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I couldn't think of a better title for it (I suck at titles.) This was sprung from the first few reactions to this story, A Different Path by The_Wylde_Wynd.
Part 1 You Are Here
She shifted her feet in her soft shoes, forcing herself not to pace in front of the Mother of Memory’s hut. It would not do to seem too anxious. She tried hard not to listen in, knowing all too well that she would not hear anything that made any sense. When it had reached the point when she thought she could wait no longer, there was a mumbling from inside the hut. As she waited in anticipation, slowly Savah emerged. Her eyes were calm, but lined with sadness. Not wanting to seem impatient, she waited for the elder elf to announce what she had learned.
“Rayek has decided to leave Sorrow’s End.” She announced softly.
The silence spoke volumes. Everyone listening in was certainly wondering why any elf would leave paradise such as this… except those who truly knew him. Leetah was the first to speak. With a cool demeanor she said, “It is his decision. He must live with it. We will live on without him.” As the other villagers went onto agree that with the Wolfriders here now, it wouldn’t be so bad with Rayek gone, Leetah retired to her own hut. Shortly afterwards the wolf chief, Cutter followed.
ShenShen knew her sister all too well. Leetah was not nearly as ok with the decision as she pretended to be, but she was in good hands with the pale-haired one. She had other things on her mind.
When the crowd dispersed, she stayed. Savah turned to Leetah’s younger sister. “Why?” ShenShen asked, “Why did he want to leave? It’s because of Cutter and Leetah isn’t it?” She found herself biting her lip to stop the tears that appeared in her eyes. Savah put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“He felt he was no longer needed. He must find his own place.”
She felt the anger swell up inside. “He is needed here!” She snapped, “We need him! Leetah… Leetah loves him!”
Savah placed a finger to her lips. “That no longer matters to Rayek.”
It matters to me… ShenShen thought, but didn’t dare say it aloud. Instead she nodded and turned away. She had other things to do. There was a celebration tonight for Leetah and Cutter and their union. Many of the other villagers were already setting up the decorations. With a short quiet sigh to herself, she joined them and tried to push her thoughts to the back of her mind.
* * *
She had put on a happy face for the party. She was happy for her sister, truly she was, but she couldn’t stop the feelings. When Leetah and Cutter had become lifemates, she thought…
Well, guess it didn’t matter what she thought, did it? She had told Menin after the celebration that she was in the mood to be alone and insisted he have fun with some of the other villagers tonight. She herself hadn’t made it back to her hut, but instead found a nice secluded place and sat alone. It was unusual for her. She wasn’t sure now what to do. In the back of her mind was a plan forming. She wanted to grab a Zwoot and head off into the unknown…
But she could never do that. She knew nothing of survival alone. She would end up dying of thirst and half-mad by the head when it was all said and done. By the High Ones! She was so frustrated.
“That doesn’t suit you.”
She spun around to see one of the Wolfriders, the cheeky one with the orange hair, propped up on a large rock, staring at her. He had his usual smile, but there was a hazy look about his eyes, and his nose and cheeks were even redder than usual. Curious as she was, her feelings quickly turned into anger.
“What doesn’t suit me?” she snapped, almost daring him to continue. However, he simply winced and waved his hand in front of his face as if brushing away a fly.
“You always have a smile on your face.” He said, slowly standing, “The gloomy look doesn’t suit you.” He stumbled in her direction and un-gracefully dropped to his knees and thrust a hand in her face. She jumped back a little, then focused on what he was handing her. “They’re Dreamberries. Try some, they’ll make your smile come back.”
Suspiciously, she picked one up with two fingers and eyed it. Her gaze turned to the Wolfrider. “Why?”
Her question seemed to confuse him a moment, but his smile returned quickly. “Because you looked like you needed company. What’s on your mind?”
It must have been something about the inebriated elf that inspired trust, but she found herself opening up to him. Though, admittedly, it seemed easier the more of those strange berries she ate. Nonetheless, she told him everything.
She loved Rayek. She’d said nothing before because of his love for her sister. She wouldn’t have been able to change his mind about wanting her anyway. Once his mind was set, it was set. She had hoped that once Cutter had taken him down a notch that maybe Rayek would see her for once. But now he was gone, and there was nothing she could do. It was then that the Wolfrider said the words she didn’t want to say herself.
“Then follow him.”
The simplicity of his comment brought up a rush of excuses and reasons it could not possibly happen, threatening to throw her back into her glum state. She gaped for words, then just shook her head. “I… can’t.”
His innocent stare just made her feel worse. “Why not?” But she couldn’t answer. He sat up from his relaxed position and cocked his head. “You Sun Villagers feel too safe in your nests.” He paused a moment, but she stayed silent. “If you’re afraid to go alone, I’ll come with you.”
That caught her attention. “You would do that? Why?”
He looked down. “I hate to see others sad.”
Without another word, overcome by emotion, she lunged at him, throwing the unbalanced two to the ground in an embrace. As soon as she was able, they would set off to find Rayek.