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In The Lair of the Draca (Book 2)

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Mother, I miss you. I miss you more than you will ever know.

Ziuta's wide eyes were open. They took in the darkness of this new place that was Joo-Lee's room, lingering over the lovely mirror that hung over their canopied bed; the tall, burnished dresser which held brushes and bottles and tiny jars of sweet-smelling things; the belly-shaped bowl which cradled a single, orange-colored Creeper (Joo-Lee called it a "fish") that swam round and round as though in a state of perpetual boredom; and the striped, pointy-eared animal that perched at the edge of Joo-Lee's bed and crouched, watching the 'fish' with lust in its emerald eyes. That thing was called a 'cat'. Ziuta had stroked it a few times, and it was soft, but she wasn't sure she liked the animal. Too stand-offish, she thought. What she really wanted was to throw her hands around Xuqa's neck, but somehow, Ziuta did not think that there was room for cattle on this mysterious craft that Joo-Lee called their 'ship'.

And there were other things in Joo-Lee's room. Pretty things, odd things. Objects which she'd never conceived of before; this place was almost like a palace in the stories of the Ancients! If only Deroaka were here, they could giggle and explore-- but then, she wasn't. There was no Deroaka. Not here; not anymore.

Ziuta sat up quietly, trying not to wake her sleeping little friend. This thing she slept on-- a 'bed', that was it. It was higher off the ground than any bedding mat she'd ever seen, and so soft that at first, Ziuta had scrambled out of the covers and screamed. She'd been afraid she would sink into all that pink softness and drown, and then Joo-Lee had laughed and laughed. Ziuta had not appreciated anything funny about the situation. What kind of People were these that they needed high 'beds' and 'pillows' to rest the head? Were they royalty? Did they think that sleeping near the ground was beneath them, somehow?

I don't like this place, Mother. I wish you hadn't left me....I wish you were here. To hold me-- to love me.

But who would love her in this place? What was she to do? Would she ever learn to speak their language? She didn't think so; it was lazy-sounding and ugly to Ziuta's sharp little ears, but she had picked up a few phrases.

Ziuta stared at the wall. It had a huge, flat panel that was blank for the moment, except for a digital read-out that supposedly told the time of day. Yesterday, she had seen a book for the first time and been fascinated. Each smooth page had been filled with odd symbols. Joo-Lee said they were 'letters' and 'numbers'.

"We don't use books much anymore, but you can have that one. You have a lot to learn," Joo-Lee had told her the evening before. Ziuta had understood only 'letters' and 'learn'. While her auburn-haired friend watched, she had turned the pages slowly and stared with fascination at the photographs: there'd been a horse, some odd-looking birds, and a few other things that Ziuta did not recognize.

"Xuqa! Xuqa!" she'd said eagerly, pointing at the horse and springing up and down.

"Xuqa?" Joo-Lee had looked at her oddly. "Is that how you people say 'horse'?"

"Xuqa," Ziuta had said helplessly. "Xuqa." She had cradled the book to her chest and wept. Everything made her weep. Joo-Lee had patted her back awkwardly and was silent, as though, to some extent, she understood. Here, Joo-Lee had family and likely other friends. Ziuta had no one.

Ziuta smoothed the bed-covers, adjusted the odd sleeping garment she'd been given to wear (it was a lovely, pearly pink, just like Joo-Lee's), and smoothed the tangles out of her long, flame-colored hair. Joo-Lee did not wear whorls. She wore her hair in braids. Ziuta decided that she would do the same.

The corridors of the ship were filled with People here. There were all kinds of them, more People that Ziuta would have ever thought could exist in the world, and they all looked different. She'd grasped Joo-Lee's hand until her fingers blanched, staying close to the only friend she had as Joo-Lee showed her the different rooms, the different corridors, the panels where one could look out and see the stars...and the nursery, where rows and rows of babies swaddled in white cloths wailed.

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