Two rotations later and I was so excited. This morn, Seth, Lazot and Simeon would be released from their Isolation Hall. I practically bounced as I waited close by, Kine by my side and Eecee on watch. All my team had been given time off to recover and tend to any loved ones who were struggling with the infection, but for some reason, Eecee had turned up long before her intended return to duty and had been guarding me since yester eve. I hadn’t really had a chance to interrogate her yet about why she felt the need to keep an eye on me but I trusted her so I left it for now. She’d open up eventually. My only concern was that something had happened to one of her moms or another of her kin, and she was burying herself in work. Yet, from close observation, she seemed much like her usual self…
I was distracted from my thoughts as the doors to the Isolation Hall suddenly opened. I half expected a torrent of bodies to gush forth and braced myself to withstand the tide but I needn’t have worried. It was several moments before anyone came through the door and when they did, it was a clam, leisurely exit. Breathing out a silent sigh of relief that this would be a more sedate encounter, I waited for a glimpse of my loved ones, tail a little stiff, ears pointed forward. I didn’t have to wait long. They were among the first to leave, and my heart swelled with excitement as I saw a little figure suddenly pause before dashing in my direction.
My nose told me it was Seth just a fraction before our kin bond bloomed with emotions. I crouched and opened my arms just in time for Seth to launch himself at me.
“Sethi!” I exclaimed happily. He’d grown and his weight hit hard but I could handle it, focused more on hugging him as tightly as I safely could. The little figure in my arms began to purr loudly and I mimicked him, sharing in the moment. A tiny, rough tongue lick my temple where Seth’s head rested and laughed, rubbing my nose into his cheek, just enjoying being with him again, his little antics and mannerisms. I’d missed him.
I was aware of Kine close by, just offering silent support and radiating happiness. He was quickly joined by two others, so I stood up, Seth still clinging to me. My arms didn’t want to let go either but I managed to manoeuvre his little body so I could hold him in one arm, and looked up. Lazot and Simeon were standing with Kine, watching us with smiles on their faces. I grinned back and, fast as I could, pulled first Lazot into a tight hug. I didn’t let him go for some time and felt Simeon, who had always been shy around most people, wrap both his arms around our little huddle. We just stayed like that, taking in the moment until Seth started to wiggle. Young cubs had a lot of energy and this one had been stuck in one place for too long.
I giggled a little as, by some sort of unspoken consensus, we all let go of the embrace and Seth seemed to bounce with energy as he was released, a permanent grin stretched across his face. As he wandered off, I turned and gave Lazot and Simeon proper hugs.
“I’m so glad you’re all okay.” I said in a low voice. The hallway wasn’t the best place for in depth talks so, as I pulled away to look at my kin, my mind searched for what to do next. “You’ve all been stuck in close quarters for a while now. Why don’t we visit one of the parks, maybe the main one? It will give us all a chance to chat while Seth runs off some energy.” I suggested.
Kine and I both saw the hesitation on Lazot and Simeon’s faces, so Kine was quick to reassure them. “The spores have been cleared from the entire Capital and a protective barrier erected until we are sure the spores are no longer a problem. It’s safe, I promise, or you wouldn’t have been released.”
Still they looked reluctant and I began to wonder if there was something else going on. “If you’d rather not, we can take advantage of the mansion’s gardens. Still plenty of space and a little more privacy. I don’t think many will be out and about just yet, they’re still a little scared, but even those few may be too much right now. I know it’s not easy readjusting after being stuck in one place for so long.”
Lazot sighed, a weary sort of sound, and rubbed his forehead. “No, it’s alright. Let’s go to the main park. There are things we want to talk to you about but I’m just being too cautious.” He glanced over at Seth’s playful figure. “I think I still fear losing him again or him being in danger. He just disappeared for two rotations and I didn’t know where he was or if he was even alive. I think this spore scare has triggered some memories and fears for me.”
The pain was evident in Lazot’s voice and without a thought, I leaned into him and gave him a head bump, a little purr rumbling though me. Sometimes, words were not enough and got in the way, so all I could think to do to comfort my friend, was simply let him know I was there. He leaned back into me briefly, with a little cheek rub or my head, before we smiled gently at each other. From the corner of my eye, I saw that Simeon was also struggling with some thing, so I decided to walk next to him as we all began to drift down the hallway, heading for the exit.
With a brief cast of my eye to make sure Seth was being attended to, I turned my attention to Simeon. We hadn’t had much time together but we’d begun to form a friendship in the short time we’d had together. Simeon was a very capable individual and had a passion for plants. He was quiet and very sensitive to others moods, yet he carried an air about him that spoke volumes. This was someone who knew how to defend themselves and it sent an awareness straight up the spine when you neared him. Don’t get me wrong, every Icanthie had that predatory air to some degree, but few were as intense and evident as Simeon’s. At first glance, he seemed mild yet as you got close, his true nature shouted its presence. He would and could protect himself.
Yet he was gentle. I’d never seen Simeon lose his temper or become violent and something in me said I didn’t want to, certainly not if it was aimed at me. I think this odd, dual nature of his was one of the reasons he and Lazot had managed to have their relationship with little comment, given the political nature of Lazot’s role. I felt prevailed to see Simeon’s nurturing side as I suspected most were never allowed to glimpse it. It made me oddly protective of him.
“How have the last few quarters been Simeon? Do you need anything?” I asked. As I hated to be asked how I felt or how I was, I tried to avoid such questions, though sometimes they were inevitable. Instead, I tried to ask genuine, specific questions that I actually wanted or needed the answers to.
Simeon looked at me, really looked, as we strolled along side-by-side behind Kine and Lazot. I wasn’t great at looking someone in the eye, but Simeon somehow made it not so bad. Still I looked away quickly, happy to wait for an answer whenever Simeon was ready. The silence stretched out between us until, finally, Simeon turned to face forward again.
“The time in the Isolation Halls was comfortable enough, though of course we were most concerned about the King and about potentially catching this infection. Lazot especially fretted over Seth and it was upsetting to watch…” he paused, lost in thought. “I must admit, it was difficult to observe so much suffering and being unable to do anything. I think, for now, we just need to adjust to the recent changes and look after our House. It will be good to be of use again.”
“I’m sorry it’s been so hard for you all Simeon. I missed you all so much, even when we could see each other on the short visits. If House Greer need anything, please ask. I’m not sure how much I can help but I’ll do my best.” I paused, trying to phrase the next part carefully. “It’s okay to take time to rest and heal. Your House will have all the help it needs, Kine will make sure of that, so you don’t have to do everything yourself, all at once. Please be careful Simeon.”
I immediately worried that I had said too much or the wrong thing, and Simeon’s silence only compounded that feeling. I only wanted Simeon to have the support that anyone with responsibilities should have, especially having gone through a very difficult time recently. Oh well, I had to trust that my heart was clear in this, even if I did screw up in communicating. It wasn’t often that communication was a problem for me, then it wasn’t often that I had to learn how to interact with new people. I was very aware that I still struggled to treat the Icanthie around me as I would my Myath. I hoped it didn’t carry any bias about them but I was defiantly wary of incurring insult or ire of a people who had been taught for too long to, at best, disregard me and, at worst, hate me…
“Thank you for your care Sierra. I know I have a habit of burying myself in work so I shall try to ensure I don’t over do it.” Simeon graced me with a small smile. “And how have your last few quarters been? I have heard second hand that the Drakes were very accommodating but nothing has been officially confirmed and I know you have been very busy since your return. Do you need any help?”
Embarrassment filled me. “I fear I have been hypocritical, in that I too have recently buried myself in work to avoid an unpleasant situation. I’m sorry Simeon, I have no right to warn you about self care.”
Simeon chuckled a little. “Not at all Sierra. I am sorry for what has been a difficult and hurtful event for you. And aren’t friends there to help us and guide us when they can see us better than we see ourselves? I’m grateful that they care enough and feel comfortable enough to mention it.”
We smiled at one another, some invisible wall, thin though it was, fell away between us. I felt a new bond grow between us, different from the kin bonds I was so familiar with. Where before I felt a vague connection to Simeon through my kin bond with Lazot, now I felt a bond like a braid, weaved through with many different emotions, thoughts and even other bonds. A kith bond. Our smiles grew and filled with warmth as we quietly followed our group as we left the Heart, allowing our new dome to settle into place.
We travelled quickly, hopping momentarily on the grav-line, and arriving at the expansive area of the main Park. We moved to the centre of the wide open space, skirting the small pond near the Heart. In the distance, the stalking area was visible, though few figures made their presence known. Seth immediately zoomed off, running around, sniffing, stalking and generally having a good time enjoying his freedom. The rest of us looked for a place to sit and enjoy the air.
“Would you prefer a raised pergola or one of the fire pits?” Kine asked. “Not that we need a fire today, it is still beautifully warm.”
“Oh, I love the winter! My favourite thing is to be in a hot pool as it snows!” I reminisced, remembering the exact pool three or four orbits ago.
My friends chuckled at me as I got lost in happy memories.
“Shall we get a raised pergola? That way we can more easily keep an eye on the young hunter.” Lazot suggested.
We agreed and found a free pergola to settle in, using the facilities to call up snacks and drinks. I had MEL (the Music and Entertainment Liaison) connect to my private database and play my instrumental list for some background music. We spent a leisurely time relaxing, playing with Seth and talking, just basking in one another’s company. I spent a chunk of time playing hide-and-stalk and another just pretend wrestling. Inevitably, conversation circled round to the recent health scare.
“Do you think the protective barrier will come down soon, my King?” Lazot asked Kine, casting a speculative eye to the Capital wall.
“It won’t be permanent but I can’t say when it will come down.” Kine paused, also looking toward the wall, though his sight was turned inward. “We’ve learned a lot from this and thankfully, it didn’t cost lives. But we’ve become complacent; stagnant and too sure of our technology. This had been a wake up call.”
A contemplative quiet settled over out little group as we thought about how close we had come to a disaster.
“Sierra, without y-“ Kine began but I cut him off.
“Don’t say it. You would have found a way. Just… all I did was share some data. I’d have done it for anyone in need. This is why it’s important to share information. It helps people.” I tried to redirect the conversation and a thought occurred to me. “Kine, I know it’s probably covered but it just occurred to me, did you check the nodes for spore contamination?”
“Yes, we checked everything, even the triple filters. Two nodes showed contamination but we isolated them and got replacements in after we’d tracked down the the entry point. It was the first thing we did once we realised the spores were the cause of the infection. We can’t afford to let BOAD go down. BOAD facilitates the implementation of… well everything…”
We all hummed in agreement, glad that such a devastating eventuality never occurred. Inevitably, our thoughts turned to the coming Gathering. We all knew that it was a risky endeavour, cooperation between the various Monarch Nations was rare. But what else could we do?
“Will it work?” Simeon quietly asked.
“I don’t know but what really concerns me is what we do next if it fails…” Kine responded, hints of desperation echoed in his tone.
We all felt it and no one spoke as we contemplated the unthinkable.
“… We’ll find a way.” I whispered, not even sure if I wanted to be heard. It was more a promise to myself and I decided there and then that I’d do everything I could to find a way.
Seth interrupted the low mood as he finally returned having worn himself out frolicking in the park. This signalled the end to our little party and we slowly meandered back towards the mansion, Seth was carried by each of us along the way, now too tired to walk. We split up once we got close to our various residences and Kine and I walk the rest of the way comfortably together. The sun had dropped behind the horizon as we reached home, and we made our way up the stairs to our rooms, still in a comfortable silence. I came to my door and opened it, turning to bid Kine goodnight.
“Goodnight, rest well.” Kine hugged me and turned to leave but quickly turned back again before he’d even taken a step. “Oh Sierra, about that interview you requested. I’ve arranged it for the morn. Your guards will show you the way.” Kine said, nonchalant, but I felt his concern through our bond.
“Thanks Kine. I’ll come see you after?” I asked. To be honest I was a little nervous. Kine nodded, gave me one last hug and we went our separate ways. I closed the door and did the bare necessities before collapsing into bed. Sleep came swiftly.
Yukitora-J L Wright
Voracious book dragon, been writing forever but only starting posting in 2020.
I have High Functioning Autism as well as dyslexia and dyscalculia. I find random tangents both tantalisingly intriguing and (at the wrong moment) very annoying. I love sci-fi and fantasy, humour, big cats (especially leopards and snow leopards), wolves, stoats (so tiny!), two-toed sloths and pangolins...
I am an optimist and mostly try to find some good in everything. So enjoy, have fun and see you around!!