Soldier Page 61

I chewed my bottom lip, watching the fish swirl below me, mouths gaping. Should I tell her? I certainly couldn’t talk to the boys about this. At least the Eastern dragon seemed sincere in her desire to help.

“It’s complicated,” I murmured. “I’m not really sure how to start.” Jade didn’t say anything to that, just continued to wait in accepting silence. I took a deep breath and sighed. Well, what did I have to lose? “Okay,” I began. “Have you ever in your travels met another dragon, knew?” She gave me a puzzled look, and I swallowed my embarrassment to stammer on. “I mean, you’ve never seen him before in your life, but you just have this feeling that...well, I can’t really explain it. Like, you’ve always known him, even though you’ve just met.”

“Ah.” Jade sat back, nodding sagely, though now her expression was sympathetic. “The Sallith’tahn. Interesting that you would experience it so young, but I have heard of cases where it has happened before.” She paused a moment, then smiled. “That would explain a few things.”

“The...what?” I furrowed my brow. “Salla-who? What language is that?”

Jade blinked. “It’s Draconic,” she said, startling me. “That you do not know the word is deeply troubling, but not unexpected. It is one of the many ‘inconvenient’ things Talon would rather not exist. So they have attempted to suppress, restrain or erase it from the minds of their dragons altogether.”

“But, what is it?”

The Asian dragon frowned. “It is...difficult to explain in human terms,” she said. “I don’t believe the mortal language has a word that encompasses the Sallith’tahn completely. The closest term I can think of would be life-bond, or life-mate, but that is like calling snow ‘frozen water.’ It is true, but it is also so much more than that.”

My heart seemed to seize up. I stared at the other dragon, as the world around us turned hazy and surreal. “Wait. Life...mate? Then, are you saying Riley and I...”

“When a dragon finds their Sallith’tahn, they remain together for life,” Jade said simply. “It was not a common occurrence, even before Talon, but one that was accepted and known to all. There is a reason the dragons of the East rarely venture into this country anymore. I assume the organization has done its best to strike that term, and all that it implies, from your language and memories. This is the control they wield, making it so that dragons are loyal to Talon and nothing else. And in doing so, they have suppressed a part of who you are.”

“I think I’m going to faint,” I said weakly. Jade cocked her head at me, as if confused, and I gestured wildly back to the building. “So, that’s it? If Riley is Sallith’tahn or whatever, we’re supposed to be together, end of story? How do these things even happen?”

“How does the goose find its way home year after year? How does the eagle choose its mate?” Jade’s voice was infuriatingly calm, the complete opposite of what I was feeling at the moment. “There are no whys or hows when it comes to the natural order of things. It just is.”

“Yep, I’m definitely going to faint. Or puke.” I took several deep breaths to ward off the light-headedness. What did I do now? If Riley and I were dragon life-mates, how could I fight that? Did I even want to try?

“It is a lot to take in all at once,” Jade offered.

Massive understatement of the year, I thought.

“I would suggest meditating on it,” she continued. “Clear your mind, let your thoughts settle and the turmoil die down. When you are at peace, you will have a better understanding of what to do. I can help you, if you like.”

Meditate? What good would that do? How would it help with something as huge as this? “Here?” I asked, looking up at the Eastern dragon. “Right now?”

“No.” She rose gracefully, her robes falling around her. “Not right now. At the moment, I believe we should return to the others. The soldier was waiting for you to awaken so he could gather everyone together. There is something important that must be explained.”

“Go back?” I looked up quickly, shaking my head. “No. I can’t. I can’t face...either of them right now. What am I going to say?”

“You need not say anything.” Jade’s calm expression didn’t change. “Nothing has changed. You simply have a name for what you are feeling. Whatever you choose to do about it, your decision should not be made lightly, or in haste. Put it aside for now. Return to it when you feel you are ready. But we must return to the group.” For the first time, a shadow darkened her expression. “There are other issues we must address.”

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