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Sofia

Well I’ve been lurking around this forum for quite some time now. A few months back I decided I too wanted to “contribute” with something and promised myself that my next post would be a fanfic. Unfortunately inspiration got the better of me and I began writing far too many fanfics. Things were getting done _very_ _slowly_ which was no fun for me since I wanted to get back to posting and talking here as soon as possible.

Then a day or two ago I read through the “Character/Tribe Switching” thread and read a post where manga compared the idea of Rayek being born as a Glider to the idea of Rayek being raised by Gliders. Then krwordgazer posted her wonderful fic “Angry Young Glider” and I was hooked. I couldn’t get the idea of Rayek raised as a Glider out of my head, only with Sun Village parents. Thus this Worldpool story was born. I hope you’ll enjoy it and that the plot doesn’t sound all too improbable. I appreciate all pointers and constructive criticism!

I don’t know how many chapters this will have as of yet, but I can promise you it won’t be a short series. I will try to post regular updates (at least once a month, preferably more often than that) but inspiration tends to enjoy playing dirty tricks on be so I don’t dare promising anything.

Chapter rating: PG-13 (implied death and violence)

As a side note: Aroree won't be making her appearance until the next chapter.

*****

Prologue: Death of the lifegivers

As Jarrah lay dying she couldn’t help but reflect on how she’d come to be here, to end her life so far from the Sun Village.

No one had been able to predict the sandstorm. One moment the sky was clear and the village was calm, the next the air was filled with dry dust, choking and scratching. The harsh winds frightened a herd of zwoots and they tried to escape the torment of whipping sand by stampeding right through the village. All Jarrah and the others could do was flee.

When the air was clear again they began nursing the injured ones. Thankfully no one was killed or mortally wounded, but many huts and gardens were destroyed. That would take many moons to repair, not to mention all the broken limbs and sand burns the herbal healers had to take care of.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about they soon discovered four of their kin were missing. Jarrah could even now recall the stabbing fear as she heard Ingen’s name mentioned as one of the lost ones; fear for her lifemate, herself and their unborn child. Who could refuse her the right to go out in the desert with the scouts, if so only to bring back his lifeless body?

They had brought tents of course, made of thin mothcloth; easy to carry but good protection against the sun. When had Ahnshen first begun making them? Jarrah couldn’t remember right away and therefore decided to ignore it. How important were tents now anyway?

The scouts had all fawned over her, the lifebearer. One of them even dared ask her to go back after they’d found the first of the missing ones dead, half buried in a sand dune. Jarrah had refused, loudly. None of the others asked her again, though she did see two of them packing a fair share of their food and water into her bags when they thought she wasn’t looking. That at least made her smile, if only faintly.

The other two were found alive and well – or as well as you could expect someone to be after such a sandstorm and wandering the desert with no shelter for four days. That was when Kentre, the group’s appointed leader, decided they should head back. The desert was a cruel place and their supply of food and water was running low. Kentre saw no reason to risk the lifebearer and her child’s lives in search for someone who most surely was lost forever in the endless sand.

Refusing to be part of the blame for her lifemate’s death and still believing him to be alive Jarrah had snuck away from the rest of the search party the following night. She took as much of the water skins and dried roots with her as she dared, not wanting to put the others at risk because of her own needs.

It was the soul-bond between Ingen and her that guided Jarrah through the burning days and freezing nights. Ingen was alive, but lost and only she could find him.

Days passed in a blur. Jarrah only stopped to eat and rest for the child’s sake, shading her heavy belly from the sun’s glare and wrapping it in blankets to keep the nights’ cold away. Before long the soul-bond grew weaker and she began to despair that she’d only find her lifemate’s soulless body at the end of this search, if she’d find anything at all. Sobbing she put up the tent once more and lit a fire to warm herself and the child. She sang to it as she fell asleep, dreaming of life and birth that hopefully was to come.

The morning after she woke to find Ingen in her sleeping-cloths. He was half-dead from dehydration and the cold and heat, but alive. Nothing could describe the joy of their reunion.

The steep mountain walls that met her gaze once she stepped out of the tent were a shock. How upset and without hope must she not have been the previous evening to miss them? And there was a great passage there, large enough to let eight eights of zwoots rush through it at the same time and still allow them to effortlessly run side by side all the way.

Ingen saw this passage as the solution to their troubles. They could not head back towards Sorrow’s End right away, they did not have the food or water for that, but perhaps they could find some in the shadows of the mountains? The Green Growing Place the Mother of Memory once had lived in had to be there, on the other side. Had they not crossed the desert? Did the tales not tell of a great passage through stone? Whether or not she believed this the tales and her lifemate’s conviction gave Jarrah hope. She would follow him.

Another day passed and Jarrah’s hope grew fainter. The passage seemed endless and there was nothing more than sand and rock here, nothing. They would starve and their child would die before it had any chance to live.

The sound of water nearly made her cry. She probably would have if her body had had any liquid to spare on such unimportant actions. Both she and Ingen rushed towards that joyous noise only to stop dead in their tracks after having rounded the passage’s last bend.

Never had she seen so much water in one place, floating freely, wildly through a flat world of small, thin plants that grew close, close together. In the distance she could make out the shapes of large, four legged beasts she had no name for and beyond them…

They laughed as they took water from the gigantic brook and dug up roots to eat, relieved and elated, frightened and confused. They had become part of legends now and they could not turn back. Against the horizon the silhouette of the Green Growing Place beckoned.

That night, just as they had finished putting their tent up near the mouth of the passage, Jarrah felt their child stir. It wanted the freedom of fresh air, it wanted life. There had been no midwife and Ingen had not left her side one heartbeat from the beginning to the end. Somehow that did not bother her in the least. Come morning the child, now no longer an “it” but a “he”, had gotten his wish. Rayek, their beautiful gold-eyed son was born, healthy and strong.

They began preparing the journey back. They would need plenty to eat and drink. Water they had close by, but finding eatable plants proved more difficult. The things that grew here looked very different from the ones in the Sun Village and other than the roots they had found on their first evening there nothing they saw seemed suited for elfin stomachs.

Whose idea had it been to go to the Green Growing Place? Well it did not matter; they had both been at fault to agree on it. And she could not deny that her heart had beaten a much wilder rhythm than it ever had before as she first put her trembling palm on the bark of a tree. The cool whispers of the forest were both soothing and terrifying. But when they had come that far giving up was not an option. Jarrah had put her newborn child in the makeshift sling Ingen had made out of a piece of the tent and followed her lifemate in among the shades and trunks.

Why had the Mother of Memory never mentioned the monsters of the forest? The humans she had spoken of, but they had lived in the open, outside the Green Growing Place, preying on elves foolish enough to venture outside the deepest parts of the woods during daylight. Jarrah had not seen any humans, only peaceful plant eaters both she and Ingen kept well away from. And they had entered the forest by night, thinking it somewhat safe. Oh how fooled they had been.

The monster was huge, with long claws on each of its four paws and jaws full of sharp fangs. Its fur was thick and brown and its small black eyes shone with hunger. As soon as she saw it rushing towards them Jarrah new it wished to kill and devour her entire family.

She could not recall the exact words Ingen had shouted to her. All she knew was that they had her running in a heartbeat, knowing that he would somehow distract the monster while she protected their son.

The pain Ingen felt as the monster struck him nearly brought Jarrah to her knees. Through the agony and grief at the loss of her lifemate the voice of reason still managed to call out to her and make her go on. The monster was soon behind her though. In a last desperate attempt to save Rayek she hung his sling on a high branch, then turned around to face her hunter.

She threw the first rock without thought. It hit the bloodthirsty beast right between the eyes by sheer luck, causing it to halt momentarily. Jarrah immediately picked up three more and began running, throwing her new found weapons over her shoulder, hoping for them to hit their intended target. All she could think of was the need to lure the monster away from her son.

It took her by complete surprise when the monster lashed out with one of its front paws and struck her across the back with its claws. The pain was much worse than she ever could have imagined. She was thrown like a scarf caught by the wind and struck against the rough bark of a tree with a loud thud. She fell to the ground and couldn’t get up; the wounds and fear were too much for her.

And that was where she was now. The monster was approaching her, slowly. Her sight was blurred by tears and pain but she could still hear and sense the cursed beast, sniffing her scent and without doubt licking its muzzle in cruel pleasure at her suffering.

That was when she sensed Ingen’s life-spark. It was faint, as weak as her own had to be, but it was there. He was not dead, at least not yet and all Jarrah could do as she felt her soul lose its ties to her body was pray that her lifemate would live to care for Rayek. The last thing she heard before death took her were the wails of her abandoned son.