Kurbin-da-Brodief was kept in a small cell, with no amenities or recreations, “Not even a bucket for excretion; she did not use it. We need to hose the cell out every day, and her too. We use warm water scented with the season’s flowers, we are not cruel about it. She seems to enjoy it.” Kurbin herself was ill-made for a chir, her carapace unpainted, her fur long and messy, her tail lashing around rather than held in a caste-appropriate attitude. She shrank away from the sight of the dragon.
Itharieth produced the two-necked chir-shaped sweater that had been made from her. Kurbin lunged for it, reaching between the wooden slats of her cell, trying to snatch it from his forepaw. “Odd that lacking all chir manners, she accepts a gift with good draconic manners. Or none at all. Hard to tell those apart sometimes…”
He relinquished the sweater to her, and she threw herself into it in a passion. It merged immaterially with her flesh, so that her chitin looked somehow fuzzy, but was smooth to the touch. “I have words again — What happened to me? I did not follow any pink mushrooms, the moon was not fogged.”
“A former colleague of mine compelled you to sleep, then stole much of your mind. We have, at length, punished him for his misdeeds, and are repairing what I can.”
She made obeisance to him, in the forms that all chirs are taught in the first year of their gradeschool. (All small people on all dragon-worlds, though the form varies from world to world. On my birth-world Mhel, classes practice every other day in front of a glittering paper-mâché monster, made annually by the fifth-form art students.)
Then she looked at herself. “Ah, I have become old.”
The prison-master dipped her head. “It is such-and-such a year, in the season of insect-hatching.”
“Ah! I have missed half my life, then, and spent it naked and in prison.”
“I summon garments for you; you are free to go,” said a tribal official.
“My fiancé, my sister, my cult-twins … ?”
“Your fiancé married a woman of the Telebondo two years after you were … robbed. Your sister owns a bakery on the central square, and eleven slaves to tend it. I myself am your cult-twin Nirwanth-ere-Chakts, now fifteen degree in the cult and considerably older and fatter than I was during our initiation, and eager to give you all the purifications and elevations you have missed,” said another.
“Oh, Nirwanth!” she cried, and the two embraced dearly.
“Half a life is better than none,” mused Itharieth. “And it is good for her that she was restored in her home city; I must do that whenever I can.” He stayed another half-day, which is to say, long enough to accept certain items of gratitude-tribute from the Barabondo. By the time he left, his visit was being called a țablisṭica.Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.