A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 10


I know you well enough now, and I know that you only tried to care for your dying mother -- who was already mad and dying anyway while you worked feverishly to save her to the best of your ability. But little Nahl'een, the baby, not more than two years old when you came home. To her what she saw you do was what she thought harmful. I think that you will need to tell her that she was wrong about what her sister did."

Selena shot up into a sitting position so quickly that her head hurt a second later, "Sister?"

"I believe that your mother was either too ashamed to speak of it, or too far gone by the time that you got home from your long journey home to be able to tell you.

Think," the demon said, "Have you found nothing? No sign that might have been left by a little creature, living as best she could on whatever she could find or catch for herself to eat? Dahlgren was there, while you were gone once, not knowing who the last members of the stricken family were. He was there, and though he found no little female there living like a wild thing -- since she was living in the forest by then where he found her later, he did find signs that one such creature had once lived there."

Selena suddenly thought of the things that she'd seen in her mother's room.

"Whenever he must be away, if I cannot come to help. Dahlgren leaves the light of his life in the care of the orphanage. They have only just allowed her to watch and feed the bird in their garden, because when she could not understand what they said to her, she hunted them there. I don't know how she managed to keep herself alive and live all alone as she did, but you each have a sister.

You and Nahleen are sisters.

There was a gasp from the doorway.

They looked and saw Nahl'een there, holding onto Shaevre and shaking visibly. Ny'Zeille wanted to kick herself, but it was plainly too late for that. "Nahl'een, come here," she said softly.

But Nahl'een didn't seem to hear her. She only stared at Selena, who now stared back. She took several steps forward and stood before Selena, still shaking.

If there was one thing which Selena had always believed to be a successful rogue's greatest talent, it was her ability to see many details in the blink of an eye. It had brought her priceless and much needed information so many times and indeed, it had saved her life so often. Now, it brought her both chills and evidence as - even in her shock and rising, tumbling emotion -- her eye caught sight of the small and worn little doll which Nahl'een clutched in her fingers so tightly.

It was one of the ones which her mother had made for her. It had been her favorite for a time, until she'd been given a better one a little later. After that, this doll had been a little forgotten, used more in the role of one of the guests when Selena had played at having her favorite doll share tea with her doll friends. She reached out in the doll's direction, and Nahl'een held it up a little, but it was clear that she wouldn't let go of it.

Selena didn't want to take it, she only wanted to look. "Mother gave you this, didn't she?"

The little demon-girl nodded slowly, "You, ... you not, ... kill, ... Mother?"

Selena shook her head slowly, never moving her eyes from those of the little girl, "No, she was already dying. She was so sick," Selena croaked as her tears began. "I tried to make her better, but, ... I couldn't." She sobbed, "I couldn't!" She began to cry.

Nahl'een looked at her and then at Ny'Zeille, "What is, ... sisters?"

"Two or more girls, same mother or the same father, often both," the demon said, almost in a whisper, "You've seen girls who are sisters at the orphanage. You are Selena's sister, Nahl'een. She is your sister."

"Sisters are friends?"

The question brought tears to the demon's eyes, but she nodded, "Almost always more."

Nahl'een stared at Selena, who sat with her head in her hands, sobbing. She walked closer until she stood right in front of Selena. After a long moment, she crouched to slowly put her arms - still clutching her little doll - around Selena's neck and began to cry with her.

"I didn't know," Selena's voice came out from between the pair. "Nahl'een, ... Nahl'een, I didn't know. I'm so sorry, ... oh, I didn't know."

Nahl'een pulled her head back and they looked at one another, Nahl'een's little face awash with her own tears. She nodded, and they were crying together, hanging onto each other.

Selena never found a plausible reason for it afterward, but at the time, it seemed the reasonable thing to do. She suddenly found that, rather than feel strange over what she'd learned, it now felt so good to hold her head next to Nahl'een's as they wept a little. She'd been in a little awe of the girl for a time, her features being somewhat different from when she'd seen her as a little human girl, with much the same color hair and eyes as she had. Still, there wasn't anything ugly about this lost little sister that she'd just found herself to be related to.

She turned her head slightly and kissed her cheek. "If I did anything when you were there to frighten you, " she whispered, "if I've done anything to frighten you since then, Nahl'een, then please try to forgive me. I never knew. But I'm happy to know you now."

She drew her head back, wanting to lighten this a little as she struggled within herself and sniffled, "Is this your favorite dolly?"

Nahl'een pulled herself back a little while still keeping one arm around Selena's neck. She looked at her and wiped her eyes with the forearm of the hand which held the doll, "Ah-hah, always have this one."

She held it up a little, and Selena smiled, "I see that she's gotten a little hurt, now and then."

"Dahl fix her, sometimes," Nahl'een nodded. The mending work looked a little rough, but it was holding up, and Selena smiled, "Well, it's good that he helps you to take care of her, isn't it?" she asked as she sniffled a little.

Nahl'een nodded and smiled, but her yawns weren't long in coming to her a few minutes afterward. Selena and Nahl'een both felt a lot better and they could talk and smile and it amazed Selena at how the little girl liked to stand close to her now.

"You should go back to bed," her grandmother said.

"You be here when I wake up?" Nahl'een asked Selena, who nodded.

Nahl'een hugged Selena tightly and told her goodnight before she did the same to Ny'Zeille and walked off with Shaevre. Selena watched long after they'd turned the corner out of sight.

"You knew all of this when you came to meet me at the inn?" The rogue asked without turning her head.

"I was almost certain," Ny'Zeille nodded, "I wasn't completely sure, but I felt sure enough. Your body masks what you are well, or I'd have known in an instant. as would Dahlgren. If he'd known, I think he'd have found your last meeting at you house to be especially humorous, with you acting the way that you did.

But I didn't bring you here for Nahl'een, as wonderful as that was to see and watch," she said, "I brought you here for you. I will explain in the morning. I imagine that you have quite a lot on your mind now."

"Yes," the rogue said with a sigh. "It feels very strange to find out that I'm not who I thought I was my whole life."

Ny'Zeille shook her head, "You are just who you have always been, my friend. There are those who do not hold thieves and rogues in very high regard, but I am not one of them, and neither is my son. He spoke highly of your abilities, by the way. There are only two things here for you to work through; your relationship with Nahl'een, and what you are -- not who you are. That has not changed."

She leaned back and stretched a little to reach for Arrax' face. He turned his head to allow it so that she could scratch the far side below the ear. The motion showed Selena for the hundredth time just how beautiful her friend was. She had no feelings in terms of desiring another woman that she was aware of, but beauty was beauty and Selena found herself admiring Ny'Zeille nonetheless. That was why her next moment came to her a shock all the more as she heard a deep male voice.

"The life of a demon can be full of enough confusion," the voice said, "to have lived as long as you have not knowing things about yourself is to be seen as a deep shame."

Hearing the voice was enough to startle the rogue. To see who it was who now spoke, ....

"I thought hellhounds couldn't speak," Selena said in awe.

"Many of my kind cannot speak with humans," Arrax said, "I can. I know many ways to speak. I come from a clan long known for many things. The ability to speak and learn ways to communicate is one of the lesser things for which we are known."

"Arrax and I are old friends, "Ny'Zaille smiled, "I have, ... certain functions which I sometimes must attend to on behalf of the ones who rule the plane where we come from. Sometimes I must act as a sort of ambassador as well. The Xer or Hellhounds are a different race of demons and come from a different plane altogether. Our two kinds have long been friends and allies in many things. Arrax here serves much the same function for his people, and he in in command of the Xer contingents on many Mer outposts, such as this one."

"Perhaps it would be better if you would try to stop thinking of my kind as dogs," Arrax said, "While I suppose that it is an easy assumption for you to make, living as you have, we are anything but. We have, most of us, two forms as our friends the demons have. The other is much more like you, though you wouldn't see it that way and think of us as monsters of some sort. We understand this as well, of course," he nodded with what Selena too to be the equivalent of a smile, "and so those few of us here choose to show this very rarely."

"They mate for life, "Ny'Zeille said, "and after a personal tragedy no less heartbreaking as the one which happened to me and Dahlgren's father, he was chosen for his role. I knew him, of course, and we found our paths crossing all of the time. Our rulers saw the value of the two of us working together all of the time, rather than only most of the time anyway, and so we have been together ever since.

If you can get the dog analogy out of your head, I can tell you that some years ago, we found ourselves alone together on a deserted world for a time, trying to determine if it might be suitable as a colony for either or both of our races. One thing led to another and we found ways in which we might please each other. It took some doing, given our natures, but he acts as my loyal companion and very attentive lover, and I am often his shameless bitch when I am in the mood. So that you might understand, I think that you see me behaving in a rather regal sort of way quite often, no?"

"Yes," Selena nodded, "That's how I always see you. I admire the way that you're so confident and no matter where you are, you act as though you own the place."

"Ah," the demon smiled, "Thank you for the compliment, my friend. It is how I am by nature since I was given the role that I have. But since we are here and there are no others, I wish to point out the mannerisms to my posture here. When we are alone, and there is no need to pretend, I often drape myself over Arrax a little carelessly, just as Nahl'een does with her friend Shaevre, though in her case, it is only two young friends who are close playmates, and nothing more.

Since Nahl'een came to live here, she and Shaevre have become inseparable a lot of the time, and I think that it is wonderful. There is no better friend for either a demon or a Xer child than what they have, though of necessity Shaevre is older, since she is really Nahl'een's bodyguard. It may pass, though my hope is that they always remain close friends. I do this for another reason entirely.

I do this to always show Arrax that I am his female. It's the closest that we can come to what is normal for his kind and I wish to never allow him to forget what he means to me. I'm afraid that I'd have become just a mean-spirited old thing without him.

It is nothing new for our kinds, though young ones are not possible for such a pair as we are. As far as our mating goes, my son knows of this, and when we are here, we are discreet about it because of my granddaughter, so we usually use the garden of sighs for this whenever it happens.

As with anything such as what we share between us, most others do not have the desire in them for the other kinds. For example, of the other seven hellhounds here, three of them are males, and they see nothing at all of interest in the bodies of the females here who are not of their kind, so you need give no thought to one of the other males leering at you, for example. A sheep would hold their interest more, and then only as a meal."

Selena was fascinated. "What does the other shape look like? I'm not asking you to show me, Arrax, unless you wish to, but now I'm very curious."

"Thousands of years ago, the Xer and the Merren were already here, thinking to colonize. This was abandoned. Something which I have always found a little fascinating about humans is the ease with which their blood allows itself to be blended. On this world," he said, stretching his neck so that his face could rub against the demon's cheek once affectionately before finishing his thought, "it has happened that there has been a crossing of our blood with that of humans. It manifests itself very rarely, which is perhaps not a bad thing, and indeed, the individuals affected have never learned how it was that this condition -- which may be passed from one individual to another by a bite - truly began. There is another, ... condition somewhat like this in some rare humans, but it was caused by a different race of beings altogether who feed on the blood of humans.

There was once an attempt made by us to colonize this world long ago. There were far fewer of your kind then, and we wouldn't have begun here if we knew that your kind was here. But it happened anyway, and someone was bitten and lived. From there, it spread a little, but never very far. We abandoned the attempt to colonize and those of us in this house are all that are here of what are known as hellhounds. Among ourselves, we are Xerrian, since Xer is both our home and the word for what we are, as close as both human and demon tongues can say it. The bitten ones, well, your kind calls them werewolves. We call them weak abominations."

The rogue's jaw fell open, "Weak? I've seen one now and then. I've had to rob places where one or two were employed. I sure didn't think they were weak. I almost died a couple of times."

"No doubt they are stronger than humans," Arrax said with no trace of humor, "but they are not much like us."

"The other ones are called vampires, right?" Selena asked, "I've run into a few of them too."

"Correct, and like the bitten ones who carry traces of Xer tendencies, passed on from one to another by a bite, those ones are also weak when compared to the ones who caused it and do not appear all that much alike to their forebears, who were vaguely like the Merren. We usually exterminate both sorts where we come into contact with them, "he said, "the ones caused by our ancestral foes which you call vampires and the ones that we ourselves unwittingly caused. They have no place here and seldom reason before they act."

He smiled, "As far as what I look like, perhaps you should speak to Ny'Zeille when you are feeling a little adventurous one day."

Ny'Zeille leaned forward and Arrax rose to his feet. "Come, my friend, "Ny'Zeille smiled, "Arrax and I are off to bed. We will walk you to your room."

Selena stood up and Ny'Zeille took her hand as she walked with her other hand on the shoulders of the huge animal. "It can be a little perilous to walk the halls at night," she said, "I do not think that you would be in any danger, strictly speaking, and Arrax has told the other Xer about you. There are other things which walk these halls then, and you may wish not to see them, though mostly they only clean the place. You should remain in your room until daylight. You are free to roam wherever you wish then."

She stopped as they came to the door of Selena's room and turned, "I am really rather excited, Selena. I think that you have other things to learn about yourself, and we will continue in the morning. I have no doubt that you will be pleased."

She leaned over and kissed the rogue's cheek, and it was becoming clear to Selena that this sort of affection was something done out of little more than well-meant friendship, so she returned the gesture.

"As far as feeling adventurous as my friend here means it, we may speak of it at another time since it is late and he has his want of me rising in him. I am very fortunate to have his love, though what we share is not what we wanted. The usual bargaining and transactions are not required between two old friends like we are. But to all others, Selena, remember one thing and never forget it.

You may be curious about them, and that is all fine as far as it goes, but with the Xer, there is always a price -- always. He may show you what you wish to know, but you should be careful, or you may find yourself to be another of his happy bitches and second to me."

Selena tried to hold the shock from her face as she smiled and kissed her friend good night again. She stood at the doorway to her room and watched as they walked slowly out of sight.

Selena sat on her bed for a long time, thinking about what had been revealed to her, and most especially the stunning knowledge that she had a little sister. She wondered what they could make of this relationship and she had no answer. She only knew that she liked Nahl'een very much and she hoped that they could become like sisters between them.

Once undressed and into the bed, Selena wondered about a few things as her hands found the familiar features of her own body. She thought about Dahlgren with a little sadness for herself, since she doubted that she'd ever be given the chance to try to fix what she'd done and said in her ignorance. She just didn't know. She was aware of that, and also felt a little hope that he might think of it as well. It was a warm thought.

Then she thought about the Xerrian, and wondered what sort of intimate combinations were possible. Not many likely, given that they weighed so much. A careless move on his part, and she'd likely be crushed. Still, as her fingers found the core of her and she slipped two of them inside herself, she had to work at pushing the thoughts away and concentrating on the ranger.

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