Elora kept telling herself that she wasn't at Cliffside to see N'kio, and that their relationship was just fun and not consuming part of her mind, and that she was just at Cliffside to enjoy the spray of the sea and the sun on her back.
Saphireth knew these all to be lies.
But Elora sat on the docks anyway, careful to stay out of the way of the workers flittering by and the sailors who catcalled her. (To which, of course, she would wink back or wave her fingers or do any other of a variety of flirtatious gestures.) Saphireth, too big to join her without getting in the way, had curled up near the borders of the Hold, hoping nobody would disturb her until Metanath arrived. And he would, eventually, because he'd need something to do after N'kio found Elora.
Which he would, eventually.
But until then, she waited at the edge of the docks, happy to let somebody else carry the message that she was there. And it would, because she could hear the sailors gossiping about a bronze-haired woman hanging out at the docks already.
And sometimes, she hated gossip.
But right now, it was kind of fun to hear. And fun to see how long it would take N'kio to show up.
Squinting against the sun, N'kio angled his head to the left and peered up into the dragon's mouth, probing at the gum line with careful fingers. He ran his cheek against his shoulder to scratch it, then sighed, "And you're sayin' you think it's cracked? What'd you do, bite an anchor?"
A low, miserable groan rumbled up Metanath's throat and out his nose. It feels like it, a little. What happens now? he asked, his tail swishing in the sand.
"It'd be a lot easier if there was more light, but…let me..." He pushed the dragon's tongue out of the way and moved his hand further back. "Hang on, is thi--"
Ah! With a loud burst of sound, Metanath drew his head back and roared, feet stamping as his eyes whirled a vitriolic orange. You grabbed it!
"It was an accident!" N'kio yelled back, more annoyed than upset as he examined the gash on his arm from Metanath's front teeth. He wiped the blood off and held a hand over the wound, though it was apparent from the bleeding that it would have to be properly cleaned and stitched up.
With a slight frown, he looked toward the docks. "If it's that bad, then perhaps we should remove it." He turned back to the angry dragon. "Would you like me to do it, or would you rather be looked at by a healer at the Weyr?"
The Weyr, thank you very much, came his response through flared nostrils. When he noticed the blood, however, the accusing orange in his eyes slowed to a hesitant gold. Did I hurt you?
"Nah, I'll be fine," N'kio shrugged. "No more than I deserve, stickin' my hand in that trap of knives you call a mouth."
Metanath folded his wings and approached his rider, nosing at the cut on his arm. You know…it actually didn't hurt as bad as I made it seem. I just overreacted.
"Overreacted? Shards and Shells, you great, overgrown whe--"
"N'kio!" came a loud, far-off voice to his left. "They're here! Get off that beach and come down to the docks!"
Oh! They're here?
That's what he said!
N'kio's eyes widened, his smile even more so, and the rest of the insult lay forgotten in the sand as he and Metanath walked side-by-side up the hill. He actually hadn't expected them to be here so soon, but unexpected visits were just as fortuitous.
A child tried to poke Saphireth. With a sigh, the DarkBlue opened her eyes and stared at the little one, tilting her head to the side as it scrambled backwards.
By the time she thought to say something to it, the child was gone.
Meanwhile, Elora had managed to get three invites to eat. All were denied as she reached down to unlace her boots, inching closer to let her feet dangle into the edge of the saltwater. It smelled nice here. All wood and fish and sand and sea. She could see why N'kio liked it, she supposed.
N'kio spotted her the moment he stepped on the quay, which was strange - not because she was here at Cliffside, seemingly of her own accord - but he hadn't breathed a word about her to…well, anyone. So why was there an announcement?
Is Saphireth here as well? I would assume so. You haven't seen her yet? I'd like to get your blood out of my mouth first, thanks.
N'kio picked his way through the line-up along the main dock, snatching up an unattended strip of cloth next to one of the seamstress' nets. When he found a spot clear of commotion, he bent down and dipped it in the ocean. Next time, you're going to the Weyr.
If we went, we would have missed them.
He glanced over to where Elora was resting. I'm still confused, though. Why tell me they were here? I didn't say a word to anyone.
There are no ships waiting in the bay. You two were probably seen together the last time. Were we that obvious? Do you want me to answer that? Not really.
Stepping around stacks of lumber and cargo, N'kio walked down the even boards of the dock and over to Elora's side. Sliding her boots to the left with his foot, he sat down next to her without introduction.
"Don't tell me you're getting saltwater in your veins, dragon-girl?"
A smile lifted his lips. "Not that I'd ever mind if you did. So how are you?" he asked, all the while cleaning his wound with the wet cloth. "Did you fare well after the --"
A sudden bugle from Metanath echoed over the sound, but he ignored it for the time. With that dragon, it could be anything - and like he said, there were no ships waiting for them.
"Ah, after that rain storm? Heard the Weyr started to flood. Was it as chaotic there as I imagine it would be?" Frowning at the sting from the salt, he lifted up the bloodied cloth and examined the wound now that it was cleaner. Could be sewn up later.
He began to tie the cloth around the cut when a high-pitched, definitely-not-a-dragon squeal that made him stop and pay attention.
Quick as lightning, N'kio turned in his seat - and what he saw set his heart racing. A small girl with wild, red hair raced down the docks toward them, eyes bright and smile wide. Behind her followed another girl at a quick walk, all brown hair and freckles. On her shoulder perched a green firelizard, half-hidden in her hair.
Shards. What are you going to do? ...What I have to, I guess.
After an apologetic, I-really-had-no-idea glance to Elora, N'kio bolstered himself for what could follow and leapt up to meet the oncoming storms. He took no more than a couple steps before the younger girl ran up to him, bouncing around in a fit of excitement.
"I got to sail the ship! I got to sail the ship! Did you see me, Daddy? Did you?"
Despite their timing, he knew he could never be mad at them. So with a grin, N'kio smiled and scooped the wriggling girl into his arms. "No, love, I'm sorry! I was helping Metanath. You sailed it all by yourself?"
"Yes! The captain said I was very good!"
"Well, of course you are! Sailing's in your blood, after all," said N'kio, his eyes gleaming as she ran her hands over his beard. "Next time you can sail here all by yourself, right?"
A worried look crossed her face. "Well…I...I don't know…"
He chuckled and pressed a kiss on her forehead. "Missed you, Aeli."
She giggled, small teeth flashing, "You're scratchy."
The chirrup of a small thing to his left made him turn and look, though his smile never lessened. Setting Aeli back down on the dock, N'kio stepped over to his other daughter and, mindful of the firelizard perched on her shoulder, gave her a hug and a kiss.
"Hi daddy," she started, then whispered loudly, "Hey, who's that?"
Sink or swim, right? And if she doesn't like it, then I don't like her anymore.
N'kio stood up. "She's a friend," he supplied. "Girls, this is Elora. She's a dragon rider, too." After Aeli's coo of appreciation, he continued, but spoke this time to Elora.
"Elora…" he hesitated. "Umm...these are my daughters. Aeli's on the left, and Noila to my right."
She felt him sit next to her; no need to turn her head to know who it was, and a smile flickered across the face as his arm brushed hers.
Don't tell me you're getting saltwater in your veins, dragon-girl?
Saltwater in her veins? No, but it had been on her lips, her skin, and most importantly, her mind; a pool of sea-ridden thoughts that distracted her from her work and her Weyr and her plans.
Elora twitched her head towards him, eyes widening at the sight of blood coagulating on the cloth. She would have reached forward to take it from him, but Metanath's bugle distracted her, eyes flicking past N'kio towards the docks.
What's going on? I have no idea.
Elora shifted her gaze back to N'kio's wound, completely ready to brush off his questions to ask her own as he tied the cloth around the cut. How had he ended up with that?
And before she had a chance to say hello, another stole his attention.
… you know, I never pictured them with firelizards. At least you were mentally prepared.
"I got to sail the ship! I got to sail the ship! Did you see me, Daddy? Did you?"
She didn't see N'kio's glance as he leapt to his feet, moving away from her to scoop the little one into his arms, her weight nothing to him. Elora glanced at the mousy girl behind him before shifting her gaze back to the ocean.
What do you think? I wish he had told me before. You knew he wasn't. And everybody has secrets. Still. But what do you think?
Elora turned her gaze back to the family behind her, head tilting just enough so that her hair draped down towards her chest in a bronze wave. Well, Aeli has great hair.
Saphireth's bubble of amusement floated across her mind, just enough to bring a smile to her face as the brunette glanced over at her.
"She's a friend. Girls, this is Elora. She's a dragon rider, too."
She's a friend. Memories rose unbidden to her mind - leaving houses, entering halls, passing into the town square; how many times had she been introduced in such a way? He didn't know; it wasn't his fault, but… they weren't friends.
And she knew he couldn't tell them, the same way they couldn't tell anybody, but for a moment, it brought back memories, and for a moment, it stung.
But then he turned to her, and she remembered to smile.
"Um… these are my daughters. Aeli's on the left, and Noila to my right."
Elora's spine was completely twisted in an attempt to face them. Finally swinging her legs off of the dock, she turned in her seat, smiling at the kids in front of her.
She had clients with kids in the past. They had always liked her well enough.
It had never mattered before, though.
Time to put on a show.
"I believe you mean Aeli's the one with the great head of hair and Noila's the one with the adorable firelizard."
Well done. I'm gonna bring them to see you. Don't you dare. Love you too, Saphireth. You're going to owe me.
Elora kept to her seated position, putting her on more even footing with the girls in terms of height. "What's her name, Noila?"
Aeli giggled and hid her face against N'kio's leg, while Noila, eyes widening at the mention of her name, stared openly at Elora.
"This is Felucca," she replied, and disentangled the green firelizard from her hair. The small green clutched at her hands with her claws, and her eyes swirled an annoyed yellow at the disruption. She smiled slightly at the little creature.
"Mum named her after a ship. Felucca watches us when she's not around." With a curious glance back to N'kio - who then nodded his encouragement - Noila moved closer to Elora, cradling the firelizard in her arms.
"Want to pet her?"
Aeli, jealous of the attention her older sister was getting, hopped over to her sister's side. "Do you have a Queen dragon? What's her name? Is she here? She should be friends with Metanath, he's funny."
N'kio inhaled sharply, not realizing he hadn't breathed since Elora had turned to face them. He ran a hand over his hair and down his neck and watched the trio with hesitation, not wanting to comment for fear of messing anything up.
I tried to warn you they were coming, you know. I heard no such thing! I roared for you, but you didn't pay attention. …Oh. Exactly.
While the girls were distracted, N'kio glanced over his shoulder at the docks and the Hold higher up. Where was their mother?
Speaking to Ralt. Istan news, that sort of thing. How do you know that? She told me before she went up. But she'll be down soon to see you. That's just…grand.
N'kio looked back to his daughters, then Elora. He watched her face carefully, shifting nervously around on his feet. She was handling the news extremely well. Almost too well.
Elora inched herself farther towards Noila, hand curling up to scratch the firelizard on the top of its head. "Felucca is a very pretty name. Your mother has excellent taste."
She didn't look at N'kio.
Aeli's bouncy curls popped up in her peripheral vision, so she turned her head to give the younger and infinitely more energetic sister her attention, fingers still moving against the green firelizard's hide.
"To answer your questions: no, I don't have a Queen, but my dragon is better than a Queen. She's a Dark Blue, and her name is Saphireth. She is here, and she is friends with Metanath."
And he's lucky for it. I see I'm rubbing off on you. You still owe me.
Elora dropped her hand down from the firelizard, smiling at both girls before arching her back and coming to her feet in one smooth motion. She reached forward to muss the hair of Aeli before bending her knees again, squatting at eye-to-eye level with the girls.
"Would you like to meet her? We're not allowed to fly on our own yet or we'd take you around, but I'm certain she wouldn't mind saying hi."
Elora turned her gaze from the girls up to their father for the first time, eyes glittering as they locked with N'kio's. "Assuming your father lets you, of course."
Once her offer was accepted, and encouraged by Elora's enthusiasm, Noila moved closer to allow her a better reach at their firelizard, who closed her eyes and crooned at the new attention. And while Elora was distracted by Felucca, Noila took the time to observe her dad's friend.
She didn't know anything about her, but she was pretty - not as pretty as their mum - though her hair was nice. It was the color of those King dragons they saw in Ista. And she seemed kind, which was all that mattered, really.
Noila glanced curiously at her dad, smiled, and then looked back to Elora once Felucca crawled up her arm and back on her shoulder.
"I like her name," said Aeli, her attention caught somewhere between chattering on and listening. Her eyes grew wide as eggs when the comment about meeting her dragon registered in her mind. "Ooh! Can we?"
She turned to her father. "Daddy, can we? Please?"
"I want to see her, too," Noila chimed in.
N'kio's eyes crinkled as he smiled at his daughters, and his nod of consent was met with squeals of excitement and much jumping up and down - and most of it from Aeli.
"Oh, it's alright with me. Saphireth's well-behaved, anyway. But, girls, what do we say to Elora?"
"Thank you!" "Yes, thank you!"
He had been looking at Elora for most of the time, but until just now, she hadn't met his eye. He held her gaze just as she did his and, not for the first time, he wished they could communicate like the dragons did.
But would he like what she would have to say?
She would have found out sooner or later, N'kio. Better now than later, right? I don't want to scare her off. She's young, especially compared to us, and I'm sure she has plans of her own. Involving the children? It's more than I wanted at this point. Would you like me to talk to her? No. No, I'll do that myself, if I get the time.
She broke her gaze from N'kio's, careful to keep any emotions besides happiness off of her face as she turned back to his daughters. And to be fair, she wasn't feeling a lot of other emotions.
Or maybe it was because she wouldn't let herself feel them.
"Then off we go, girls! She's up on the fields. Didn't want to break anything coming through to sit down here with me."
She sprang back up to full height, reaching over to give Noila's firelizard one more scratch on the head before stepping forward, motioning for them to follow her.
I'm ready, I suppose. Excellent, because I wasn't giving you a choice. Where's their mother?
She hadn't thought of that.
Oh. That's where all the other emotions were coming from. Okay, then.
It wasn't that he had been with another woman that bothered her - that would be the pot calling the kettle black; no, it was that he... he had done the whole relationship thing before. Clearly, at least enough that he had two children. What had gone wrong?
And would she make the same mistakes?
It was a good thing she had turned away from the girls and slipped past N'kio to lead them up to Saphireth, because for a moment, the panic set it and her calm mask flickered; but she plastered it back on again, forcing a bright smile on her face as she looked over her shoulder at the family behind her.
"Hey!" Aeli skipped over to Elora, her grin never leaving her face as she took Elora's hand. "I'm no slowpoke!"
She wants to see you, N'kio, announced Metanath, his large shadow drifting over the small group before moving off to the fields. Will you meet with her?
N'kio knew he wasn't frowning - but he wasn't exactly smiling, either. He rubbed the back of his neck as he and Noila walked together, hand-in-hand, following Elora and Noila away from the docks and up toward the square.
A knot of nerves settled in his stomach as he tried to fix his wind-ruffled hair with a hand. I'm not sensing much of a choice here?
All was quiet. Then, in a tone that could only be described as amused, came his answer. That is correct.
So be it.
Sudden, sharp claws in his arm made him wince, the lines around his eyes creasing, as Noila's firelizard scrabbled for purchase up and on his shoulder before launching off to follow in the Black's shadow. Noila, emboldened by her Green friend, followed suit to catch up with Aeli and their daddy's new friend, running up the stairs one at a time.
"Mind yourself, girls," N'kio called out, knowing full well his words would be ignored now that they had a new friend. Well, that depended on her - Elora - and her willingness to be involved in all of this. The girls were still young enough...maybe, if it didn't work out, they wouldn't mind not seeing her again.
It wasn't as if the girls came by much, anyway.
Leaving the stairs for level ground, the field, Saphireth, and Metanath were now all in sight. The only thing that wasn't was --
"If I recall correctly, you still owe me that drink, sailor," came a voice to his right, as a slim arm, warm from the sunlight, intertwined with his.
Despite it all - Elora, the awkward situation, the girls - a smile tugged at the corners of his lips.
"Hey, skimmer. You've gone a while this time." N'kio looked over at the lithe woman next to him. "Trade in the South still as bad as ever?"
She shook her head in disbelief. "Worse and worse each time we dock, even with Arrin's name on it. Your Headwoman's death has made shipping examinations even more of a pain in the arse, more so considering Ista's not on good terms with your Weyr. Something about making certain that all our wares are accounted for on the manifest, and if not..."
N'kio made a disconcerting noise in his throat. "I can talk to Ralt, if you'd like?"
Isbel shrugged with a languid ease and pushed back strands of dark hair. "Appreciate the offer, but there's not much he can do. You know that. It's been like that ever since, well...the beginning." "Is this all over the Southern ports?"
"Just in the ones that count. Monaco's open, as well as Cove, though they're far off the main shipping lanes. Hardly worth the effort, really, even if it is nice to be back in the South."
They were quiet for a moment, and N'kio shifted his eyes back to the front. Then, there was a nudge at his side.
"Word is she's yours. Is that true? Don't tell me she's still a Candidate."
He resisted the urge to laugh. She was never very subtle. "She's a Rider. Her dragon's the DarkBlue over there...and that depends."
"Who's doing the talking."
Isbel snorted. "You're too easy. What's her name?"
"I see." She eyed the slender girl, currently preoccupied with their children, and then made a clucking noise with her tongue. "Did she know about --"
"Not a clue."
"Well, well." Releasing her arm from his, more out of comfort than her own image, Isbel added, "I expect it's quite a mess you're in?"
N'kio nodded. "Aye, that's the long and short of it."
She chuckled. "You should introduce me."
And with that, Isbel left his side and approached the young girl and her DarkBlue dragon.
"You're not, huh?" Elora absentmindedly squeezed Aeli's hand as they approached Saphireth. "Bet you're at least as fast as Noila's firelizard."
The other sister brought up the rear a moment later, joining them as Saphireth lazily lifted up her head. Should I say hello to them?
Please, take their attention off of me.
A flash of amusement and worry rose from Saphireth as she uncurled herself, stretching her neck up as high as she could to look down at the young girls in front of her. A burst of shyness hit and, too shy to actually talk, she merely swung her head down so she was looking at the two girls at their height.
She watched her dragon for a moment, how she swung her head between the two, too shy to talk but brave enough to keep their attention. Elora smiled and glanced behind her to see where N'kio was, and instead of her redheaded sailor, there was a woman approaching, who enough of Aeli and Noila's features to figure out who she was in a heartbeat.
She was pretty.
Not in the way that Elora knew she was pretty; Elora was the stunning beauty of a dragon, sharp angles and elusive smiles and something wild that needed to be tamed. Elora's beauty was more alien than human, more beast than woman; she was everything that nature demanded she be, wild and wild and wild.
And this woman - she was pretty, beautiful in the way that people ought to be; she was the beauty of a busy life, of a family, of working hard and living fully. She was somebody you could make a life with - somebody you could have children with.
For the first time, Elora found herself... inferior. She could be jealous, yes, but... she had never felt like this before.
...Mine? I'm okay, Saphireth.
And she shoved her feelings aside, flashed a smile over her face, and waited for the mother to approach.
With an appraising smile of her own, Isbel approached the young rider.
“So you’re the one who’s been the cause of late shipments from Cliffside. These sailors are easy to distract, aren’t they?” She laughed, full and rich, and extended her hand in greeting. “I’m Isbel Orosco. I see you’ve met my girls, Noila and Aeli. I hope they haven’t been too much of a problem for you - all that time on a ship with no place to go makes them testy.”
She ignored their brief cries of protest and continued, momentarily tilting her head as Felucca returned to her shoulder. “Word on the docks is that you and N’kio are much more than friends. Since the rumors are true, then I can see how everything must look to you with us being here.” She paused and fixed her hair around her firelizard’s wingspan. “If you don’t mind, I’ll be blunt and get any questions you might have out of the way.”
“To start, you should know that N’kio and I aren’t married, so breathe easy. Shells, we’re not even in a relationship. We were, once, but that was more than a few turns ago,” Isbel said, looking over at N’kio. “Since we had the girls to think about, and I had already built a life and place of my own in Ista’s shipyard, we decided it was best to part as friends and keep in touch.”
N’kio found his voice. “I send her a stipend of his earnings each time to help with the girls, and in return she brings Noila and Aeli down to visit when they’re able to secure passage.”
Metanath finally landed and maneuvered himself off to the side of the group, opting to be closer to Saphireth than his rider. It was still a tense time, he could tell, and he rather preferred to stay out of their very human conversation. Relationships like these and the reasons behind them were much too confusing for him.
Are you and Elora alright?
Isbel turned back to Elora. “We won’t be staying for very long in Cliffside – a few days, perhaps. Just long enough to trade our wares, replenish our stock, and move on to the next port. You’ll be around the girls more than me, if you stick around N’kio this sevenday, but they should behave better after being on land for a day or so.” She took a deep breath and nodded, exhaling slowly as she eyed DarkBlue dragon and her rider. “I think I’ve covered everything. Do you have any questions for me – or, more importantly, N’kio?”
He had a family. Not a steady one, not like the ones she knew many of the Riders had left behind, but a family nonetheless. Career. Friends.
She hadn't seen it until now, his life. She knew it, the pieces of it, and had daydreamed about fitting into it, the way a ship fits into a sea - a natural part of it, despite the rough patches and the storms.
But she had Saphireth and the Weyr; she wouldn't leave that, and though the Weyr and Cliffside Sea Hold were close, they would never have a home, especially given her own wanderlust. She didn't want children, and he already had some. Her past was something they could never discuss. And even if Metanath flew Saphireth, that was a one-time thing.
What were the chances of this working? Maybe if he didn't have a family, didn't have ties - but he did.
And she realized she had spent too long in silence at Isbel's question.
"Oh, I don't have anything to ask. Today's the only day I'll be here - I have Weyr responsibilities - but it's been lovely meeting your girls. I really oughtta be heading back soon anyway." She didn't know if she imagined Noila and Aeli's protests or if they were real, but it brought a smile to her face anyway, even as her stomach was sinking.
Saphireth tried her best to ignore her Rider's sinking stomach, even as she turned her head to answer Metanath's question.
“Ah, yes, the Weyr and its responsibilities,” Isbel remarked, skirting around Elora’s response. It was clear as day that the girl wanted to leave – it was easy to recognize the signs now that she had children who used the same methods. This was an awkward topic, an awkward situation. Better to not press the issue, particularly with Noila and Aeli around. No matter.
Metanath’s eyes spun yellow-green. Your rider and my rider would agree on that. He curled his tail around his feet and pressed his wings tight against his body. The girls were prone to getting under them and he was so very ticklish there. Don’t worry. I can tell this meeting will be over soon.
Her smile crinkling the corners of her eyes, Isbel took the helm of the conversation with ease. “I forget sometimes that there’s another way of life besides the ocean. I don’t know I’d be cut out for the life of a Rider – particularly with what your Weyr’s been dealing with as of late. Far too many variables to consider, even if sailing and flying are similar – or so I’ve heard.” She chuckled and nodded in the direction of her girls. “Though I must admit, a dragon would be easier to handle than those wildlings over there. Probably doesn’t eat as much as them, either.”
She heard N’kio laugh softly at her side and she tried to ignore the urge to smile for Elora’s sake. Instead, she turned to the dragons and watched them together. They were beautiful, stunning creatures….and were still being hassled by the girls. She folded her arms.
“Aeli, Noila – come away from the dragons. Elora has other business at the Weyr to attend to.” Isbel looked back to Elora once more. “So, we’ll be going now – lots to do down on the docks, and I’ve also got to get the girls settled in. It was very nice meeting you. I hope you take care.”
Waving a wild goodbye, Aeli sprinted to her mother’s side without a second thought.
Noila, on the other hand, took a few shy steps toward Elora, a small smile on her face. “Thank you for letting me meet your dragon,” she mumbled. “I like you. Come back soon?” Then she blushed, and without waiting to hear a response, turned and walked quickly over to her father’s side.
N’kio wrapped his arm around Noila in a quick hug and kissed her on the top of her head, before she wriggled out of his grasp and followed her sister down the pathway toward the docks. He watched the three of them leave and, once they were out of his sight, faced Elora. This was it - sink or swim. And everything he could think of fell short of how he had wanted to explain the situation; there was no right way to go about it, and the conversation was wrapping up fast.
“Well…that’s the long and short of it. I’m…I’m sorry about the surprise. I didn’t know, myself.”
He couldn’t blame her for how she was probably feeling – hurt, shocked, possibly betrayed. His life was no easy wine to swallow. She was young and had all the potential in the world. She hadn't signed up for this. He wouldn’t blame her for wanting to never speak to him again. It would have been easier to work into this conversation when they were alone, but now things seemed…different.
Metanath rose to his feet and spoke to Elora. Take all the time you need. I know N’kio would not begrudge you that. I hope I'll see you again sometime.
Saphireth poked Noila in the back as the girl turned around, eyes whirling quickly with amusement as the girl glanced back before shyly stepping up to Elora. . . .
The DarkBlue wanted to say something to him, to tell him that he should have said something. Dragons don't lie. But he didn't lie, and it wasn't his secret to tell, as Elora's past wasn't hers - though in Saphireth's defense, Elora's defense wasn't going to walk up and introduce itself.
Still. It seemed wrong. This whole thing had been done wrong.
Elora didn't have the chance to respond to any of Isbel's comments - the woman seemed quite content to keep the conversation flowing, and then once she summoned her children back to her side, Elora realized why. Did her discomfort show that acutely?
She could feign emotions, wear a mask, yet... he was making it slip. Damn him.
Noila bounded up to her, shyness keeping the girl's words quiet. “Thank you for letting me meet your dragon,” she mumbled. “I like you. Come back soon?”
Elora's eyes widened as the girl darted back to her mother's side and, for a second, refrained from turning around to where N'kio was undoubtedly saying goodbye to her. She murmured goodbyes, thankful for Saphireth's overenthusiastic trill as the girl's disappeared, before turning back to N'kio.
“Well…that’s the long and short of it. I’m…I’m sorry about the surprise. I didn’t know, myself.”
Metanath's voice slipped into her mind.
But all she could manage to say was a quiet, "I should get back to the Weyr."