by Amanda Cast
Pandora felt she must be dreaming. Her limbs were heavy and she could not so much as twitch a finger. The room was dark in powdery shadows, but she could see if shades of black all around her. She could hear voices, but they formed no sound she could comprehend. After what felt like an eternity of breathing deeply and staying perfectly still she could understand what she heard.
“—worried,” Emerald’s hushed voice said in draconic.
“Their lives are threatened,” Star pointed out reasonably.
The hatchlings were on the floor with their heads close together and their tails out. They formed a four point star of gems and color even in the darkness. Pandora could still see the dark ruby red of Rubio’s hide in the black of her dream.
“Should we kill them all?” Topaz asked.
Rubio and Star both hissed in unison and Emerald gave an annoyed snort. “Don’t be foolish,” Emerald said, “It would hurt them too much.”
“It is because of us they are stuck here,” Rubio told them despairingly. “It is because of us.”
“It is their own actions that created us,” Emerald said.
“What are you talking about?” Star asked.
There was a heavy sigh. “I forget you cannot read their dreams and memories. They created us by stealing the scales of the Septurate—or rather the Septum scales.”
“What are you talking about?” Star repeated with a deadpan quality.
Pandora could feel more than see Emerald’s eye roll. “It isn’t important. I don’t understand it anyway because they don’t, but they did have a hand in making us.”
“What should we do?” Rubio asked.
“We should run away,” Topaz said.
“We can’t leave them!” Star said a little too loudly. Serene’s sleeping form shifted and moaned.
“I don’t mean that, stupid,” Topaz said.
“Don’t call me stupid.”
“Both of you, please,” Emerald said, opting as peacekeeper once more. “We cannot leave Mother or Momma. They care for us because only we allow them to. They know we will kill any other who tries to take their place. They are safe now because we are here.”
“I wasn’t saying we should leave them,” Topaz reiterated.
“I know,” Emerald said soothingly.
“We could bond with them,” Rubio offered. The other hatchlings silently thought of this for a short time.
“No, we can’t,” Star said softly. “Not yet, at least. Not unless we have to. Else they will be stuck in the bodies of twelve year olds forever. They must be young adults at the very least first.”
“That is true,” Emerald agreed.
“You’re right,” Rubio conceded with a small flick of his tail.
“If we cannot help them we should go back to bed,” Topaz said. His frustration was evident.
“The point of this discussion is to find a way to help them,” Star said.
“There is also the problem of Greg,” Emerald said softly.
“What about him? He’s just a… well… he’s not even of this world. What does he have to worry about?” Star asked.
“They want to kill him,” Emerald said. “It plagues Momma’s thoughts and dreams.”
“That’s horrible,” Star hissed.
“We can’t let anything happen to him either,” Rubio said. “He saved Mother’s life. It would be terrible not to repay the debt.”
“Just give him some of your pile and call it even,” Topaz said. “Our mothers are our primary concern. Greg cannot get in the way.”
“Rubio is right,” Star said as though it killed her to say it, “We cannot abandon Mother’s savior.”
Emerald nodded her agreement. “They are worried that we cannot blend in yet with the human children. They fear the time it will take for us to change.”
“It takes so much power,” Star said and her claws scraped quietly against the floor.
“I think we might have it,” Rubio said. “I can gather enough power if I enter a fire. Then I could help you all.”
“I could too!” Star said with sudden excitement.
“There is a reason dragons wait,” Emerald said dubiously. “It could kill us. We may not be strong enough.”
“How long do they wait, Emerald? We’re the only dragon hatchlings that we know,” Star said.
The others were silent as they waited for Emerald to respond. “I will wander in dreams and find an adult Dream dragon to answer my questions. Perhaps they will help us determine the power needed.”
“Are you sure you can do it?” Star asked worriedly. “We can feel our powers, but do we have the strength?”
“We are not normal dragons,” Rubio said hopefully, “Maybe we were born with the power and we’re just too afraid or unskilled to use it.”
“Well, we can’t get the skill from two nondragon girls,” Topaz said. “Maybe you can ask the Dream dragon how we do it?”
“I will be sure to ask that too. We should come up with questions for me to ask just so that when I find him, I know.”
“Good idea,” Star agreed, but everyone fell silent again as they thought of questions they should ask.
After a moment Pandora dreamed of other things.
Pandora’s mouth felt sticky and dry all at once when she awoke that morning. Her tongue throbbed with dehydration and her eyelids clung to her eyeballs and she had to blink several times to get enough moisture to move them with less difficulty. When she moved her mouth to try and coax her body to give it more moisture she realized that her jaw hurt.
When she moved her hand her entire body screamed in protest. Her flesh was hot and her muscles tight and aching. It was delicious except for the dehydration. Pandora hated being thirsty far more than she hated being hungry, but her body was not agreeing with her idea of movement in the least.
“Mother, the privy door is closed and my claws can’t turn it,” Rubio whined when he saw that she was awake. Serene was already gone.
Pandora rolled out of bed, moaning despite herself. It hurt so much to move, but she was happy that she could move. “Do you all need to go?”
“Yes, Mother, please hurry!” Topaz said and Pandora waddled to the privy door and opened it. Rubio nearly knocked her over in the rush to get to it. He almost did not fit in the privy anymore.
“Hurry up!” Topaz bellowed and danced on the floor.
“Augh,” Pandora said worriedly. “Does everyone just need to pee?” she asked.
“I only need to pee,” Star said hurriedly.
“Not me, I need both,” Topaz said.
“Me too,” Emerald said distractedly and then looked away from Pandora shyly.
“Well, come with me, Star,” Pandora said and took her into the bathing room. When all the hatchlings were done she made sure the clean the tub with the most caustic substance she could find and ran a few shallow baths just to make sure it was safe for future use.
“Greg says pee is sterile,” Star told Pandora.
Pandora scowled until she realized that it hurt her battered face too much and said, “Maybe in Greg’s world it is, but this is our world and how should we know?”
“I was just saying, Mother,” Star said.
“Mother, I’m hungry. Where is Momma?”
“I don’t know, dearest,” Pandora said and gently pat his raised head. She could not bend down to pat him.
“You feel so hot, Mother,” he said worriedly. “Are you sick again?”
Rubio crowded up against her to feel the heat of her body. “It is just her skin,” he said. “Maybe it is just healing?”
“We could try and heal it, Mother,” Emerald said worriedly, but she could not get any closer to Pandora. The hatchlings were almost too large to take up the space. Pandora decided that today was the day she needed to talk to the Arch Mage about larger quarters for them all. This space was not going to cut it for much longer.
“No!” Pandora said much more sharply than she had intended. Then she said more gently, “I made my word to the instructor that I would make no attempts to heal myself. I will not go back on my word unless he does.”
“Well, then we should go check and see,” Star said.
“Not right now. First you all need to be fed and oiled. Then we can take a walk and see if he kept his word. After that you’re going to be fed, bathed, oiled and put down for nap because your Mother needs to talk to the Arch Mage about living arrangements.”
“Yes, Mother,” they all said obediently. It made Pandora’s nerves go on edge. They were never so obedient. At least Topaz would argue about something.
“When will you eat?”
“I’ll eat while you are eating. I’m sure Raoul will get me something out of kitchen.” Including a pitcher or two of water, she thought uncomfortably. “All right, let’s go.”
Serene was no where to be seen. It made Pandora edgy. In her dream, Serene had been in the room with them. It was only a dream, but she seemed so aware… no, that was all wrong. It was only a dream. Serene was in it because Pandora was so comfortable with Serene always being around. Perhaps she went to spend the night at Terabeth’s at some point. She honestly hoped so.
Would Serene go without letting me know? She wondered uneasily as the dragons either lumbered or leapt ahead of her. She looked uncertainly at Terabeth’s door before following after the hatchlings.
Raoul was waiting for them outside of the kitchen in the garden where they decided it would be best to feed them. His dark face was smiling with its normal radiance. “Hello, Pandora,” he greeted and then his face fell a little bit. “Where is Serene? Why do you look like that? Is she all right?”
Pandora waved a hand and gave a very tiny and very pained smile. “She’s fine, Raoul… I think. She wasn’t in the room when I woke up this morning. I guess she wanted to talk to Terabeth.”
“Why? Did you two fight?” Raoul asked.
Pandora shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know.”
Raoul froze in a half turn and stared at Pandora. His mouth was gaping open and his eyes did not even blink. “How can you not know?”
“You never know with Serene. She’s quite passionate,” Pandora said and believed deep down that that was all that needed to be said.
Raoul shook his head of short white hair sadly. “You’re weird.”
“So I’m told,” Pandora said dryly. “I don’t mean to be rude, but could you get me some water and maybe a biscuit? I’m starving.”
“Oh right!” Raoul said and looked embarrassed. “Mom says that when wounds heal naturally you need a lot of water.”
He ran off into the kitchen and his mother came out with him. Shalielle gave Pandora a reproving look but poured her a glass of tepid water and set the pitcher onto the ground next to her. “Sit down and we’ll feed the hatchlings. Where is your cousin?”
“Never did like the surface elves,” she said tartly. “They were always a flighty lot.”
Pandora frowned. “Please don’t talk about Serene,” she said.
“Oh, sorry, you are family after all,” the woman said half pleased and half annoyed. It was rather easy to determine why she felt either way.
“Maybe something happened to her,” Raoul fretted and Star gave him a firm butt in the side with her head. “I know, more feeding and less fretting,” he said, quoting her from a meal before when Pandora was sick.
“Oh!” Star said and licked her lips. “This tastes different.”
“Is it cooked?” Rubio asked and sniffed it.
“Yes,” Shalielle said. “I knew a few dragons from my time in the underdark. They preferred their meat cooked and flavorful. You’re getting too old to eat not quite sausage meat.”
“That was getting tiresome,” Star agreed. “It is good though. Thank you, Shalielle.”
“You’re welcome, Star,” she said warmly. “I was actually the servant of a dragon. Can you believe that?”
“Dragons… have servants?” Topaz asked, amazed by the very concept.
Shalielle nodded. “The dragons and elves of the underdark have a very interesting relationship with one another. They’re both immortals and magic in their own right.”
Pandora winced after an attempt at smiling and Shalielle turned to her abruptly. “Why have you not gone to see a healers?” she asked in a very motherly type of disapproving tone.
“Well, I will if I see that the instructor has treated that broken nose of his,” Pandora said. She had also managed to give him many abrasions from simply hitting him too hard and too often in the same place. “But, Shalielle, what do you know of dragons?”
“Well, I know that most of the dragons that reside in the Underdark spit out stone dissolving acid that only they can neutralize. I also know that my master could walk in the dreams of others.”
Pandora frowned and looked over at Emerald who suddenly appeared to be very guilty.