Uluki was relieved to hear that apparently these mysterious kidnappers had already received their retribution— which was confirmed by the silent girl’s nod that there were only two. Though it meant Uluki would probably never know what had really happened, the full extent of the damage done, more importantly it meant that there would be no more victims, and that she and her friends wouldn’t have to risk a trip to the shanty town again just yet.
She fully intended to go back to the shanty town, as she had told Julen. Those plans hadn’t changed. It was just that when she did so, she wanted to have taken time to prepare, time to reduce the risks as much as possible. Another frantic rescue mission would have put all of them in great danger… especially now.
Her blue skin made her very recognizable. Ordinarily that was a benefit, because it simplified things for people who needed to find her to ask for help. It was a bad thing in the shanty town, though, after last time. Last time she had left the shanty town, it had been with a man and a teenage girl Snyde had beaten and left for dead, four other women he had been exploiting as prostitutes, and one of the women’s small daughter who Snyde had been threatening as leverage against the mother. Not exactly an inconspicuous visit, and Uluki knew that it was not a good tactical decision… but who was she supposed to leave behind? How could she have made a choice?
Uluki regretted nothing about bringing them back here... a decision that had been in her hands, and the responsibility for which was hers alone if it was a mistake. She did regret the danger her friends were in because of her actions. She knew those friends were good people and had accepted the risk willingly and bravely, but she would hate to see anything happen to them. Yes, it was better to avoid the shanty town for now, till they were able to return without forfeiting their own lives. She was confident that day would come… but they weren’t ready today.
“I’m glad to hear that the people who took you won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” she said with relief. She wondered if this mysterious woman who had killed them was any less of a danger, but forced herself to dismiss that thought. The immediate threat was gone. If she tried to protect the whole world from anyone who might pose a risk, she’d drive herself mad. Better to focus on the people who were here, the people she could actually help.
Uluki shrugged off the apology for dodging the hug. She had no desire to make either of the newcomers do something they weren’t comfortable with. She had only been trying to make Asra feel better, and if her gesture wouldn’t do that, it served no purpose. Uluki didn’t expect them to trust her right away, especially under the circumstances. She’d wanted to try, but was neither offended nor particularly surprised by the reaction. “Why don’t we go inside and get you something to eat?” she suggested. “You can look around, and decide whether you want to stay.”
She and her husband led the way inside. Neither wanting to interrupt Aorle’s meeting with the angel nor to subject the two frightened young women to a crowd of people just yet, Uluki instead steered them upstairs, intending to bring the two to the family’s own room, simply because she could think of no other suitable place for them to eat and relax.
The stairs posed a problem. Kira looked up at them as though they were a mountain. It was a daunting task for her, an exhausting one that would take hours. Uluki hadn’t considered that. She was about to suggest they find a place to eat down here instead, but Rollick was quicker with a different suggestion, offering instead to carry the girl up. For an instant Kira seemed doubtful, but then she nodded. Her face was tense the whole time, as though she expected Rollick to let go and drop her down the stairs, but of course he did no such thing. At the top the girl rewarded him with a grateful if extremely fleeting smile.
“Rollick, I can handle things from here.” Uluki felt much better now. She was quite sure she was not going to pass out, and could in fact handle basic tasks, though probably no more magic. “If you want to go down and see…”
“No thank you.” Rollick’s abrupt answer surprised Uluki.
“I appreciate your help, but I don’t want you to miss it.” Her husband deserved to see what Uluki knew would be a beautiful sight.
“I’m perfectly happy to stay here. And… she might need to go downstairs again.”
Uluki raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. That really seemed to be reaching.
“I… I can’t,” he elaborated. “I don’t want to see. Uluki, it’s… Dashie.”
And Uluki suddenly understood. Dash’s body was the angel’s willing host… but if Rollick saw someone else using her face, her form, the image would haunt him for the rest of his life. “Of course. You should stay with us, then. There is something you can help me with. Can you go get them some food?”
“I’m sorry. I know it sounds foolish and weak…”
“No, it doesn’t. It isn’t weakness that you care about our daughter. If you can go get some food for these two to eat, it would really help me. You being human and all. That way no one confuses it for fairy food.”
Rollick nodded, taking her point. There were many tales of the unwary being led astray, and then trapped forever because they ate the food of the fairies. For those who knew the old stories, accepting food from Uluki might not be a straightforward matter… although in truth, food Uluki prepared was no different than anyone else’s. “I’ll be right back,” he said, then went off in search of something for the newcomers to eat.
“This is where we live,” Uluki said, pushing open the door of their room. “My daughter drew the pictures,” she explained about the loving family scenes pinned to the wall. “My daughter… well, she looks a lot like you,” Uluki commented, gesturing toward Kira. Quite the understatement.