My writing and art! Main @cjadewyton and polished work on @jade-wyton
‘Are you real?’ she asked.
Scaychie hesitated. ‘What?’
‘Are you real?’
‘I.... Uh, yeah.’
‘Oh, good!’ the woman stood up straighter, tucking her wings behind her back and pushing her hair out of her eyes. ‘Sometimes it’s hard to tell. You know?’
‘N... no,’ Scaychie answered, feeling her brow furrow at the strange woman.
‘Oh, well...’ the woman’s ears flicked back. But then, they flicked back up and she smiled. ‘I’m Keeyata. What’s your name?’
Scaychie just eyed her.
When she didn’t reply, Keeyata’s ears folded back down, and she stepped forward, gently placing a hand against Scaychie’s shoulder before pulling back and letting out an anxious laugh. ‘Oh, ah— Hah, you are real!’
‘I said that,’ Scaychie grunted.
‘Yes, but you may have been lying.’
Scaychie just shrugged.
‘Uhm...’ Keeyata shuffled again. Then offered another nervous grin. ‘I’m Keeyata. What’s your name?’
Again, Scaychie stared. And again, Keeyata edged forward.
‘Am I speaking?’ Keeyata asked. ‘Out loud?’
Scaychie sighed, and nodded. ‘Yes. Yes you are. My name’s Scaychie.’
‘Oh, that’s a nice name,’ Keeyata’s grin grew, before she held out a hand.
‘What do... do you want something?’ Scaychie asked. ‘Why are you...’
She trailed off as Keeyata slowly took her hand and gave it a timid shake.
‘What... is this?’ Scaychie asked.
‘Hello,’ Keeyata said, giving another shake. ‘Mother Tarasi said this was polite.’
‘How... is touching my hand polite?’ Scaychie grimaced. What kind of... weird custom was this?
‘I’m not sure,’ Keeyata responded. ‘I never understood it. But Mother Tarasi said to always do it when saying hello. Because it’s polite.’
‘Mm,’ Scaychie felt herself frown as she pulled her hand away. Then she leant forward and butted her head against Keeyata’s. ‘Well, uh.... Hello. I guess.’
‘Wh—‘ Keeyata’s eyes widened and she stumbled back, as if Scaychie had butted her hard. ‘What the fuck?!’
‘I was saying hello,’ Scaychie snorted. ‘That’s how dassens greet each other. Were you raised felinic or something?’
‘No, no, Mother Mairas was dassen,’ Keeyata replied. ‘But my brother and I are from Canis! With wolvens?’
‘Yes. Wolvens,’ Scaychie grunted.
‘Was that really how you say hello?’
‘Yes...’ Scaychie trailed off as she spied Linzor a little ways off.
Keeyata seemed to notice her tense, and glanced to see what she was looking at.
‘Oh! Linzor!’ Keeyata ran to her brother. ‘Linzor!’
‘What?’ Linzor growled.
‘Scaychie showed me how dassens say hello! Can I show you?’
Linzor rolled his eyes and gave a huff. ‘Fine.’
She headbutt Linzor so hard he fell over.
Little avio, little avio, for your second mother you must behavio
‘Yes. I would appreciate it,’ he said sweetly, nipping Scaychie’s cheek. ‘It has been quite a few nights since Eish’lee and I were able to be alone together. Setani’Selina is asleep in her resting place, try not to wake her when Geoff’Selulu gets tired.’
‘No other girl is making milk,’ Tru’man replied with a shrug. ‘At least, none I trust with my children.... And I thought you would enjoy a night away from Linzor.’
Scaychie couldn’t argue. A night away from the Orange Beast sounded like a gift from the gods....
‘Milk!’ two voices cried out from Scaychie’s arms, and her gaze shot down to look at the wiggly little boy.
‘Oh, yes, he’s figuring out how to use his speaker,’ Tru’man chuckled, nipping his son on the nose. ‘You’re very talented, aren’t you? Behave for kekik Scaychie.’
‘Yalfit!’ Geoff’Selulu responded, his voice echoing as if he was speaking for two people as he tried to grab his father’s hair. ‘Kan!’
‘Yes, kekik Scaychie will let you kan,’ Tru’man dodged his son’s tiny hands and grinned at Scaychie. ‘He wants to eat.’
‘I’ll feed him,’ Scaychie reassured. ‘You go.’
Tru’man nodded and turned, putting his arm around Eish’lee as they wandered into the distance.
‘Kekik?’ Geoff’Selulu’s voice broke. ‘Kekik kan? Milk? Kekik going?’
Scaychie tapped the bump on his throat gently. ‘Scaychie gives you kan.’
‘Milk!’ he said, in his usual voice. Then he opened his mouth wide and a second voice, higher than before, escaped him. ‘Meelk!’
‘Yes, milk!’ Scaychie replied.
‘Milk!’ Geoff’Selulu cried out before nuzzling against Scaychie’s shawled-covered chest with enthusiasm. ‘Now!’
‘What are you going to call him?’ Tru’man asked.
‘I haven’t thought about that. I thought Linzor would. …’
‘Har’py law says that if one of you is the leader of the troop, the other gets to pick the child’s first name,’ Tru’man reminded her. ‘If Linzor wants him to share his last name he’ll have to give you the right to an unquestioned first name.’
Scaychie snorted a laugh. ‘Is that how it works?’
‘It will be if I ask my kekik to tell him that,’ Tru’man grinned. ‘So think of a good name for him!’
‘Geoff’Selulu knows its a boy,’ Tru’man replied, his wings stiffening as he sat up straighter; a proud look on his face.
Scaychie laughed at that. ‘I really like the name Kikimarsu for a girl.’
‘Which he’s not, so you need a boy’s name.’
‘Okay. Okay. … Harnlix. After my father.’
Elli meets Scaychie for the first time
‘She sends her love,’ Linzor said with a frown and a nod of the head. ‘Or her version of love, anyway.’
Elli sighed. ‘She’s not coming?’
‘Why would she?’
‘I thought she’d like to see me again,’ Elli said sheepishly. ‘I’ve missed her.’
Linzor laughed loudly. ‘Oh, dear Elli,’ he said, taking a deep breath and grabbing her by her cheeks. ‘Sweet, naive Elli.’
Elli pulled away from Linzor and frowned, rubbing her now-sore cheeks as he walked away. As he did, he was trailed by a tired-looking dassen woman and a young boy. For a second, Elli’s heart stuck in her throat. The dassen woman was young, and looked … like. …
Sensin stepped beside her and wrapped his arm around her waist. ‘That’s your friend?’
‘He was, yeah,’ Elli gave an anxious grin. ‘He hasn’t changed a bit.’
‘Yeah. Yeah. I was just hoping to see Keeyata as well.’
The dassen woman stopped and turned to stare at Elli.
Sensin’s grip on Elli’s hip tightened, and Elli knew he saw it too.
For a moment, the dassen woman stared. Then a wide grin spread over her face and she rushed over to Elli.
‘You must be Elli!’ she exclaimed, thrusting her forehead against Elli’s with a painful thunk. ‘My name’s Scaychie! Keeyata’s told me everything about you— Is it true that your son is going to be king of Sapious? And are you really a dream walker?’
‘What was it you used to call me?’ she asked, a tired sigh making her seem smaller. ‘I can’t remember.’
‘Honeysuckle,’ Taldurl’s voice was scarcely a whisper as he pressed against his wife, his lips almost touching her neck. ‘It was honeysuckle.’
"Hey Scaychie! What do you have planned for today?"
Elli tries to be nice to a stressed-out Scaychie, then Linzor enters and is his usually manipulative self.
cw. implied abuse // swearing
‘—Scaychie, honey? Are you okay?’ Elli put a hand on Scaychie’s shoulder, and Scaychie let out a shriek and whirled around. Elli jumped back when she did, narrowly dodging a slap that was aimed at her.
Scaychie stared for a second, her mouth hanging open, before she glanced at the jacket-covered chair and blushed. ‘I... I’m sorry. I thought that was you.’
Elli tried not to grin as she picked up her jacket and threw it over her shoulders. ‘I was just coming to grab it. ... You really thought it was me? Even when it didn’t reply to you?’
Scaychie gave a timid nod and rubbed her arms. ‘I thought I might’ve done something to piss you off.’
‘Oh, honey, no,’ Elli shook her head. ‘I would never treat you like that. Even if I was angry. You know that, right?’
‘Oh— Uh ... yeah. Sure.’
‘Are you alright?’
‘Do you need a glass of water or—‘
‘—No,’ Scaychie dismissed. ‘I’m fine.’
Elli didn’t believe her. She watched the young woman scratch anxiously at the tight choker around her neck, and for a second thought she caught sight of a bruise on her shoulder— But before she could ask the door flew open and Scaychie hurriedly adjusted her shawl as Linzor strode into the room.
‘Where have you been!’ he demanded. ‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere!’
‘—She’s been with me,’ Elli chided back. ‘Honestly, Linzor, calm down. What would your mother say if she heard you talking like that?’
Linzor’s lip twitched as he stared at the girls, but then he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. ‘Elli, perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about the dead.’
‘This is literally a funeral, Linzor. My grandfather. Or did you forget?’
‘I didn’t forget. I just don’t care,’ he retorted, lifting a wing and motioning Scaychie out the door. ‘No offence.’
‘“No offence”?’ Elli choked. ‘You can’t just— You can’t just tack “no offence” on the end of things you giant cunt!’
Linzor’s raised wing turned on Elli, brushing over her heavily and nearly sending her to the floor as Linzor grinned wickedly. ‘Honestly, Elli, calm down.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with looking after your children, Tru’man.’
‘I know— But this is why she teases me. I don’t do as I should.’
‘Who cares?’ Scaychie replied. ‘You’re being a good father; that’s more important than anything anyone could ever say about you.’
Tru’man looked stunned for a moment before giving Scaychie a weak smile. ‘You’re too kind to me. But I don’t think you know how we do things here. Kekiks sing. Zelkins sing. And reks sing.’
‘Then what do fathers do?’ Scaychie asked. ‘Sons and brothers?’
‘We listen, and we let ourselves be soft,’ he replied as if it were a simple fact. Then, when Scaychie didn’t stop frowning, he sighed and shook his head. ‘It’s hard to explain to an outsider. Maybe if I could tell you in Har’py it might make more sense, but I can’t say it properly with these words.’
First draft of Scaychie talks to the goddess who shows her visions of the future. This leads to Scaychie’s decision to stay in Heck’ne with Linzor, even after the kidnapped dassens are set free.
cw: implied kidnapping, abuse, & drugging // vomit
A sad look passed over the spirit’s face and she slowly blinked her third eye.
Another image sped through Scaychie’s head; bubbling water and a storm, screaming, and her own face as she desperately tried to reach her sinking son in the impossible to fight ocean.
‘You would survive,’ the spirit finally said. ‘He would sink to the bottom. You’d have more children with your husband— But you would miss this one forever.’
‘And if I stay?’ Scaychie sniffed. ‘What would happen if I stay?’
The spirit blinked her eye, and a white flash flared in Scaychie’s mind.
A wedding and a young wolven girl holding hands with her son as their own children crowded in the garden; and a high, happy voice as Keeyata read her vows, her tail flicking so excitedly she knocked over a pot of petals and sent a flurry of pink and blue into the wind.
But it hurt. Scaychie gripped her chest and gasped as it spread across her body and made her tremble in agony.
‘The ache will never truly leave you,’ the spirit told her. ‘It may lessen, in time, but if you sacrifice yourself you will never stop hurting.’
‘What do I do?’ Scaychie sniffed.
‘No choice you make is wrong,’ the spirit told her, crossing her legs and slowly lowering herself to the ground beside the dassen. ‘They all lead to hurt. It is not selfish to choose the path that will stop yourself from hurting; it’s not wrong to look after yourself.’
‘But the others—’
‘—They will suffer too. No matter what you do. … You can make it easier for them. Shield them with yourself. But it will hurt you so much you might lose yourself,’ the spirit blinked slowly.
Scaychie braced herself for another painful vision. But it didn’t come.
Instead she felt light. Her chest not so tight and her worried thoughts faded to a numb feeling in the back of her head.
A bitter, metallic taste washed over her tongue as she stared at her husband.
Out of place.
She couldn’t tell what it was.
What was happening?
She watched him as he stood beside her, trying to place the thought.
He was everything.
Everything was his?
She’d forgotten something.
She had to remember what it was. …
What was she meant to know?
Then Linzor faded from her vision and the weight of reality slammed into her like her memories of storms. Her stomach lurched and she felt so sick from the feelings that had overcome her that she threw up, barely missing the long hair of the old woman as her stomach emptied itself on the ground beside them.
‘I will not fall in love with him!’ bile dribbled down her chin as she stared at the dirt. She felt her chest heave as she held back her building cry. ‘I will fight him! I swear it! I won’t ever feel that way about him! I won’t let myself!’
‘Then leave,’ the spirit said simply. ‘Or he won’t give you a choice.’
‘I can’t!’ Scaychie exclaimed. ‘I can’t leave! Not without the others!’
‘It’s the only way to save yourself,’ said the spirit. ‘If you don’t leave he will change you and your thoughts until you lose who you are. You can fight him, but he will poison you until you love him— And I do not mean that as a metaphor.’
Scaychie hesitated for a long moment. Then she whispered, ‘Do I ever get away from him?’
‘And if I stay, it will save the others?’
‘Then I’ll bear it. As long as I have to.’
Gala’sha, talking to Scaychie about his regrets and knowing he’s going to die but not when or how.
‘Dassen,’ Gala’sha motioned for her to come closer.
She dared slide over.
He gripped her arm tightly and stared into her eyes. After a long moment of quiet he spoke.
‘I don’t know how long I have.’
‘What?’ Scaychie blinked.
‘Until I die,’ he clarified. ‘But I know it’s soon.’
‘—Setani’Selina said it, and so it must be so,’ he said. ‘She is the mala’kala’s katka-zelkin, and has never been wrong before.’
‘About rain,’ Scaychie tried to pull her arm away from Gala’sha, but he squeezed it tighter.
‘Listen to me, dassen!’ he growled. ‘There’s something wrong. There’s something very wrong in this world. I feel it every day. I can’t place it, but I feel it. In the rocks and the sky and the clouds. In the children crying in hunger and the warriors dying with dirt in their wounds. …’
Scaychie swallowed as Gala’sha pulled her close.
‘You, though,’ he whispered. ‘You don’t feel wrong. You feel like … like an old heartbeat come from an ancestor.’
‘You’re insane!’ Scaychie snapped, finally managing to tug her arm away.
Gala’sha grabbed her by the throat and growled— Then a strange look passed over him. Scaychie had never seen it in him before.
He released her and turned away. ‘The Heck’ne’s gone wrong. I tried to fix it. I did. But I took the wrong side,’ slowly, he lowered his face into his hands.
‘Why … are you telling me this? Scaychie asked.
‘Linzor,’ Gala’sha growled. ‘He fears you, you know. You speak out against him. You change minds. You make wrongs into rights. I don’t know how —I wish I understood— but you do it. You. You fix things.’
Scaychie swallowed. ‘I just do what needs to be done.’
Gala’sha turned, so quickly Scaychie didn’t have time to respond before he grabbed her hands in his and squeezed them so tight his nails drew blood. ‘I beg that you never stop. Please. When I’m gone, you must care for my people. Guide them right. Fix my mistakes.’
‘I— I don’t know if I can—’
‘—I beg you to try.’
For a moment, Scaychie hesitated. Then she nodded. ‘I will.’
‘You’re a Har’py at heart,’ Gala’sha grinned, his fangs reflecting a sparkle of sunlight. ‘The right kind.’
‘Thank you,’ Scaychie replied. And she meant it. Being called a Har’py would usually make her … feel different to this. But the way Gala’sha spoke— It was in earnest. And it had meaning. Even if she didn’t understand it.
‘I did not do all that work to heal them just so you could make them hurt again!’ Geoff’Selulu snapped. ‘I was the one who disobeyed, not them. They did as I said, when I said, and respected me as the mala’kala katka-katka!’
Ali’ka frowned, ‘So you’re taking responsibility?’
Geoff’Selulu nodded. ‘All of it.’
For a minute, Ali’ka was quiet, and Scaychie feared what she’d do next. Would she hurt Geoff? How would she punish him?
Then, a smile formed at the corners of Ali’ka’s mouth. And she bent down and lovingly nipped Geoff’s cheek. ‘You are so much like your yalfit-yalfit, you know that? You would make him proud.’
Scaychie royally F’d up. Luckily Geoff’s there to help.
‘You’re wrong!’ Scaychie blurted.
‘What?’ Ali’ka growled.
‘You’re wrong,’ Scaychie repeated, quieter this time. ‘I think you’re wrong.’
There was a moment of quiet muttering as Ali’ka glared at Scaychie. Then she stood and approached. ‘How dare you—’
‘—YOU TOLD ME TO SPEAK MY MIND!’ Scaychie cried loudly. She was shocked at her own volume and knew that she’d made a mistake. ‘You told me to say what I meant!’
Ali’ka gripped Scaychie’s throat in a talon, forcing her to her knees.
‘Just because she has said it does not mean you have to listen to her,’ a quiet voice came from behind the Prophet.
Everyone turned and saw Geoff’Selulu kneeling by the throne; he was gently stroking the leaves of the cottonflower bush as he spoke, not meeting anyone’s gaze.
‘Geoff’Selulu, I did not ask your opinion,’ Ali’ka growled.
‘You never ask anyone for their opinion,’ he responded clearly, finally turning to his grandmother. ‘And I am not saying opinions; you do not have to listen to kekik Scaychie. That is a fact, not a made-up thought from my mind. You told kekik Scaychie to speak more clearly what she meant to say and then she did what you told her to do. You should not be mad at her for that— And that is another fact.’
For a moment, Ali’ka hesitated. Then she released Scaychie and approached her grandson. ‘You are a little kaka'li, you know that?’
Geoff’Selulu’s face split in a wide grin, and he nodded happily as he was lifted off the ground with a talon and thrown over Ali’ka’s shoulder.
‘Rai'Sefora, Gala’sha, Tru’man! Follow!’ Ali’ka called. Then she pet Geoff’Selulu’s hair and smiled back. ‘Come along, katka-katka, if you are old enough to sass me, you are old enough to hunt with me.’
Scaychie let out a long breath as Ali’ka calmly walked away. Exhausted relief was just starting to set in—
‘Scaychie!’ Ali’ka called over her shoulder.
‘Yes, mala’kala?’ Scaychie called back.
‘Care for my katka-zelkins while I am gone! If I come back to a single scratch on them, you will be punished!’
‘Of course, mala’kala.’
First draft of Centy in hospital, after being stung by a deer wasp and temporarily paralysed.
‘Keeyata!’ Scaychie exclaims. ‘He can hear you.’
‘So? It’s true. He should be happy he’s got an excuse to lay around moping all day. Wish I could get paralysed,’ Keeyata sits next to Scaychie and puts a hand on her shoulder. Her voice softens. ‘He’s going to be okay, Scaychie. You don’t need to act like you’ve lost him.’
Scaychie squeezes Centela’s hand. ‘I just don’t want him to be alone.’
‘Well, I’ll keep him company while you get some sleep.’
Centela prays his mother says no.
‘Alright,’ Scaychie sighs, standing up. ‘Just … be nice.’
‘Sure,’ Keeyata nods, and leads Scaychie to the door. ‘Go get some rest now.’
Scaychie leaves, and Keeyata sits next to Centela.
‘So, this must suck a whole bunch,’ Keeyata comments.
No shit, thinks Centela.
Scaychie finally gets home to Das, after almost 30 years a prisoner in Heck’ne... It’s hard on her, and she knows things can never be the same again.
‘A sister,’ Taldurl repeated quietly. ‘And Tru’man? What about him? Did you love him, too?’
‘Taldurl—’ Scaychie paused, then let out a long, hard breath.
Taldurl sighed too, and put a wing around his wife. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I’m trying. I promise I am. It’s just … different.’
‘You think I don’t feel it?’ Scaychie asked, her voice quiet and bitter. ‘All I’ve ever dreamt about was coming home. … Seeing you again. But you hate my sister. And you hate my son.’
‘I don’t hate them—’
‘—You act like you do,’ Scaychie said, trembling.
‘I don’t mean to.’
‘Maybe I should. … I don’t know if it was a good idea to come back. I should go.’
‘No!’ Taldurl grabbed her by her shoulders and shook her; horror and terror flashing across his face. ‘Please! Don’t say that. You belong here! This is— Your home! I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you again!’
‘It just hurts so much to be here,’ Scaychie’s voice wavered. ‘To see everyone fight so much because of me.’
‘We’ll stop,’ Taldurl promised, his voice panicked. ‘We’ll— I can change. I can learn to get along with everyone! For you, I can— I can do anything!’
‘That’s not fair,’ Scaychie sighed.
‘No, it is,’ Taldurl lifted Scaychie’s chin and pressed his forehead into hers. ‘You’re not asking much. I— I don’t know why I can’t just do it. I’m sorry. I’ll get better. I promise. Just don’t leave me. Not again.’
Scaychie looked into Taldurl’s eyes for a long while before closing her own and speaking curtly, ‘Goodnight, Taldurl.’
She pulled away and hurried to the roof, leaving Taldurl standing on his own, too shocked to call out to her.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about—’
‘—Yes. You do.’
I want to post the draft of the scene that this drawing’s from, so I’m reblogging it instead of making a new post.
cw: fighting / implied spousal abuse / implied child abuse / implied sexual assault / implied drugging
Before Sensin had even opened his mouth to reply to Scaychie, she’d made her way over to the two men and cut off their conversation.
‘Oh, hello, aren’t you handsome?’ Scaychie asked in a too-fake voice. ‘What’s your name?’
Centela could see the reactions of both men from his hiding place. Ykelt blinked dumbly at the affection … and his father went red and stiff, holding himself back.
‘Scaychie, why don’t we go for a walk?’ Linzor asked.
‘I’d rather stay with this lovely man,’ Scaychie replied, leaning into Ykelt and running a hand across his chest.
Ykelt almost leapt backwards, his face flushing. ‘No— Married. I’m married. And you’re too young.’
‘Scaychie, behave yourself,’ Linzor warned.
‘Why should she?’ Sensin retorted. ‘It’s not like you do.’
‘I beg your pardon—’
‘—I know what you did!’ Sensin snapped. Then he lowered his voice to a growl that Centela didn’t understand.
Linzor straightened up, and Centela knew he was angry. But he held it in and smiled. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about—’
‘—Yes. You do.’
Ykelt glanced between Linzor and Sensin, anxiety radiating off him in such thick waves it was almost visible as an aura around him.
Then, Linzor turned to Scaychie. ‘Did you take your medicine this morning?’
Scaychie cocked her head. ‘Med. … Medicine?’
Centela almost asked the same question.
‘You’re more of a child than Centela sometimes, I swear it!’ Linzor let out a heavy sigh and grabbed his wife roughly by the arm. He tugged her towards the door with an exaggerated sigh. ‘I apologise for her behaviour, Ykelt. She’s supposed to be taking anti-psychotic medicine. She’s not herself without it and does things she shouldn’t.’
Linzor slammed the door behind him and Scaychie, and Ykelt let out a heavy sigh.
‘If anyone’s psychotic it’s him,’ Sensin muttered. ‘What a fucking pervert.’
‘He’s always been interested in Elli,’ Ykelt chuckled, though it was weak. ‘She’s never returned the feelings. It’s nothing new.’
‘You know what he did to her, right?’ Sensin sighed.
Centela heard Ykelt shuffle, and leant closer to the door to try and see better through the crack.
‘What, like when we were kids?’
‘No. I mean at the funeral.’
‘No? What— What did he do?’
Sensin cut off as Centela slipped and the cupboard door creaked. He held his breath as the two men turned to him, and hoped they would ignore it.
But instead, Sensin let out a sigh and shook his head, ‘Centy. Come out of there.’
Centela crept out of the cupboard. His scales were both burning with embarrassment and ice cold with fear— He felt dizzy he was so scared of what Sensin would say.
Sensin turned to Ykelt. ‘We’ll talk later. Don’t bring it up with Elli. It still upsets her.’
‘Right,’ Ykelt anxiously shuffled. He walked to the door, but paused. ‘Elli’s okay, right?’
Sensin nodded. But Centela could tell it was curt.
‘Right. Is there anything I can do?’
‘We’ll talk later.’
Centela watched Ykelt leave, his heart pounding so loud that he couldn’t hear the door click shut.
Then Sensin turned to him and his scales turned to ice as his heart went silent and his head spun. He looked mad. So mad.
But he didn’t say anything as he picked up Centela and sat with him on the bed. And not a single word escaped him as he picked up a brush from his bedside table and started smoothing Centela’s hair.
Centela could tell he was furious. Even though he wasn’t rough, every stroke of the brush felt as bad as one of his father’s strikes, and after only minutes the child couldn’t bare the quiet as he waited for his punishment.
‘I’m sorry,’ Centela managed. ‘You can yell at me if you want.’
‘I’m not going to yell at you,’ Sensin said, in such a gentle tone Centela almost believed him.
‘But you’re mad at me.’
‘No, I’m not,’ Sensin’s let Centela’s hair run through his fingers before he rested a hand on the child’s back. ‘Not at you.’
‘Not at me?’ Centela asked. ‘But I— I broke the rules.’
‘And after hearing that, I’m sure you’re wishing you hadn’t,’ said Sensin.
Centela couldn’t disagree. ‘Did yalfit hurt Elli?’
Sensin paused. Then sighed and spoke quietly, ‘Yes.’
Centy nodded, and looked at the floor. ‘Is that why she’s so sad all the time?’
Sensin took a deep breath and put down the brush. ‘Elli is— She’s ill. She has been for a while.’
‘What’s she sick with?’
‘It’s called … depression,’ Sensin explained. ‘It means it’s hard to feel happy. Even when good things happen. And it means the bad things feel extra bad.’
‘Oh,’ Centela breathed. ‘Will she get better?’
‘In time,’ said Sensin. ‘Do you ever get sad?’
‘Sometimes,’ Centela replied. ‘But not like yalfit-rek does.’
‘Yalfit-rek,’ Centela repeated. ‘Keeyata. She gets so sad she can’t even eat. Then she cries until she can’t breathe. Yalfit yells at her when she does. Then him and kekik get into fights about it. Which just makes yalfit-rek more upset.’
Sensin put an arm around Centela and gave him a comforting squeeze, and Centela wished he could tell him more. But he knew he couldn’t. His father would be angry enough if he found out what he’d already said.
‘Can I go to sleep?’ Centela asked.
Centela,, was just being polite. In the Heck’ne way.
‘I was gonna!’ Centela rolled his eyes, and walked over to Mingan.
‘Hi,’ Mingan blushed.
Centela took a deep breath— Then head-butted Mingan. Before she was done squealing, he tugged her out of her chair and dropped her on the floor.
‘Centela!’ Linzor snapped. ‘What the fuck are you doing!’
‘I said hi both ways!’ Centy whined, stomping his foot. ‘Both dassen and harpy! What did I do wrong!’
‘I’m so sorry!’ Scaychie exclaimed, grabbing her son as Elli picked up her daughter. ‘He— He’s used to his siblings! They play rough.’
Linzor growled. ‘You little shit! You know better than to—’
‘—It’s okay!’ Mingan chirped as her mother helped her back into her chair. ‘He didn’t hurt me!’
Linzor grumbled, and looked away as Scaychie quickly crouched down and brushed dirt off Mingan’s dress.