Ok, everyone, thus begins part 2 of Enchanting Scales. Everything is going to be going through a few changes, but bear with me and everything will be just fine.
by Amanda Cast
The Healing Potion
Birds chirruped and whistled in the trees. Little purple birds darted between the branches and the leaves. Their scissor tails sliced through the air. Pandora whistled to them, but they did not respond in a favorable manner. They hopped and flew away from her. She smiled to herself and took a deep breath.
For now, she had no one to worry about but herself. Greg was watching the children and Serene was off stealing something. All Pandora had to do was check the traps they used to catch rabbits and the snares they used for the deer. So far everything was empty so she just walked on by them and listened to the birds sing in the shade of the valley forest.
As far as valleys went it was a small, but it had a strong enough ecosystem to support three humans and four growing dragon hatchlings. There were plenty of fruit bearing trees and vines to give them nutrients that meat and roots could not provide. With Greg’s help they had learned how to dry the fruit and meat so that it would last them through the sketchier months. He had also schooled the hatchlings on how to use their magic to help.
Mother? Emerald’s mind-voice touched Pandora’s thoughts.
Yes, dearest? Pandora allowed the dragon to continue contact with her mind.
Mother, I think Topaz might have bitten Greg.
Pandora frowned and stopped walking. “Why did he bite Greg?” Pandora said aloud. She always forgot to keep her mind link silent when something like that happened.
He stepped on his tail. I don’t think Topaz meant to do it, but Greg is upset and bleeding. I think you should get back.
Since Pandora hated hearing the sound of an anxious Emerald, she turned around and headed back for the cave complex. She discovered shortly after settling into the caves of their valley that deer trails were not the safest way to travel. More than once she and Serene had run into predators. Luckily the predators had learned where they belonged on the food chain and left them alone. Greg was never to walk the trails alone, so he spent most of his time with Pandora, Serene, or two of the hatchlings.
Twigs snapped under her feet and the bushes rustled with startled animals. She sped up and was glad that she was not hunting. The noise she was making disturbed even her.
Emerald was waiting outside for her with Star. They were in their secondary forms. Both of them had chosen human bodies and were pale, but the similarities ended there. Emerald was taller and sturdier. Her hair was long, black, and straight. It shined white when the light reflected off of it and separated in sections at her shoulders so that some flowed in front and the rest was in the back. Greg had convinced her that straight bangs would make her look perfect. Pandora thought she looked a lot like an exotic and creepy version of herself, but she was a beautiful sort of creepy.
Star patterned herself much after Serene, but chose human because Rubio had decided to model himself after his concept of a half elf and she could not stand being like her brother. She was blond with blond hair loosely curled. It bounced and moved like a living thing crafted from spun gold. Her eyes were the color of sapphires and ringed in silver and were crafted out of angles subtle curves. She appeared delicate and frail, but she was just as sturdy as her sister.
“Mother!” Star said and ran up to her with her curls bouncing wildly on her back. She was huffing when she reached Pandora. “You need to punish Topaz. He shouldn’t have bitten Greg.”
Pandora sighed and kneeled down. She picked up star with a grunt. “We will see what Topaz and Greg have to say before we talk about punishing anyone,” she said. “It could have been an honest accident.”
“Greg always lies to make you happy, Mother. He knows you don’t want to believe anything bad about Topaz. We all know that he’s your favorite,” she said with a sullen frown.
“Don’t say things like that, Star. It’s unbecoming. I love you all equally. Topaz just needs more attention than the rest of you,” Pandora said and balanced the dragon on her hip and held her with her left arm. She pushed Star’s hair back and tucked it behind her round ear. “You’re a good girl, and I know you’re fond of Greg, but that doesn’t mean that Topaz is bad.”
“He almost killed a girl, remember, Mother?” Star insisted. She reached up and pushed Pandora’s hair back. Pandora had cut it short so that it would be easier to maintain. It fell right back into place when Star removed her hands. The little girl looked frustrated.
“Mother,” Emerald said at Pandora’s free elbow. Pandora’s heart jumped and her muscles twitched, but she made no outward sign of being started.
“Yes, Emmy?” she asked, adopting the nickname that Greg had given her. She set Star down after brief, but tight hug and then kneeled down to hug Emerald.
“I think you should hurry,” she said. She took Pandora’s hand and Pandora took Star’s. They walked the rest of the way together. Pandora walked quickly, but the girls kept up with her just fine.
The opening to the cave was kept small unless there were special occasions that demanded a bigger opening. They unlinked and had to squeeze in by waddling in sideways. Pandora’s chest rubbed against the stone all the way.
“Oh, thank God, Pandora,” Greg said. He had long since taken the ring off and spoke on his own. Emerald had figured out how to recharge the ring, but they kept it in a box to use when needed.
“Are you all right?” Pandora asked and walked over to him. The cave was kept lit by light stones mounted in fixtures formed from the cave walls and ceiling. At first Topaz was satisfied with smoothing everything out and carving out rooms for everyone. After he had made the bed frames and furniture, he decided to be a bit more artistic.
Serene and Pandora agreed that education was very important for the hatchlings, but they lacked books. Within a year Serene and Greg were leaving Pandora and the hatchlings in the valley to go and find some. There were always different books to interest, but Topaz always enjoyed pictures and architecture books. Anything could inspire him, and his room was the most elaborately designed space in the complex.
With Pandora’s help he edited his idea for the living room and with Greg’s, he found the perfect colored stone to decorate the floors and walls. The floors were currently white marble and the walls were made of obsidian. Pandora did not like it, but she had no heart to tell Greg or Topaz that.
“I’m fine, it’s Topaz and Star I’m worried about,” he said as he pressed a pile of bandages against his legs. “Do you think I could have a sip of the healing potion?” he asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Pandora said, “But I’ll have to kill another bear in order to afford to get more if we run out.”
He frowned. “Look, I’m sorry, Pandora. I wasn’t paying attention. I stepped on his tail and he just reacted. Why the hell did he have to pick a goddamned hunting hound? Shit… damn… I’m sorry, Pandora.”
“Girls, will you please go to your room?” Pandora asked. She looked over her shoulder.
Emerald complacently left, but Star looked at Greg like he had just betrayed her and shook her head. Pandora lowered her eyebrows and dipped her chin. Star’s face wrinkled into a frown, but she turned violently on her heel and stormed off.
“Maybe we could try capturing some purple sparrows,” Pandora said, “And sell them.”
“Or Serene could steal some,” Greg offered. “I don’t think we should try and sell the birds. They belong here.” He started to get up but Pandora waved him down.
“Don’t move, I’ll get it,” she said and went to her room where the bottles were kept. She was the most frequently injured of everyone and needed them the most. She opened the cabinet and looked inside. There were only three bottles in it. She picked up one and popped the cork. She sniffed it and then swished it around.
She closed the cabinet and then went back to Greg. “There is only dose left in this one,” she said. “I might have to go to a neighboring valley.”
“Are you going to go with Topaz?”
“No, he’s needed here to maintain the cave,” she said. “And to protect the lot of you.” She smiled. “I might take Rubio or Emerald with me. Star needs to stick around and keep the food stores.”
“I think you should probably take Emerald. Rubio cooks.”
“Oh, well, you’re generous,” she said with a small smile and he produced a pleased smirk.
He took a sip out of it and closed his eyes as he felt the magic healing him. “There is one thing to say about this world,” he said, “Magical healing is the best. If we had it back home we would really have a population crisis.”
“Humans are seen as a population crisis anyway,” Pandora said. She sat down on one of the stone and cushion chairs across from him. “Are you going to stay with us forever?” she asked.
He frowned and blinked at her before looking away. “Do you want me to leave?” he asked.
“Well, no. You’re good with the hatchlings, but I’m afraid that you might be unhappy. Don’t you ever get lonely?” She clasped her hands together and hung them between her legs.
“How can I get lonely? I have four kids that need watching and two very lovely young women with me.” He smiled, but his eyes were strained and the smile did not show.
“You are not happy,” she said and held out her hand for the vial. He handed it to her and she pushed the stopper back into place.
“I guess I miss home,” he said. “I think of my parents every now and then.” He shrugged. “I missed graduating from high school.”
“Were you supposed to be graduating this year then?” she asked.
“No, actually,” he said with a wrinkled brow. “It was supposed to be about two years ago. Usually well, people graduate from high school when they’re about your age.”
“When they’re seventeen?”
“Well, around that time. Usually it’s eighteen.”
“Oh.” She shifted uncomfortably and then stood up. “If it makes you feel any better… around this time I would be completing my final tests to become a member of the Empress’s Guard.” She shrugged. “Life comes at you fast, and sometimes it makes you move.”
“Well, it more like jerked me from my belly button,” Greg said and then sighed. “I’m sorry, Pandora. I don’t know where else to go. You, Serene, and the kids are all I know and trust here. I can’t go to the humans. I can’t go to the elves, and I can’t go to the dragons. The UD is out of the question.” He shrugged. “I’m safe here and well fed. I’m happier here than I will be anywhere.”
“Don’t you miss having…” she trailed off. It was foolish to be worried about if he missed being able to fall in love with someone. She was doing just fine without it, and so could he.
“Miss having what?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know… other normal people to talk to?”
He chuckled and stood up. He stepped close to her. Too close. Her instinct was to back away, but she thought it would be rude. “After so many years with you, you’re all the normal I know.”
She had to tilt her head up to look at him. Even with her height he was still taller than her. Over the five years they had been hiding in the caves he had grown a great deal more than Pandora had. “I am nothing like you.”
“But I’m not normal for here either,” he said. He dipped his head closer and Pandora took a deep breath in preparation.