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 Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)

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Leanan

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PostSubject: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:14 am


Original author's note:

I wanted to write this. So I did. Kahvi's opinions on Skywise are not to be confused with mine, I am very much a fan of his but Kahvi isn't. Which is why this was so much fun to write.

New author's note: When I was writing this, the events of this story did not outright contradict the existing canon ElfQuest universe. But now that Final Quest is happening, this fic has entered the dream of Worldpool (also known as what-if / non-canon / alternate universe etc.) Basically, this story matches the canon events until some time after the end of 'Discovery' at which point it branches off on its own.

Another note: I will post first the 8 old chapters that were posted on the Scroll of Colors and fanfiction.net. One thing is new here: I will be adding the individual chapter titles that until now existed only on fanfiction.net.  The new chapter will be posted soon, or so I hope.


Beyond Mere Flight


Chapter One: Master of the Palace



Kahvi cursed as she walked, but they were silent curses now, in her mind only, she didn’t have breath to waste.

Tyldak! What an arrogant stupid utterly brainless troll-hugging maggot of a cave bat!

They’d been travelling – how long, Kahvi couldn’t say. A very long time. Many turns of the seasons. They’d been lovemates to each other, and Kahvi had to admit it had been pleasant. Then, just yesterday, Kahvi had sensed the sudden appearance of the Palace just over the next ridge of hills. Felt it, like she hadn’t felt it in ages. It was close… just an hour’s flight on Tyldak’s wings.

And the arrogant fool… he’d told her he wasn’t coming with her. He’d told her he didn’t know who was Master of the Palace, and feared it would be Winnowill, or someone like her. He wasn’t going to risk it, the yellow-livered coward! And when Kahvi tried to convince him of how important the Palace was to her, to her whole tribe – the stubborn idiot simply flew away and left her there, standing in the snow shouting curses at him.

Kahvi grimaced. An hour’s flight on his wings it would have been, but a day’s walk now or more, and most of it uphill. And she had to hurry, couldn’t rest enough, she didn’t know how long the Palace would stay in place.

She wondered if Rayek was still Master of it.

She thought about what she’d do if she met him. It involved a sharp spear in a very painful part of his anatomy. Perhaps a knife and one quick movement, too – she wouldn’t kill him, just make him wish he was dead. There had to be some things even a healer wouldn’t be able to fix.

Kahvi reached a turn on the path, and a new vista opened before her. She saw the Palace now, still far ahead, and sparkling. It called to her, she could feel its pull with her whole body. She forgot thoughts of Tyldak, thoughts of Rayek. This was more important than love or hate. This was the Palace.

It sang in her blood, it whispered in her bones. It looked – Kahvi had to admit it didn’t look like much. Like a piece of troll jewelry, like a pink-tinted glacier, like a crystal found in a dark cave, brought to sunlight. It sparkled too much. It was pretty, and Kahvi had little use for pretty things.

However, it was the Palace, and how it looked didn’t matter.

Kahvi walked faster now, the path turned downhill. The last steps she ran, yelling a battle cry.

And the wall of the Palace opened, like she had known it would. A figure stood there, silhouetted in light. Others surrounded him, among them Timmain the High One, and Cutter, for whom Kahvi still found some fond feelings in her stone-cold heart.

“Welcome home, Kahvi of the Go-Backs.” The light shifted, and Kahvi could see this being was not Rayek. To her surprise, she felt a slight disappointment.
“Where’s Rayek?” She asked.
“Far from here. Was it him you sought?” The Master of the Palace asked him. Kahvi recalled his name had been Skywise, perhaps it still was. It had all been so long ago.
“I sought the Palace, but if he had been here, I’d have had some sharp words and cold steel for him.” Kahvi answered. In the edge of her vision she caught Cutter smiling at her, looking far too smug for his own good. Perhaps Nightfall had told him? That’d be embarrassing. Better not think of that now. Other fish to fry.
“I see. Why do you seek the Palace?” Skywise asked her.
“Wouldn’t you? Anyways, what are you doing here? There’s nothing interesting in this part of the world, and the humans are particularly annoying.” Kahvi countered his question. She decided Masters of the Palace, all of them, were extremely frustrating to talk to.
“We came here for you. And Tyldak. We found you in the Scroll of Colors.”
Kahvi groaned. “Can’t you steer this thing any better? Tyldak didn’t want to come. So I had to walk a whole day and night. You could have landed a bit closer.” She complained.
Skywise shook his head. “I could have landed anywhere, but I chose to land here. I wanted to give you and Tyldak the choice of coming to us, or staying away.”
Kahvi started yelling at him: “Choices and freedom – that’s wolfrider talk, and rotten! Thanks to you, my lovemate has flown off! Another one! Next one I take to my furs won’t be able to fly anywhere on anything, I’ll make sure of that!”
Skywise grinned, and Kahvi remembered he was indeed one of those smug guys who thought that if a female talked to them about furs, that meant she was interested in sharing those with them.

Not in a million years. I’m done with Masters of the Palace.

Kahvi promised herself, as Skywise spoke:
“You’ve come to the wrong place for that, Kahvi. This is the Palace. We are all about flying, here.”
A thought seemed to occur in his oh-so-exalted brain.
“Would you like to try steering the Palace?”
Kahvi stared at him. Steer the Palace. Her eyes lit up. He might be annoying as dung on a boot sole, but this was the Palace. This was what generations of Go-Backs had lived, fought and died for. The mere idea that she could steer it, like a stag, like a Giant Hawk…

“I sure would.” Kahvi smiled. “Lead the way.”
Skywise led her to a room that seemed to be only half there – the outer wall of the Palace had been made transparent, even the floor was transparent, and she could see the snow, crushed tight under the weight of the Palace.
“Touch the wall and think of a place.” Skywise instructed her.
Kahvi stared at him in disbelief. Was that all there was to it?
**That is all there is to it, child. Your touch and your will. But only because we allow it, so don’t expect the impossible.** This was Timmain, sending to her. Kahvi growled, and touched the wall.



And beheld the Frozen Mountains. There was no Go-Back Lodge where she remembered it, and many of the peaks had changed, the glaciers had moved… and yet this was her home. Here, she’d been chief.



“Where are all my people? I didn’t see Go-Backs in that big hall.” Kahvi asked Skywise.
“Some of them are with Ember, the rest are with Venka. Venka started a quest to find you.”
“Hmph. And you thought you’d show her who’s better and find me before she does?” Kahvi asked in a surly voice.
“Nothing of the kind. I was going to let Venka find you herself – but then she met Lehrigen.”
“Who’s that?”
“A human who claimed he had killed you. Venka believed him, because he showed your braids for evidence. Braids I note you aren’t wearing anymore.”



Kahvi sighed. Of course she couldn’t wear the braids, not after a human had managed to cut them off her head. Even after the hair had grown back she’d not braided it again. She felt she’d lost her right to be chief when she lost that battle.
“That stupid trophy-gatherer? A fighter like him, I’d have expected him to make sure I was really dead. I’m sure he really did think he killed me. But I’m not that easy to kill. Got an ugly scar, though.”
“If you like I can ask Leetah…” Skywise began.
“No healers! I’ve never needed healers and I’m not going to start needing healers now!”
“All right, all right. Where shall we go next? I was thinking we could go to Venka and show her you’re alive.”
“Venka is with the Go-Backs?” Kahvi asked.
“Yes.”
“Then I shall have to braid my hair first.” Kahvi stated.
“Because you’re going to be chief again?” Skywise asked. He wasn’t sure what he thought of this, but decided not to comment.
“No. Because me braiding Venka’s hair has no meaning unless I wear the braids myself when I do it.” Kahvi explained to him.
Skywise didn’t argue. “Do you want to see something else first, then? Have you ever wondered what the surface of Child Moon looks like up close?” He offered, a Master of the Palace eager to entertain his guest, however blunt her manners might be.
“Only daft stargazers wonder about useless things like that.” Kahvi told him. She sat on a bench in the room, at least she thought it was a bench, but it was so soft it felt more like a bed. Typical of soft-bellied wolfriders and useless Masters of the Palace, she thought. Only a cloudhead like Skywise would put a bed in a steering room. Probably for when he was too lazy to walk to his actual bedroom. Or when he brought maidens over to let them have a go at steering the Palace.

Hang on…

There was something wrong with that thought. He’d brought her here.
“Has everyone here tried steering the Palace?” She asked casually, while she started braiding her hair.
“No. Most of them are too worried that they’d do it wrong, or simply not interested in that kind of thing. Some even say being in this room while the Palace moves through time and space makes them feel queasy.” Skywise explained.
“Why did you ask me if I wanted to try it?” Kahvi asked him.
“Because you’ve done so much for the sake of the Palace. I thought you deserved it.”
“And who are you to decide if I deserve the birthright of my ancestors?” Kahvi stood up and stared at him, her fists ready to punch that smug smile off his face.
Skywise spread his arms. “They call me Master of the Palace. They call Sunstream and Kimo that, too. If you want, you can be Master of the Palace too. Timmain will teach you everything you need to know. Sunstream will teach you a bunch of things no sane elf in my opinion needs to know. And I’ll teach you some things about the stars that Sunstream finds very boring and not important at all.”

Kahvi looked him in the eyes with pure hatred. “You dare… you dare offer me the Palace as a gift, as if it could be owned? You dare call yourself Master, here in this place? Do you know how many lives have ended for the sake of this piece of magic stone?”

Skywise didn’t blink. He stared her back.

And the Spirits came out from the walls. Go-Backs Kahvi had known, Go-Backs Kahvi had never met. Skot… Vaya… they were all here. Some she hadn’t known had died, but they seemed quite content to be here.
**Kahvi… Kahvi… Kahvi… finally you have come!**
A child spirit, so tiny it could have fitted on the palm of her hand, danced all around her like a preserver in the air, only faster, fast as thought. Its mother chided it.
**Come here, my pearl. I know, I know, she’s the one we followed to our deaths… but all is well now… she is here. All will be well now.**
There were tears in Kahvi’s eyes. She knew the mother. She’d been a warrior. She’d never given birth to a baby. She’d died in the great Palace War, fighting alongside Kahvi and Cutter… and their tribes.

---

Art by Stargazer:



---

They were all here. The warriors, and the ones who weren’t warriors. Tiny spirits of unborn children, tall spirits of warriors who’d lived in Two-Spear’s time…

And then they melted back into the walls. But not before Vaya had whispered something into Kahvi’s ear. Her spirit did the whispering gesture, but the voice came in locked sending:
**You deserve the best, mother. And you shall have it. Whether you want it or not.**

Kahvi looked at her as she too was gone. And then she turned to Skywise:
“I don’t know what you’ve done… but you look like you’re guilty of something. Those were spirits, yes, and they may call you Master – but I don’t, and I won’t!” She declared.

And he just kept looking her in the eyes. With a smile on his face as if he knew a secret.

Kahvi stared back, growling under her breath.

And then…

She felt as if she was falling into his eyes, falling through him, into a world full of stars. She felt as if snow had turned hot, as if winter had turned into summer overnight, as if she’d been thrown off a stag and had landed on a cloud. She felt lost among thoughts so alien to her own, she could not understand them at all. She saw a light, and reached for it, and it was a star, it was a name, and the name was…

**Fahr?**

---

Banner by Embala:


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Skywise Wink thanks to Embala for the banner! Kahvi )


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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:16 am


Art by Stargazer:




Chapter Two: This is Good Meat

Skywise stared at Kahvi, shocked to the core.

She’d just sent him his soulname. And his mind was filling with her deepest secrets. Kahvi was cold as the arctic night, and yet warm also, burning inside with a hidden fire, an intensity of living that many wolfriders would envy. She grabbed life by the vitals, she feared nothing and no one. She reminded him of Bearclaw a lot.

There was no doubt of it. They were Recognized. Just like he and Tam… only this time, it would be different.

He’d never thought it would be like this. The spirits had been whispering hints for several days, telling him something wonderful was about to happen, telling him it started with finding Kahvi. He’d had no idea what they meant. Timmain had been talking to him about Recognitions, and he still hadn’t caught the hint. He’d wondered instead if he was going to Recognize Timmain. That, he wouldn’t have objected to so much… he already had a feeling Timmain knew his soulname… she was a High One. And Kahvi was…

Roya. His soul’s mate. He became dimly aware that at the moment Kahvi was spouting curses at him.

“…you numb-witted maggot, you troll-poking coward! What magic have you worked on me?” She demanded angrily.

“Kahvi… it is indeed magic, but it is no magic of mine. It is Recognition.” Skywise explained.
“To the fire pit with your Recognition! I want none of it!” Kahvi stated, pushed him aside and stormed out of the room.

Skywise sat on the bed. He was still overwhelmed by the vastness of it all. Kahvi was so many times his elder… Two-Spear’s daughter… a mother many times over… and yet, her soul was young and alive, always searching for new experiences. Skywise had often wondered what Recognition would give him. He’d spoken proudly against it, thought he’d need something special, ‘high ones coming back and bringing the stars with them’… but he’d been relying on the thought that it wouldn’t happen yet, not anytime soon, that he’d have time to prepare for it. Sometimes he’d wondered whom he’d Recognize if it wasn’t Timmain, but it had never occurred to him that the person he Recognized would not be happy about the Recognition. Skywise had always been popular among females. He’d expected himself to be the one less pleased with the Recognition. So many maidens had whispered to his ear how they’d love to Recognize him… he hadn’t given much thought to the reality, that there were also maidens who didn’t think he was all that special.

He should have known. He’d seen what Tam had suffered with Leetah. He’d witnessed the unlikely match of Tyldak and Dewshine, with all its consequences. Sometimes, Recognition just didn’t care how the people it brought together felt about the whole thing.

But what was Kahvi’s problem? He’d sensed in her a longing to be loved, to belong somewhere. There was something between her and Cutter, Skywise knew. Was Kahvi disappointed because he wasn’t Cutter?

Skywise stood up and went to find Timmain. She always helped when he had a problem.


--

Kahvi walked back into the bigger chambers of the Palace. To her amazement, there was a celebration going on. The wolfriders and Sun Folk were in progress of feasting on fresh meat and dreamberries. Kahvi found Cutter, sitting on a bench with Leetah. “What is this all about?” She demanded.
Cutter stared at her in surprise. “I didn’t expect to see you back so soon. Did it go wrong?”
Kahvi growled. “Did what go wrong? Make some sense, wolf-chief!”
“Your Recognition of course. Leetah told me.” Cutter explained.
Kahvi looked just about ready to kill someone. “What business is that of yours, or Leetah’s?” She snarled, turning to face Cutter’s lifemate.
Leetah stood up. “I’m a healer. I can’t help it if I sense a Recognition. The Palace itself strengthens my healer senses. To my inner eyes, you and Skywise glow with magic.”
Kahvi spat on the Palace floor. “Magic! Rotten, troll-poking magic! I liked this Palace a lot better when it was just a story! Why can’t magic just leave me alone?”

Kahvi became aware that everyone was staring at her. “Well, what’s wrong with you lot? Go on with your stupid celebration. And give me some of that fried meat, I’m hungry.”

A Sun Villager maiden gave Kahvi some meat on a plate. Kahvi grabbed the meat by the bones and started eating with her hands. The maiden giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Kahvi demanded.
“You eat like Chot. Do all Go-Backs eat with their hands?” she asked.
“Of course, how else would we eat? Hey, this is good meat. So you know Chot? What’s the old dungbrain been up to lately? Steal any more Palaces? Trick any more chiefs?”
The maiden giggled again, then looked a bit sad.
“We haven’t seen him for a while. I think he’s in the Forevergreen, somewhere. Chot was fun to have around. But not as fun as Skywise. You’re a lucky maiden.” The girl’s eyes looked slightly misty, as if she was about to cry.

Kahvi snorted and walked away. She found a seat covered with furs and sat down, chewing on the meat, while her mind was chewing on other things. This whole Recognition business didn’t suit her at all. The Go-Back way was better. No mind-magic to mess things up. And Skywise wasn’t what she’d choose for a mate. He was a dreamer. Kahvi liked practical people. Like Cutter. Why couldn’t it have been him instead? She looked towards him and saw him and Leetah looking each other in the eyes. It disgusted her. So soppy after all these years.

Suddenly Kahvi heard a voice speak in his mind. **It was hard for Mother and Father at first. Mother didn’t want to accept father. But she did in the end. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been born. Recognition is important. A soul yearns to be born through you, Kahvi. Perhaps more than one soul.** She looked around, and saw a young, golden-haired male looking intently at her. With him was a strange-looking female, and two babies playing on a blanket on the floor. She recalled a child, curious and smiling, with the same wavy locks. **Suntop?** She asked, shocked by the change in him.

**It is Sunstream now. Welcome back, Kahvi.** He sent. He spoke to the curly-haired female with the funny ears, and she looked at Kahvi and smiled. Kahvi ignored the smile and began chewing the meat again.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:18 am

Chapter Three: High Ones' Will

Skywise looked up at Timmain, as if his heart would break from the sight of her. He wondered once again why Timmain insisted on wearing no clothes. It was not that he objected. Quite the reverse. Her beauty had been hard to ignore, of late. All that talk of Recognition had led him to have ideas above his station. He looked away, to the flickering Scroll of Colors.

Suddenly he realized he was crying. And then Timmain was there, holding him. Her hair smelled of wolf fur more than elf hair. **Timmain… Timmain…** he sent, while sobbing, feeling like a child now.

Timmain turned his head to face her golden eyes. **Skywise… why do you cry?** She asked, and he realized she really did not know, had never known, never guessed his feelings for her. She was, he knew, his distant ancestor, and of course she would see all the wolfriders as her children.

**Is this what I gave up Timmorn’s blood forever for? Kahvi despises me, despises our Recognition. Even now I can feel her anger in a distant part of my mind. She curses me for many things.** Skywise said, but he had to close his eyes from the intensity of Timmain’s gaze. It was the truth, but it was only half the truth.

**How do you feel about Kahvi?** Timmain’s question, deceptively simple, opened a vista inside him he’d rather not consider at all. **She is not what I expected.**

Timmain shook her head, and her snow-white hair shimmered in the colorful light from the Scroll. **Recognition is never what we expect, Skywise.**
**But you are a High One!** He objected. **Surely it is with in your power… we always say that Recognition is the High Ones’ will.** He tried to explain a thought, half a thought, a feeling, a profound belief he found torn from its roots.
**And so it is. We designed it, and we set it loose in the world, to give our children what they needed to survive. We could not call it back even if we were all here in the Palace today. It is in your blood. It is part of who you are.** Timmain explained.
**And do High Ones Recognize?**

Timmain shook her head. **We called it something else. It didn’t bring us children, not when we travelled through space.**

Skywise shook his head, copying her gesture. It was still strange to him to see Timmain in the Scroll as a hairless, cone-headed creature. Somehow he’d always known which one was Timmain, though others said they all looked alike. **So the Firstborns were not born of Recognition?**

Timmain smiled, and looked even more beautiful. **They were born of High Ones’ will. Who can say what is the difference?**

Skywise sighed. **And what is the High One’s will, tonight? Should I court Kahvi, like Cutter courted Leetah? Should I force her to stay with me, like Tyldak kept Dewshine as his pet in Blue Mountain? She is Kahvi, Timmain! It’d be as futile as trying to keep Bearclaw from gambling with trolls! There is no telling Kahvi what she should do, ever! Anyone that tries to she just walks over. She knows my soulname. She’ll speak it aloud, if she thinks that will win her something.**

**You fear her.** It was not a question.

**I am in terror of her, Timmain! Her soul… it is the Daystar. Leetah would say, what a pretty way to describe a female. Leetah would completely miss the point. In Kahvi’s light there is no space for the stars. They fade out into the sky’s blueness.** Skywise withdrew from Timmain’s arms, looked down at his hands. “She called me a daft stargazer. I didn’t mind at the time. But her being is so different from mine… the core of her soul is fire.” He said this aloud.

**The core of every star is fire, Skywise. You would have felt the same, had it been Vurdah, had it been Foxfur, had it been Aroree. All stars are the Daystar when seen up close. Have you forgotten already?**

Skywise shivered. The hearts of the stars… he had seen the hearts of the stars, through the Palace wall. They were boiling cauldrons of liquid flame. He had been torn between fascination and terror.

**I have not forgotten. But what am I, then?**

“Master of the Palace.” Timmain spoke aloud. This was something she rarely did nowadays, and Skywise was startled. Somehow, between the two of them, sending had always flowed easier. It was spoken words, now, that had more weight between them, as if everything had been reversed.

“And… is that all?” Skywise asked.

Timmain laughed. **Is a drop of water the ocean? Is a tree the forest? If she is the Daystar, then you are the night between stars – and it might look like you are opposites, but what embraces the Daystar closer than planets in orbit is this filament of nothingness, the night between the stars.**

Skywise made a wry face. “I think I liked ‘daft stargazer’ better.”

**You know better than to fish for compliments from me, young friend. I say what is on my heart. Fighting Recognition – do it, if you must. You shall both be miserable. What you fear is the loss of your freedom, but tell me, don’t you think Kahvi of all people would appreciate freedom as something you could both give each other? If you argued your case well, you could be done with this all in one night.**

Skywise sighed again. **So we thought it would go with Dewshine and Tyldak. But it was not the end of it. Recognition is not an end, it is a beginning, always. I dread what is about to begin. I do not think I could let her walk away, not knowing if I’d ever see my child. I missed Yun’s childhood. I would rather not miss my chance to be a real father again.**

Timmain placed a hand on his shoulder. **I understand. But this is a knot you’ll have to untangle yourself. You want things that pull you in different directions. You will need to choose a path, and stick to it. And Kahvi will need to choose hers. Give her a little time. And do not tell her her soulname, yet.**

Skywise stared at Timmain. Tell her her soulname… did Timmain mean… Kahvi did not know?

Timmain smiled, stood up, and walked away. Behind Skywise, the Scroll of Colors was showing the Frozen Mountains being torn in two by Rayek’s misuse of the Palace’s powers. The image flickered, and became just dancing flames. The Lights of the Frozen Lands… thrown over a sky of stars. Or perhaps… simply the firepit in the lodge, the night Yun was sired. Skywise would have known, had he looked that way. He didn’t.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:19 am

Chapter Four: Huntress of Fish

Kahvi became aware of curious eyes on her person. She looked across the room, and saw one of the strange waterpeople – wavedancers, she’d heard them called – looking at her. Kahvi scowled, and sent: **come here if you’re so curious. I won’t bite.**
The female laughed, and did indeed walk over to Kahvi. “I’ve heard much about you, chieftess.”
Kahvi sighed. “I bet. What do they call you?”
“Krill. I am a huntress.”
“Huntress of fish?” Kahvi couldn’t resist a little teasing.
“Fish… and other things. Daggerteeth*, sometimes.”
Krill didn’t sound like she was bragging.
“What do you want from me?” Kahvi asked.
“A story, perhaps. A story of the greatest hunt, as only the greatest hunter could tell it. I want to hear about snow bears.” Krill smiled, almost shyly.
“Get me something to drink and you’ll get your story.” Kahvi promised her.

Krill darted off and returned with a jug. She poured Kahvi a cupful of something purple. Kahvi drank it. “Hardly Old Maggoty’s finest, but it will do.” She stated flatly.
“The Sun Villagers are still learning how to brew wine.” Krill admitted.
Kahvi drank more, and began recounting the tale of a cold winter, and a hunt, a long time ago in the Frozen Mountains. She had to explain many things to Krill, including the concept of snow, but the parts that had to do with hunting Krill seemed to understand instinctively. Krill, too, drank of the wine, but not as liberally as Kahvi. The Go-Back chieftess was beginning to enjoy herself. The wine helped her forget the strange pulling feeling inside her, the whispers of her soul.
“… and then Vok distracted the bear and I struck my spear in, right through his eye, but the old bear wasn’t done with me, he pushed me into the snow and then collapsed on top of me. And it took four stags to drag his dead carcass off me! And that was the biggest snow bear ever slain in the Frozen Mountains that I know of.”
Kahvi could tell Krill had been holding her breath. “Amazing!” The wavedancer admitted, and grinned. “I’d like to hunt for snow bear sometime.”

Kahvi slapped Krill’s back. “Sure you would. And you’d do it, too, I can tell by the look of you. You should have been born a Go-Back, lass, you’d have fit right in.”
Krill grinned again. “Maybe… but I do like the sea! I can tell you a story too, if you like?”
Kahvi nodded, a little drunkenly. “Go ahead, you owe me one.”
And so Krill told a story of hunting daggerteeth at the reef. Now it was Kahvi’s turn to ask questions, such as what a reef was, and Krill was more than eager to explain. But by the end of the story, Kahvi was beginning to nod off. “Hey, chieftess, am I that boring a storyteller?” Krill complained and nudged her.
“Mhhh.. the wine… stronger than it tastes, curse it!” Kahvi mumbled.
“Alright… time we got you to bed.” Krill tried to help her up.
Kahvi resisted. “I’ll sleep here. Good furs. Fire. S’good.”
Krill rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me… no one gave you a room? Come with me.” Krill managed to get Kahvi upright, mainly by brute force. Kahvi swayed slightly. Krill wrapped an arm around Kahvi and led her along the corridor. She took her to the guest bedroom that had been assigned to her. Kahvi saw the bed and collapsed on it. Krill sighed and managed to get Kahvi’s boots off. She left the undressing at that. Kahvi seemed too drunk to care about anything. Krill drew the curtains in around the bed – she didn’t like the light of the Palace shining in her eyes when she slept, so she’d asked for curtains – and settled in beside Kahvi.



Kahvi slept the heavy sleep of the drunken. And she dreamed. In her dream she was looking for something. Someone. She was looking for a little girl, no, a young maiden, who’d fallen into the water. The water had taken her away. But she couldn’t remember the maiden’s name. It was very important that she remember the name. How could she call her name if she didn’t know it? And why didn’t she know it.

Kahvi came to a fog-shrouded river. Someone stood on the opposite shore. The mist hid the person’s features.
“Who’s there?” Kahvi called out.
The figure waved a hand, and then walked away without answering.

Kahvi felt suddenly that she had to follow the stranger. She waded into the river and swam across. On the other shore, she found footprints. She began to track the stranger. No matter how fast she moved, he was always just out of sight, going ahead of her. Kahvi called out again:
“Wait for me!”
And he waited. Kahvi caught up with him, and saw it was Skywise. She felt cheated, and she realized she’d been expecting Cutter.
“What games are you playing with me?” Kahvi demanded of him crossly.
Skywise didn’t speak. Instead, he pointed down.

Kahvi saw a pool of water. And under the surface, a maiden was… dead? Or sleeping? Kahvi looked closer, and saw this was the maiden she was looking for. She looked familiar, but Kahvi still couldn’t remember her name.

Kahvi woke up. She saw Krill sleeping beside her. Careful not to wake the maiden, she slipped off the bed. Kahvi pulled on her boots and headed down the corridor. She located the cooking area by smell and grabbed a basket, then filled it with smoked meat. The Palace was quiet, it was very early in the morning. Kahvi walked to the big hall, grabbed her spear, and then walked out to the wall. She touched the wall and willed it to open, and to her surprise, it did, letting her out.

Kahvi stood outside and found the Palace was still in the Frozen Mountains. This suited her. She walked out, into the dawning day, quiet on her feet as a thief. Soon she was a dwindling shadow on the hillside. Then she was gone.

Inside the Palace, Skywise woke to a sudden feeling of immense loss.

--

*Daggerteeth = Wavedancer word for 'shark'

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:21 am

Chapter Five: High Ones' Water

Kahvi had spent a few days in the Frozen Mountains, wandering around aimlessly. One morning she saw wild stags grazing, and approached them. To her amazement, they responded to the soft voice she used when trying to convince a tame stag to come closer – it seemed to her that these stags had once known elves as friends and riders. Indeed, as she mounted the stag, it became obvious she was used to carrying a passenger. Kahvi soon reached an understanding with her new mount. And having acquired a mount, it made sense to travel farther. With no particular goal in mind, she headed southwards.

After an eight of days since leaving the Palace, the pains of Recognition denied had severely incapacitated the chieftess. The feeling was like hunger for fresh greens in midwinter, like some strange illness that resided not in any particular area of her body but in her deepest soul. And yet Kahvi kept travelling. She had begun to have dreams, quite usual as dreams go, but every day after dreaming she saw landmarks she remembered from her dreams near her travel route. She started letting the landmarks guide her choice of paths and directions. The landmarks always pointed the same way, farther south.

In two eights of days, Kahvi was finding it hard to concentrate. Her every waking thought was of Skywise, much to her annoyance, and he even invaded her dreams, although the landmarks were still visible. She forced herself to hunt and eat, although even the choicest meats seemed to have lost all flavour.

One evening Kahvi arrived to a clearing. On the edge of the clearing there was a rock wall, and in the wall a cave mouth. Kahvi approached cautiously but found no sign of animals living in the cave. She made herself a torch and lit it with her sparkstones. Then she ventured into the depths of the cavern. To her surprise, she found it was shaped, either by a rockshaper’s magic or a mason’s tools. There were stairs leading to a high throne, and holders for torches. The cave smelled of dust – dry stone dust, the kind that didn’t contain a single trace of anything that had ever been alive. Kahvi explored further into the cave.

In the very back, she found a still pool of water that reflected the light of her torch. Something about the pool seemed very familiar, but she thought it was only another landmark from a half-forgotten dream. Kahvi was thirsty, so she cupped her hands and drank from the pool. The water tasted fresher and cleaner than any water she’d ever tasted before.

Suddenly Kahvi felt so tired it seemed difficult even to keep her eyes open. She found a flat piece of floor and spread her furs on it. Then she put out the torch and lay down. Soon she was asleep.

Kahvi dreamed of the High Ones. They were all around the cave, surrounding her, and she listened to their talk and watched them work at their daily chores. She witnessed many of them using magic. She saw a female, golden-haired and beautiful, begin to recount a tale of the lives they had lived while travelling between the stars. Something about the story, the feel of endless wandering from one planet to another, seemed to strike a familiar cord in Kahvi’s heart. The High Ones had been restless, perhaps even bored, constantly on the move, always looking for new challenges.

Someone interrupted the flow of the story; a child of the High Ones, perhaps three turns old, turned to his mother and asked: “Where was I when that happened?”

The mother looked at the storyteller for permission to speak, and the golden-haired one nodded her approval.
The Mother told her son:“My dearest petal, you were not yet sired when we were on the crystal world. Only after we had landed here did your father look at me with the eyes of choice and we decided to dream your name. We danced the dance of joining, and your shape began to grow inside me. For the time of two turns you grew inside me, and while you grew I spoke with you in sending. After that time, you were born from my body, and I told you your name and nursed you on my breast. You were like Maliah over there” – the mother pointed at a baby in its mothers’ arms, “little and helpless. So are we all when we come to the world. And from a newborn you have grown to a big boy, and learned to ask questions. Now let us listen to Setten’s story again.”

The boy stared with eyes full of wonder, looking at the baby, then at his own hand. Slowly he nodded.

Kahvi woke from the dream, and looked around. The light of early morning was giving the cave enough illumination that she could see her surroundings. There was the throne, and the stairs, the pool… but where was the dried fish rack? Where the fire pit? Where was everyone, Two-Spear and Willowgreen and that annoying Redbark? Why hadn’t Greywolf woken her and taken her hunting like he promised?

And then the thousands of years of memories hit Kahvi’s mind, and she shuddered, as if her body had felt a physical impact. Sleeping in this cave, drinking the High Ones’ water, her mind had been returned to the time when she last had lived here. She remembered everything now. Everything.

And Kahvi realized, finally, that she was not here simply trying to escape from an unwanted Recognition. She was here to find her soulname. But how would she find it? She’d never known it, there was no memory to regain.

Kahvi tried to think of stories about how others had found their soulnames. But the stories were more confusing than helpful. Finally she gave up and went hunting. She caught a ravvit and gathered some firewood. Back in the cave, she lit a fire and got ready to cook her kill. She speared the carcass on a stick and hung it over the fire. As she did so, a flame licked her hand, leaving a small burn. Kahvi raised her hand to her mouth, trying to soothe the pain. She tried to be more careful as she turned her catch over the flames, but this exaggerated care caused her meal to slide off the stick and into the flames. Kahvi retrieved it, but burned her hand again. In rage, she kicked the fire apart, and ate her meat half-raw, almost like the wolfriders.

The red, wet meat left an unpleasant taste in Kahvi’s mouth, like blood and ashes. She went to the pool again, hesitated, then drank some. As she drank she realized the pain in her hand was gone; both burns seemed to have vanished when she dipped her hands in the water.

The High Ones’ water. The healing pool. Magic.

And somehow the thought of magic wasn’t repugnant anymore. Kahvi’s mind felt instead a humble gratefulness to the pool for all it had given her. Life. Healing. Memories. And a clear draught of water too, not something to take for granted in the wilderness.

Kahvi dipped in her hands and drank again. This time she didn’t feel sleepy, she felt more awake than she had ever been. Kahvi remembered when Aurek had given her the drug that tuned her mind into the Egg, and how he had instructed her to meditate. At that time she had been out of her body, and almost out of her mind, too. Now she felt instead that she was going deeper inside herself, into the secret parts of her soul. She was in a labyrinth, walking past events in her life in reverse order. The memories settled in place and she saw her life fold itself back into childhood. But the path didn’t stop there, she travelled onward through fuzzy recollections of a mother’s loving arms, into her very birth. And even further, through darkness echoing with the sound of an immense heartbeat, into the moment of her parents’ Recognition.

There, at the end of the road, she found a light, and a name.

She was Roya. She had always been Roya, she always would be.

How strange… to travel all over the world looking for something she was carrying with her all the time.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:22 am

Chapter Six: Like a Dream Herself


Skywise was watching the Scroll of Colors.

Three maidens entered the room, two of them giggling, and the third trying to hush up the other two. They were, of course, Maleen, Ruffel and Vurdah, and Vurdah was the one appealing for silence, although not for any specific respect of the Scroll of Colors – after spending many years inside the shimmering walls, all three had come to think of the Palace of the High Ones as their home.

No, Vurdah wished for quiet because the giggles were at her expense.

“Skywise?” She asked, hesitantly, already dreading the look she would see when he turned.
“Yes?” He turned his head, and there it was, that faraway look of wishing he were somewhere else. Vurdah did not look at the Scroll. She did not wish to see what it would undoubtedly show.

Maleen and Ruffel looked, though.
“This is boring! What are you looking at that for?” Maleen complained
“Nastybad Highthing watch pretty-pretty Whitecold Highthing sleep!” This was not a preserver’s voice, but Ruffel’s squealing imitation of one, something the other two found hilarious. Maleen giggled and even Vurdah smiled a little, though her eyes remained sad.

“Skywise… you’re always here nowadays. And you’re always watching Kahvi in the Scroll. We miss you. That’s what we came to say.” She told him. She had given up on wanting him to be her lifemate, so long ago it felt like another life, like it happened to someone else. Vurdah still shared furs with him, still loved him, but she was willing to share him with everyone now. She herself had learned to love others – not many, considering she’d been apart from him for centuries – and though she had not yet become a mother, she was hopeful that Recognition would find her someday. With whom and where, she had no idea, and now she kind of liked the idea of it being a complete and utterly delightful surprise.

But still… she was not happy with the fact that Skywise was Recognized now. He had changed. He looked worried all the time, he hardly had any appetite, and though Leetah assured Vurdah that all the effects of Recognition denied had been removed by her magic, Vurdah knew that its effects on the mind could not be so easily wiped away, not unless one wished to wield magic like Winnowill had.

And that was not the worst of it. The worst was that Skywise no longer found pleasure in flirting and all the delicious acts that usually followed flirting. He never approached anyone suggesting a joining, and if someone approached him he would accept, but one could tell it gave him only the basest physical satisfaction.

Skywise sighed heavily. “I’m sorry. Things will be better soon. Once she’s here, things will be all right. She is on her way.”

“Why don’t you just take the Palace to her?” Maleen asked.

Skywise shook his head. “She would not appreciate that. She would think I am showing off to her, and taking away her choice. She has to come to me, so that she will feel she is free to leave again, without being chased like a wild stag.”
“Surely a maiden runs away only to be chased!” Ruffel exclaimed.

Skywise smiled, remembering the many times he had chased her, in the fields of the Sun Village, not so long ago for him, much longer for her. “Maleen can tell you that is not always the case.”

Maleen nodded. At Ruffel’s puzzled expression, she whispered something to Ruffel’s ear. Understanding dawned in Ruffel’s face. “I would run away too if a troll fancied me!” The red-headed maiden stated, nodding fervently.

Maleen rolled her eyes. Telling secrets to Ruffel was like yelling them out from a mountaintop.

Vurdah giggled. But the gossip would keep for later, when it was just the three of them. Instead, she looked at Skywise. “Really, Skywise. You need to take a break. Nothing’s going to happen to her while she’s sleeping. Go and get some rest. Eat something.” She pleaded to him.

“Alright, alright… you’re starting to sound like Cutter.” Skywise complained. He allowed Vurdah to lead him away from the room, but stole a glance at the Scroll in the doorway.

In the flowing images of the Scroll, Kahvi lay on her side, sleeping. There was a smile on her face, a sign of happy dreams. She looked young, innocent, and beautiful, like a dream herself.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:23 am

Chapter Seven: Skin of a Cougar

It was time. Skywise, backed up by Timmain, had absolutely forbidden any kind of celebration before the Recognition was consummated. He didn’t want his friends to make the same mistake they had made last time. Just because Kahvi was here didn’t mean things would be simple. And she would certainly take offense if she thought Skywise took her for granted.

The Sun Folk had however taken the liberty of decorating the entire Palace with flowers grown in the gardens they had established inside the Palace itself. And Moonshade had made new clothes for Skywise. They were simple, like he preferred, and designed to be taken off with ultimate ease. Moonshade had actually giggled when she pointed that out, and her eyes had sparked with delight.

It seemed everyone was giving Skywise advice on how to conduct his courtship. And the worst of it was the advice contradicted one another.
‘Give her flowers, give her feathers, give her pretty things she can treasure.’ said Ruffel, who collected pretty things like a magpie.
‘No, don’t offer gifts, offer submission. I can tell she would like to be in charge, even when joining.’ Suggested Maleen, with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
‘No, I think she would like someone else to be in charge, and let her relax for once’, argued gentle Vurdah, looking down bashfully.

‘Just be yourself, she’ll love you. You have a way with chiefs’, said Cutter, clamping his soul-brother in a bear-hug.
‘Don’t go on and on about the stars, she finds them boring,’ suggested Clearbrook, who considered herself an expert on the subject of Kahvi.
‘Be gentle. She is as afraid as you are.’ Was the advice of lovely Leetah.
‘Show your strength. She won’t respect you if you don’t stand up for yourself.’ This came from ShenShen, who always stood up for herself.

Timmain alone offered no advice, although it was her words Skywise might actually have heeded. She told him she had never gone through Recognition the way it was known to the Wolfriders. To Skywise, it seemed she wished to be uninvolved, to look upon the events as if they were history already, to not be meddled with, like she always cautioned him to not change the past with the Palace’s passage through time.

As the days passed, Skywise’s nervousness grew. He was frequently found pacing the corridors of the Palace. He debated whether he should move the Palace after all, just the last small stretch of Kahvi’s journey. He developed fears for all kinds of things that could go wrong at the last minute.

Finally, it was time. Kahvi’s figure was seen on the hilltop, mounted on a stag with spear in hand. The Palace wall stood open for her. The inhabitants of the Palace, eager to see her, to verify with their own eyes she was really here, crowded out and waited for her. Sun Folk maidens shivered in the cold Frozen Mountains weather dressed in their gauzy mothfabrics. Wolfriders, more sensibly dressed, called out greetings to Kahvi in speech and sending.

Skywise stood in the doorway. His thoughts were on Sunstream’s Recognition. He wished he had the skill of travelling outside his body – things might be simpler, if he could have gone to Kahvi beforehand, if he could have talked things over and prepared her – and himself – for what must take place.

Kahvi rode down the pathway left in the middle of the crowd. She halted the stag next to the doorway, and tossed something at Skywise’s feet.
Surprised, Skywise picked it up. It was the skin of a mountain lion, freshly separated from its flesh. It stank of blood and death. And yet he held it with reverence. ‘Thank you, Kahvi’.

She snorted, and dismounted with an agile jump. She took the reins and bags off the stag, and slapped its backside, urging it to return to the wilderness. She wouldn’t need a stag, would she, now she stood in front of the Palace of the High Ones and courted its Master.

‘So…’ She grinned at him and stepped closer.
**Fahr… I found my soulname.** She told him.
**Roya...** He sent back, and the name was a caress of her innermost being. Kahvi shivered with unanticipated pleasure.
Kahvi touched her finger to his lips. ‘Not a word more. You and I are going to make a baby, and that’s that.’ She grabbed hold of his arm and dragged him inside.

The Palace wall closed, leaving the crowd outside to cheer wildly.

When they dared venture inside, they found Kahvi and Skywise had sought some private corner, as expected. The crystal of the Palace seemed to glow redder than usual, painting everything with a brilliant pink light.

---


Art by Cleopatra:


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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:25 am

Note: thanks to manga for the edits, they are much appreciated.

Chapter Eight: Chain of Flowers

There was need, there, but something else too. A desperate desire from Skywise’s part to prove himself worthy of Kahvi, to show her all he could do. She retaliated by showing him some of the tricks she had learned during her long life. She’d been no stranger to games of pleasure. But it was different this time – it felt as if their souls were joining, along with their bodies. And each soul sought dominance over the other in their stubborn need to be in control. And yet it was sweet, and the way they touched each other could have been mistaken for the most ardent of loves, and indeed there was pleasure there, more than the mind could comprehend… finally they collapsed together, their strength and need spent, and rested, lying on the soft bed in complete exhaustion.

The inhabitants of the Palace watched the red glow of the walls fade, and become replaced by a pure white light. In the Chamber of the Scroll, Timmain sat alone, her hair spread to cover her body. On her lips played a satisfied smile and her eyes were full of mysteries.

Dawn came late in the Frozen Mountains. Kahvi still slept when Skywise awoke. He got up, and looked at her, smiling to himself. So many times he had looked upon her in the Scroll, seen that smile on her face when she slept on her journey… but now, only now, could he feel the full effect of her beauty.

Only with Cutter, and to a lesser extent Leetah, had he ever felt so connected to another. Now he had a Recognized and already he could sense the tiny spark that was their child. It filled him with at least as much trepidation as wonder. He touched her shoulder and then ran his hand down her back. Kahvi turned around in her sleep. And then she wasn’t asleep anymore, she was wide awake and angry:
“What were you doing, just now?”
“Sorry… I… “ He spread his hands, keeping them well away from her.
Kahvi chuckled darkly. “I suppose you think you’re entitled, now. Males are such simple creatures.”
**Roya…** his mind sought to remember the moment when their souls had been one, but already it was fading, and he was left with a growing dread.
“Stay out of my head and I’ll stay out of yours. We are done.” Kahvi’s tone was brusque, stating a fact.
“No. You are not going to walk out on me. You carry my child. I have rights, too. Anyone would say I have rights!” Skywise objected.
“You are starting to remind me of Rayek in a most annoying fashion.” She started dressing herself.
Skywise found no answer to that.
“You shall take me to my daughter. After that, we shall see. Do not try to pressure me.”

Shortly thereafter, the Palace landed in a forest, far from any place with a name. In a hidden clearing shielded by walls of thorns, the Go-Back tribe waited in anticipation. A ragged cheer rose at the sight of the Palace of the High Ones.

The glittering wall opened, and Kahvi stood there, surrounded by brilliant light. The Go-Back’s rushed to her, shouting enthusiastic greetings. Kahvi saw a tribe of strangers, not one of them old enough to remember her. She looked over their heads at Venka, who hadn’t made a move to approach her.

Kahvi walked to her daughter.
“You have done well, my fawn. You have done well.”
Venka’s golden eyes filled with tears, and she embraced Kahvi. “Mother… I missed you.”
Kahvi returned the embrace a bit stiffly. She stood back and held Venka at an arm’s length, taking a good look at her. “You’ve grown, and you’ve grown strong. It is good.”
Venka smiled.
“You’ll make a good chief.” Kahvi announced.
“But mother… now that you’re here, surely you’ll be chief?” Venka asked, sounding surprised.
“No. I had my time. It is over. It is your turn now.”

Around them, a feast was being organized. A feast for ending a quest, a feast for a Recognition. The Sun Villagers brought dishes of fruit and vegetables from the Palace. The Go-Backs contributed game and fish.

“Mother… stay with me a little while. We have so much to say to each other.” Venka pleaded.
“Maybe I will. The Palace is giving me a headache. Every time I walk through the halls, the spirits whisper to me.” Kahvi admitted.
“But you’ll go back there, won’t you? I mean, Skywise…”
“Males aren’t needed in the rearing of a fawn. He’d just get in the way. Like your father.”
“Mother! You’re just making excuses. It didn’t go well with you and my father. But it might have gone better for the whole tribe if you hadn’t lied to him. And this time you can’t lie. It’s Recognition.”
"He has no claim on me, nor my freedom."
“The child has a claim on him. Doesn't that count?"
"Not to a Go-Back."
"And to the oldest Wolfrider there is?"
“Have we come this far just to quarrel?” Kahvi was exasperated.
“Remember to whom you are speaking and think on what I have said, Mother. I do not speak just to hear the echo of my voice from the hills.”

A group of Sunfolk maidens came to take Kahvi to her seat of honor. They offered her garlands of flowers, but she refused them. She allowed herself to be led to the feast, and asked for wine.

“No wine for you, Kahvi. It is not beneficial for the unborn child.” Leetah’s voice was gentle, but Kahvi grew irritated. “Is everyone going to tell me how to live my life today?” She complained.

And then she heard Skywise’s voice. “Vurdah, you naughty little creature! Come here and let me show you just what I think of maidens who ask questions like that!”

She turned, and saw him chasing a dark-haired maiden, who giggled and ran away. Kahvi sat on the seat that had been prepared for the pair of them, and leaned her head on her arm. It looked like it would be a long, boring evening.

A young Go-Back appeared at her shoulder. “Chieftess Kahvi? I… I can’t believe you’re really here.” He looked flustered, and nervous, and, Kahvi decided, rather cute.

The evening was looking up already.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Tue Feb 16, 2016 4:01 pm

WOW ... I've forgotten how long this was ... O.O

Long. And GOOD.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:02 pm

Hehe... thanks! Zhantee

I have now added the illustrations drawn by Stargazer and Cleopatra, with their permissions. They are placed where they fit in the story.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Fri Feb 19, 2016 3:31 pm

this is really good! i hadn't considered kahvi and skywise as a pairing, but i like it!
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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Fri Feb 19, 2016 4:17 pm

Thank you! Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:55 pm

Chapter Nine: Sing a New Song

A flute was played, not by Vok,  but by Redlance. The rest of the musicians were brightly dressed Sun Folk. Drums were beaten, and several other instruments played, one with a sound like a desert sandstorm shut in a jar, another somewhat like stag hooves on hard ice.

Kahvi was not really concentrating on the music, though it helped to have it as a distraction. She was, finally, giving birth.

It had been a long two turns of the seasons for them all. But not in the way Kahvi had expected.

After his first, brief and disastrous attempts at taking charge, Skywise hadn't turned out to be like Rayek at all. He hadn't hovered - literally or figuratively - at her shoulder, warning of this and that being bad for the fawn or dangerous for them both. No. He had let her do as she liked, even if what she liked was to hunt bear. And every time, after she had returned to the Palace, with trophies, bruises or both, he had simply been there, quiet and nonjudgmental, offering her a cup of water and politely asking how her hunt had gone. Then he had gently but firmly suggested that Leetah and ShenShen take a quick look at his Recognized, just in case. And Kahvi, with her new-found realization that  magic wasn't so bad really, never somehow found the words to refuse.

It had taken her a few eights of days to figure out that while she had been hunting, Skywise had been watching her through the Scroll of Colors. They had a huge row about it, but in the end, nothing changed. He would watch over her when she was at risk, yet would never forbid her anything her heart desired. It was not a perfect arrangement, but it worked.

Clever little silver fox...

It was her pet name for him now. That's how things were. All the huge and difficult thoughts and fears had just melted away one by one, like the snows of a white cold season when its reign had ended. They weren't lifemates, but they were definitely lovemates. Not exclusively to each other of course - that was one of the many qualities they had turned out to have in common. They argued, often and fiercely, about anything between – and beyond - ground and sky, but in the end made up the way lovemates do.

As time passed, they found another thing they had in common: by now they were completely weary of the company and care of ShenShen. The midwife was so enthusiastically full of helpful advice and suggestions and "you'd better" this and that - it was as if she was the one giving birth, the way she behaved sometimes.

There were, of course, many occasions when Kahvi considered leaving the Palace. But the memory of Venka's words had always stopped her at the last moment. The lass was right, confound her. Things would have been a lot easier if Kahvi had not hidden her from Rayek. Also,  if she left now, she knew herself too proud to change her mind and come back anytime soon. Besides - whatever this new fawn turned out to be, Kahvi had a feeling it would have something to do with the Palace, with the new era of unforeseen magic that was unfolding. In such circumstances, Skywise sharing in the raising of the fawn would be more a help than a hindrance.

The flute sang on, the rhythm of the drum matched Kahvi's heartbeat.
One last push, and the child slid into the world with ease. A new instrument joined the music, somewhat like birdsong. The flute and drum and the rests of the instruments accompanied it beautifully. "Is it a girl?" Kahvi demanded. "Tell me right now, is it a girl?" She demanded of ShenShen, who was just wrapping the fawn into a soft blanket.

"It's a girl, Kahvi. It's a healthy, lovely little girl", Shenshen replied in a soft whisper, talking more to the baby than anyone else.

Kahvi breathed a deep sigh of relief. She reached for the little bundle and held her, and for a moment the world was just the two of them, mother and child. The baby was pale-skinned of course, and on her head there was the soft white fuzz of hair, so little of it that she looked bald. Her eyes were big and round and the same shade of green as her mother's. But that was all to be expected. What wasn't expected, though...

She was singing. What Kahvi had thought was a new instrument among the musicians was in fact the child herself, chirping and tweeting, not like any elf's voice ever.

"Only just born and already singing! I don't think there's ever been such a cub!" Krill exclaimed in awe. The musicians gathered around the little one, exclaiming and admiring. Kahvi looked smug and satisfied.

Krill and Kahvi had grown close during the pregnancy. Kahvi had enjoyed the wavedancer's company for many reasons, not the least of which was that Krill was completely uninterested in  pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. It had been refreshing to have a companion who did not spend half the time talking to the bump in her stomach, in that gooey singsong babytalk voice some elves found appropriate.

Skywise leaned over, looking every bit enthralled by his new daughter. As he studied the tiny features, the lodestone hung low on its cord around his neck, and the fawn's little hands reached up for it, trying to grasp it, yet failing because it was hard to make her hands and eyes understand each other for the first time. Skywise laughed. The baby made a little frown, and started crying, ordinary newborn wails of dissappointment now instead of the sweet bird sounds. Kahvi sighed, unlaced the front of her tunic, and gave the child her first meal. ”Knows what she wants, this one”, Kahvi stated, looking pleased. Skywise wasn't sure if she meant the lodestone or her mother's milk, but in his heart of hearts he knew now that this little one could have anything from him, absolutely anything she wanted - even the lodestone, when that day came.

Around them, members of several tribes were celebrating the arrival of a new life. The Palace of the High Ones was at its usual location near the Holt of Cutter's tribe. Venka was visiting, with some Go-Backs accompanying her, and although Ember was absent, her tribe was represented by Yun, who would not have missed this for anything. Krill's presence was due to an experiment; the Masters of the Palace had wanted to find out if a Wavedancer could thrive away from the ocean, provided she had access to the Palace. This, of course, was part of the larger plan for elves to leave the World of Two Moons someday in the future. Krill had volunteered, and was doing fine so far, after almost two turns of the Seasons.

As the little newcomer rested, Kahvi looked up at Skywise. "You remember what we agreed, right?"

Cutter, Leetah, and various others leaned in to listen, wondering what this was about.

Skywise grinned and took from his boot a small but sharp brightmetal knife. "You win. It's a daughter. One brightmetal knife, as promised."

Kahvi took the blade and turned it around in her one free hand, studying how it looked in the light, then placed it in her boot for safekeeping.

Cutter looked incredulously at them both. "You two... made a bet... about the gender of your own cub?" He spluttered, shaking his head in disbelief.

Skywise and Kahvi both just grinned at him.

"I give up! You two deserve each other!" Cutter exclaimed, then turned to Leetah: "Surely you knew she's a girl?" He asked.

"Of course. But they were having such fun with it, I didn't want to spoil it for them." Leetah replied, calmly.

Yun laughed in delight. Others joined in, and merriment filled the Palace. Some rushed off to finish the last tasks in preparing a feast for the birth. Using the power of the Palace to strenghten sendings, the happy news was transmitted to the tribes and tribemates not present.

Kahvi was getting crowded by well-wishers curious to see the fawn for themselves, and though she bore it patiently, one who knew her could tell she was less than delighted with the attention. That was why Yun held back until things had calmed down a little, before stepping closer and taking a first good look at her sister.

The fawn was tiny and cute, as was to be expected. But Yun was enthralled by the song the little one continued singing now that her hunger for milk had been satisfied. Yun herself liked to play a flute sometimes, and certainly had the ear for a good tune.

What the fawn sang was not so much a tune or song, not one with structure of any kind. It was just one sweet sound after another. The feeling of listening to it reminded her of what it had been like in the Forevergreen - to hear new sounds one after another in no kind of order, birds and insects, even monkeys, each with their own way of making noise.

Some of those noises had been harsh. In the little one's song there was only softness and light. It felt like the perfect music for the Palace.

Yun asked if she could hold her, and Kahvi put the fawn in Yun's arms, then stood up and demanded someone bring her a bite to eat. Her tone was so commanding that at least three Sun Folk got up at once and darted off to fill the request.

Yun looked down into the leaf-green eyes of her sister. The fawn looked up, with a hard-to-read expression, then burped, with a bit of milk coming out of her mouth. Yun wiped the little one's face with the back of her hand, and smiled. Perhaps someday she could have a fawn of her own, she mused, with all the joys and troubles that came with one.

Somewhere outdoors, a wolf howled. The fawn's eyes went wide, then she opened her mouth and made a noise like a very small wolf cub might make, attempting a howl yet lacking the capacity of lungs for it.

Every single Wolfrider in the room turned their heads at once, and answered with howls of their own, which in turn were echoed by the rest of the wolfpack.

Whatever she would turn out to be, this little mystery in her sister's arms, she was certainly one thing.

She was very welcome.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:39 pm

*loves the little one* I love you


... and the story of course! Skywise Wink Kahvi So how's her name?

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:42 pm

Thanks! Zhantee

As to her name... that will be revealed in the next chapter! Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:28 pm

Love it!
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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:00 am

Thanks! Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:57 am

At first I thought you were just reposting the same old story-- but you continued it! I love it.

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PostSubject: Re: Beyond Mere Flight (Chapter 9 is here!)   Mon Feb 22, 2016 10:16 am

Thanks! Zhantee There will be more!

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