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.”“Oh.”Kale sat still, absorbing this information.She studied the hand holding hers, then the face of this woman who said she was Lyll Allerion.Laugh lines radiated from the corners of her gentle hazel eyes, but her lips were pursed in a worried moue.Yet even with a frown, this mother looked loving, approachable.“Did you find him?” Kale asked.Tears welled in Lyll’s eyes.“Yes, but I could not save him.”“He’s dead?”Lyll shook her head.“Asleep—in a trance.”“Risto?”Lyll nodded.“Then there’s still hope.”The older woman sighed, her shoulders slumping.Mistress Meiger returned, carrying a stack of linens.She placed these on a table and hurried to the o’rant woman’s side.“Lyll, you’re exhausted.To bed with you.We’ll bring you a tray at noonmeal.”Lyll caught a sob in her throat.She nodded mutely, fighting for a moment with her emotions.She inhaled deeply and squared her shoulders.“Yes, you’re right, Mern.”Kale helped Lyll stand.The older woman gave her a hug.“We will talk later, dear child.” She sniffed and wiped a tear from her eye with a plain handkerchief.“I know you don’t know me, and I can’t ask you to love me.But I hope we can bridge the gap of too many years apart.”“Of course you will,” said Mistress Meiger as she took Lyll’s arm and led her away.“Kale’s always been the best of children.Her heart’s full of grace.I never understood her.But I always admired her warm and generous ways, ways that reminded me of you, Lyll.”Kale watched her former owner walk her “maybe” mother up the stairs, then sank into the cushioned chair.She glanced over at Fenworth.He’d dozed off.Only a stubby tree sat in the chair.The minor dragons slipped out of their dens.Metta climbed to her shoulder.Dibl sat on her knee.Gymn went to the old wizard and took up a post, peering out from Fenworth’s branches.Ardeo flew to the table to stand beside the unlighted lamp.Kale’s eyes rested on Dibl, and a smile grew on her lips.“Yes, it is rather odd.Now I have two mothers when before I had none.”Metta trilled on her shoulder.She answered.“I like this one better too.”Two young marione girls entered the tavern common room from the kitchen.They looked to be about five and seven.Kale knew immediately that they had come to prepare the room for the dozen or so customers who would soon show up to eat noonmeal.But the girls stopped just inside the door and nudged each other, pointing toward the tree in the chair by the window.Dibl hopped in delight, and Kale had to stifle a giggle as the two serving maids cautiously crept up to Fenworth.They circled the oddity from a safe distance.“It’s a tree, Cakkue,” said the smaller.“What’s that in the branches?”Both girls stared at Gymn, who stared back, not blinking.“Is it real?” asked the littler girl.“I don’t think any of it’s real, Yonny.”“I think it’s a lizard.”Dibl rolled off Kale’s knee, down her leg, and continued to somersault once he hit the floor.Gymn spread his wings and flew to Kale.The two girls squealed.Cakkue yelped, “It’s a bat,” and both dove for cover under one of the larger square, plank tables.Between giggles, Kale tried to reassure them.“No, no.Gymn is a minor dragon.”Yonny screeched and wrapped her arms around Cakkue’s neck in a death grip.“There’s three more over by that girl.They’re all over the place!”Dibl stopped rolling and remained perfectly still.Kale felt his distress as his call for help came into her mind.“Oh please.” She stood and hurried to the table where she crouched and pleaded with the girls.“You’re upsetting Dibl.He loves fun, but he thinks he scared you, and that disturbs him very much.Please, come out.”“No, don’t,” cried Yonny as the older girl started to move.Cakkue cowered and shook her head.Kale smiled at them.“The dragons are friendly.Come out, and I’ll introduce you.”Both girls shook their heads.With their faces so close together, she could see they were sisters.Very silly sisters!She tried to hide her exasperation.“You know you must come out.If you don’t get your work done, Mistress Meiger will be most displeased.”Metta began to sing.Yonny and Cakkue exchanged a glance.Kale knew she had made progress with her warning about their mistress, and Metta’s song soothed their fears.The two emerged slowly, still clinging to each other.“You’ll keep them from biting?” asked the older.“They don’t bite!” Kale exclaimed.“Not even in a fight.”“They fight?” squeaked Yonny.“Only if I’m in danger.”Yonny leaned forward to peer around her big sister.“And the tree?”“He’s a friend of mine, a wizard.He’s napping.”The two young slaves continued to eye Fenworth with skeptical frowns.“Come,” said Kale, “I’ll help you with your chores.You’re behind now.”Cakkue scowled at her.“How do you know what we have to get done?”She laughed.“I’m Kale.I used to be the village slave here.”With that announcement, both girls relaxed.“Then I’d like the help,” said the elder.She moved to pull silverware from a drawer.“It’s because you left that we got to be village slaves.At first, they almost didn’t take us, because there are two of us, and they said the village was only pros-per-ous”—she took care to pronounce each syllable correctly—“enough to support one.”Yonny nodded.“Everyone knows about you.You found a dragon egg.You’re famous.I’d rather be here than be famous [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]