“What are you doing?” she asked, seeing the chain and pendant in his hand. He did not answer right away so Solaria leaned in the doorway. She’d learned all her patience from him and was far better at it than he was. Ashael slipped the chain and pendant into his pocket and smiled at his daughter. Her hair had streaks of grey and she had a daughter who had a son. Solaria did not look old enough to have a grandson.
“Going on a walk,” he said. “Go with me?”
Solaria fell into step with her father, he looked at her and she could see decades swirling behind his eyes. They strolled out of the manse and out toward the cliffs Ashael favored. The waves beat a tattoo against the base of the cliffs. They walked with the easy familiarity of old friends along the path that could have been worn into the rock by Ashael’s feet alone. The sky was darkened as thunderclouds moved in from the west, and the wind urged the waves into greater fury against the cliff base. Ashael flicked his wrist and spun a quick breeze to keep the major effects from hitting them as they walked.
Solaria’s lips twitched in a smile. “That’s not your storm.”
Ashael laughed. “Not yet anyway.”
Solaria looked across at her father. He was looking fine around the edges, like the years were sanding him down closer and closer to his soul. Not lessening his features, but heightening. The points of his ears seemed sharper, his cheekbones finer. In short he was looking more and more ethereal.
They arrived at Ashael’s favorite overlook. They stood in the face of the strengthening wind looking out over the expanse of the bay and the canvas snapping on yardarms.
“I never get tired of this view,” Ashael said.
“It’s grown. You had three ships worth of supplies and people and now…” She looked out over the acres of cultivated orchards and fields, the sprawling docks with constantly shifting cargo, and the streets twisting between blocks of warehouses, houses, and parks throughout the city.
“Stormbolton.” Ashael’s hand dropped into his pocket and his fingers toyed with the pendant.
Solaria smiled. “No better place to call home.”
“None what so ever,” he said with a matching smile. He came to the decision then with all the quickness of the winds he rode. He drew out the pendant by the chain and held it out to Solaria. “So I don’t plan on leaving.”
Solaria’s brow furrowed the way her mother’s always had when Ashael had made a decision she knew she was going to dislike. “What are you planning?”
“I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen. No one has ever attempted this outside of the Hame.” Solaria knew that grin. Her father felt a deck beneath his feet, and the wind at his beck and call. He was set on his course and set on enjoying himself.
“You know what you’re doing? Because I do not want to tell Galahar and Iseulle you injured yourself with ignorance.” She drew out the words, measuring them carefully so he could see how much they meant to her. She accepted the pendant and he pulled her into a hug.
“I love you, Solaria.”
She hugged him back. “You’re scaring me, Dad,” she admitted.
He sighed and leaned back from her. “I’m sorry for that. I’m tired Solaria, and I don’t want to bury you or your siblings.” He made sure she was meeting his eyes. “If I were human, you would expect me to go any day. As I am now, I would live through more generations of my family than my shoulders could bear.”
“I understand, but it still sounds like a cop out to just…”
“I’m not, Solaria. I’m just getting stronger shoulders.”
Solaria blinked at her father.
“Just trust me.” He was looking at her with that bright eyed confidence he’d had when she was a child.
“Always,” she said. It was low, but her eyes were steady.
Ashael pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “Then watch.” She let him go and he leapt off the cliff, using the winds to hold him aloft as he raced to meet the storm. Laughing.
It wasn’t that long before she could not tell the difference between the winds Ashael was riding, the storm, and which of them cast lightening, but the storm was held off the coast and she swore she could still hear her father’s laughter. She clutched the pendant and cursed the fact that he hadn’t told her what part it played in this odd challenge of the natural world.
Thunder pealed out in quick roaring sheets and lightening played across the clouds. Finally there was a flash so bright Solaria was forced to look away. The flare following the flash was even brighter, and then the wind settled down, and the storm dwindled in the sky. There was no sign of Ashael.
Solaria gripped the pendant tightly enough that her knuckles turned white.
Calm down, Solaria, it’s all right. The words came on the new breeze blowing her hair back from her face. It sounded like her father, but it had a deeper resonance. It’s all right. The flapping of large wings brought her eyes up. A massive dragon scaled in silvers and blues descended from the sky. I said I was getting stronger shoulders.
“You never do anything minor. Ever.”
Never. He said with a laugh. Though this will take some time to get used to.
“Your mastery of understatement remains unchanged.” It was disconcerting to hear her father’s voice from the dragon, but… at the same time, the dragon was definitely her father and the same warmth and care he always emanated.
As do most other things. The pendant will allow whoever wears it to call me. I want you to have it, and then pass it on to the next heir and so on and so forth. Ashael created an air cushion and sank onto it.
“I’m glad we’re not losing you,” she said and slipped the chain over her head so the pendant hung over her collar bone.
It is the choice we have, to move on or to stay and watch over our domains. I chose to stay. The dragon smiled. After all, this is all the home I’ve ever wanted.