I have changed… (Journal Entry #79).

Ambrea was the one who told me. Lead settled in my stomach as I imagined it. “How bad is the damage?”

“Bad,” Riv said. “We’ve got tarps over my room and yours. We moved all of your stuff into the den. And…it’s going to cost over seventeen thousand dollars to fix it.”

Money we definitely didn’t have.

Even with Alaun’s book sales, that was a lot of money.

Dardaptoans didn’t do insurance. Dardaptoans took care of themselves. It was hard to explain why the name on the policies wouldn’t change for centuries, right?

“Can we borrow?” None of us were high earners. And even Alaun… well, in a city of only fourteen thousand, her audience and market were very limited. She was just now starting to sell to some of the other tribes through online portals. And she had to write fast, to keep putting out more and more books, so the income just kept coming.

She did well, but it was still just getting by, according to most standards.

“Not really. We don’t make enough individually, and no one will consider us all together. Now, if one of us had found a mate, or had been born with male equipment down south, we’d apparently be better prospects,” Riv said, bitterly. She handled the finances for all of us, including Alaun’s publishing business. She was good at it. “Less likely to die before we pay it off, apparently.”

But now… she was scared.

I could feel it. More than I have ever felt anything before.

I could feel every emotion my sisters were experiencing right now. I couldn’t shield myself from it. I couldn’t.

Any more than I could shield myself from those Jareths earlier.

I must have whimpered. My hands went to my head.

Riv jumped up and came to me. “It’s ok, Jume. We’ll figure it out. You have enough to deal with right now.”

I just rocked. “No. It’s what they did to me. They changed me. I feel everything. I feel everything you’re feeling, all of you. And the female next door. And the Boltier sisters down the hall. I can’t push the feelings away.

After that, I don’t remember what happened.

Not until powerful arms were lifting me. One guard was there. I didn’t know his name. He was from the Trianu House; I think.

He was worried for me. He just wanted to make me better.

I could feel that, too.

My hands went to my head and I cried. But I let him lift me. He wouldn’t hurt me. I could feel that. He was good in his soul. I could feel that, too.

“It’s ok, female. It’s ok. Just imagine your mind wrapped in your favorite blanket. It’ll hold until we can get to the healers. It’s ok,” he whispered in my ear. Then he made a bunch of nonsense sounds I couldn’t identify. “Focus on my voice, my tone. Push everything else out.

I listened to the crooning sounds he made until I collapsed in a strange male’s arms once again.

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