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June 2009 Grab-Bag Writings and Art

krwordgazer

Here are the elements for June:

Hands touching
Death of a pet/bond beast/animal
A surprise
A test of some kind
The sun, or a sun symbol or image
Water coming down, as in crying or raining

All works must be related to Elfquest, whether canon-based, original character, alternate universe, or whatever. Writings must contain all the above elements. Art can either contain all the elements, or illustrate one of the writings.

Looking forward to seeing what we come up with this month!

Nightsea

Hands touching
Death of a pet/bond beast/animal
A surprise
A test of some kind
The sun, or a sun symbol or image
Water coming down, as in crying or raining

Light. Reflection. Shape, form, being; seeing something depended on
seeing the colors of it, the colors that set it apart from
other things near. The shadows it cast echoed the shape, changed
the colors of other things in sight. But each thing usually had
its own set of colors. Except as the light moved and stained
things with the changing skyshades. And except for the little
lizard he now saw.

It glistened slightly, but otherwise had skin the exact shade
of the rocks it sat on. He had tracked it, watched it as it slid
from place to place, and each time, had marked how it again blended
with whatever was below. Landing on bare sand, the skin changed to
match sand, climbing a plant, the same skin changed to green. It
was as if the creature had no color of its own, only form!

If that were possible, how would anyone ever be able to name it?
To know for sure where and what it was? The creature did not
seem particularly clever. It had moved slowly, had no defense
other than NOT being there. But that ability to hide, even in
the open...amazing.

Longlooker had easily seen the advantage, yet somehow this
new trickster in the desert upset him. It didn't seem to follow the
same rules as other creatures. Being able to change color
made it unknowable in some fundamental way. Following it
was hard, seeing it took all the strength his eyes could
muster, and at that, he was most successful when it moved.

Could he call it a shadow? It didn't behave as one, moving
in synch as the globe above crossed the sky.

Gathering his courage, he used his customary hat to swoop it
from the rock pile. Its long tail whipped about as he awkwardly
carried it to the hut he shared with his lifemate.

She sat inside, stringing new beads for the doorway.
Her brightly colored outfit, all of a tone, made him instantly
feel her warm personality. Her choice, a shade like the flowers
of the waterplants when they were in season, suited her so well.
He felt again as if order were only moments away.

Touching her hands gently, he was greatful that she didn't ask
questions, she just set her needle down and followed him
toward the darker interior.

Inside the cloth hat he held close to his heart, the trapped
creature stirred. He spilled it out onto a small rug, and
watched the surprise in her eyes as his beloved beheld the
strange power of the now-rug-patterned beast. The same yellow
swirls in the weaving below blazed around the tail, legs,
and even snout, and made it nearly invisible as it held still
on the floor.

She gasped and smiled. "What a wonder," she breathed near
his large pointed ear.

"Yes...but does it remain the same inside?" he queried.

"Perhaps Savah will know," she answered ever so calmly and
practically. She watched him as he gingerly nudged the
lethargic animal back into his solid-colored, sky-blue hat.

Inside, the lizard became blue too, right to the tip of its tail.

She thought to herself that their new pet was the perfect
challenge to her lifemate's obsession. It had taken him
eights on eights to agree to the patterned rug, and now
she was attempting to mix differently shaded beads into
the curtains. Soon perhaps, their hut could boast as many
colors as Savah's backlit chair, if only the jumble didn't
upset the simple order her lifemate craved. She followed him
silently to the village elder's central dwelling.

Inside, Longlooker saw the very young Ahdri, filling a rock-fountain
with water from a small earthen jug. She was spilling more than
the indented rock could gather, making a mess of this sacred space.
He frowned at her for a moment before he recalled how very young
she was, and then his tolerance became not-quite-a-smile. Her parents
had passed not long ago, leaving her in the care of the wisest in
Sorrow's End. Living here with no agemates must make the usual playfullness
of youth fade swiftly. Her current passtime of trying to make flowing
water trickle through hollowed rocks seemed silly, but perhaps it was
less destructive than other activities she might engage in otherwise.
Besides, if she could indeed coax the water to flow back up to the top
and repeat the fall, she would have found an impressive magical talent.

"Your pardon, but is the Mother of Memory within?" he spoke quietly,
yet her startled reaction sent the clay pot flying against the stones
to shatter noisily.

Behind him, his lifemate smiled widely and advanced. She
walked around him smoothly, gathering the shards in capable and
efficient fingers. She used one of her ubiquitous weavings to
sop up the excess water, leaving only slight dampness to mark
the place of the accident. His love for her flared as
he admired her competent and experienced cleanup.

Savah's tall form captured his attention as she rose from
the sunken stairway. Gaining the upper level, she greeted
them all, "What games am I missing, napping below?"

"No game, Savah. I'm sorry I dropped the watercup, but
Longlooker startled me." Ahdri's chagrin made her golden
eyes downcast.

"There are more cups below, of course. What can I do
for you, Longlooker, to keep you from causing mayhem?"
Savah's tease showed her own knowledge of the inner
horror he held for chaos. She smiled almost conspiratorially
at the woman who handed the wet cloth and pottery bits to
the child who fled downstairs.

"Mayhem? Well you might ask about that, Wise One. I have
with me a most unruly creature." He knelt and coaxed the
little lizard forth. The hues faded from bright blue to
muted earth tones as it landed on the hut floor.

"Ahh...how wild and contrary of it to have disappeared
so swiftly!" Savah did seem not to see that it was
still present, sitting hunched and unblinking as
she gathered her skirts to look closer. "Oh, there
you are, little friend," she said at last, having
located it by the motion of its breathing. She did
not reach for it, did not try to contain or challenge,
mearly watched it carefully, tilting her head in puzzlement.

"So even our eldest has no name for such a talent?" Longlooker
seemed crestfallen, slightly hesitant to ask more in fear that
the answers would not meet his expectations.

"I do not think naming him would make him 'change'," the tilt
of her lips matched the tilt of her head, quizical and amused.
Her brown eyes looked down to the shorter elf and held only
gentle pity, not mockery. "He is gifted, and perhaps his
whole race is so, or perhaps he is alone. He seems full grown,
so if you wish to adopt him you may deprive him of finding a
mate, and thus deprive our world of his gifts being passed on."
Alighting on her throne she held a finger to her lips as she
mused further, "Yet he may bond with you and teach you a trick
or two, if you have the skill to learn, Longlooker."

Thus encouraged, he had no choice but to gather it again and
head for his own hut. Walking in step beside him, his savvy
companion began suggesting plans to conform their living space
to keep the newest occupant from leaving unannounced or being
hurt. Accomodating a guest that was so well concealed
would be a test.

It was not much later that another guest in their hut
had the misfortune to step on the imperceptible beast,
squishing him beneath a sandle and displaying the
common red innards. Grief stricken, Longlooker had
fled in tears. He had not paused to forgive the
guest, leaving that and the other cleanup to his
sensible lifemate.

Finding the solitude of the Bridge of Destiny, he
wiped his eyes clear of drops to better see his
way across the narrow stone. Seeing. Again it
came down to sight. The ability to see something
kept it knowable, safe, easily understood. Any
dangers should be visible. Explainable. If only
the lizard had kept to one color he would be alive
now.

Stopping at the sun symbol that Yurek had formed,
he rethought his last assumption. If the lizard
had been like other lizards, perhaps it would not
be alive now. Something that size in a desert full
of hungry birds, jackals and snakes, something that
had no large teeth, no swift moves...it would be
eaten quickly. Keeping to one color would make
it easy to see, to know, to kill.

Raising his eyes to the sky, his tears fell again
as he sought comfort, answers, meaning. The glowing
sun above continued drifting slowly down the sky.
Unchangeable, constant, steady.

He couldn't look directly at it very long. The
pain in his eyes made more water spill than
Ahdri's fountains.

Yet something inside him lept at the thrill of
looking so long. It was his name after all.
His very goal in life had always been to look,
to see, to know.

What secret of light would he see if he could
only stand the pain? Savah had hinted at a lesson,
had meant the lizard to teach him, he was sure.
But the lizard was gone. That trick of light,
of color, was dead. The blazing ball above
seemed to be the exact opposite of the little
deceiver. It alone in the desert never wavered,
never really changed color. The clouds changed,
the sky changed, the moons changed. The sun did
not. Always bright, always golden.

Holding a four fingered hand up, he moved his
fingers to block some of the light; saw as his
thin fingers seemed to melt away in the pool of
fire above. He clenched his fist, shook it at
the merciless glare.

He vowed to return to this spot and really look
again the next day, and the day after that, until
he finally saw.

It was many eights later that his fist finally
disolved entirely, the light tunnel of his failing
vision taking the last rays inside painfully.
He was just about to give up. To beg for healing
and forget his quest for understanding light and
being. To stop looking. Bringing his fist close
to his face he suddenly could feel the energy of
it near. Without his eyes, he would still know
where his hand was. What his hand was. It was
alive, part of himself, and yet it seemed magically
new, excitingly surrounded by an aura of spirit
that he had never detected with his normal senses.

Suddenly, Savah's lesson became clear. What
she had meant about the limitation of names.
How you did not need to see something to really
know it. His laughter and relief as he let go
of control filled him instead with a new type
of light. Something not visible, yet definately
alive. Understanding was a flood releasing
him from fear. He stepped out onto the thin
rock of the Bridge of Destiny and felt his
way home with this new awareness instead of
his ruined eyes.

When Toorah's face pressed against him, he suddenly
knew that he loved her not for the tidy way she
kept their home, not for the single color she
chose to wear, but for herself, for all the
many levels of her own being. For her patience
with how he had been so limited and afraid, for
her soul, which was like a mirror of his
own soul. He didn't need his eyes to suddenly
hear her soulname sing inside him. To know
her in all her power and light.

It was not eyes meet eyes that made him recognize,
but rather the lack of eyes which made him see.

In the eights that followed, his new name, Suntoucher,
rang in his now more sensitive ears with respect and
love everytime. His new clothing, multicolored scales
to remind him of his lost pet, he kept polished to
recall the glory of change.
************************************

Image start for this story (unfinished yet):
[img:6907237936]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v477/Night_sea/suntouchergivingup93start.gif[/img:6907237936]
--Nightsea

Embala

Such an extraordinary idea! What an unexpected developement Suntoucher is going through! Wonderful writing ... and I love the last twist with the multicolored scales :D

[size=9:21b7a9abec]minor nitpicking: the bridge builder's name should be Y[b:21b7a9abec]u[/b:21b7a9abec]rek and his wife is definitely Toorah ... blaming the lil' troll in your keyboard [/size:21b7a9abec]Wink

Waiting [i:21b7a9abec]impatiently[/i:21b7a9abec] to see the finished picture now.

Cleopatra

Nightsea, that was fantastic. Really wonderfull. :D

Tenderfoot

I second what Embala and Cleopatra has already said! :D

G0lden

Nicely done. :D

RedheadEmber

[color=red:473c6778e6][b:473c6778e6]Goodbye, My Friend[/b:473c6778e6]

My friend
You were with me
Through so much
When I was scared
Or the night was too cold
I’d curl up against your warm fur
Feeling your calmness
I remember one time
I was feeling so alone
I sat by myself
Just letting life pass me by
You came to me
In that very moment
A surprise-attack of pure
Wolf cubbish love
When I close my eyes I can still feel
Your wet tongue on my face
Whipping away
All tears I might have had
Maybe this
Is simply a test
High One’s way of telling me
It doesn’t end here
There will be another one
Waiting
A new piece of tiny
Bundleish joy
A new friend to whip
All my tears away
I look at the sky
Waiting for that day to come
When sun once again
Shines in my life
Because it seems
Like the rain just won’t end
I’ll look forward till the day
When I get a new friend
Though I will never forget you
My friend through so much
Now time has come for me
To let hands touch with joy[/color:473c6778e6]

Tenderfoot

Unhappy Aww, that was wonderfully sad... Skywise and Starjumper, isn't it? Could've been Cutter too, but he didn't get the time to mourn over Nightrunner before he got Warfrost. And Ember found Patch where Choplicker died, so it can't be her either.

I realli like this. I think it's one of your best!

Nightsea

[quote:f9ca19460f="Embala"] the bridge builder's name should be Yurek and his wife is definitely Toorah ... blaming the lil' troll in your keyboard
Waiting [i:f9ca19460f]impatiently[/i:f9ca19460f] to see the finished picture now.[/quote:f9ca19460f]
Eep, thanks for catching my naming mistakes. I'm glad you liked
the story, it was your image suggestion that made it happen.
I have fixed the story, now I have the rest of the month to finish
the image, right?
Grin,
--Nightsea
PS: Thanks for the compliments folks!

PPS: I think [b:f9ca19460f]Redhead Ember's[/b:f9ca19460f] poem could apply to anyone who has ever had a wolf-friend. Nicely "universal". :D

Tenderfoot

Eep! I totally forgot to mention your story, Nightsea! And your illustration too! I liked it, very much!

Of course you have the rest of the month to finish your illustration... as long as you hurry up :P

RedheadEmber

[quote:c83d66b32b="Tenderfoot"]Unhappy Aww, that was wonderfully sad... Skywise and Starjumper, isn't it? Could've been Cutter too, but he didn't get the time to mourn over Nightrunner before he got Warfrost. And Ember found Patch where Choplicker died, so it can't be her either.

I realli like this. I think it's one of your best![/quote:c83d66b32b]

[color=red:c83d66b32b]I [i:c83d66b32b]could[/i:c83d66b32b] be Skywise and Starjumper! But... basically it's just a general... [b:c83d66b32b]how it possibly feels to lose one's bond-beast[/b:c83d66b32b] kinda poem! :D [/color:c83d66b32b]

Embala

A touching poem. Redhead ... I'll go with the [i:994171db7e]general[/i:994171db7e] meaning Wink

Hopefully there'll be an illustration, too - pictures are growing already.

G0lden

Redhead Ember, love the poem. :D

RedheadEmber

[color=red:696ef0a64f]Thanksie! :D

And yeah... Embala... you should know... I'm one devil to write general and somewhat cryptic poems... :twisted: and now I've recently written [i:696ef0a64f]two[/i:696ef0a64f] poems in a row which clearly was a certain story... no need in making it [i:696ef0a64f]too[/i:696ef0a64f] easy for you guys! :P [/color:696ef0a64f]

Cleopatra

Your poem was really beautifull, Redhead Ember, so touching. :)

RedheadEmber

[color=red:60dc4f3286]Thanks! :D [/color:60dc4f3286]

Cleopatra

Your story was great Tymber. And I mean REALLY great. Now I am wondering whats going to happen next time.

jeb

Very good story, Tymber! Seems to be paralleling the original quest. Shadow's speech reminds me of Cutter's in the Go-back's lodge and the fight with the Trolls was very much like the first fight with the mountain trolls. Of course it shows your own style and is different in many ways, too.

I suspected that something was going to happen between Joybringer and Shadow. Wink

The loss of Callbreaker was very lovingly portrayed.

The only thing that seems weird to me is that there seems to be quite a bit of time for talking in the middle of a battle! (But I guess stories are always like that.)

It is, indeed, getting interesting.

Tenderfoot

Quote:
Tymber

That scene was pretty hard for me to write... Well, not hard like I couldn't do it - but difficult as in I really put myself in a sad place. I put on some sad songs on my Media Player (May It Be, My Immortal, etc) - and then imagined what if it was me having to put Odin down.

Needless to say, tears were flowing from my eyes as I wrote that scene. I'm man enough to admit it. :)



I too cried when I wrote a story for English class. I hate stealing life from felines Unhappy One time I made one of my own elves kill a feline... I felt sorry for it... Next day I re-wrote the continuation. It survived because of magic and helped the elf continue the journey in seeking help for the tribe

And I really liked your story! Personally, I think the scenes with Stillbreeze and Vineweaver were the best. They do love each other, or what? Actually, they remind me of Nightfall and Redlance...

Embala

Finally managed to read through the May Grab-bag (halfways, at least :roll: ) therefore I could catch up with your story.

WOW - that was heavy ... incredibly thrilling (I almost feared for Shadow) ... touching (Stillbreze/Wineweaver) ... surprising (Joybringer/Shadow)
... no - not so much! Someone must help him and she occured the only one to me when I thought about it ... stopping reading right when he was facing his death.What's your standard quote: Great minds think alike? Wink
... sad (Sungazer/Echo) ... touching to tears (Stream/Callbreaker)
No, I havn't cried ... yes... I have ...almost ... a bit Unhappy Hate to cry - try to never cry ... at least avoid showing ... because I know I cannot stop then ...unhealthy, I know...

I was sure there`ll be something more for Skyshade and the twins ... NOW I've slightest hope for a three-mating Wink ... if not between her and the twins than maybe for Shadow and his ladies - after some stuggle for sure! But ... TWO leader types ... difficult!
And be affirmed - I've commented to May before reading this part!

Sungazer's death seems to be forgotten- no Howl for him. But ... like I know you meanwhile you'll return to him, I guess ... when the elements lead you.

Nothing more I have to say what wasn't said before - better tho.

manga

Wait a second, Tymber! Why introduce the Preservers if you're not going to have the wolf wrapped up until the healer can save her?

Embala

Hm ... the Preserver was in Echo's hair - and Echo hopefully was far away.

And Shadow probably does not have realized the Preserver's possibilities ... that a cocoon really can stop pain, death, time itself - even if he has followed Riverfall's explanations.

Just my thoughts.

manga

That explains things story-wise but doesn't explain things writing-wise. When you stop to explain the function of a thing, the reader expects to then see it illustrated. Like Checkov's gun -- if there's one in the first act, then it had better be shot by the last.

bukittyan

Nightsea, I really loved how you developed Suntoucher in your story. It's so believable, and it was touching.

Redhead Ember, your poem was so sad! At first i thought it was Skywise and Starjumper, but then I realized it could be Cutter just as easily. Beautifully written.

Tymber, you had me on the edge of my seat! I was really scared for Shadow; I felt he wasn't going to make it. I also like how you wrote the scenes where Joybringer and Shadow reacted to the Recognition between their tribemates and how accepting he was and how almost repulsed she was. And they both learned each tribe has something to teach each other, before they Recognized themselves! Brilliant!

And I'm wondering what exact powers Echo has. I think you've hinted before that he had magic in him, but is it Suntop's, or something else. The preserver certainly seemed fascinated by him! Can't wait for July! :D

RedheadEmber

It's about whoever you want it to be about! :P I must admit... I haven't really read those Stonehowl Holt stories of Tymber's... (Yeah... I'm too lazy to go back and start the saga from the beginning...) But... from the reviews here it seems like it could also tie-in with that...

jeb

OK, I know it's going to start to look like I'm obsessed with Tymber's Stonehowl holt, but it's just so nice to draw since the characters looks are open to interpretation and I don't have to worry about them looking like they're supposed to.

Anyway, here's a sketch of Riverfall showing Echo and Windfetcher the preserver (which is awful - I know.)

Cleopatra

Awful? That draw is so wonderfull, Jeb.

RedheadEmber

Hmm... Tenderfoot haven't posted yet... :? What's up? She writing a whole novel or something?

Cleopatra

I'm sure Tenderfoot will post soon. We just have to be patient.

RedheadEmber

Well... last time she, rather quickly... wipped up a two-post segment... so... what's up this time? A three-post segment? :?

Hmm... maybe I'm just impatient... :oops:

Tenderfoot

It's coming this evening, I just need to translate it! Damn, if I'd known how difficult it is to find English Medieval words, then I would have abandoned this project!

Coming soon! And yes, I'm afraid it'll look like a novel. It's about 25 pages now...

RedheadEmber

Eeehm... the entire tale... or... just this segment? :P

And... just a wee piece of advise... I think it would be easier for you to simply write it in English from the beginning... then you'd just have to simply use the words you know...

Tenderfoot

The entire tale.



And I have written everything in English from the beginning, it's just the Medieval words and sentences (and something else) that I need to translate, and it's so difficult! Isn't there any dictionaries for Medieval words?

By the way, still working, just one more page left! Now, what's 'firskjeftet' in English...?

RedheadEmber

Ooooh... I see...

And... S'ry... can't help you with the firskjeft coz... I dunno what it is in Danish...

Tenderfoot

Now it's time for another Medieval story of mine. Okey, I know that some will be angry with me now, perhaps even want me dead, but I let the story write itself with help from the elements. Therefore I must admit that I have 'jumped' again. This story takes place in another situation with different characters, but we're still in the Medieval country Two Moons. Mantricker is still king and other things are like they should, but... you'll have to read it.







Abandoned


It’s been a year, mother. Father.

Aroree’s gaze was glued to the window, her eyes distant. She was already sitting at the table, waiting as the others ingested the dining hall. It was one of the biggest rooms, but only the second one. She had had more than enough time to find out, but she didn’t care anymore. The childish curiosity was long gone, killed along with her childhood.

Almost two.

Other women sat down beside her and Aroree cast a glance at them, sighing. There was nothing new, would never be. They all looked the same, everyone wearing the same mask.

The mask of cloistered death.

There was a big difference in age, but that was something no one could tell unless they knew. The only visible difference, which Aroree didn’t even think of as a difference, was the colors on their clothes. On the left side of the dining hall were all the nuns. They had devoted their life and whole being to the High Ones and the cloister. Their cresses were black, their head caressed with white garments draped with black fabric. The novices were on the right side, that’s where Aroree was sitting. All of the girls had blue dresses and their hair enjoyed the feeling of uncloistered air.

The novices say you’re safe now”¦

Aroree also had a blue dress. But it was too long, she often stumbled in the skirts. The nuns thought of her as unbalanced, the novices had helped her shorten the dress. She also had problems with her concentration, but it wasn’t the dress to blame. That was her own fault. But who could blame her? Everyone looked the same, lifeless and without colors. She wanted to live, be colorful, she wanted to have fun! But that was against the rules. She sighed and turned her gaze back to the window, blinking slowly.

”¦ in a beautiful place called heaven.

She sighed yet again as her mind drifted back to the fateful day that changed the direction of her life forever.


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He had a grey tunic and blue boots. The blueness was a rarely color, no one else had the same boots. She was wearing an orange dress. It looked nice with her warm brown eyes.

“Be careful, dear,” she said as he took her in his arms.
“I do not like that you go hunting.”

“There is no danger, really,” he said with a smile.
“We are so many that we will just scare off any unwanted visitors.”

“That might be true, but please do not take any unnecessary chances. This is difficult enough as it is.”

Her voice faltered at the end and she looked down, fidgeting with the hem of her overgarment. The smile on her husband’s face extinguished and he almost looked sad for a moment. His love for her was so deep, he didn’t want anything to happen. Not to him, not to his wife”¦ and not to her.

“I am sorry for scaring you, but like I said, we are many. We will take care of each other,” he said with a little smile.

He reached out and took her hands, placing them on the left side of his chest. The well-known thudding could be heard from under the tunic, she could even feel it. That made her calm down. His wife smiled fondly and balanced on tip-toes to give him a kiss on his cheek. He responded with grabbing her and hugging her hard while moving his lips across her throat. Then he let go and turned around, his smile growing even bigger at the sight of his little 3-year old daughter sitting on the floor.

“I will see you later, Aroree,” he said as he bent down and stroked her short blond hair.

Aroree looked up at him, her smile almost too big for her little face.

“When I come back, I will take you for a ride on old Himinn. What do you say?”

Aroree squealed and clapped her hands as she flung her arms around her father’s neck. The man laid both arms around the tiny girl and buried his head in her soft neck, taking in the smell of her.

“I love you so much,” he whispered.

Then he let go and stroked her head one last time.

“Have fun, Aroree!”

With that he stood up, turned around and walked out the door.


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He didn’t come back like she thought, wanted to. She still had problems with understanding.


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Horses. Neighing. Horses were coming. Aroree toddled out of the gate as quickly as she could, her gaze glued to the path leading up to her manor. As she spotted the horses, her smile grew even bigger.

“Mother! Listen!” she cried as she turned to face her mother, who was busy sewing.
“Father!”

Not listening to the maidens’ cries, she ran forward to greet her father and his friends. She recognized some of the horses and a few of his friends, but that wasn’t important. Now she just wanted to give her father a hug! Running almost faster than her chubby legs could carry her, she left the manor behind and started down the hill. When she reached the end she stopped, breathing heavily, but smiling. The horses walked past her, the men not noticing her. Aroree looked at each one of them, but no one was her father. Strange. He used to be in the first row. Then one of the men suddenly looked down at her, his face grimacing in pain as he turned his face away. Aroree thought it was strange. But with a toddler’s mind, she only continued looking for her father. She turned her gaze forward and suddenly felt her heart stop.

Behind all the riders, a wagon was pulled by the last horse. Her father’s horse. And on the wagon, she spotted a pair of feet. The boots were blue”¦

She felt her eyes grow large and watery as she stepped backwards, shaking her head and whispering.

“No!”



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Three summers. Only three summers had she lived when the incident occurred. She was so small, most children wouldn’t understand what had happened. But not Aroree. She had heard the friends of her father tell her mother about the incident. Sometimes she wished she hadn’t heard it, but most of all she wished that it wasn’t true.


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Aroree was trembling, her eyes flowing over with tears as she looked up at her father’s best friend, a poor farmer. He held a shield, her father’s shield, and walked over to her mother. Several men stood around them, their heads hanging low and their eyes red. She didn’t know men could cry.

“Your husband died saving my life,” the man said as he handed her the shield.
“Saving my family.”

He took a deep breath, a pause while the widow hugged the shield hard and sobbed. Aroree used her chubby hand to dry her eyes, but it was no use. Tears kept coming no matter what.

“Lady Aidulin, the gates to our manors will always be open to you,” another one said as he stepped forward with his hand on his heart. He really meant it.

The one who had held the shield nodded and looked skyward as he clenched his fists in front of his chest, opening and closing them as he talked.

“Your husband was”¦ my most”¦ trusted ally,” he stammered, his voice faltering.
“And also”¦ my dear, dear friend.”

Aroree looked up as her mother looked down, their teary eyes locking. Both of them reached out a hand, clinging to each other.

“We will always remember how he bravely upheld the idols of the noble kin,” another one said.

Then the men pulled out their swords, lifting them high above their heads. Her mother put the shield down, leaning on it for support. Aroree looked up at her mother with a look only a mother could read. It was a hard decision to take, she didn’t want to let go. She was the only one she had left, yet she still knew how important it was. She nodded and her daughter let go of her hand. Aroree toddled forward to the grave and let her hand rest on the solid stone, her chubby fingers gracing it. There were symbols written on it. She couldn’t read it. Her eyes were too teary, but even if they hadn’t been, she still wouldn’t have been able to understand the words. She wished she could read.

She slowly turned to go back to her mother. But instead of throwing herself into her arms, Aroree walked away from the group, her hands in front of her stomach. Her legs moved faster as she walked and she looked up, seeing two horses tied to a nearby tree. She increased her speed, toddling and blinded by tears. When she reached the horses, she stumbled and flung her arms around the strong neck of her Littletrill. She buried her face in his thick mane, finally letting the tears flow free as she cried over the loss of her father.



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If her father’s friends hadn’t killed the snake already, she would have. She would have hunted it down and hit it against a stone. She would hit and hit until it had half bled to death. Then she would twist it around to empty it for blood and in the end she would stomp on it, killing it in front of its family. She would have”¦

The burning hate in her eyes died, extinguished like the fire in an open fireplace. The hate was replaced by sadness, the anger changed to pain.

If only her father hadn’t jumped off the horse, if only they hadn’t taken a break right there. If only her father hadn’t spotted the snake and dived in in front of his friend, taking the death bite as the snake’s fangs sunk into his flesh. If only they had waited a few seconds before going out to hunt, if only”¦ but that was the only thing it was. What-ifs. Mourning wouldn’t help her father, it wouldn’t bring him back. Her eyes grew large and teary again as another memory announced its arrival by making her stomach ache. That day was one of the clearest, the day she came to the cloister. And the last day in freedom.


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The sun was shining, sending its warm and glimmering seeds to earth, caressing life. To Aroree it was betrayal.

“But I do not want to leave,” Aroree said, her voice suffocated by crying.
“Mother, please!”

The child was clinging to her mother’s legs as she hugged them hard, not wanting to let go. And defiantly not wanting to look at the women behind her. How could her mother do something like that to her? It was only weeks since her father died, and now she was sending her away. Didn’t she love her anymore? What wrong had she done? If only her mother would tell, then she would change that. Anything to stay with her mother, anything!

“You must,” her mother said, her husky voice crackling as she spoke, muffled by cry.
“It is the best for you. I know that you don’t understand why it is important now, but one day you will.”

She placed her hands at her daughter’s shoulders, but Aroree quickly got rid of them as she shook her head wildly.

“No!” she cried, fastening her grip even more.
“No, I do not! I belong here. I belong where you are, where father is.”

Her mother was amazed that her daughter could squeeze so hard, she hadn’t thought it would be possible to squeeze any harder. But no matter how much she wanted to pick her little girl up, hug her and take her home, she knew she couldn’t. Deep in her heart she knew what she was doing was right, but right now it didn’t. Her heart was torn in two. She looked down at her daughter again, only to find herself lost in the deep blue eyes, big and teary.

“He would not have wanted you to send me away,” she sobbed.
“If he had been alive, he would have stopped you!”

Her mother shook her head slowly, struggling not to cry. Her daughter had inherited her father’s eyes, both in color and doe look. Altarathoron”¦ her husband’s name had fit him so great. ”˜Big Great Eagle’ was who he was. Aidulin”¦ her name meant ”˜Little Bird’, but she had been so small at birth that everyone just called her Ai. And Aroree”¦ little Aroree, who she was now leaving. Her own daughter.

“Aroree, do this for me. Please,” she pleaded and pulled Aroree away from her.

The child looked up at her with large teary eyes and sobbed. She looked just like the day her father died, only sadder.

“Mother”¦”

“Goodbye, little one.”

Ai’s reply was swift and short, but she didn’t mean it to be like that. She just hated to see her daughter so sad, even though she knew it was the best for her. It was so difficult to say farewell and hand her over to strangers. She knew that if she didn’t leave soon, she would never be able to. Aroree blinked away the tears and dried her eyes as she looked up.

“But mother, I-“

Ai’s hands were suddenly on her shoulders as she looked into her daughter’s eyes.

“You have to be strong now, Aroree.”

Aroree blinked, her lower lip trembling even more than the rest of her tiny body.

“I”¦ I-“

Her eyes grew large as her mother’s arms clamped around her in a fierce hug, feeling the love drip of Ai like sweat.

“Like your father always wanted.”

Aroree opened her mouth to answer, but the only sound that came out was a half-suffocated sob. She closed her eyes and turned her head down, her tiny body trembling as she cried. Then she flung her arms around her mother’s neck, sobbing uncontrollably.

“I will miss you!” she cried.

“And I will miss you too, my precious daughter,” Ai said as she hugged her daughter hard.
“But we will see each other again soon.”

Those words made Aroree look up, her face soaked with tears. Her mother looked at her with motherly affection, seeing the three summers old face full of hope. Those chubby cheeks, big blue eyes and little mouth”¦ she looked like the day she was born, cradled by her proud father. Ai closed her eyes for a moment, forcing the tears back. The memory of her husband brought so much pain and she couldn’t let her daughter see this. When she unclosed her eyes, she saw Aroree looking up at her with hope in her eyes.

“You promise?” she squeaked.

Ai swallowed hard, glad that her wife linen covered more than just her hair. What should she say? Saying one thing would be lying, saying the other would be cruel. No matter what she said, nothing good would come out of it. But still, children were known for living in the now. They quickly forgot the sorrows of life and moved on. And there was still a slightly hope that the real truth would be something else. Only the High Ones could know, and by giving them her daughter, both of them would be safe no matter what happened. Ai took a deep breath as she smiled at her daughter and nodded.

“Promise.”

The little girl nodded slowly and turned to the women behind her, intending to take their hands. The last she would see of her little one was her back and strangers watching her. She snarled inwardly. Only she was allowed to hold her daughter’s hand! As the mother she was, she stood up and reached out, moving faster than anyone would give her credit for.

“Aroree!” she cried, feeling her mouth twitch and lift in a smile when the girl turned.
“Think of this as a game, like the ones you and father used to play.”

Aroree let her hand fall down, not taking in the glares from the nuns as her little face lit up. The mentioning of her father didn’t bring tears to her eyes as they were already full.

“A-a game?” she stammered.

Her mother nodded, smiling as she suddenly started swaying and gripped the horse at her side for support. She had to get home now, or else Aroree would be scarred for life.

“A test of your strength,” she managed to get out.

Aroree looked at her, then moved her gaze to the ground. A test of strength”¦ yes. Yes, she would be strong. That’s what her mother wanted. What her father would have wanted. With a genuine smile, she waved at her mother and turned again, grabbing the nuns’ hands. She let the older woman lead her forward, feeling the sun warm her back. Then, as if her childish mind suddenly remembered something, she stopped again and let go of the nun’s hand. She looked up at the women and stared at her, then turned.

“Mother!” she screamed as she threw herself into her arms.
“I do not want to be here! Please, take me with you!”

This was too much! She was only three summers old, only a child! Why would her mother send her away? Completely overwhelmed by her daughter’s reaction, Ai didn’t make a move.

“Aroree, I-“ she started, but was briefly interrupted by Aroree.

“Please! If you love me, then do not do this to me! I beg you!” she wailed.

But before Ai could do anything, one of the nuns walked up behind the girl and placed a hand at her shoulder. She was obviously tired of the girl’s lingering.

“Come, little one,” she said.

If they had waited for a fight and wild screams, they didn’t get any. A tingle ran through her body as she felt the nun’s hand on her shoulder and Aroree let go of her mother. Without knowing why, she turned and let the nun lead her to the cloister gate, facing her new home. Blue Mountain nun cloister. She swallowed. It looked so big. And she was so small. The nun pulled at her hand and Aroree slowly followed. Then, as something suddenly struck her, she tore her hand out of the nun’s grip and bolted back.

“Mother!” she screamed.

She didn’t intend on begging anymore, she just wanted to take a look at her once more. Just once. Her small chubby fingers clamped around her mother’s hand and she hang on for her very life. Her eyes gazed across her mother, taking in every detail and forcing the picture of her into her mind. She had inherited her mother’s blond hair, but Ai’s was longer. Her upper lip was big and red, the lower lip slim and with a slightly touch of pink. The nose was straight with a little curve, her eyes big and shaped like almonds. She liked almonds. That would help her remember. Every time she ate almonds, she would think of her mother.

Her mother bent down, looking her daughter in her eyes with motherly affection. Their hands touched one last time as their eyes met.

“I love you, Aroree,” her mother said.

Hands gripped at her and pulled her backwards before she could answer, forcing her inside the dark cloister. As the gate slowly closed, Aroree reached out and whispered.

“Mother”¦”



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She had been escorted through the cloister and the door had been closed. She hadn’t seen what happened next.


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Aidulin felt tears run down her cheeks as her little daughter reached out for her one last time. She didn’t hear her voice, but read the single word on her tiny lips. She sighed and looked down.

“Lady Aidulin?” one of the stable boys said.

She opened her mouth to answer, to tell them it was time to go home, but instead started coughing. Her hand clamped over her mouth as she gasped for breath, her body shaking in spasms as she gripped her chest.

“Lady!” she heard someone scream.

Then she was lifted onto her horse and brought home, her hand still covering her mouth as she coughed. The rest of the day she felt the taste of blood.



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A distant smell filled her nostrils as Aroree blinked her way back to reality and turned her head, looking around. Dinner was served. The former chattering around her had stifled. Now they weren’t more than low murmurs, but even that was too much. They weren’t allowed to talk while they were eating. Aroree sighed, but instead of ingest the long wanted food, she found herself staring at the plate.

She didn’t keep her promise. Aroree thought promises were just as Holy as the High Ones themselves, but she hadn’t been very sad if someone broke one. She hadn’t understood the real meaning of a promise. Until that day. The only time a promise needed to be kept, her mother broke it. She had been clinging to it, devoted her whole being to it. And her mother brutally tore it away from her, leaving her bleeding on the inside. This had just taught her one thing; promises were made for breaking.


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She woke up when someone shook her shoulder. She was about to jump up, afraid that she had overslept, when she opened her sleepy eyes and saw the prioress stand by her bed with a tallow candle in her hand.

“Come with me, Aroree Altarathoronsdaughter,” she said with a low voice.
“There is something I need to talk with you about.”

Aroree yawned and stretched as she glanced around herself with a confused look. All the nuns and novices were sleeping, only she had been awakened. What could be so important to speak with her about at this time of day? It wasn’t long till they had to get up anyway, why couldn’t it wait? Still yawning and sleepy, she crawled obedient out of the bed and followed the prioress to the door and down the stairs, only this time she was able to see the steps thanks to the prioress’ tallow candle. The first time she had walked up these stairs, she hadn’t seen the steps and had stumbled.

Not once did she talk to the prioress, she wasn’t allowed to. As a novice, only supposed to be in the cloister for one year, she had to show more respect for the others. And that included not talking to others unless they had talked to her.

Seconds later, they were in the cloister courtyard. A cool puff struck her and she trembled in the thin novice dress. Then she bent her head and hurried after the prioress to the oration room, where she had been received three moons ago. The prioress disappeared inside before her and when Aroree glanced into the room, she saw a novice walk away from one of the tallow candle. She looked up as the child entered the room, sent her a heartsick look and bent her head. Aroree blinked, turned her head and saw the prioress sitting in the same chair as when she got there. She frowned. It was almost as if she had grown into the chair. Or sat there the last three moons. The face was dark and rejecting, as before. It was obvious that she didn’t like having to speak with her this early.

“Sit down, Aroree,” she said tightly and pointed to the chair that Aroree sat in when she arrived.

Aroree climbed onto it and peeked over the edge. I have not done anything wrong, she thought and felt a sting of fear. Why did she look so angry? She hoped the novice would stay, but saw to her disappointment that the nice woman walked out the door and disappeared. The prioress cleared her throat and looked down to a scroll that lay on the desk. Aroree intensely felt that something unpleasant was about to happen. Maybe the prioress would try to persuade her to stay in the cloister and not go home? She immediately decided to be as stubborn as she could.

“It has been an uneasy night,” she prioress slowly began.
“I have not been in bed and have a long day ahead of me.”

Did the prioresses use to pray all night long, Aroree thought. But why did she say uneasy?

“We have received bids from your mother. She did not feel well and sent bid for the priest yesterday,” the prioress continued with the same monotonous voice, and immediately gained Aroree’s attention. Anything about her mother was worth listening to, no matter how tired she was. The prioress looked up and pointed to the scroll.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked.

Aroree shook her head.

“This is your mother’s last will, given to us today.”

Aroree frowned. Her mother’s last will? Why was a scroll her last will? She had thought that getting her home was the most important thing. What did she want with a scroll? She didn’t ask though, only blinked as the prioress looked down again, continuing to speak where she stopped.

“One of the cross brothers too. Both of them came, and your mother got to write her last will. When it was finished, your cousin, Selen, son of Iant Noldosson, arrived so that he could testify and put his seal on the scroll.”

Aroree nodded slowly. She had heard about last wills and knew that it had been difficult for her mother when she talked about it.

“We were also done with a number of other important affairs,” the prioress said.
“The High Ones were kind to your mother and let her get her wishes fulfilled before it was too late.”

Aroree frowned and looked up at her. What did she actually mean? Then the prioress cleared her throat again and finally looked up. The eyes were almost black, Aroree though. They instantly reminded her of the eyes of a raven.

“Your mother’s last wish was fulfilled a short time ago. Now, just before dawn, right before we sing the High Ones’ hymns, about ”˜the High Ones’ intensive mercy that visits us with the morning sun from the heaven, to light up for those who sit in darkness and the death shadows’ valley, to lead us in the way of peace’.”

Aroree stared at her as the angst knotted in her chest. What did she mean? What was her mother’s last will? The prioress held her gaze.

“I have scurries, Aroree, so I prefer to get this over with quickly,” she said with her sharp voice.

Then she picked up the scroll and started to read.

“’In the High Ones’ name do I, Aidulin Altarathoronsdaughter, fresh in mind, but sick in body, my last will, to the praise and glory for the High Ones, and to soul help for myself. First that I give my soul to the High Ones, and for my”¦’”

The next that followed was incomprehensible for Aroree, she only understood an amount of money and the name of some priests and churches, along with the clouster. If she had understood what the prioress read, she still wouldn’t have listened to it. Her mother”¦ sick? She hadn’t said anything about that. Why? Then she heard her own name be read and looked up, but was too late to understand what it was about. Again she heard about belongings and money, before the child finally understood the words.

“’”¦ in particular, I give her to her own use a bed, pillow, clothing to bedspread, blanket, a couple of linen clothing, a new bench cushion in blue and red, two small bench cushions, a table cloth, two pots, two small tubs, a chest, a gilded box, another black one, a diadem and a trollish headgear, my cap with grey pelt, pot and kettle’.”

Aroree blinked. Why would her mother give her all of this? They already had enough of it at home, and she already had her own bed. What was she going to do with another one? The next that came was the things she gave to relatives and good friends, which also was completely incomprehensible. Why would she give away so much? Her father wouldn’t have liked it. It wasn’t until she heard her own name again that she really paid attention.

“’”¦likewise, I give my daughter Aroree the manor, which will be in her possession. And for my last will to be held better, and be given full attention to all its points, I give the honest men, the priest and the cross men, and my relative, the authority to take care of all of my property and over my last will. And as evidence for this, the priest and Selen Iantsson, who both are present while I am dictating this my last will, leaves their mark on this letter that is made three days before the High One Kaslen’s day, anno domini 1327’.”

Aroree sat completely still while the prioress read, looking down at her hands. The only thing that interested her, was what affected herself. But she still didn’t understand what all this was about. What did that scroll have to do with her mother and her wills? She looked up and met the prioress’ look. She must have seen her confused gaze.

“You do not understand, Aroree?” she asked as she put the scroll down on the table.

Aroree shook her head no. The prioress sighed and crossed herself before she laid her arms in front of her and looked at the child.

“Your mother died yesterday!”



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A tear found its way down Aroree’s cheek.

Her mother had decided that she was to stay in the cloister, instead of being taken care of by relatives. Himinn and Littletrill, the horses she loved, had been sold against her will. Her last will of freedom”¦

Three summers and three moons had she been. Now she was five, alone and unwanted. At least that’s how she felt it. Even though the nuns and novices said something else, she knew deep in her heart that they didn’t want her there. They would have been glad if she had been the one to die instead of her parents. That way they wouldn’t be forced to give her food and shelter. The only reason for why they really took care of her, was because of her inheritance. When she reached the proper age, she would be free and get her childhood home back. Till then, the cloister owned her manor, her and her life.

She hadn’t smiled since the death of her mother.


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She usually liked the rain. The gentle drops that caressed her face”¦ it reminded her of her mother’s goodnight kisses. It was like a shower, a shower of blessing from above. The drops mixed with her own tears, if someone saw her now they wouldn’t notice that she cried. Or they would say that ”˜the rain makes it look like you’re crying’. And as usually, she wouldn’t care, wouldn’t answer. She would just stand still, like she did now.

Her head automatically rose to greet the drops from heaven. Gentle, soothing tears of the High ones, ”˜as drops of joy’, as her mother would say.

“As drops of loss and sorrow,” Aroree said.

She had loved her parents and they had loved her. Her father used to say ”˜be careful with life, you only get to live it once’. And she used to not listen to him, just do what she wanted to. Never had she thought of the dangers with life. Even though she had been no more than barely three and his face became more and more dimly each day, the memory of him when he walked out the door still lingered in her eyes.

She, sitting on the floor, content with the cool and comfortable feeling of stone, looking up at him as he kissed her on her forehead. He, turning around and walking. She, looking at his back as he walks out the door. The last time she saw him alive.

She had repeated the memory over and over, trying to hold on to it for her very life. Each time he walked out that door, it seemed like he walked slower and slower, the sun shining even brighter and making her father’s silhouette dark, cloudy and small. And every time she saw him, the memory faded quicker. So she stopped thinking about it, clinging to the very last memory she had.

If she could only get to see him one more time. Then she would have abandoned the thought of playing just to feel his arms around her. Taken a deep breath to smell him again. Heard his loud and catching laughter. And her mother’s soothing singing. If she could only be with them, one last time. Just once”¦

“Aroree! What are you doing out here?”

Aroree looked skyward. Splashing footsteps closed in on her. She continued looking at the sky. A squeeze at her arm as someone’s hand closed around her wrist. She blinked slowly. The gentle and dry touch, turning wet as it tugged at her shoulder. Aroree turned her head, looking up at a pale face, her gaze meeting the harsh eyes of her attendance.

“You are going to catch a cold!”

The child didn’t reply. Light blue eyes, icy as the rain, looked at her harsh for a second. Then the novice met the listless glance of the child, understanding that life faded”¦ just like her hope. Her face softened, she sighed and Yeyeen bent down and placed her hands at the little girl’s shoulders.

“Come on,” she mumbled.
“Let us go inside. I will get you warm again.”

She didn’t force her legs forward, they moved on their own as Yeyeen escorted her inside. A flash of lightning ran across the sky, followed by the great sound of thunder. Together they created an orchestral symphony. Aroree looked skyward one more time, the raindrops caressing her already soaked face. The rain had fascinated her, been a miracle to a little child. Now it was too much. Rain was a curse when in glut, like her own feelings.

The little girl blinked slowly, Aroree stopped. Raindrops kissed her forehead, twinkling in the magic of the High Ones. Tiny silver crystals, trickling from above.



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I really miss you

She snapped, pulled cruelly back to reality. The sound of something soft against stone rang in her ears and she blinked. She looked down at her plate, realizing she hadn’t eaten at all. But some of the pieces of meat were gone. Aroree turned her head downwards, her eyes catching the glimpse of the former animal. Her face made a grimace as she bent down, her little body almost crawling under the table to pick them up. She didn’t like meat. At least not what they gave her in the cloister.

Her small fingers curled around the pieces and she rolled them over. They felt dry in her hands, spiced with dust and something she didn’t want to know what was. She wrinkled her nose as she picked up another one. They treated her like an animal. It wouldn’t surprise her if the one she was supposed to eat right now had suffered before the butcher killed it. Suffered”¦ like her. Aroree huffed. She didn’t like the meat, so why did she bother picking it up?

Stupid question. The plate on the table was all hers, actually the only thing she had for herself. Everything on the plate was hers to eat. And it was also the only thing she got to eat. The few vegetables on the side of the plate wasn’t enough to satisfy even a ravvit. If she didn’t eat the meat, she would have to wait ”˜til the next meal, which wouldn’t be until the next day. Since she had to get up in the middle of night and at dawn to pray, that day would only seem more far away. So actually she didn’t have any choice. Sighing, she brushed away the dust and a few other things and straightened her back. But before she could peek over the edge of the already too tall table, she froze and jumped up.

“Ow!” she cried as her head encountered the table, her hands clinging to the aching spot under her short blond hair.

Some of the nuns looked up lazily before they continued eating while most of the novices sent the child a worried look. One of them, tall and slender, rose from her spot on the bench and hurried over to her, pulling her out from under the table and taking the little girl in her arms.

“Aroree, you have to be more careful!” a voice said from somewhere far away.
“You could hurt yourself!”

But Aroree wasn’t listening to her. Her blue gaze was distant again, her little body numb and flaccid in the flimsy arms of the older novice. The voice mixed with the other sound before it turned into buzzing and low murmurs.

Murmurs. Buzzing. Murmurs. Buzzing. Murmurs and buzzing and”¦ “”¦ are you listening?”

Aroree snapped again and her head jerked as she found herself sitting on the floor with blue arms around her. Her hands were still clinging to her head as she looked up at Yeyeen, frowning. Where did she come from?

The novice noticed the questioning look and stopped talking. Instead she sighed, pulling Aroree onto her feet.

“What were you doing under there, anyway?” she asked.

The voice was soft, but still shaking a bit from either anger or worry. Aroree tried to lock eyes with her, but instead let her eyes wander over to her right, to the table. Yeyeen followed her look with her own eyes and caught a glimpse of the dusty pieces of meat. She rolled her eyes and sighed. Then she let go of the child and went back to her own spot, picking up the plate and going back to the child.

“Here,” she said as she handed it over.
“Be careful next time, okay?”

Then she grabbed Aroree’s plate and brought it back to the table where she was sitting. Aroree looked down at the plate in her hands, decorated with pieces of meat and vegetables. She smiled. Yeyeen was nice, as close as she came to a mother. Or at least a caring person. But as she sat down and placed the plate in front of her, her ears caught the sound again.

She looked up and stared at the others. No, they hadn’t made the sound. And it didn’t look like they had heard it either. Perhaps it was only imagination? Aroree sighed and turned her attention to the dinner. Her fingers ran across the plate, her forefinger and thumb curling around the meat. She led it to her opened mouth, let go of it and started chewing. It was still dry, but at least it wasn’t dusty. Content with that and the taste, she grabbed another piece. And another and another, eating ”˜til the plate only contained vegetables. She liked vegetables. Her hand reached out to grab a carrot when she froze and rose her head. There was that sound again”¦ but what was it?

She caught a movement in the corner of her eye and turned. There, in another corner of the dining hall, the only male person sat alone. The priest in Blue Mountain nun cloister. His head was raised, his eyes looking straight forward and he didn’t touch his food. It looked like he was concentrating on something, like listening”¦

He sat like that for a few seconds, allowing Aroree to wonder if he had heard it too. A quick look around told her that no one else had, so what could it be? She had never heard that sound before and didn’t have a single clue on what it could be. She blinked and stared at the priest. According to the way the priest behaved, it seemed like he either didn’t know what it was”¦ or that he knew the sound all too well.

Then the priest suddenly pushed his stool backwards and rose. The sound made most of the others look up and send him questioning looks. Dinner wasn’t over yet, they weren’t supposed to leave the dining hall. The priest paid no attention to this as he hurried across the hall and out the door. The novices followed him with their looks while the nuns only shrugged before everyone continued eating. All except Aroree. Without a word or hesitation, she jumped up and ran across the room, following the priest.


!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!##!!


He was fast. During the time she used to run to the door, he was already halfway through the passage. And every time he rounded a corner, it seemed like he magically walked even faster. Or she ran slower. Running as fast as she could, Aroree lifted her skirts to make it easier to push herself to run even faster.

“Sira Ekuar!” she called.

As she said his name, the old man slowed down just enough for her to hurry up to his side. Walking this slowly, she could easily keep up with him without lifting her skirts. So she let go of them, looking up at the priest as she talked.

“Why did you leave?” she asked.

Ekuar opened his mouth, but before he could answer, a mouthful questions poured out.

“Did you hear it too? Didn’t the others hear it? Have you heard it before? What is-”

She was interrupted by a wrinkly piece of a hand held in front of her face. Looking up, she saw the priest frowning as he walked.

“I heard something,” he said.

Ending the conversation, he increased his speed with a silent threat to the child. If she didn’t walk faster, he would leave her behind. Aroree looked over her shoulder, but no one else was following. It was only the two of them, and the strange sound. She turned around again, only to discover that Ekuar had rounded another corner. She followed, coming up on his left again.

“What do you think it is?” she asked, almost whispered.

Ekuar didn’t answer. He only walked forward with her. Walked and walked and then stopped. Aroree looked up at the big front door of the cloister, the very same one she came through when her mother handed her over to the nuns. The sound was clear now, very clear. The two of them, adult and child, looked at each other for a split second. Then they grabbed the plank in front of the door and moved it, pushing the door wide open. At first they didn’t see anything, but the flaming lights from the torches cast longs shadows, one of them making the sound. Both of them looked down and gasped, eyes widening at the shocking sight.

On the cloister stairs in front of them, wrapped in a blanket, was a tiny crying infant.

manga

While I feel very sorry for poor little Aroree, I'm really enjoying this story. I like Ekuar as a priest! It fits him, he's so kind and thoughtful. Aroree's situation is intriguing and I look forward to seeing what paths she takes. I also want to know more about that baby!

Embala

Your illustration is great! I like how you give the Stonehowl elves a visible face, jeb. Love the difference between the cubs' expressions: Windfetcher's interest is clearly paired with skepsis - wheras Echo is totally fascinated ... almost in awe.

Berryseed is lacking the typical look, that's right.
- For me the body is a bit too long, the legs definitely too short
- The upper wings from back til tip should be almost as long as the whole bug, the lower ones clearly shorter.
- the nose looks too big, the eye much too small compared to the original
btw: I don't remember having ever seen a Preserver in full profile - this adds to the unfamiliar look.
- and he is too big to nest in Echo's hair...
Hope this feedback will help a little. Though ... guess you have simply drawn without looking at a reference. - and figured out all my "suggestions" by yourself already :oops:


Wait ... at least one wing is crippled, right? The describtion reminds me very much of MrsGrizzley's avatar. You are showing them whole and healthy!

RedheadEmber

Ka-WOW! :clap: :clap: :bow:

bukittyan

Oh jeb, I don't know why you think your sketch isn't any good. I think it's great. You've got really nice features in the faces, the expressions are good, and you've done a pretty good job with the hand. I think I agree with Embala about the Preserver (but Preservers are hard, so don't worry). My comments would be:

Keep the body and arms thin thin thin. Preservers are all spindly, and look very nearly anorexic. Same goes with the hands and feet. I think preservers don't really have noses, so they don't have a protrusion in their face; rather it's kind of smooth. Think those bug-eyed aliens. Do they have ears? I forgot... it looks strange without ears, but that could also be just what Preservers are.

Hope all this helps too! Really, your elves are looking good.

jeb

Thanks for the advice Bukittyan and Embala. When I said that the sketch wasn't good I was mostly just referring to the preserver. As Embala guessed I wasn't using any reference, just making a body with wings. I'll have to do some studies of preserver anatomy - if I could only get one to sit still! :)

Embala

Nobody will kill you for sure - why should we?
1. you did a great job :clap:
2. if you are dead who should solve all those secrets and cliffhangers :P

Interesting new story arc ... making Blue Mountain a cloister is an incredibly fitting idea!

Aroree is unfamiliar as a child ... tho considering real Aroree - mentally she was sort of locked in child in mind, too. The transformation you made works well for your setting.

Even without knowing much about your priest Ekuar is a perfect choice :D

Shall I risk a wild guess about the child? Wink

Tenderfoot

Quote:
Embala

Shall I risk a wild guess about the child? Wink



Guess as much as you and everyone else want, but please send me a PM instead of doing it here Wink Also, write why you think your guess is the right answer

Maybe I'll even change my mind about next month...

ElfTanner

Hands touching *
Death of a pet/bond beast/animal *
A surprise *
A test of some kind *
The sun, or a sun symbol or image *
Water coming down, as in crying or raining *

Cubs

Suntop ran after Ember. The sun was up now and they should have been in their den with mother and father, but they snuck away before Leetah could usher them up the tree.

*Wait for me Ember.*

Suntop wasn't as good in the forest as his sister was and he had a hard time maneuvering around bushes and trees. Choplicker had tripped him once already. Ember stopped, panting, and looked back at her brother.

*Come on cloudhead, we don't have much time before father sends for us.*

She pat Choplicker on the head as Suntop yawned.

*Why are we out here anyway? I'm tired.*

Ember shook her head. Suntop was such a baby.

*Come on, not far now.*

They kept moving but Ember went a little slower now. They were headed for a newly born litter of wolves. Moonshade's wolf had had the pups only two nights ago. Ember wanted to surprise Suntop, and maybe find him a bond like Choplicker. Ember stopped finally near a large hole in the side of a hill.

*In here, quick.* She bent down and slowly entered. Suntop fallowed, he wasn't sure what his sister was up to. He recognized this as a wolf den, but who's wolf. Choplicker stayed outside, rolling in the dirt. It was dark inside. It took Suntop's eyes a few moments to adjust to the dim light coming from behind him. He saw his sister kneeling next to an animal. He came closer. It was a wolf, and she was suckling three little pups. Suntop smiled and whispered excitedly.

"Wolf pups! Wow, Ember, why didn't you tell me?"

"I wanted to surprise you. Now maybe you can have a wolf like me."

Suntop looked at his sister. He didn't think he would ever have a wolf friend. He wasn't like the other wolfriders. He was more like his mother, and she would never have a wolf friend either.

*I don't know Ember...*

He looked down at the pups. They had realized they had company and were wiggling away from their mothers teats. Moonshades wolf just panted happily at the two young elves and nosed Ember as she reached down to pet one.

*Why not Suntop?*

She handed one to him and looked around like she had lost something. Suntop held the cub up to get a better look at it. It's eyes were barely open and it was whining. Shadow, the mother wolf, inched over to check on the cub. Suntop pet her head to reassure her. Ember was starting to get excited.

*I'm not like the other wolfriders. I don't think I can bond.*

"Nonsense. You are part wolfrider." Now she was looking scared.

"What's the matter Ember."

"There's a cub missing. Shadow had four, there are only three here."

She crawled out of the den, careful not to hurt the cubs. Suntop handed the cub back to Shadow and fallowed hi sister out. Choplicker was sitting outside waiting for them and Ember was looking around.

"Where do you think it is."

"I don't know. It's only two days old. It couldn't have gotten far. Use your nose and help me find it."

Use your nose. That was another thing about him that was different. The other wolfriders had a great sense of smell. He did too, but not like theirs. using his nose to hunt something down was a test to him, and he often got it wrong. He sighed and got close to the ground. Dirt, Shadow, the smell of new birth... blood?

He looked up at Ember who was staring at him. "What?"

"What are you doing? You look silly." Ember started laughing.

Suntop straightened up and blushed. "My nose isn't as good as yours."

Ember ruffled his hair. "Don't worry, you do some things that I'm not very good at either. Now lets find this cub."

Just then they got a sending.

**Cubs, time for sleep. Where are you?**

It was Leetah. She was calling them to bed. They couldn't go now, they had to find this cub.

*Be there soon mother.*

Ember didn't want to tell her what they were doing. She looked around again "Well, what did you smell with your nose in the dirt?"

Suntop blushed again. "I thought I smelled blood, but it could just be from the birth."

Ember paled, she hoped it was from the birth. She looked around more closely, and there it was, blood. Near one of the bushes. She walked over to it slowly and moved the leaves aside, there was more blood. Choplicker whined. It was clear to Ember now, the dirt was scuffed, and not just from Choplicker. There was a small fight here, not a lot of blood at all until the bushes. Something had been taken here and then killed. Ember burst into a run and fallowed the blood. She didn't get very far before she found a small pool of it, and the body of the missing cub. Shadow must have chased off the intruder, but was to late to save the cub and left it behind. Ember fell to her knees and started crying. Her tears mixing with the blood as she put her hand on the cub.

*What if this one was meant to be your cub Suntop? Now we will never know.*

Suntop knelt beside her looking at the tiny dead cub. He put his hand on his sisters.

*This is life Ember. Death is life. It is the Way. Besides there will be more cubs.*

Ember smiled at her brother and pushed him.

"Who are you to talk to me about the Way magic user?"

Her tears were still on her cheeks, but she was smiling now, that was all that mattered to Suntop. He helped her up.

"We should get back now before mother gets worried and father sends a search party for us."

"Right." With that Ember ran over to Choplicker. "Lets go." and the dead cub was forgotten, just like that. But it wasn't that easy for Suntop. He looked back at the cub, what if it had been the one for him. Now he will never know, and it will take longer for him to forget then it would the other wolfriders.

Embala

A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.

Maiken

Quote:
Embala

A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.



I'll double that! :D

manga

Quote:
Maiken

[quote:d9fc5495b0="Embala"]A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.



I'll double that! :D[/quote:d9fc5495b0]

And I'll triple it. :)

Cleopatra

Quote:
manga

[quote:12867bfb97="Maiken"][quote:12867bfb97="Embala"]A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.



I'll double that! :D[/quote:12867bfb97]

And I'll triple it. :)[/quote:12867bfb97]

Make us four. :D


Tenderfoot, your story is very touching. I hope little, Aroree will get a better life in the future. I liked the names to her parents.

faeriegirl

Quote:
Cleopatra

[quote:cb391115cb="manga"][quote:cb391115cb="Maiken"][quote:cb391115cb="Embala"]A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.



I'll double that! :D[/quote:cb391115cb]

And I'll triple it. :)[/quote:cb391115cb]

Make us four. :D
[/quote:cb391115cb]
five! :)

RedheadEmber

Quote:
faeriegirl

[quote:d101908903="Cleopatra"][quote:d101908903="manga"][quote:d101908903="Maiken"][quote:d101908903="Embala"]A wonderful story, ElfTanner! I love this little insight at the twins child days.

You showed very well the differences between the cubs - how Ember and Suntop experience theitr environment different - how they are developing in different directions. And it is interesting that only Suntop seems to realize it to full extend.



I'll double that! :D[/quote:d101908903]

And I'll triple it. :)[/quote:d101908903]

Make us four. :D
[/quote:d101908903]
five! :)[/quote:d101908903]

Seven! Yup! I count for two! :P Anne and Berthe (Yeah... I know... silly...)

lunakat

all the stories here are great. I do especially like the last one with Suntop and Ember- you captured their differences so perfectly!

Well, here's mine. I wrote it in a rush- so sorry if it's not so great. It's actually, a little bit inspired by a rave I went to when i was younger... and, you know, the resulting trip. Wink


"all one- all family."


Not since the death of Starjumper so many seasons past had Skywise felt such a shock. He’d been practicing all morning- a technique Timmain had taught him. It’s wasn’t quite ”˜going out’ as Sunstream did, it was more like relaxing his mind and opening it to others.

In the palace, there were many spirits to talk to””some , as yet, unknown. And communing with drifting spirits was one simple, yet curious way to test this newfound skill. He just hadn’t expected to stumble across them.

He’d searched for a quiet chamber, away from the others, and found a place where the sunfolk had been practicing as well. They’d grown a bench from the crystalline floor, and shaped symbols into the walls. Skywise sat himself down and focused, as he’d been taught, on an object in front of him. A sun-symbol- a replica of the one that had stood over the bridge of destiny. He slowed his breathing, concentrating on the image, and let his thoughts wander.

First, came thoughts of Cutter”¦ Cutter, courting Leetah”¦ crossing the bridge, touching that very symbol. Of the pride he’d felt in his chief and friend. And that slight, slight jealousy- because Leetah had Tam now, and his brother didn’t need him anymore.

Skywise”¦ Fahr”¦ chuckled inwardly. Watching Sunstream struggle had been like watching himself. But it was alright now. They’d both found their place.

He sank a little deeper- past regrets, past friendships, past love”¦ And suddenly, he was free. He opened his eyes, and saw with absolute clarity. The Palace was a like a field of stars- and each star a spirit”¦ floating in and around him. A strong urge rose in him to lift his hand, to touch them as they flitted past”¦ but he had learned long ago, one could not touch the stars.

For a while, he was simply content to watch, much as he would have gazed at the sky from the old grassy hill where he used to sit with Cutter. Back in their cubhood- so long ago. Time passed”¦ And slowly Skywise became aware of a presence to his left. Someone was watching him. Someone had been for a good while now.

He turned- and froze. Two spirits glimmered dimly. The first, steady as the lodestone, loyal, constant and gentle, hovered just behind the other. The second, burning brighter, sharper, fiercer, was staring at him acutely. He saw them as they had been in life, and the hair stood up on the back of his neck. For the male looked like him. And the female... reached out her hands. It was the same gesture. Her face, a memory burned into his brain from infancy. Mother.

Too stunned to question, he reached back- and for a moment, almost, their fingers touched- but then his form passed through her. She was as insubstantial as the air- as willing to vanish as ever before. ”˜Look up,’ she whispered. Look up.

And he did. Spirits swirled like fireflies, like stars in a whirling, joyful dance. Up, up through the tall spires of the Palace- to where the sky stretched on forever, to where the stars collided and spun in a joyful dance of their own. All was one.

He glanced back- and she was gone. Gone. That familiar sense of yearning and loss- crept up in him. He climbed to his feet, and tried to shove the feeling down. But it simply welled up again, trying to drown him like a swift-flowing stream. All alone he stood, staring at the floor, fighting the current- while spirits floated past. That is, until. ... something shot through him from behind. Zash, Koei. His parents. Their love and approval flooded him, filling up the empty places, banishing doubt. He felt their pride and gratitude that their sacrifice had not been in vain- that the result was him.

Then, just as suddenly, they were gone- flying out into the larger world, where other spirits could not follow- because they were Wolfriders, because they could. And because the freedom was immense. He was almost pulled with them- almost. But something tugged him back- his body, the palace”¦ something.

He opened his eyes and stood for a long time, unaware of the tears trailing down his cheeks. Alone, yet not alone. With a thousand invisible beings around him, and a thousand stars overhead. Understanding, for the first time he realized, the word meaning ”˜family.’

faeriegirl

wow. *speachless* so beautiful.

lunakat

thanks for the compliment. yeah-- it might be a little out of character, and a bit shmaltzy- cus Skywise is such a joker in that last story about Suntop and Brill- but even he has his introspective moments, and i figured there had to be some reason he was so chummy with the palace ghosts.

Embala

*deep breath*

Wonderful! I love seeing him finally reunited with his parents - feeling their caring love and pride. :D

Skywise definitely has his thoughtful moments - and this one is beautifully written. Very fitting, too!

G0lden

Lunakat, I loved your short story. :D

ElfTanner

Thank you all for your responces. I haven't writen in a long time, thought I would contribute. :D

Cleopatra

Lunakat, your story of Skywise was really beautifull. And how he saw his parents was so touching.

RedheadEmber

That was beautiful!

lunakat

thanks guys. yeah- i totally get that Tymber. I'm really sorry about your dad. I think this story ended up sadder sounding than i meant it to be.

Maiken

Wauw, so beautiful!

bukittyan

Tenderfoot, that was some amazing atmosphere you have in your story. Poor Aroree. I especially liked the paragraphs when she was three; your descriptions and the feelings you described were well done. I like that Ekuar is there as well. He seems so fitting somehow. I also want to know what will happen with the two of them and the baby!

ElfTanner, that was such a cute story! I could see Ember trying to get Suntop his own wolf friend like her, and I like the fact that Suntop does try to be a Wolfrider, even knowing that he isn't.

Lunakat... that was incredibly beautiful. I don't think I can say anything else.

krwordgazer

It's taken me a while, but I read all the entries so far this month! :angel:

Nightsea, that was an amazing backstory on Suntoucher. The idea of him liking order, the way his search for self-enlightenment changes him-- so beautifully done! And the chameleon-like lizard was a great touch!

Redhead, your poem is very touching. It feels like it could be about any Wolfrider and his/her wolf-friend.

Tymber, I loved all the action and drama in your piece-- especially how Stillbreeze and Vineweaver argue over who will give up life for the cub-- and how Joybringer rescues Shadow in the nick of time. This is turning into a wonderful re-telling of the WoTM story with different characters. I hope they find the Palace and rescue the poor elf slaves!

Tenderfoot, I think this is my favorite of your medieval stories so far. Aroree's feelings as a three-year-old, losing both her parents, were so very believable, and so very sad. Your depiction of life in the cloister was fascinating-- I could feel the bleakness, Aroree's sense of imprisonment, so well. And the beautiful, beautiful imagery-- even symbolism!-- of the raindrops "kissing her forehead, twinkling in the magic of the High Ones. Tiny silver crystals, trickling from above." That is incredibly poetic, and brings such a gentle note of hope into the story.

ElfTanner, your story of Ember and Suntop was very sensitive and insightful. I like the way you showed the conflict Suntop feels over not being a wolfrider, but how understanding the Way can help him, too, in processing the joyous and tragic events of life.

Lunakat, I echo what everyone else has said. That piece is just astonishingly lovely. It's beautiful to think of the spirits of his parents healing that little empty place in Skywise's heart at last. And the imagery of the elf spirits as stars-- their oneness with the real stars-- is uplifting and triumphant.

Fantastic work, everyone! :clap:

RedheadEmber

Quote:
krwordqazer

Redhead, your poem is very touching. It feels like it could be about any Wolfrider and his/her wolf-friend.



Thanks! :D And... yeah... it is supposed to be about whoever you want it to be about... I know who I am thinking about... sorta... but I ain't telling! :twisted:

Cleopatra

Okey, this story is long. Maybe very long. I hope you will enjoy it.


[size=18:4f45b5a93e]The Hidden Power's[/size:4f45b5a93e] (Part three)


She couldn’t concentrate. What was wrong with her? Everything had suddenly turned out so bad for her, nothing went as it should. The Wise Council was angry at her because she bumped into them a few times. How could they be so angry for such a little trifle? And the fact that her mother risked getting kicked out because of her”¦ now, that only made her dislike the Council even more. Who did they think they were? Just because chief Optarh, in their minds, was dependent on their (and she quotes) ”˜wise and comforting councils, which in the end always turns out to be helpful’. Yuck! That’s the only thing they ever did; talking. Yap! Yap! Yap!

The UnWise Council (don’t tell them she said it!) wouldn’t be flattered by her bad temper though, as she knew chief Optarh would never let that happen. He always thought well of Lilac’s knowledge, and his wife Erla wouldn’t allow Lilac to be kicked out either. They were good friends and Xin-Jing had always been welcome in the chief’s house. Both of them thought of her as their own daughter, as they didn’t have their own children, and they just laughed at her small jests and accidents. She didn’t have to worry, as long as Optarh was chief and his wife’s say always mattered more than his (just don’t tell the rest of the tribe!), Lilac wouldn’t be cast out. Much to the Wise Council’s dismay. Boo hoo. Bad for them.

Today’s teaching didn’t go particularly well and that didn’t help on her mood. Usually she was among the best. This time, she was knocked to the ground during first combat. It’s not an overstatement to say that her pride was most hurt; being told that she wasn’t in balance, in front of everyone else, wasn’t something she was used to.

“A warrior’s balance must be one with body and soul,” her teacher had said when she hit the ground the third time that day. Xin-Jing had glared down at her left hand with a confused look. When she discovered the mark and understood that she had a soul mate, she had quickly covered it with bandages, telling the others she had cut it while sharpening her knife.

Lying, a voice in the back of her head whispered. She waved it away.

This is just silly, she thought. Why did she try to hide it from everyone else, that she had a soul mate? Was it because she still wasn’t sure who it was and didn’t want questions? Was she afraid? Concerned that everyone would force her to reconcile with him and get children, just like that? Or was it about losing her freedom”¦?

Get a grip, Xin-Jing, she thought. No one can demand that you do it. It’s your life and your decision to take.

Suddenly rustling in the leaves to her left gained her attention as her eyes grew large, like a cat that had spotted an army of mice. She immediately looked to the side, her sharp eyes searching for the prey hidden in the blessed shadows of the trees. And there, right behind a bush full of berries, she saw them. Pheasants. Her hand instinctively found its way to the dagger at her side as her mouth twitched, lifting in a curious smile. No one else had caught dinner today, they wouldn’t mind if she did the work for them.

She slowly lifted her leathered foot, placing it on the soft grass, careful. The moss green grass straws bent under her light weight, not making any sound. The morning dew glimmered in the fading rays of sunlight as a big cloud started to cover the sun. The wetness didn’t gain accession to her sensitive skin, thanks to the talented tanner in her tribe. One of the pheasants suddenly lifted its head and Xin-Jing froze. Then it continued doing whatever pheasants did as the wind shifted. Her smile grew even bigger. Perfect. Hidden in the shadows of the trees, so silent that not even an elf could hear her breathing, she sneaked up on them from behind.

Her hand reached out from her berry-red sleeves and curled around the tip of the dagger at her side. She was grateful that pheasants didn’t see the world as she did, in many variations of colors and different nuances. Her prey would only, if lucky, spot her shadow when she leapt at it. But she had never lost any prey yet, and she didn’t plan on doing it now. Her slim hands pulled out the dagger, newly sharpened, holding it up as it gleamed in the last rays as the sun disappeared behind the cloud.

Just stay right there, she thought.

Then she jumped at her prey, surprising the pheasant. She moved adaptable, feline, her dagger flashing in the sunlight. The silent clearing was suddenly filled with death cries, the sounds hitting invisible barriers and reflecting, coming back to her in an echo. She stood up. The pheasant had a quick death. It didn’t suffer. Xin-Jing pushed the knife into the ground, pulling it up to clean it for the blood. Just as she was about to put it back into the sheath at her side, she felt something behind her. Or someone”¦

She spun around with her arm outstretched, keeping her visitor on an arm’s length. The look almost made her smile, but just almost. The reaction could have been funny, if it had been someone else. But she had already known who it was, that’s why she did as she did.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, her voice icy and literally dripping with unfriendliness.
The elf stared at her dagger in horror as the eyes looked at her.

“You shouldn’t do this, Xin-Jing.”

It was no one else than her suitor. Eros.
“Why?” she asked coldly.
“Why should I let the others have all the fun?”

Eros didn’t respond at first, he just kept staring at the dagger. He held his breath, scared that the knife may slash his throat open if he moved or exhaled. Then he looked up at her and pointed at the knife.

“Would you please be sweet and put that very sharp and deadly knife away?” he squeaked.

Xin-Jing huffed and reluctantly pulled the dagger away, slowly. She didn’t put it back in its sheath though, it could come in handy. Eros sighed relieved and looked at her with his golden eyes, not answering her question at first.

“Because,” he began.
“It’s not worth it that beautiful women like you can risk getting hurt while hunting. Or be killed by the enemy.”

“You’re just an idiot,” Xin-Jing said after a pause while raising her eyebrow.
“No woman in our village has been killed since the war started.”

Then, as an afterthought, she added “No man either.”

He lifted one foot, probably intending to come closer, but the look Xin-Jing shot him quickly made him abandon the effort. It was not friendly, more a mix of hate and anger. She saw that he was going to say more, but she abruptly interrupted him.

“If you think I’ll give up being a warrior just to stay home with children, then you’re more stupid than I thought! And wrong!”

“Xin-Jing,” Eros said and added a laugh, apparently forgetting the knife in her hand.
“Why can’t you understand that I only want the best for you? I beg you to be my wife.”

Xin-Jing rolled her eyes and turned around, bending down to pick up the dead pheasant. As she felt her fingers touch the lifeless feathers, she couldn’t help but think that it would have been an even better kill if the prey had been the one behind her. A tingle ran through her body. The pheasant was dangling from her left hand as she jumped up, spun around and pointed the dagger at his oh-so-close throat. She had been right. He dared to come closer.

“Give me one good reason to marry you,” Xin-Jing said through clenched teeth.

She had to use almost all of her self-control not to swing the dagger around and slash his throat open or reach out and strangle him. This time Eros actually reached out and slowly pushed the dagger out of his way. As he started to come closer, she felt her heart skip a beat. His black hair”¦ it reminded her of her possibly soul mate, Hawkeye. Breathing was suddenly so difficult. The world was raging inside her, it was too much. Eros touched her hand and she almost let out a yelp.

“You’re beautiful,” Eros said and grabbed her arms.
“You’re unique. You shouldn’t be fighting.”

He smiled at her and inched closer.

“You should love.”

Then he lowered his head, his face just inches away from her face.

“Xin-Jing,” Eros whispered.

His lips searched hers for a kiss and Xin-Jing squinted. She asked for one reason.
###########################################################################

Birds were chirping and the forest was silent, leaving peace in one’s heart. The sun was shining, everything looked peaceful. All of this though, was immediately destroyed by one single sound.

SLAP!

Followed by a wounded howl.

“YOOOOOW!”

###########################################################################

“”¦ so that’s what happened,” Hawkeye said and breathed deeply after having told chief Optarh everything he knew about the attack the day before.

“Did this happen only once?” Optarh asked, sitting on his throne.

Hawkeye looked up at him, then let his eyes wander through the room. Yesterday had been the first time the strange light went out of his hands, so technically it had only happened once. But the voices and tingles”¦ hadn’t he heard and felt them more than one time? It could be helpful to tell everything he knew, but on the other side he still couldn’t be sure if it was right at all. He ended up with telling only what he knew was right.

“Well”¦ I heard the whispering voice in my head before the trap,” Hawkeye said, feeling slightly embarrassed by telling it.

“Trap?” Optarh’s light blue eyes looked at him slightly puzzled.
“What trap?”

If his cheeks hadn’t been colored before, they now reminded all the elves in the room of fresh meat. Even Toron and Sturkas blushed as they started to explain the chief that the three of them had gone right into the trap that Xin-Jing had made. They hadn’t paid attention and had been captured in the net. The Wise Council, usually calm and silent, had now collapsed in laughter, some clinging to their stomach while others wiped away the laughter tears.

“For once something good came out of Xin-Jing’s eagerness to test old traps,” one of the members said between the laughter convulsions.

Toron and Sturkas both sent the Wise Council evil looks, knowing that if looks could kill, chief Optarh would need a new council. And as they could hear laughter from the other side of the door, Toron knew all too well that it was part of the group he had led that was laughing at them.

“If you’ll excuse me, chief Optarh,” he said as he and Sturkas began glaring daggers at the council and the door, wishing they could twist them into their chests and the wood.
“I have to kill some certain elves.”

With that he lowered his head, spun around and bolted out of the room with Sturkas right behind him, shouting so everyone in the hall could hear it: “Hey, Toron, save some for me too!”

The Wise Council continued laughing till Optarh raised his hand and pointed at the door.

“That’s enough,” he said with a calm voice and eying them with a special look.
“Out.”

The council immediately obeyed and disappeared out the door. Erla didn’t need to be told, she already knew that Optarh wanted to be alone with Hawkeye, knew that it was time to give answers to questions. She slowly turned and walked out of the hall, leaving Optarh and Hawkeye alone.

“You see, Hawkeye,” Optarh began, looking for the right words as Hawkeye nodded. He had known for very long what powers Hawkeye had.
“There is a reason for why the Dark Ones tried to attack your tribe”¦”

Hawkeye nodded again.

“”¦ and it has to do with your powers.”

Hawkeye was about to nod again, but ended up dropping his head and raising it so fast that it was a miracle he didn’t get a crick in his neck.

“What?” Hawkeye asked as his eyes widened in confusion.
“Why?”

This was not going to be easy. Optarh stood up from the throne and Hawkeye looked at him in reverence, knowing that the chief was a direct descendant from the legends of the High Ones. Hawkeye was a later version of the other race, previously called the Short Ones. He had heard stories, told by their former chief Karel. When Hawkeye and his friends were children, Karel used to tell them these stories to keep them from leaving the village. He could recall those stories in every detail, word for word, on how the nine chiefs were born, how they came to this world and, his favorite story, how Optarh had abolished the titles the High Ones and the Short Ones.

“All elves are valuable, no matter race, appearance, gender, powers or where we come from. We are who we are, one of the same kind. No rank shall decide how we are,” Karel one time said. Long ago, Optarh had used the exact same words when he was chosen as chief.

###########################################################################

Outside the village, the sun sent down its warming rays, caressing the life below. Hawkeye was glad that he could enjoy this and sent a silent thank to the chief, who he was now walking asides. Optarh had decided that they should go out for a little bit, have the conversation outside the village’s walls. He thought it would be easier to explain that way, with nature all around them. It would especially be a help for Hawkeye”¦ And they wouldn’t risk getting interrupted by others all the time. As the chief looked down, he knew he was right. Hawkeye seemed to be very relaxed, his face had softened as soon as they entered the forest. It was plain fact that the young elf enjoyed the company of nature, smiling as the fresh air caressed his cheeks.

“You do remember that we used to have a gathering each spring?” Optarh asked, eying his little companion as they started to walk up a hill, not in the direction of Hawkeye’s village, just somewhere else.

Hawkeye nodded as he looked up, wondering what the chief was up to.

“Yes,” he said as his face broke into a smile.
“And that the children were always complaining about our meeting place. What did they say again”¦?”

Optarh smiled as Hawkeye looked down, as if he was looking for the words and believing they would appear in front of him as long as he kept staring. Then he looked up again.

“’Can’t we have a get-together somewhere else?’”

Optarh laughed a bit at the words. It was true that the children wanted to have a new meeting place because the one they used was so boring, they had already explored every corner of it. On the other side, they were glad that they knew the place in and out. If someone got lost, they just headed for the clearing. Everyone knew where it was”¦ where it used to be.

“Do you know why we had those gatherings?” Optarh asked.

Again Hawkeye nodded.

“Yes, so that the elves can celebrate the spring’s return. It has always been our ”˜way’,” Hawkeye said, feeling a little confused by the questions.
“But”¦ what has this to do with my powers?”

Optarh sent him an inscrutable look, one that almost made Hawkeye regret his question. He may have gone too far in questioning the chief, even though he was supposed to get answers to all to his questions. But before he could pull the question back, Optarh turned his head and looked skyward. There was something about him that told Hawkeye to be quiet, that the chief needed time to think. His face had a concentrated look and he stood still, it almost seemed like he was one with nature. And somehow, Hawkeye couldn’t help but feel something strange, a feeling he hadn’t felt many times before. Jealousy”¦ Then Optarh suddenly opened his mouth, he had thought carefully before he even considered giving an answer.

“The first thing I can say about your powers, is about the whispering voice you’ve heard in your head. That’s because you are a part of nature.”

If he had hoped for a reaction, he didn’t get one. He turned his head to look at Hawkeye, who stared dumbfounded at the chief. He blinked.

“What?” Hawkeye said.
“Part of nature?”

“Yes, you are.”

Optarh nodded, not caring about the fact that his friend didn’t seem to quite understand. Hawkeye, however, was not satisfied with the answer.

“How can I be a part of nature? Look,” he said and gesticulated at his feet.
“I’m as far from ”˜nature’ as my brother is blind!”

“Your brother is blind,” Optarh pointed out and raised an eyebrow.

Hawkeye looked up at the chief, immediately reminding the older elf of the child he once had been. His lower lip stood a little bit out, as if he was sulking. His head was lowered, just a bit, but enough for the chief to notice. As if he didn’t want to look him in the eyes. He had the same childish look he always set up when he didn’t get his will, which hadn’t been that often. But he didn’t look like a sulking child. Now he looked”¦ scared.

“Only halfway,” Hawkeye murmured as he looked down again.

Optarh nodded slightly and smiled at the younger elf. He remembered his brother, who was blind on his right eye. He had to subdue his laughter as he wondered if Hawkeye actually knew what he had said and how right he was. But of course, he understood that it could be scary. Getting used to powers would take time, but accepting them was a whole other thing.

“And that’s how it is with you too.”

Hawkeye looked up, scared by the thought of magic and wanting to disagree, but found himself not able to do it. Yes, a part of him was scared, but another part wanted something else”¦ understanding, knowledge and nature.

“I’m not saying you’re full of magic, just that nature is in your blood,” Optarh said with a smile, trying to calm the lad down.
“Like your brother is halfway blind, you’re halfway magic. One half of your brother will never be able to see, but your other half want to explore the gift you have received.”

Hawkeye looked at the chief as he spoke, slowly starting to understand what the older elf meant. Blindeye had two half’s, one blind and one seeable. He had accepted who he was long ago. But he, Hawkeye, had never thought about being more than himself, but now knew that he also had two half’s; one without magic, the other sleeping and longing for the powers inside him. The magic was a part of him, just like nature. But it was the last bit that confused him a little. How could he be a part of nature?

“Look at yourself,” Optarh suddenly said and pointed at Hawkeye, as if he had read his thoughts.
“You were nervous and stressed under the eyes of the Wise Council and while talking about your part of this. But that drained from you immediately after we entered the forest. You calmed down and, if I may say this, it seemed like you had longed for it. Nature makes you relax.”

Hawkeye looked up at him, understanding in his eyes.

“Nature has always been a part of you. You just need to accept your part of nature.”

Hawkeye nodded again, but there was still something he wondered about.

“But why am I a part of nature?”

Optarh’s eyes widened a little bit and he sent Hawkeye a questioning look, as if he was sure that Hawkeye had understood.

“You’re a part of nature because,” he started and Hawkeye’s eyes widened.
“”¦you’re sort of a tree shaper.”

Hawkeye blinked, suddenly dumbfounded again. Treeshaper? Now he felt totally confused.

“Does it mean that-?”

“Yes, the whispering voice, you heard from nature itself.”

Hawkeye didn’t say a word. Not a sound, not a move, didn’t do anything. He just stood completely still while his thoughts flew in many directions. Too bad the questions didn’t follow them. Partly tree shaper? Nature spoke to him? He opened his mouth to make another question, but closed it immediately. There was another question, one that seemed to overshadow all the others; Why did the Dark Ones try to take him, and why did they try to kill the others?

“Did Karel ever tell you why we are in war with the Dark Ones?” Optarh suddenly asked, as if he had read his mind.

“Not exactly,” Hawkeye replied.
“The only thing he said was that it had something to do with strong powers-“

Hawkeye suddenly froze. Strong powers. Did it mean”¦?

“Have I understood it correctly, chief Optarh?” he asked as he turned to the chief.
“Is it-?”

“Yes,” Optarh answered calmly and looked him in the eyes.
“It’s your powers that the Dark Ones are looking for. And that’s why we are fighting them, to prevent them from succeeding in stealing them from you.”
Hawkeye felt like the world was raging inside him, there was nothing for him anymore. But surprisingly, he managed to talk with a calm voice.

“Does it mean that Karel knew it? Did you also know?”

Optarh’s answer was a nod.

Now Hawkeye wasn’t sure on how to react. How could the nine chiefs’ have known it and still kept it hidden for him? Why didn’t Karel tell him? Again, as if Optarh had read his mind, and now Hawkeye really started to wonder if he really did, the chief answered his unuttered questions.

“The plan was that Karel and your parents would tell you about your powers when you were old enough to understand”¦ ready to understand. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get themselves to tell you. They wanted you to have a happy childhood without worries and thought that knowing this would only be a burden for you. They didn’t know when and how would be the best way. But then Karel died,” Optarh said, and as Hawkeye looked up at him, he could have sworn that the chief looked sad.

Karel. His parents. They knew it too. His eyes stung, forcing the tears back. Just the thought of his parents made the loss of them open like a wound. He missed them. He missed his father’s jovially laughter. The friendly blue eyes and his red hair were like fire all the year through. He missed his mother’s soft voice. The black, soft curls and the nut-brown eyes that had a motherly look. And the times she played the flute and also when she taught him.

He missed everything.

A tear found its way down his cheek, followed by other drops like it was a leader of a pack of tears. The tears disclosed that he missed his parents, but also anger because of the secret and that he never got to know anything before they died. He didn’t know how long he had stood like that when it suddenly hit him and he understood why they never told him. They wanted to protect him, like Blindeye tried to do when he wanted to leave, afraid that he would be hurt. The tears suddenly stopped flowing as he felt peace slowly crawl over him like a warm blanket.

“What should I do, chief?” Hawkeye asked, his eyes locked to something beyond the forest. He couldn’t describe this feeling, but he felt at ease, as if nature calmed him down”¦ as if he was a part of his surroundings, a part of nature.

“I can help you learn how to control your powers,” Optarh said with a calm voice.
“But that means you have to do another choice.”

As Hawkeye took a deep breath, he felt that he already knew what the chief was going to say. Hey, maybe he also could read other’s mind?

“You have to be here for a while. Your journey home has to wait. Magic can’t be controlled in a moment.”

Optarh was right, it would take time to learn how to control the magic. He could still remember when they were younger and Sunshine had discovered her healing abilities, inherited from her father. She had struggled when trying to learn, her attempts often ending with tears and a feeling of uselessness. But she had received help, solace and support, and he could still remember the first time she succeeded in healing, how happy she had been. It had taken a while, but it was worth it. It would take time for him too, but at least he knew a bit about the powers he had.

“Chief Optarh,” Hawkeye said as he turned around.
“If you can help me learn controlling my powers, then I’ll stay and learn how to use them.”

Optarh smiled. A clear sign that he was willing to help.

As always.

###########################################################################

Back in the village, Toron and Sturkas were busy examining old weapons that hadn’t been used for years. Toron worked on the arrows using his knife, sharpening the tip of it and attaching feathers to it. The feathers would make it like a bird and the arrow would easier fly through the air. But while he repaired the arrows, Sturkas used the time to destroy them. He wasn’t used to bows or arrows, which colored his mood. And when he tried to nock an arrow and it fell to the ground, it didn’t lighten his mood. He grumbled as he pulled at the bowstring, trying to make the arrow fly like the bird Toron spoke of. Instead, he heard a loud THWANNG! and the arrow did fly, only not in the direction he wanted. It jumped up in the air and landed behind him, collected in a heap of the rest of the arrows.

“It doesn’t work!” Sturkas grumbled as he threw the bow on the ground.

Toron looked up at him as he continued sharpening the tip of an arrow.

“Of course it works,” he said.
“It’s made for it.”

“Not for me,” Sturkas replied, examining the bow.
“What is this thing meant for, actually?”

“That ”˜thing’ is a bow, and old weapon used by our ancestors,” Toron answered with a raised eyebrow.

“Old is right,” Sturkas mumbled.
“But it’s just as much of a weapon as I am a woman!”

Suppressing a shudder at the images that conjured up, Toron had to use almost all of his self-control not to retch or laugh out loud at his friend. Instead, he cleared his throat and raised the other eyebrow.

“It’s a weapon, a bow.”

“No, it’s not,” Sturkas replied.
“It doesn’t work.”

Toron rolled his eyes and attached a feather to the arrow.

“But it is a bow!”

Sturkas shot his friend a glaring look, then turned to the bow again.

“No, this crap is a toothpick!” he said and threw it over his shoulder.

BOOM!

The ground trembled and everyone who stood were either rocked to the ground or crashed into their surroundings. Toron shot his friend a surprised and wide-eyed look, while Sturkas only shrugged, seeming to say it wasn’t me! Both of them looked over their shoulders at the forest and turned to each other. Then they jumped up and bolted for the forest.

###########################################################################
The first thing Toron and Sturkas noticed was the smoke that filled the clearing. But it wasn’t normal smoke made by fire, this was something different as it almost felt natural.

“What happened here?” Sturkas exclaimed as he stopped.

Both of them looked around as the smoke disappeared, letting them see through the silver mist. Then Toron almost jumped as he spotted the familiar silhouette come out from the bushes.

“Chief Optarh!” he cried and ran forward.

The thought of the Dark Ones ran through their heads, but as they reached out to help the coughing chief, he only shook his head.

“It was,” he coughed.
“Only a little test.”

The chief rubbed his eyes and when he opened them, found Toron and Sturkas staring at him dumbfounded.

“A test?” Toron said.

“Little?” Sturkas replied.

Then the bushes moved and they turned around, spotting Hawkeye climb out from the shrub while spitting dirt and pulling who-knew-what out of his black hair.

“Yes,” he coughed.
“A test of powers.”

He walked up to them and brushed dirt away from his clothes as Optarh smiled at him.

“Like I said; magic can’t be controlled in a moment. It’s a living being like you and I. Both of you must meet and get to know each other before either of you try to boss the other around.”

Hawkeye shot him a special look.

“I didn’t boss it around.”

“No, but you tried to force it,” Optarh pointed out with a raised eyebrow.

Then he smiled and patted Hawkeye on the shoulder before he let it stay there.

“I’m sure you’ll do better next time. Now, let’s head home,” he said as his eyes gleamed with naughty.
“I heard Xin-Jing caught some nice sized pheasants.”

With that all four of them turned and went back, discussing the big boom and the powers and the Dark Ones. But as they walked towards the village, Hawkeye felt as if he was being watched. He knew that it couldn’t be the Dark Ones as Optarh, Toron and Sturkas would have noticed it too. Of course, it could be nature since he felt the forest’s presence as if he wore it like clothes. But this was something else than magic, and even though trees lived, they didn’t have eyes?

He couldn’t see anyone though, so he decided to not think about it and followed the others.

###########################################################################

Hawkeye was nearer the truth than he actually knew and would have known if only he trusted his magic more often. Someone was glad he didn’t though.

From the shadows of the trees, eyes as green as the leaves surrounding the almond shaped glimmering crystals stared at him. A tingling feeling ran through her body, but it wasn’t the same as when the explosion had nearly rocked her out of her hiding place. This was something different, a strange happiness and warmth. Longing”¦

He was going to stay for a while.

How happy that made her was impossible for her to describe, and looking at him didn’t help at all. Instead Xin-Jing glanced down at her left hand, still bandaged. With quick elegance only a female elf can produce, she unwrapped her hand and looked at the mark, thoughtful. A magic user as her soul mate? She sighed inwardly. They were so different, perhaps too different. But it was better than being courted by the stupid Eros, who probably wouldn’t dare come close to her in the next few days, at least not before his left ear was able to hear again.

She had to fight the urge to be with him, Hawkeye. It wasn’t the right time yet. They didn’t know anything about each other except for their names”¦ and that they belonged together. She sighed. She knew she had to reconcile with him, but not yet. She needed time.

But still, there was something else too, another feeling about him. Even though her head talked by experience, her heart said that he would never demand anything of her, never claim that she stopped being a warrior and just stay home. That he would give her freedom and let her be the one she was. When she looked at him, it was as if she had met a caring and endearing man.

Her insides were put on fire while her cheeks started blushing. She jumped down from the tree and headed for the village, silent so that no one would notice her.

Tenderfoot

Quote:
manga

While I feel very sorry for poor little Aroree, I'm really enjoying this story. I like Ekuar as a priest! It fits him, he's so kind and thoughtful. Aroree's situation is intriguing and I look forward to seeing what paths she takes.



Thanks, manga! This means a lot to me, and I'm glad that you liked it.

Quote:
manga

I also want to know more about that baby!



Doesn't we all want that? Wink I'll tell it soon enough...


Quote:
Redhead Ember

Ka-WOW! :clap: :clap: :bow:



Grin Thanks, Redhead!


Quote:
Embala

Nobody will kill you for sure - why should we?
1. you did a great job :clap:
2. if you are dead who should solve all those secrets and cliffhangers :P



*thinks* Good points

Quote:
Embala

Interesting new story arc ... making Blue Mountain a cloister is an incredibly fitting idea!



*bows* Thanks, I thought that was the best way to include it

Quote:
Embala

Aroree is unfamiliar as a child ... tho considering real Aroree - mentally she was sort of locked in child in mind, too. The transformation you made works well for your setting.



Thanks! Of course, it was difficult to write about her as a three-year-old since I don't know how she was before she met Skywise and the others, but at least this is how I think I would have reacted if my father had died while I was still a child.

Quote:
Embala

Even without knowing much about your priest Ekuar is a perfect choice :D



So do I think! It's easy to picture him in a priest's clothing and he's already gotten the right look! His personality is also great for a priest, but we'll see if I'll use him for much more than this. Perhaps...


Quote:
Cleopatra

Tenderfoot, your story is very touching. I hope little, Aroree will get a better life in the future. I liked the names to her parents.



Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I-EEEKK! Surprised I forgot the translations!
Himinn - Sky (Icelandic)
Altarathoron - Big Great Eagle (Elven)
Aidulin - Little Bird (Elven)

There! And about Aroree... you'll just have to wait and see... Wink


Quote:
Tymber

I have to say - I am either really getting used to the setting now (I know it's the one thing I always mentioned before) - but I am either getting used to it now - or this opening segment just pulled me in so well that everything else didn't matter! This opening piece here is indeed rather incredible and sets up the entire rest of the story in just two (well, technically like three) brief paragraphs! Captivating! And that's what you need - is a strong beginning to yank the reader in - and don't let them go! And you did just that! Well done! My favorite from you so far, I think...



Oh wow, that was really touching! Thank you so much! :D I think I'll work even mork with the beginnings from now on, I've always struggled with those.
Your favorite? Mine too!


Quote:
bukittyan

Tenderfoot, that was some amazing atmosphere you have in your story. Poor Aroree. I especially liked the paragraphs when she was three; your descriptions and the feelings you described were well done. I like that Ekuar is there as well. He seems so fitting somehow. I also want to know what will happen with the two of them and the baby!



The only thing I can say is thanks! Thank you so much for the kind words and I'm so very glad that you liked it! And the baby will soon enough be unmasked...


Quote:
krwordgazer

Tenderfoot, I think this is my favorite of your medieval stories so far. Aroree's feelings as a three-year-old, losing both her parents, were so very believable, and so very sad. Your depiction of life in the cloister was fascinating-- I could feel the bleakness, Aroree's sense of imprisonment, so well. And the beautiful, beautiful imagery-- even symbolism!-- of the raindrops "kissing her forehead, twinkling in the magic of the High Ones. Tiny silver crystals, trickling from above." That is incredibly poetic, and brings such a gentle note of hope into the story.



Now, this almost made me cry! I don't know what to say execpt for thank you! *glomps KR* I love your comments!

I'm glad that Aroree's feelings were believable, as I was afraid that I had made her too adultly. I've read books about the Middle Age written by specialists for this time, so that's where my 'knowledge' about cloisters come from.

And I'm so very glad that you think the imagery is beautiful, and that you noticed the symbolism. I wasn't sure if anyone would understand. Again, thank you so much!



Oh, and for anyone who wants to give a guess about the baby, send me a PM where you tell what you think and why! I want to see how many of you are right and wrong! :twisted:



And I simply loved everything this month! Fantastic job! :clap:

Cleopatra

That was so sad. :crying: Skywise and Redlance. Poor Cutter. Poor Nightfall. It was a good story Tymber, but so sad. Very touching.

Cleopatra

Glad you liked the story, Tymber, how it started and ended. :D

[quote:194ead9d80]I like that her suitor is named Eros, after the legends I assume?
[/quote:194ead9d80]

Okey, do you promise not to laugh? The name, Eros is not actually a elf name. Origanaly the name it's from a servant who worked at Marc Antony. But I thought that the name suited him, besides Skot is not actually a elf name to huh?

But I very, very glad you liked it.

*Go happy dance* :banana:

lunakat

Surprised I think I'm in shock.

so everyone dies, right?

tymber- that was unbelievably depressing! :shootme: Thanks! It was a really good story. I'm going to find a good blanket to crawl under and cry now.

yeah- Eros was cupid. The romans called him Cupid, the greeks called him Eros. We use him for fun words like erogenous and eroticism.

Cleo- I liked your story a lot, but I had a hard time recognizing it as Elfquest. I'm still not sure how it relates! It does have all the grab bags bits though- and was a nifty read.

RedheadEmber

[color=red:a6e398a7bf]What was [i:a6e398a7bf]that[/i:a6e398a7bf]? Tymber... you can't just kill everyone... it's... [size=18:a6e398a7bf]WRONG!!![/size:a6e398a7bf]
But... well written though...
Exept... one... [size=9:a6e398a7bf]tiny[/size:a6e398a7bf] mistake[/color:a6e398a7bf]

[quote:a6e398a7bf="Tymber"]He had no arms, no legs, and no mind.[/quote:a6e398a7bf]

[color=red:a6e398a7bf]That's supossed to be refering to Mekda right? Well... Mekda's a [b:a6e398a7bf]she[/b:a6e398a7bf]![/color:a6e398a7bf]

Maiken

That was so sad Tymber! But well written.

Cleopatra

[quote:ec4027faf1="lunakat"]
Cleo- I liked your story a lot, but I had a hard time recognizing it as Elfquest. I'm still not sure how it relates! It does have all the grab bags bits though- and was a nifty read.[/quote:ec4027faf1]

Thank you that you liked the story, Lunakat, but if you didn't understanded much, then I just tell that my first stories start's in the April grab bag, and the secound is in may.

lunakat

Ohhhh! I'll have to go back and reread them!

krwordgazer

This story just dropped into my heart this afternoon, and I had to write it and put it up right away.

I promise I'll read the two I haven't read yet this weekend! But for now, here is:

SORROW AND SYMPATHY


[i:f07c909565][u:f07c909565]Elements: [/u:f07c909565]
Hands touching
Death of a pet/bond beast
A surprise
A test of some kind
The sun, or a sun symbol or image
Water coming down, as in crying or raining[/i:f07c909565]


Nimi was dead.

Leetah, standing outside her hut in the cool of early morning, stared down in speechless shock at the sight of her little desert cat, lying so still in front of her door. Nimi's fur was torn and bloody; one of her legs was twisted out of shape. Somehow the small, striped creature had managed to struggle home after--

"Jackals," said Cutter, appearing in the hut doorway. His young face was solemn as he gazed at the little body, his sensitive nostrils drawing in a scent Leetah could not receive. "Attacked by jackals." His arm slipped around Leetah's waist. "I'm sorry, lifemate."

Leetah felt frozen. Nimi had been her companion for years, though it seemed now as if she had barely had a chance to hold her before she was gone. It was always that way-- small companions went so quickly, so quickly. And yet, for the little cat, she knew it had been a long time-- that Nimi must have wandered too far in her hunt last night, not knowing that age had slowed her reflexes, that this was the night she would simply not be quick enough. . .
.
Cutter, on the other hand, had been Leetah's lifemate for less than a moon. Recognition had made them part of one another; but though he knew her soul, though he could sense how she was feeling, the Wolfrider chief and the Sun Village healer still barely understood one another's ways. He stood quietly as Leetah crouched down to examine her cat. Her touch told her quickly what her heart had already known. Too late for healing. Life had fled.

Leetah stood and raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes. The morning light was red behind her closed lids. She felt a tear slide down her cheek. "Nimi," she whispered. Cutter's strong arm came around her again, and she waited to hear what words of comfort he might speak.

"Do you want the pelt?" he said.

She started back away from him, her eyes wide open now. "What?!"

"Um. . . " Cutter, sensing he had blundered, tried again. "Death is part of the Way, Leetah. Nimi had a good life--"

"Nimi is dead! Spare me your barbarian platitudes!" Leetah snapped, suddenly furious with him. Somewhere in the back of her consciousness, she realized that this had been, in her mind, a test. And Cutter had failed.

"Would you say, 'it's just the Way,' if Nightrunner died?" she blazed at him. "Would you skin him-- would his fur keep you warm, like any other creature's that you had killed?"

Cutter stared at her. "I might," he said.

She turned from him and strode back into her hut. "You are heartless!" she flung back over her shoulder.

He came after her, angry now himself. "You don't understand!" he snapped. "Nightrunner's my wolf-friend! He's close to me-- much closer than--"

He broke off as she drew herself up. "Much closer than Nimi was to me?" Leetah said dangerously.

"I only meant--"

"That her blood was not shared with mine? Do you think that matters to me?" Her breath was coming fast now. Her stomach roiled, easily upset now that she was with child. His children. She felt the old resentment, the rebellion against Recognition's inevitability, rising up within her again. Why did it have to be him? This savage leader of a savage tribe, who didn't even understand--

"My Nimi is dead," Leetah said flatly. "Leave me to mourn her in peace."

Cutter's blue eyes widened. His mouth opened, then closed again. Then he turned, pushed through the hut's curtain and strode out the door.

He did not come back all day. Leetah carried Nimi's little body outside the village, accompanied by many others-- Shenshen, Toorah, Anatim, Zhantee, Vurdah, Minyah, Adja. She received hugs and comfort from her family and friends, whispered goodbye to Nimi, and left her there. Returning to her hut, she swept and cleaned it violently as the Daystar traveled across the desert sky above. She forced down food when the unborn lives within her demanded it, but took no pleasure in the taste.

She did not weep. But for that one tear when she'd first found the body, she found she could not.

The sun fell; the moons rose. Shimmering light coated the huts and fields, silvered the bluffs beyond the village. Leetah stood at the door of her hut, breathing in the night air. Bitterness stirred within her as the voices of jackals rose on the night breeze.

And then they fell silent as the howls of wolves poured down from the bluffs, overpowering all other night sounds. Leetah's throat burned with the aching beauty of that song.

And then-- Cutter's gentle send filled her mind.

*Lifemate. Come to us. Please come.*

Leetah found herself walking between the moonlit huts towards the bluffs where she knew the entire Wolfrider tribe must be gathered. She didn't quite know why. But there was something about that soft, apologetic appeal . . .

She could see the shadows of Cutter's tribe and their wolf-friends against the moons as she began to climb. The night air stroked her cheeks with cool freshness. The howling had fallen silent now; they were waiting for her.

As she stepped into the circle of Wolfriders, Cutter's hand gripped hers. His eyes were dark smudges in the moonlight, but she could feel his love and sympathy wrapping around her, like the soft touch of fur on her skin.

He spoke, quietly but with authority, to his people.

"We howl tonight for one whom Leetah loved. Her sorrow is our sorrow tonight. Nimi, little desert cat, friend of Leetah, we howl for you!"

Surprise filled her. All around her wolves and their riders were tilting their heads to the starry sky. All around her the music of the howl rose and fell, soared and sighed and wept. Leetah felt the tight bonds that had held her heart all day, loosen and let go. Tears poured down her face, and she laid her head against Cutter's bare shoulder and let them come.

Hands touched her arms, her back-- Nightfall, Redlance, Skywise, Clearbrook, Pike. They were mourning with her. Their ways might be different from Sun Folk ways-- but they knew how to mourn. And they thought no less of her, that it was only for a little, desert cat.

Leetah knew, as her tears spent themselves and acceptance surrounded her, that she'd never think of Cutter, or any of the Wolfriders, as "barbarians" again.

The End.

MrsGrizzley

Awwwwww!!!!!!!!

I like it!!!! How sad!!!!!! I like this story!!!!! *sniffle*

Maybe I oughta try one of these eventually. . .

Mrs. Grizzley

Nightsea

SPOILER ALERT FOR KR's story!
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
^-^
>.<

*
*
*
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A Wolfrider Howl for a little cat...incongruous and touching.
*grabs kleenex*
--Nightsea

RedheadEmber

[color=red:05d6e681ea] Unhappy Aww! That was sad!
Amazingly written (as always with your stories...)[/color:05d6e681ea]

faeriegirl

*grabs kleenex* that was so sad... but beautiful too...

Cleopatra

That story, KR, was so touching, but really beautifull too.

lunakat

That was really great, Krword. I love how the death of Leetah's pet gives her the chance to know Cutter better. I really liked the set-up- how, when the pet dies, Cutter offers his best condolences (the pelt) and Leetah misunderstands- only later to give her the emotional comfort she truly needs. It's a really great exploration of their cultural misunderstanding and I love the reconciliation. The 'howling' scene was so touching! Lovely, lovely story!

lunakat

On second thought... scratch all that. You know what I like about it? Cutter really does blunder in the beginning. He doesn't assume that Leetah's feelings for her cat are as valid as his (or any other Wolfrider's) feelings for a wolf. He dismisses her emotions- and he absolutely fails the test. What Leetah is so upset about and what she is crying for later isn't her loss of Nimi- but her relationship with Cutter. Because he disappointed her so much. And that's why the 'howling' scene is so touching- because it's the point at which he makes it up to her. She's not just crying for the cat, but for her reconciliation with him- and it's an affirmation that he respects her and takes her feelings seriously.

And that's why it's such a good little story- because it has two meanings. You rock my socks, krword!

jeb

Ditto what everyone else says! Absolutely beautifully written.

Kind of makes me think of the whole mortality issue between Cutter and Leetah, though. I thought part of the reason she didn't like the recognition was because of having the knowledge that he would die one day. Now, thinking about her keeping pets, whose lives really would be just a spark compared to hers, makes me think that in some ways Cutter would almost seem like a pet to her. And being so sensitive to death it seems weird that she would even have pets that would come and go so quickly.

Makes me think... :roll: ...which great stories always do.

[Deleted User]

Haven't read these all yet..but [b:d8d7b6a342]Nightsea[/b:d8d7b6a342], your story about Suntoucher is great. I drew a picture of it, but have still scan and colour it Wink I love little details like the scaly hat.

krwordgazer

Thanks, everyone-- so glad you liked it! :D

Jeb, what you said also made me think! :D I think Leetah, like we humans, considers the joy received from small, furry animals to be worth the price of losing them. I also imagine that in many cases, she actually succeeds in extending their short lives-- but with Nimi, she faced one of those situations where there was nothing she could do. Given her fear of loss of control, this always leaves her feeling shaken and vulnerable. There is no way, at this point in their relationship, that Cutter could know that-- and thus his words about the Way, which would have comforted a Wolfrider, only upset her worse.

Lunakat-- yes, I think the story can be looked at both ways-- from Leetah's perspective, and from Cutter's. Cutter really does try to offer comfort-- but he does it from his own way of looking at things, unable to see it from hers.

I don't think Cutter is dismissive towards Leetah's feelings so much as he simply doesn't understand her perspective. He has a tendency to be "blind as an eyeless cave slug," when it comes to others' feelings-- as Skywise says about him years later. Leetah, on her part, at this point still tends to consider Sun Villager ways as superior to those of Wolfriders. They are both at fault-- but it is she who is grieving, and therefore it is Cutter's responsibility to bridge the gap. I left it up to the reader to imagine what Skywise, Nightfall, and some of the others might have said to Cutter to help him open his eyes and see the right thing to do.

As a result, both Cutter and Leetah gain new insight and understanding of the other, overcoming their differences and finding unity-- which is [i:8f40d3e249]my[/i:8f40d3e249] favorite story theme to write about. :D

krwordgazer

Sorry for the double-post -- but I finished the other two new additions! :D

Cleopatra, I just love Xin-Jang! I love her feistiness, and the way she slapped that awful Eros! Who does he think he is, anyway?! Elves don't have male privilege-- I'm glad she taught him a lesson! *ggrrrr*

Hawkeye and Optarh have terrific interactions, and I enjoyed getting a bit more of Hawkeye's backstory. Having the Dark Ones wanting to steal elf powers is an interesting plot point. You're doing a fine job! :D

Tymber. . . How [i:0cdeff0191]could[/i:0cdeff0191] you kill off Skywise and Redlance?! But you did a good job of portraying it. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes, though-- I saw Nightfall and Cutter heading towards your house just now, and they didn't look happy! Surprised Wink

A very dark twist on the original story-- especially having more trolls waiting inside the dome. Have mercy, though, and don't kill everyone, ok? Pleeeze? Grin

Cleopatra

[quote:61198c096e="krwordgazer"]
Cleopatra, I just love Xin-Jang! I love her feistiness, and the way she slapped that awful Eros! Who does he think he is, anyway?! Elves don't have male privilege-- I'm glad she taught him a lesson! *ggrrrr*[/quote:61198c096e]

Thank you so much, KR, I liked the scene where she slapped him. It made me and my sisters laugh of that. Grin
And he [b:61198c096e]really[/b:61198c096e] nedded [b:61198c096e]that [/b:61198c096e]lesson. But have he learned yet? Hmm. :?:

[quote:61198c096e="krwordgazer"]
Hawkeye and Optarh have terrific interactions, and I enjoyed getting a bit more of Hawkeye's backstory. Having the Dark Ones wanting to steal elf powers is an interesting plot point. You're doing a fine job! :D [/quote:61198c096e]

Very glad you liked that part too. I think it must have been one of the special part's I have now. :) And thank for the comment that I am doing a fine job, it means very much for me. :D

RedheadEmber

[color=red:2080ca1b2d]Well... originally it was intended that it [i:2080ca1b2d]only[/i:2080ca1b2d] would be the first 20 issues... it... would defiantly end there if everyone died! :twisted: [/color:2080ca1b2d]

Tenderfoot

Sad stories! Unhappy

Having a cat myself, I can understand Leetah.

And Tymber...! Evil Grin If Nightfall and Cutter don't get you, I swear I will! You can ble glad that I'm not anywhere near you right now!





And hey, no one wants to make a guess about the baby? :? I wanted to see how many was right or wrong!

If you listen to my pleeding, PM the guess and reason. DON'T WRITE IT HERE!

Other than that, I'm waiting for July.

Tenderfoot

[quote:d1765edf7c="Tymber"]It's my twisted plot to make people come visit me...[/quote:d1765edf7c]

Hehehe... good plot


[quote:d1765edf7c="Tymber"]I am so horrible at guessing. (Yesterday's fiasco picking up my nephew showed me just that....) :roll:[/quote:d1765edf7c]

You can still guess. Think, guess and make me happy? :awww: For little me?

jeb

I had some (I thought) pretty good guesses the other day while I was folding laundry (where a lot of good ideas come from) but can't think of them just now. I'll see if I can remember and PM you...

[Deleted User]

Phew, made it! It's still June! Nightsea's Suntoucher story inspired me to make a picture for it...I got almost all the elements in it too- only eyes meet eyes is missing I think...

[i:2c23e4abe9]Reminiscing with a spirit friend[/i:2c23e4abe9]
[img:2c23e4abe9]http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h286/kerewin/sunlizardcopy.jpg[/img:2c23e4abe9]

Cleopatra

That picture is really awsome, Moonmoss. :D

Nightsea

*claps and does a happy dance*! I love it! That picture is
fabulous! It goes great with the mood of my story and just
makes you want to hug both the figures...Suntoucher and
his lost lizard. I love all the colors you used and the soft
glow of the whole thing.

Bravo!
--Nightsea

JadeOwl

A warning - this is very odd, and I have no idea whether there will be any more of this AU. But this is what struck me, so this is what I wrote.

**

[i:067dab6fca]Hands touching
Death of a pet/bond beast/animal
A surprise
A test of some kind
The sun, or a sun symbol or image
Water coming down, as in crying or raining[/i:067dab6fca]

The rain pattered against the windows. Leetah knelt in her apartment. Her knees hurt, but she wanted to stay here forever, trying to feel the beat that tiny heart against her palm, willing and wishing it to come back.

The rain got louder, and louder, until Leetah realized that someone was knocking at her door. "Come in!" She called, and was surprised that her voice still worked, that it had not been washed away with tears.

Zahntee entered, slipping off his shoes at the door, and knelt beside her. "Here." He said, and passed her a bowl. Steam rose from it, and she tried to remember how long it'd been since she'd eaten.

"It's only ramen," he said apologetically, as if it weren't the best surprise she'd had in weeks.

"Thanks." She smiled up at him, and he blushed and looked away.

After a moment, he spoke again, softly, watching as she stroked the fur of her dead cat. "We should bury him." He said, half a question.

"No!" Leetah frowned. "No. I can...I can do this."

Zahntee looked at her, worried. "Do what?"

"It's...it's just a test. Come on, now." She muttered half to herself. "Come [i:067dab6fca]on[/i:067dab6fca]!"

Zahntee touched her hand. "Leetah, what - "

And just like that, the dam broke. Leetah could feel warmth spreading through her, impossible, beautiful warmth. She gloried in it for a small, guilty moment before gathering it up and [i:067dab6fca]pushing[/i:067dab6fca] it at the cat that lay in her lap.

It opened it's eyes and meowed.

Zahntee dropped his ramen, and it landed upside-down on the floor, lines of noodles arrayed around the center bowl.

Leetah gathered her cat up in her arms as Zahntee gaped. She looked down at the symbol traced out in noodles and broth, the rain pounding in her ears. "Here comes the sun."

G0lden

Nice. :D

Meimei

I have to finish reading everyone's stories for the month. I've loved all the ones I've read so far! Here's my little entry. This little group's been buzzing around my head, and I keep shooing them away because I'm in the middle of so many other stories right now. But when I saw the list this month, I knew I had to write them!

[u:361ecfb667][b:361ecfb667]Sunset[/b:361ecfb667][/u:361ecfb667]

The bird was dead. Though the loss weighed on her heart heavily, Darra did not cry. How long since she cried? A hundred years? A thousand? Time had lost its meaning to her in the ageless world of Blue Mountain. She sat beneath the metal tree she had shaped countless years before, cradling the lifeless bird in her hands. Once caring for the birds had been one of her greatest pleasures. When numbers dwindled she would beg Tyldak or the Chosen Eight to bring more. But both their willingness and her interest had faded with time. The birds no longer nested or hatched their young in her never-changing trees. Blue Mountain was not a fit place for the living.

She'd seen the signs from the start and yet...always it seemed to her that in time the other gliders would realize it on their own. that Voll would see what was happening and lead them on a new path. She had kept waiting for that to happen. And waiting...

It had not been the peaceful realization she'd anticipated. The arrival of the Wolfriders had brought upheaval. The truth had been a bitter drink to the Gliders. But now - at last - things were changing. Voll had left to seek the abode of his parents. While the other gliders awaited their Lord's good fortune with the first hope they'd felt in eons, Darra felt her own heart stir with a different longing. To feel life about her again. To feel the sun's warmth and hear the sounds of the living world.

It was fitting, then, that this - her last connection to her life in Blue Mountain - had ended. With a motion of her hand she opened the metal tree and placed the bird inside, before sealing it away forever. "Farewell, Little Friend."

Rising she took a small pack from the ground and walked the slowly through the mountain,pausing momentarily at different locations - the ornate dining hall; the silent chamber of Egg; the cascading waters of the bathing pools. Memories of long ago crowding in before releasing their hold. Finally she was at the aerie. Wind whistled through the honeycomb openings, but sunlight beckoned her toward the world outside. Partway there her steps froze in surprise. Another tall figure stood waiting for her.

"I though you might come." The glider stepped forward. "Would you really deprive us of your presence, First Born? With Voll already gone on his quest?"

Darra shook her head resignedly. "My father was yours age-mate, Myrym."

"But not your mother."

"An old arguement. Do you seek to stop me?"

"I thought to dissuade you."

"Do not waste your efforts. My mind is as set in stone as Blue Mountain itself."

"But what of the danger? How can you be sure of your safety?"

"I cannot be."

"What if you are killed?"

"Then I will be dead."

Myrym frowned - not likeing that response at all. "And baring that? How long will you stay out there?"

"Until I am not." Darra answered. Reaching out so their hands touched, Darra intertwined their fingers - squeezing gently. "Are you through, old friend?"

Myrym hesitated, then shook his head. "If I cannot stope you, I can atleast see you're protected."

"How so?"

"By accompanying you."

Darra's expression was amused. "How long since you wielded a weapon?"

"The same as you. As any of us. Since the formation of the Eight, none of us have hunted. I see you did not even thing to bring one."

"I brought metal. I need no more."

"I do. Wait for me?"

Darra moved forward to gaze at the open sky. "Until the sun is setting. Then I will leave, whether you have returned or not."

A third figure watched from the shadows. 'Leave?' It thought. 'Go outside?'


"Outside?" Yeena looked up from the dye she was testing.

"Yes. Just to see it." Kyrst knelt by her, still holding a damp piece of cloth.

"You can see it from the aerie - where it's safe. Didn't you hang the fabric to dry yet?"

"But it's just...it's like a weaving. All you see is colors and patterns."

"What more is there to see? Kyrst, Blue Mountain is our home. Where we belong."

"What about when Voll finds the palace?"

"Well, that's...that's different. And that's another reason to stay! On Tenspan's wings our Lord must be close to the High One's home by now. What will happen if he returns while we are away?"

"He'll send for us." Kyrst waved aside her objections. "Please, Yeena? I want to see it myself. I don't even remember anything."

"I...only remember a little." Yeena confessed.

"Please."

"For a little while, I suppose. No harm will come if we don't stay long."


"Have you taken leave of your senses?" Tiila demanded.

Myrym shook his head as he packed some food from the stores that wouldn't spoil fast. "I cannot let Darra go alone."

"Is that what started this?"

Myrym frowned, confused. "Started what?"

"Kyrst and Yeena have decided to go. Kyrst was a babe in arms when Blue Mountain was formed. And Yeena was little more than a child. They don't remember how hard life is out there."

"We aren't leaving forever. We'll be back."

"When?"

"Knowing Darra, not until Lord Voll sends for her. But then, surely. Even she will want to see her mother's home."

"And who will hunt? You?"

"I did...before."

"Tried you mean. You were never handy with your spear."

"We have talon whips now."

"Hmph." Tiila scowled, then grabbed a bag and started filling it.

"What are you-?"

"It's madness. The whole things...but someone has to cook."

Myrym smiled. "I did that as well before."

Tiila snorted. "You mean you tried."


Four figure stood around Darra with packs of their own. The metalshaper looked at Myrym in amusement. "Did you invite the whole mountain?"

"Shurim, Tin?" Myrym stared at the extra two. "What are you-?"

"Word spreads fast in Blue Mountain." Tin gave a lopsided grin. "I guess everyone else is content waiting for Lord Voll. I'd have gone with him and the eight, but I never could befriend the great hawks. So I'll go with you instead."

"It's something to do atleast." Shurim seconded with a shrug.

Myrym turned to frown at Darra. "Do yo see what you've started?"

"I? I would have slipped out unnoticed if not for your persistance. I'd say this is on your shoulders. Lead on." She waved him forward.

"I am not a leader." Myrym said firmly. But he ascended to the open doorway - looking out for a long moment before floating away from the ledge and heading toward the forest below. The others followed one by one, until Darra stood alone on the aerie ledge.

She paused, sensing something. A sending, far too distant to fully hear. Then she doubled over, her hands flying to her chest. A sound, somewhere between sobbing and laughing seemed to come from deep within the mountain. Eyes widened in realization slowly closed. Pain and resigntation filling the gap. Turning away for the last time, Darra followed her tribemates' path into the setting sun.

June 2009

jeb

Very nice! I love these kind of "behind the scenes" stories, like krwordgazer's Sun Village stories. We aren't given a lot about how the gliders would deal with Voll taking off after the palace, this is a great insight about how some of them might have dealt with it. About halfway through I was thinking "But Winnowill would never let this happen," but then I remembered she was still recuperating, so they could easily have slipped out. Hmmm, would she gather them later?

I would love to hear more.

Nightsea

Lovely story! I like the idea that a few of Blue Mountain's
long residents made it outside while Winnie slept and Voll
flew off.
[img:36a4a4838f]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v477/Night_sea/bluemountainsmetalshaperoutside.gif[/img:36a4a4838f]
made here
--Nightsea
PS: One for Jade Owl's alternaverse where Leetah heals the dead cat:
[img:36a4a4838f]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v477/Night_sea/modernleetah1.png[/img:36a4a4838f]
base

Cleopatra

I liked the stories from Jade Owl and Meimei. They were so special. And I really liked the draws from Nightsea, they are so fantastic.

jeb

And once again, just under the wire! This was another hard one for me to write, and my longest so far (not saying that's a good thing. :roll: )
___________________________________________________________

RITES OF PASSAGE

To hunt, to howl, to run with the wolf pack, that was the heart of being a Wolfrider. All born to the tribe were destined for it by the blood in their veins. But to fully take their place in the society there was one rite of passage. In a world that was harsh and unforgiving, where survival relied on dependence on one another, a hunter needed to prove that he could stand alone.

In the past this rite had involved a handful of young elves, but the tribe’s numbers had been dwindling. This time there would only be three facing the challenge. And that is what worried Nightfall.

She had no doubts about the ability of the hunting party. Although inexperienced, her own hunting skills were good enough to catch Bearclaw’s attention, and that was something.

Cutter was strong and quick and took to the blade as if born with it. Skywise was cunning and light on his feet, even lighter with his hands. He could outsmart a fox or steal the eggs from a hornbeak’s nest with the hen sitting right on top.

No, the problem wasn’t the hunters. It was the quarry. Part of the thrill of the first hunt was being able to select the prey. And Cutter and Skywise wanted nothing less than a blackneck, a target normally reserved for a full tribe hunt. But that’s what they wanted, Cutter to prove himself to his bear-hunting father. Skywise, well, just because.

She hoped the blacknecks would prove difficult to find and Cutter would give up and settle on some easier, more plentiful game. Unfortunately, lack of persistence had never been one of her friend’s weaknesses.

Her thoughts were interrupted as a howl issued forth from outside her den. She sighed, looking from her knife to her bow, then rolled them both up in a soft, worn pelt she strapped to her back. Her feet were still high above the forest floor when she felt the gentle tugging at her boots.

“Cloudtail! Wait for me to get down!” She dropped the last few feet, then stood laughing while Cloudtail’s rough, wet tongue tickled her face hello.

“Are you ready?” Cutter asked. He and Skywise were both on their wolf-mounts, eager to leave.

Cloudtail whined his excitement. Nightfall’s mind was filled with a wolf-send, the scent of fresh game and the taste of warm blood. He trotted to the other wolves, then back to Nightfall, nudging her elbow. He, at least, had no doubts about going. Envying his simple enthusiasm, she pulled herself onto his back with a smile. “We’re ready.”
__________________________________________________________

They had been traveling for several days, more than once flushing out a flock of ring-necks or a small herd of springers, but they never took more than was needed to satisfy their own immediate hunger. As usual, Cutter was steadfast in his ambition, guiding them with single-minded purpose.

Finally, they left the thick trees of the forest and stopped before the grasslands where the blacknecks were usually found.

The land opened up before them, a sea of waving greens and tans dotted with islands of dark brown. The blacknecks. The crests of their strong shoulders rose above the plains, the tall grass swaying around them like a stream rippling past boulders. All around them, taking comfort in their bulk, were smaller denizens of the plains, curl-horns and mud-pigs, ring-necks and quill-backs.

Cutter was the first to leave the safety of the trees as he carefully picked his way up a rise to the side of them. “What’s that?”

*Are you sure it’s safe?* Nightfall hesitated, wary of stepping from the safety of the shadows into the open sky.

Cutter was confident. *The humans are too afraid to go this far from their village. Too scared of the animals. Especially the big cats.*

Skywise grinned at Nightfall. “I guess they have some sense after all.”

*Besides,* Cutter continued, *you know humans can’t get near animals without causing a fuss. There’s no sign. Now, get up here!*

“Yes, my chief!” Skywise winked at Nightfall before disappearing into the tall grass the way Cutter had gone. She hurried after him, joining them where they lay on their stomachs at the top of the rise.

“Look!”

Her gaze followed Cutter’s extended arm to a large dark spot on the valley floor.

At first all Nightfall could make out was a muddy, rocky mess. Then she noticed the rocks were moving. Animals, larger than any she had ever seen before. Strange creatures, most of their bodies taken up by their huge, shaggy heads. They would almost seem funny if Nightfall didn’t know what was going through her tribemates’ minds.

“What are those?” Skywise asked in amazement.

“I don’t know.” Cutter’s face was alight with excitement. “Think we can get one?”

“Cutter, no”¦” Nightfall loved her friend. She would follow him to the ends of the earth. But this was crazy. “Let’s go back and tell the others. We can come back with a couple more hunters-”

“Bearclaw hunts bears alone.” Cutter’s arm slid across her back and he gave her shoulder a tight squeeze. “Together, we can do this.”

She couldn’t hide her skepticism. “Those are bigger than a bear.”

Cutter’s gaze drifted back out to the distant herd. He thought of the look that would be on Bearclaw’s face after seeing the hide of one of these huge monsters and grinned. “Much bigger.”
__________________________________________________________

The rest of the day was spent studying the strange, new creatures. Nightfall had to admit they seemed pretty docile. All they had seen them do was stand around in the mud and eat grass. They seemed much like blacknecks, the herd governed by a few males who stood look out while the females and young grazed. At one point a pair of big cats wandered by a little too close to the shag-heads’ territory, but a big male just stood up to them and the cats wandered away. They were obviously very strong, but with those massive shoulders and heads, the elves thought they probably couldn’t move very fast.

They decided to use the same strategy that worked for blacknecks. Pick a weak member of the herd, separate it, then bring it down. After some discussion, they decided on an older female. With no young, she was relegated to the outside of the herd and not taken much notice of by the males.

Their course of action set, the three elves allowed themselves a leisurely evening. Now they lay in the grass, awed by the wide expanse of stars above them.

Quickly losing interest in trying to find Skywise’s images in the stars, Nightfall turned to look at Cutter. His pale hair shone in the starlight, his eyes stars themselves as he talked animatedly with Skywise.

It had been a while since she had been close to him like this. She liked to think they had just been busy, that it was part of growing up and taking on new responsibility in the tribe, but when she was honest with herself, she knew she was avoiding him. She was sure that he’d noticed, but he hadn’t said anything.

They had played at love, but it had been like playing at hunting and fighting. Fun, but just practice for the real thing. Now she was ready for the real thing, but Cutter was not what she wanted. She didn’t think she was what he wanted either. They had rolled in the furs many times, exploring, but their hearts weren’t in it. Nightfall loved her friend, but he was too wild, too headstrong. Great for play, but not what she wanted in a lifemate.

As they had often done lately, her thoughts drifted to Redmark. She had barely taken notice of him as a cub, finding his gentle ways unexciting, his interest in plants utterly mystifying. She had always just dismissed him as an elder. Someone who was always just there.

Though she hated to admit it now, she had even made fun of him from time to time, finding his quiet patience amusing. Now she found his presence”¦comforting. Thrilling. Confusing! She closed her eyes, mentally shrugging off the uncertainty this line of thought always ended up causing.

Things were so much easier with Cutter. She missed the closeness they had shared, but it was not enough for her anymore. She was ready to grow up, but did growing up mean giving up the best parts of her childhood?

She decided that, for tonight, it wouldn’t. She scooted closer to Cutter and rested her head on his shoulder. She felt him shift and knew that he was looking at her, but the conversation with Skywise didn’t even pause. He wrapped his arm around her, his fingertips trailing softly up and down her arm.

Not wanting to be left out, Cloudtail pushed his muzzle under Nightfall’s arm while Nightrunner laid his head on Cutter’s stomach. Warm in a pile of elf and wolf and lulled by the low voices of her friends, Nightfall soon drifted off to sleep.
______________________________________________________________

Even though it was still early morning the sun shone down on Nightfall with an intensity she was not used to, made worse by the bare rock outcropping that she stood upon. The plan was that she would stay here with her bow and arrow, and Cutter, Skywise and the wolves would drive the shag-head to her. At least, that’s what they hoped would happen. Nightfall hoped it would happen quickly, so she could get off this rock and under the protection of the trees.

She shielded her eyes from the sun to try to get a better idea of what was going on. From this distance, she couldn’t see clearly, but she thought that she could see some movement in the grass near their intended target. This would be the tricky part. Cutter and Skywise would have to get between the animal and the herd without alarming it, or it would run into the herd. So far it was going well. As they expected, the female shag-head had wandered a short distance from the rest of the herd and Nightfall could see the grass between them swaying as the other elves moved toward the beast.

Finally, they made their attack. But something was going wrong. Instead of bolting, the shag-head just stood there. Nightfall was amazed. Could the animals really be that stupid? The creature took a few steps, seemingly ignoring the elves and wolves that were poking and biting it. Nightfall could see that Starjumper had a hold of the creature’s hind leg. It bellowed, and Skywise was able to pull the wolf away just before the shag-head gave a powerful kick.

Now, the bellow was being answered by others in the herd. From her vantage point, Nightfall noticed something strange going on. The shag-head they were attacking had not moved much, but the rest of the herd was now turning to face towards it. The bellowing was growing louder, and now the animals closest to her were starting to move.

*Cutter! Skywise! Get out of there!*

Luckily, they had noticed what was going on and were already heading away from the herd. She watched as amazement as the whole herd began moving in the same direction, almost as if they shared a single mind. As they became more organized they began to move faster, reaching a speed Nightfall never would have thought possible. And they were coming straight at her!

There was no way for her to get away from them. The herd was huge, stretching as far as she could see across the plain. She would never get far enough away in time. She crouched down on her rocky perch, thankful now for her height above the valley floor, certain that the beasts would break and go around it.

The first animals were reaching her, but they weren’t turning. They didn’t even slow as they neared the rock. Nightfall was mesmerized, expecting the shag-heads to pound into the rock, but suddenly they were up in the air, jumping straight up and over the stone impediment.

Nightfall didn’t even have time to react. Something grey and furry plowed into her, knocking her off the ledge away from the oncoming stampede. She barely had the presence of mind to push herself close against side of the rock before the bulk of the herd came over her. The stream of hooves flying overhead was unending, the sound of so many heavy animals hitting the ground a deafening roar. Soon all Nightfall could see was a brown cloud as fine sand filled the air. She fought to breathe, removing her headscarf and covering her mouth. Just as she thought she could take no more, the sound began to abate. Sunlight filtered through as the dust began to settle. Her legs giving out, she sunk down to the ground, coughing.

Shadows swam in her watering eyes.

“Are you alright?” Skywise pulled her from the slight overhang that had saved her. Still coughing but finally getting some clean air, she nodded. They turned to look at the decimated landscape. In the distance they could still see the herd moving, creating a column of dust rising up to the sky.

Cutter’s eyes were wide with shock. “Two-spear’s madness!” he whispered.

Skywise scratched his head, his eyes shining with a half-grin. “Any other ideas?”

Cutter shrugged. “Go back to the blacknecks?”

They started walking back towards the woods when Nightfall stopped, her face anxious. “Where’s Cloudtail?”

Disconcerted, the elves looked around. Nightrunner and Starjumper lifted their heads and sniffed the breeze. Nightrunner whined, then ran forward.

“Oh, no!” Nightfall moved unsteadily over the torn-up ground, hardly aware of where her feet were landing. There, amid the clumps of earth and grass, she saw it, a patch of fur rippling gently in the breeze. She tried to wolf-send. Nothing.

She fell to her knees in the moist dirt, turned red with blood. He was almost unrecognizable. Her beautiful wolf-friend, reduced to a ragged pile of flesh and bones under the pounding of the shag-heads’ hooves.

She lifted her head in a howl that ripped out of the bottom of her soul, then collapsed, sobbing on Cloudtail’s broken remains.
_______________________________________________________________

Cutter and Skywise sat a short distance away, wanting to give comfort, but not sure of what to do. Neither had lost a wolf-friend before. Sometimes the pelt was taken as a way of remembrance, but in this case there wasn’t even enough pelt left to take. They offered what they could in word and touch, but she was numb, wanting nothing but to sit with Cloudtail for a while more.

They were sitting this way when a familiar scent reached them, followed soon by light footsteps. Pike and Redmark sat down next to Cutter and Skywise. Pike looked over at Nightfall. “What happened?”

Skywise recounted the days events, then the four elves fell back into silence.

Finally, Pike stirred. Rising, he caught Redmark’s eye, raising an eyebrow and inclining his head toward Nightfall.

Redmark nodded.

Pike stretched. “Well, the wolves look tired and thirsty, and so do you two. Let’s go see if we can find some clean water and scare up some food, too.”

The younger elves knew they were being herded away but didn’t protest, glad to give up responsibility, in this instance, to someone else.

Redmark waited until the rest of the elves were gone, then approached Nightfall. “Mind if I sit down?”

Nightfall shook her head.

“It’s hard losing your first wolf-friend. Especially so soon.”

Nightfall had been stone-faced, thinking she’d finally run out of tears, but now they welled up again. “He saved me. And this”¦this is what happened to him!”

The tears began falling faster. Her throat, so dry before, felt tight and thick. “Why’d he have to die!”

Redmark let her cry for a while before speaking. “You wish you had protected him?”

She nodded.

“And how would you do that?” His voice was soft, his tone caring. “Keep him in the holt? Never let him hunt?”

She was still, then gave a small shake of her head.

“No, you wouldn’t do that. You couldn’t do that. He wouldn't have let you.” He moved closer, joining her in stroking the largest patch of fur that was left. “He loved the hunt, it’s what he lived for, all the wolves do. That’s why we share their blood. It’s survival, but it’s more than that. They know there’s danger, but this is life. There isn’t one without the other.”

Nightfall felt the knot in her throat loosening. “Will it always be this hard?”

“Yes, and no. It’s always hard saying goodbye to something you love. But after a while, when you’ve been around as long as I have,” he chanced a small smile, “you learn to accept it. We live a long time, and I known very few wolves that have died of old age. They’re having too much fun to worry about it. I’m sure Cloudtail would agree.”

Nightfall thought of Cloudtail’s excitement about going on this hunt. She knew Redmark was right. Cloudtail had died, doing what he wanted. It was the way.

She and Redmark sat in silence as the clouds above them gently shifted to pink and amber hues in the afternoon sun. In the soft, thick fur, their fingertips brushed against each other.

Nightfall wiped her tears away. “Why are you here, anyway?”

Redmark shrugged. “I guess I just still want to protect you cubs.”

The anger flashed in Nightfall’s eyes. “I don’t need your protection. I can hunt and fight as well as you. I’m not a cub anymore!”

Redmark was startled, taken aback by this sudden change in emotion. What had happened to the happy-go-lucky child that had followed Cutter everywhere like a duckling its mother? Whose laughter would trickle through the holt like rain?

The last rays of the setting sun shone over the crest of the hill, lighting up flecks of gold in Nightfall’s hair, echoing in her golden eyes. Eyes that looked at him now with a want no cub knew. He had his answer. The cub was gone. In her place stood a huntress, ready to claim her place as his tribemate and equal.

“No,” he answered softly. “You’re not a cub anymore.”

His hand brushed against her wet cheek, then curled gently against the smooth curve of her neck. He stroked the firm bone of her jaw with his thumb and felt the faint tremor of her pulse below. He pulled her toward him. She met his gaze firmly as the last flame of defiance burned out and the tears returned. She dropped her head to his shoulder. He held her until the sky above faded to darkness, until all the tears were gone.

lunakat

wow! that was amazing! i loved what Redlance said to Nightfall to comfort her- about the danger and risk being wrapped up in the essence of life. It was very moving. Thanks for posting this lovely story!

jeb

:dance: Someone liked my story! Thanks, Lunakat!

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