Lucci woke from a deep, warm sleep with a heavy feeling pressing down on his chest. Gasping, the youth attempted to sit up, silvery eyes growing wide as he fought to make sense of where he was and what was happening to him. In a sudden flow of thought, realization came back to him.
That’s right. I’m in my room. Safe at Shellab 1.0. They told me it was best to just rest for another day.
He let out a long breath of relief before his glance fell downwards. The source of the pressure on his chest was now sitting sprawled in his lap, staring up at him in pure wonderment.
“Oh?” Lucci blinked back.
There sat a little boy, not much more than a handful of turns old. He gazed up with large green eyes from under a fluff of wild white hair. But this didn’t surprise Lucci as much as the pair of wings that were folded along the little boy’s back, seeming a bit too large in proportion to so young a child. The feathers bore a peculiar coloration – rather than being pure white, they were a slightly darker shade, with white tips in a diamond shaped pattern.
I didn’t know that children this young could Awaken…
“Hello world?” the child gave a big, innocent smile, as if in response to the thought. As the friendly tingling feeling in the back of Lucci’s mind grew stronger, another realization came to him.
Athrylith!? This boy… and Maru… they’re both Mind Mages?
As if on cue, Lucci could hear the sound of shuffling through the house outside his door curtain… and the call of Maru’s voice. Instantly, the winged boy stiffened, then made a beeline under Lucci’s covers in the bed next to him. All that was left poking out were the diamond-tipped wings.
Lucci blinked once at the giggling little lump under the covers, then once at the door.
Sure enough, Maru pushed aside the curtains with a sigh. She took one look at Lucci and mouthed silently, “Is he in here?”
With a shy smile, the youth motioned to the bedlump next to him. Then he proceeded to watch the rest unfold.
“KiNaTu. I know you’re under there. Come out, this instant!” One hand on her hip accented the command.
Giggling came from under the covers.
“Are you going to make me come over there?”
The fluffy white head poked out, followed by an innocent grin.
“KiNa. It’s your nap time.”
“I can sleep here?” the little boy replied.
“No, you’re going back to your bed and leaving poor Lucci alone. I bet you woke him up, didn’t you?” Maru crossed her arms.
“He has weird dreams,” KiNa intoned with a serious look.
“That doesn’t mean you should sneak into someone’s bed? How many times has Daddy told you to stop watching other people’s dreams?” she sighed and walked over with her arms outstretched.
“Aww… Mommy! I’m not tired!” the child protested and burrowed back under the cover quickly.
Just as quickly, Maru’s hand went straight under, fishing like an expert. “Nap time is nap time, KiNa!”
There was a bit of a struggle and a little wing flapping, but finally she managed to pull the boy out from his blanket fortress. His face was decidedly unhappy, and he proceeded to try every trick in the book, “Please!!! I don’t want to go back to bed!”
“I know that. But you still have half an hour.”
“But, I love you, Mommy?” big, innocent eyes. Already working with a suggestive charm.
“I love you too, KiNa. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still nap time.” Mind Mage mother, unmoved.
“Awww! But, I want to fly!” his bottom lip curled.
Mind Mage pouting. It was so potent that even Lucci began to take pity on the child. “Ma’am… he wasn’t bothering me too much in here?”
“That’s very kind of you, Lucci,” Maru turned her smile towards him. “But he’s got to learn that when it’s nap time, he must stay put.”
“What’s going on in here?” NaDo poked his head in with a frown.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!!” KiNa reached his hands out.
“He slipped out again,” Maru sighed, giving her husband a long look. “I thought you said you were going to put an end to it?”
“Yes well… I’m working on it?” he winced a bit, taking the child in his arms.
“Daddy, I wanna fly with you? Please?”
“Now, KiNa… you heard your mother. It’s nap time. If you can promise to stay in your bed for the rest of the time, we can go out flying afterwards,” NaDo intoned, carrying the boy back down the hall again.
“Of course I do.”
“We didn’t fly yesterday?”
“We’ll fly today. Just get through nap time first?”
Lucci watched as their voices trailed off, becoming fainter. Then he glanced over at Maru. “He is your son?”
She sighed, “He’s been quite the handful ever since his wings grew in.”
“I… didn’t know that children that young could Awaken?” he asked.
“Neither did we, honestly,” Maru pushed up her face decoration with one finger and fixed her hair back in place. “Even Lord Zemi seemed a little surprise. But I suppose he’s one of the first children born from two people who were already Awakened?”
“Oh…? Was he born… with wings?” Lucci blinked.
“No… no…” she laughed softly. “Thankfully not. He’s had them for a few months now. It figures that where most mothers have to worry about children teething… I have to worry about mine winging.”
“Is it so bad?”
“It’s impossible to keep him on the ground. We’ve tried everything… even a leash!” Maru crossed her arms and leaned back. “The child is everywhere. He’s completely obsessed with flying. I’m really not sure what to do with him. I hope he will eventually grow out of it.”
“And he’s an Athrylith,” Lucci added. “Like you?”
This time she did pause, glancing at him with an upraised eyebrow. “So you can tell?”
“I’ve… uh…” he found himself at a loss to explain, “I’ve had experience with Mind Mages before. I kinda know what they feel like.”
“I see…” her voice held a hint of concern, though she worked to keep it level.
“Don’t worry,” Lucci lifted his hands. “I won’t tell anyone. I know that Athrylith don’t like to be known about.”
Maru took in a long breath, looking at Lucci from over the two glass discs of her face decoration. Then, finally, she nodded with pursed lips.
“Alright,” NaDo announced, walking in without further warning. “I think this time, we’ve got him in bed for good.”
“Are you sure?” Maru turned, as if not even alarmed by his sudden appearance.
“One can never be sure with this child,” he answered with a sly grin, “He takes after his mother?”
“Oh! Blame it on me?!” she gave him a teasing slap on the shoulder.
“You’re the one that loves to fly?”
“Yes. But you’re the one that gets these crazy fixations on things.”
“Perhaps… but that’s why you love me?” NaDo offered his best beaming grin.
Maru sighed and looped her arms around his shoulder, hanging from him for a moment. “You’re just being bad in front of poor Lucci. Look, he’s so confused?”
Lucci did have a puzzled look on his face, he realized. But it wasn’t for a bad reason.
Never had he really seen a family unit at work like this – his whole life was built around a very different family structure. One where people were always struggling… sometimes not accepted… always uncertain of where they stood with each other. To see the way these people lived and how close they were to each other was vastly different from the lives of the people on Ceiswyr.
He didn’t know how to voice these thoughts. So he simply shook his head, “I’m fine. Really?”
“You sure?” NaDo asked.
“Yessir,” Lucci replied quickly.
“Are you fine enough to join us for a real supper tonight?” he rubbed his hands together. “I’ve got this great shrimmpy dish that I think you’ll absolutely love, Lucci. Have you ever tried shrimp before?”
“No. Of course not. You’re all missing out soooo much stuck in the Inner Realms! No idea what real fish tastes like!”
Maru rolled her eyes, “He’s so certain that if we imported this stuff back home that we’d make a fortune.”
“It would work, I tell you!” NaDo gave a quip. “People back home would love it!”
“We have a battle to win back there, first?” she reminded him.
He paused. “Of course. But then, after that?”
“Lucci,” Maru gave him a droll look, “Just accept his invitation before he hurts himself trying to persuade you.”
“That’s not fair, dear. The boy needs to make up his own mind?”
By this time, Lucci was grinning from ear to ear. “No… no… I’d love to try your shrimp, Master NaDo.”
“Hah! Hah!!” the man laughed warmly as he sauntered his way out of the room. “MASTER NaDo! I like the sound of that!”
Maru just shook her head and followed. “I better make sure he doesn’t light anything on fire. I’ll call you when supper is ready. Okay, Lucci?”
The youth just nodded as he watched her leave the room. Then he leaned back, feeling comfortable and warm in his bed… and wondered what exactly a shrimp was.