Uluki had expected to be asked that question at some point, but she nonetheless wasn’t quite sure how to answer. “Well, Aorle needed a base for his soldiers, I suppose. As for why he chose to open it to civilians and refugees… it’s just because he’s kind, I think. He felt sorry for them because of how they were being treated, and how hard things are in the shanty town, and he wanted to help. We all want to help. That’s the whole reason, as far as I know. It’s because Aorle and Julen and the others are very compassionate, like I said before.” She knew that wasn’t a very satisfying response, but she couldn’t think of what else to say about it.
“That’s how my family came here. We were refugees. Still are in a way, I suppose, though we’ve been very fortunate. We didn’t have a place to stay, so Aorle let us come here, even though… well, some people wouldn’t have. People are scared of us sometimes. The girls look a little bit different from most people.” That was an incredible understatement, but Uluki didn’t think it was the time to expound at length about the troubles her daughters faced. This wasn’t the day for it, and she didn’t think the girls were in a frame of mind to discuss it in any detail.
“Most people don’t like fairies, either. They think we tell lies and trick people. Some people have even thought my husband was bewitched.” Uluki would have laughed at such a ridiculous assumption if it weren’t so painful. “They think all Fae are… well, very promiscuous,” said Uluki, who had slept with a grand total of two people in her whole life, one of whom was her husband. Before that was the one who had been her fiancé so long ago, a mistake of her youth, long regretted and learned from before she ever met Rollick. Far from promiscuous.
“I’m sure some Fae are like that, but so are some humans. There will always be devious ones in any group. But when it comes to fairies, people assume every single one of us is bad. Most people don’t want someone like me around. But none of the people here seem to mind.”
“I’m quite fond of Fae, myself. One in particular,” Rollick said mildly. Uluki grinned at him. He winked in response. Then he seemed about to say something else, something more serious, but his attention was suddenly drawn to his daughter. As her parents spoke, Dash had been toying with a button that had fallen off her sleeve, passing it from hand to hand.
She dropped it.
Uluki looked up sharply. She couldn’t recall Dash ever dropping any object before. In fact, she had never seen Dash make a clumsy motion, or seem anything less than perfectly aware of the physical space she inhabited. Dash looked equally puzzled, and for a moment worry creased her face. She leaned forward and picked the button up with a very deliberate movement, then clutched it in her fist and leaned back against Uluki.
Uluki exchanged a worried glance with Rollick. She was starting to fear something was wrong with Dash, something beyond the obvious mental stress of meeting someone who looked so like her. There seemed little they could do about it at the moment, though. They could talk to Dash later, privately, but there was no sense creating an issue that would serve only to put everyone on edge.
Rollick made another try at what he had been about to say before Dash dropped the button, and this time succeeded. He looked directly at Kira, making eye contact.
“The Kira who was my goddaughter was the child of my friend Barmitheon Panterras. Barmitheon was… well, he was a brilliant man, but frankly I was starting to worry about him. He would sometimes say things that seemed so unlike him, do things that were incredibly rash. He wasn’t always like that. It started when his wife died. I don’t think he was ever the same after Noemi… had that horrible accident. I feared for his sanity, and I was concerned about my goddaughter. I offered to take care of her, just for a little while, till he was feeling better, but he… exploded. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. He assumed terrible motives on my part. He said I was trying to steal his child from him. He accused me of… horrible things. I only wanted to keep her safe. I’d never seen him mistreat his daughter— if I had, I would have taken her immediately, no matter what he said about it— but he seemed so changed, I was worried that… she was a good girl, but small children are demanding, and I was afraid he would lose patience with her, or forget to look after her entirely. I was going to broach the matter again once he’d calmed down, maybe see if he and the child would both come stay with me so at least I could keep an eye on things, but… I never got the opportunity. I tried to find her, but the diviners told me she was dead. If that was not the case… if I ever saw her again… I would do everything I could to protect her. I would put her welfare above any friendship I once had with her father. I promise that.”
Someone who didn’t know how to read Rollick might have assumed his slightly rambling story was merely a reminiscence brought on by a girl who shared the name of a dead child. Maybe the first steps into becoming an old man. Uluki knew Rollick better than that. He’d had a very specific point, and he had addressed it directly to Kira. It was enough to tell Uluki that Rollick believed this was the same girl. Uluki trusted Rollick with her life; she could trust him to be right about this. She just wasn’t sure what they were going to do about it.
“Asra, we have plenty of extra room here,” she said, simply glossing over the matter for the moment. “Do you have any family? Any friends in the shanty town? If so, I’m sure we could bring them here too, so you can all be together, and be safe.”
All being together, and safe. That was what mattered. Uluki was glad that was true of her own family, and however it might disrupt their comfortable routines, she was glad Kira was with them now too. They would sort out the details later. Rollick’s goddaughter— and Uluki’s by marriage, she supposed, though she wasn’t quite sure how that worked— was here, even if that was a complication, first and foremost it was a blessing.