Tales of the Kirgeur

By the Bluedragon

The next morning was a repetition of the previous. Except the chamberlain did not join us during our meal. Lyliane escorted Sevianth to his lessons as I went to fulfill my duties. Tre remained to write more of her memories to share with her beloved.

The morning court was crowded. Everyone had heard the Jilhsaed was to make an announcement and the servants had roused all from their beds to hear. The chamber was quiet as the Jilhsaed and Soliumant made their entrance. I watched from my accustomed place on the platform.

"My son and heir has the desire to prove his worth by leading a hunt for the elusive tirgeaur. I have given the matter much consideration and while I do not believe Soliumant needs to prove his worth, I have agreed." The assembly cheered at the news. I noticed Sal looked extremely excited. We had wished to hunt the famed beasts since Kayla had informed us of their existence.

"I have been honored with the permission of my esteemed father." Soliumant waved the crowd into silence. "All those of rank who wish to partake of the hunt, please inform Siveruian. He shall place your names on a list as well as placing what guards you wish to attend you during the hunt. The number of able persons allowed to attend will be limited in number. We shall have need of speed and stealth. The hunt departs two days hence." He sat back on his chair.

"Now, let us see to the matters of the realm." The Jilhsaed announced as he took his chair.

There were no petitions. Everyone had a look of exhaustion from the festivities. Those who would have petitioned the Jilhsaed had been blocked from the platform by the vastness of the crowd. The Jilhsaed dismissed court early as a result. I escorted him to his private chambers and then was relived of duty for a time.

I walked back to my chambers slowly. I did not believe that anyone would be there when I returned. I was proven incorrect. Iolaine waited at the table with Julaniant. Johianei's servant rose from his seat and embraced me. I gathered Iolaine had informed him of the plan.

"My undying gratitude and loyalty, jesisenia." He bowed low when he released me.

"Nothen, Julaniant, it is our gratitude. We would be unable to accomplish the plan without your assistance." I waved him to his feet. "Here, sit and we shall plan when to do this."

We were halfway finished with the planning of his abduction when Lyliane and Tre returned. Sevianth bounded into the room and seemed content with the world.

"He has agreed." I said no more than that.

"Gladdened am I to hear it." Lyliane took a seat at the table. Tre returned to her scrolls.

"I should return to my duties." Julaniant rose from his chair. "I shall look forward to seeing you again." He smiled.

"As shall I." I replied. "I must go train young Soliumant." I too rose from my chair. It felt strange referring to him as young when he was older than I. "I shall see you for the midday meal."

I did not change attire this time. Lyliane had all my clothing laundered and I had a spare set of nice clothing that I could change into after the lessons. He had not arrived when I entered the chamber. I took the opportunity to do a full muscle warm up. I sped through the first ten of the sword dances and only stopped when I became aware of others in the room.

"I shall never reach that level of skill." Soliumant seemed impressed.

"Nothen, rohirm, you shall reach higher." I praised his skill. It was not all empty flattery. He was talented with the sword.

"Tell me, Torienne, are you skilled in the use of a bow?"

"I am, rohirm, least enough to keep myself fed." I replied. "My partner, Salenia, has yet to miss what she intends to hit."

"Then both of you shall accompany me on the hunt." He announced. "Johianei has no desire for such pursuits. I shall persuade him to allow your companion to accompany us."

"My gratitude, and hers rohirm." I was impressed and honored. "We came to this land with an eye to hunting the elusive beasts. They are but legends in our land."

"Then it shall be so." He grinned and pulled his sword from his sheath. "We shall practice now."

We ran through five of the sword dances. Soliumant was a quick study. He would have made even Kayla proud. We called a halt to our exercises when we began to hunger. It was time for the midday meal and he was required to attend the feast. Fortunately, I was not. I was not required to be at the festivities either, though I had planned on attending. It would do my reputation good to be seen looming in the background.

"Are you not required at the feast?" I asked Sal when I entered my chambers.

"Johianei went to bed with an aching head. He partook of too much viniare during the festivities last evening." She grinned. "I am relieved from duty until the festivities this eve."

"As am I." I grinned. "I am not required to attend them since the Jilhsaed has declined to grace the court with his presence. I thought we should all go together and watch after Iolaine and Lyliane return from the market. Where are they?" I asked. Only Sal and Sevianth and Tre were in the room.

"Iolaine and my sister are fetching the meal. I think he fancies her."

"I had thought so as well." I told her. "It shall do us well at the least, and you may be correct. She fancies him also."

"It shall." She took another sip of the beverage. "When shall we begin?" Neither of us wished to speculate on romance.

"We are to take part in the hunt." I told her. She brightened considerably. "I believe that night shall be the first. Iolaine should be able to handle it alone." We spoke in our native tongue. Sevianth did not need to understand our conversation.

"I look forward to both." She grinned. "It shall keep suspicion from us even more."

"It shall." I was pleased. We could not yet find a flaw in the plan. "Sevianth, open the door for our companions."

"Yes, Tor." He rushed to obey.

"We come bearing food." Iolaine announced as he entered with the tray. He seemed in rare good humor.

"So we can see." Sal laughed. "Gods of my tribe, there is enough here to feed a household."

"Ah, yes there is Salenia." He grinned again.

"We thought it best to laden the tray with nonperishable food in case we became hungered during the night." Lyliane favored us with a sly grin. She seemed to have regained her inner confidence.

"Good thinking." I commended them. I had not considered how we would feed our captives.

Lyliane packed away what food we did not eat. There was much to spare in the way of bread, fruit and Sal's hated nuts. It made a good start. We even siphoned off a flask of viniare. It was small, but we would add to it in the days to come.

"I shall go see if Johianei is in condition to attend the festivities." Sal announced as she stood. "Iolaine, would you be so kind as to see Reinea sends our clothing to the laundress?"

"I shall do so before we head to market. What shall we do about Sevianth?" He asked.

"I shall take him to the festivities." Tre offered.

"My gratitude." It was nice to see my sister with life in her. "I shall change and attend the festivities as well. Iolaine, you two shall meet us there when you have returned from the market."

"We shall, Torienne." He bowed out of habit before he followed Sal into the hallway.

I gathered my change of attire and entered the bathing chamber. The bathing pool felt nice after the bout I had with Soliumant. I washed and decided to indulge in the pool for relaxing. I let my tired body soak until my flesh felt like a dried grape skin. I silently pulled myself out of the pool and dressed. Tre and Sevianth were dressed and waiting for me near the table.

"Shall we go be entertained?" I asked as I approached them.

"Aight, Tor." He bounced in his chair. It took so little to make him happy. I knew then that I would not return him to his village. He would be my heir.

We joined the crowd surrounding the platform, but Sevianth was too little to see much. I decided to use my rank to our advantage. We climbed the steps and watched from the balcony. The guards there welcomed us. I was one of them.

This day's festivities were more wondrous than the previous ones. A giant of a man battled a serpent and another played music that entranced it when the man tired. Groups of acrobats flipped, danced and used one another for chairs. Trained simians danced and performed other tricks for the crowd. Flocks of birds were released and sang for the crowd. I was as entertained as Sevianth and my sister. I decided it was time to return to the chamber when the scantily clad women began to dance.

"Did you see all that Sal?" Sevianth asked excitedly as we entered the chamber.

"I thought you were on duty?" I asked.

"I was, but Johianei overindulged again. Julaniant and I had to carry him to his chamber."

"Fortunate for us, unfortunate for him." I grinned.

Sevianth took great pleasure in relating the wonders he had seen during the festivities. He even attempted to illustrate several, but he was not yet agile enough to balance himself on his head. He rolled over onto his back and laughed. It felt good to laugh with him. Tre assisted him through several of the more complex maneuvers. My sister showed a remarkable skill at mimicry. They continued their tales and demonstrations until Iolaine and Lyliane returned.

"Where shall we put these?" Iolaine asked as they entered. Their arms were full of packages. Sal, Tre and I hastened to assist them.

"On the bed." I pushed the curtains out of the way. "I think it best we leave all of this here until we have secured an alternate location."

"I agree. We do not need damaging evidence in our chambers." Sal said.

We laid out the assortment of clothing. We would have several hours worth of work ahead of us to make it all fit. The cloth we planned to cut into strips to mask our faces and our hair. We wanted no parts of us to be visible or recognizable. We started our tasks readily. We had no other plans for the evening.

At last, after Sevianth had entered his dreams, we were finished. We gave into temptation and tried the attire to see how it all fit. The three of us looked as if we were demons from a tale. Only our eyes were visible. We even wore gloves, though I hated them. I felt they did not allow for a proper grip on a smooth hilted sword. Iolaine solved the problem before it became one. He had purchased three swords made in the design most used in this region. The hilts had ridges and the blades were curved. I was content with them.

Sal and Iolaine changed into their normal clothing before departing for their chamber. Sal was to begin teaching Iolaine basic sword dances. I sent Lyliane and Tre to rest. I wanted no witnesses.

I crept onto the balcony and pulled myself onto the roof of the palace. It was not quite as easy as it appeared to be, but I managed to succeed. The palace roof was sloped and covered with tile. I could feel the indentions through the soles of my new boots. It was one reason I had requested them. I found my way mostly by painting a picture of the palace in my head. In truth, I guessed which balcony belonged to Kierian.

I had a thought to inform Soliumant how easy it would be for an assassin to cross the roof, but decided against doing so. He kept guards in his room and outside his door for that very reason. Those guards did nothing but watch as he dreamed. They dreamed during the daylight hours.

I dropped silently to the balcony. I listened closely to see if another was present. I heard no voices. The doors had been left open and I silently crossed into the room. Kierian was sitting in a chair staring into space.

"I have been waiting for you." She said softly. Neither of us wanted the guard outside her room to hear us. "I did not expect you to enter so dramatically, but you always did favor making a scene."

"How did you know I would come?" I asked as I unwound the cloth from my head and face.

"Because you are Torienne, you can do no different." She stood and walked over to me. She was wearing the translucent robe again. I could see her curves through the candlelight.

"Do you disapprove?" I was suddenly nervous. I had thought of this moment since I had begun the quest.

"Nothen, I have always admired the way you take charge and make something your own." She stepped closer still. I could smell the scent of her bath water. Her dark hair was flowing freely down her back and her eyes shone in the darkness. I was trapped in them.

"Why do you wish remain here?" I could not but ask.

"I do not wish anything any longer." She replied. She had a forlorn tone to her voice.

"Why?"

"I do not wish for you to hear as yet." She pulled me into an embrace. "I am sorry for the loss of your brother." It was a strange sensation to relax in her arms. She had grown taller during my schooling. When I left for Kayla's, Kierian was the width of my sword shorter.

"As am I." I replied. She felt good in my arms. For a moment we were back in my father's stables. My mind incorporated the differences and disregarded them.

"You have yet to grieve." She knew me well.

"I have lost my mother as well." I confessed. "I have not had the luxury of time to grieve."

"You have now." She tightened her embrace. I felt the tears start. They were hot on my face as they fell to her shoulder.

"Nothen, I still do not have time." I pulled away and wiped the tears from my face.

"You always have to be the strong one, do you not?" She put her arms around me again.

Then she leaned in and kissed me. She kissed me as she had before she had left on a journey with her sister so long ago. Before I had been sent to Kayla's school. She kissed me as she had in our youth. Once, a long time ago, we had met in secret in my father's stables. We would exchange passionate kisses and hesitant caresses until it was time for the evening meal. This was better than those times.

"I am a kirgeur." I said when we broke apart. "I have to be strong. Let me show you what I have learned." I shocked myself with that statement. My passion had overridden my mind and stolen my thoughts.

"I would like nothing more." She led me to the bed.

"If I am caught here, I am dead." I suddenly remembered just who and where I was.

"Then we shall be quiet." She smiled seductively.

"You are to marry the heir to this realm, and you were betrothed to my brother." I moved her hands away. "I cannot do this." Something did not feel right.

"Why?" She walked into the light and opened her robe. "Do you not desire me?"

"I have always desired you. Why did you not wait for me to return?" It was what did not feel right. In my absence she had pledged herself to my brother. It was a betrayal.

"My father arranged that." She protested. She did not close her robe. I could only stare.

"You had to agree to it to make it binding." I protested. My family was wealthier than Kierian's. Our customs dictated both parties had to agree to a union in such cases. It kept the ways open for heirs.

"I had my reasons for agreeing." She answered. She shifted her weight. My throat had gone dry.

"Tell me, what were those reasons? Were they so important you could disregard a pledge to me?"

"I did not disregard anything. We were young, Torienne." She turned and faced the candles. "We knew not what we were saying."

"I was four and ten and you were five and ten years, that is not all that young and you know it." I was losing control. I wanted to disregard my feelings of betrayal and give vent to my lust. I wanted to lose myself in the passion of her name, but I could not. I looked into her eyes and saw a stranger. Sal had been correct. Kierian was no longer the person I remembered. I was no longer the person I remembered. I had once wished for Kierian to be my shehala. I knew then it was not meant to be. It was another piece of my soul, of my childhood, of the innocent horse breeder within me sacrificed at another's request, sacrificed to my quest and duty.

"Tor, what is the matter? You have realized it have you not?"

"Realized what?" My throat was dry. I could barely give voice to the query.

"We are not who we were. What we had was based in youth. We are no long that young." She did not appear content with the information. "We cannot be."

"It is not fair."

"Nothen. It is not. Not much in this life is fair." She walked closer. "Perhaps we can start again, but I shall not return if you leave."

"I will leave and you shall come with me." It was the horse breeder's last grasp at the wish of a lifetime.

"Nothen. Torienne, I shall stay. This is the course my path is taking. I cannot return. There is no reason for me to return." She put her arms around me again. "Stay with me and grieve. We have both lost much to lead us here."

"I cannot. If I am caught here I am dead. I must leave." Reluctantly I pulled myself from her arms. "I shall return on the morrow with Soliumant."

"I shall look forward to it." She closed her robe and returned to her bed. "Peace, Torienne. Go in peace."

"Dream in peace." I responded. I did not rewrap my face. I trusted the late hour to see me safely to my room. However, I turned at the last moment and entered one of the tower stairways through the window. I had no wish for dreams and no wish for conversation. The way to the stables was clear. I made for the soothing presence of my horse.

Several of the horses were gathered in the paddock. They made no noise as I approached. I was no danger to them, and they could sense it. Softly I nickered a greeting. I watched as a shadow in the shape of my horse stood. She cantered to the fence, gladdened by my presence. I climbed the enclosure and stood with my head resting on her neck. She in turn rested her head on my back. It was a familiar posture. Whenever my emotions were troubled, Kier was there to soothe them. In a strange land where my childhood lay in ruins behind me and an uncertain future lay ahead, she was my constant.

It had been a long time since I had ridden without saddle or bridle. The moon was at its half peak, and the river beckoned. I did not wish to waste time finding her tack. Kier was accustomed to late rides without benefit of saddle or reins. She was the embodiment of her name. In my native tongue, Kier means passion. My horse was as full of the emotion as the one for whom I had named her.

Kier needed no urging. She was a fine beast, bred for the chase and trained for battle. As soon as I was on her back, she galloped around the paddock, gaining speed to jump the enclosure. We made it with room to spare. Had anyone seen us, I wondered if they would have mistaken me for a horse thief. We were fortunate. None saw us.

We ambled along the bank of the river. I had no destination in mind. My lack of direction gave Kier her head. She walked where she wished. I had too many thoughts to guide her. Not far ahead of us, I saw a sight that made me resume control of our course. Salenia was swimming in the moonlight. I gave Kier the signal to stop as I had been taught. Silently we watched as Sal became aware of us.

"Very poetical you look, but tell me, do you always sneak up on innocent women swimming?" She asked as she returned to the shore.

"Nothen. It was but happenstance that brought us here. What occurred to make you seek the water's embrace?" I asked as I slide from Kier's back.

"I should ask you what occurred to send you running for the comfort of your horse." She paused as she gathered her clothing. "I know the answer. You have been to see Kierian have you not?"

"I have." I saw no reason to deny my actions. Sal knew of my wish to save my friend. "Kier, back to the paddock." I slapped my horse's rear, sending her back the way we had journeyed. "I have conversed with her."

"Shall she return with us?"

"Nothen. She wishes to remain here. Soliumant wishes to make her his bride." I sat down on the edge of the grass.

"Think you cannot compete with the future Jilhsaed?" Sal asked as she dressed. She soon joined me on the riverbank.

"I think it more that you were correct. She is not the girl I remembered. I am not the person I remembered either." With careful aim, the stone in my hand joined its brothers in the river. "This quest, our training, it has left its mark upon us. I felt no different until today."

"You have many talents, Tor. One of those is not dealing with anything until it is convenient to do so. I doubt your mind can shunt this aside any longer. That talent may make you fit for your color, but it is not healthy for your soul."

"You are but a season younger. How did you get years wiser?" I asked. Sal counted her years in the winter. I counted mine in the summer.

"In truth, I was offered a choice of colors. Chelstea bid me to chose red or blue. I chose the blue for I felt I could do the most good wearing it. I almost accepted the red and became a healer."

"Why did you not?"

"If I had accepted any but the blue, I could not have joined you on this quest. Had I accepted the red, I would be stationed at a village to tend the wounded. A huntress with healing skills seemed more appropriate for a true kirgeur and closer to my calling."

"Almost six season I have known you, and yet I feel as if I know not you at all sometimes." It was truth. Sal was a puzzle to me.

"It is because you do not yet know yourself. When you know your heart, you can know the hearts of others." She answered. "You have begun the process. Those around you must wait until you are in position to see the regard in which you are held."

"What means that riddle?"

"You sought this quest to find love. You have found but a shadow, correct?"

"What love I felt for Kierian was based on youthful obsession." I finally faced the truth. "How knew you?"

"I knew not. I merely guessed." She grinned. "Still, Tor, you are loved. You have no need to seek it. It is there for your asking."

"In truth, I feel closer to my companions than my kin. I have a lot to think on." I stood and offered my hand to assist her. "I am grateful for your counsel."

"Your gratitude is not needed, my friend. It is but a small way to illustrate our friendship." She looked as if she wanted to say more, but the sudden ringing of many bells in the distance tore our attention from one another.

"Duty calls. Have you your sword?" I gripped mine by the hilt. I could not leave it to even cross the roof and converse with Kierian.

"I have. Have you a reason for your attire?" She threw her tunic to me. "Replace yours with mine. Perhaps they will not notice the shirt and pants."

"My gratitude." I quickly changed. "If any does notice, I shall tell them it was all I had cleansed." I laughed.

The bells led us to the front of the palace. The crowd around the entrance was massive. People was either panicked or excited to see the cause of the disturbance. Sal and I pushed our way through with the help of a few other guards responding to the call. Of all, only I had rank enough to take command.

"Where?" I asked one of the palace guards. The man was not allowed to leave his post inside the doors unless commanded by the Jilhsaed himself. His duty was to keep anyone leaving or entering during an emergency.

"The Jilhsaed's harem." He directed us to the nearest stairway.

The bells had been ringing for full minutes by the time we arrived at the entrance to the harem. No others had yet reached it. We ran in expecting scenes of carnage. What we discovered was a lone man with a sword and two dead guards. The man was wearing robes of a lower class merchant. His eyes were blazing in the dim light. He had the princess of the harem, the first chosen by the Jilhsaed and mother to two of his sons, by the throat. His sword was inches away from being the instrument of her death.

"Stay back. I have come to seek counsel from the Jilhsaed. She shall not be harmed if I can but speak to him." The man sounded rational. His voice was not true to his actions.

"Peace. What is your name?" I spread my hands in a calming manner. I did not wish to panic the man.

"I shall speak to none but the Jilhsaed." He tightened his grip. The princess appeared ready to faint.

"He shall be here soon. I am one of his guards. Tell me what it is you seek, I shall relay it to him." I noticed the other shape move at the edge of my vision. "It would do you no good to attack us."

"What would you wish to do about it, girl?" The shape detached itself from the wall and became a man. "Our gods shall not let barbarian females best us."

"Is that so?" I taunted. "Let the princess go and we shall see. A match to the death between the four of us." I waved Sal to my side. "What say you to that? Think you are a match for two such barbarians?"

"I am a match for the two of you and more." The large man scoffed. He was easily as large as the guard I had defeated to earn my place at the Jilhsaed's court.

"Perhaps. The challenge is fair my way, we two barbarians against two baderemas. It seems fair to me." I unsheathed my sword. "Are we agreed?"

"Agreed." The man standing behind the princess released her.

"Which do you want?" Sal asked in our native tongue.

"The large one. Agreed?"

"It suits me well." She gave the slightest grin.

"Clear the area." I ordered the other guards behind us. The ladies of the harem were corralled to the side and out of harm's reach. "Let us begin."

As the large man and I circled one another, I could hear Kayla's advice deep within my ears. It was easier for a good swordsman to fight a larger opponent for generally the smaller had the speed and agility the larger lacked. It only took a moment for me to shed the world outside the battle. Sal had been correct again. My ability to shunt emotions made me good at my duty. I let the battle sense consume me before I touched my blade to his. If he noticed a change, he did not comment on it.

He swung first in a high arc intended for my head. I ducked and rolled behind him, letting my sword graze his calf. It was not a deep cut, but it surprised him. He whirled and aimed low. I rolled again and bounced to my feet. I took advantage of his position and kicked him harshly in the behind. He regained his footing and turned again with a strangled scream of fury. I had roused his anger as intended. Those who fight with emotion directing their sword lose. I parried his thrust and used his momentum to gain ground on him. The hilt of my sword connected with his ribs. I heard one crack.

"You cursed barbarian. Fight like a warrior, not a coward." He sputtered.

"As you wish." I replied mildly.

He blocked my swing, but missed the follow through. My blade grazed his shoulder. It was my third mark upon him. His anger gave him strength. He managed to push me back to the wall. I let myself be carried with the motion, claiming his hand as consolation. His head followed. Only then did I turn to find my partner.

"I reckoned one of them should be kept alive for interrogation." Sal walked over to me after consigning her target to the realm of dreams. "Are you harmed?"

"Nothen. Are you?" I wiped my blade on my opponent's tunic.

"Nothen. What shall we do with the other?"

"Give him to the palace guards. There is Soliumant. I shall inquire of him." I sheathed my sword and walked over to the heir of the realm. "Rohirm, what would you wish done with the survivor?"

"Siveruian shall have this dealt with. My gratitude and my father's for this. You have both proven your calling and your employment again." He appeared calm, but looking close at him, I could see he was slightly shaken by the encounter. I wondered if it were the first time he had seen violent death.

"Nothen, rohirm. It was merely an extension of our duty." I bowed my head to show humility.

"You have my gratitude regardless of your duty. See you to rest."

"My gratitude rohirm. I shall see you on the morrow."

"Torienne, bring your companion to lessons on the morrow. I wish to see how she unarmed her opponent with her dagger." Soliumant requested before turning to discuss the matter with the remaining guards.

"You did not use your sword?" I asked as we walked through the hallway.

"Nothen. I needed the practice with the daggers." She related in a calm manner.

"The man was a zealot and you needed practice with daggers?" It did not seem logical.

"You wish to chastise me for using daggers, the only weapon I can best you with, when you toyed with that giant before claiming his head?"

"You are correct. I have no right to complain. We have both survived another match. That should suffice to satisfy. Though I am loath to hear you explain it to your sister." I could not resist one last remark.

"Lyl knows I am a warrior. She will not comment." Sal seemed confident in her answer.

"We shall see. However, I shall not inform her." I promised. In truth, I did not want to be around the two when Lyliane discovered how her sister had prolonged her battle.

"Are you to rest?" Sal asked as we neared my chambers.

"Aight. I may give into temptation and make use of the resting pool. You?"

"I think I may do the same. Peace be your dreaming, Tor."

"Yours as well, Salenia. I shall see you on the morrow." I waited until she had continued down the hallway before opening the door to my rooms. Lyliane was waiting.

"I heard the bells. What was amiss?" She asked as she poured two mugs of viniare.

"Two men entered the harem and held the princess at sword point. Sal and I defeated them." I related it quickly. "Why are you still awake?"

"I wish to speak with you on a private matter." She seemed nervous.

"I have heard many conduct business in the pool for relaxing. If you wish to converse, join me there. I have need of it after this eve." My exhaustion made my speech oddly formal. Lyliane did not comment on it.

"Aight, Tor. I shall, if you do not mind." She retrieved the flask of viniare and both mugs.

"I do not mind if you do not." I shrugged my shoulders. Some had problems with bathing with the cylinge.

"I trust in you, Torienne. I know you would not seduce me. Relax. My sister is cylinge, I have no fear." She reassured me as we walked to the bathing chamber.

"I did not wish to cause you distress. My mind has slowed considerably after the day's events. Did Sal tell you she was cylinge?" If she had, I had not been present for the conversation. It did not bother me. I would not want someone around as I explained it to my sister.

"She did. In truth, I had known. She showed signs before I was taken. I was taken when she was three and ten summers. I was six and ten."

"It must not have been easy for either of you." I slid into the pool. My shoulder was causing great pain where I had injured it last.

"Gods. When did you receive that wound?" Lyliane asked as she joined me in the pool. She stared at my shoulder until I too examined it. I had not injured it again, but it was still sore.

"On our way here. We were attacked by bandits. Sal healed it for me." I leaned back against the wall of the pool. "You wished to discuss something?"

"Aight. Tell me, Torienne, what do you know of love?" She handed me my mug of viniare.

"I am a failed student of love, Lyliane. Why ask you?"

"Salenia said you began this quest for many reasons. The first was to rescue your love." She seemed younger than her sister.

"In a way, I suppose that is truth. I did discover I had been incorrect about my idea of love. It seems as if you could say I rescued it then." The heat, the viniare and the exhaustion made me thoughtful. "Sal would be a better person to query regarding the heart. She is wiser than I in such matters."

"I love my sister. I cannot ask her about such matters yet. I believe I have fallen in love with Iolaine. I know not what Salenia would think of such an arrangement." She took a long sip of her viniare before continuing. "I know not what love is enough to know if it is what I suffer from."

"Suffer? What are your symptoms?" I refrained from laughing. In truth I had been expecting this conversation, though I would have thought Iolaine would be the one to approach me, and Lyliane bespeak Sal on the matter.

"I see him while I am dreaming. I think of nothing but him. I am concerned for his safety, regardless of his duty. I miss him when he is not present. I do not feel right being away from him. My hands sweat and my insides shake when he looks at me. Is that love?" Her very face glowed at his name and she wore a small smile. She looked so like and so unlike her sister at that moment.

"Perhaps you should have inquired of Tre. She is much in love with her betrothed. As said before, I am redefining what I believed it to be. I do think you are correct. If I were schooled in the art of love, I would pronounce you ill with it."

"Should I inform Salenia? Do you believe she would be upset?"

"Nothen. She will be gladdened by the news. It is always nice to hear of happiness in others." I poured another mug of viniare for us both. "May you be blessed in your union."

"My gratitude for your understanding Torienne. I see now why my sister holds you in such high regard."

"Sal and I are partners. Our lives have depended one on the other for a good portion of this journey. I hold her in high regard as well." There was a thought so tantalizing close to me I could hear it buzz in my ear. It flew away without enlightening me as to its purpose.

"Perhaps that shall suffice today, but it will not suffice for long." Lyliane rose from the pool. "Peace be your dreaming, Tor. I am for rest."

"May your dreams be blessed." I let my words carry themselves softly. My head was too full for loud voices.

[part 12]

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