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By the time we got home, the main room was full, but eerily quiet. The other elves were in one corner, and in the opposite corner was Sentinel’s brother, a man who might have looked like Scout if he hadn’t been… too willing to work with the scientists. Scout was next to him and Shadowforth was sitting on the ground near them, holding my youngest sibling in one arm and resting her other arm over Rune’s shoulders. Rune was staring at the ground, his eyes hidden under his hair, and his arms were crossed over his stomach. His triplet brothers were sitting around him, and the rest of our siblings were scattered through the room, sitting next to each other and many staring at Snitch. There was still a noticeable gap between the elves and our siblings, but I noticed that some of my siblings were starting to be more comfortable with their presence.
As soon as I walked in, I felt Snitch glaring at me and Storm. We ignored him and knelt behind our mom and Rune. Rune’s ear flicked in my direction.
“Glad to see you could join us,” Snitch said, his voice low and sounding like he hadn’t slept in weeks.
“We were at the guard house,” I said. “Sentinel told us you were here and could explain what happened more.”
Snitch glanced at Valla. “Is that the princess?”
I glanced at her. “Yes,” she said, sitting down next to Harold and Anna. Fayne leaned closer to her, narrowing his eyes at Snitch.
“Hm. I hope she didn’t scare too many children. How are Bone and his family doing?”
“Valla helped heal his daughter,” I said, staring directly at Snitch. My mother looked up at Valla and smiled, giving her a nod.
“Thank you,” she said. Valla nodded, drawing her knees closer to her chest, and glanced at me. Snitch paused for a minute, and then drew in a sharp breath.
“I’m glad that the child is no longer in danger,” Snitch said, “But why did you not bring her here?”
“Sentinel told us not to,” I said.
“But unless she has healing magic or is somehow as good as your mother, Gray, it would be irresponsible for her to try, and I doubt that she’s a healer… and if she has healing magic, that’s worse.”
“Don’t turn this into that old argument, Snitch,” my mother said, her voice turning into a growl that I had seldom heard before. Every single one of my siblings immediately looked away from her from second-hand shame. Even the elves seemed to draw a little farther into their corner away from her and Snitch, and Valla in particular seemed to get anxious from it.
“I don’t feel that it helps.”
“Tell us what you needed to tell us, and then get out of my house.” I remembered all of the times my mother had spoken to Snitch in front of me… and how clear it always was that there was something between them that nobody wanted to talk about.
Snitch narrowed his eyes. “Lassania has taken all of the coast, and the southern coast. Including the hut that Rune and your other children built. They may be using that, among the other buildings on the coast, as shelter. When I was in the region to scout it out, I couldn’t get close enough to determine the exact number of soldiers Lassania has there, but they have thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. Needless to say, they’ve been preparing for this for a long time, while we’ve been busy trying to survive.”
“You don’t need to remind us how bad the situation is,” I muttered, looking at the ground. Before long, Harold had stood up, drawing the eye of most people in the room.
“Is there anything at all that any of us elves can do to help? We wouldn’t have survived without your kind’s help, and since we’re in war against Lassania ourselves, anything we can do to harm them is in our best interest.”
“We don’t know yet. We don’t know if we stand a chance.” Snitch shrugged. I growled a little bit.
“You don’t seem too upset about that,” I snarled. He glared at me.
“I’ve just accepted reality, Gray. But, regardless, maybe you elves can help us somehow. I’ll tell Sentinel.”
“Tell him that at least one of us is willing to fight if it comes to that,” Safiena said.
“Two,” Nayila corrected. I glanced at Fayne as he stood up, and I was pretty certain he was going to walk out.
“Three,” Fayne muttered. “If you guys get captured, so do we at this point.”
Snitch nodded. “If you’re willing to throw your lives away, then sure,” he said. “I’ll tell Sentinel.”
“Would it be possible for us to speak to Sentinel?” Valla asked. I glanced at her briefly. She wasn’t looking at Snitch, or at anyone. “Mostly Harold would talk to him, but... “
“Of course,” Snitch snapped, his lip curling up. “He’s not a royal. He’s not worth less than dirt.”
“Damn it, Snitch, it was just a question,” I snarled at him. Snitch only laughed dryly.
“If you truly knew what a royal was, Gray, you’d feel the same way I do.”
“No,” Scout said, shaking his head. “You’re wrong.”
“It’s not like royalty choose to be such,” my mother growled at him. “Most of them don’t. It’s not something people choose to be…”
Snitch turned to my mom with a look of disgust on his face. “And what makes you think your opinion is worth more than mine, whore?”
That was one of many times I had heard another Chimera call my mother a whore. But it was only the second time that I saw my mother pull back her fist and strike another Chimera. She landed the hit, but Snitch had seen it coming enough to brace himself for it, and was able to run out of our house fast enough for nobody to stop him. My mother stood where he had been and fumed for a moment, before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.
“Misogynistic asshole,” she growled. “I swear that if Sentinel ever sends him to give me any news or anything ever again, I will be moving to the coast to get away from him.”
Scout walked to her and put his hands around her shoulders, pulling her towards him gently.
“What in the name of the Gods is his problem?” Fayne asked. “I mean… is that how much of an asshole I looked like when I first came here? How we all kind of looked?”
“Worse,” I growled, sending a hard look Fayne’s direction. “I would rather relive that first time we met than have to deal with him again.”
“Damn…” Fayne said, taking a deep breath.
“It seems he had a very… harsh view of the concept of royalty,” Harold said slowly, clearly trying not to show his worry. Valla was staring out of the door, seeming to be trying to forget what had just happened.
“Every Chimera has more reason than most people to hate the royal family and noble families of Lassania,” My mother said, kneeling in front of Rune again. He was still hunched over, and I began to wonder if he was sick.
“Including you,” Scout said softly. “Especially you…”
Mom sighed, shaking her head. “Maybe so. But if more of the Chimeras alive today knew what Snitch knows, I wouldn’t be able to stay in the Village.”
Scout knelt next to her, and Rune leaned forward so that his head was against her shoulder, as if trying to tell her without speaking that he loved her. Some of my smaller siblings tried to get closer to her too and lean on her. I watched that for a few moments, and the elves watched it too. Then, I stood up.
“Do we have anything to eat?” I asked. My mom looked at me for a few seconds before shaking her head. “Then I’m going to get some. We might as well have something good today, even if it’s just good food.”
Without speaking more, I left. Storm followed me out, but nobody else did. I almost wanted to go back and ask Valla if she wanted to come with, but she had seemed too distant when I left.
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