Chapter 140: Kailani
What does it mean?
I ask you
What does it mean?
I recall seeing the pair of you returning with your aeosthena.

For her first few days back, Kailani had little time to think of the strange Ellehemaei and her stranger comment to Shahin. She was privately a little miffed that Jamian had managed to figure out his "frodleikr" without her (and effectively finished their list of Fifth Cohorts, although it seemed he'd managed to get caught with that one), but tried not to think about that too much. At least they knew, now, and it could prove very useful for him in the long run.

She spent a lot of time with Conrad, enjoying the quiet of the suite for a couple days while Mabina, Cassidy, and their newborn twins recuperated in the infirmary. He, in return, seemed reluctant to leave her side - reasonable, considering the Bond - and she did her best to accommodate him in that. After all, she'd missed him, too, and, still feeling a bit guilty about that kiss with Taro, wanted to shower Conrad with as much affection as possible.

By Friday, however, the unknown word was chewing at her. She asked her crew, first, although she doubted they would have an answer for her. "Have you ever heard this word? "Ae-ohs-they-nya?"

"You know I haven't," Taro shook his head; she'd asked everyone she could, excluding staff, on the bus ride home.

"I…" Vlad pursed his lips. "Sounds like something my mother might have said, once, but I can't be sure."

Mabina, placidly nursing her twins, just shook her head. Cassidy answered for them. "I'd ask your Mentor, if you're so hot on knowing. It sounds like perhaps it's one of those…" he trailed off, and picked back up a moment later, "…so ask the Director. If anyone here would know, she would."

That was the last thing Kai wanted, so, instead, she asked Conrad simply "come with me?"

"Sure," he nodded, trailing her out of the room and closing the door behind them before asking, "So where are we really going?"

She winced. "Am I that transparent?"

"No, you're just smarter than asking the Director a question like that."

"I might have, before. But Jamian and Frod… that Word of his…" she shook her head. "We're going to the Library."

"The Library?" He seemed almost as uncomfortable with that idea as talking to Regine. "We're going delving in it, then?"

"I've been in there before," she assured him. "Do you know someplace else to go looking for archaic words?"

"Well no. It does make sense, we'll just have to be careful not to get lost."

"Twine," she agreed, "since there doesn't seem to be any sort of a map. As long as we stay out of the hidden sections, we should be fine."

"Hopefully we can find what we're looking for without venturing that far. Any context clues on where to start looking?"

"A remark to Shahin, regarding their…" she hesitated. It was harder to say it clinically when it was her friend. "That they survived the dragon. 'I recall seeing the pair of you returning with your aeosthena.'" She twisted her tongue around the strange word.

"With 'your'... whatever it is. That implies a connection to Shahin, or possibly to both of them - it's not clear whether the 'your' is singular or plural."

She couldn't help smiling broadly at him as he began taking the problem apart logically, a wide, affectionate grin.

"So where do you want to start?" he asked, gesturing into the depths of the Library laid out before them.

She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "With that," she smiled. "And then… let's try the languages section? I think we can find that."

"Languages, all right. That way, I think?" It seemed he really had missed her; he was still smiling stupidly from the simple kiss, and apparently feeling it too, as he indicated a direction she recognized as a dead end after a few shelves of history.

She shook her head, still smiling. "No. Here," she grabbed a ball of twine and tied it off. "I think it's this way. More intinn than hugr..."

Conrad took the ball from her, shaking his head to clear it. "Hm? You think it's something magical, then?"

"The word? No." She gestured at the library. "Just the way this place is laid out."

"It is? By… category, I guess?"

"It seems that way," she agreed. "Some of the arrangements are a little strange, but with only eleven - hrrm, there's more than eleven sections." She frowned, then gestured, trying to wipe the thought out. She could worry about that later. "Either way, I think languages should be this way."

Conrad nodded and followed her, playing out the string behind them.

She held onto his hand, more for his presence than out of fear of getting lost, and led deep into the stacks, past French and Russian and Farsi texts. "Can you imagine our children coming here?"

"Our... wow." Conrad nearly lost his balance, tripping over his own feet. "Uh. I mean, it's one thing to know it, and another to think about it that directly, y'know?"

"I've been thinking about that a lot lately," she admitted.

"I mean... not that I don't want to be a part of that," Conrad added hastily. "It's just... kind of a big change."

"I was trying to pretend it wasn't happening," she admitted. "But, now that I know for certain that I'm… that I'm pregnant, there's really no avoiding it."

"Well, I'm here to give you whatever you need. Not just because of the... yeah." He ran his fingers through his hair self-consciously.

She kissed him again, because it seemed like the thing to do. "I'm really glad I have you." She was, too. Things seemed to be getting better since she'd gotten back. Maybe it would all work out. "Here, this looks like the right section."

"Here? What are we looking for?"

She picked a tiny, dusty volume from between two wide books; it almost looked as if it was hiding there. "A vocabulary of archaic Ellehemaei terms of address. This one calls it the Old Tongue. That's right, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes, that would do it. It's not something I've really looked into much."

She shook her head at him, a little disappointed, despite her general happiness with him. "Weren't you going to explain how things worked to me?"

"Yeah, and I... tried. I guess I haven't done such a great job of that, huh?"

"Well, maybe you can help me make sense of the stuff I've found?" she offered, not really wanting to make him feel bad.

"I can give it a shot, at least. Speaking of which, found anything in that book?"

"No," she smiled ruefully, "I keep getting distracted." She leaned against him and flipped pages, the smell of old book filling her with nostalgia. "Hrrm, here's an archaic honorific. I wonder why that fell out of use. And a whole page of family-relations terms."

"Hardly surprising, if the kind of family trees that a place like this must produce are common."

"Do you ever wonder about that?" She hovered a finger over the terms and read them, pondering those complex trees.

"About why? Sure." He shrugged his shoulders and leaned back against a bookshelf. "I think everyone here has, at some point or another."

"Do you know who your… oh, there's the word… your father is? You grew up with your mother, too, right?"

"I did, and I don't. It doesn't bother me that much, I guess."

"Strange." It seemed unthinkable to her, to not want to know who your parents were. She still struggled with the fact that her un-sympathetic, un-helpful Mentor was, if the grizzled Viking was to be believed, her aunt.

"Aeosthena," she read, puzzling out the tiny, crabbed handwriting. "Hrmm. This is interesting."

"Interesting?" Conrad craned his neck to read over her shoulder. "Interesting-good, or interesting-bad?"

"Well," she pursed her lips. "Interesting." She tilted the book so he could see better. "Speaking of fathers…"

Conrad's lips worked as he tried to puzzle out the archaic language. "Okay, in between all the talk about 'preferred metaphysical properties', does that basically say 'a guy who fathers a lot of kids by different mothers?' Am I reading that right?"

"A stud horse," she agreed. "Conrad… we need to tell Shahin." She paused, thinking of her friend. "…don't we?"

"Wait, hold on. Tell her what exactly?"

She pointed at the word. "What the woman said." She frowned. "Granted, it could just be an assumption. They do look alike." The same black hair. The same nose. The same eyes. Even the Changes were similar. Why hadn't she seen it before?

"We have whose word for it, really?" Conrad was saying. "Some strange woman, who doesn't even know them? She had to have been guessing."

She wasn't, though; Kailani knew it was true. What was she going to say to Shahin?


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