The discussion of just what name to give the little girl lasted a good while. She walked beside Grainne, her hand in her mother’s, seemingly uninterested in participating as various names were presented and either immediately rejected, or held over as possibilities.
She was a treasure, a gift of great value, the child of a dream. The gemstone names were rejected quickly. It might have been different if her eyes were jewel-colored, but her eyes were golden, and they were a stunning feature.
Jules listened to her humming some unknown tune as they walked. He suggested Cantrix. It was held over.
Marus suggested Doris, it meant gift. Illian wanted gold in her name; he liked her strange eyes. Grainne suggested a slight alteration to please both, a golden gift, Dauris. There were thoughtful looks all around. It had possibilities.
The girl hissed in pain as she stubbed a toe as they approached the tunnel exit. She had not complained, so they had not noticed. She was barefoot and the wind beyond the tunnel was not warm. Marus quickly pulled off his half cloak and wrapped her in it and then lifted her into his arms. For a moment she was stiff with surprise and then made herself relax. It had been a very long time since she had last been small enough to be carried by a brother. And she so wanted to believe that he could be redeemed. That, also, was part of who and what she was.
The girl’s first sight, though, of the shuttle, drove all thoughts of names from her mind as she stared in shock. Mother, the boy, the two sinisters, they all looked and spoke with a formality that told her Medieval, possibly Fantasy. They were nobility in a world where the term still meant something. The vessel, vehicle, the ship she was looking at… was most definitely not Medieval. The sleekness of it… it didn’t shine silver in an unbroken line like some spacecraft that she had seen. It was made, apparently, of wood and metal and cloth in the manner of the old sailing vessels, but it was made for flying.
“What is that?” Her voice sounded as shocked as she was.
Marus, carrying her, laughed. “Our skyship, little sister. How did you think we got here?”
“How does it fly?” Her curiosity ran over. There were so many possibilities and all of them were fascinating with the potential ramifications for the larger culture.
Marus laughed again. He felt a sudden kinship to the child that went beyond his mother’s dream. He nodded to Jules as the elder opened the hatch for them to enter. He carried his little sister over to the compartment that housed the engine. “It’s magic.”
She looked at him with an expression that would wither Spring. “Magic?” There was a note of disgust in her repetition of the word. “That has been used to describe everything from fireballs to childbirth. Please. I’m not stupid. What kind of magic?”
He grinned. This little girl was extraordinarily odd, and he liked her tremendously. “Levitation. In proximity to ancient towers. It was a gift from a wandering engineer four hundred years past and enabled our world to develop and expand.”
He showed her how the engines worked around a core of enchanted crystal that resonated alongside the towers, providing lift and direction. She nodded in understanding and Marus felt his own curiosity waken at how mature she acted. Finally he lifted her back in his arms and found a seat back in the main cabin, holding her in his lap as the discussion drifted back to the question of names.
Dauris Cantrix? Cantrix Dauris? Neither possibility sounded quite right. For a long time the ship was quiet as Jules flew them back to Pallantia. Finally Jules spoke up. She was a treasure, so why not create a name for her? A new name, one not held by anyone else in all the Empire of the North? Tresoria. Name her Tresoria Dauris, but call her Dauris.
There were nods all around and then everyone glanced at the little girl who sat on Marus’ lap still wrapped in his cloak. She nodded slowly. “I will be Tresoria Dauris.”
— — —
They arrived in Pallantia as the afternoon sun was starting to descend. Jules volunteered to gather a few things from the market. Grainne and Illian needed to speak to the Emperor. Marus smiled at little Dauris. “I guess that means that I get to walk you to the bower. Mother’s maids will be able to find clothes for you until some are made.”
Dauris looked at him seriously as they walked towards the bower. “We are the family of the Emperor?” He nodded. “Mother and Father are married, yet they live separate lives?”
Marus nodded. “Theirs was a political match.”
Dauris sighed. “I don’t want a political match. Too many things can go horribly wrong in such a thing, too much misery is possible for both involved. I would want to choose my partner… if I were to take one.”
Marus smiled. “You are very young to be thinking of such things.”
She looked up at him. “Would Father try to force me to take a political match that I did not want?”
He knelt to look her in the eyes outside the door to the bower. “I swear to you, Dauris my sister, no one will force you to make any match you do not desire. I will protect you.”
She blinked slowly. “There is darkness in your soul. It frightens me.” It terrified her, to be honest, but at the least it could have been worse.
“You do not need to fear me. Not ever. I swear it.”
“Do not let the darkness win, my brother. I do not want to have to destroy you.”
He started in surprise, blinking a bit at the absolute sincerity in her voice. It was plain to him that she meant every word of the threat, the promise. He smiled after a moment and took her hand as he stood and then reached for the door to the bower. It pleased him that she took such matters so seriously. No matter how unchildlike her words happened to be. “I like you, little sister. You are almost as odd as I am.”
— — —
Illian found his father waiting for them in his study. He was standing next to a bookshelf with a volume in his hands when the door opened and the little boy came rushing through with the sound of running feet and happy shouting.
“We found her, Father! Mother dreamed me a sister and we found her and we brought her home and can we keep her, Father? Can we keep her forever and ever?”
Grainne closed the door behind them and walked over to look at her husband, who looked back at her curiously. “So this was your errand today?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes, my husband. I woke from the dream and our sons insisted on the search. We found her where the dream told me that she would be, a daughter for us and a sister for our sons.”
Illian was jumping up and down. “She’s my age and she’s pretty and she’s got gold eyes and she told Marus and Jules not to hurt me or Mother and that made Marus laugh and we’re going to call her Dauris and that means Golden Gift, even though her name will be Tresoria Dauris and I really want to keep her, please, Father?”
The Emperor looked at his wife, a strangely bittersweet look in his eyes. “So my wife has been given Castellan dreams of a daughter?” He sighed and looked down at his youngest son. “Do you want this sister so very much?”
Illian nodded so emphatically that his hair went flying every direction. “Yes, Father! I’ll be good as good can be to her.”
The Emperor laughed at his youngest son and lifted him in his arms. “Can you truly be good to her? Little girls are not like little boys. And she is certainly not a puppy that you found following you home from the market. She is a human being, and she will, doubtless, annoy you greatly as the two of you grow together. She will want to follow you when you want to be alone and she will want to be alone when you want to follow her and you will doubtless quarrel on many occasions.”
Illian shook his head vehemently. “No, I promise. I won’t quarrel with her ever.”
The Emperor laughed. “Do not make promises that you cannot keep, my son.” He set Illian down and the boy looked up at him expectantly. The Emperor looked at Grainne. “I would like to meet with this girl-child, if I may, before I see to the formal adoption papers.”
Illian crowed with delight at his father’s agreement. Grainne smiled. “Yes, my husband. I will bring her to you.”
“Thank you, my wife.”
— — —
The only clothing that the maids could find for Dauris on such short notice came from Illian’s closet. A ruffled shirt and a vest with a bit too much lace for the boy’s sensibilities, a small cloak and a set of breeches. She stood in front of a mirror and looked at her reflection, oblivious to the smiles that the maids tried to hide behind their hands.
Marus had to agree with them. His sister posed before the glass and swirled the cape and looked utterly adorable. She looked up at him for a moment. “This doesn’t make me look like a boy, does it?”
He shook his head. As if any boy would have hair falling that long down his back. “No, Dauris, you don’t look like a boy.”
She nodded. “Good. I like this style.” She swished the cape a few more times. “Sometimes boys get better clothes than girls do. Not always. Skirts are nice, but they do get in the way a lot. Impossible to run in, worse to fight in.”
A few muffled giggles could be heard. Marus grinned. “I would not know.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You’re a boy.” The giggles became louder. She looked over her shoulder at the maids. “They giggle a lot.” Marus almost choked and she looked at him. “Are you all right?” He nodded. “Good.” She sighed, sounding melancholy. “I don’t like to laugh. It hurts.”
Just then the door to the bower opened and Illian came running in, followed by Grainne. Illian was shouting for joy. “Father said yes!” He stopped suddenly and looked at Dauris. “Those’re my clothes.” She nodded seriously. “You look better in them than I did.”
Marus looked at their mother. “So it went well? Father agrees?”
Grainne nodded. “He wishes to speak with her first, but yes, he agrees.”
Dauris turned away from the mirror and walked over to her mother. “I am ready,” she said, offering her hand.