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The Faery Tale

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Ringwe, 95 - Afternoon, hr 8    
The spider was the first thing I ever hunted. I didn't wait for mother to tell me how to, I just went after it. My impatience was dangerous, but I managed to get away without much harm. Mother warned me that they can be poisonous; she didn't want me hunting them yet.  She showed me the pheasants instead, a more docile bird-creature that she would prefer I hunt as they weren't poisonous.

Excitement rolled through me at the thought of being allowed to hunt; mother was even making me armor so I wouldn't get too hurt during the scuffle. I was able to sit and help her work on it, a helmet and a few other pieces all made from leather rather than the bone that my father wore.

Falcon would have been able to hunt with me...but he'd been sleeping for so long...he was missing out.
 
Ringwe, 95 - Afternoon, hr 9    
"...Sul-Rani? Found these when we went looking for apples...seemed useful. Is it okay to make something with it, like what you have? ...just in case? Don't want anyone to hurt family..."

It had not been many days past since the strange visitor had come to the village. She looked like them - skin of stone, wings...but, the way she spoke...

It was not until after she understood. Twelve years, and she had heard mention of them...the Taken...but, never understood what that meant.

Now, she did. Now, she had seen one.

And seen the fear that led to its demise.

"Never kill without reason..."

But, from tragedy came great things the young girl treasured. She sat in awe of her Sul-Rani, learning of where their kind came from, of the warble and the Taken, the dounai and kavani. It all fascinated her. She craved to know more with each passing phrase. She had longed to know for many years, but never had the courage to ask. And even though the means of the lessons were unfortunate, she was greatful. She wanted to write every piece down and keep it forever as the treasure it was.

There was one thing that still echoed in her mind the Taken one had said: "...see Rani Elisa..." That name...it pricked the back of her mind. Familiar, yet she was not certain why. The context, and what came next for the Taken, frightened her. What made it look for someone specifically?

Worse still, what might have happened had Sul-Kavo and Sul-Rani not been there? Or if something had happened to them? Or to her kavi...Narin, Inali; or, the stone forbid, something happen to her sister, Siana.

And on the horizon, a new unfamiliar figure loomed.

It was then she asked about the black stone, much like her skin...

"Is it okay to make something with it, like what you have? ...just in case? Don't want anyone to hurt family..."

Sul-Rani's sword. The young girl had not seen it before in plain view; but, she could tell it was not something used for things like simple hunting. This was to protect them - all of them.

She had nothing with which to defend herself or her family from harm.

The answer came as a surprise: "Of course, sweetie; you're old enough now."

Learning to craft the blade took time, but her Sul-Rani was patient and helped every step of the way. It was perfect - not too heavy for her to handle and not too weak of material. With her knife, the girl carefully worked on the handle, carving in intricate detail a dakkar twisting up to grasp the blade part of the weapon in honor of those before them. She smiled, looking it over.

"Rock from Cikor...crafted by those of Aella...watched over by Trevu..." she nodded in approval, thinking to herself, "If anyone wants to hurt my family...they are going to have to get through me."
 
Ringwe, 95 - Evening, hr 11    
My first taste of real violence came at the expense of the man I considered my father, a human named Tom who actually bore the title of 'uncle'; I saw him more frequently than Kieran, though, and my heart called Tom 'father' because of that fact. The Anu who caused problems, a large beast named Cassius, was new to my infant eyes. I had never taken notice of him before, which was odd as he was nearly a foot taller than any other male in the area.

They had started arguing over another man, a bruised and beaten man who was tied up on the ground. My uncle seemed to surge with rage upon looking at that man, yelling at him. It was a frightening scene that I couldn't help but fixate on.  Cassius' blood seemed to boil as my uncle turned away, carrying me off to do something more fun, ignoring the other two males.

It was the word that caused him to attack. Anu, said with such disrespect. I watched in horror as the events transpired, my uncle finally having to flee and ending up on the ground with a deep wound in his leg. The Anu left then, furious, and the bound man, now released at the hands of Myka, fled into the city.

I wanted to go after him, but mother stopped me. The city wasn't safe for children.
 
Losse, 96 - Evening, hr 12    
Nereth

He seems so uneasy

Nereth

He calls me names

Nereth

He says, "Chatty little brat."

"Stop following me!"

"I'm not funny"

As I watch him work.

What does this mean?

Is this why he

Does not have a "love"?

Like Eli and Neesa

How they broke away.

But Eli said, "Yeah, I'll make things better!"

Does the man never thing that?

Just calling me names

And saying things like "stupid"

As Merald always does?

Although,

She seems more nicer

Because she stands up for me

I think.

"Wait till they're older,

to call them names!"

Is this a good thing

Or is she waiting too,

To call me names

When I am older?

 
Rosa, 96 - Midday, hr 6    
She lifted her sword high over her head and screamed, raising her voice a last time, all of her desperation, sadness and anger reinforcing the scream while her legs flew over the ground, carrying her towards her icy doom.

Leave. You, and him. Leave.

She still couldn't believe her life finally turned out the way it did, but somehow she had always seen it coming that the curse would get to her one day. She and Elek had escaped it for too long while all the rest of their family had fallen prey to it. She just would never have believed it would come to her in the form of love. Eteni must have known she would never raise her weapon against one of her family because each of her brothers and sisters was connected too closely to her after all their family has had to endure, after she had raised most of them herself.

Eteni must have known that her weak spot was compassion, that she could never send away a soul as lost as Tasir's, that by trying to save him she would go too far, she wouldn't be able to hold back the love inside her once unleashed in the desperate try to rescue him.

I will huwt him if he still wemains in a day, that is a pwomise.

She didn't want to hurt anybody, she never meant to. All she had tried was bringing comfort and warmth to those around her, despite of all the terrible things each single one of them has had to go through. Even less she had meant to hurt Elek, her mate, her little brother whom she had loved so deeply for all of their lives. She had never stopped believing they would see happier times again, she had never given up her last bit of hope, so she could share it with the others to make them strong to endure whatever would be Eteni's next try to crush them.

Leave. You, and him. Leave.

The coldness in Elek's eyes was still tangible to her, draining the last bit of warmth of her body. Something deep inside her chest ached so much she couldn't endure it any longer. She wouldn't let them shed each other's blood, this mountain's soil had absorbed too much blood in the past. She wanted to end it now, fast, by giving Eteni what she longed for, by spilling her own blood in the hope this would spare that of the two men she loved with all of her heart.

Her sword scratched through the frost wyrm's skin, her tiny body no more than a little cumbersomeness to the large beast. It turned to look at her with its cold eyes, void of any emotion, breathing into her face and turning the tears on her cheeks to ice. Her clammy fingers could hold onto the sword's hilt no longer and it slipped out of her hands. But she would need no weapon where she was going.

Stretching her arms widely to both sides, she welcomed whatever the beast would come up with to end her painful life. As short flashes of long gone moments took posession of her mind, she closed her eyes.

Her father giving that helmet to her so many years ago. Her parents paying attention to her. The darkness in the tunnel which had been her hideout when she hadn't been able to hunt successfully. Her little brothers and sisters desperately in need of her when their parents fell asleep. Suris saying strange things, declaring her as queen of the mountain and claiming from her the other children should now only talk to her using her title, despite of the fact that all of them were still so little and not even she understood what it was that Suris wanted. All of them standing around the newly built sarcophagus for their mother's body, their eyes full of tears, small bodies in the darkness of the mine.

The memories came to her mind quicker, each picture only a fragile hint of the person she once loved behind it. Her father telling her he was proud of her. Kenna telling her she loved her. Vinnet using his weapon against Radek's little body. Quarr killing Vinnet. Vallo killing Radek. Velas killing Vallo. Mira's body shattered. Hexio travelling through the light. Quarr with Elisa. Jotnar waking up. The tent Elek built for her, Ennea's birth, a short glimpse of happiness. Ennea amidst the moonkin, she rushing towards her, the twin ravens passing her a secret message. Firma, enraged after the moonkin's brutal murder of her friend Luca. Tasir's lips on hers, his fangs covered by her hands not to hurt her face. Her mother, so long gone, welcoming her with a warm smile.

The pain was intense, the coldness piercing through every part of her body, but it didn't last long. She barely recognized when she stumbled and fell.

Release. Blackness.
 
Naur, 96 - Midday, hr 7    
The first thing she felt was the touch of rain on her face, though the rest of her body seemed strangely numb. The blackness didn't cease at once, leaving her in a state of non-existence for some time. There were voices, many of them, but they seemed so far away, muffled by a frontier she hadn't passed yet. Nothing of what they said made any sense, there were no words, merely sounds, dying away in the eternal darkness without meaning.

The remembrance hit her like a sword and in the very same moment the numbness faded away and gave way to a pain so terrible that she didn't know how to bear it. She had never thought that bodily injuries would be carried over to the halls of the Great Spirit. But she also wouldn't have believed in the existence of rain in the halls. Her eyes flickered open, showing her a confused and blurred mixture of colors, just like the sounds around her still refused to bear any meaning.

When her eyes closed again, the soothing blackness returned for a split-second, only to be dispelled once more. Finally she was able to make out the worried faces above her. The first one she recognized was Tasir and it gave her heart a little sting to know he was in the halls, too. So her words hadn't detained Elek from keeping his promise.

Next to Tasir was Firma and her heart ached another time. So her worst fears about her sister had come true, she had died on her travels after she hadn't seen her for a much too long time. Then she saw Quarr and couldn't believe her eyes. What had happened? What kind of fight must have broken out to not only kill Tasir, but also Quarr?

But it was the sight of the last, slender face that finally pressed air into her lungs with such violence that she couldn't defend herself against it. Ennea! What on earth could have brought her daughter to the halls? This couldn't be true, it just couldn't!

"You... not can all be dead."

She wasn't aware that she had said it out loud, that this raspy, thin voice was hers. Tasir was the first to react, his eyes overfloating with such intense emotions that it made her shiver slightly and at the same time sent a new bit of warmth through her body when he reached out to touch her shoulder.

"You alive. You're alive..."

His voice sounded almost as rough as hers, his eyes showing traces of old tears. And suddenly she knew why her body hurt like that, why all of them were here, and the insight struck her vehemently.

"So I... not in the halls of the Great Spirit?"

The question was redundant, she already knew what his answer would be.

"No, you're with your family back at the mountain..."

No! How could this be possible? Why was she still here? Did the Great Spirit not want her in his halls? Why was she pushed back? Why was everything she tried doomed to failure? Now neither she, nor Tasir or Elek would be able to escape the situation she had evoked anymore. Eteni would still be seeking their lives and she wasn't able to do anything else to stop her or to undo the damage she herself had brought upon the two men she loved.

She didn't know how much of her thoughts she had spoken out loud this time, but the thought of Elek was so overwhelming that she didn't have any time to think about it. Reacting instinctively, she moved her torso to sit up, her lips forming his name almost simultaneously with a cry of pain when the deep wound on her stomach reopened.

And the blackness returned.
 
Elen, 96 - Midday, hr 6    
Envy

Nereth finishes

His pretty.

Mine just sits there

While I make a big roof

Which is stupid.

"Who's it for?"

"Someone."

Scowl, grin.

I run

Barefoot.

Forget his stupid pretty

And forget Mr. Meanie pants,

Although,

His pants

Are

Ugly.

He needs new clothes

But when I start makin' stuff for other people

In Nolja,

He won't be one of 'em.

He'll be sorry then,

That he was mean ta me.

And I'll just laugh.

Hah ha ha!
 
Gurtha, 96 - Before dawn, hr 2    
Her Prayer

She stands up taking the bow and arrows up with her, she takes one more momentary glance at Renan, biting her lip as she slips past him entering the forest.

She sneaks quickly through the forest, watching the birds and squirrels in the trees with a great deal of awe. Allowing them to lead her deeper and deeper into the woods where bigger game lives. She presses against a nearby bush, hearing a rumble of snarls on the other end. Slowly she peeks over the hedge spotting a wolf as it savagely sinks its teeth into the carcass of a downed deer. She simply watches for a moment as one animal eviscerates the other, muttering silent words of prayer to herself, she pops up fully from the bush drawing the string of her bow back as she carefully aims the arrow at the wolf.

She holds her breath as she lines up her shot. Taking careful precision in marking her target. Her heart beats steadily in her chest, as the distracted creature continues on oblivious to her presence and it's own pending doom. She exhales, releasing the string as she does so. The arrow soars straight landing just behind the neck of the wolf, piercing it's spine and crippling the wolf to the forest floor. It's lets out a piercing howl and she quickly scrambles from the bushes, silencing it's yell by slicing it's throat open with her knife before piercing it's skull. Her hands fall over the wolf's face, as she covers it's eyes beginning her quiet prayer to Maern.*  "We thank Her... ughhh..." *From the opposite bushes she is pounced by a pack ofwolves, beckoned by the howl of their pack mate's deathcry. She is tackled to the ground with the beasts fangs hanging over her.

The beast bites down on her shoulder, and she yells out in pain before delivering a fast kick to the wolf's stomach launching the creature off from her and hurdling it towards it's pack mates. She scoops up her arrow and quickly fires it at one of the wolves, felling the creature immediately. The others descend upon her, circling so as to make aim difficult before pouncing all together from every angle. She devotes herself to a path and kicks her way through the closing circle as the beasts swipe at her legs. She manages to spin firing several more arrows at the creatures that echo her own yelps of pain. One by one the creatures fall before the pack dissipates back into the forest leaving falling comrades behind and her barely standing as she nurses her own gashes and bite marks. She fights through the pain, journeying to each creature one by one. Tears in her eyes as she finishes off each one in sequence.

She pushes the creatures together. Gathering their limp bodies up in a pile, as she struggles to lift herself to her feet, standing over them with her hands just above their bloody forms. Her words are only barely distinguishable amongst her pain.

"We thank Her Grace for protecting me through the discord of this strife. May Her Grace guide these creature's life force into order. May they find peace in the next life and offer no qualms or malice towards me, my little ones, or their Reaver. Her Grace is strong and her will is just."

She bows her head before collapsing beside them, resting on the forest floor as the rain slowly wipes the area clear of blood.
 
Gurtha, 96 - Sunrise, hr 5    
I don't like the feel of animal skin. It gets rough after a while. I like leaves, better. They aren't itchy. They're smooth, and they slide around on my skin. Mother doesn't understand why I don't like the skins against my skin. She thinks I'm just being weird. But the skins scratch. I feel it when it scrapes against my legs. And I don't like it.

Seeing?
What is seeing?
Why can't I do it, Mother?

"It's what eyes are supposed to be for... I don't know why yours are like that..."

Mother doesn't see the dark?

"No, I do. We all do. It... just depends. If we shut our eyes, or if the moon is new at night..."

What is the moon?
"Like our eyes."
What is the sun?
"It is like fire, Liri."
They are called "stars?"
They sound beautiful, Mother.
Almost as beautiful as the darkness.

Teach me how to walk, Mother?
When I was little, I crawled, but now that I am big, I will walk.
"Are you okay, Liri? How come you stopped so soon, darling?"
I stopped because the bump that is the edge of the big rug almost tripped me, Mother.
I want to know how long the rug is, so that I won't trip on it again.
I don't like the air that runs past me like when I was little and my arm hurt.

The trees?
I hear them whisper. They don't whisper to me, though. And I don't know what they tell each other. But they smell good, and their rough bark is soothing, even though it hurts me sometimes. I like the trees, Mother. Their voices are gentle, and the wind is their best friend. I hope they'll be my friends, Mother.

I don't know if anyone else would be my friends. Just Mother and the trees. And maybe the moon and sun, too.
 
Gurtha, 96 - Afternoon, hr 9    
Hungry

I watch it,

Mouth watering,

And I think someone wil take it

And eat it.

I'm a kid!

They are supposed to feed me first!

Is it because

I never ate

when

I

was

little?
 
Gurtha, 96 - Evening, hr 12    
Little Lucia runs out from the city entrence, with a new knife in her hand. She smiles proudly, as she runs over to a squirrel, stabbing it. Before it dies, the critter sceatches the little folke's arm, and some drops of blood oozes from the cut. She looks down at her arm, but she doesnt flinch at the sight of her blood.
 
Ringwe, 96 - Evening, hr 10    
He took care of her as only a person deep in love would do. Never leaving her side, not even for a short time, he was holding her hand during all those days, no matter if she was conscious or not, not taking notice of his own hunger. He fed her, medicated her injuries, soothed her, never accused her for trying to leave this world, leave him. Not even her own family insulting him and threatening to kill him could make him leave her. He brought her back to life.

How could she have deserved him? Even more after she had spoken out loud that she would have chosen Elek, that she would have given up what was between Tasir and her to stay with Elek, her mate, her brother, the father of her children. She hated herself for the situation into which she had brought both of the men she loved and it tore her heart apart to know Elek hated her now, didn't want her anymore. Even Tasir's loving care couldn't dispel this inner pain.

But now at least the situation had resolved itself, the decision had been made for her, even though in the opposite direction that she would have taken had it been her choice. They would leave. She had heard Elek's whimpering when he had seen her, she wouldn't do this to him any longer. She would release him from the sight of her, still alive, not having been able to end her life, no matter how hard she had tried.

She had given him her love, but still had made him sad and hurt when she also started to feel love for Tasir. She had tried to give her life for him, in a last, desperate measure, but hadn't been successful with that either. So she would give him the last thing she was still able to give. Their daughter. She had told her to stay, to stay with Elek because he needed her, because now that she herself wasn't able to give him any comfort anymore, their daughter would be the only one still able to make him want to go on.

It broke her heart another time to leave Ennea, she had never thought there would be anything in the world that could make her leave her daughter. But there had been so many other things she had been wrong with, she hadn't known. Now everything had changed.

She still wasn't able to walk with her broken leg, so he said he would carry her. He was injured, he was exhausted by all of the emotional distress he had had to go through and yet he was willing to carry her all the way. After all that had happened, he even told her she didn't have to come with him. And she felt such overwhelming, strong love for him that she knew her life would go on, despite all the pain.
 
Losse, 97 - Before dawn, hr 2    
It felt good, being around other young. No, they weren't aelleri, but they weren't any less for it. There were no older aelleri, or stoneshapers, or sea nymphs, or moonkin running around causing drama, and trouble. There were no fights, no killing. They barely even hunted.

Connor, Anisa, Tobar, Kanor, Alden, Arimus. They were just six teenagers in hilly forests with a brook. There was no outside world at that time. Three young, travelling home, met three young travelling away from home, and it was exactly what the latter three had spoken about. An adventure. Each group with its stories to tell, its culture to share. An information exchange at a lazy pace.

He remembered his kavi saying something, something about the moonkin. They didn't like them then. Why? He couldn't remember, he had been too little. Anisa said that today he was fourteen. He wasn't even sure what the number meant, and even less sure about how she knew. But, she was smart, and pretty, and theirs, so he believed. Either way, he was worried about bringing the moonkin home with them. Not a pressing feeling, but a slow burning, in the background type of worry. A feeling he wasn't used to.

But for now, none of that mattered. They were just six teenagers hanging out, and enjoying each other's company. He tilts his head back as the warm rain settles against his skin, closing his eyes. If only it would stay like this forever. This one moment, with everyone laughing, and playing, and being so carefree. Each raindrop washes away a bit more of the stress, and the hurt. It weighs own the tree branches, securing the group safely away from the outside world, blocking all others out from their new found paradise. A voice permeates it, but it takes him a moment to notice it.

It's her. 

How close are we Tobar?

The moment has passed, and as he stands to answer, he sighs inwardly. The real world beckons.
 
Losse, 97 - Afternoon, hr 8    
Before they left, he carried her into the mine so that she could see her soulless children again, even if she wasn't able to walk there herself with her broken leg. She knew it would probably be the last time she would see them because she couldn't return to her home for Elek's sake, knowing her presence would hurt him even more.

On their way to the main cavern, they stopped in the mine entrance next to the graves of all her loved ones who had already passed over to the halls of the Great Spirit where she herself didn't seem to be wanted.

Her eyes fixed the huge sarcophagus amidst all of the other graves and her voice sounded strangely small in the large hall that didn't contain anything else but the last resting-places for so many members of her family. "Have I ever told you this is the sarcophagus for our mou-mou?"

With a shake of his head, his eyes followed her gaze, somewhat uncertain, just like his voice when he replied: "No... is she.. still in there?" She merely nodded as an answer and in a sudden urge to touch the sarcophagus, reached out with one of her arms, much too far away to actually touch it from her position in Tasir's arms.

A quiet "Can you...?" was all that left her lips, but he understood her nevertheless, as he always did. After a short nod he stepped towards the sarcophagus, still holding her in his arms. "Here."

Finally being able to put her hand on the sarcophagus' surface, she closed her eyes instinctively and despite the sadness of her whole situation and the depressing effect the graveyard normally had on her, a small smile formed on her face. For a second, the image of her mother's smiling face flared up in her mind, just like it had done so shortly before what she thought was her own last breath, lying directly in front of the frost wyrm's large claws.

Still holding her eyes closed, her voice seemed like it was far away. "I often came here when I was feeling sad or not knew what to do. Somehow it always soothed me a bit, made me feel close to her."

Obviously taking over her mood, he returned her smile, even though she couldn't see it. "Well mothers have that power about them, making their children feel at peace... it seems they can still hold that power even after... Well."

When she opened her eyes to look back at him, she noticed the affection in his face while watching her and almost automatically her smile widened, the words leaving her mouth without another thought. "I was here after we kissed."

His smile grew as well, the dark red of his eyes radiating warmth at the remembrance, while they just looked at each other for several seconds, lost in each other's closeness, being alone for the first time after what had happened. Finally his voice drove the silence away. "Speaking of that... I managed to remove one of my fangs... but my jaw is still swollen and sore."

Again without any conscious thought behind it, her body reacted automatically, sending her hand towards his face, the tips of her fingers gliding over his smooth, black skin, warm because of the inflammation beneath it. She had noticed earlier that one of his fangs was missing, but she hadn't dared to speak about it outside where everybody's temper seemed to be shortly on the edge of exploding. And she wished he wouldn't have suited the action to his earlier word, wouldn't have caused himself the pain. Even if his fangs had been an obstacle when they had kissed that one single time at the river, they were a part of him.

"I saw it... at first I thought Elek had hurt you, but then I figured you must have done it yourself. You not should have done it, not... for me. And now I not even able to keep my promise and be there for you and make you salve."

She felt the soothing warmth of his hand on hers, both of them not averting their gaze from each other for a second. "It's alright, the kids helped me.. well at least a little... and then I forgot about it all when.. uh your accident happened."

Her heart sank at the last part of his sentence, reality finding its way into the hall, absorbing the moment's charm, bringing all of the dark memories and feelings with it that had led to her suicide attempt. They both fell silent for some moments, then he tried to lighten up the mood with a playful wink. "I still need to take out the other one if you would like to help me with that." But he wasn't able to cheer her up, not this time. She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. What she was going to say had to be said.

"It was no accident... you know that." Suddenly the words kept sputtering out of her after they had been held back for several days. "I... I sorry for my weakness, sorry I did that to you, wanted to leave you, wanted to do what I made you promise not to do..."

And he answered with such heartiness, such understanding that she couldn't believe it. "It's alright, and as some one very close to me once said, I'm happy for your weakness.." When he placed one of his hands on her cheek with an affectionate smile, she felt the overwhelming need to be closer to him. How could she have done that to him, leaving him alone in this much too cold world? "You mean a lot to me Trisa.. and I'm just glad you're alive, you don't have to apologize."

With an arm around his neck, she brought her body closer, leaning her chest against his, searching for his warmth. "Oh, Tasir..." She wasn't sure if she would be able to explain it to him completely, but she had to try. "I... I thought I had been successful with it, I thought I was... dying. It not was my weakness that brought me back, it was my weakness that made me do it. I..." Her eyes searched his again, got lost in them. "I not know why I still here. Maybe the Great Spirit not wanted me in his halls because of my weakness, because he wants stoneshapers to be strong. I saw my mou-mou... maybe she sent me back, I really not know."

"Trisa... they sent you back because it wasn't your time... you have too many people who need you, who care about you..." She felt his lips on her forehead, felt his breathing against her skin when he continued to speak, her eyes starting to fill with new tears as they had done so often in the last days. "I... you know, I..." She saw him close his eyes and almost didn't dare to breath when they opened again to gaze deeply into hers. "I love you, Trisa..."

Finally he had spoken out loud what none of them had dared to say before and the intensity of her emotions made her lips shiver, released a single tear out of her overfloating eyes to let it roll down her cheek. She hadn't known how much she had longed to hear these words from him, even though she had always known she shouldn't want to. Breathing heavily, she reached out to stroke over his cheek with a trembling hand, not able to speak any louder than a whisper. "I love you, too."

His wet eyes showed her that he had longed to hear this no less than her, that he had needed it so much more than she would ever have believed. He bent forward and at the moment their lips touched, she felt warmth run through all of her body, sending prickling waves in all directions. Because of their closeness, his lips stroked over hers with every word that he whispered. "I want you to be happy... and I would do anything to see you smile."

His selflessness made her smile at once and she felt closer to him than ever before when she returned his caress, brushing her lips over his. "You will make me smile, simply by being there... now, always."

With her in his arms and his back and wings against the cavern wall, he slid down to the ground, settling her in his lap, and they sank into a deep kiss, holding to each other as if they were drowning, shutting everything out for a short moment that both of them needed so badly to find the strength they needed to go on.

It helped her to take leave of her sleeping children, helped both of them to withstand Sucra's insulting words right before they left. Only because of the strength Tasir gave her, she could leave Elek to hurt him no longer by her presence, she could say goodbye to her daughter, her father and little Jotnar. And then, under many tears and with a last whispered "I love you" in the direction of Elek's tent and her family, she was carried away from the place she had known as her home for all of her life.
 
Rosa, 97 - Before dawn, hr 2    
As soon as her eyes open, she can see she's alone. She's new and it's dark. Almost like before the Winds..

Soft hissing like coos lead her out and her mother's voice soothes her. Sylas hisses, breaking her. I'm the older brother still, you remember!

 
Rosa, 97 - Evening, hr 10    
An Excerpt From A Silk-Bound Manuscript

Payj 1 Rosa, 97


My naime is Anisa. I was boarne in Nolja. My MaMa's naime is Sorcha. She tawt me how to rite and how to reed. At furst it was reely hard. But I praktissed alot and soon it got ez. I laike noing how to reed and my MaMa ses that I shud rite a jornel so that I can reed it wen I am sad.

I do not no wat els to rite so I am going to bild a cool net so that mayby my brathurs will laike me moore.
 
Lote, 97 - Before dawn, hr 2    
It was probably the most unexpected thing she would think to see in an orchard.

Here she was, shoving a barrel down the mountain with an amphora on her back to gather apples from the trees and honey from the unruly cliff-bees for her small family...

...and instead she found...her other family. And then some.

In her heart, she had locked them away, prepared not to ever see them again: her sister, Anisa, and her brother, Tobar. And there they were! Plain as the nose on her face, alive and well, picking apples with...creatures she had never seen before. Her sister had greeted her with a hug...

...and all the pent up anger, grief, and bitterness was gone almost instantly. It was indescribable, as if the mountain itself had been lifted from her chest!

They shared news...of their parents, Sul-Rani and Sul-Kavo, of their lives. They and a Stoneshaper had become bondmates! Though peculiar at first, she was thrilled for the news and excited for the three. Though most of all, her heart skipped when Anisa said they were coming back...back to Aella.

When she had left the mountain, she told Illesa she would be returning with something good. She had meant honey for mead...

This was far better.
 
Lote, 97 - Before dawn, hr 3    
It had all come back to him when she started to talk about it, Cesia. She met them one mountain from home, in a grove of trees. She spoke of the moonkin, and he began to understand the worry that had been idly gnawing at him. Cesia spoke of a time when they were pups, when Stoneshapers brought the remains of an Aelleri. An Aelleri that a Moonkin had killed.

She believed, his kavi believed that Moonkin would kill an Aelleri on sight. No, that couldn't be right. They had been with three Moonkin for days! They were friendly, and they were nice. They had even asked about the rules they needed to follow at home. They had thought of gifts to offer the other Aelleri!

His Anisa was worried that they wouldn't be allowed to stay. Tobar worried about something much darker. Cesia spoke about the Aelleri greeting travellers with swords drawn, and that wasn't something he could ever remember. But he gave his head a shake, looking down at his bracelets. He hoped in a place so deep inside that their return home would not cause the problems that his stomache seemed to be insisting it would.
 
Lote, 97 - Before dawn, hr 3    
"How am I going to explain this..." she thought to herself, shoving an empty barrel up the mountain. "I am perfectly happy for this...I want them to come home..." She growled a sigh, the equally empty amphora on her back clicking against her sword. "These won't be a problem...there's other things to fill them...and the news is more important than food. ...at least in this case."

Her steps slowed until the barrel finally came to a rest. She stood mid-motion, arms outstretched against the container.

"How on the mountains high am I going to explain peaceful Moonkin to Sul-Rani?...They killed Luca. They almost went after Teru...all because our skin is like those of the Taken who hunt their young."
She rolled her eyes. "This is so not going to go over well...'Sul-Rani! I'm back! No, didn't pick up anything while I was gone. Didn't have time! Oh, and please don't kill the Moonkin that will be making their way here soon with Anisa and Tobar.'"

"...oh yes,"
she thought, "Brilliant...that will go over beautifully...like a dead Warble in a basket of berries..."

She shook her head. "Sul-Rani is wise...she will listen to reason. Besides...Anisa and Tobar are coming home! Aella will have life again! ...and...they are bondmates! ...with a Stoneshaper...I wasn't even aware we could...nevermind...maybe that will make her overlook those which we...are...supposedly...kill-on-sight for..."

She leaned over the barrel and let go of an exasperated sigh. "...why do I feel like I am about to walk into a disaster of unfathomable proportions?"  She frowned and returned to her task of getting the containers back home.

"...I miss Narin and Inali."
 
Urnu, 97 - Midday, hr 6    
An Excerpt From a Silk-Bound Manuscript

Payj 2 Urnu, 97

No 1 has talkt to me sins I got bak frum Ant Nia's canyun. I sumtimes haf to go reely far away frum evary 1 so that they do not c me cri. I do not no y my MaMa duz not laike me, but I think it is becuz I cud not keep up with her wen I caim bak to Nolja with her. My Ant Rows is allso very sad. I whatch her wen she sits by my Uhncal Teareth and she duz not smiall. I sumtimes think that she duz not hav frends ethor and that mayks me sad.
 
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