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January 2008 Grab-Bag Writings & Art

krwordgazer

Here are the elements for January:

Betrayal from within the tribe
A birthday
Thirst
Same-gender lovemates/lifemates
A circle
A sunrise

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

Have fun!

JadeOwl

Thirst.

It was the first thing Rayek noticed whenever he opened his eyes, these past days, thirst and the nigh-unbearable knowledge that he was entirely alone.

He had assumed he would be fine. He had assumed that it would be like his hunting trips. He was a loner, after all, he would not get lonely. But after a few days of this, he realized that never before had he bee truly alone. Always there was that little buzz of presence in the back of his mind. He could always send to Savah. He always knew that Leetah was waiting for him, that the villagers relied on him, needed him.

But now?

No one needed him. No one was waiting with arms and heart open to welcome him, should he return. Perhaps Leetah thought of him, sometimes, with a passing regret. He hoped so.

As he led his zwoot through the star-filled night, he reached up to his necklace and stripped off a bead. He weighed it in his palm for a moment, then dropped in the sand and moved on.

He'd taken to counting the days, like this, to keep from going mad. His collar was ruined anyway, the fangs torn off in his clever device in the Trial of Wit.

His lips curled in a snarl, the small movement making them crack and bleed. Oh yes, he had been clever, cleverer by far than that half-wit of a barbarian. Magic that the user had no knowledge of was still magic, and the means should count more than the ends, in a trial of wits! But Savah, his own Savah, had betrayed him, giving the win to that - that -

He stumbled slightly, and stopped. Time to bleed the poor dumb beast again. He could no longer ride it. It was as weak as he, and could not bear even his half-starved weight.

He slipped out a knife and a cup and began to gather the blood. Nine beads he'd had on the front row of his collar. Only four remained. He laughed, a harsh, rasping sound. Five days in the desert. What a way to spend your Birthing Day.

He drank as much of the blood as he could stomach, and stored the rest in his water skin for later. He tied a scrap of cloth over the beast's wound and look around. The sun would be rising, soon. Time to stop for now.

He set up his bedroll and lay down, weariness closing his eyes immediately.

"Rayek! Hey, Rayek!"

He fought off sleep with one exhausted fist, and sat up. "Zwha - Zhantee?"

It was midday, and the gentle potter was indeed running over the sands towards him. Clutched in his arms were three water-skins, a pouch that looked promisingly like food, and the lead for a new zwoot, which trotted, fully healthy, behind him. "I brought you things, Rayek, in case you needed them. Looks like you do..." He raised an eyebrow at the weakened zwoot, the blood (both Rayek's own and the zwoot's) staining his lips.

Rayek scrambled to his feet, stumbling towards his savior. "Zhantee! By the High Ones, gentle one, how did you get here?"

The potter looked apologetic. "Well, uhm, Rayek, sir, you've been.." He bit his lip, and muttered, "You've been going in circles."

Rayek stared at him. His mouth was slightly open, his eyes wide. Zahntee shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, I mean, it's easy to lose your way in the sand like this...um..."

Rayek gave a small chuckle, and sat down. "Five days." He mumbled. "Five days, and I've been going in circles." His voice grew louder. "Well, it only serves me right, right? That's what they'll be saying. Serves him right, idiot Rayek, couldn't even win his own true love in a test against a half-wit! Serves him right. Serves me right, maybe it does. Maybe I should keep going in circles until I die. Maybe that's all that's left for me. I've lost my place, I've lost my love, I - " He stopped and blinked at Zahntee. The potter's eyes were full of unshed tears, and his fists trembled at his sides.

"Sh-shut up! Shut UP!" He yelled at a shocked Rayek. "L-Leetah isn't the only one that l-loved you, you know! Savah loves you, and Ahdri, and Shenshen, and I-I love you! You're the proud hunter, the one beckoning from behind all the rules, the one that pulls me from my shell and makes me LIVE. You're my star that I aspire to! You're skilled, and strong, and b-beautiful, and, and, stop BEING like this! Stop! It's not...not you..."

He sat down, hard, as shocked as Rayek at what he'd said. Tears ran down his cheeks as he stared out at the desert heat, determined not to look at the hunter. "It's true, though." He muttered after a moment.

"Yes..." Whispered Rayek, a light coming into his eyes. "Yes, it is true! Those savages may have stolen everything worthwhile to me, but I can make a new life for myself. I am skilled, I am strong, I am - " He stopped and turned to Zahntee. "Do you really think I'm beautiful?"

The potter blushed. "Yes." He admitted frankly. "I mean, at the moment? You're a little worse for the wear. But still..."he lay on his back, staring up at the too-blue sky. "Your hair...I spent nearly a turn trying to catch Maleen's attention, because her hair reminded me of yours. And your eyes..." He gave a long sigh.

Rayek stared at him. "Why did you come out here? Why you?"

"Well, you needed supplies, and, um, you needed me. To remind you. And I might have had some of those dreamberries the wolfriders like so much. It seemed like a good idea." He turned on his side to look at Rayek. "Was I wrong?"

"No." He took a deep breath. "Zahntee...thank you. You were right. I needed to be reminded, and I think I needed you to be the reminder."

Zahntee blushed again, and gave a smile sweet as honey. "You're welcome. I can help more, I think. Skywise has been teaching me about the stars...I think I can tell you enough that you won't be going in circles, at least."

Rayek moved to sit next to him. "Stay, then, until dark, and let's see what's in that food package."

**************

The stars began to emerge, and Rayek looked down at the sleeping form beside him. He smoothed a curl of Zahntee's hair from his forehead, and breathed in his ear, "Time to wake up, gentle one."

Much staring at the sky and pointing later, Rayek had his bearings. He loaded the food and water, as well as his old supplies, onto the new zwoot, and Zahntee prepared to take the half-dead creature with him back to the village.

"Zahntee," Rayek called, and the potter looked back at him. "Tell the others...tell Savah that I love her, and Leetah that...that I wish her well. And I think...Zahntee, I think that in time, I could come to love you as well."

Zahntee's eyes were caught between despair and hope. "You will not come back with me, tell them yourself?"

"No. No, I think that would be unwise. Goodbye, gentle one."

Zahntee stared after the hunter as he disappeared into the darkness. "Goodbye, Rayek. Until we meet again."

**********

Sorry, that's as close to lovemates as I could get those two.

The_Wylde_Wynd

Jade... I love you. :bow:

LadyArill

Meef. The cuteness...it fills me...it is neat....SQUEEEEE!!!!

WARNING: ADULT SITUATIONS AHEAD! 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Voll was confused. Very confused.

Winnowill was angry with him- again- and he had no idea what he had done wrong. As far as the youn Elfin leader could tell, he had said nor done nothing that would offend his beloved. High Ones, it was barely the middle of the day, he couldn't have had time to commit any atrocites against her!

The Elf sighed and paced the floor of the common cavern, his hands behind his back as he mulled his situation over. Winnowill would not speak to him, except to deliver snipped, cryptic statements about what time of year it was, and she refused to stay in the same area for more than a few moments.

It had begun right from sunrise, he supposed. Winnowill had awakened before him and had been smiling expectantly. He had sleepily returned her smile, kissed her good morning, then climbed out of bed to quench his thirst and pull some clothes on. After that, she had behaved in a most unusual manner, what with her distinctly unhappy silence and her rather forlorn gazes. Then, of course, was her question:

"Do you know what time of year it is, my Lord?"

And he had replied, each time, that it was spring time. Though after the third inquiry, Voll began to feel that he was missing something...something important. If only he knew what.

"What troubles you, Lord Voll?"

Voll turned about to see the tanner, Aburra, standing in the door way with her hands clasped before her.

"Oh, hello, Aburra. It is Winnowill. She is upset with me, and I do not know why. Do you, by any chance? You two are good friends, after all." he said, suddenly feeling hopeful. Aburra stared at him, seemingly stunned.

"You...do not...know?" she demanded, eyes widening. Voll shook his head.

"Are you utterly unaware of what day it is??" Aburra exclaimed.

"Apparently not." Voll said dryly. The tanner gaped at him for a moment longer before blinking rapidly.

"Well, think about it, my Lord! It is the second moon of spring, yes?"

"Yes..." Voll agreed.

"And it is the ninth day of this moon."

"Yes..." Voll said again.

Aburra crossed her arms over her chest and frowned, now seemingly agaitated with him.

"Come now, Lord Voll. Why would the ninth day in the second moon of spring matter to Winnowill?" she snapped.

Voll raised his brows at her sudden mood shift and mused it over for a moment. And then, it came to him like a blow to the stomach.

Time seemed to halt and Voll's eyes grew rounder than the moons. It felt like the ground had been taken from under his feet without any warning; shocking, and with a strong undertone of utter dread.

"Oh, High Ones...I have forgotten her birthday!" Voll wheezed.

"How very astute of you." Aburra snorted. Voll ignored her completely.

"Merciful drukk, I am an imbecile!!" the Elfin Lord snarled, slamming his fist against the wall of the cave.

"Well, it was you who said it, not I." the tanner drawled.

-0-

Zurri peered around a towering pine and found Winnowill sitting by the river, alone, looking completely dejected. At once, the impish firestarter felt the usual mixture of lust and affection she got whenever she saw the healer, this time laced with worry and compassion.

"Winnowill? What's wrong, beesweets?" she called, walking over to the depressed looking woman. Winnowill glanced up and managed a small half smile for her former lovemate.

"Hello, Zurri." she murmured, replacing her chin atop her knees and returning her attentions back to the swiftly flowing water before her. Zurri sauntered over and dropped down beside Winnowill, sitting cross legged.

The younger Elf propped her pointed chin in her hand, her elbow resting on her knee.

"That's an awfully long face to be wearing on your birthday, lovely healer! Why so sad?" she crooned, a breeze ruffling her short, spiky, flame colored hair.

Winnowill glanced at her out of the corner of her eye. She almost smiled at her companion's posture. So inquisitive, so cheery, this wiry young Elf. Zurri always reminded her of a fox, what with her red hair and boundless curiosity. Winnowill supposed it was the younger woman's energy and spark that had led her to take her into the furs.

"Oh, nothing, dear...it's just...Voll's forgotten my birthday, that's all." Winnowill sighed, a slight shadow of anger crossing her face.

"He...forgot your birthday?!" Zurri cried, baffled. Winnowill nodded.

"Yes, I am afraid so. I should not be so surprised, really, he has been so busy leading the tribe since Father left..." Winnowill's voice wavered slightly, the grief over her sire's departure still fresh though it had been well over three turns of the seasons. Zurri reached out and stroked the healer's hair, waiting for her to regain her composure.

Winnowill swallowed and cleared her throat, wiping slightly at her watering eyes.

"As I said, he has had a lot on his mind lately, so I was not expecting a gift or anything of the sort. But a simple 'Good morning, dear, happy birthday' would have been nice. He just woke up and went about his business as usual, not saying a word about it." Winnowill finished, a little bitterness detecable in her words. She was angry with him, she would not hesistate to admit that.

Winnowill had always remembered Voll's brithdays, things that were of importance to him. She supported him, stood by him no matter how bleak things looked, she had even given herself to him, mind, body and soul, allowing no one else to know the curves and contours of her body but him and him alone. The healer had given him all of herself, and she expected nothing return but his love, and the cherished idea that he would remember everything that was important to her, the day that she came into this world included.

Zurri, meanwhile, was conflicted. Fury on Winnowill's behalf, worry, and a slight ray of hope all warred inside her. Perhaps this meant that the beautiful healer was willing to take other lovers again? The firestarter felt no guilt at pining for her Lord's mate. She admired Voll and liked him very much, but she would not hesitate to turn his loss into her gain.

Gently, Zurri slipped her arm about Winnowill's shoulders and squeezed, feeling a slight thrill run through her body at the contact.

"I am sorry about that, Winnowill. Truly, I am. But please let me say this; if I had been in Voll's place this morning, I would make sure that you would not leave our chamber without a smile on those pretty lips." she murmured into the healer's ear. Winnowill turned to look into Zurri's vivid green eyes, her expression conisdering as a slight smile quirked her mouth.

"Tell me, sweet talker, have you ever been kissed?" she asked, leaning against her former lover.

Zurri blinked a couple of times at this seemingly random question.

"What, you mean that mouth touch you and Voll do? No." she answered. Winnowill gave a full smile now, seductive and teasing.

"Let me fix that for you, sweet one." she purred, gently pushing Zurri onto her back on the grassy bank. She straddled the other woman and kissed her firmly, smiling as she felt Zurri's hands fly up to the small of her back.

The day was looking up.

-0-

Voll stood in the hall, a few doors down from the room he shared with Winnowill. In his nervous hands, he fiddled with his gift. He was unsure his beloved would even accept it. She was known for her temper and had a stubborn streak as wide as his...she could quite possibly reject his attempt at an apology.

The Elf gazed down at the gift he had made for his lovemate. It had taken him all afternoon to find the right color of clearstone, and he had been shaping the materials until sundown. He had only just finished. It was a pendant fashioned from pale green crystal, about the size of a bird's egg, and was shaped to resemble Winnowill's favorite flower.

Voll had formulated an apology speech to give Winnowill, but it escaped him now, at the time it was most needed. But he could not wait until tomorrow to remember it; he needed to do this now or else the guilt (or his lover) would kill him.

The Elfin lord traveled the last few feet down the hall until he stood outside the door of their chamber. He reached out and rapped smartly on the wall, his knock echoing through the quiet hall. His excellent ears picked up the rustle of cloth, the soft slap of feet against the stone floor, and then the door's curtin was pulled back to reveal Winnowill, bare but for the breast band about her chest and the breech cloth slung across her generous hips. Immediately, her eyes narrowed as she gazed up into his face.

"Yes?" she said.
//What a fool I am, Winnowill. I am so sorry that I forgot your day of birth. I am a terrible mate.// Voll sent, looking into her eyes and allowing his shame to touch her mind. His lover said nothing, just crossed her arms and raised one brow. Voll took this as an indiaction to continue.

//I cannot tell you how horrible I feel. You have done so much for me, given me so much...and I cannot even remember to wish you a happy birthday. I do not even have the excuse of being busy. I should have remembered, busy time or not. //

//Yes, you should have. // she replied. Voll gently took her hand in his and pressed her present into her palm.

//I know that this will not make things up to you, my love, but I hope you will accept my gift, along with my sincerest wishes that you have a happy remainder of your birthday. // he sent.

Winnowill turned the pendent over in her hands, carressing the glittering green facets with slim fingers. Slowly, she lifted her eyes back to his.

"I'll have to find something sturdy to have it hang from." she obsereved.

Voll released a deep breath and smiled a little.

"Am I forgiven?" he asked, looking at her with his eyes at their most pleading. She gazed at him a moment, then smiled and hugged him.

"I suppose so, lovemate. You know I cannot resist you when you give me that pathetic look of yours." she sighed, leaning up and kissing him, her teeth nibbling at his lower lip.

Voll felt his heart leap with happiness; she had forgiven him.

"Mmm, Winnowill? Who're you talkin' to?"

The Lord and Lady broke apart and gazed back into the chamber, lit only by a single tallow candle. In the half gloom, Voll could make out a feminine form in their bed, a crop of bright red hair crowning the other Elf's head.

"Is that Zurri?" Voll asked curiously, looking down at his lovemate. Winnowill looked from one lover to the other, dark brows raised. Slowly, a sly little smile spread across her face, and she began coyly tracing a circular pattern on Voll's chest.

"Do you know what would really make up for your mistake?" she purred, her hand slipping lower on her lovemate's body. Voll could feel a flush blooming on his cheeks as he guessed at his lover's thoughts.

"What?" he asked, a grin forming. Winnowill leaned up and whispered in his ear, her words making his heart thunder in his chest.

"I would be delighted." Voll assured her, complete honesty evident in his voice.

Smiling seductively and with a tempting sway to her hips, Winnowill led Voll into the bedchamber by the collar of his shirt.
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
Muwahahahaaaa! Naughty Winnowill. Can't have just one, can she? :twisted:

Trollbabe

Do Elves have records of birthdays?

LadyArill

Maybe. Since the births of children are so infrequent, one would think that Elves would take great pains to remember birthdays.

JadeOwl

That was my reasoning, too. I figured also if there was one elf that remembered their birthday, it would be Rayek.

Do you guys really think he was in character? It seemed a bit stretched in places to me.

Arill, that was beautiful. I like Zurri.

Trollbabe

As the Go-backs keep count of years, and the Sun Villagers are agrarian and have to keep track of seasons, it is possible that they keep records of birthdays. I doubt that the Wolfriders did the same, at least until they came to the Sun Village, as they live in the "now" of wolf thought. The last few generations had lived in a permanent dwelling before it burned down, so there was the opportunity to have some kind of calendar. But as Cutter adopted the Go-Back tradition of marking the passing of the seasons much later, it seems doubtful to me.

My contribution:

"I'm thirsty", gasped Joyleaf to her circle of tribemates, as she gave birth to Cutter. It was almost sunrise.

Skywise looked down at his future same-sex lover and noticed a snake approaching. He flung it away.

"I wonder who let that snake into the circle?" thought Bearclaw.

lunakat

Quote:
Trollbabe


"I wonder who let that snake into the circle?" thought Bearclaw.


:angel:

like he doesn't know.

Nightsea

Quote:
Jade Owl

The stars began to emerge, and Rayek looked down at the sleeping form beside him. He smoothed a curl of Zahntee's hair from his forehead, and breathed in his ear, "Time to wake up, gentle one."



Illustrated that moment (hope you don't mind):


:)
--Nightsea

Nightsea

Quote:
Lady Arill

WARNING: ADULT SITUATIONS AHEAD!


This one is for your story, so you don't feel left out:

:twisted:
--Nightsea

Nightsea

Quote:
Trollbabe

"I'm thirsty", gasped Joyleaf to her circle of tribemates, as she gave birth to Cutter. It was almost sunrise.

Skywise looked down at his future same-sex lover and noticed a snake approaching. He flung it away.

"I wonder who let that snake into the circle?" thought Bearclaw.


Short and sweet! I'd illustrate it,
but it has already been shown!
:D
--NS

Trollbabe

My story was inspired by a joke that is older than most of you.

My college journalism teacher told us that some one had determined the most popular elements for best-selling fiction were mystery, deity, sex and nobility. He quoted one wag as having combined all four elements into the shortest best-selling novel ever:

"My god!" said the Duchess.
"I'm pregnant!"
"Who dunnit?"

JadeOwl

Hee! Trollbabe, I loved yours, and that joke.

And Nightsea, I don't mind at all! It's beautiful!

I think it's funny to see my story interpreted that way, as I left it open to interpretation whether they lovemated or not.

Trollbabe

Leaving a story open to interpretation is often more interesting than concluding it. Concluding a story with a concrete resolution is actually not universal to all cultures.

Nightsea

Quote:
Jade Owl

whether they lovemated or not.



Well the picture isn't 100% proof they did...so once again
it is interesting to see interpretations. Your story had
Zhantee taking a nap...and we know that Wolfriders
sleep naked...so extrapolating that perhaps Sun-Folk
do too...he's in the buff. But Rayek is fully dressed in
the outfit he wore at the time of your tale (acording to
Book 4, page 19--minus his armbands). Perhaps Rayek
just stretched out beside Zhantee to wake him before they
gazed at the stars?

There could still be mystery about the sex.

:oops:
--Nightsea

JadeOwl

True. Wink

manga

Quote:
Jade Owl

Magic that the user had no knowledge of was still magic, and the means should count more than the ends, in a trial of wits!



I like it ALMOST enough to forgive you for implying I could get lost close enough to my own home that a potter who has never tracked nor been further than a stone's throw from the village in his whole life can find me. Also for implying I needed help from anyone, let alone that rutting Wolfrider, to continue my journey. *Glare of Doomâ„¢*

Er, I'll try to distract him, Owly...

krwordgazer

These were all grand! :D

Jade Owl, I did think Rayek was in character (except for getting lost, of course, he'd never do that, heh, heh-- do you think he's calmed down yet, Manga?) The only thing that seemed odd was Zhantee calling him "sir" -- somehow it didn't seem elf-like-- and Rayek calling Zhantee "gentle one" the first time. The second time, after they'd eaten and slept together (in whatever manner the reader wants to interpret that), I can see Rayek saying "gentle one." But when they first meet? I don't think Rayek would be thinking that fondly of him right at that moment. . .

Winnowill and Voll's story was funny! If elves did celebrate birthdays, it's certain Voll would forget Winnowill's, heh, heh. Though I suspect in reality the Gliders just lost all track of time within that Mountain. . .

I agree that if any elves are likely to remember birthdays, it would be the Sun Folk. They are the only ones who have a yearly holiday, too, right?

Nightsea, your illustrations were both lovely. And Trollbabe-- your story, and your joke-- are very much appreciated! Grin

Nightsea

Quote:
krwordgazer

Nightsea, your illustrations were both lovely.

Thanks! I think I'll keep my writing for my Vytha thread
for this month...so the illustrations are my contribution (only
fair since I did suggest an element).

Unless someone objects. Then I suppose I'll whip up something
text-like.
:roll:
--Nightsea

manga

BTW, Jade Owl, please don't let Rayek's grumbling at your story let you think I didn't like it. I thought it was sweet and I really appreciated how you delicately handled the same-sex partner aspect. It's not my cup of tea and I was just going to leave when I saw that but then the next post had the magic word ("Rayek," like you had to ask) and I'm glad I stuck around. :)

The_Wylde_Wynd

Not necessary, but this song pretty much goes with the fic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBO3f_9k1X8

*************************

It was raining. Dark clouds blocking out the rising sun.

Hoykar stood under the rain, moon-silver hair plastered to his face. Physically he was trembling, body wracked from the cold of the weather. Inwardly, he was still, unmoving.

Behind him the rain had long since soaked through the sweet-cakes and deluded the wine, so carefully lain out for the special day. For his life-day.

It had happened before, so, so many times. It always started out well, fingers entwined, tender touches and loving words. Than Winnowill would come up, or something would be forgotten, or something so stupid and trivial they never remembered afterwards. And then Kureel would pull away, shout and glare, each word piercing Hoykar’s heart. Always the same, vicious, unending circle. Then Kureel would storm away, leaving Hoykar to pick up the pieces of his heart and wait for his return.

Kureel always came back, and Hoykar was always waiting. He was waiting because he needed Kureel. Needed his love, and his kisses, and his tight embrace. He needed the late nights cuddled close in bed, the lips brushing his ear and whispering an apology. Needed it, thirsted for it, like it was life itself.

But this time there would be no more waiting. There would be no more coming back. No more sweet apologies whispered from the warmth and safety of each other’s arms. Never again.

Hoykar was glad it was raining. He could pretend the tears were only raindrops.

krwordgazer

Wow, both of those are intense! Wylde Wynd, you've made me feel so sorry for Hokyar. That last line is poetry itself. Wonderful!

Tymber, the short sentences work well in creating the mood. And you've got great imagery-- I like the picture of Shadow by the grave, scratching circles in the dirt.

Your new characters are a bit two-dimensional at this point, but they've only just been introduced. I'm sure they'll be developed more. But for now-- this one sentence isn't quite working right:

[quote:e42be62c8a]“But at least Wildthorn didn’t think everything through, he simply acted,” Blackstar snapped back. “What he wanted, he took.” [/quote:e42be62c8a]

I think even Blackthorn would word that first part in a way to make it seem more negative not to think things through-- something about useless delay and weak hesitation, perhaps.

Other than that-- this is a great new plot twist! Looking forward to seeing where you're going with it!

krwordgazer

And now here's mine. It's dramatic, maybe even a bit melodramatic-- but it's what the elements for this month suggested to me:


WHAT MATTERS


Anaria was to be 18 this coming night. She had sought and received her indulgent father's permission to follow the ancient coming-of-age rite in the forest as the sun set. Two armed guards were being sent with her, with strict instructions not to watch from a distance, to not interfere unless she was in actual danger.

"Do not worry," Anaria told her mother. "I will be back just after sunrise." She hugged her mother impulsively. "Thank you, thank you for letting me do this!"

Her mother hugged her back. "You are a lady of the first level. There is no one to say you nay, except Grohmul Djun himself." She laughed. "And I do not believe the Djun cares."

Anaria's mother held her daughter by both shoulders, then, gazing into her eyes. "Almost no one follows the ancient ways any more. But I know you care about them. Be careful."

"I will, Mother," Anaria promised. "It is lucky that my birthing day falls in high summer. I will need very little provision for this night."

She looked out the window to where the Thorny Mountain rose, higher even than Citadel Mound. It was on the lower slopes, below the Hidden Ones’ legendary dwelling place, that she would hold her ritual. Her guards would protect her against outlaws and wild animals. All would be well.

The First Level, where her noble family lived, was a place where the rumors of Spirits suddenly manifesting themselves out of the legends of the Mountain had not yet reached. And even if they had, Anaria would not have been troubled. She trusted the Hidden Ones. . .




Slot was strapping on his sword when Pike came into the tree den. "I'm going hunting, lifemate," Skot told him.

Pike nodded. "Krim going, too?"

"Nope."

Pike looked puzzled. "Who are you going with, then? Want me to come?"

Skot grinned and put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't want company tonight, Pike."

Pike stared at him suspiciously. "Why? Just what are you up to?"

"Nothing much." Skot's face became unusually serious. "The rules around here sometimes make me feel like a fawn kept in the lodge-- you know that, Pike. Don't worry-- I'm going to keep secret and be careful. I just want to get out beyond the thorn wall and. . . and breathe for a while."

Pike was still gazing at him. "Skot, it's only been a few days since you got back in Cutter's good graces after you tried to rob those humans of their roast deer. Don't mess up again!"

Skot grinned again. "I won't. Do you think I'm going to forget in a hurry what Strongbow and Moonshade did with me and Krim?"

Now Pike grinned back. "Not likely-- even for you. All right. But keep your wits about you!"

"I will." Skot gripped his hand. "I betrayed the tribe once. I won't do it again."



The sun was setting when Anaria picked out a reasonably flat place among the rocky slopes of lower Thorny Mountain. As her two guards tethered the horses and picked places to stand watch, she scraped a wide circle in the dirt among the sparse grasses that covered the area. Noble or not, this task had to be done by herself, or it would not be her ritual. She spread blankets and furs inside the circle, where she would remain till sunrise, taking neither food nor drink. As the sun sank, she took her last swallow of water and set her water bottle outside the circle. Then she placed four lanterns on the circle, one to the east, one to the west, one to the north and one to the south. Lighting them, she settled down to pray to Threshk't and to the Blessed Spirits to watch over her life, guide her path through her adult years, and help her to marry well and have healthy children. When the sun rose, she would be an adult-- and she would have set her course well for the rest of her days.



Toward dawn, Skot saw the lights of the four lanterns as he slipped through the woods. He stopped, wondering, and faded back into the bushes as he noticed the forms of the two human guards, sunk into themselves as they watched the slight figure curled within the lantern light. Curious, Skot eased closer. The female was dozing in the furs, her long brown hair like a pool around her face. Her delicate face was peaceful, serene. Slowly, Skot shook his head. What in the world were these humans up to?

He wished he could wake the female, see what she'd do when she saw "a Spirit." He wished he could show himself to the guards and laugh at their astonished faces. But that sort of thing was only fun when Krim was around-- and anyway, there was his promise to Pike-- and the lesson Strongbow and Moonshade had taught him, deeper than fleeting Go-Back memory, sunk right into his skin.

About to turn away, Skot suddenly lifted his head. Another human was coming-- not openly, but creeping stealthily. Why? Skot stayed where he was, watching.



Anaria woke with a start. Sunrise! Rose-colored light bruised the brightening sky on the horizon she could see through the sparse trees. She reached for her water bottle It had been a long night. . .

"Thirsty, my lady?" The harsh voice was like an icicle pricking her spine. Anaria turned, clutching the water, to see a man standing over her. The growing sunlight caught his pale hair, the cold blue of his eyes, his filthy clothes, the unkempt bristle of his beard.

She gasped. "Guards!"

"I'm afraid they are indisposed, lady." The man picked his teeth with a dirty fingernail, smiling down at her in a way that made her skin crawl. "Now, you just give me those baubles on your fingers and neck, pretty one, and those furs you've been lying in." A knife had appeared somehow in his other hand, and he gestured with it at her neck, the point moving down to flick the fur off one of her shoulders. Anaria shuddered. Her eyes cast desperately around for her guards. Crumpled lumps lay where she had last seen them.

"No guards," the thief whispered. "No one but you, and me, and three fine horses for the taking."

Anaria raised her chin. "And what are you going to do with me?" she asked proudly. "Harm me, and my father will never rest till you are captured, drawn and quartered!"

"Oh, it hardly need come to that," he said pleasantly. "A little ransom, and you'll be safe at home again.” He leered at her. “A little the worse for wear, maybe. . . "

Anaria would not show him her desperate fear. She was a lady of the first level, and. . . and this was her coming-of-age day! The day that was to set the course for the rest of her life. Better it go out now like a sudden flame than that she spend the rest of her life in her father's house in shame, ruined so that no man would have her--

She leaped to her feet, darting under the man's knife and flinging herself hard against him. Then as he stumbled back, she scrambled past him and clambered up the rocks.

Cursing, the thief righted himself and moved to follow her. She couldn't get far in that rich gown. But what was that? Movement in the bushes? He took two swift steps, ready to kill anyone else that might appear to defend the prize-- and found himself staring down into a small, strange face with huge eyes and tapered ears.

Skot had only one instant to move, before the human lunged. The human had only one instant to curse, before Skot's blade entered his heart.

Anaria, trying to climb higher, hindered by many elbow-lengths of clinging skirts, heard the gutteral, gurgling noise the thief's throat made as life left him. She stopped, heart pounding, and listened. No one was following her. What had happened? Slowly, slowly, she turned and eased her way back down the rocks.

Her attacker lay with wide eyes that stared without sight at the blood that covered him. His knife lay unused beside him. Anaria looked for a moment, then turned away, retching.

After a while she pulled herself together and found the horses. Mounting her own, leading the guards', she turned from the place of horror and rode for home.

It wasn't until much later, after her mother had fussed over her, put her in a hot bath, pulled her out again to give her hot drinks and promises that her father was sure to forbid all future escapades, that Anaria's shock began to fade, and she asked herself, "Who killed him?"

And it was days later that she first heard the rumors of the Hidden Ones reappearing out of legend, and knew that they had answered her night of prayers. Her birthing-day ritual had not been in vain. She had learned she was one who could face danger and not be daunted by it. And she was in the favor of the Blessed Spirits-- for it had to have been they who had saved her...



Skot went to the river and washed the human blood off his leathers, then headed back to the Holt. "You're all wet, lifemate!" Krim exclaimed. "What happened?"

"Nothing," he said, shrugging.

Pike looked at him with those eyes that always saw more than they let on. "Nothing?"

Skot's face was very serious. "I kept secret and careful, lifemate," he said. "And-- I did what was right. That's what matters."

Pike nodded. "That's what matters."


THE END

krwordgazer

Quote:
Tymber


The only thing off to me was the "Don't mess up again!" that Pike says. There's certain phrases (and I always mess up when I write ElfQuest fanfic) that the elves don't seem like they'd say - and that was one that seemed... off to me. But I have NO idea what the replacement phrase would be. So really, I ain't got nothing. :D



Yeah, I can see that, but I also didn't know what else Pike would say. "Don't screw up again" sounds even more "Earthian," if you know what I mean. Wink If anyone else has a better suggestion, I'll entertain it. But I don't think "mess up" is overly idiomatic, compared to other phrases. :)

Thanks for the lovely comments, Tymber! And for the constructive criticism too! :D

[quote:1092eddb20]As for Blackstar's dialogue - I was trying to show that he prefered Wildthorn as chief - because Wildthorn wouldn't sit and think things through. He'd just go for what he wanted, regardless and uncaring of whatever the consequence might be. Did this not come across?[/quote:1092eddb20]

Sorry about "messing up" on his name. Grin But yes, it did come across what you meant. It's just that not thinking things through, put in those terms, is generally considered a negative quality. To word the same trait as a positive quality usually means rephrasing it as "being decisive" or "man of action," or something like that. Hope that makes clearer what I meant. In any case, it gave me pause for a second-- "Is Blackstar praising or criticizing here?" before I figured out what you were trying to get across. Rewording it might avoid that little "huh?" moment.

lunakat

Oh wow! i hadn't checked these stories out in a while. What a pleasant suprise. Wink I see that Tymber has added a new chapter to the saga. And Krword-- that's such a great story about Skot. He gets to act heroically for a change! (Nah... Skot is/was heroic-- especially considering his last acts.) And I loved the interaction between him and Pike.

funny how both stories are, to a certain extent, about characters who wrestle with thinking/not thinking things through. In both good and bad ways.

thanks you guys-- that brightened my day! :)

lunakat

you's welcome!

asinas

Ah! I'm sorry its so late now. I'm sosososososo sorry. I finally came up with a basic idea for this story. Er..well...here goes..Again I'm sorry.

GoldLeaf looked towards the hut of MorningShade. Inside she knew that nomad she elf was in delivering a small bundle at this very moment. Thats not why she was out at the hottest part of the day though. The ocean breeze brought the smell of salt and the waves to her delicate nose and made her throat dry. The longer she sat there the more thirsty she became. Finally she couldn't stand it any longer and she stood up walking away from the huts, and the excited chattering of the other women who were busy dying blankets for the soon-to-arrive new tribe member.

Though everyone else felt excited, you could hear them practically -singing- about how many births there had been lately, what with the chief having not one but TWO children by both his dead and current mates. Well one was a girl. A healer no less and the other had not yet arrived either. Everyone knew he wished it to be a strong son since he had a stunningly adorable girl.

Still, the plant shaper couldn't help but feel as though int heir joy the whole tribe had betrayed her. Not so long ago they had been affected by a second outbreak of disease and lost many loved ones. One of those was her own dear lover. A beautiful girl, as kind as the ocean breeze. She had long blond hair she often wore in a braid, it was a soft pale yellow that looked as though it were an illusion and would blow away. Her eyes were the color of a deep blue river, almost translucent but honest.

GoldLeaf sighed heavily to herself as she made her way to the beach. Often she and her lover, SnowSwan would take strolls along the beach at night. GoldLeaf looked over the small fires that burned along the beach. Small groups here and there that were celebrating the comming birth privately away from the village. GoldLeaf's unbound red-blond hair blew in the breeze as she paused watching an unattended fire.

It reflected in her leaf-green eyes as she sighed. How many times had She and SnowSwan stayed up all night just to watch the sun as it came up the next day? Too many to remember, too many times did SnowSwan fall asleep in her arms, or would they wake up to find that night had proved longer then their stamina. It was this time, only three turns of the seasons ago that the disease had come to take away her beloved, and so many others from their tribe. Now, as if in some circle that howled to be completed, the tribe was being replenished birth by birth.

As these thoughts left her mind, a cry erupted from the village. No matter how she had felt moments ago, something stirred inside of her and she turned racing back towards the village as did the others who had strayed from MorningShade's crowded hut. She climbed up the rocks to the path and ran as swiftly as her legs could take her.

She reached the hut just in time to see the proud father walk out with a small bundle wrapped in green cloth. The smile on his face was one no one would ever be able to wash away, and he beamed happily as he held his firstborn for all to see. Starwing, heavily pregnant with the Chief's second child walked closer to look at the baby before smirking at her brother. "Ohhh...what a cute little -girl- you have. Does she have a name yet 'daddy'?"

She rubbed her belly, and eyed the small girl in her brother's arms. Everyone knew she was so sure she would have a boy, and must of been so delighted to see her brother -didn't- have a son before her. Though it didn't seem to even register with MorningShade, how catty and childish his sister was being. "She does indeed. Her mother wants her to have the name Doeskin."

GoldLeaf looked down to the small bundle. She sighed a little and new that for certain that a circle had become fulfilled. Just as the sun rises only to set, it will rise again. As such in death and life, life will go on even if those you love die.

krwordgazer

That was sweet, Asinas. Good job! :D