Dragonchild

By MacKenzie Kennedy

Technology could be a curse sometimes.

For an example, Teven was on the phone with a human female. The only human females he had contact with usually were the ones at the grocery store registers.

"Are you there?" she asked.

"Yes. How did you get this number?"

"My late husband left me a phone number and they told me to call you. My son is sick and he needs help."

A human female was asking his help with a human male? "Excuse me, ma'am, but I think you'd be better off calling a doctor who specializes in humans."

"Flynn is half dragon. I've taken him to the doctor, but there's nothing he can do."

Teven frowned. "Which parent is a dragon?"

"His father."

Teven's eyes narrowed. A child with dragon blood was outside a clan? "Have you called his father's clan?"

"Jayes was an exile."

Teven closed his eyes briefly. "And I'm the closest dragon to you that might give a damn." There was a pause on the other end of the line. "What symptoms does he have?"

"Sore throat, headache, fever. But his fever has gone up and he won't wake up. The doctors have tested him and they can't find anything wrong."

"It could be almost anything. Does he have spots anywhere?"

After finding out that Flynn didn't have spots, itching, wiggling toes, or stomach pains, Teven asked, "What color is his tongue?"

"Blue."

"And he hasn't eaten anything that's blue?"

"No. He hasn't wanted anything to eat for at least twenty-four hours."

Teven started moving. He was going to need to raid his medicine cabinet. "And before he stopped eating, he had a craving for salty foods. Potato chips, bacon."

"Yes! Do you know what it is?"

He picked up a pen and notepad and kept walking. "Yes, and it's nothing a human doctor can cure." There was a sharp intake of breath that he ignored. "How long has he been asleep?"

"Almost nineteen hours."

"How old is he? Is he underweight?"

"He's ten and no. Can you help him?"

Teven opened the cabinet door. "Give me a minute to see if I've got some..." He looked at the bottles and turned four to the side before he found what he wanted. "Do you have any fruit juice?"

"What does juice have to do with Flynn?"

Teven took the bottle out of the cabinet and put it on the counter. "He's got Janem's. If you can get him to drink juice, it's the best thing for him. Where are you?"

"What?"

Teven sighed. She wasn't helping. "Get Flynn some juice. Tell me your address, including town and country." She did so and he wrote it down. It included an apartment number. "Can you get to your roof?"

"Yes."

"Fine. Let me think for a moment." She was at least five hours away by car. By flight, he could cut it down to two and a half. If he jumped, he could probably shorten it to an hour to an hour and a half. "Can you put something on your roof? Something colorful."

"You're going to fly here?"

"That depends," he said, looking at another pill bottle. "Do you want me there in five hours or an hour and a half?"

"Whichever's shorter."

"It would help me to find you if there was a marker on your roof. A blanket or someone waving something large and bright. Otherwise, I'm going to have to land, find a taxi, and give them your address."

"Okay. You'll be here that soon?"

"I'm going to leave in the next ten minutes. What's your name?"

"Dawn Tachman."

"Teven Nightstrider. At the earliest, I'll be there in an hour. I'll see you then, Mrs. Tachman."

He hung up and started walking around his house while making a list in his head. He needed a change of clothes, something to pack his things in, the medicine...

Teven looked at the sprawling city and began circling. Somewhere in this mess was a sick half-dragon child.

He kept hunting for something out of the ordinary when someone waving something that looked like a blue sheet on a rooftop caught his eye. He tilted and flew over to the roof.

The woman on the roof kept flapping the sheet while he slowed down. She put the sheet over one arm and waved her arms at him. He nodded and she pointed down.

Teven looked at the roof and decided on the delicate landing. He didn't want to put his full weight on the building and have it fall apart.

He descended slowly with his wings making a lot of wind and let his feet just barely touch the roof. Once he was sure he wasn't going to fall the last few inches, he shifted back to human.

Teven stood still for a few seconds. Disorientation during this kind of landing was common. He looked up and met the eyes of the woman with the sheet. "Hello, I'm Teven."

She nodded. "I'm Dawn's neighbor, Joan." She offered to show him to Dawn's apartment and he accepted.

Joan let herself in and Teven followed her. At the sound of footsteps, a woman appeared in the doorway of Flynn's bedroom. She looked at Teven with such hope in her eyes that he felt a bit of his irritation leave. "Teven?" she asked.

He nodded. "Where-"

"He's in here," she said, before he could finish. She backed out of the way and he walked into the small bedroom.

A boy laid in bed with a dark blue blanket brought up to his chin. Some of his dark hair was stuck to his forehead along with a washcloth.

Teven walked over and put his bag down before sitting on the edge of the bed. He put his palm to the boy's cheek and felt his fever. He put a finger on Flynn's chin and opened his mouth to look at his tongue.

"I need something to grind a pill up with," he said. "He's going to have to take it in a drink."

"I'll go," Dawn said.

Joan stayed in the bedroom while Teven got out the pills. Dawn returned with a metal spoon and a paper plate. "It's the best I can do."

Teven nodded and put the plate on the nightstand. He put a pill under the spoon and pressed down. The pill was powdered, but the spoon was flat. He grimaced. "I'll buy you another set," he said.

"It's fine," Dawn said. "What are you giving him?"

"Dragon medicine." Realizing that was a short answer, he tried to find a longer explanation. "I'm sorry, but I don't know how to explain it. It's a combination of a few plants and magic."

Teven had a sudden thought and turned to look at Dawn. "Has he shifted?"

Dawn frowned. "Can he take dragon form?"

"Yes."

She shook her head. "No." Teven hesitated and she asked, "Does that make a difference?"

Teven grimaced. "Yes and no. If he's got enough dragon in him to get the disease, he should be able to stand the cure. But he hasn't taken dragon form." He looked at the boy's face. He was a bit old to not have tried to shift on his own. "If the medicine doesn't seem to be working, I can pull him through his first shift. It's your decision, Mrs. Tachman."

"What will shifting do to him?"

"The medicine will work. But shifting while he's sick, especially his first shift, could make him worse. It's a strain on the body. I'll do it," he told her, meeting her eyes. "But he's not in danger until he's been asleep like this for twenty-four hours."

She worried her lip for a moment. "It's been over twenty now."

"If the medicine works, he'll fall into a more natural sleep. It should be apparent in two hours if the medicine is going to have any effect. If not, I'll shift with him and the medicine will work then."

Dawn nodded. "Okay. Give him the medicine."

Teven did so and stood up. "Mrs. Tachman, do you have any take-out menus?"

She stared at him. "Why?"

She had a sick child. That was why her brain wasn't working. "I'm hungry," he said.

"Oh."

Joan smiled at her. "I've got some. I'll be right back." She left the apartment.

Dawn moved up to Flynn's side. "Will he be okay?"

"One way or another," Teven said. "The medicine will work and he'll start to move around in bed like people usually do to get settled. Then he'll sleep for a few more hours and wake up still sick. The fever should break sometime in the night."

"Thank you for coming."

Teven shrugged. "He's a child. Despite your husband being an exile, no one in my clan would have left you like this." He glanced around at the bedroom, noting that there wasn't much that wasn't worn.

"We're fine."

He nodded. "Yes. I'll have to stay for a few days. Do you have a couch or is there an open field nearby?"

"There's a couch or you can take my bed."

"The couch will be fine."

She glanced at the pills. "I can pay you for those."

"Not necessary. I'll order more when I get home. They're good for a few other diseases." Child. Sick. "If you'd accept the gift, I'll order a book on dragon illnesses for you."

She hesitated, but said yes. Joan came back with the menus and Teven borrowed Dawn's phone to call for pizza.

Dawn fussed over her child and Teven took a look around the apartment as well as looking out the window. In short, he stood by the window and looked down at the street, but also took in the state of the apartment while Joan wasn't watching him.

It was a run-down part of the city, but he didn't see anything too upsetting going on outside. The inside of the apartment was the same as the boy's bedroom. Worn, not too much new, and mismatched.

The pizza arrived and Teven offered it to the two ladies before picking up a slice and eating. He tried to use his manners and not devour it whole.

Joan grinned at him. "Hungry?"

He swallowed the last bite and reached for another slice. "I woke up early, had my morning and afternoon flights, then another hour flight that would have taken me two and a half hours if I hadn't jumped eight times." He took a bite of his new slice, chewed, and swallowed. Confusion was on both faces and he sighed. "A jump is a magic term. It's like the idea of human teleportation only I do it with a spell. I jumped whenever I had clear space."

"It takes a lot of energy?" Dawn asked.

"I don't usually eat like this," he said dryly. They ceased their questions and he ate the entire medium pizza before feeling the urge to stop.

He checked on the boy again, but there wasn't a change. He went back out to the living room, sat down, and pulled a book out of his bag. Dawn stared at him, but Joan met her eyes and shook her head. "There's nothing else we can do, right?" Joan asked.

Teven shook his head. "Just wait."

Teven checked the time and went back to the boy's bedroom. Dawn and Joan followed him and he chafed mentally at the audience.

Flynn moved at the touch of Teven's hand on his cheek and the older dragon nodded. "His fever is down a little and he's moving. He should be okay."

Teven pulled the blankets down and took Flynn's arm. He raised it to an uncomfortable position and waited.

Flynn groaned in his sleep after a few minutes and rolled over, moving his arm in the process. Teven nodded. "There." He stood up and said, "I'm-"

That was as far as he got before Dawn was hugging him. "Thank you."

Teven grimaced and patted her gingerly on the back. "Yes, you're welcome." She let him go, but kept looking at him. "I'm going to take that couch you offered. Wake me if he looks worse or if he gets up."

"Okay," she said, nodding quickly.

Teven settled himself on the couch and closed his eyes. He really did want some sleep.

"Teven?"

The dragon stirred and opened his eyes. "Yes?"

"Flynn woke up."

Teven focused on her. "Good." He pushed the blankets back. "Does he still have a glass of juice?" She nodded and he stood.

The pills were still on Flynn's nightstand and Teven waited for Flynn to come back from the bathroom. The young man stumbled around a little and was very complacent about swallowing the pill Teven gave him. He climbed back into bed and fell fast asleep.

Teven went back to sleep himself as soon as he got back to his couch. That pill would probably break Flynn's fever and he could have the last one the next morning.

Teven woke at six thirty and found that he was the only one awake. Joan was gone, back to her own apartment, and Dawn and Flynn were in their bedrooms.

Manners dictated that he shouldn't go into the kitchen. But he couldn't leave to find his own drink, either.

He got up and went to the kitchen. He'd find a glass and something to put in it, then wake Mrs. Tachman and check on Flynn.

While he was opening cabinets to find a glass, Dawn woke at the noise and got out of bed. She walked in behind him and smiled. The man was completely without a clue. "What are you looking for?"

He didn't turn. "A glass."

"Two cabinets to your left." She went to the refrigerator, the linoleum cool on bare feet. "Do you want milk, juice, or water?"

"Juice."

Of course, the expensive stuff. She got the fruit juice out for him and watched as he poured himself a glassful. "After I check on Flynn, do you want breakfast?"

"Depends on what's for breakfast."

"I've got eggs and pancake mix. Or you can have cereal if you can stomach the sugary stuff Flynn likes."

He nodded. "Pancakes, please."

Dawn checked on Flynn, testing his temperature with her hand. She returned to the kitchen to start breakfast for her guest. "I think Flynn's fever has broken. Thank you."

Teven snorted. "What do you keep saying thank you for?"

Dawn started up the stove and sprayed the frying pan. "For not hanging up when I called. For knowing what it was and coming all this way. For wearing yourself out and sleeping on a couch."

"He's a child," Teven said firmly. "Exiled father or not, half dragon or not, someone from his clan should have claimed both you and him by now. Don't they know?"

Dawn cracked an egg open with a little more force than she needed. "I have two letters from Jayes' clan. One when I was pregnant and one after Jayes died. Both of them say that they want nothing to do with either of us. We're not in exile. We don't exist to them."

Teven growled low and she turned with wide eyes. "That's not right. You and Jayes met after he was exiled?" She nodded. "The clan can refuse you, but... I don't agree. Dragonborn are susceptible to the same diseases and colds that dragons are. You should have had someone explain or give you information."

"What's a dragonborn?"

Teven sighed, the irritation flaring. "Dragons have two full-blooded dragon parents. Dragonborn have one dragon parent. Dragonchildren can claim a dragon somewhere in their ancestry. I'm a dragon. Flynn is a dragonborn. Any children he has will be dragonchildren." He tilted his head. "Which clan is it?"

She hesitated. "Blueglass." She turned back to the eggs and pancakes that were cooking.

Teven sat at the table with his juice. The Blueglass clan didn't want them. To leave a child alone rankled at him. And where they were living didn't help.

"Mom?" came an uncertain voice from the archway.

Dawn and Teven both looked at him. Flynn was still in his pajamas. He looked at his mom, but gave Teven a nervous glance.

She left the frying pan and went to her child. "Morning, honey," she said. "How do you feel?"

One hand raised up to rub at his stomach. "I'm hungry."

Teven rose from his spot and went to the frying pan to tend it while Dawn made sure Flynn was okay. "Why don't you try a little breakfast and see how it settles on your stomach first? I'll make you more later."

"Okay." Flynn's gaze flickered to Teven, then back to Dawn. "Who's that?" he whispered.

Teven put two pancakes and two eggs on his plate. He sprayed the pan and started more before turning around to hear Dawn's explanation.

"Flynn, this is Teven Nightstrider. He's a dragon like your dad."

Teven nodded. "It's nice to meet you, Flynn."

He moved and crouched down in front of the boy. He raised a hand and Flynn gave him a curious frown as Teven pressed the back of his hand to the boy's cheek. Teven nodded after a moment. "Fever's broken. You need one more pill this morning with some juice."

Flynn turned his head to look at his mother. "You were sick," she said. "Dr. Hammerstead didn't know what to do. So I called a number your dad gave me once."
"Who was it?" Flynn asked.

"A hotline. They told me the nearest dragon was Mr. Nightstrider and I called him. He came and gave you some dragon medicine last night. You should say thank you."

"Thank you," Flynn said as prompted.

"You can thank me by taking your medicine," Teven said. He gave his breakfast a longing look before going back to Flynn's bedroom.

He returned with the medicine and handed a pill to the boy. Dawn had already gotten him a glass of juice. Flynn took the small pill easily and Dawn slid a plate with half a pancake on it in front of him.

Teven started eating and paused halfway through when Dawn sat down with one pancake. No syrup, no eggs, no toast. Just a plain pancake.

She gave him a pleasant smile. "I don't eat much for breakfast."

"Joan says you don't eat enough to keep a bird alive," Flynn repeated from memory.

Teven went back to his breakfast, but ran an eye over Dawn's form. In the light she was... thin. Considering the apartment, her clothes, and weight, something was wrong.

Teven finished his meal before Flynn since Dawn was telling him to eat slowly. "Flynn," Teven said, drawing the young man's attention, "Dawn tells me you haven't shifted."

Flynn grimaced. "No," he said quietly.

"Have you tried?"

He glanced to the side. "Yes." He looked up. "It doesn't work."

"Do you want to?"

Flynn's eyes widened and he looked at Teven with hope. "Yes!"

Teven turned his head to Dawn. "I won't try it while he's recovering, but would that be okay with you?"

Dawn hesitated. It was Flynn's heritage, but she was afraid that he'd try to fly alone and hurt himself. "We'll talk about it."

"M-om..." Flynn said plaintively.

"I'm not saying no, Flynn. But I want to know more about it before I say yes. Where can you fly around here? What happens if you get one lesson and try to launch yourself off the roof and fall? Mr. Nightstrider and I will discuss it and I'll probably say yes."

"She's right," Teven said, cutting Flynn off as he opened his mouth. "We never teach young dragons to fly without a place for them to practice under the eye of another dragon. And I live too far away to come every day. Plus I don't know if the roof will hold your weight, much less mine. We'll sort it out between the three of us, though." He looked at Dawn. "Do you have to work today?"

She grimaced. She probably couldn't trade shifts again. "Yes."

"Where?"

"I'm a cashier at Oxford's."

"Do you like it there?"

Dawn frowned. "I don't understand."

"It's a simple enough question."

Dawn shrugged. "It's a job."

That said it all. She didn't like where she worked, she wasn't going to be staying home with her child today, and she didn't have the savings to quit. He needed more information about Jayes Blueglass and his clan.

"Who will be staying with Flynn today?" he asked.

"Mrs. Randolph will look in on him if I ask her to." Retired, she was available during the day if a child needed an adult's care.

"I'm going to be out for the day," Teven said. "When will you be home?"

"At five twenty."

Teven nodded. "Then that's when I'll be here."

Teven sat on a bed in a hotel room and stared at the phone. He'd just hung up with the Blueglass clan.

It was true. Jayes had been exiled. He had gotten into a fight with another Blueglass over the treatment of his sister. The lady dragon had died soon after that and Jayes had gone after her husband. The husband had died from his injuries and Jayes had been exiled.

The clan wanted nothing to do with Dawn or Flynn.

They didn't care.

Teven's hands clenched into fists. But to leave a dragonborn with a human who had no idea of what to do when the child got sick... That was almost letting Flynn die.

Teven made an effort to calm down before dialing another number.

"Hello, Nightstrider clan."

Teven smiled at the friendly voice. "Hi. I'd like to speak to an Elder who has time for some paperwork."

"Can you hold while I find one?"

"Yes."

Teven waited a few minutes until someone picked up the phone. "Hello, this is Juun Nightstrider."

"Teven Nightstrider. I've got a problem I hope you can help me with."

Teven told Juun everything, from Dawn's phone call to when he had called the Blueglass clan. "There's a dragonborn and his mother living outside of a clan without any knowledge of what it means to be a dragon," Teven finished.

"I see," Juun said. "What do you suggest be done about it?"

"I want two sets of paperwork filled out. One for acceptance into the Nightstrider clan and another for $20,000."

Juun smiled slowly. He liked this dragon. "We'll have to send someone to meet with Dawn and Flynn Tachman. We'll also have to verify that the Blueglass clan has no interest in them."

"When? The sooner the better."

"We can have someone there by tomorrow morning to talk with them. I can speak with the Blueglass clan this afternoon." He smiled. "Will that do?"

"Yes. Thank you, Elder."

They hung up and Teven eyed the clock. It was only ten forty-five. He didn't want to go back to Dawn's apartment and be alone with Flynn. He wasn't related to the boy, he hadn't known him very long, and he didn't want to give Dawn any wrong messages.

Well, this was a larger town. There had to be something for him to do.

Dawn sighed to herself as she parked in her space at the apartment building. Now she just had to find something for three people to eat.

She climbed to the stairs to her floor and raised a hand to wave at Teven. He stood in front of her door and nodded to her. She unlocked her door and Flynn met her there. "Hi, Mom!"

"Hi, honey."

"Hi, Mr. Nightstrider," Flynn said. He nodded to the boy. "Mom, what's for dinner?"

"We'll have to look in the kitchen." And hopefully there was something large enough for three.

"Actually," Teven said, "I was hoping that you would go out to eat with me tonight."

Flynn's eyes lit up and Dawn bit her lip. Eating out was so expensive...

"It's my treat," Teven said. "But I don't know anything about restaurants here, so you have to choose."

Dawn glanced at Flynn. "I don't know if we should go out. You've been sick."

"I feel fine!" Flynn said eagerly.

Teven nodded. "Perhaps take-out instead. We can go out tomorrow."

"Joan left the menus here," Dawn said. "There's pizza and Chinese." She got them from beside the phone and they ordered from both.

Teven sighed and looked at Dawn. "We need to talk."

"About me flying?" Flynn asked.

"Among other things." He met her eyes. "How much does he know about the Blueglass clan?"

"Everything," she said simply. "He knows they don't want either of us."

"Then I won't mince words. We should sit."

Once they were sitting in the living room, Teven started to speak. "I called the Blueglass clan today and asked them about you. I found out why Jayes was exiled and that they don't have any intentions of accepting you into the clan. I am still very angry about that."

Dawn didn't know what to say. She was angry, too, but mostly on the side of her son.

Teven sighed. "I called my clan. The Elder I spoke to agrees with me and Nightstrider clan is looking into the problem. Officially."

Dawn frowned. "What does that mean?"

"It means that I don't like seeing the two of you living like this and I'm trying to do something about it," he said bluntly. "It's not only your financial situation, it's that Flynn hasn't shifted and he could have died from Janem's."

"What?" Dawn said, shocked.

"Left alone, Janem's can kill in three days. The stomach will reject food and the disease will eat away at the energy inside a dragon. But with medicine, it's no more than a normal childhood illness. That is what Blueglass clan did. They left you alone without any way to treat your son through any childhood problem. I formally objected to this to a Nightstrider Elder."

Teven checked the clock. He probably had another fifteen minutes. "The Nightstrider Elder is doing three things. He has talked to the Blueglass clan to make sure all of this is true. He called me today to tell me that I was right. They will not pursue you or Flynn during your lifetime."

He cleared his throat. "The second thing is an Edik Nightstrider is on his way here. He'll arrive tomorrow morning to talk with you and Flynn."

"Why?" Dawn asked.

"That is due to the third thing. I asked that two forms be filled out. You can refuse both, accept both, or take just one. It's your decision." He checked their reactions. Flynn looked a little confused and Dawn was listening.

"The first form was for you to be accepted into the Nightstrider clan. You could move into a building owned by the clan or live with the main part of the clan on their territory. Flynn would have flying lessons, go to school with other dragons, have health care that understands both human and dragon sides. There are other half dragon, half humans in the clan, though none as young."

Dawn stared at him. He was offering her almost everything she wanted. "What's the catch?"

Teven shook his head. "There isn't one. You're a human trying to raise a dragonborn without a dragon adult around. You're entitled to help from the father's clan, but they're not giving it." Her face tightened and his eyes narrowed. "It's not charity."

"It feels like it."

"It's the Blueglass clan not doing their duty," Teven said. "Nightstrider will welcome you both."

He could see she was going to be stubborn. "Or," he said, "there's the second form. I asked Elder Juun Nightstrider for twenty thousand dollars for expenses." Her jaw dropped. "But Edik Nightstrider will be here tomorrow to talk to you."

"About what?"

"I don't know. But he's the one who makes the decisions."

It was later that night when Flynn had gone to bed that Teven finished the conversation he'd started.

He followed her into the kitchen and cleared his throat to let her know he was there. "It's not charity," he said quietly.

"Isn't it?"

"No. You're the widow of a dragon with a dragonborn child. There are things you're entitled to. And if Blueglass isn't going to give them to you, then you should join another clan."

She turned and leaned against the counter. "Why? Besides Flynn being sick?"

"Do you want my opinion?" he asked. She nodded. "Because a clan can give you security. We take care of our own. I left Nightstrider clan to live in a house by myself over two decades ago. I used clan money to buy the house and keep it up. In return, I contribute in the way of spells and energy."

"I don't think there's anything I can help with in a dragon clan."

"I do. You can help in the main office, cook in the cafeteria, give lectures on how to act in human society." He shrugged. "Besides, my main complaint is that you're alone. Flynn can't shift, doesn't know how to fly, and hasn't learned any spells. He has no idea how to act around another dragon. Which isn't that different than a human, but there are some differences. It offends me that Blueglass has left you alone. That's why I asked Elder Nightstrider, Mrs. Tachman. Because it's like finding someone using a famous painting as an umbrella to keep the rain off their heads. Something precious should not be ordinary."

He had a point.

Edik smiled at all of them and took a seat on the couch beside Teven. "I have a few questions," the older dragon said. He went through the standard questions, their names, where Dawn worked, where Flynn went to school, etc.

He noted all of that down and got to business. "Mrs. Tachman, Nightstrider clan has determined that Blueglass is not intending on contacting you now or in the future. Did you know how to treat Flynn for Jeman's?"

"No."

Edik turned to Teven. "Do you agree with this?"

"Yes, I do. The boy was definitely in danger and Mrs. Tachman was almost frantic. I have found nothing in the city that would say anything about dragon diseases."

Edik wrote that down. "Flynn, have you tried to shift?"

"Yes, sir."

Edik smiled at him. "What happened?"

"Nothing."

"Are you sure?" Edik asked.

Flynn's shoulders came up as he ducked his head. "My hand turned into a paw once. But I couldn't do anything else."

Edik asked him about that, how long the paw lasted, what happened when he tried again. Once he had the answers, he moved on to the next question. "Mrs. Tachman, how do you find the quality of Flynn's school?"

By the end of Edik's questions, which had included Flynn's school, how much Mrs. Tachman made a year, and her feelings about Blueglass clan, he asked one last question. "Nightstrider clan can offer you a better place to live, choice of a different job or college, a good school for Flynn, healthcare, and clan protection. Is there any reason you can think of that you shouldn't accept?"

She looked at Flynn and felt pride struggle with doing what was better for her child.

"Edik," Teven said quietly. "You forgot something."

"What's that?" Edik asked.

"What can she do for the clan?"

Edik brightened and gave Dawn an enthusiastic look. "A clan is made up of people who work toward the clan's betterment. We would love to include you. From all records, you work hard and you protect your child. Given more opportunities, you could do much more with your life. You just have to say the word."

Stay here in a small apartment and have to save to buy groceries and clothes or take their offer?

"You don't have to live in the Nightstrider clan territory," Teven said. "I don't. You can take the twenty thousand dollars to help you settle somewhere else and the clan will help you with college or a job or a new place to live."

"Flynn, what do you think?" Dawn asked.

Flynn eyed Teven. "Are you still going to teach me to shift?"

Dawn ruffled his hair. "Teven and I talked about it after you were asleep. If you've got a safe place to practice, then I'll say yes."

Teven nodded. "Then I'll teach you."

"I accept," Dawn said to Edik.

"Good." Edik stood and bowed to her. "Mrs. Dawn Tachman, I, Edik Nightstrider, formally welcome you into the Nightstrider clan. I'll have the $20,000 deposited into your account today."

"How do I know this is real?" Dawn said, giving the two men a dazed look.

"Edik will call the Nightstrider clan. An hour later, you can call the number your husband left you and be transferred to the Nightstrider clan office. They'll tell you it's true and you can call the bank." Teven smirked. "Your husband left you the number for the Dragon hotline. You can call them and ask if your name is on their list of dragon clan members."

After Dawn had taken Teven's advice, she hung up the phone. "It's true."

Teven raised his head from his book. Edik had hung around to make sure everything turned out okay. "Then I think you have a few other things to take care of." He marked his page with his bookmark and gave her a calm look.

"Like what?" Her brain was spinning too fast.

"Quit your job," he said. "Call the school and tell them that Flynn is taking a few days for a vacation. Even if you come back here, the school needs to be notified. Decide when we're leaving for Nightstrider territory and how. How long will it take you to pack if you want to leave today."

She could... not go to work. There was enough money in her account to last for six months, at least.

"I'd like to quit in person. And I'll probably have to sign something at the school."

"Get Flynn's records while you're there," Teven advised. "It will be useful at the clan to know how far along he is." He gave her half a smile. "If we leave this afternoon, we'll have to stay in a hotel. It takes ten hours to drive to our territory."

Edik looked at him. "We could fly."

Teven shook his head. "A five hour flight? And their first time?"

Edik shrugged. "It would be two hours if we did eight jumps each."

"If they decided not to stay, they'd have to rent a car to come back."

"I'd like to drive," Dawn said. "But we can leave early tomorrow."

"It's up to you," Teven told her.

"I've got to quit and talk to Flynn's school, plus pack. There's enough to do." She looked at Flynn who was sitting in a chair watching all of them debate his future. "Maybe there's time for Mr. Nightstrider to shift with you."

Flynn gave Teven an eager look and Teven nodded. "After we take care of your mother's job and your school. This afternoon, but before dinner."

Dawn had to clean out the backseat before the two dragons could go with her. She was puzzled over why they wanted to come, but she was in such shock over her new circumstances that she didn't ask.

She went to the office of Oxford's and her boss looked up at her. The words stuck in her throat. She was going to quit a job she didn't like and she didn't have to worry about how the bills were going to be paid for a few months.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and glanced back into Teven's face. You do it or I will, he seemed to say.

Dawn faced forward. "Mr. Tenelhaum, I have to leave."

He stared at her. "Why?"

"I-" Oh, how to sum up all that had happened?

"Nightstrider clan has been made aware of her problems," Teven said smoothly. "She's going to visit our territory with Flynn and make sure that they'd be comfortable there before moving. And since we take care of our own, there's no need for her to work at a job she doesn't like."

Well, that was one way.

Dawn swallowed. "Flynn will be around dragons and they'll know more about what he can do. I can't deny him that."

Teven snorted. "We want you as well, Mrs. Tachman. To guard a half-dragon child as well as you have is exemplary." He raised his eyes to Mr. Tenelhaum. "To be short, she will have a family, a better place to live, choice of college or work, and better opportunities for Flynn. You can see why she would choose not to stay here and work for a little above minimum wage."

"I do see," Mr. Tenelhaum said dryly. "If you're decided, Mrs. Tachman, there's paperwork for you to sign."

Edik tapped Flynn on the shoulder as he saw Dawn come out of the office looking a little dazed. "Your mother's ready."

"Breathe," Teven recommended.

"Yes." She'd quit. She was dependent on a clan that she didn't know. People she didn't know. Who could take back that twenty thousand dollars.

"And I think it might be a good idea if you called me Teven. There are a lot of dragons who are Mr. Nightstrider in a clan full of Nightstriders."

"I'll try," she said. "But my brain's overloaded."

He laughed. "It's fine. You've got three people here who will help you. Flynn's school is next?"

"Mom, are you okay?" Flynn asked.

She smiled at him. "Yes, honey. Just a little... weirded out. But we're going to go take you out of school for a few days. That'll be fun, right?" Flynn nodded.

It was done in hours.

Dawn marveled over it. Accepted into a dragon clan by eight. Quit her job by nine. Put Flynn on leave from school by ten.

What would eleven o'clock bring?

She sat in the car and was stuck for a place to drive to. Where to next?

"Excuse me, Mrs. Tachman?" Teven said.

"Dawn."

"Dawn, Flynn's first shifting should be done on an empty stomach. Before lunch or dinner."

At Flynn's hopeful look, she turned her head toward Teven. "That's a hint, isn't it?"

He smiled and nodded. "We'll need a field or a large empty parking lot."

She put the car in reverse and backed up. "We'll drive out of the city then."

Teven approached the farmhouse and knocked on the door. A woman answered and he smiled. "Hello, I'm Teven Nightstrider. I was hoping to borrow your field for a few minutes."

She frowned. "Borrow a field?"

"It sounds strange, but I have a young dragon that I need to teach how to shift. We shouldn't damage the ground. It's just that inside the city, there are cars moving in any area large enough." He grimaced and lowered his voice. "And it's his first shift. Somewhere quiet would be better."

She nodded slowly. "Of course. Anywhere you want."

"Thank you."

He turned and went back to the car. After a few words, the four of them climbed out of the car and started walking toward the fields in back of the house.

Edik engaged Dawn in conversation while Teven walked further out with Flynn. "It's going to tingle," Teven told the boy. "And you might be unsure of how to walk." Flynn nodded seriously. "Watch me if you are. Four legs are harder to sort out than two."

Teven linked minds with Flynn and shifted. His human form blurred into a larger form before settling. It was as if someone had put a fuzzy dot on a television screen to hide his face.

Teven blinked a few times and turned his long neck to look down at Flynn. The young dragon was standing unsteadily and was staring at Teven. *You won't be this big until you're in your twenties,* he told Flynn.

This had the problem of making Flynn fall down. Teven lowered his head as Flynn tried to stand and got his legs mixed up. *Straighten your right front leg.* Flynn did so. *Now put it on the ground and lean on it, straightening your other legs.*

Flynn stood and looked at Teven with wide eyes. Soon, Teven had him walking around slowly.

Dawn's hand was over her mouth as she stared at them. Teven was such a dark blue that he looked black until his scales caught the light. And Flynn... Flynn was the color of the sky before the sun went down.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Edik said. "We'll need to teach Flynn some air magic before he can get into the air, but any dragon can do that."

"Air magic?"

Edik gave her a curious look. "Didn't your husband talk about flying?"

"I've been up in the air before, but he didn't like to carry me."

Edik shrugged. "Birds have hollow bones, so they can fly. We don't, but we do have air magic that lets us fly. Flynn will need to know how to use the air to lift off from the ground instead of jumping off a cliff. Thankfully, being a dragon means that the air will keep your wings from ripping off."

Wings ripping off?

Teven turned to look at Dawn. *I think you can come over now.* She started. *It isn't possible to speak human with these vocal cords.*

Dawn walked over with Edik trailing behind her. Teven stretched out his neck to look her in the eyes. *Go ahead.*

She reached out to satisfy her curiosity. The scales were cool and almost slippery to the touch.

*Flynn, remember not to move. The slightest pressure of a claw could puncture your mother's foot if you step on her.*

Flynn nodded and held still while his mother approached. His eyes were filled with excitement as he felt her stroke her hand down his neck.

She stepped back and Edik smiled at Flynn. "A fine form," he said. "Teven, will you show him how to stretch his wings next?"

*Yes, but not to fly.* Flynn turned his head quickly. Teven shook his head. *That requires air magic. You'll learn that at the clan territory or I'll teach you. You have to get used to your body first before you can use your magic. When you can walk without tripping and stretch your wings without fouling them, then someone will teach you. We'll show you where you can practice your shifting.*

Dawn drove back to her apartment after lunch out. Flynn had been shown how to move his wings and they'd thanked the lady again. Now all that was left was letting her neighbor know that she was going to be gone for a few days and packing.

As soon as she stepped into her apartment, everything she had to do hit her. Laundry, clean out the refrigerator, pack a bag for her and her son. With two dragons in the house.

"Flynn, empty out your backpack," she said. "You can use that for some of your stuff."

While her son ran off, she wavered between the kitchen and the dirty laundry. Which one first...?

"Can I help?" Teven asked.

"No, " she said absently. "You two have done enough."

Then she realized how that sounded and turned. "I didn't mean-"

Edik laughed. "We've turned your life upside down between the two of us, haven't we?" he said. "And if you were thinking that housework or errands are too high above us, please tell my wife. Maybe it will get me out of doing the dishes."