“Hello, Strifeclaw,” Lisa said as her friend entered the lobby of the hospital. The young woman seemed to have recovered enough for desk duty. Her eyes were filled with concern, but not judgement.
“I’m here to read to Cyan.” Beryl replied, though she added warily, “Please tell me you won’t prevent that.”
Lisa shook her head sadly, “I’ve tried to reach Cyan, but I can’t. No one else can either, can they?” It was a rhetorical question. “Can he get back on his own?”
“I’m reading to him.” She responded quietly, feeling free to speak with one of the Folk. They were both cats here. “He read to me when I was shot. I simply owe him even if I do hate him for what he did. What they all did.”
“The urchins?” Lisa asked hesitatingly.
Beryl nodded bitterly, “I’d hate you too if you hadn’t been in the asylum and had no part in it. You even tried to save me..”
“Strifeclaw…” Lisa hesitated, scared she might lose the brief moment they were having if she pushed too hard. “I don’t think they meant to hurt you…”
“Doesn’t really matter now does it?” The reply came sharply, and Beryl lowered her tone again. “They did, and it hasn’t stopped and now they can’t make it better because they forgot they did it. They’ve moved on, and I can’t because it hasn’t stopped for three years.”
“What hasn’t stopped?” Lisa was shaken by the initial outburst, but felt she was close to a breakthrough. She switched to the High Singing, cat tongue, Please, tell me what is in your heart.
Beryl looked at her surprised, and replied in feline herself. Something that made Lisa stand upright aghast. “Why did you not tell anyone?!”
Beryl held up a paw, not looking at her anymore. “Sorry, Fargazer I can’t say more, not with Sonnerstein able to hear. We’d have to go somewhere alone and private.”
Something that she could not share even in their own tongue? Lisa nodded reluctantly. Beryl continued, “We can meet after the Barrel race when everyone will be distracted by fireworks.. For now, I have a story to read.”
Lisa asked to listen in, and Beryl agreed. The younger girl couldn’t help but notice one characters description in particular…
“‘The Boiler Elf is not the only one of his kind.’” Beryl read as she did an old woman’s voice for the part of the grandmother. “The youth’s eyes widened in surprise, ‘There is another…Thomas Steamfrost. He is clad in goat hides and is no taller than a child. He also has a crooked nose, a hunch on his back, and he limps because one leg is shorter than the other. He goes around with a magic bellows that he pumps and blows the soot out of the snow then back into the air. You can hear him cursing on the wind and wheezing his bellows as he returns the grime into the air where it belongs. Some say that he was a very bad man a long time ago child, and that this is now his penance. But whatever his reasons, the snow in New Babbage would not be snow without him. Our snow would just be…a dark, ugly sludge.’”
The story eventually concluded, and Beryl slowly stood head down as she gathered her things. As she reached for the door her head shot up quickly and a smile came to her features as if her entire personality had shifted in that instant.
Lisa looked down at Cyan, and tended to him before returning to the front desk with Beryl, “That was an interesting story.”
“I thought…the overall message worth saying,” She replied softly. “Not everything damned is always…lost. A perfect dream for a child to have at least.” The familiar parted without another word as Lisa watched wondering what tomorrow would bring.