Chapter 51: A New Playground
The first thing Nisha noticed upon waking up was that she was in a comfortable bed.
Buried up to her neck in soft sheets, she felt warm, and delightedly curled up under her blanket to sleep for a bit longer.
Then, she realized that there was an unfamiliar being in the room.
Albeit unwilling to leave the bed and shake off her last tinge of slumber, and truly awakening herself, the elvish girl had unfortunately no other way to know if she was safe, since she had fallen fell asleep before being transported to this place. Her [Spirit Sight] could give her a good idea of who was in the room with her, but she could make a huge mistake if she were to only rely on a single sense, something everyone who had lived in the Wilderness knew.
Rubbing her eyes, Nisha sat up and looked around.
The young Eldrin was close to the door, carrying a stack of sheets and a jar of water, probably meant for her to wash herself.
Seeing that she was awake, the awkward expression he had made when she had cried returned to his face.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up … are you alright?”
Internally the small girl was about to burst into flames out of embarrassment; not only had she cried in front of a stranger, she had also woke up to him taking care of her, preparing things she could need and showing concern about her well being.
Barely able to contain her shyness, – and it didn’t help that he was just as embarrassed as she was – Nisha was desperately trying to find something to say.
“My name is Nisha. What’s yours?”
Introducing myself should be a good start. I don’t even know his name yet I have already made a fool of myself in front of him… and I’m probably going to be living with him for a long time … just great, well done Nisha.
“Ah, how rude of me, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Henry.”
Silence fell on the room. Nisha blinked.
Her obvious expression was more than enough to give away what was flashing through her mind.
He looks so much like an elf! Why is his name Henry of all things?
“It’s unusual, isn’t it?”
Smiling helplessly, Henry explained.
“I’m only a quarter elf, and when I was born I looked like human babies usually do … wrinkly and red, all that.
My father would have liked to give me an elven name, but Mother argued that Father was already named after his father’s side of the family, so she picked the name of one of her ancestors for me. Henry Dharnas doesn’t sound so bad though, no?”
“Indeed, but it’s not very elvish.”
Laughing together with Henry, the tension was slowly washed away.
“We’re about to eat dinner, if you want to eat, just head down the stairs and then to the left, you can’t miss it, it’s the room with the huge maple tree carved on the door.
I already heard about your situation from father and your friends, so please take your time to rest and come down whenever you are ready.”
Leaving her alone with the jar of clear water, the young man exited the room. Nisha was aware that he was still grieving his grandfather, and had pushed himself to make her feel welcome in her new home.
Examining her appearance, Nisha decided that she was satisfied by her dress and her looks, and quickly headed downstairs.
The dinner room was decorated in a style similar to the rest of the house, dignified yet not lavish or opulent.
The dragon girl found her friends around a table laden with dishes whose sole smell was enough to make her mouth water; Hale was laughing when the elven girl entered.
“Nisha! It’s great to see you up again. You really scared me when you suddenly started crying, I thought that the temple healing had been too weak and that you were in pain again. Come here, we left a seat for you.”
Patting the chair next to hers, Hale invited her patient to sit with a kind smile, brimming with concern for the small girl.
Henry also smiled timidly, before slightly blushing.
Overall, the atmosphere at the table was lively enough to be called intimate.
I’m really lucky to have met so many friendly people. I always thought that humans were scary beasts like the two nobles that attacked grandpa and hunted me, but now I can’t imagine that they are all like that anymore.
Luthais had not exaggerated the skills of Galan’s wife, who joined them halfway through the main meal- all dishes already cooked -, and everyone had a great time.
While the servants were cleaning the table, the head butler cleared his throat to draw the guests’ attention.
“Since everyone is here, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the immediate future.
Lady Nisha will be staying with us, but to make sure that her education will be on par with that of her peers when she starts attending the academy next turn, it would be wise if I were to personally oversee her make up classes.
Is that alright with you, Master Luthais?”
After having pondered on the proposition for a moment, the half-elf finally agreed.
“Indeed, that might be for the best. But let’s hear her opinion.” Turning towards Nisha. “Do you mind going along with this suggestion, Nisha? In the meantime, I will make sure that your friends Lydia and Annabelle receive tutelage under an experienced trader, so you can solely focus on your education.
There is the problem of you going out in the city though, I wouldn’t recommend you to wander in [Thurgau] before becoming more familiar with it through Galan’s lectures, so keep in mind that you probably won’t be allowed to leave the house before quite some time when you make your decision.
Now, what do you say?”
The inquiring gaze of the half-elf made Nisha suspect that his question was a test and he was expecting her to refuse or suggest something else.
But grandpa wanted me to come here to learn more about the world. Even if I can’t go out for a while, if that is what it takes for me to be taught about the rules of this city, I’ll just have to bear with it.
“That sounds like a good plan. I am in your care, Mister Galan.”
Bowing her head to the butler, the dragon paid no heed to her companions’ stunned glances. Her friends would be taken care of, and given the keys necessary to pursue their dream; she herself was going to be taught whatever was needed to survive in the confusing forest of stone buildings that was the city, thus fulfilling her grandfather’s last wish for her.
Her decision seemed to nonetheless surprise everyone. Lydia looked like she wanted to add something, but her older sister stopped her from saying anything.
“Very well, we will do it like this then. I know it will be hard on you, but once you attend the academy you’ll be properly introduced to the nobility as a daughter of the Dharnas house.
Now, with everything having been taken care of, Miss Cordia, a carriage has been prepared and instructed to take you back to your lodging.
My wife has prepared a small bag of desserts for you to share with your fellow officers, with the compliments of House Dharnas.”
Galan handed her something that looked more like a three-weeks luggage than a small bag, but Hale accepted it nevertheless, and with a smile.
“Thank you very much.
Henry, I’m really looking forward to that competition you mentioned, I’ll see if I can free a few hours in my schedule to attend; seeing a future knight contend will definitely be exciting. I’m sure you will do just fine even if I’m not there though.
Nisha, let me give you a hug, I won’t have the chance to spoil someone as adorable as you when I get back back on the [Navis Terram].
Make sure to visit every now and then, ok?”
The dinner at the Dharnas Mansion found an end on those words.
Exiting the carriage that had brought him back from the palace, Luthais stretched his back, his muscles loudly protesting as he had tensed them for a very long time, for the entirety of his meeting with the King in fact.
Many nobles had already pestered him about the newest addition to his House; somehow, rumours of a mysterious elven girl living in the Dharnas Estate had made their way to the high society of [Thurgau].
And now, King Cederic too had expressed his interest in the young lady he was hiding, asking for a formal introduction in court.
Sighing, he thought back at how hard it had been for him to avoid directly answering those questions as it still way too early for Nisha, it had after all forced him to leave the palace early. Lost in thoughts, he almost didn’t detect the one he was thinking of passing by him.
“Good afternoon. I’m going out for a while, grandpa Galan is in the Oak’s study room if you’re looking for him.”
Nodding and waving his hand in confirmation, the half-elf only realized the identity of the one who had spoken as the person in question left the estate through the main gate, a happy bounce in her steps, and he stupidly stared at her back disappearing.
Unsure on what to make of what he had seen, the marshal headed inside, only to find his most trusted friend sitting on the stairs leading to the bedrooms, sighing dispiritedly.
“What happened here?”
Finally noticing the return of the head of his house, Galan straightened up his daunted posture and tried to explain himself.
Only to sigh again.
“Nisha went out to play. That’s what she said at least.”
Seriously considering the possibility that it was an elaborate prank the two had set up to confuse him, the half-elf waited for the explanation to continue.
“She asked me if there was any place around here where she could play chess against a good opponent. I told her that the Eel’s park might fit her needs, there are tables with a chess grid set up there.
So I guess, she’s going to the park.”
This was not what Luthais had asked, hence he pointed out the issue more directly.
“Didn’t we all agree that she wouldn’t go out until she finished her lessons? I mean, I expected her to give up and go on an outing a while ago already, no teenager could endure being stuck inside all the time, but guessing from her fortitude, I really thought she would last longer.”
Somewhat disappointed, Luthais was about to drop the topic when the butler shocked him.
“No, that’s not it. She said, since the weather is quite sunny and she learned everything I had to teach her, this would be a good time to start exploring the city. I tried to refute it, but I really couldn’t, in any way. She completed all of the courses, so I had to let her go.”
Looking down, he sighed once more and shut up.
“But it hasn’t even been two moons! How is it possible? Didn’t you tell me that, even if you were optimistic, she’d only be done a few weeks before the beginning of the Academy’s admission period?”
Both of them should be happy for the dragon, who had regained her freedom after being locked inside for two moons and fulfilled their requirements ahead of schedule, but her godly learning speed had caught them unaware.
“I really thought I had a good reading on her. A bright kid, with a will to learn, but this … I trained servants before, people who had an incredible thirst for knowledge, but never have I ever seen something like this. She never asked me to repeat anything, always showed up on time, and never looked like she was fed up with my teachings or tired.
She was even taking some time off to play with Henry; by the way it’s a wonder the two of them are getting along so well.
I don’t understand how she could be so efficient and how I could be so off with my estimate.”
Slumping down, the old man looked dejected. Sitting down on the stairs next to his butler, the half-elf tried to console his friend.
“This much is probably natural for someone related to my father, he was also regarded a genius when he started attending the court as a magician, don’t worry too much about it.
And she really went out to look for a good chess game? Did you know she played chess?”
Galan only shook his head.
“I think I’ve seen her play with the two other girls one or two times. I guess a love for chess is to be expected from someone who lived with that old bloke for a while … Gods, I really miss him. It broke my heart to see him leave after he had tricked me into staying here.
But enough of that. Can I do something for you, Master Luthais? You’re back much earlier than expected, did something happen at the palace?”
Smiling wryly, the half-elf helped the old man to stand up, walking with him to the office where he was keeping most of his files.
“You’re not the only one who was troubled by our little miss today. Cederic kept pestering me about formally introducing her, and I had to flee as fast as I could after denying her existence.
He must already know how much truth there is to the rumors, but that didn’t keep him from asking.
She’s really going out to play chess.”
Unable to push it out of his mind, the mighty marshal of the Kingdom just shook his head, muttering something.
“Don’t worry about her, Master Luthais. I can say that she is for sure a bright young lady that will have no trouble adapting to the city. I’ll send young Edwin to search for her in the park when I get a hold of him, but I fear that she won’t be there anymore, exploring a dark corner of the city. I think there’s not a spot left in the house she hasn’t seen. And she still thinks we don’t know she sneaks out of her room every night …”
Laughing at the recollection of the young dragon’s escapades, Luthais was once again surprised to see how fast Nisha had managed to settle in his house; almost all servants had a smile and a candy for her when she was disturbing their work or stealing something from the kitchen.
Even Galan’s wife had developed a soft spot for her, something Luthais had never been able to create in all the time he had lived with the old witch.
Sure, she did like him and he was on very good terms with her now that he was an adult, but he had never been spoiled like the small dragon was.
Finally taking his mind off the matter, the marshal hoped that the adventure the young girl was about to undertake, whatever it would be, wouldn’t be serious enough to involve the guards and end up in a report on his desk.
Picking up a scroll from his table, his attention turned towards the Terus’ troops who were currently camping in front of the gates.