“You know you can’t stay here,” the woman said. Silver hair rimmed with purple highlights draped over her shoulders. “I can’t let you stay here.”
Saniss had never been subtle about her alternate forms. She took no pleasure in the art of the craft; the subtle twist of the weave.
It’d always annoyed Aeronis.
“You can do whatever you want,” He said, not bothering to look up from the guild’s finances. Thick book, interwoven expense reports. Had they crossed the latest tax bracket? “It’s our nature.”
“And our nature is to accrue wealth in preparation for the return of our lord,” Saniss said, flat. “Just as it has been out nature for the last several hundred years. The throne’s still vacant.”
Aer looked up from the book for just for a flickering moment, a brief hesitation. Caught the purple eyes nestled in her elven skin.
“I know the throne’s still vacant,” he replied. “Why are you here?”
Saniss sighed. “I don’t really know anymore, brother. I had hoped… at one point, you were the most promising of our brood.”
“I was,” he agreed. Looked back down. The medic wanted more supplies, and strange books from the west. He’d oblige him; he favored keeping his members alive as long as possible.
“And you looked like you were going to make an attempt at the throne.”
“I’m sure it appeared that way,” Aer said, breathing out. “Are you here to just remind me of the past, or what?”
Saniss laughed, the silver backed disguise wrinkling unnaturally. “I don’t know what I expected. Some small form of sibling camaraderie? An explanation? Something that could pass at all for remorse?”
“Remorse?” Aer asked. “I didn’t hurt anyone. Nobody’s been harmed back home. I left and am making my own way through life.”
Eyes back on the finances. Back up.
“Left without a word,” San said. She’d always been one for attachments. It’d serve her better to actually make allies rather than worrying over the size of her hoard. Quality mattered, not just quantity.
Yes, he should invest in more tutors; apparently one of the solders in his entourage was still illiterate. He couldn’t have that.
“Left without a word, after the attempt, and some seven decades later we have rumors of some mercenary company flying your old banner- I remember when you made that, when you said you wanted a kingdom. What happened to that?”
“I found the kingdoms of men more agreeable than the company of dragons, sister,” Aer said, dry. “I’d think you’d understand, given…”
Unspoken went the name of the third member of the clutch.
Not unspoken for long.
“I just want to tell you that Tymeror’s making a play to try the Ordeal,” San said, soft. “It’d be good if you were home for it. Just in case he succeeds.”
“He won’t. There’s no way the throne would recognize someone as foul-hearted as him.”
“He is our brother,” San pointed out.
“He’s a wretched bully, a coward, and a brute of a drake,” Aer said, clicking his teeth together on the last syllable. A spray of frost from his noise hung in the air before faded.
“Still have your ice at least,” San muttered. “You have that going for you.”
“I’m safe here,” Aer said, gesturing at the building. “I have what I want. Go and tell the others I don’t need to be saved or convinced.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” San said.
“Then why are you here, in my place of business, throwing about the good old days, San?” Aer looked up, then snapped his book shut. “People are going to talk. You’re hardly subtle about being a silver. You never have been.”
“I wanted to ask you to help us,” she said.
“Help you want?”
“Stop Tym from making the play for the throne.”
Aer’s fingers slid down the spine of the great heavy financial book and then landed on the table with an audible thump. Muscles twitched under his skin, a growl building in his throat. “Get the hell out. You didn’t want to do it when I did it the first time, what makes you think I’d be willing to do it a second time? You know exactly what it cost me.”
She winced, ducking at the call out. “I do. That’s why you’d have the best chance.”
“Of dying,” Aer said, dark. “Get out.”
“Aer-” San started back up.
Then he throw the heavy bronze candelabra on his desk at her, and she ducked out of the way. It broke into several pieces, warped and dented.
“There’ll be a reckoning if he makes it,” San said.
“I don’t care. I’ve made my life here. I have no ties to the bloody throne. Not anymore.”
“They won’t see it that way,” she replied.
“I don’t care,” Aer said, pointing back the way she came. “Get out, and tell all of the dragons to leave me alone. I don’t need a hoard. I don’t need to make a play for the throne. The Lord won’t return through my body, and it won’t return through that husk that I’m forced to call my brother. Get the hell out of my life.”
San’s mouth opened again, and she hesitated, her mouth full of sharp teeth. “Message received. I’ll carry it back.”
“See that you do,” Aer spat.
San was gone before he found the strength to do anything else about it. With a sigh, he leaned back in the chair. Heart pounded in his chest. When was the last time he gave more than a second thought about home?
He’d lied to her, certainly. But it was for the best that nobody figured out he had a hoard.
His eyes flicked across the nice room he’d put together for himself at the center of the compound. Distantly, he could hear people moving, learning, fighting. The soft noises of the enchanters, the rustle of the one wizard he’d managed to keep despite how dragons muddled spells…
He’d spent years putting them together. The greatest most beautiful people he’d ever known. Elegant. Short lived. Collector’s pieces really…
But he didn’t like to think of them like that. Too cold.
If someone figured out that he was a true dragon, through and through…
Well, they might finally get around to trying to extract a hoard price for his treachery. They’d see it burn for his failure.
That was the one line Aer wasn’t going to let be crossed.