“Is there a reason, Mr. Lindon, why your father failed to file this?”
Miss Anderson waved Ignatius’ birth certificate at him with a sneer. The small blonde shrunk away from her as Kallima watched from a seat in the corner of the office, week-old butterfly still flittering in her jacket pocket.
Admittedly, she was only even in the room because the lawyer had insisted on it. Anderson seemed human enough, but Kallima was intimidated by her immediately. Perhaps it was the way her eyes hid behind thick sunglasses. Perhaps it was her unnaturally thin body and fluid movements.
Most likely, though, it was the way that her hair moved under the green hijab she wore.
Whatever the reason, Kallima dared not move out of the corner. Ignatius glanced at her again then back to Anderson.
“We moved a lot when I was a baby,” he said, “and Dad never seemed to have the time.”
“What about your mother? She couldn’t do it?”
“She had a bad case of dead at the time.”
Anderson hissed out an “oh” and rummaged through some papers.
“That would make you seventeen, then?”
“Right. Did you have any questions about the charges being brought against Mathias?”
“Let’s get to it, then. How long have you spent living with Mathias?”
“My whole life,” Ignatius said. “Seventeen years.”
“And in that time, did you attend boarding school?”
“I just started my third year at ISF.”
“Iggy,” Kallima said, “you’re a senior.”
Ignatius turned to her in his seat, and said, “I tested out of sophomore year, Kali.”
“During your first two years, did you visit Mathias on weekends or over breaks?”
“I went home on break and one weekend each month,” Ignatius explained, raising and lowering his hand again. Trying to resist the urge to tug his ear, Kallima guessed.
“Prosecution will argue ample time. Are you sure?”
“I’m not going to lie to a nobleman. I only came home once a month except during breaks.”
Anderson said, “Integrity is a good quality. I just asked because you seem nervous.”
“I’m nervous because of what you said about the time frame. I know he could have smuggled a dragon, but I also know he didn’t,” the golden boy retorted.
Kallima blinked, trying not to let on that she knew about his lies. She put a hand over the pocket containing her butterfly to keep it from wiggling out and revealing her nerves. Should have used a soul rune, she told herself, barely believing that it was still moving.
“What about breeding?” Anderson asked. “Did you ever witness any evidence Mathias breeding dragons?”
Kallima’s breath caught as she clasped her hand more tightly over the artificial insect, and Ignatius’ reply was short.
“Reports say they found eggshells and what seemed to be molted scales in your father’s office.”
“He also keeps various feathers, fossils, and claws and teeth shed from all sorts of animals,” Ignatius said. “I think he still has a two-hundred-year-old platinum in a case somewhere. He’s a collector and a pack-rat.”
“What does he collect, specifically?”
The boy shrugged and said, “Can’t be specific, Ma’am. If something strikes him as interesting or odd, he just picks it up. He’s a tinker; his mind doesn’t work the same as most.”
“What sort of fae is your father?”
“Sorcerer. That’s what Merlin was, and we’ve mostly followed after.”
“And you are a sorcerer as well, then?”
Ignatius said, “No, I took after Mom. Fire fae. But I have used some spells before!”
“Irrelevant. I have a report on you,” Anderson said, shuffling papers on her desk, “that says you like dragons. Is that true?”
The quiet construct in Kallima’s pocket resumed its nervous flitting.
“As a fire fae, I find fire dragons fascinating,” said Ignatius. “And I admire their intelligence. There’s really no more to it.”
“It seems odd that one might admire a ferocious animal like a drag-.”
“They aren’t animals,” Kallima interrupted.
Anderson folded her hands in front of her while Ignatius shut his eyes and scrunched his face up in pain.
“Miss- Satudotter, was it?- Dragons are, in fact, highly volatile, dangerous, and powerful animals,” Anderson said harshly. “Yes, Satudotter, animals. I’m sure your mother raised you to think otherwise, but things are different in the real world. If you associate with people like this, Mr. Lindon, I don’t see much hope for you in court.”
“I understand, but I am only Kallima’s tutor. This is an important lesson in government for her. As for my interest, it’s not uncommon for someone to admire the power of a tiger or the agility of a hippocampus. I simply have that reaction to fire dragons.”
Anderson nodded and opened a drawer.
“I’m going to record the rest of your statement,” she said, placing a crystal ball on the desk. “Please try not to interrupt, Miss Satudotter.”
Kallima nodded and dropped her eyes to the floor. Anderson ran a finger across the ball, activating it with a light blue pulse.
“Tell me about your childhood, Ignatius.”
“We moved a lot when I was young. I think Dad was looking for a place that didn’t remind him of Mom. I- I don’t remember where I was born, but I remember hot, dry air. It might have been a desert...”
Kallima waited, patient and silent, for Ignatius to tell his life story to a complete stranger. He recalled a time when he had accidentally lit a fire in his father’s office. He laughed about the different wind-up toys Mathias had made for him in his childhood, his favorite of which had been a salamander that crawled up walls on its own. He shuddered as he recounted a time their home had become infested with what he called whimzies that forced them to move again.
“We tried everything,” he said. “They kept coming back and stealing our food.”
“It’s never good when whimzies get involved. Go on,” Anderson prompted, patting the young man’s hand.
“We moved to Greston after that. I went to school there for a few months, then started at ISF in the fall. I skipped my sophomore year on account of my good grades.”
“And in that time, your father never did anything that seemed odd or suspicious to you?”
“Oh, Dad did weird things all the time! He would take me to the library, pull a dozen books off the shelves, and go home without anything. He would set me loose in caves, when I was little, and search for metals while I wandered around. But suspicious?” Ignatius laughed and said, “No. He never said or did anything to make me think he ever even met any dragons, let alone associated with them.”
Though Kallima kept her head down, pity filled her chest, and the opal butterfly fell still in her pocket.
“How large do you think that egg would have been?” Anderson began drilling again. “Before it hatched?”
“I don’t know. Probably the size of your recorder, or a bit smaller.”
“And how big do you think the hatchling would be?”
“Now, or then? Because that thing was half-buried, and at least ten years old when he found it, so-”
“When it hatched.”
“Oh. I don’t know, I read that they’re about two-n-a-half, three feet long when they hatch. Probably on the small side, based on the curve of it.”
“What sort of dragon do you think it was?”
“How would I know? Can you tell from the egg alone? Because I can’t.”
“Weren’t there any scales nearby? The hatchling or the mother could have left them.”
“Like I said, it was old, half-buried when we found it. We didn’t see any scales, and the dragon was probably dead or long gone. The scales he keeps in his office are from a completely different town. Bargesville, I think.”
This line of questioning continued for another another half-hour as Anderson tried to trick the boy into revealing that he knew more than he let on. From what Kallima could tell, though, she failed the endeavor, earning confused looks instead of nervous laughs and detailed answers over sketchy statements. Even when the lawyer repeated a question in that time, Ignatius stayed calm and patient, mimicking his previous response. If the redhead in the corner had not known better, she would have believed him herself. Finally, Anderson stroked the orb again, extinguishing the blue light within.
“That will be all, Mr. Lindon. I will try to have this filed by Friday, but you waited so long to come in, and I do have other clients,” she sighed. “Watch your mail in case I need to speak to you again.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Sorry for the delay,” Ignatius said as he rose, beckoning Kallima to follow.
“What are whimzies?” Kallima asked as they left the room.
The two shuffled down the hall, and Ignatius shook his head.
“Tiny, unintelligent sprites, about the size of a wasp. They look human, but they’re just bugs,” he told her.
Kallima nodded and said, “You’re a good liar, Iggy.”
The girl opened a door as the boy with her scoffed.
“Am not! They started eating my clothes when we ran out of food!”
“Not the whimzies,” Kallima said, dropping her voice to a whisper. “The dragon.”
Ignatius growled, bowed his head, and stepped through the door into the small study room beyond. Kallima followed him.
“There is no dragon, Kali. Just yours.”
“It’s the same one, Iggy! He showed me!”
“You really believe him?” the golden-haired boy scoffed.
“Of course,” Kallima said.
“You’re an idiot,” the boy said, his eyes darkening as they narrowed at Kallima. “I think Anderson’s right. I should stop talking to you.”
The teen crossed her arms and gaped, then snapped, “You’re just jealous that he likes me more than you.”
“I don’t care, Kali. Nobody cares whether or not the stupid lizard likes you.”
“He’s not stupid!”
“Then you’re stupid!”
Kallima stomped a foot and screamed, “You’re one to talk, you bloody wanker! You can’t keep your own dad out of prison!”
“At least he’s still alive!”
Kallima slapped Ignatius before she could think of a response. His face whipped to the side. Red streaks quickly formed on his left cheek. Kallima’s hand darted to cover her mouth as her eyes widened. Ignatius stayed motionless except to blink. Then he touched one hand to the welts on his face and winced.
Kallima said, “I- I am so-”
Ignatius held up a hand to stop her.
“I deserved that,” he whispered.
He slipped out of the tiny room and into the library. Kallima dashed after him.
“I really am sorry,” she insisted.
“How’s your paper going?”
Kallima, confused by the change in topic, asked Ignatius to repeat the question.
“You need to turn it in Friday. How’s it going?” the boy asked.
“Oh, it’s good,” Kallima lied. “I’m focusing on the rights of minors.”
“Minors don’t have rights.”
“I know. I’m comparing the Fairy Realm to the Mortal Realm.”
“Interesting. Well, see you tomorrow,” Ignatius said.
Kallima pouted, asking, “You aren’t coming to dinner?”
The boy shook out his yellow-gold hair and mumbled something about his room. Then he held out his hand to the redhead just as he had when they first parted.
“Thank you for your help, daughter of Satu. It’s been an honor knowing you.”
“Iggy-,” Kallima sighed.Ignatius dropped his hand, turned, and ran off before Kallima could say anymore.