Interested learning

Golden​ shouldn’t have felt so interested, but there it was. “What is all of this?”

Fletcher didn’t stop what he was doing, arranging the instruments on the table. “I teach the young baron in his spare time. While I can’t teach him magic, which is my specialty, I can still show him the things I have seen from all of my travels.”

Golden sat on the other side of the table. He should have left, really. Well, that was only how he felt about it. What about that one? he wanted to ask, but the fact he had already asked a question stuck on his tongue. He felt more like scoffing and walking out. He struggled against it.

“Once this is put together, it will show an outside representation of the sky.”

“What?” The question left him before he could think about it. Golden continued to not think about it. “None of that looks like the sky.”

“And it won’t, from what we see down here. It took me long enough to come up with a physical representation…” Golden wasn’t sure what he was talking about now, but eventually Fletcher got back on track. “Would you like to stay and watch?”

Then the Baroness’ son would know. Golden got up and left the room. If Fletcher said anything after him, he didn’t listen.

A little too used to

“What are you looking at?”

He considered ignoring Winter, but he didn’t. Golden didn’t turn his gaze from the ceiling though. “The roof is leaking.”

Winter didn’t say anything, but he could tell her begin to search as well for what he was talking about. When she did not see anything, only then did she speak. “What makes you say that?”

“Drop of water on my head.”

Almost the moment he had finished saying that, the next drop of water came down. It splashed a few footsteps in front of them. “Housefather is going to have a fit.”

“Yep. Place was always old though. Repurposed to be an orphanage.”

Winter nodded, shoulders drooping. “I’ll go tell him.”

He considered telling her to tell the Baroness instead, but that would make it sound like he expected her to be able to fix the problem. And he didn’t, he really didn’t.
Or did he?

Slowly but surely, Golden brought down his walls.

Train your face

The Baron’s son had a way of almost looking like he wasn’t present in the room. Golden could have hit him. However, he knew enough to know that hitting the Baroness’ heir would be a very bad idea. He was suspicious enough of the people around him to not want to deliberately make any enemies. He would leave this place on his own decision, not because of anyone else.

“Are you all there?” Golden asked. Hitting him was beneath him (because of his position, because of how much younger he was), but Golden didn’t have a problem asking about him all out.

The younger boy frowned. “I… take it you aren’t talking about a physical injury?”

Golden rolled his eyes.

The boy sighed. “Ma’mer says that too. When I’m not interested in something I look dumb.”

That was not what he expected. “Really?”

“Not what she said, but sort of. I can’t help that.”

“Yeah you can.”

That got the Baron’s son’s attention. “You can?”

“Expressions are something you can train,” Golden pointed out. “You’ve just got to pay attention to what you’re doing?”

“Pay attention to my face?”

Golden left him to return with a bowl of water. He placed it in front of him. “Look.”

The Baroness’ heir did. Then he bit his lower lip. “Do you think I can figure it out?”

“Anyone can figure it out. Just do it.”

“Thanks, Golden.”


It was only later, much later, when Golden thought about it, that he realized how he really felt about that word. The concept. Thanks.

It didn’t feel so bad. He smiled.

A man of many hobbies

“Look what I’ve found!”

The Baron’s son held up some sort of insect. Dahlia wasn’t bothered by it, though it didn’t interest her too much. Winter looked disturbed, though all she did was frown. Summer gasped, gripping at her sister’s skirts. The gasp was high pitched though. That was more likely to make Dahlia wince.

Golden looked outwardly disturbed. “That’s gross. Put that down.”

“I’m not hurting it.”

“But I will if you don’t get it away from me.”

“I think it would be happier on the ground,” Winter added, pushing some of her hair out of her eyes.

The Baron’s son frowned, but then walked off with it to put it somewhere else. Dahlia got up and followed after, to watch as he put it back on a plant. “Why do you like bugs so much?” Dahlia asked.

“I like a lot of things. But showing people fish is harder to do.”


“This is the fishing capital of… well, everywhere.”

That was true. “Could you show me fish?”

She wasn’t sure what made her ask, but he smiled and Dahlia decided she didn’t really mind having asked.

Hand out (without being literal)

There was a reason that Dahlia didn’t want to go anywhere.

Her head swam. There were people, people everywhere. And that was okay, it really was. But between how many of them there were and the fact that they were moving and she was not… Dahlia didn’t remember where she was. Where she had come from. Where was the orphanage? Where had she thought she was going?

The desire to curl up in a corner was overwhelming, but Dahlia knew that wouldn’t get her back home. She took a few steps forward and tried not to veer into the darkness.

“What are you doing?”

She gasped, wheeling about. There he was, Golden. The boy who pretended he didn’t want to be around them. That didn’t stop him from always being around.

He stared down at her with those sharp eyes. “You’ll be late for dinner if you keep going that way. Suit yourself.”

Golden walked away, likely back to the orphanage. Dahlia trailed after. Part of her wanted to reach out and grab his sleeve. Part of her never wanted to do that, because it reminded her of the travels to get here.

Despite his gruffness, despite not caring, he led her home.

Dahlia could breathe.

To be one of them

What Golden should have done was say no.

“Here we are!” the heir to the barony exclaimed, throwing the doors open. Or trying to. He didn’t have enough strength to make it impressive, but the large door still creaked open enough for the five of them to get in.

Winter kept her sister under the most amount of control that seemed possible. Why was Golden here? He would leave as soon as the others entered the room. Winter bit her lower lip. Summer followed suit. “This is…?”

“Where we have our lessons.” The Baroness’ son moved in. “Or do other things. If I wait for him here, he usually shows up before long.”

He gestured for them to come in. Or, mostly, Dahlia to come in. Dahlia skittered forward, eyes big (as normal). Winter and Summer followed.

“Coming, Golden?”

He could leave now. But there was something about being called Golden and knowing that no one knew to call him otherwise that made him think he could stay a little bit longer.

And so Golden did.

Punishment for being

They held his head. He tried to flail, he tried to pull back, but he didn’t have the strength to take on the adult which held him down. Because he was a child and this was what happened because of what he was, because of-

Golden’s eyes snapped open. Had he screamed? He hoped not. In case he had though, he got up and left the room before someone might react, before someone might come for him. He didn’t want to go outside, it was still too cold.

He nearly walked right over Dahlia in the dark. She stared up at him with those wide eyes. Her eyes almost always seemed wide, even when squinting. Her hands gripped at her sleeves, fists so tight that her knuckles had gone white.

It was like she knew.

Golden walked by, leaving her as alone as he wanted to be.

Without a reason

“She’s the Baroness of Castlehaven.”

When the children realized this, most actually comprehended what that meant. The fact she kept coming here didn’t make sense, because she was the Baroness. Glad found it suspicious. What could she want with them? She kept coming here, she kept bothering them all, she had to want something, she had to be expecting something from them.

“Why do you think she bothers with us?” asked Winter. Maybe it was to herself and he had just managed to overhear it. She wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t have to respond.

Winter’s sister wasn’t listening, she was playing with a ball. It bounced up against the wall and back towards herself. If she missed it, Winter caught it to toss it back to her.

“Does it matter?” That was the girl he didn’t know the name of. She tended to hug herself and stay in corners. She never bothered him. For a little girl, she was okay.

Winter stared at her sister. “She’s too nice.”

He hadn’t expected that from her. He glanced over, accidentally catching her gaze.

“What do you think, Golden?”

He wanted to retract, to move away, to pull his eyes out and throw them away. But there it was, a name that wasn’t Gladiolus. Something to distance himself from who he used to be.

He wished he had thought of it before. His golden eyes kept on her icy blue ones. “Never trust someone who seems altruistic.”

However, perhaps he should have kept his vocabulary closer to the level of children younger than ten years old.

Hiding Spaces

He could have left. He should have left. There was no reason to stay here. If he stayed here, he might fall prey to whatever it was that they might be doing here.

But Gladiolus was tired and nothing actually seemed to be here. He didn’t recognize any of the children as having come from where he had. None of them knew who he was. They wouldn’t ask anything of him. With that in mind, he decided staying for a little bit would be all right. Just long enough to recover. Until someone who thought they knew who he was would come across him.

Time passed. It went from days to weeks and no one had outed him. No one had claimed him to be a monster. He watched them as they continued to mill about him, the other children, unsuspecting, trusting. They didn’t understand how they had gotten here, they had no idea.

He would hide and watch. He would hide and wait.

He tried to hide, only to find a much younger girl already hiding. He knew her name, he’d heard it. He couldn’t remember it.

She looked at him, but her wariness wasn’t like his. There was no anger. She scooted aside.

He hid beside her, because maybe she’d be quiet. If not… well, he could move. Maybe.

How does your garden grow?

Like clockwork, the woman would arrive in the orphanage to play.

There was something about her that lessened the burden on Winter’s heart. Not the physical one, always there. That burden was lessened by the terrible tasting medicine she took every day. The woman made Summer smile and suddenly it didn’t matter where all of the children had come from. It didn’t matter what they had run away from. She had that reaction on just about all of them.

There were a few who remained wary. A girl about Summer’s age, who froze whenever anyone neared her, watched the woman with a distant form of curiosity. She replied, quiet yet firm, when the woman spoke to her. She did as any of the adults asked. Summer wanted to play with her and Winter wasn’t sure, because the girl named Dahlia was guarded by an aspect that was probably created by whatever made her face slightly crooked.

Then there was the boy she had dragged to Castlehaven in the first place. He spoke to no one, glaring at all attempts at conversation or even a nice gesture. If he hadn’t been so hungry, Winter was certain he would have snubbed the food as well, for spite’s sake.

With everyone that had come, everyone who had survived up until this point… These children didn’t have anything but what the people here gave them.

And then this woman would come.