between the eyes. She blinked and took a step back. The girl looked shocked to have a listener.
Pandora turned on the ball of her foot and started to hurry away. The door flew open. ‘No, don’t go!” the girl said in a desperate voice.
Pandora stopped and turned to look at her. She was terribly embarrassed. It was not a common thing for Pandora to be embarrassed. “I’m sorry I was spying on you.”
“It’s all right. Come inside, please,” she said holding the door open.
“I don’t know,” Pandora said as she twitched between obeying and fleeing. She obeyed. She walked into the room and noticed a stool by the door just out of the window’s sight. She claimed it and sat down.
“Um… wow… this is much more awkward than I thought it might be,” the singer said with a laugh. She had perfectly white and straight teeth.
“I guess,” Pandora said. “I liked your singing, but I couldn’t understand the words.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed and blushed. “It’s an ancient song from before the Empire.”
“Oh,” Pandora sounded. “I’m Pandora.”
The girl let out a loud, nervous laugh. “I’m Oola,” she said.
“That is an interesting name.”
“How familiar are you with the outside world?” she asked.
Pandora frowned. “Not much, really. I know a little about the elves and considerably more about dragons, but I don’t know much about other human cultures.”
Oola clapped her hands together. “So you’re not biased against us. That is wonderful!” Her expression went from radiant to wary faster than a blink of an eye. “You’re not biased right?”
“I don’t know. I guess not.”
“I mean, you think of dragons as people right?”
Pandora nodded. “Very interesting people, but people.”
Oola laughed. “I know a dragon! He sings beautifully. When I was a girl he taught me how to gather power through singing. I can cast spells with my singing too. That’s why I take music classes.”
Pandora shifted uneasily. “Is that what you were doing? Casting a spell?”
Oola nodded. “I was. Well, it was more like gathering power or energy to cast spells. It is something that I have to do after all of my subtle casting classes. When I don’t cast a spell with my singing I have a lot of difficulty.”
“Well, anyway, usually people don’t notice it all that much. I mean, I was singing loudly, but I’ve never seen anyone respond like you did.” Oola gave her an eager smile. “Do you think I really sing that well?”
“Thank you.” Oola gave her a bright smile. “Have you ever heard a foreign language before?” she asked.
“You were singing one.”
“I mean, other than that.”
Pandora thought of this for a moment. “Well, not as such, no,” she said honestly. “I am bilingual though.”
“Really? I can speak my native tongue of Joolinian, Imperial, and some Draconic,” she said proudly.
“I can only speak draconic and Imperial,” Pandora admitted.
Oola said something in draconic that Pandora could not quite understand. Pandora shook her head and said in Draconic, “I do not speak as mages speak. I speak as a dragon.”
“Oh,” she said with an appreciative nod. “You speak in music.”
“I… don’t understand.”
“That’s what we said about the Speakers. They speak Draconic even more beautifully than dragons do. That’s what Kilooli always said. I never thought I would get to hear it. You sound more beautiful than any song.” Ooli smiled brightly at her. “I miss Kilooli. He was so wise, but he will be there when I go back home. He will always be there.”
“Why does Kilooli live with your people?”
“He likes it with us,” Oola said wistful smile. “He does not like living with the dragons. They are always fighting with one another. They fight more with each other than they ever did with mankind. It is sad, really.”
“I can imagine.”
Oola gave a somber nod.
“I tend to four dragons,” she told Oola. “Perhaps you would like to meet them sometime. They are very small right now and cannot yet take their secondary form.”
“Oh, I would love that. What are their names?”
Pandora was not certain if she wanted to say, but after some thought she said, “Emerald, Topaz, Star, and Rubio.”
Oola seemed disappointed. “How did they get their names?”
“By the color of their shells,” Pandora admitted. “They look just like them.”
“You had their eggs?” Oola asked, utterly amazed.
“That is amazing. Hey, Pandora, what year are you?”
“Oh, this is technically my first year, but I’m living with the third years since that’s my age group.”
“Oh, nice,” she said approvingly. “I’m year four, but hey, you can always come eat meals with me if you see me, all right?”
She pulled back her blue robe and looked at a time piece on her arm. “Well, I have got to be going.”
“What time is it?”
“It is about two.”
Pandora felt a sudden wave of dread. “I have to go.” She threw the door open and fled down the hallway, straight for her room.