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SJORIA: Book One|"The Silence Before The Song"|Scroll Down to Begin...

Chapter Eleven: No Way Out

hairyn got up with a groan.
Meiikii was still purring. “Ugh, what happened?” She remembered, but somehow it all felt like a funny dream.
“Kazen happened,” Vamele said. Turning, she saw that Vamele and Annota were sitting beside Meiikii near her. Vamele was holding a bowl of lumpy grey-blue stones, and Annota had some bandages. The cave was still lit, but it looked to Thairyn that it was about noon now.
“It seems your little encounter with him was a bit too much for you to handle,” Annota added, tucking the bandages away.
“I don’t like Kazen. He’s mean.” Thairyn looked down at her hands. She saw that they had been redressed and cleaned while she had been sleeping. They still felt like they were still on fire.
“Nah, he’s just young and a little stupid is all,” Annota said fondly. “Time will fix both, eventually. I am really sorry about how he acted towards you though, he was out of line.”
“I’ll say,” Vamele said.
Thairyn had been surprised to hear Annota call Kazen stupid. She was in the midst of contemplating this, and wondering if maybe Annota really was more of a big brother than a papa to Vamele and the others when Meiikii awoke. The great beast stirred and turned his great big head around to lick Thairyn’s face sleepily. Not being able to help but giggle at his tickling tongue, Thairyn pushed him far enough away so she could prinnage the end of his beak. “What is he, anyway?” she asked, looking at Annota.
“Meiikii? He’s an irwyn. A very young one, only thirteen years old, but an irwyn nonetheless.”
Thairyn had never heard anything about a creature called an irwyn before, other than the Dracoen phrases as mighty as an irwyn or as fierce as an irwyn-mother, all leading her to believe that an irwyn was a ferocious protector; but Meiikii seemed no more ferocious than a great big baby.
“He’s not left your side since you passed out,” Annota went on, “I’ve never seen him so attached to anyone before.”
Thairyn smiled and looked into those great big gold eyes of the irwyn’s. She rubbed his silver beak. “I like you too, Meiikii. Thank you for being my friend.”
Meiikii’s eyes seemed to smile for him. He butted his head into hers gently and nuzzled her, his purring all the louder.
“Hey, are you hungry Thairyn?” Vamele asked.
Thairyn looked at her eagerly. She noticed that Vamele still refused to look at her directly. “Aye, a little,” she said slowly, giving her a funny look. “Why?”
“Here, I got these for you,” Vamele said, offering her the bowl of rocks.
Thairyn looked at the offer doubtfully. “What am I supposed to do with them?”
Vamele laughed. “Why, you eat them of course!”
“You want me to eat... rocks?”
“Only if you’re hungry,” the girl said with a wink.
“They’re rocks,” Thairyn reminded her, just in case she had forgotten.
Annota laughed. “They’re called chelladu. They have all of the minerals and chemicals in them that you need, though not as condensed and pure. They may not be as pretty to look at as a gemstone, but it all ends up in the same place, right?”
“Well, the texture is kind of weird and grainy,” Vamele said.
“Vamele’s a Gemkind too,” Annota said. “She eats these all the time. Of course, that’s been our little secret for the longest time; so Meyjey would feel useful and Kazen wouldn’t tease.”
“Meyjey thought we were joking. Then she thought we were crazy. So I had to prove it and eat one in front of her,” Vamele said.
Thairyn’s head was spinning. “Wait, what? No, I know everybody in the Gem Forest. You can’t be a Gemkind.”
“My parents left the Gem Forest a long time ago,” Vamele said. “I was born while they were travelling, and we never went back.”
Thairyn looked down, her face seeming resentful.
“What’s the matter?” Annota asked gently. “Don’t worry, as soon as you’re feeling better, we’ll get you back home.”
Thairyn mumbled something. “You can’t.”
“What?” Annota asked, his earfins rising in surprise.
Her eyes flashed and filled with tears as she looked up at him. “You can’t! You can’t take me home because my home is gone!” Her voice broke and tears spilled down her face. Shamefully, she buried her face in her hands and started to sob.
Distressed, Vamele looked helplessly in Annota’s direction.
Annota, for his part, was starting to understand... her injuries, why she was all alone when they found her. He gently touched her shoulder—at first she flinched from it, then, without looking up, she realized the touch had been his hand. Distrust washed over her from the first—and she faced that with anger. But she was frightened and hurt too, and she wanted someone to protect her, to make it all go away. Through blurry tears she looked up at his face, his eyes; there, she met genuine compassion. She felt a sense of familiarity, again, and saw understanding. There was an unspoken question between them, to which she consented, and he took her little shaking form into his arms and held her close. She tucked her head close against his breast and wept, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. She moved to wrap her wings around herself also, but it felt like claws of lightning tore up her back—she gave a short yelp and did not attempt to move them again.

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