10

The feathery grasses swirled over the child’s feet, ribbonweed creating breaks in the soft shrubbery to show the life underneath.  The older boy’s legs were folded underneath him, balanced on their partially submerged log.

On this occasion when the Imperial family left the capital for an idyll with other families, Draig’s was one of them.  He and the young Princess sat in a familiar place, talking about their growing lives.

“I met with several Councillors,” said Soleil, “and the Dragon Councillor Arkuda says he’ll teach me.”  She looked from one horizon to another.  “But he gave me a course of study first.”  She shrugged towards her friend.  “I’ll have to drop a couple interests, but that is my interest.  Call it a focus shift.”

“Really?” Draig asked, leaning away from her.  “Dragons are scary… awesome.  Scary awesome.”

She turned on him, dragon-claws in the air.  “Maybe I’ll learn how to be scary, like Rianoire.  She was dragon-taught.”

“Not like Rianoire, I think.  Maybe like Arianne.  At least, we hope.”

“So do I.”  Soleil vigorously shook her head and nodded an affirmative.  “Besides, Councillor Arkuda is sunny.  That’s what he is, isn’t he?  A sunny dragon.”

“That makes him seem friendlier to you?”

“Well, to me, yeah.”  The girl took a breath and then paused, wanting him to talk instead.

Draig launched into more of his news.  “I’m about to start a full course in achievement training.  There’s a physical core with a lot of coursework build-ins.  I expect it to be brawny and competitive.”

“I’ll make you a page of encouraging slogans to tape onto your things.”

“Wow Princess Soleil.  I can’t wait to see them.”

“They’ll be group-safe.”  Soleil’s feet surfaced, causing a fleet of ripples.  “None of the swears you taught me.”

9

Stubborn determination taught her how to throw.  Throwing wasn’t a skill she’d especially cared to acquire.  A swing, however…

Soleil wanted a swing.  She was told by her father that she must learn how to hang it herself.  She knew where she wanted it.  Probably the most difficult tree in the whole court, for its picturesque qualities.  The branch called to her, saying, swing from me.

She actually looked at physics diagrams, and laid out five means before her, all frustrating.  Frustrating because she kept missing.  Close enough was not the correct spot if it was going to stay in place.  She watched people throw, eyes narrowed.  They made it look easy.  She continued to hurl her means at the beckoning branch, wondering if this was taking too long.

Then it was like an eye opened, a suddenly bright point in space.  When she saw it, her muscles spasmed, and the line sailed straight through.  She stood there shocked, watching the line laying in the right spot.  She would do it a second time.

8

Her first time to the Great Library, she went with her grandmother. Soleil was old enough to navigate the directories at will. Celeste watched with a benign smile. The Princess created a tableful of stacks according to her whim – pretty, neat sounding, nice seeming, interesting, linked. She discovered at least five books which were listed, but not available.

There was one she could recall, of which she had still not seen the inside. She wondered about it. The title included the word, ‘movements.’ She’d been sure it was beyond her reading level at the time, but that was how she challenged herself. She picked up subjects that lay beyond her realm of understanding. It meant she might gain something, that she would grow up a little. With certainty, that was something she wanted to do.

The Vedani didn’t have books. They had cords, trunks, and netbranches bearing a never-ceasing flow of words, voices, concepts, and ideas that one could arrange with focus. Soleil missed the feel of a tome, but maybe that meant no book was ever closed, or missing.

7

She could bundle; she could trunk; but, could she connect? Somehow Soleil could tell she was communicating with youth.

Soleil was carefully given, by request as if she were stupid, instructions on how to complete a hand-to-hand connection. The Vedani started as simple as it gotets. “Make your hand into a fist, back facing up, knuckles pointing forward. When I say go, move it forward slowly and evenly. As though it’s going to hit something. Don’t be too surprised.” But she was utterly surprised when it did. She instantly looked down at her hand. “Did you feel me? You did it, look.”

The trunk she’d been working on was now made of double the cords, as though they had all formed together. Hers were yellow, theirs were blue, things were starting to look green. “Yeah, I felt that.” Afterward, Soleil practiced with them in earnest.

“Angle your chop hand at minus thirty-five and slash it backward like you’re cleaning your sword.”

“Make your fist explode when it connects, keeping your fingers straight forward as you draw your hand back toward you.”

“Bunch the fingertips of one hand together into a little point. See the bird head? Okay, peck. But pointier, and harder.”

“Knock on the door three times with your rapping knuckles.”

“Point your index finger in front of you, and slowly poke.”

Soleil learned names for the motions, getting faster via shorthand. The first time she correctly hit a series of eleven in a row, she felt great about the results. “Did someone order more fries?”

“Yes we did, and you delivered.”

“Piping hot.”

“Krinkle Kut.”