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Making Space

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Chime settled awkwardly in the back of the room, watching Moon.

They had traveled to Opal Night so that Moon could be formally presented with Celadon’s first clutch. While Moon had grown closer with members of his birth court, and had at least reached a private understanding with Malachite, he had still been reluctant to visit again after that first disastrous trip.

It figured that fledglings would be the only thing that could get him to come back.

Celadon and Shard’s first clutch was composed of five healthy female fledglings. It had only been about six changes of the month since their birth, so it was still too early to tell which would grow up into queens. Their scales were still the reddish bronze color of babyhood, with miniature teeth poking through their fleshy gums, their claws still dull and soft.

Moon, like always, had a special way with the infants. The babies had been asleep when they’d arrived in the nursery, but as they settled down on the scattered cushions one of them had stirred and begun to whimper, threatening to squall and wake the others. Shard, still jittery over his first clutch, had scooped her up and begun to coo, trying to calm her.

Moon had asked if he could take her, and almost reluctantly Shard had handed her over.

Moon and Shard had only met once before this visit, at the same time that Celadon and Shard had first met. Shard had come to Indigo Cloud with a small party from Sunset Water that included another unattached consort. The visit had nominally been about restoring normal trade since that the Fell had been repelled from the Reaches, but it was also about cementing the new, closer alliance between Indigo Cloud and Sunset Water, and forging the entirely new one between Sunset Water and Opal Night.

At that visit, Moon had been a little surly and reticent, as he always was meeting consorts from other courts, and Chime had worried that Shard and the other unattached consort would take it personally. Shard was too well raised to make it obvious if he had taken it personally.

Whatever hesitance Shard had had over handing his fussy fledgling to Moon seemed to melt away once Moon actually had her in his arms. He cradled her gently, close to his chest, dipping the tip of his thumb into her mouth. He let her gnaw on the soft groundling flesh and hummed deep in his chest. Within a few minutes he had lulled her back to sleep.

When the fledgling seemed well asleep, Jade spoke for the first time, from her own cushion slightly behind the consorts, next to Celadon. She asked, “What’s her name?” referring to the fussy one.

Shard glanced furtively at Celadon, who nodded at him, and then told her, “Autumn.”

Jade nodded. Shard turned to the other fledglings, all still softly dozing in a pile on the furs, and gently extricated another who was sleeping on the side. He did it slowly and carefully, and then deposited her in Jade’s arms. His voice a velvet soft whisper, Shard said, “This is Clove.”

The fledgling started a little as she was transferred from Shard to Jade, hiccupping once, but Jade hushed her and rocked her gently, and she settled back down without waking.

Celadon and Shard looked pleased.

Moon had asked Chime to come along with him and Jade for this, and flattered, Chime had agreed. Chime’s role as Moon’s favorite had never been something they’d really negotiated aloud, and while Moon often sought his company or his advice, when they traveled or entertained guests from other courts he rarely asked for Chime’s company explicitly for these sorts of things and always seemed to assume that Chime would follow along. And he did, usually. But Moon had asked him specifically to come along this morning when he’d overheard Chime making plans to go out and explore Opal Night’s vicinity with the other Indigo Cloud warriors and a small group from Opal Night. Chime had been so pleased to be explicitly asked that he hadn’t thought about how odd it was to bring along a foreign warrior, even a prized favorite, to the formal presentation of a new royal clutch.

He felt so out of place here now, though. His eyes drifted towards the floor. He couldn’t believe he was starting to feel like he’d rather be out flying with the warriors. What had gotten into him?

Chime was startled out of his distraction when Shard suddenly approached him, settling in front of him. Shard had a larger presence than Moon. He was thicker set and more heavily muscled than most Aeriat, much less most consorts.

Chime stifled a surprised gasp and was a bit dumbfounded as Shard deposited another fledgling into Chime’s arms. He hadn’t expected to actually be involved in this at all, much less to get to hold one of the fledglings. “Silk,” Shard told him proudly.

This fledgling stirred a little too at being handled, but she didn’t start to cry. She stared up at Chime with large brown eyes, shiny in the dim light of the nursery, and yawned. The tiny points of her teeth flashed as she opened her mouth wide and stretched her little body extravagantly with the yawn. She closed her eyes again when she was done, shifting in his arms and seeking out his body heat. He adjusted his hold on her and held her close. Her scent was familiar, clean, and pleasant. When he brought her to his chest, she bit the fabric of his shirt, and he could feel it dampen with her spittle as she chewed on it, snorting softly as she fell back asleep. Her jaw relaxed and with a single finger, he pulled his shirt out of her mouth. Chime stroked her back gently, along the tiny, underdeveloped wing bones, lulling her to rest.

He looked up suddenly, and noticed Moon and Jade were watching him, and he noticed how satisfied both looked, and felt himself blush. He ducked his head back down toward the baby and watched her chest expand and contract with each breath she took so he wouldn’t have to look at them. It was too embarrassing.

Shard gently passed all of the fledglings around, including Chime in each rotation, so that Jade, Moon, and Chime all had a chance to briefly hold each.

Chime held each in turn, gently at first, but after his turn holding Silk all the babies started to stir and wriggle at once, cooing and gurgling in unformed words. Once they were awake, they sometimes wanted to cuddle, sometimes wanted to climb, and sometimes wanted to play. He bounced them in his lap and tickled their bellies, trying to get them to giggle.

He told himself that Moon just looked so pleased because that was how he always looked around children.

That evening, Chime sat in the consorts’ hall for the consorts of Malachite’s line with Moon, Shade, Shade’s warrior Flicker, Shard, Shard’s warrior clutchmate Arrow who had come to Opal Night with him, and Dune, the youngest of the surviving consorts that had been born to Malachite’s old sister queen in the eastern colony.

Dune was still unattached, even though he was very close in age to Moon, well past time to be given to a queen. Chime thought he was probably unattached because of a scar that marred his face, a slash across his right eye that seemed to have blinded him on that side. Like Stone, Dune compensated so well that you couldn’t even notice the disability’s effect on his flight. No one had ever mentioned the scar in front of Chime, but it seemed so old Chime assumed that Dune had to have sustained the injury during the Fell attack on the old colony.

He was probably lucky to have survived it.

Chime sipped his tea, listening politely as Arrow finished regaling them of a tale of his and Shard’s fledglinghood in the Reaches.

Once he had concluded, Shard looked at Moon expectantly, and said, “Is it really true that you grew up alone, outside the colony?”

Next to Chime, Moon stiffened. They were sitting close enough to touch, and Chime felt the change in his posture. Chime set his teacup down and put a comforting hand on Moon’s knee. He squeezed it, and Moon replied, “Yes.”

Arrow bullishly followed the question up with, “You were really all alone?”

Moon, his voice a little gravelly, replied, “Sometimes.”

Moon never liked to talk about his past, much less to talk about it with near strangers. Chime still knew very few details about Moon’s life before Indigo Cloud, only scraps Moon had doled here and there. Chime offered him another comforting squeeze and a nudge with his shoulder as Arrow continued hopefully, “Would you tell us about it?”

Flicker looked anxious, eyes darting between Shard and Arrow, Shade, and Moon. Dune seemed uncomfortable. Moon froze.

Shade, his voice soft and gentle as ever, said, “Maybe another story from the annals of Opal Night would be more appropriate.”

Arrow looked slightly disappointed, but Shard seemed interested. With their attention finally off of him, Moon relaxed a little and leaned his head on Chime’s shoulder.

That night, when everyone had retreated to the bowers, Chime and Moon curled up together in Moon’s bower bed, waiting for Jade to join them. She was still puttering around in the dim light in the bower below, removing her jewelry and preparing for bed.

Chime hugged Moon tightly from behind, his mind still stuck on that awkward moment from earlier. It was sometimes easy to forget that Moon had not always been a part of Indigo Cloud, a part of Chime’s life. It had been four turns now since Moon had come, and though that time seemed to stretch on forever to Chime, he knew that to Moon it seemed an eyeblink, a tiny piece of a long life wandering.

Moon had had a distant look in his eyes since they’d arrived at Opal Night two days prior, and Chime worried privately that being here resurfaced the memories Moon had of those first awful days here, when Moon had convinced himself he’d been turned out of Indigo Cloud, never to return.

The only other time Chime had felt so close to losing him was after Moon had disappeared inside the forerunner ruin and they’d thought he was dead. That unpleasant memory pulled on Chime’s guts. He ducked his face into the back of Moon’s neck, burying his nose in Moon’s soft dark hair. He pulled Moon’s body impossibly closer and purred, like if he just held Moon close enough, tight enough, that he could erase all those nights that Moon had fallen asleep alone.

Moon snorted, easily wiggling out of Chime’s grip, and he pushed Chime onto his back. He climbed on top of Chime and straddled his hips, warming Chime’s body where they touched. Automatically, Chime’s hands settled on Moon’s hips as Moon leaned in close to nip his collarbone, and then whispered into Chime’s skin, right below the bulge of his neck, “What’s gotten into you tonight?”

“Just…” Chime began, then stalled because he realized he didn’t have an answer he could put into easy words. Because I love you. Because being here reminds me of how I could’ve lost you. Because it would’ve been so easy for me to never meet you at all.

Instead of answering, he wiggled his body enough to prop his head up slightly on one of the cushions, and then bucked his hips, grinding his groin against Moon’s.

Moon growled, low and deep in his chest, and bit the side of Chime’s neck, harder than a nip, drawing a gasp from Chime.

The bower bed swayed suddenly as Jade fluttered into it. She shifted to her Arbora form as she settled onto the bed beside them. “How lovely,” she murmured, her voice soft and low. Her tone made Chime shiver the tiniest bit. She nipped Moon’s shoulder and then paid Chime the same attention, before drawing a hand down his bare chest, her claws sharp on his soft groundling skin, scraping over his nipple. He gasped and bucked his hips against Moon again.

It was usually just Moon and Chime. But when it was Moon and Chime and Jade, Chime always fell to pieces under their hands.

In the morning, Chime awoke to the bower bed softly swaying and the noise of two bodies coming together. He had his back to Moon, his buttocks pressed against Moon’s side. He felt Moon thrust his hips up through that point of contact, and it stirred Chime’s tired brain some more. He rolled onto his other side, and sleepily watched Moon and Jade couple.

Jade was on top of Moon, and she had shifted to her winged form, her wings snapped out and enveloping them, the claws at the end hooked into the cushions somewhere above their heads. Underneath her tented wings, the air was warm with body heat and slightly damp.

Jade’s rhythm stuttered as she and Moon noticed Chime rouse. Moon leaned and nipped Chime’s shoulder, but Chime shrugged off the attention. He murmured groggily, “Just wanna watch.”

Moon and Jade seemed to take that in stride, but settled into a slower, less vigorous pace as they resumed. Royal Aeriat, Chime thought with some exasperation. He still felt boneless from the prior night’s activities.

He wondered if seeing Celadon and Shard’s clutch the day before had awakened some desire in them to produce another of their own. It would be good for the court if they did, he thought. Although the Arbora clutches had been far more balanced in the numbers of warriors and Arbora they yielded since they’d returned to the Reaches, the nursery’s population was definitely still lopsided. Pearl and Ember had finally clutched very recently, delaying this visit to Opal Night until Pearl had recovered from the birth and gotten back to her regular self. It was much too early to know how many of their clutch would be consorts and how many would be ordinary male warriors.

Jade shuddered and Moon softly keened as they finished in tandem. Jade shifted back to her Arbora form, the canopy of her wings disappearing, and Moon quietly panted as he caught his breath. Chime was startled when Jade pulled away from Moon and flopped onto him instead. She grabbed him and rolled them over so she was on the bottom, holding Chime’s body flush to hers.

She didn’t seem to want sex again after exhausting Moon. It seemed it was just to cuddle. She purred and Chime ducked his head under her chin, nuzzling her neck.

Moon scooted his body to sidle closer to her again, content to cuddle too. He reached out to run his soft groundling fingers along the line of Chime’s spine, his touch feather light and ghostly. He lay one of his legs across theirs, tangling all three sets of feet together.

After cuddling awhile longer, Chime started to stir some more, wanting to get up and start the day. Moon and Jade followed him, extricating themselves from the bed and wandering into the bathing room. Chime paid special attention to Moon’s hair this morning, soaping it up despite Moon’s protests that he could do it himself, and running it through with a fine comb left for them by the Opal Night Arbora. Jade had sunk under the water with just her nose, eyes, and the top of her head sticking out, but there was a glint of amusement in her eyes as she watched Moon pretend to struggle away from Chime, listening to them bicker.

As they dried off, Balm came into the bathing room, having let herself into the bower and followed the sound of their voices. Balm said, “Good morning. Feather gave these to me today,” she said, referring to the two wrapped bundles she had in her arms, emphasizing them by lifting them slightly. “She said Malachite sent them for Moon and Chime.”

That she had not sent Jade a gift was not entirely a surprise. Their relationship had certainly improved since its rocky beginning, but Jade was no favorite of hers, and likely never would be. It was still a little rude, though.

Moon said succinctly, “Huh,” as if it was strange his birth queen would give him a gift. He took his bundle from Balm first, and then she turned to give Chime his.

Chime regarded the bundle dubiously. It was not unheard of for a birth queen to give a gift to the favorite of a consort of her line, but it was unusual. More unusual given the absence of a bundle for Jade. It made Chime slightly anxious, worrying that the slight might upset her, but her expression seemed placid.

Having met Malachite on multiple occasions now, Chime regarded Moon’s birth queen with what he considered a healthy amount of terror. So being singled out by her, even in a positive way, made him uneasy. He thought that if he were in his other form his spines might be drooping slightly.

Even the fabric the gift was wrapped in was rich and silky, dyed a lovely light blue. Chime settled on the floor and tugged on the cord tie and unwrapped the bundle to find a tunic. It had a brocade trim along the hem, and it was dyed a deep, royal purple. The color was from a rare dye that Indigo Cloud had failed to procure in the Reaches thus far. “Oh my,” he said, his voice slightly awed.

Balm and Jade regarded it, and Jade agreed, “It is very fine.”

Moon had already unwrapped his bundle and was busy shimmying into the clothes. It was a matching set, a shirt and pants made of a bronze colored, reflective fabric that reminded Chime of the undersheen of Moon’s scales in his Raksuran form, with black stitching and accents. It was lovely.

Chime managed to take his eyes off Moon and pulled on his tunic. He struggled a little bit with a button at the back of his neck, not quite able to reach it. He dropped his hands when he sensed someone at his back and thought it might be Moon or Balm. However, when he felt scales and the tips of carefully sheathed claws touch his back, he knew it was Jade. She got the button easily, then tugged on one of the sleeves to straighten out the tunic. She dropped one hand to rest on the small of Chime’s back, gently pushing him to turn to face her. She regarded him with a strange look, then leaned in to gently nip his ear, and said, “That purple looks very nice with your hair.”

Chime nipped her in return and dug his fingers into said hair, stroking it self-consciously. It was always a little strange to get individual attention from Jade when Moon wasn’t in the middle of it. Before Moon, Jade had never shown any interest in male warriors. When the three of them had first started sleeping together, Chime had assumed her interest in him only related to his proximity to Moon. It had become clear that wasn’t the case though.

“Thanks,” he said softly.

Balm agreed, seeming pleased, “It is very flattering.”

Moon had finished getting into his own clothes, and he stepped close to Chime, settling his hands on his hips. “Yes,” he said, “Very nice.”

Chime knew that look in Moon’s eyes. Exasperated, he said, “Moon. We do all have places to be today.”

They finally did disperse for the day’s activities. Balm reported that Root, Briar, and Floret, the other three warriors who had accompanied them to Opal Night, had already gone off to enjoy another day playing and flying with the Opal Night warriors they had befriended on Niran and Diar’s wind ship. When they got back, they’d get to enjoy being pampered by the Opal Night Arbora, who were enthusiastic over having guests for an extended stay. Jade and Balm would have a meeting today to discuss the next season’s trade between Opal Night and Indigo Cloud with Celadon and Ivory, which they both were slightly anxious about. Moon was going back to the nurseries with Shard and Shade for the day, because of course he was.

Chime, however, had gone to the mentors’ gallery, a multipurpose workroom outside of Opal Night’s library. He still wasn’t allowed into the library itself, but Lithe and Auburn knew him well enough by now that he had secured permission to copy some selected texts from the library to bring home to Indigo Cloud.

He met Lithe at a long worktable; a sturdy piece of furniture made from a heavy dark brown wood. He settled on the bench opposite her and gazed at the stacks of books Lithe had collected and placed between them. Slightly apprehensive, he said, “I don’t think we’d be able to carry all of these back, since Stone isn’t here.”

Lithe said, “I didn’t expect you to. I picked out everything that I thought might be of immediate interest to your court, and I figured I would let you choose which would be most useful.”

“Oh,” Chime replied, understanding. “Thank you. That’s very kind.”

He started picking through the piles, and quickly set aside a book titled Reclusive Predators of the Suspended Forest. Indigo Cloud had a bad history with predators from the Reaches that were good at hiding, so he thought that one might be particularly prudent for them to study.

To his surprise, Lithe picked up the book from where he’d set it. She took an empty scroll and stretched it out on her side of the table, placing paperweights at the top and bottom of the workspace, and regarded the quills she’d collected, trying to make a choice. Chime, flustered, said, “You don’t have to—”

Lithe interrupted him. “I want to help,” she said brightly, choosing a quill with a nice sharp tip from the pile.

Chime subsided a little, not sure how to protest this. “Are you sure?” he said, a little embarrassed.

“Yes,” she sighed, peaking up from him under her hair with a wry smile. “Stop being silly.”

Chime scoffed but didn’t object further. He picked through the pile some more, setting aside a few books that while interesting, he didn’t think needed to be immediately added to Indigo Cloud’s collection. Maybe copies could be sent with future trading visits. He came upon a book titled Chronology of Migration Through the Reaches, and flipped it open, seeing that it was an old text that had been copied many, many times. It was Raksuran custom when a book was copied to record the date the copy was made, and to include the dates of all prior copyings on the front page of the book to record the age of the text. This book recorded the history of the proliferation of the courts through the Reaches, starting here in the far west and spreading all the way to the eastern fringe, where Indigo Cloud’s court had been born. He thought the deep history that came before their court, that enabled it to exist at all, would interest Heart and Merit especially but would make a good addition to the library in general, so he settled down to copy it.

He and Lithe worked in silence for a few hours, occasionally interrupted by breaks for tea to rest their hands. Chime was always the one who needed a break first, and he thought Lithe was likely humoring him by joining. When he had still been a mentor, he could write for an entire day without pause, without tiring. But when he’d changed his hands had too, the fingers becoming longer and thinner. While he still maintained the fine motor control he’d developed over the turns and had long ago brought his handwriting back up to par, his hands would tire and cramp when he wrote for extended periods now. The tea breaks were dual purpose—the tea invigorated him, and the hot cup clenched in his hands relieved the pain.

As the morning turned to afternoon, Chime involuntarily stiffened when he suddenly scented Fell in the area. Lithe looked up too, her expression surprised and worried, but not extremely concerned, and Chime had to remind his jumpy instincts of the half-Fell flight nearby. Rise had told them when they arrived that although Consolation and the rulers never visited, the dakti came to the colony occasionally. It was nothing to worry about.

A babble of worried voices seemed to be coming up through the hallway, and suddenly a group burst into the room through the archway. Auburn and another Opal Night mentor in Arbora form were carrying a dakti in its groundling form, one of its arms bent unnaturally. It had cuts and scrapes up its chest, back, and the apparently broken arm, and seemed dazed, its eyes blinking slowly and unable to focus on anything.

This particular dakti didn’t seem to be half-Raksuran, its skin was pale and white and its groundling features more animal than a Raksura’s would be.

Another dakti, in its shifted form bustled in with the mentors, its body language frightened and harried, claws pulling at its scales with nerves. Lithe rushed to her feet, stepping away from the table and towards the group. They brought the dakti over to the other end of the room, which they used for triage when someone in the colony had an accident and settled it onto a cot used for healing. Lithe asked, “What happened?”

The other dakti shifted to her groundling form. This one was half-Raksuran, and in her groundling form obviously female. She was like a mix between an Aeriat and an Arbora, her body short like an Arbora but slender like an Aeriat. She crossed her arms, groundling nails digging into her bronze skin, and said, “Corren was attacked by a predator outside our tree.” Her Raksuran was tinted with that odd flat accent the entire flight had. “He and I—we were exploring,” she tried to explain. Her nails left long white marks on her arms. Chime was only half listening as she explained that Corren’s wing had been broken by the predator before she had gotten it off of him. Corren had shifted to his groundling form from the shock and pain of the wing break.

Chime had gotten up too and was rifling through the medical supplies while the mentors settled Corren down and started examining him. Chime dipped a few washcloths in the hot clean water they kept ready for accidents like this and passed them to Lithe and Auburn. The other Opal Night mentor started to voice a protest, but with a sharp look from Lithe, it died in his throat. Lithe and Auburn gently wiped the blood away from the wounds, taking special care touching the dakti’s injured arm, where the break had transferred when Corren had shifted involuntarily.

The other Opal Night mentor, who he learned was named Beech, supplied fresh hot cloths and a simple for cuts. Chime watched anxiously as the mentors cleaned Corren’s cuts and then began to apply the simple. From the corner of his eye, he noticed how much the other dakti was still shaking. Feeling slightly awkward as he did it, he stepped behind her and took her tiny wrists in his hands, pulling her arms away from each other so she couldn’t scratch them anymore. He thought if she kept it up any longer, she might draw blood. Her hands fit in his easily, and he held them at her front, against the sides of her belly. She relaxed against him, and it almost reminded Chime of comforting a spooked fledgling who had seen a companion be injured playing, if he ignored her Fell scent.

“It’ll be alright,” he told her. “They’ll take good care of him.”

Chime and the dakti, who had apparently been named Thicket by their long dead consort, eventually settled onto a pile of furs and cushions, holding vigil as the mentors took care of Corren. The mentors set the broken bone and applied another simple. Then they gave Corren a splint and wrapped the arm to keep it in place, so the bones wouldn’t shift again as they healed. They called Thicket over when they did that, asking her to watch the procedure so that she would be able to change the wrapping for Corren as needed when they returned to their tree. Thicket paid close attention, but still seemed doubtful of her ability. Once that was done, a warrior was summoned to escort both Thicket and Corren back to the flight’s tree, and to carry Corren, who was a bit heavy for Thicket and couldn’t fly in his condition. It had been impressive that Thicket was able to carry Corren to Opal Night in the first place.

Once the excitement finally died down, Chime and Lithe returned to copying books. Chime’s hand didn’t hurt at all anymore after the extended diversion, so he took to the task with renewed vigor.

After he finished putting the healing supplies away, Auburn sat down with them, taking a book from the small pile that Chime had made of books that he wanted to copy next once he and Lithe were finished with the current ones. There was still a whole other pile from the library for Chime to look through, but he hadn’t gotten that far yet. Auburn rolled out some paper and began to write too, brushing off Chime’s objections and then his thanks for the help.

When Chime was compelled by his hand to take another break, Lithe brewed tea at the hearth. Auburn took a break too and sat down on the cushion next to Chime’s. Thoughtful, he suddenly asked, “Are you still a healer?”

Chime didn’t like to talk about what he had lost, but Auburn and Lithe had both been so helpful, so he forced himself to talk about it. “Sort of,” he conceded.

Auburn tilted his head like the answer wasn’t satisfactory, and Chime could admit to himself that it wasn’t, so he continued. “I can’t put someone into a healing sleep anymore,” he said, trying not to think of the times he’d been so desperate to truly attempt it anyways. “And I can’t make simples or do treatments that need mentor magic. But I still have all the skills,” he shrugged. “I can set bones and apply bandages, clean wounds and care for them. I can mix simples that don’t need magic, or that have already been spelled by one of the other mentors at Indigo Cloud.”

Auburn was thoughtful. “Do you do that often?” he asked.

Chime shrugged. “Not really. I’ll assist them if something big happens and they need an extra hand. Or if someone has a minor injury when we travel without a mentor, I take care of it.” Auburn stroked his chin, humming softly. Chime said, “Why do you ask?”

Auburn said, “The half-Fell have asked for help learning to heal so that they don’t always have to come here when someone is injured or sick.” Chime nodded, and Auburn continued, “But we’ve had trouble teaching them, because we’re so used to healing while working with mentor’s magic, which they don’t have, of course.”

Chime said, “You want me to teach them to heal.”

Auburn shrugged. “I’d like you to think about it,” he said, “You don’t have to do anything. But it would be a kindness if you did.”

Lithe said, “They would appreciate it greatly.”

Chime internally wrestled with his uncomfortableness visiting the half-Fell flight, and the tiny part of him that perked up at the idea of having the chance to teach again, like a mentor. He finally said, “I’ll think about it.”

Lithe and Auburn nodded, and for now, it seemed that was that.

Chime mentioned it over tea in Moon’s Opal Night bower. Celadon had asked him, “How is your work with the mentors going? Moon said you were hoping to bring books back to your court.”

Chime admitted, “We got started today, but we were interrupted for a while.” He took a sip of tea. “Did you hear about what happened with the dakti from the half-Fell flight today?”

Jade’s spines were starting to raise, but Celadon just nodded calmly. “Yes. I suppose that the mentors needing to treat a wing break would be a disruption.”

Moon twitched sympathetically, perhaps remembering his own broken wing. Any bone broken in a wing made for a painful, miserable affair, but Ranea had broken the largest bone in Moon’s wing, very close to the joint where it connected with his back, which was a far more devastating injury than Corren’s. The mentors had deduced Corren’s break had likely been about two thirds of the way towards the tip of his wing by the location of the injury once he’d shifted to groundling form. “What happened?” Moon asked.

Celadon had only known that a dakti with a broken wing had been rushed to the colony, so Chime found himself regaling the story for the rest of them. He hadn’t been planning to, but he mentioned Auburn’s suggestion as well.

The Raksura from Indigo Cloud disapproved of the idea universally, except for Moon, who seemed intrigued. Celadon, scratching a claw idly along the rim of her teacup, said mildly, “If you were willing, I think it would be a good idea.”

Shade, who had been listening quietly, agreed too. “The half-Fell flight depends on Opal Night for a lot, but they do want to be more independent. This would be good for them.”

Chime shrugged noncommittally. “It’s not like they’d be able to deal with a broken wing on their own without a mentor.” Given all of his experience with Fell, he assumed that a dakti in a normal flight that broke a wing would be lucky to make it to the end of the day alive.

Moon stretched extravagantly and leaned his head on Chime’s shoulder, looking at him with those big, stupidly pretty green eyes. He said, “I think you should do it. It’d be good for you.”

Moon’s point was transparent to Chime, but he wondered if the others would see the meaning behind it. Moon wanted Chime to do this, to teach the half-Fell flight medicine, because it was a piece of his life as a mentor he could reclaim. He sighed, staring at his own tea cup, his dark blurry reflection in the liquid. He echoed his earlier sentiment to Auburn. “I’ll think about it.”