“Feeble?!” You say indignantly. “Is it so hard to believe that an orphan would want to know where they came from? All my life I have always wondered, but no one told me anything.” Your fist clenches as you remember the thousands of unanswered questions you have asked Nanny and Akachi. “I had to find out for myself. Yu Shan keeps records of everything.”
“You don’t need to take me away. Someone is going to be coming for me sooner or later and take me back to Yu-Shan.” Mei Mei licks the tears you hadn’t noticed off of your face. “This is my only chance to get to know my family. Please. I don’t mean them any harm. Your charms tell you that I’m not lying. “
Gudleifr looks away and says “I have to bring you back to the Garrison. I’m just following orders.”
“Gudleifr,” you hear your mother’s footsteps behind you. “I know you mean well, but why the boy can’t at least stay the night.” You feel your mother’s warm hand on your shoulder. “We got the room for him and it wouldn’t be any trouble at all.” Mei Mei barks and wags her tail.
Gudleifr shakes her head. “You don’t understand what you are offering. I can’t let you do this. It’s not safe. Kaja, you don’t even know who the boy is!”
“He’s a lost child, Gudleifr.” Your mother says as if it explains everything. “You checked the boy out and he isn’t lying.”
“Fine.” Gudleifr rubs the bridge of her nose. “I’ll be back for the boy in the morning.” Thanking your mother for the tea, the Dragonblooded Medic leaves the cabin.
“Mother,” Linnea approaches. “Are you sure you should be ignoring Gudleifr?”
“Gudleifr can be overprotective at times.” Your mother seasons her stewpot and smiles. “A city of Gods. I never really thought about gods needing a city, but I guess they need a place to live just like us little folk.”
Linnea glares at her mother. “Why aren’t you taking this seriously?!”
Kaja slams her spice jar down on the counter and faces her daughter. “I am taking this seriously. Svante says he was kidnapped and we may be the only relatives he has. Have you ever known me to turn away a child?”
“This kid isn’t like the other kids. We don’t know who is coming to get him!”
“Gudleifr says he means us no harm and I trust her judgement.”
Linnea makes a disgusted sound. “First you ignore Gudleifr’s advice and now you trust her judgement? Do you know how stupid that sounds?”
“Linnea, don’t sass…” Your mother begins.
“Whatever.” Your sister grabs her coat and leaves the cabin, slamming the door.
You sit there awkwardly at the kitchen table. You didn’t mean to cause your family problems. “Should I leave?”
“No,” Your mother begins to strip the bed that the man with the broken leg was lying on. He must have gone home. “Linnea doesn’t like strangers. She hasn’t since she was about Elise’s age.”
Which was the age she would have been when you were taken away. Sudden hope blossoms inside you. “Did anything happen?” Perhaps your sister remembered something about you!
“What do you mean did anything happen?” Your mother pauses in her work, forehead creased in concentration. “I don’t think so. If anything happened, Linnea hasn’t told me.”
You’ll have to ask your sister later, if she would talk to you. “The medic left when you said that I was a lost child. Why do you help lost children?”
“I’m a healer. I help everyone.” There is a knock on the door. Mei Mei wiggles out of your arms and races your mother to meet whoever it is at the door. You hold your breath and grab the edge of your chair. Has Akachi finally come to take you away?
Your mother answers it and one of the other villagers says her grandmother is sick.
“Let me go wake up Elise and we’ll head over. She’s going to be so grouchy not having a full nap. Unless….Would you watch her, Svante?”
“Mei Mei and I can watch her,” You didn’t really want to visit a sick old woman.
“That would be wonderful.” Your mother pauses in collecting her supplies, looking confused.
“What is it?” you ask.
“I shouldn’t be ordering you around like one of my children.”
You shrug. “I don’t mind.” Secretly, you are pleased by this. Perhaps your mother unconsciously realizes who you are.
Your mother closes the flap of her bag. “Linnea should be back soon. She shouldn’t give you any trouble. Her bark is worse than her bite.”
After your mother leaves, you don’t really know what to do with yourself. You stir the stew, revealing browned chucks of venison, bright orange carrots, and red potatoes. You recover the pot and realize that maybe you should check on your little sister. You head upstairs and look around the attic. The room was divided into three sections. One area has a spinning wheel and loom. Clothes are scattered around Bendt’s section. The walls of Elise’s section are covered in shelves of dolls. Elise herself is nested in a bed of rag dolls and is deeply asleep. Mei Mei leaps onto the bed and curls up into a puppy sized hollow near Elise’s head.
You pull over a stool and sit by your sister’s bed. How long did little sisters sleep? You rub your face and tap your fingers on your knee. You look at all the various dolls displayed around the room until two catch your eye. You get up and pick one up for a closer look.
The porcelain doll wears an embroidered silk komodo and its blonde hair has been elaborated braided around its face. The dolls share your sister’s coloring – one has grey blue eyes, the other amber. These dolls were familiar to you. It takes you a moment to remember where you have seen them before.
Yu Shan. You’ve seen dolls like this in the shops of Yu Shan.
How did your sisters get Yu Shan dolls? You mother knew nothing about the City of Gods, yet someone from Yu Shan must have given the dolls to them. Suddenly everything falls into place. The serene picture perfect village. The Dragoblooded Medic watching over your family. Gudleifr said powerful people were protecting your family.
Akachi has been watching over them.
You wipe the tears from your eyes. Akachi took you from your family and yet he also took care of them for you. For what? Out of a misplaced sense of guilt? To pay them for the child he stole?
The door squeals open downstairs. “Hello?” you hear your older sister call out tentatively.
Your emotions in a jumble, you put the doll back on itself and head downstairs. “Someone came by needing a healer. Elise is…”
Linnea reaches out to grab you. Years of Martial Arts training kicks in and you take a step back, easily dodging her. Using her own momentum against her, you push your sister against the wall.
“What the fuck?” you yell. Why was your sister attacking you?
“What did you do with my brother?” She struggles under you grip, but you have leverage against her. “You left with Bendt after breakfast and he didn’t come back with you. I looked all over town and didn’t find him.”
What do you do?
- Tell your sister Bendt left with the traders to join his Father’s crew
- Tell your sister nothing. Find your mother and tell her what happened.
- Go after your brother yourself.
((When I was nine, I was considered mature enough to watch my little sister. When my little sister was nine, she still needed watching. ))
((So, I confused which coast Wallport was on. Thankfully, Neighborhood Relocation Scheme exists to fix my continuity error later. Hey, didn’t Svante favor Dodge?))