by Amanda Cast
Pandora was not hard for them to find. Indeed, Pandora was not a common name for people to name their children. There was an old human legend that involved the name. It was a cursed name that only people of Faith and nobles knew or those old enough to remember…
Pandora didn’t know what to think of the tall elf standing in front of her in their cramped sitting room. He looked uncomfortable in their tight space. He was an elf in a city. It didn’t sound right. His hair was brown and made Pandora think of natural trees, whatever they looked like. He was an elf. Surely he had to be a representation of what was truly natural.
“Hello, Serene,” Pandora said to the girl who was looking around in wide eyed wonder. She probably thought this place was squalor.
“Hello, Lindal,” her mother said tartly.
“Hello, Jendera,” he responded dryly. “I see your husband still hasn’t gotten the balls to leave you.”
“I see that you’re here with my sister’s sin against nature.”
That caught Serene’s attention and made Pandora frown at her mother. The elf’s face reddened with sudden anger. He was not nearly as stoic as Pandora imagined that elves were supposed to be. Perhaps he was a very young elf. Surely only young elves were dumb enough to mate with a human woman.
“Sister?” Pandora asked.
“Yes,” Jendera said with a terrible bite in her voice. “Your aunt fell in love with this…elf,” she said it as though he were nothing more than sludge under her boot that was making it uncomfortable for her to walk. “And had that abomination of a child.”
“That explains why she looks like you,” Pandora said with an almost wistful voice. She may as well have slapped her mother in the face.
“I will not stand for this,” Jendera said hotly. “Get out of my house, you filth,” she said to Lindal.
“No,” he said firmly. “I will not leave my niece in this violent household. Look at his hovel you all a home,” he sneered.
No, he was not what Pandora thought of as an elf at all.
“You’re mean Aunt Jendera,” Serene said and stuck out her tongue.
“I am not your aunt you hideous litt-“ Jendera took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I want you both out of my home. You are not to talk to my daughter ever again.”
“No, mother,” Pandora said with her same even voice. “I will not let you separate me from my cousin. I have no friends and no family because of you. Now that my Aunt’s daughter…” she trailed off unable to think of words to complete the thought. “I will run away if you try and then Father will leave you since he won’t have to protect me anymore.”
“You are my daughter!” she gasped.
“Yes, Mother, I am your daughter, but that does not mean I have to listen to you being hateful and cruel. Your sister made her choice. You may not have liked it, but it was not for you to like. I want to know my family. You have separated me from Father’s family as well as yours. I do not want to be alone when you and Father die.”
Jendera glared at her daughter. “If you see her again I will disown you.”
Pandora stared at her mother then looked down at the simple linen clothing she wore. “That’s fine,” she said and walked around Lindal and Serene and left the house. Her mother screamed. Pandora thought it resembled that of a wounded animal and a piece of her heart broke, but Pandora would not go back. She could not. Her father had to have a way out.
Someone touched her shoulder. It was gentle like her father’s, but it wasn’t her father’s. The hands were lighter and far more slender. “Come with us, Pandora. Perhaps after a while she will come to her senses.”
“Thank you, Uncle Lindal,” she said, “But I’ll just be a burden. I’ve nothing of my own and I don’t want to cause any problems for you. I think I’ll just do what I’ve always done for money or I could take my chances at the Underground.”
“No!” Serene cried out. “You’re my cousin, and we’re going to take care of you.” Serene slipped her hand into Pandora’s and squeezed it enthusiastically. “I’ve never had family other than Daddy before, and I’d like you to live with us.”
“You won’t want for anything,” Lindal promised. He looked around at the gray streets and brown buildings. Some of them had painted trim. The street was decently kept. Nothing in the city was ramshackle. The magic that coursed through the city wouldn’t allow it.
“We’re rich,” Serene said in an attempt to comfort her.
“I have been taking combat training. I’d like to continue.”
“What school do you go to?”
“Ysfal,” she replied. It was a decent enough private school that taught children the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it focused on martial arts. Pandora excelled in hand to hand.
“We’ll send you to a better school.”
“I like the one I’m in,” she said stubbornly. Stubborn wasn’t usually one of Pandora’s traits, but then neither was walking out on her mother or talking back to her. Pandora’s stomach did a flip on her and she grimaced.
“We’ll get you home,” Lindal said and led the two girls to the Center.