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By. Emma Grave

To Istred, silence was never awkward or dreaded, silence was comfortable and peaceful. It enveloped like a soft blanket and afforded the opportunity for imagining.

Istred’s father held a ball in his castle every fortnight, attempting to find a suitor that would capture her heart; to no avail.

Istred found it difficult to speak with those she met – she didn’t know what to say, or when to say it. She also found it difficult to look them in the eye – it felt strange, and made focusing on their words tougher.

Istred’s father scolded her and banned her vermilion dragonling, which rarely left her shoulder, from the balls. This made them insufferable; at least she’d had some company before, as Verm could communicate with people telepathically.

At one ball, held at the start of the summer, a potential suitor caught Istred’s eye. He had a sweet smile and a daring red suit almost as bright as Verm. Yet she felt as though she’d uttered foolish words in her nervous state and overcompensated by staring at his hazel eyes too much. She was sure she’d missed her chance.

But the next day, she spied him in the grounds of the castle. His carriage had been damaged and unable to take him home so he’d been offered a room for the night.

They strolled through the colourful, blooming garden together, with Verm acting as a go-between, passing messages from one to the other. Her potential suitor didn’t seem to mind this arrangement.

Things went well, they spent more time together, and they fell in love.

Istred spoke aloud occasionally, such as saying her vows before the large statues of The Three, and as the years passed by she grew more at ease with talking to him.

Her dragonling eventually became too big to carry on her shoulder and instead carried itself on wide red wings, but Verm never strayed far from its master.

Istred and her husband lived a happy life together. Sometimes they held a conversation verbally, with him staring into her eyes and her finding that staring back for a short while wasn’t all that bad. At other times they stared off in different directions, holding a conversation in silence.

Emma Grave is a British speculative fiction writer who lives with her husband and house rabbit near the forest of Cannock Chase. Her fiction has appeared in Speculative 66, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, and The Drabble.

Joshua Dumas is a composer from New York.