Chapter 12: The River - Zephyr

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The first thing Zephyr realized, once she was done crying, was that she couldn't get angry anymore. Not unless she wanted to risk killing the person she was angry at.

It was possible she could learn to control the power, but that would take time. And during that time she couldn't get angry due to the same risk, so it was all moot anyway.

Point was, she couldn't get angry anymore. It was too dangerous.

"Wally, what am I going to do?" She asked. "I yelled right in front of everyone that I think of you as a treasure and they reacted so badly! They... They reacted like it was... horrible. They're going to hate me now."

Wally blinked. "You think of me as a treasure?" He asked with a concerned note to his voice.

"Yeah! Like that, they all sounded like that! Like you do right now!" Zephyr exclaimed.

"That's because my inner dragon sense is telling me to keep away from you or tell you why you're wrong. Because what you did was wrong, for a dragon."

"I know! Khamseen told me!" Zephyr said, her voice full of annoyed passion. "But I couldn't have known, I'm not a dragon like you! The only draconic feelings I have are aggression and hoarding! I don't know all these stupid dragon rules until I mess up one of them, until I'm told! Not like a real dragon who's fricken born with those rules burned into their minds!"

Wally sat stunned for a second. "I'm still here, aren't I? I'm still talking to you."

Zephyr deflated and wrapped him in a hug. "You're the best."

Wally hummed, a tone that held no emotion. "But you're still upset."

Zephyr nuzzled into Wally slightly. "That doesn't matter."

Wally shook his head. "Everyone else will be upset."

Zephyr sighed, pulling back to look him in the eyes. "I'm still a great protector, they'll have to keep me around. I'm not useless."

Wally flinched and Zephyr apologized, soft as a breath. "Sorry, Wally."

A quick hum, a soft noise of disagreement. "No, it's okay, not your fault."

Zephyr sighed again. She was so tired, she didn't know what to do.

"Do you wanna go look for some pretty rocks?" Zephyr asked.

Wally nodded. "Yeah..."

Zephyr managed a small smile. "Let's go to the river then."

****

Zephyr understood the need to hoard, she did. It was something innate, a desire she couldn't control or change. Her animals were her hoard, Etesians hoarded scraps of fabric that he found in the wilderness, and Wally hoarded flowers and rocks.

The others didn't like that Wally hoarded such "weak" things when he was already so "weak", so he had to avoid hoarding flowers at all, because of how much care they would need, and gave his rocks to Zephyr for her to hide.

He'd only ever given her five rocks in the nearly ten years she'd known him and it was completely the fault of the others.

Colour caught Zephyr's eye and she reached into the waters below her to pull out a jet black stone, small and rounded with a white band.

"Wally!" Zephyr called. "Come look at this one!"

Wally splashed his way over to Zephyr's side. "Oh! That one is pretty."

He wasn't smiling. "But you can't have it?" Zephyr asked.

Wally shook his head. "You found it, you keep forgetting that."

Zephyr sighed. "I just want to help you!"

Wally smiled. "I know, but I can't accept it."

Zephyr dropped her arm, the stone falling from her hand and plopping back into the river.

"So... are we going to talk about it?"

"About what?"

"About the fact that I think of you as, fricken, part of my hoard! I know we brushed on it earlier, but I just, I can't get over it, Wally!"

Wally's face fell. "What do you want me to say, Zephyr!? That I like it? Because I don't! I'm not your treasure!"

"I know!" Zephyr screamed, her voice echoing slightly. "I know," she said quieter. "But you're my friend and my dragon half is apparently unable to handle that."

Wally sighed. "What are you going to do about the others?"

Zephyr gulped. "I... I don't know."

"I doubt you have any standing left, Etesians will likely only be able to keep you here based on you being his 'daughter'."

"My... my skill isn't enough for them. Wasn't ever, to be honest," Zephyr said, her voice breaking.

Wally shook his head, tears falling down his face. "No, it wasn't."

"Wh-why are you crying?" Zephyr asked as tears started to fall down her face as well.

Wally laughed, wet and loud. "Because I have a plan and neither of us is going to like it."

He then collapsed, falling down into the water below as he broke down in tears.

"Y-y-you're going to have to m-make me your s-s-s-s-slave," he said, voice breaking and cracking. "If you w-w-want to have any sort of s-s-s-social st-standing, for e-either of us."

Zephyr sunk to her knees and embraced him. "You can't do that to yourself, Wally," she whispered softly. "Th-that's the ultimate humiliation. You'd be admitting you think like them, that you have no use but to serve."

He hiccupped, a surge of tears flowing down his face. "I-I-I know!"

Zephyr tightened her grip around him. "I won't let you do it."

Wally shook his head vigorously. "Etesians will only be able to k-keep us here for so long, you'll have to eventually!"

Zephyr didn't reply and just held him tighter as they cried, their tears masked by the spraying of the river.

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