I was feeling more comfortable with the two brothers a day later, even going so far as to smile a little. I still didn talk, still didn trust them to not send me back to my mistress. I kept waiting for her to slam into the cottage to haul me back, or to hear the dogs howling outside. But so far, Kesar has told the truth when he told me that he would not let me go back.

Now, Kesar carried me outside and set me on the grass, gently wrapping the blanket about her. I smiled at him in thanks, then laid back and stretched, luxuriating in the sun. I heard him chuckle and sit beside me, but knew he kept his distance. He was the only one who did. Einnig liked to be up close and personal with me, as if he couldn bear to stay away. I didn like it, but learned that if I pushed slightly on his chest, he would back away, give me space.

”Can we talk? ” Kesar asked.

I sat up and hugged the blanket, nodding.

He rose a brow. ”Will you talk? ”

I smile, shrugging.

Shaking his head, Kesar chuckled and stretched. When he turned back to me, he was worried. ”I have something to show you. But I need to know a few things before I do. ” I tilt my head in question. ”Whats your name? ”

I bite my lip, unsure how to tell him. Looking around, I make sure we
e alone, then whisper in a barely audible voice, ”No. ”

He leans towards me a little. ”No? ”

”No. ” I shake my head.

”You don have a name or you don know it? ”

I struggle to say what I wanted, but as I was only born to serve, not talk, I hadn practiced a lot. ”No? ” I say, my intonation making it sound like a question.

Kesar looks confused. Then, he asks, ”Can you read and write? ”

I blink at him. ”What? ”

He holds a finger up and runs into the house. When he returns, he has paper and pen. Writing something down, he then hands it to me. I look down and see scribbles. Ignoring it, I begin to draw. I first draw Kesar, then his brother with arrows pointing every which way. My question was, ”Where is Einnig? ”

Handing the paper back, I let Kesar look at it. I can tell hes disappointed some how, and slump. When he looks at me, I see he wants to ask a bunch of questions but doesn . He only says, ”What do the arrows mean? ”

I huff. I couldn say it! I couldn ask what I wanted and had hoped hed understand my drawing! I take the paper back, rip it out of the book, and shred it.

”Hey! ” Kesar jumps towards me and tries to stop my angry movements, but hes too late. ”What was that for? ”

I throw the pieces down and cross my arms, glaring at my mess.

Kesar stares between me and the mess, then takes the rest of the paper and the pen and writes something down. Showing me, he says, ”Kesar. ” He writes something beneath it. ”Einnig. ”

I begin to understand. Hope filling me, I take the materials and do something of my own. I show it to him. He chuckles. ”I know who your mistress was. Who are you? ”

I do something again. Hand him the paper.

He looks at me after a moment and says, ”Jose, ” in a soft whisper.

I smile.

He smiles back. After a moment, I look away, unable to hold eye contact for long. ”Well, Jose, can you tell me how old you are? ”

I reached out my hand, asking for the paper. He gave it back and I drew nineteen dots. When Kesar looked, I saw he smiled. Kesar coni ties to ask me questions for another few minutes until I couldn give him answers. He didn get angry, but put the material aside and turned to face me. ”Do you know what a dragon is? ”

I knew the word, knew what it was, and knew the creatures existed. However, my fist master threatened me with tales o gruel eating me if I didn obey orders. Ive had nightmares of them ever since.

Kesar must have seen something on my face because he said, ”The dragons I know would never hurt you, Jose. One dragon is in love with a human just like you. ”

I give the expression of being shocked.

Kesar laughed and nodded. ”I was just as surprised! But they are happy. ”

I point up to the sky in question. When he gives me a questioning look, I try to say, ”Home. ”

Kesar smiles. ”Yes, our home is up there. ”

I point to him.

”Yes. ”

I make claws and a growly face.

He laughs again. ”I am a dragon. ”

I try to look around him to see wings but see nothing. I flap my arms.

”Would you like to see? ”

I nod, smiling big and excited.

”I want to know that you
e not scared first. ”

I shake my head.

He watches me warily for a moment, then takes off his shirt. Big green wings spread out behind him, magnificent and strong. He pulls them around so they nearly envelope him, and I reach out, touching one. It was smooth, hard where the bone was, and beautiful.

”Kesar! ”

I jump at the sound of Einnigs voice.

Kesar draws his wings back and stands, facing his brother who is either angry or scared; it was hard to tell. ”We are going to have company coming through any day now. We need to leave. ”

I give a whistle to get their attention, ignoring his words. He looks at me and raises a brow. I make the growly face and claws and then point to Kesar.

Kesar chuckles. ”She wants to know if you
e a dragon. ”

Without hesitation, Einnig spreads his wings, ripping his shirt. His aren like Kesars but black. I wanted to touch, but he turns away to talk to his brother again. ”We don have time for games, brother. We must leave now. ”

”Give me an hour. I need to make sure this place doesn looked lived in. ” With that, the two disappear inside the house.

It was some time later when I heard others coming, people I didn recognize. They stormed through as if they owned the land. I watched, eyes narrowed. One of the men on horses rode up to me and demanded, ”What are you doing here by yourself, girl? ”

I shrugged.

”Is this your place? ”

I shook my head.

”Your fathers? ”

Again, I shook my head.

He started to get angry. ”Brother? Husband? ”

I continued to shake my head.

”Friend? ”

I nod ”

He gave what sounded like a growl. ”Well, you need to go inside. We have cruel prisoners you don want to be around. They would kill a pretty thing like you! ” With that he rose away.

I looked to the rest of his group and saw people in chains, not looking at all cruel and dangerous I heard the man shout something about going to Chetia, but paid no attention to it.

Not long after the huge procession disappeared, Kesar and Einnig ran out and knelt near me. ”Are you alright? ” Einnig asked.

I nod, confused as to why they were worried. Kesar set a pack down beside me and said to his brother, ”As soon as I turn, get her on. Well go north for a while then turn and head home. Whatever you do, Einnig, do not cut below the tree line. Especially now since we have Jose. ”

Einnig rolled his eyes.

I looked to Kesar and watched as he went from man to dragon: a very large, very green, very scary dragon.

I tried to move back, scared of being eaten. I wanted Kesar back! I didn want to die!

Einnig put both hands out: one to me and one to the dragon. ”Jose, its alright. He won hurt you. ”

I shook my head, not trusting his words.

”Do you remember what he said, Jose? Do you remember how he said dragons don hurt people like you? ”

For the first time, and possibly the only time, I responded to him with a sliver of trust, knowing that a lot of things I was told were lies to scare me as a child. I nodded.

Einnig smiled. ”This is still him. This is still Kesar. ”

I shook my head, holding up two fingers.

”Yes, Kesar and his dragon are two separate beings, but they are still one mind. ”

I point to him, then make a motion of eating me.

Einnig shook his head. Then, slowly, he began to pet the nose of the dragon. ”Kesar doesn eat people unless they try to hurt him. He is a soft teddy bear who likes to cuddle. ”

The dragon glared at Einnig.

I, however saw what Einnig meant. Tilting my head, I reach my hand out. The dragon slowly put its head closer. Right before we made contact, he paused, looking at me for any cues I wanted to stop. Thats how I knew Einnig told the truth. This was truly Kesar.

The flesh of Kesars large nose was soft and just a little wet. His scales on top of his head were bright in the sunlight, gleaming crystals. Fascinated, I wanted to explore more, but Einnig hurried things along. ”I hate to do this, Jose, but we need to leave. Im going to put you in his back and I want you to hold on. Don be afraid of grabbing scales or membrane. Hes tough. ”

Before I could process what he said, Einnig lifted me up and onto Kesars back. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around his neck, eyes squeezed shut.

I felt him move, then air was rushing past me in a rush, then I didn feel the lumbering of his walk, but a smooth glide. Opening my eyes, I saw the trees below us and gasped. We were flying!

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