Not Far From the Tree

Not Far From the Tree
by Mercredi


Like Wiebke, Mercredi got really wrapped up in the world created in Breeding Discontent, so much so that she kept on writing, putting together some sequels. Mercredi was particularly keen on following up on some of the minor characters in the story and seeing how things turned out for them. In Not Far From the Tree, she focuses on harlings.

Alternate Universe Note
This story was written when Breeding Discontent existed as an online fan fiction novel, essentially a draft. It was also written prior to the publication of Wraiths of Will and Pleasure and any new Wraeththu novels. Because of this, it’s become an “alternate universe” fic that’s not entirely consistent, and in fact contradicts, what is now “canon.”

Pansea and Lisia (original characters from BD), Ivy (original character who also shows up in Contentment) various other hara at Harling Gardens, harlings at .

Containers spoilers for Bewitchments of Love and Hate (Book 2) and Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (Book 3) in the Wraeththu trilogy. The story stands on its own but somewhat presupposes that you’ve read Breeding Discontent; it also has a nice tie-in with Contentment.

Author Contact
To reach Mercredi, you can email:

Pansea’s Journal

I hate it when Lis and I fight. But he really brought it on himself this time. There’s some big shot, stupid rich har coming here next month looking for a consort and Lis put my name at the top of the list to meet with him! I can’t believe that Lis has gone and done something so controlling and insensitive.

I know he thought it’s what I want, but why can’t he see that I’ve changed. I’m not a harling anymore. I want different things. But Lis just seems to see me as the same old Pansea. Yes, I still want to take care of harlings and have my own one day, but now that I know more, being a consort just seems so boring and pointless. I admit that I haven’t exactly come out and talked to him about what I want, but it should be obvious. I haven’t said anything about being a consort since the Gelaming came – well maybe once or twice, but definitely not since my Feybraiah.

Lis said he honestly didn’t know how I felt. In a way that makes me feel almost as bad as anything else. I always felt like Lis really understood me – like we were close in a special sort of way. I understand that he’s had to be hostling to all of us and I’m glad for the others. I try not to get jealous, but I have to admit that I don’t like feeling like just another one of the harlings. Lis should be able to see that I’ve changed. Even if he can’t be bothered to see it, he should assume it. I’m twelve years old now; it’s really insulting that he thinks I have the same dreams as when I was seven.

I guess he does think I’m still immature. Of all the hara accepted to study high academics in Immanion, I’m the only one who opted to come back to Harling Gardens to complete my caste training. I know everyone thought I was crazy. I guess I can’t blame them. I really, really love Immanion and I’d love to go back one day and maybe even travel more. But I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. Even though I was just a harling, I know that I helped Lis a lot back when we were all alone out here and struggling. Lis is special because he became hostling to everyone, but I feel a connection here too. I feel like I need to stay here and see everything running according to plan. And I know I can really do a good job. I’ve already got so many great ideas. I just wish that the hara would pay attention to me instead of worrying that they need to send me off and away to some brighter future.

Ivy’s Journal

I almost feel like it’s wrong for me to write this down, but I just have to tell someone even if it’s just a journal. Lisia is my hostling!!!!

I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the codes. I think I checked it over about five times to be sure I was reading it right. But it was Lis all right. And then I thought about how Lis has green eyes too and I figured it was probably really true.

Sure it crossed my mind before but I never, ever thought that he would be the one. I’m not even sure if I still would have asked to see the records if I’d known it would be him. I’m really glad to know, but at the same time I feel like I’m going to burst from being around him and not being able to say anything.

I haven’t been able to think about anything else all day. My Feybraiah celebration is next week and even though I’m supposed to be picking out the har to lead me through my first aruna, it just isn’t as important as it was before. I keep replaying every little thing that I know about Lis. It’s kind of sad that I really haven’t spent all that much time with him – not like in a personal way. There have always been lots of harlings here who are my age and so Lis would usually come and check up on a whole group of us at once.

Even if I did see Lis alone in the hall or something, I never thought to say anything important to him. Well, why would I. He was just Lis. He was my hostling but then he was everybody’s hostling. It was like his job, not personal. I’ve always loved Lis, but now I feel like I should have been loving him more all this time and I missed my chance.

But, it’s not too late. I still have as many as four more years here to do my training. And I can even come back and visit after that. From now on I’m going to be around Lis as much as I can and try to learn whatever I can about him. I guess I should have felt this way even before I knew the real truth about us. But it’s like this news bonked me on the head and got my attention. I’m not going to take Lisia for granted again.

Pansea’s Journal

Fate has a wonderful way of intervening at the most unexpected moments. I’m really amused with the little opportunity that dropped into my lap tonight.

I was by myself lying on one of the benches out at the hostling memorial. Honestly, I was out there feeling sorry for myself. I’d been out for a run around the grounds earlier, mainly because Lis was still pouting about fight and I just wasn’t ready to talk about it to him. I don’t usually stay mad at Lis for very long and while I was running I realized that I wasn’t really all that angry still. It’s more like I felt like I had the right to be angry and so I was indulging it just on principle.

I also know that as soon as I actually talk to Lis again, he’s probably going to apologize for everything and I’ll end up not being upset at all. But, I really need to use this situation as a way to convince Lis that he should let me stay on here and work at the school instead of sending me off somewhere. At the same time, I’m scared that he’ll tell me no and so I’m staying angry so that I can put off talking to him about it.

So, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’m angry and scared and usually when I’m upset about stuff I’d just go and talk to Lis but obviously that wouldn’t work in this case. And then I started noticing a bunch of voices. It was Queran with the harlings who were finished, or mostly finished, with their Feybraiah but who haven’t had their rituals yet.

I really didn’t envy Queran having to control that big group who’d all had their maturity hit at once and were now a big mess of hormones. At first I was just annoyed because I wanted to be alone and then I got nervous because I didn’t want to be noticed by these almost-hara because they’re usually either shockingly flirtatious or else so shy they won’t even look at you. Either way it’s unsettling and to make matters worse I was stripped down to just short pants (tacky Gelaming habit, Lis would say) because I got too hot running. So, I tried to sneak away before anyone saw me. But then one of them started calling out to me and I just froze. It was Ivy and when he ran over to me he looked so sweet and eager to talk to me that I felt bad about wanting to avoid them. After all if I’m going to stay here and work, I can’t shirk any of my duties.

So Ivy asked if he could sit with me and talk for a while and I looked over at Queran and he didn’t seem to mind so I let him. Then Ivy just kind of sat there and didn’t know what to say, so I asked him the pretty obvious questions about his Feybraiah and his ritual coming up. I swear getting him to open up was harder than pulling grass runners out of a flower bed. Finally I just gave up and asked him what it was he wanted to talk about.

Ivy looked like he wanted to hide under the bench but then he smiled in a really adorable little way and admitted that he wanted to talk about Lisia. At first I thought maybe he’d somehow overheard my argument with Lis and felt unsettled, but then he started asking questions and I realized that wasn’t the case. It was so cute. He asked me all sorts of things, lots of things that I’d never really thought about before but that I knew, like “How old is Lis,” and “What’s his favorite flower … color … thing to eat … thing to do …?” “Does he like horses?” “Does he still miss the other hostlings?” “What’s Lis really like?”

I answered all the questions and I noticed that it looked like Queran was trying to corral his group to take them back inside. So I tried to make Ivy get to his point and I asked him why he had this sudden interest in Lis. And he stammered out some answer about how he had realized how much Lis had done for us all and he just wanted to get to know him better.

Then I asked Ivy why he hadn’t just talked to Lis himself and he answered that Lis was too busy right now with all the Feybraiah ceremonies on top of everything else and then he added that now he knew what things to talk to Lis about. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at that because I pictured this little almost-har trying to strike up a worldly conversation with Lis based on favorite colors. But then I just bit my lip because I didn’t want to be a big pretentious grown up to him when he was obviously feeling awkward.

I smiled and asked when he had made this decision to get to know Lisia better. He looked a little guilty and said yesterday. So I said, “Yesterday, eh” in a tone of voice that conveyed that I knew what was really going on and he just nodded at me. And I gave him a nice big smile and patted him on the shoulder and told him not to worry that I’d make sure that Lis found some time in his busy schedule to have a nice long talk with him tomorrow. His eyes got all big and he said, “Really?” like I’d just gotten him an audience with the Tigron. I swear he is just so precious – all sweetness and innocence.

This is just perfect. Now I have something to talk to Lis about other than our unfortunate little misunderstanding and he’ll probably be so distracted by this new development that he’ll forget all about that stupid har looking for consorts. He tried to hide it, but I remember last month when that other harling chose him for his first aruna, Lis was all flustered for at least a week and couldn’t keep his mind on anything. Plus, this will prove to Lis how helpful and insightful I am when it comes to the harlings, so it’ll be the perfect time to ask him about letting me join the staff.

Ivy’s Journal entry

I think today has been the weirdest day in my entire life so far. Well, I guess this whole week has been the weirdest but today things got even more bizarre. I still can’t believe that happened. What on earth was Pansea thinking? All I know is that everything is suddenly so much more complicated than it was before. I sure hope being grown up gets easier soon. So far it’s just really weird and confusing.

First I had a meeting with Adoxa. He asked me if I had selected anyone yet for my first aruna. I felt kind of embarrassed then because most everyone else has someone that they really want. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to sharing aruna – I really am. It’s just that I don’t have a strong preference about who it’s going to be with.

I asked him if that meant something was wrong with me, like maybe I really wasn’t finished developing after all. But he said no, that it was perfectly fine for me not to have a preference. He said that it’s probably just because of my personality – because I’ve always tended to like all my lings and teachers and friends equally and because I’m so laid-back and easy-going. He said to just let him know if I decided on someone and if I didn’t he’d pick for me.

That was fine with me. I honestly couldn’t handle making a big decision like that with all that I’ve got on my mind about Lis. Even little decisions are frustrating. After I met with Adoxa, I had to meet with Summer to discuss what I want to wear for the celebration and flowers and decorations and all that stuff. Usually, most hara want to pick white stuff or pale stuff, but I thinks that’s dull so I picked bright colors like red and orange and yellow.

I thought I was going to go back to my room after that but then Crocus came by and told me that Lis wanted to talk to me in his office. I could hardly believe it. I knew Pansea said that he’d arrange something, but I didn’t think he really would. I figured he’d forget about it. At first I was a little nervous but then I got a really warm feeling of excitement in my stomach. I was going to go and talk with my very own hostling! I should have known that something had to go wrong. And by the Aghama did things really start to go wrong!

I guess I didn’t help matters with the fact that at first all I could do was grin like a fool instead of saying something intelligent. I just walked into that office and Lisia was standing there smiling at me and I felt like everything in the entire world was just perfect. And then Lis told me how I was growing into such a lovely, handsome young har.

When he said that I couldn’t help but stare at him and look for any little feature in his face or his build that was like mine. My eyes always have seemed to be a darker shade of green than Lis’ but I think that might be because my eyelashes are black and Lis’ are light. Other than that I think maybe our faces are kind of the same shape and our mouths are sort of alike. Mostly I must look like the soldier who was my father.

I must have been staring like an idiot for a while because Lis suddenly acted a little nervous and asked me if there was anything that I wanted to talk about. I knew I should come up with something to ask, but everything I could think of to say seemed stupid and I really wanted to sound intelligent – you know a har he could be proud of even if he didn’t know who I really was.

I guess I waited too long trying to think of something because then he started asking me questions – nice, thoughtful things. He asked how I was feeling and whether my feybraiah had been bad. Then he asked if I was still wanting to study ancient technologies after my caste training? That perked me up because I love talking about ancient tech. I told him that I definitely was and that after I had learned everything I needed to know I’d come and fix things at the school for free whenever anything broke. I could tell that Lis really appreciated that and it felt wonderful to see him smile because of something I said.

Once we started talking about all that stuff, I felt much better. I was nice and relaxed; it felt so nice to talk to Lis like that. But then things got weird. Lis asked me if there was anything I wanted talk to him about my Feybraiah celebration and what would happen after. I kind of shrugged and couldn’t think of anything. But he looked like he really wanted me to say something so after a while I just blurted out that I had asked for there to be tiger lilies on my honor table and that I know they’re his favorite flower. And Lis smiled but said that I shouldn’t pick his favorite, I should pick my own favorite. Then he looked at me all serious and said that I could have whatever I wanted for my Feybraiah if it could be provided.

There was another of those pauses then as if I was supposed to say something, but I really didn’t know what. Then Lis reached out and put his hand on my shoulder and said that he knew what it is I wanted and that I was too shy to ask. He said that Pansea had told him why I all of a sudden became interested in him and asked all those questions.

I think my mouth dropped open then and I said, “You know?” I was shocked. I could only figure that maybe Pansea had sneaked a peek at those records at one point. But Lis was looking at me in such a sweet, caring sort of way and I said, “So, you’re glad that you know? I thought you’d be upset if you found out.” And then Lis said that it still felt a little strange to him, but he certainly wasn’t upset or offended.

I should have caught on then that we weren’t talking about the same thing I guess. Instead I said a bunch of stupid stuff about how I’d always loved him and that I didn’t want any special treatment more than the others because of this, but I would like to get to know him better.

Lis kind of laughed then and said that we’d get to know each other much better after my celebration. Then I started getting confused. I’m so dense sometimes. I said, “But won’t I be busy having my first aruna after my celebration?” And Lis just laughed and said, well that is what we’re talking about isn’t it.

I felt as if all my insides had just been hollowed out in a single instant. I don’t really remember for sure what all I said after that but I realized how things had gotten all mixed up and I told Lis that Pansea was wrong and I didn’t choose him for my first partner. I told him that I really, really just had questions about him because I was curious. I told him maybe it was something about not being a harling anymore and having a new appreciation for everything he’d done for us. Basically, I was just rambling then and saying anything I could to get out of the situation.

Lisia actually looked relieved too. He said that he was very glad we had talked and was sorry if he’d embarrassed me because of the miscommunication. I told him it was fine and by then I had an awful headache from it all and used that as an excuse to leave.

Pansea’s Journal

Why does everything have to go wrong all at once? Well, I guess that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly feels that way. First the fight with Lis and then my totally disastrous attempt to prove my value by shoving Ivy at him for his Feybr. Celebration. I feel like such an idiot. How could I have been so wrong? I thought I understood how the harlings feel.

Then again Lis couldn’t figure him out either. After all, he told me that Ivy probably wanted me for his first aruna partner but was too shy to ask properly and started asking about Lis as an ice-breaker. I still felt like an idiot at the time but at least I had the sweet consolation that Ivy wanted me.

Or so I thought. Even though I was embarrassed about my earlier mistake with him, I went out of my way to make myself available so that he could ask me outright. But, he never did. Thank the Aghama I didn’t relinquish all pride and actually ask him about it. Instead I just had casual conversations about whatever innocent topic flitted into my mind. Then after a few days he told me that he’d gotten permission to have Adoxa take him through the ritual. I swear he sounded apologetic when he told me and that just made me feel even worse.

I mean why should he feel apologetic. He should have whoever it is that he really wants. It’s not his fault if the rest of us are too dumb to figure out who that person is supposed to be. Sure, I’d been flattered when I thought I would be the one, but that’s just because it’s a real honor. I’ve already done it twice before anyway and I’m sure I’ll do it again since we’re such a comparatively small group out here.

I guess I just really had my heart on doing this for Ivy because I felt so bad about misunderstanding him and I certainly know how it feels to have someone assume the wrong things about what you want. It’s selfish of me to want to be with Ivy for that reason though. I can’t make things up to him if he doesn’t care enough to want to be made up to. And it’s for the best that he got who he really wanted for his first aruna. I’m sure it went really well. The few times I’ve seen him in the past week since the ceremony he’s looked wonderful – very happy and just glowing with health and enthusiasm. He deserves it – he’s such a sweet little har.

Ivy’s Journal

Wow! That’s the one word that keeps coming up in my head over and over again. Wow. I still feel like I’m living in some sort of a bizarre dream world, but at least now I have my caste training to keep me somewhat focused. Of course caste training is kind of a like a bizarre new dream world too, but I’m relieved to find out that it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

Thank goodness for that since my life had been confusing enough lately. I’m really glad that I chose Adoxa for my first partner. He’s exactly what I needed – calm and kind and wise and stable. The aruna itself was pretty much everything I expected which was perfect. Adoxa was very gentle and explained everything happening and made sure that we did things the way I wanted (even though I really didn’t know what to want).

Really the scariest part of this whole situation wasn’t the big Feybraiah night. I was much more nervous about the training that would come later. I knew that I’d have to let Adoxa into my mind and I figured I wouldn’t be able to hide what I knew about Lisia. Of course I tried holding back when we began the lessons. I was pretty miserable because the first parts of the training were with the whole group who’d come through feybr. together and I was nervous that Adoxa would say something about me doing it wrong in front of everyone.

Fortunately when we got to that part, he worked with each of us sort away from the rest of the group. Right away Adoxa sighed and said that we wouldn’t get anywhere with me purposefully fighting him the way I was. After trying a little while longer he gave up and told me to see him after the lessons.

At the time I was relieved but then when I stayed behind the first thing he did was scold me! He told me that he hoped I wasn’t thinking that I’d get special treatment because we’d shared aruna together. I swore to him that wasn’t my thinking at all. He believed me and right away was back to being really nice which is the way he usually is. He invited me to come and get comfortable on the cushions with him and then he asked me why I was afraid to share my mind and assured me that there wasn’t anything in my head that I should feel embarrassed about. I told him that I wanted to share but that I had a secret to keep and that it was very important. He asked me some more questions and I could tell that he was a little concerned, so I assured him that my secret wasn’t anything bad at all. I told him it was something very wonderful but that I had to keep it to myself.

He seemed relieved but not really satisfied and he was telling me how I’d have to relax and trust him. And then all of a sudden he stopped in mid sentence and started smiling at me. I looked at him kind of funny and then he reached over and gave me a pat on my hand and said, “Of course. I’ve been an idiot. It’s your birth hostling isn’t it? You found out that it’s Lisia.”

I just sat there with my mouth hanging open and then I felt panicked that I’d let it slip to him in my thoughts somehow. Just as I was asking him how he knew, he told me he’d just put two and two together and come to the obvious conclusion. Then I had to smile at how smart he was. Adoxa was the one who’d taken me up to the office that day when I decided I wanted to see my records. If I had a wonderful secret that had to be it.

He promised me right away that my secret was safe with him and then asked if I would cooperate with my training from then on. I agreed right away and I was so glad to have the secret off my chest that my eyes got a little watery. Adoxa just gave me a great big hug and we talked for a long while so that I could tell him all about how I’d been feeling. I’m such a lucky har – not only do I have the very best hostling in the world but the best instructor too.

Pansea’s Journal

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve just been feeling so hopeless and disgusted with myself lately. I feel like I just can’t do anything right and maybe I should just give up on working here. But, I really don’t want to give up. The sensible part of me knows that every har makes mistakes sometimes. I just need to learn from this experience.

And it’s not like any harm was done. Lis is so busy that he seems to have forgotten the embarrassing misunderstanding already. And Ivy certainly seems unaffected. Whenever we talk he seems very happy. Adulthood certainly suits him. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, but he really is one of the most beautiful hara I’ve seen. I remember at his celebration he was just breathtaking – so vivid and alive and somehow more real than any of the others his age. The others all looked so fragile and ephemeral in their lacy white frills and ribbons and roses. Ivy is different. It’s not that he’s not exotic and sublime, but he’s tangible. It’s like you can’t look at him without instinctively knowing what it’s like to touch him or hold him or taste him.

Not that I have, of course. He may be tangible but he’s still not within my reach. I guess I can’t blame him for not wanting me. He’s far to good-hearted to hold it against me that I put him into that embarrassing situation with Lis. He’s the sort of har who takes things like that in stride; very even-tempered and well humored. But at the same time he must think I’m a fool. Of course he wouldn’t have wanted me for his Feybraiah. The whole point is to have someone wise and sensitive to guide the younger har. And the very first thing I did was to try and lead poor Ivy totally astray because I was too preoccupied with my own problems.

Pansea’s Journal

I can’t seem to stop thinking about Ivy all the time. I wonder if this is what it’s like when a har coming of age doesn’t get to have who he wants for his first aruna? I almost feel like I’m becoming obsessed. It’s even worse now that he’s in lessons all the time with Adoxa (not that I’m jealous because I know that is wrong) and I never get to see him.

Even when I do see him, he only seems interested in talking and being friendly like he’d be with any other har from Harling Gardens. But, I want more than that from him. I have to admit that this is all new to me. Honestly, hara are usually very eager for my attention. I really can’t explain Ivy’s indifference. I mean I know I’m attractive. I know I’m fun. I’ve never had a hard time convincing anyone to share aruna with me. Winsome is what some har called me once and I’ve always liked that description. But, it’s different with Ivy. I don’t just want aruna; I want to really get to know him. I want to be close to him and know all about him. I want him to know all about me and hear him say that he thinks I’m special and I want to really be special for him.

Pansea’s Journal

I was wandering around the building today (moping around if I’m being honest) and I saw Effrana. “You need something to do,” he said. I didn’t argue a bit. He motioned for me to follow him and before I knew it I was his official teacher’s aide! I’m really enjoying it a lot. I know Effrana doesn’t really need the help that much but he’s wanting to free up some more time to write up curriculum outlines for the adult education programs that are being planned.

Personally, I’m very grateful. I love being in the classroom and explaining things or answering questions. I don’t even mind checking over the schoolwork, which is probably a lot of what I’ll be doing. Effrana and I stayed down in the room several hours after lessons were over so that he could show me everything I’d need to know. I told him how much I appreciated it and only felt a slight twinge when I realized I’d missed my chance to try sitting near Ivy at dinner.

Effrana’s pretty sharp though and asked me what was troubling me so I confided in him about how I couldn’t seem to make Ivy interested in me. He just laughed and said that my black cloud was probably frightening him away. I had no idea what he was talking about and then he told me how it was an old image of how when someone was feeling gloomy a black cloud hovered around just over that person. He then went on to say that I was being so hard on myself about a silly misunderstanding that it was making other people want to keep away.

I thought about it and realized that it made perfect sense. I’d been feeling sorry for myself way too much. I don’t like being around people like that, so why on earth should Ivy? But now things are looking up. I have something useful to contribute to the school by helping Effrana. Maybe that will make my black cloud finally go away. I know I can do this. I can convince Lis to let me stay here and I can convince Ivy to like me. I’ve just been giving up too easily and that’s all wrong. I just need to quit worrying and be myself. That’s always worked in the past. I just need to be confident. I need to be winsome.

Ivy’s Journal

Today was full of nice surprises. I ended up not having a caste training session because Adoxa needed to work one on one with Fennel. I guess he’s having problems or something. So, I went to Pentaay to help with the gardens. While we were working we started talking about how I wanted to study landscaping in addition to ancient technologies and Pentaay said that I could have one of the blank areas back in the south yard and build my own garden to practice with. The only catch is that I can only use plants from our surplus supply.

Still, it’s a great opportunity and I was very excited. As soon as I was done helping I went over to the greenhouse to check out the supply of plants. Then I went out to the area Pen said I could have and started checking out the soil and the lay of the land and everything. It was a beautiful day and by the time I got out to the south yard it was almost sunset. I ended up sitting out there enjoying the day and just daydreaming about what I wanted to do with the garden until all of a sudden I realized that it was getting very dark and I’d missed supper.

Then just as I was getting up to walk back, I saw Pansea. He was going for one of his runs around the grounds. I waved to him and he looked really glad to see me and came over, which kind of surprised me. We had a nice little chat. It turns out that he’s helping Effrana with his classes and he’s wanting to stay on and work here at Harling Gardens permanently. I think that’s really great. I know how close he and Lis are and I’m glad to know that someone will be staying behind to keep Lis company after all of us are grown and moved on. It kind of makes me jealous too, though. I wish I had been able to be as close to Lis as Pansea is. I didn’t say anything like that, of course. I don’t want Pansea getting any more weird ideas about me and Lis.

Anyway, I told Pansea all about my garden and everything that I was planning to plant and how I wanted to design the drainage and everything. Pansea sounded really impressed so I think I must have some good ideas. He even said that he’d be happy to come out and help me whenever he had the free time. I told him that I’d love that. I really could use the help, plus I really like talking to Pansea, he’s so smart and he has this way of making you feel like you’re the most important person in the world when he talks to you. Plus, I know he’s a really hard worker and he just likes to do whatever he can to help out. I just hope I’m able to make it look the way I have it envisioned in my head. Pansea said that he thinks it’ll turn out great no matter what. I hope he’s right.

Pansea’s Journal

I know I should be getting some sleep right now. I’m certainly tired – but I’m not sleepy. I’m too excited to sleep. I’m so happy I could dance. Well, not really, my back and my shoulders are killing me, but at least all that garden drudgery has finally paid off.

Ivy and I have been working on it for a week now. Wouldn’t you know that he’d want to do all the hard stuff first! It’s funny how it actually all started. I was getting extremely frustrated with working out there. It was always fun when we first started because we’d talk a lot and it would be nice to be outside. But, we’re doing a lot of hard, dirty work and after an hour or so we usually stop talking because it takes so much effort. I was really ready to quit for the day because I felt miserable. I was sweaty and aching and hungry and I felt just covered in dirt. I’d paused from digging to pull up a really deep and nasty grass root that was in my path. I reached down and then this extremely disgusting, huge bug crawled right in my hand and I almost squashed it. Well, of course, there are few things in the world that I hate more than bugs and so unfortunately I jumped back and screamed like a harling. Then I just got so mad about the whole thing I sat there in the dirt cursing that damn bug with every swear word in my vocabulary.

I scared the crap out of poor Ivy. I think he thought I’d hurt myself at first and he came up beside me, looking very concerned. When he asked me what happened I felt like such an idiot. I admitted that a bug had scared me and predictably Ivy got quite a giggle out of that. Then I felt self-conscious and defensive so I blurted out that I just wasn’t used to digging around in the dirt anymore with all these nasty bugs and how it had taken me off guard because I was so tired.

And then Ivy felt bad because before he hadn’t realized just how big of a favor I was doing for him. He looked at me all confused with those big green eyes of his and asked why I was doing this for him. I knew that was it; it was now or never. We were both kneeling there in the dirt, sweaty and tired. Ivy went to tuck a stand of hair behind his ear but his hands were just covered in grime so he was trying to do it with the heel of his hand. Then I reached over to do it but I saw that my hands were dirty too. He was looking at me like he was still waiting for an answer so I just leaned in and shared breath with him.

In no time we were both touching each other – dirty hands or not. On one hand it was the most beautiful perfect moment I could have imagined. On the other hand, we must have looked completely ridiculous.

But I certainly don’t regret it. When we parted, Ivy actually blushed just a little bit – it was so adorable! And he said I didn’t have to do all this hard work just to spend time with him. But I told him that I really wanted to help him even if it wasn’t my favorite type of work. After that he decided we should quit early, get cleaned up and have supper together. It was great. I am so, so, so happy!

Ivy’s Journal

Life couldn’t be grander than it is right now. My caste training is going well. Adoxa says that I’m advancing along right on target.

And day before yesterday Pansea and I had a nice visit with Lis for lunch and then most of the afternoon. I felt a little awkward at first. Partially because of that mix up we’d had before but also because I just felt like I was a stranger in Lis and Pansea’s little family. But, really I felt more comfortable in no time. It was a wonderful visit. I had no idea that Lis could be so much fun to talk to. I guess I always think of him as being serious and taking care of business. But, he likes to talk about things other than Harling Gardens, too. We talked about all sorts of things – politics, history, hairstyles, funny stories. I’d never have guessed that Lis used to be embarrassed about his hair. His hair is just so … Lis! I’m so glad he never changed it.

I’m so lucky to have gotten close to Pansea, since it’s been a way to get closer to Lis as well. Even before I got to spend more time with Lis, I felt like I was getting to know him better just by knowing Pansea. We talk all the time and Pansea has told me so much about Lis. There are even things that I don’t know that Lis would want me to know. Like I never knew there was so much rule-breaking going on all along when the hostlings were here. Pansea hasn’t told me anything specific that Lis might have done – he wouldn’t betray a confidence and I wouldn’t expect him to. But, he’s indicated that Lis knew about these things (obviously or else how would Pansea know). Of course I expect this sort of subject from Pansea – he always had a reputation for being a little brave when it came to rules.

I remember vaguely when he got thrown out of the nursery rooms all those years ago. I don’t think I actually saw it, but I was there. Of course, I was much too small to understand it at the time. I think for a while I had this impression that Pansea was some sort of troublemaker. I told him that and he got such a laugh out of it. He said IS a troublemaker and a bad influence too! He’s been using that joke for a week now but today is the closest he’s come to living up to it. It rained in the afternoon and Pansea convinced me that it was just too muddy for us to work outside. I’m pretty sure he was exaggerating, but when he invited me up to his room instead, I just couldn’t argue in favor of mud.

When we got up to his room, the air just felt charged somehow. I was so excited. I’m surprised that we haven’t taken aruna together before, but I think we were both saving up for it because we knew it would be special. It was more than special. It was spectacular. I didn’t feel nervous or awkward at all like I have with others. I felt like nothing we did could be wrong. Of course, that wasn’t exactly the case – we were both so eager we ended up with double ouana at first! It was kind of funny because this was the first time that I’d had aruna without some sort of conversation before about who would be what. But I like the way we were spontaneous together. And Pansea let me stay ouana, which really flattered me. Usually with an older har they just assume that you’ll be soume. It’s not that I don’t like being soume, it’s just that it’s nice not to be automatically assigned to it because I’m younger.

Without a doubt it was the very best aruna I’ve ever had so far. Pansea is totally amazing. He made me feel totally amazing. I think I may have worn him out (and yes I am proud of that) though because he lay there asleep for over an hour after. I wondered if I should wake him. I wanted to because I was starved and I didn’t want to leave for dinner without him. But it was nice watching him sleep. He’s so perfect and beautiful. I’d never had that much opportunity to really appreciate him before. I mean everyone knows Pansea is beautiful. He’s always been beautiful; it’s like part of his definition. But, now that I really know him and really got to look at him, beautiful takes on a whole new meaning. Not only is he gorgeous, but he’s such a good person. But he’s not so perfect that he’s no fun to be around.

I told him how much I admired him for standing up to the bad staff hara when he was just a harling and how brave he was. He just smiled and said that if he’d stopped to think about what he was doing back at the time, he probably wouldn’t have had the courage. He admitted that he’d even regretted it until he and Lis became friends. He said that anything brave he ever did was because he was trying to make Lis proud of him. I know he doesn’t understand why, but I told him that only makes him more special to me.

Well, I’m awfully tired now. I sure hope it rains again tomorrow, though!

Pansea’s Journal

I finally worked up enough nerve to talk to Lis about me staying at Harling Gardens permanently. The good news is that Lis was thrilled. He said that he had a feeling I might want to stay and he was hoping very much that I would. He hugged me so hard I almost couldn’t breathe.

But there’s always bad news too. Lis said that he thinks I still have some more learning to do before I’m really qualified to be an instructor. He said that he would like me to receive some training in deliveries and basic healing if I’m going to stay on after we switch to all hara education. All in all, I like that idea. I may not have a natural healing power like some hara, but I know I’m smart enough to learn a great deal. Lis sure seems to think so. It’s just that I’d have to leave here to do it and that’s the last thing I want to do. Lis said that he’d look into the possibility of me apprenticing to a healer who specializes in deliveries in Immanion so that I can pursue some other studies there at the same time. I know I should be thrilled, but just thinking about it is giving me a headache.

I should think about Ivy instead. I told Lis that he really ought to come and look at the garden that Ivy made now that we’ve finished it. Once all the flowers are at their peak, I think I’ll put together a nice surprise picnic for Ivy and me. Maybe I’ll even cook something if I have the time.

Ivy’s Journal

We finished the garden and it looks fantastic. Well, it’s not as beautiful as I’d like since I had to use a lot of daises, which really aren’t my favorites. One touch that I like a lot, is that we left several little areas with a lot of lawn. I’d like to build some benches for there later and maybe even add some sculptures from some of the more artistic harlings and hara. It never ceases to amaze me when I see what wonderful creations some hara can put together from what seems to be old junk. And it’s just so symbolic for Harling Gardens. First this place was made into something new and special from the old human convent and then the school was made from the horrible old facility, just like the Parasiel were made from the Varrs. I wonder if we could weld together something that might symbolize a flowering tree. That would be perfect because I didn’t have any saplings to plant out there and my garden could really use a good tree – or three as the traditional style would dictate. Yes. I definitely want to have three trees made from old materials. I’ve made up my mind. I can’t help but smile – I wonder how Pansea feels about helping me with welding?

Ivy’s Journal

Adoxa asked me the strangest thing today while we were having our Agma manipulation lesson. He asked me if Pansea and I were chesna! I was so taken aback that I just sat there with my mouth hanging open for a few moments. I told him of course not. I just had my Feybraiah; I’m way too young to be chesna with anyone.

He didn’t seem convinced and pointed out that I hadn’t been spending time with any other hara for weeks and that I seemed very distracted. I admit that I may have been a little distracted but I think it’s unfair for Adoxa to say that I’m any more distracted than the other hara my age. They’re constantly preoccupied with who they want to have aruna with next. If anything my life is a lot less complicated because I’m really content to just have aruna with Pansea.

It’s not like we’re talking about bonding or anything. It’s just that we’ve become very good friends and right now we’re having too much fun to really think much about being around anyone else. And Pansea makes me feel so wonderful. Why should I go through the trouble of flirting with other hara who can’t possibly make me feel as good anyway? It just seems stupid to have aruna with lots of partners just for the sake of variety.

Adoxa didn’t really argue with me or say anything negative, but he had that look on his face that told me that he’s not sure whether he approves. I really care about what Adoxa thinks and I hope that I don’t disappoint him, but I really don’t think that this is his business anyway. If he says anything again, I just may have to point out that he almost sounds jealous.

Ivy’s Journal

Why must things always become so confusing? Everything seemed so perfect and now Pansea has gone and done something terrible. Well, I suppose terrible is a bit strong, but it is bad. I mean we’ve been told that it’s not right.

But I’d swear before the Tigron that I didn’t think what we were doing was wrong. It all seemed to happen so fast and with no warning. I was lying on my stomach on the picnic blanket eating an apple and looking at the base of tree metal tree that we’d sunk into the clearing. I made some comment about reinforcing it against the wind and winter ice. And then Pansea sounded very serious and said that he didn’t want to talk about the garden today. He said that he had something important to tell me even though he wasn’t sure that he should say anything. I turned and looked at him and I was a little worried for just a second but then I figured that he was just being dramatic.

He took a deep breath and then he said that he was in love with me! I felt like everything I’d just eaten turned to lead inside my stomach. I think I just sat there staring at him and I tried not to panic. I told him that he was not in love with me and that it was just his imagination. But then he said that he understood if I didn’t feel the same way, but that he was positive that he was in love with me and he started talking about how he thought about me all the time and always wanted to be near me and do things just to make me happy.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told him that we both knew good and well that there was no place for those sorts of feelings in Wraeththu. I mean if we were older and decided that we wanted to be partners for a while and maybe make harlings then we could be chesna, but even that isn’t really the same as being in love. Being in love was like being insane for someone. It meant being selfish and possessive and primitive. That was the sort of thing that made the humans destroy each other.

Of course I was hurting Pansea to say these things and I didn’t want to hurt him. But I had to do it. I had to make him see reason. And then he started to cry and I felt so horrible. It was the most awful thing in the world to see him cry and know that I was the one causing it. And I have to admit that deep down it seemed more wrong to say those things to him than what he was saying to me.

I looked at him and even crying he looked so beautiful and fragile. He’s so gorgeous out in the sun; it shines on his hair and makes it gleam the most beautiful red-gold. He didn’t seem so much older than me anymore and all I wanted to do was put my arms around him and tell him that it was all right. I wanted to wipe the tears away and put my hands in his hair and pull him to me and share breath and not ever let go.

But it scared me that I wanted to do those things. I knew that I should be upset with him about what he said and I knew that if I gave into what I was really feeling it would just make it all worse and I’d be encouraging him. So, I told him that I didn’t want anything to change between us but that I could not let him say anything about love ever again. I said we should spend some time apart until he started to think clearly again. And then, even though it hurt very much, I got up and I left.

If only he hadn’t put together that beautiful picnic lunch and made things so nice and romantic out by our garden then maybe he wouldn’t have started thinking these crazy things. It’s funny how I’ve started to think of it as our garden when the whole point of it was to be an example of what I could do with landscaping. Instead I had started to think of how it’s a great example of what a good team Pansea and I make. I guess maybe the way I’m thinking goes to show that Adoxa was right after all.

Pansea’s Journal

I feel so wretched. I told Ivy that I love him. He did not respond the way I’d hoped at all. He looked so horrified. At first I thought that I must have been crazy and that Ivy felt nothing for me at all. That hurt so very much. I just wanted the earth to open and swallow me up. I wanted to lay down and die.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried. Who wouldn’t cry? Ivy could have just as soon cut open my chest with a knife and pulled out my heart and then dropped in the dirt, like he did with his apple when he walked away from me.

Somehow I found the strength to pull myself together enough to pick up our things and go back to Effrana to finish working for the day. I thought for sure that Effrana would notice something was wrong and ask me. But if he could tell that I was upset or that I’d been crying, he didn’t say anything.

Part of me is angry with myself for having said anything at all to Ivy. But I had to tell him. I couldn’t keep something like that a secret. Especially since I know that I have to go to Immanion at the end of the season for more studies. I was hoping that Ivy would agree to come with me and I thought that telling him that I loved him would convince him. I’d been thinking about it all morning while I was putting the lunch together. I knew I had to say something.

And I know that he feels the same way. I feel it from him when we share breath and when we take aruna. I know he loves me too, but he’s too stubborn to admit it. He’s so convinced that love is something bad. I guess maybe there is some truth to that because it is certainly hurting me now. I wish I knew what to do. I’m so afraid that I’ve lost him forever now.

Pansea’s Journal

I decided to talk to Lis about what has happened with Ivy. I couldn’t sleep and it wasn’t all that late so I crept out into the hall to see if the light was on in Lis’ room. It was so I knocked on the door very softly.

Lis was reading and I felt a little bad for disturbing him, but he said it was all right. I was relieved. Lis always makes time for me and I’m very grateful. I sat on the foot of his bed and poured out everything to him. I even started crying again and Lis hugged me and held my hand. He didn’t judge me or give me advice except when I asked him whether I had done the right thing.

He was pretty objective about it even though I know he really sympathizes with me. He said that it’s never wrong to be honest about feelings but that I should have considered Ivy’s feelings first. He reminded me that even though Ivy is a grown har, he’s still very young hasn’t had the chance to really explore his own ideas about things like love.

I insisted that Ivy loves me too and Lis said that he thinks I’m right, but that those feelings might feel wrong to Ivy because he has primarily been reared in such an Aghamist atmosphere. I hadn’t really thought about it from Ivy’s point of view but I guess it’s very different for him than for hara like Lis and me. We’ve had more years not knowing about the Aghama or the outside world than otherwise.

I’ve talked to Lis about my beliefs before though I don’t usually discuss it as much with anyone else. I don’t really believe in things the same as the younger hara. I mean I believe in the story of the Aghama more or less and of course I believe in the power of Wraeththu. I’ve had caste training and been to Immanion after all. But I just don’t believe every little thing that the Hienamas say. Like I don’t believe that it’s wrong to fall in love or that I have to always be balanced between being ouana and soume.

Even before the Gelaming came, I was always a little different. I asked lots of questions and I tended to believe in my own feelings instead of what the teachers and administrators told me. It’s so funny that I always wanted something more than just being a hostling at the facility and yet now I want to stay here more than anything. I realized something right then and I told it to Lis. I think that the something more that I wanted all along was love.

Lis smiled at me and said that he thought I was absolutely right about that. I knew that Lis would understand. He doesn’t believe that love is wrong either and he’s the most sensible har that I’ve ever met. Of course I also know that even Lis isn’t completely perfect. He told me about the secret relationship he had while he was a hostling. But he told me that even though that relationship turned out to be bad there was nothing wrong with having a personal attachment to one particular har. And, I’m not so stupid that I don’t know good and well that Lis has one of those personal attachments again, even if Lis doesn’t realize it yet!

I feel better after talking to Lis, but I still need to find a way to convince Ivy that it’s okay for us to love each other. I asked Lis if he would talk to him because I know that Ivy thinks very highly of him. Lis said that it would be better if Ivy worked this out for himself, but that maybe he’d talk to him after a while if things didn’t get any better. He also told me that even if Ivy loves me just as much as I love him, he might not want to come with me to Immanion and I should not pressure him to do so.

I guess I can’t ask for anything more than that and I know that Lis is right about Immanion. Ivy really would be better off in Galhea for the studies that he wants to pursue. It’s just so frustrating. I wish that I could make Ivy see things the way that I do and not believe every little thing that Adoxa is teaching him. But, I know that it’s wrong for me to want to change Ivy. Part of what I love about him is that he has faith in things whereas I’m always worrying and questioning. I just wish that things weren’t so hard.

Ivy’s Journal

It’s been nearly a week since Pansea told me that he loves me. I’ve been avoiding him but I have to admit that secretly I’m constantly wishing that he would come to me. I can’t describe how miserable I feel. I’m so unhappy without him. I feel so alone. My head aches all the time. I don’t have any energy. I just want to sleep all the time but then I keep waking up in the middle of the night with this panicked feeling that I’ve lost something. It’s obvious that something is wrong with me and I hate to admit it but I think I know what it is. I love Pansea too.

So now I just need to decide whether to go to him and tell him and let things be the way they were before. Or, I could continue to stay away from him like I should and just hope that this feeling goes away. I think maybe it will get easier as time goes by. I know that Pansea is supposed to go to Immanion in a few months. I was dreading it before and now it hurts more than ever. But I can’t help but feel like maybe if he’s far away I won’t feel like this anymore.

But at the same time, it seems so stupid that we should both be so sad and miserable by staying apart when we’d be so happy if it were just okay for us to love each other. I keep remembering how happy I was before whenever I spent time with Pansea and how when we shared aruna together it felt so perfect. And I feel so miserable now and it terrifies me to think that I’ll never again be able to be happy like I was before.

Ivy’s Journal

I did it. I went to Pansea’s room last night and confessed that I loved him too and that I couldn’t stand being apart from him. It was an intense reunion. Naturally we took aruna together to mark the occasion. Pansea really surprised me, taking the lead and assuming the ouana role with much more enthusiasm than usual.

I like that he can still surprise me. Now that Pansea and I are together again, being love doesn’t seem quite as scary as it did before. It’s more of an adventure now. And I have to admit that once I gave in to it, it’s incredibly erotic. There’s this feeling that we’re doing something, not wrong, but very daring or unconventional. It’s exciting, but I still have my moments of doubt.

I’m nervous about my caste lesson tomorrow. I feel that I should tell Adoxa what has happened. I suspect that it’s going to hold me back in reaching a higher caste, like maybe that’s another reason why we are discouraged from loving. I wonder if this is kind of how the hostlings felt when they used to break the old rules? Of course this is completely different. I know that no one will punish me for what I’ve done. I haven’t broken any law. I don’t even think that Adoxa will be angry, but I think he’ll be disappointed and he’ll worry and I don’t want that because that will make me worry too.

But no matter how Adoxa acts, at least I can take comfort in knowing that Lisia approves. Pansea told me so and it makes me feel so wonderful. I am very tempted to tell Pansea about Lis being my hostling. I don’t want to be keeping a secret like that from him and I know that he will be very excited to learn the truth. I think it will make us even closer. But I’m going to wait. I think I will tell Pansea eventually, but right now I just want to concentrate on loving him and figuring out what we will do next. Things are complicated enough and there’s no real reason to add to it.

Pansea’s Journal

Lately Lis has a habit of telling me exactly what I don’t want to hear. I went to him in such high spirits to tell him how Ivy had come around all on his own and told me that he loves me. Lis was very happy for us but then he immediately had to bring up the one thing that I did not want to think about. I’m leaving.

Of course I immediately asked if I could put it off and he said no. I said maybe I could find a place closer to Harling Gardens at which to study and he said no. That really irritated me, but Lis is the one who does all the work to place us in jobs and apprenticeships and higher schools, so I guess I have no place to argue. Lis worked hard to set up my studies in Immanion.

At the time we first discussed it, I was looking forward to going back there and seeing the friends I’d made. I was excited about learning new things and putting myself in position to come back here and be an actual instructor at the new hara school. But I’d gladly give up all of that just to stay with Ivy. If only there was a way to earn my place at Harling Gardens without having to go away first.

Ivy’s Journal

Adoxa took my revelation about Pansea better than I’d expected. I guess being wise as he is, he probably knew all along what I was feeling even if I did not. He didn’t tell me that what I was feeling was contrary to the teachings of Aghamism, even though we both know that it is. He just warned me to be careful because even a feeling as pure as love can lead to great pain.

I told him that we would be careful not to forsake the basic principles of Wraeththu by becoming jealous or selfish or possessive. Adoxa just made one of those skeptical faces and said that would be easier said than done when Pansea had to go to Immanion and I went to study in Galhea.

I hadn’t forgotten about that, but suddenly, when Adoxa said it out loud if hurt. I’m going to have to go through all of that pain again when Pansea leaves and I just can’t imagine facing it. In an instant I knew what I must do. I’ll have to go to Immanion with Pansea.

Pansea’s Journal

I love Ivy so much. He’s truly the most wonderful, remarkable, beautiful har. Today he told me that if we can manage it, he wants to come to Immanion with me. He said that he has enough money saved from last winter’s share of knitting earnings and whatever to pay for his passage if he travels very cheaply. Then he’ll get a job there to pay for a place to live. He won’t be able to have lessons or continue his training unless we could convince Lis to find something for him, but we both know that the fields of study in which Ivy wanted to specialize are not generally taught in Immanion. He could probably continue his study of landscaping, but ancient technologies are nowhere to be found in the magical Gelaming city.

I get this warm and tingling feeling inside me whenever I think of what Ivy has volunteered to do just to be with me. I have to admit that I’m very tempted – it would be the perfect solution. Except that I know deep down that Ivy doesn’t really want to go to Immanion. And I know that he will be very sad to give up ancient technologies education. He’s spoken so often about all of the work and improvements he wants to come back and make here at Harling Gardens. It is my dream (and his too, I think) that we can both come back and work here once Lis opens his school for hara.

There are very few hara who understand the details of the wires and pipes that men left behind. And almost no young hara from our generation have much interest in taking up those studies. Ivy could do so much more good here and even elsewhere in Megalithica than he could simply gardening in Immanion. As much as it hurts, I know that I cannot let him give up his dream to follow me.

Pansea’s Journal

I went to Lis today to plead my case. I knew he would be angry but I also felt sure that he would understand. I told him that I wanted to study in Galhea instead of in Immanion.

Lisia was not happy. He said that he wouldn’t stop me if that’s what I chose to do, but that I was being irresponsible and selfish. That really made me angry and I pointed out that I was being the opposite of selfish by going to Galhea. I was doing this for Ivy even though if I really had my choice, Ivy would come with me to Immanion instead.

But Lis told me that I wouldn’t learn as much in Galhea as I could in Immanion. He said that it might be selfless towards Ivy, but I would be stealing from my own potential and thereby denying my best to all of the hara that I could otherwise help here at the school. Lis said that he wasn’t sure if he could really let me work here in good conscience if I wouldn’t finish my studies in Immanion.

I knew that it might come to this and I felt terrible. I didn’t want to disappoint Lis and I didn’t want to give up on my goals. But I truly do love Ivy. I told this to Lis and I even got all weepy again.

Lis said that it was fine for us to love each other, but that if we were going to make such rash decision we may as well be blood-bonded. I asked what was wrong with that and Lis was so shocked that he had to sit down. He was really flustered, which is unusual. He told me that we were too young to bond, especially Ivy. I pointed out that lots of hara were bonding young, especially here in Megalithica. I started to bring up how Lord Swift wasn’t much older than Ivy when he was bonded to Lord Seel, but Lis cut me off before I could even finish. He said that was a special circumstance and that he’d get Lord Swift on the thought transference until to tell me personally how foolish Ivy and I were being.

I’m sure Lis would have really done it too. But, I didn’t need him to go that far. I suppose I knew the right choice all along. Even if I don’t believe in every little teaching of Aghamism, I know what the truly Wraeththu path is. Ivy and I must part even though it will be painful. We each have to pursue our own paths and reach the peak of our potential. Only then will we truly be worthy of the love we feel for one another.

Ivy’s Journal

It’s taken a long time, but I have finally come to terms with Pansea leaving for Immanion. For over a month I’ve been too sad to do anything including write in this journal and before that I was spending all of my time with Pansea. I lost interest in everything else. Adoxa even stopped giving me caste lessons because I couldn’t concentrate.

When Pansea first told me that he’d decided we must each continue with our original study plans, I was furious. I felt like he was rejecting me and that even though he’d been the first to voice his feelings, it seemed obvious that he could not possibly love me as much as I love him. And I told him so and was so angry that I wouldn’t speak to him for two days.

Then one day while I was sulking in my room, Lis came knocking on my door. Even upset as I was, I was pleased. This was the first time that Lis had ever sought me out and it made me feel so special. Of course he came to plead Pansea’s case. He told me how horribly upset Pansea was by what I’d said and how much he really did love me. I knew that Lis was right. I told him that really I was more hurt than angry by then but I’d been so afraid that what I’d said was true – that Pansea really didn’t love me as much as I loved him – that I couldn’t go to him. Lis stayed with me for a long while and we talked well into the night. He promised me that being apart would not mean that Pansea and I loved each other any less. He said it would just make us stronger. I hope that he’s right.

I went to Pansea after that and apologized. We made the very most of what time we had left before Pansea went away. I have to smile looking back on how much aruna we shared in those last days – at times it seemed like we were trying to fit in everything that we would miss over the next two years. The last day was so special that I cannot even find the words for it.

But as special as that time was, I was still afraid. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and that when Pansea left I would definitely fall. So much has changed this past year. I found out that I have a hostling, though I can’t tell him. I’ve become an adult. I’ve begun my caste training but then had to choose between those teachings and my heart. And then even after I was willing to sacrifice everything to be with my chesna, I find that I must suffer separation after all.

Surprisingly, it was Adoxa who has finally given me the strength I need to move past all of this anguish. I feared that I had forever lost the friendship I had with him when he turned me out one afternoon and sadly said that I could not continue caste training until I stopped grieving. I felt as if I was being rejected once and for all and that he had finally passed judgment on me. I know now that this is not what he had intended.

Earlier this week, I was sitting out in the garden Pansea and I made and Adoxa suddenly walked up beside me. He’d never come out there before and I was incredibly surprised. He sat down on the grass with me and began talking to me. I honestly can’t remember what he said at first because I was too wrapped up in my own troubles. Then he told me something that I will never forget. He said that there was an ancient saying that he learned when he was still a human boy that was very true, even among Wraeththu. It goes like this: If you love something set it free. If it returns to you then it is yours to love forever. If it does not return then the love was not true.

I very much like what Adoxa said. I began to think of this separation as a test or a training exercise and that gives me the strength to meet the challenge. I also know that Pansea only wanted the very best for both of us in making the choice that he did. That is clear to me now and I feel a sudden burst of inspiration to make the most of these two years. In just the few days since we spoke, I’ve begun to finish my caste studies. I also started to renew my relationships with my lings, who I really have neglected since becoming chesna with Pansea. I’ve gotten some of them to help me with the art trees for my garden and I’m very excited by the plans we’ve made. I’d forgotten how wonderfully talented my lings are and I know that together we’re making something truly inspiring.

I went to see Lis yesterday and we’ve finalized my course of study. As soon as I complete my studies with Adoxa and am raised to Brynie then I’m to travel to Galhea to apprentice with a har there who will teach me more about electricity and plumbing and carpentry.

I still miss Pansea every day, but what Lisia told me before was right. Being apart does not make me love him any less. It just makes me appreciate him more. I know that even if it hurts, these next two years will make us both very strong. I don’t regret anything that has happened and I know in my heart that when all of this is over, Pansea and I will be together again and we’ll be better hara than before. Then we’ll be able to make Harling Gardens a more wonderful place and we’ll be a true family together and with Lisia, our hostling.

The End

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