Isaac certainly wanted to be touched. It was his clear preference. From any perspective, it was a lovely, thoughtful gift from his mother, one of Iago and Polly’s children. From any angle, though, Othello was a small fluffy blob of white and green. Isaac could imagine the laws of aerodynamics convening a court and putting Othello on probation.

The little bird hopped around the tea set, precariously. This was a good sign. Fiona was terribly protective of her tea sets. Othello paused to contemplate a dish of dried fruit, each piece twice the size of his own head. He then pulled a piece onto the table and began eating. Ambitious little bird. Isaac decided, or realized (it was hard for the trained psychiatrist to tell, sometimes) that he liked Othello. This made it much easier to give Fiona and Iago the warm thanks they were expecting.

The conditions on the gift were implicit and firm. Othello would receive creature comforts, a varied intellectual life and affection, and be kept away from Brand’s daughter Jorrah. Isaac had been away when Polly died, but he understood that Polly’s death was Jorrah’s fault, despite the lack of details to distinguish between deliberate murder and mere reckless mischief. Given Fiona’s attitudes towards decorum and discipline, Isaac knew his mother would consider carelessness worse than malice, and certainly Fiona proudly avoided any sign that she would ever forgive Jorrah.

Little Othello got became too comfortable on Isaac’s shoulder. Isaac often forgot the little bird was there. Raised by the garrulous Iago, Othello had the habit of silently listening and watching. When the curious bird asked a surprising question, Isaac found it refreshing. What was familiar to Isaac was new to Othello, and it always helped to look at the familiar anew.

“Who are all these women sharing the house?”

“They all work for me in some capacity. A few maintain the house itself. Most help make sure the town and the country run smoothly.”

“There are a few who don’t seem to do anything. Why is that?”

“Because they can’t be allowed to do anything unattended. ”

“Auntie Fiona says you collect too many people.”

” And some people would say my mother collects too many parrots We each have our own preferences.”

“Why all women?”

“I like the way they look and sound. My mother prefers parrots. Other people like cats. Actually, I like cats, too, but they don’t have good conversation and they don’t last long enough. My mother, of course, refuses to trust cats around parrots. It depends on the cat of course. Thrawn has a pleasant cat named Harlequin.”

Isaac has begun taking Othello with him on walks around Lambeth. Isaac explained to the little bird that although Isaac was technically owner and proprietor of Lambeth, he preferred to let the place manage itself as far as possible. There was a local government that collected taxes, passed ordinances, and so on. Then there were Isaac’s people who handled trade negotiations and set up the railways. So Othello knew not to ask about _why_ people acted the way they did until he and Isaac had some privacy or were back at the house.

Of course, Isaac had never explained to Othello about the T’giya. So when the little bird began having conversations with one, it was in the middle of a coffee shop Isaac liked. Isaac was also in the middle of a coffee he liked. Dr. Isaac Helgram, D. Psy and MD, did a classic spit-take.

Many Shadows had some sort of guardian creature or other sort of security. For Isaac, as a scholar — and in some cases, sculptor — of minds, it seemed appropriate to have guardians that were all mind. The T’giya found the arrangement satisfactory, as Isaac allowed them a comfortable place to stay and only asked that they share information with him and otherwise join in defending the place. T’giya, like dogs, or cats or humans, are not homogeneous. Some T’giya are drawn to intellectual life, some to emotions. Some like large crowds, some solitary souls. Different ages and genders also had their followers.

In this particular case, two T’Giya were discussing a metalworker in the village. To Isaac, the discussion was merely background noise. Little Othello, who had no hands but had been taught to appreciate the security of well-made cages, was fascinated and wanted to learn more.

So little Othello has begun spending more time outside the house. As the T’gyia are not bound by gravity, they are natural companions for Othello. The little bird is routinely home by mealtime, with many stories to tell.

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