Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chapter 19

by Amanda Cast

For Gold

Pandora and Serene collided in the mirror room, or rather, Pandora collided into Serene. “I’m so sorry, Serene,” Pandora said as she helped her cousin to her feet. I just got carried away with lunch and exploring and I forgot to check on the hatchlings.”

“Oh, they should have been fine for two or three hours,” Serene said and smoothed out her dress. “Oh, we should be getting robes tonight to wear to class.” She then turned to Terabeth who was standing to the side and trying her best not to look mortified. She was doing a horrible job. “I’ll see you at dinner. Pandora and I have to go take care of the hatchlings.”

“I could help,” Terabeth offered half heartedly.

“No, that will be all right,” Serene said with a wan smile. “Maybe when they’re older.”

Terabeth nodded and gave a small wave. “I’m going to go to the library for a little bit. See you two at dinner.” She turned and walked off.

Serene gave Pandora a smile and the two of them stepped into their hall’s mirror. “So what did you do while I was at class?”

“I met a tribal girl named Oola. She sings very well. I was thinking of having dinner with her tonight, if that’s all right with you. If I see her,” Pandora amended.

“Oh, that’s all right,” Serene said. “I think it will be good for us to have our own friends. I think you and a tribal girl would make a great pair. I hope her other friends are nice. I mean, not to say that mine aren’t, but they just aren’t your type of people. You need someone who is more like you. They’re just not—“

“I understand, Serene. Your friends don’t want me around. That’s why I offered rather than making another meal awkward.”

“Oh,” Serene said, but she was neither relieved nor upset—or perhaps she was both. It was hard to tell.

“Besides, we live with one another.”

“Yes, but I wish that you could get along with my friends. Not that it’s your fault. They are kind of snoody, but they’re like me too.” She looked helpless as they approached their door. “I’m just making this worse.”

“You deserve friends that accept your differences,” Pandora told her. “Don’t feel guilty.”

Serene beamed at her cousin and waved her hand over the door. It swung open and let out a waft of some horrible stench. It smelled like the privy after the dragons were done with it. “Didn’t they flush?” Serene asked and then she caught a look at the room.

Shreds of clothing were scattered everywhere and clothes were piled into mounds. Serene’s jewelry was scattered all over the room and the large towering magical box was knocked over on its side. There was a mound of dragon dung in the middle of it all and a puddle under the bed. Some of the cloths around it were wet.

The hatchlings were hiding. Rubio’s bright red tail was poking out from under the bed.

Serene shrieked. She appeared to be forming words and it sounded vaguely draconic, but her voice was so high pitched and fast that Pandora couldn’t make out what she was saying.

Pandora put a hand on Serene’s shoulder and she stopped immediately. “Topaz,” Pandora said with a deeper voice than usual. It was filled with all the authority she could manage. The dragon’s head peaked out from under the bed and Pandora noticed that the wood under the mattress was tilted upward. It wasn’t just the mess. She called out each of their names in the same tone and they showed themselves. “What is the meaning of this?”

“We woke up after you left, Mother. We were bored,” Rubio explained. He looked guilty but not apologetic.

“We smelled gold,” Star supplied.

Pandora glared at all four of them and Serene went into another high pitched tirade. Her face was red and Pandora slammed the door. She shut up again.

“Topaz, did you do your business on the floor?”

He looked at Pandora defiantly. “Yes.”

This cued Serene to go into another bout. This time some of it was understandable.

“All of you, come here,” she said firmly and they snaked over to her. She took their pendants from them. She fingered one of them thoughtfully. They were crafted from carved stone, jade, to be exact. It was best for holding enchantments that gave or restricted access.

“Serene, will you go get something for us to clean up this mess?”

Serene nodded and gave the hatchlings a furious look before leaving the room. The door slammed behind her.

Pandora gave each their own stern look. “You destroyed our things for gold?” she asked coldly.

Star nodded and eyed the gold chains in Pandora’s hands. “Yes, mother.”

“Well then,” she said slowly, “You will not have any gold because of this bad behavior.”

“But Mother!” they all cried with such stricken expressions it gave Pandora a feeling of satisfaction.

“What? Do you think you deserve these gifts from the Academy after you destroyed so many things that Uncle Lindal gave your Momma and me? Those things were precious to us given to us by someone we love and someone who loved us. You think you deserve gold?”

Emerald hid her face behind one of her wings.

“Look at me, Emerald.”

The hatchling peered back at her mother guiltily. “I’m sorry, Mother!”

“Are you? Are you really? These things are not just material to Serene and me. These things are memories to us. Because of what you did to us you will have no access to gold at all. However, I am not without a heart. I will reward you for good behavior. After five days of being on good behavior, and I mean exceptionally good behavior you may have the gold chains back. If one of you messes up once the days will restart. Do you understand?”

They nodded.

“Also, after you get the necklaces back for each day of good behavior you will get a gold coin to put under your mattress. For each day that you are bad you get one take away. Am I clear?”

They nodded again.

“Topaz, if you ever, and I mean ever, do this again, I will be more cruel than just taking your gold away. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mother,” he agreed.

“Good. Now, the four of you have some major sucking up to do to Momma. Those are things her father gave to her. She remembers why and when she got each of those pieces of jewelry. You will return each and every one of them and if any of them are broken they will be fixed out of what comes out of your piles. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mother,” they chanted.

“All right. Topaz, you are going to start shoveling your shit into the privy. Now.”

He scurried to do as he was told. Pandora sat on one of the beds and started to work on removing the jade from the gold. She pried open the gold loops that held them together and stuck them into her belt pouch.

The hatchlings watched with longing as she let the chains slide one by one into the belt pouch. “It breaks my heart that I cannot trust the four of you,” Pandora said quietly.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” Emerald crooned and touched Pandora’s knee with her head. She rubbed against it. “I am.”

“I know you’re sorry now, Emerald. You should be more sorry about the distress you caused Serene. I think you broke her heart today.”

The door swung open and Serene was in the doorway with rags and a bucket of soupy water. She had tears rolling down her cheeks and her nose was running. She gave a small hiccup of a sob. She shuddered when Pandora took one of her destroyed tunics and ripped it into four strips so that she could craft a make shift necklace out of it.

“What are you doing?”

“They did this for the gold you had in your box,” Pandora said tersely, but the tension was directed at the hatchlings and they cowered in shame. “I am revoking all of their gold and they will not get it back until they have behaved like perfect little angels for five days straight.”

“Oh, well, that seems fair,” she said with a scathing glare at them. “But why did Topaz shit and piss all over the floor?”

“Well, we know it was him so we can only guess,” Pandora said with a stern look in his direction. At the mention of the mess he made he looked completely defiant, all guilt was gone. “Remember, Topaz, all of you must obey and behave or no one gets the gold chain back. If you keep them from their gold they might do some nasty things to you.”

The other hatchling’s demeanors changed when they looked at him. They were tense and threatening and he hissed at them. “Mind your own business,” he snapped.

“It is our business,” Star told him and ice gathered at her feet.

“Star, stop,” Pandora said sharply. “All of you, go into the bathing room while Serene and I finish cleaning up this mess.”

They sulked but did as they were told. Pandora sat the jade and cloth necklaces to the side and went to help Serene.

“How could they do this to me?” she asked. “Haven’t I been a good Momma? Why would they destroy my things? My memories.”

“They didn’t mean to,” Pandora said softly. “Could you put a sound barrier on the door?”

Serene nodded and signed fervently at the door. The brief upshot of light covered the door and then it was clear. “What do you mean they didn’t mean to? They obviously did it.” She picked up a shredded rag. “And look at what they did to your nice clothes. How can you stand it?”

Pandora shrugged. “I don’t know. I just know that one of us has to be calm. Obviously right now that person is me.”

Serene gave her a cold look.

Pandora sighed. “You had to calm me down earlier, remember?” she asked and started checking the clothes that were soaked in dragon urine to see if any of them could be saved. “Anyway, as precious as they were because they were from Uncle Lindal they are only clothes. They were mine and no one else’s.”

Serene choked out another sob. “My mother’s jewelry.”

Pandora nodded. “I suspect that we’ll have to look under their beds and such for anything that had gold in it or on it.”

“How could they steal my mother’s jewelry?”

“I don’t know. They’re only what? Three or four days old? They can’t know everything right to do.” Pandora made a face. “Do you want to keep any of these outfits?”

Serene shook her head. “The clothes can go. Just find the jewelry.”

Pandora chunked the wet clothes into the trash and said the activation word. The clothes vanished. She did the same with the tattered rags. She then helped Serene clean up the excrement and sent the rags down to the laundry room as well as the bucket of water.

Pandora found most of the jewelry under the mattresses and some of it in the pillow cases. She helped Serene reorganize it and handed Serene the chains. “You should probably keep that in your bag just in case. We can’t let them get their hands on it after all they did.”

Serene nodded and gave a wistful sigh. “I remember when I got all of that. I remember making up stories in my head of how Momma got all those things. I memorized every one of them and counted every tear of joy and peal of laughter.” She stared at the box. “I think some of your rings are missing.”

Pandora frowned and checked her small mundane box. “You’re right,” she said and went into the bathing room to find Topaz licking a wound and blood on the floor. “What are you doing?”

The three none injured dragons backed away from Topaz who swung his head around as he glared at each of his siblings.

“I’m really getting tired of the four of you acting like this. All of you need to start behaving or I’ll have to get physical with you. I don’t want to do that.”

They all gave Pandora a skeptical look but nodded in any case.

“Before dinner each of you are getting a bath,” Pandora told them. “I can’t have you going outside smelling like you do. Then you’ll have to have another before bed.”

“But Mother,” Rubio whined.

“Do not argue with me, Rube,” she said sternly, “You have all caused enough trouble today and you should all take what you get and be glad you’re in good shape.”

“But Mother—“ Emerald started.

“Not another word from any of you,” Pandora said sternly and started the bathing with Rubio.

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