Title: Of Gems and Pebbles
Author: gingerspark (formerly known as niennaainur – LOL now I feel like Prince ;P)
Pairing: original non-canon characters
Summary: In relationships – communication is key!!
Disclaimer: All the pretty Wraeththu, as well as the world they live in, were created by, and belong to, Storm Constantine, who (bless her!) is gracious enough to allow fans like me to take them out and play with them occasionally. No copyright infringement is intended, and I promise to wash them off and put then away neatly.
Warnings: none really… a wee bit of angst
Beta read by: bigunen
Of Gems and Pebbles
My name is Kess and I am beautiful, really beautiful; in fact I am drop dead gorgeous. I hate being beautiful. It is a curse. Being beautiful is the most isolating of existences. Everyhar assumes that being ‘a looker’ should make ones life superior, but they are wrong. I had thought that by becoming a har things would be easier, but I was wrong. Both humans and hara react very oddly around beauty; to hate you because of it, and to desire you because of it, sometimes at the same time, are indeed odd.
I shifted the pack I carried. It held everything I owned. I did not own much. The recent rain had made the mountain road muddy and slick and, in certain steeper sections, the run-off had carved deep channels in the loose gravel. There would be more rain soon judging by the tang in the air borne by the chilly wind. Summer was ending, harvest time was in full swing, and the nights were getting cold.
I was hopeful that whatever town I wandered into next would have employment of some kind. I hoped I could smile fetchingly, tilt my head in ‘that way’, and charm myself into a job. There wasn’t much I couldn’t do; farmer, thief, bartender, courier, shop clerk, temple dancer, blacksmith – I had done it all. I might hate being beautiful, but I do know how to make it work for me.
“They just hired somehar at the pub so I don’t think they’ll be looking for help…” the blond’s voice trailed off doubtfully. “Oh! But you might want to try The Corner Café… it’s down there,” he pointed, “on the corner – you can’t miss it!” he giggled. “I don’t know if Corvus is looking for help but he really needs it!”
The Corner Café was closed. I stood in front of its locked doors weighing my options.
“Café doesn’t do dinner!” a passing har with a harling on his hip called out.
“I hoping to speak to the owner.” I smiled, hoping the smile was ‘up to snuff’ and didn’t let on how tired I was.
“Corvus? He lives ’round back. Try there…” The har waved vaguely towards the laneway that ran up the side of the building. “Good night!”
The building was L-shaped with a tall wooden fence separating the courtyard from the lane way. In the center of the courtyard stood an old-fashioned water pump, and at this pump was a har, his back to me in the act of washing up. He was naked. His blond plait fell down the centre of his back, ending more than halfway down his back. His buttocks were high and firm. I have a weakness for blonds and finding a naked one was a bonus that I hoped to use to my advantage.
He must have heard me since he turned towards me. He was lovely; wisps of blond hair had escaped the braid and framed his high cheekbones, his nose was strong and straight, and he had full lips set into a somewhat square jaw. Although it was too dark to see the colour of his eyes I could see that they were large and widely set.
As lovely as his face was it was not what now riveted my attention; that hung below his waist. Sweet Ag! He was huge! His ouana-lim in its unaroused state hung thicker and longer than some hara’s did at the height of arousal. I was awestruck. Too late I realized that I was staring and quickly looked back up. His stare was hard. My jaw worked uselessly trying to stammer out some sort of apology, but none came. I had to fight hard not to let my gaze drop again. He raised his eyebrow and mockingly displayed himself; my face flushed. I tried to maintain eye contact with him as he closed the distance between us. His stare was cold and challenging; he certainly didn’t find his nakedness the disadvantage I had hoped he would. I attempted to regain some type of footing in a situation which had slipped beyond my control; I kept my gaze locked with his, meeting the challenge in it.
I lost; I was the first to look away, I even took a step back as he advanced further. Another couple of steps back and I was literally backed up against a wall. He placed himself directly in front of me and leaned forward, bracing his arms against the wall on either side of me, careful not to touch me.
In the fading light it was still impossible to make out the colour of this har’s eyes, but I could make out two thin white scars; one that cut through the outer edge of his eyebrow and ran to the middle of his temple, and the other starting at his ear and running to the middle of his cheek.
This was probably an inopportune time to ask him about a job, but if I played the game right, I could probably end up in a warm dry bed tonight.
I met his eyes again. “The dehar were indeed kind, Tiahaar.”
He smirked slightly but his tone was frosty. “So it would seem…”
. : ~ : .
My eyes floated open slowly. It took me a few minutes to register where I was and how I got there. Damn, Kess, I thought with a mild disgust, you are a slut. They had called my mother that; I guess the apple does not fall too far from the tree after all.
The bed was empty; my host was gone. I sat up and surveyed the room. It was cluttered, untidy, and dusty, but oddly cozy; piles of clothes, books, papers, and a few half-empty tea cups occupying most of the flat surfaces. Last night I had deposited my clothes on top of a chair that had about six books already stacked on the seat. I smiled when I saw that my host had added to the pile by leaving a couple of neatly folded towels and a face cloth on top.
Washed and dressed, I stood in the courtyard behind the café. Corvus lived in a series of rooms above some old carports that made up the long part of the building and now served as rather cluttered storage bays. To my right a door stood open, and from it emanated the warm, sweet smells of baking and the enticingly divine aroma of coffee.
Corvus had his back to me as I stood in the door to the kitchen. He was dressed in blue pants, a blue short-sleeved shirt, and a long white apron. His blond braid was twisted around itself and clipped up, presumably to keep it out of his work. He was busy kneading some dough and his forearms and apron were dusted with flour. The kitchen was, by contrast to his living quarters, spotless and well-organized.
When Corvus turned to pull a tray out of the oven he saw me. There was a momentarily disconcerted look on his face, but then he nodded somewhat guardedly.
I gave him my most winning of smiles. “Good morning! You should have woken me up; I could have given you a hand.”
He shook his head. “You were out cold.”
He pulled a pan from the oven and flipped a dozen sticky buns out onto a tray, with a slight tilt of his head indicating I was to follow; he went out into the front retail area of the café. There was a red-haired har waiting in front of the glass display case, a young harling at his side. Corvus smiled and greeted them as he slid the tray he carried into one of the slots in the display case. He teased the harling gently and chatted pleasantly with the red-head — I was entranced. After they left, he put a sticky bun on a plate, handed it to me, and indicated a table.
“Please!” I watched him pour me a steaming mug.
“Sugar and cream are there.” He indicated a counter along the wall.
Something in the kitchen made a ‘dinging’ sound, and Corvus disappeared, leaving me to my breakfast.
I sat at the cleanest of the eight round café tables, noting that The Café proper was not like the kitchen; it was a mess. The tables needed to be bussed, the floor needed to be swept and mopped, and tables (and chairs) needed to be wiped.
As I sat there sipping the last of my coffee, and watching Corvus deal with the steady stream of hara who come in and out of the café, a somewhat self-serving scheme began to formulate in my head. I walked back into the kitchen area where I found Corvus busily grating cheese.
“I spilled some coffee.” I smiled as sheepishly as I could. “Do you have something I could wipe it up with?”
Corvus nodded towards some clean, as yet unused, dishtowels next to a large sink. The sink was piled to near capacity with dirty dishes— this sight made me smile inwardly. My plan might indeed have a chance.
I filled a small bucket with warm soapy water and grabbed a cloth and headed back out to the front. I began wiping the tables and chairs, and cleaning up around the cream and sugar station.
My scheme was not entirely self-serving I reasoned; this needed to be done, and Corvus obviously either did not have the time or the inclination, so I might as well help out. In addition to being gorgeous, Corvus seemed like a nice enough har and I needed to make myself indispensable; I needed a job.
The door opened and a har entered. He had to be a relative of Corvus’s; slightly taller but with the same colour hair and similar features. He stopped short when he saw me and his eyebrow shot up.
“So the gossip is true? And you’re working already?” his tone was not exactly friendly.
I heard another tray slide into place in the display case.
I grinned at the har. “I gotta earn my breakfast.”
“If you spent last night where I think you did, I’m sure you earned…” he paused meaningfully, “several meals.” His voice was tight and his gaze was locked with Corvus’s.
I could feel tension in the air so I beat a hasty retreat, as casually as I could, back into the kitchen.
When Corvus returned to the kitchen, I was attempting to clear enough of the sink so I could start washing some of the rapidly amassing stack of dirty plates and mugs.
Corvus hovered for a second. “Drake is my brother. He meant no offense.”
I looked up. “None taken…”
I worked my ass off. Not that this was hard; The Café needed a lot of work, and the dishes were endless. Corvus did not say anything, but I occasionally caught a look of surprise, or confusion, when he saw me doing something.
Corvus did not talk much. It was not that he was sullen or dull— I think he just was used to being alone.
Towards the end of the day I began to wonder about how to broach the subject of whether there was any chance of my staying on, and where, and if not I needed to get my stuff out of his bedroom.
I came into the kitchen carrying an armful of wood I had chopped. When I had finished stacking it next to the stove, I saw that Corvus had two places set at the small table near a cramped and chaotic space which appeared to serve as an office. He placed large steaming bowls of chili down.
“I hope you don’t mind spicy.”
“It smells delicious.”
There was silence. My caste training might be minimal, but even I could sense that this har had barriers in place to protect his barriers.
I had stolen moments during the day to observe Corvus; he really was striking and his scars, instead of detracting from his appearance, added an aura of sweet mystery. Aruna last night has been incredible. I could tell that it had been some time since Corvus had taken aruna, yet despite his obvious need he had been a gentle and considerate lover.
“Thanks for your help today.” It was said abruptly and sounded slightly awkward, but I could tell Corvus meant it.
“Thanks for feeding me.”
I asked him general questions about the town and the area, and we managed to fall into an easy, albeit carefully neutral, conversation.
I could sense how self-conscious Corvus felt as we stood facing each other in the cluttered living room of his small home.
“I usually turn in early,” he said almost apologetically, hovering in front of the bedroom door.
“Would you like some company?”
He looked at me earnestly as he considered the question. “Yes. I would.”
. : ~ : .
Corvus rolled out of bed and headed into the bathroom, I lay in bed and stretched. Six months today— I noted this privately with a smile.
I was still in this little town, helping out in the bakery and sharing the bed of the har who owned it. However, other than the grand march of time, not much had progressed in those six months. Corvus and I worked side by side in the café, Corvus and I went places together, and at night Corvus and I shared his bed. But we were not a couple; nothing official had ever been said, I had just moved into the café, Corvus’s flat, and his life. Neither of us ever brought up our ‘arrangement’. In fact we never really talked about much more than superficial day to day things— it seemed safer that way.
Despite the occasional unease I felt about where I stood with Corvus, I had never been happier. This town had friendly down-to-earth hara with had a good sense of community. I had made friends, and I loved the Café. I felt settled.
I saw a lot of Corvus’s brother Drake; Corvus and Drake were close. Drake’s consort, Demmet and I, were pretty good friends. Demmet was an interesting character, he was a ‘Leftover Gelaming’; years earlier when the Varrish forces had been displaced, the transition to Parsic administration had been aided (and abetted) by the Gelaming, when the Gelaming had left, Demmet had opted to stay with Drake.
Corvus and his older brother, Drake, were complete opposites. While Corvus kept his emotions guarded behind high barricades, his brother made his feelings well known. Drake had confronted me one day and accused me of taking advantage of his brother, of being an interloper, a con artist, a gold-digger, and a lot more. I had been able to defuse most of his accusations, especially when I had pointed out that Corvus did not pay me; I worked for room and board. It was true that Corvus had never given me money, and I had never asked him for any. Corvus was however generous; he paid for everything when we went places, and he bought me things on a regular basis: clothing, boots, books, and whatever was needed.
I met Corvus as he exited the bathroom, he smelled of soap and clean. It had become our habit to cross paths without interaction until we were in the kitchen and our morning routines were well under way, but this morning I stopped him and pressed my lips against his. We shared breath for a moment. When I pulled away I smiled at him; he smiled back in a bemused sort of way and then headed out without a word. I did not expect him to know what today was, but I felt it necessary to mark this sixth month in some way; it meant something to me because despite my best intentions I had fallen madly, head over heels in love with Corvus.
I have never been in love before, not even close; I was not sure how to do it. I ached to fan that delicate flame of passion that we seemed to share when the bedroom door closed, and to move it out into the rest of our day. But I was too scared; scared of what might happen if Corvus actually took the time to examine this arrangement of ours. I did not want to run the risk of disrupting this seemingly delicate situation.
I worked hard and while I did not think I was taking advantage of Corvus by any means, even I had to admit that this situation was a fairly dodgy looking one— a har with not much more than the clothes on his back just wandering in off the road and installing himself in the life of a successful business owner. The term ‘gold-digger’ hovered accusatorily in the back of my own mind.
I had resolved to work doubly hard to keep whatever Corvus and I had balanced on the same thin knife edge it had been on for the past six months. This had to work.
. : ~ : .
Summer was ending, harvest time was in full swing, and the nights were getting cooler – today marked a full year that I had been here.
The Harvest Fair’s big bonfire was tonight, there would be drumming, dancing, and feasting.
I was sitting with Demmet and Aquila, another ‘Gelaming leftover’, near the fair grounds; we were shucking a mountain of sweet corn in preparation for the celebrations tonight.
My mouth often gets me into interesting situations and this celebration tonight was no exception. In mid-summer, while offering choreography tips to Aquila’s son as he had been struggling with his own dance arrangement, I had accidentally let slip that I had trained for a time in the U’thani temple as a temple dancer. I was not an actual temple dancer, they were highly trained mystics and I had only been attracted to the dance aspect.
U’thani temple dancers are renown not only for their exotic beauty but for their legendary prowess in dance and arunic magic. The U’thani dance only for the dehar; it is said that if a temple dancer dances for a har it was to offer that har his soul.
Aquila was, unfortunately, not only on the Harvest Fair planning committee, he was also very persuasive; news quickly spread that an U’thani temple dancer would be performing. There was no way to gracefully back out.
Shucking corn is a blessedly mindless task; I was not listening to Demmet and Aquila as they bantered, my focus was on Corvus. He was nearby, kicking a ball around with Aquila’s son and the harling Drake had hosted two years ago. Corvus was laughing, teasing, and his beautiful blond mane swirled around him as he ran; he was totally into the game. I was mesmerized.
“Kess? You agree? Right?” I snapped my attention back to Aquila.
I stared at him blankly. Both Aquila and Demmet burst out laughing; their laughter good-natured, but aimed at me.
“You weren’t listening were you?”
“I was watching the game,” I offered feebly, feeling like I had somehow been ‘caught’ doing something naughty.
“You were watching Corvus.”
I felt a slight blush rise in my cheeks.
“You do love him, don’t you?” Demmet was eyeing me speculatively, his eyes slightly narrowed.
My blush deepened; damn Demmet to hell! Why did he choose now to see more than he should?
Aquila chuckled. “AH! Perhaps you’ll dance for him tonight.”
My face burned as I went back to shucking corn. I had already thought of that; tonight I planned to offer Corvus my soul.
The group of dancing drummers had been spectacular. Their rhythms had been powerful, their dancing precise and beautiful— they had kept perfect time as their intricately patterned dance had woven in and out in with their colourful costumes swirling around them.
I handed Corvus the traditional long hooded tunic that I wore as a cover up, flashed him a nervous grin, and took my place in the center of the large circle of onlookers by the bonfire. It was my turn.
I wore the traditional U’thani sarong, beaded with tiny mirrors and bells and slung low around my hips. My torso had been rubbed with a bronze-flecked cream that shimmered in the bonfire’s glow, my eyes were heavily kohled, and my lips stained a dark red. As I waited for my music to start, I tried to refocus the nervous fluttering in my stomach; I was not nervous about the dance performance, I knew what I was doing. I was anxious about my decision to offer the dance to Corvus.
Aruna with Corvus was always mind-blowing in its intensity, and in the past six months our very private, never discussed, relationship felt like it had deepened. We had begun to be more intimate. We would occasionally share a bath, and Corvus would now let me brush out his long blond hair; something I could find pleasure in doing for hours. His gifts to me had also changed; along with clothing and books, he had also bought me flowers, recently some jewelry. I had been here a full year and something just felt right; it felt like home. I felt confident enough to risk jolting my relationship with Corvus out of its comfort zone.
My music started. I moved through the first part with ease; I swirled and leapt, twisted and shimmied. The second phase of the traditional dance was a quiet reflective pause with very little actual movement; the dancer uses it to pause and reflect and to prepare for the final musical burst and the offering to the dehar, or in this case my offering to Corvus.
On the first beat of the third and final part of my U’thani dance I raised my head and extended my arm towards where Corvus stood and then I danced for him; every twist, every swirl, every movement was focused on him. I heard the crowd gasp as I did a drop, and heard their burst of cheers and applause as I hit my final pose. I acknowledged them with a bow and then turned toward where Corvus was standing. Demmet was beaming and I noted with smug satisfaction that even Drake was smiling.
Corvus tossed me my tunic. I pulled it over my head and then trotted after him as he strode off away from the bonfire circle. We were some distance from the circle when I had fully caught up to him. I was just about to say something when he stopped and swung around on his heel to face me; the look on his face stopped me dead in my tracks. He was furious.
“It looked like you danced for me.” His voice was hard. Angry. “Why? Why would you do that?”
I stammered. “I… I thought…” my voice faltered. I had no words.
“Hara like you,” he said viciously, his finger hovering in front of my chest, “don’t end up with hara like me.”
With that he turned and strode angrily away leaving me standing alone in the dark night air, suddenly colder than it had been a moment earlier. I felt like I had been punched in the chest. By the time I had found a quiet refuge behind one of the deserted fairground stalls I was shaking and tears streamed down my cheeks. I was in shock; I could not believe I had been so blinded by my own feelings for Corvus as to have so badly misjudged the situation. The reality hit hard— of course a gate-crashing little novelty item like me could not force their way into the life of an established successful and respected har. I had made a mistake. I had been so wrong.
“Kess!!” Drake’s call froze me in my tracks.
“Great dance Kess!!” Demmet caught my elbow playfully.
I nodded, and mumbled my thanks.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Kess? Where’s Corvus?”
It took me a couple of breaths to be sure enough of my voice to speak. “I think he headed to the pub.”
“Oh…” Drake was looking at me curiously.
I hate the Wraeththu ability of mind touch; I knew by the way Demmet and Drake exchanged looks that they were also exchanging thoughts.
“Right then.” Drake cleared his throat awkwardly. “I’ll see you later Kess.” And with that, Drake headed off in the direction of the Pub.
“What happened, Kess?” Demmet’s voice was soft and he kept a firm grip on my elbow.
“I made a mistake,” I said my voice barely a whisper. “A big mistake.”
I could feel him gently sliding into my mind. “Don’t!” I said, pulling away. “I’m cold… I have to go.”
My bag sat on the bed. It was packed. I had not enough room in my pack to take all that Corvus had bought me over the past year, but I had packed the things I figured would be best suited to getting me on my feet again somewhere new with the winter fast approaching.
I had changed into a pair of heavy denim trousers and a warm pullover, and while I was still barefoot, I was already wearing the old, worn shearling jacket that I had rescued from a pile of old clothes that Corvus was getting rid of; it was too big on Corvus, and I swam in it, but I loved it. The U’thani sarong still lay on the floor against the wall where I had thrown it— I never wanted to see it again.
As I pulled on my heavy boots, I looked around ‘my’ bedroom for the last time wondering absently how long it would be before its original disorder reclaimed the state of tidy I had imposed. As I turned to leave I caught sight of my reflection into the large mirror that hung over the dresser; my long dark hair was tousled, and the heavy kohl around my eyes had smudged, making my eyes look impossibly large and deep. My lips were still stained a deep red, and I was almost lost in the huge jacket. I looked exquisite in that forlorn, vulnerable, soume way that so many hara found beguiling and irresistible.
I pulled the front door shut carefully— the handle could be tricky sometimes. As I started across the courtyard, a dark figure came through the gateway from the laneway. We met face to face at the pump.
“Kess?” When I did not respond, Corvus went on, “I’m sorry I was such a jerk…”
“No, I’m sorry,” I cut him off. I was surprised that my voice sounded so calm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It was my mistake to presume.”
Corvus had let me brush out his hair before the bonfire, and it hung silky over the soft black leather jacket he’d worn. His face was pale, his eyes intense. He was so beautiful it made my heart ache.
“I suppose this is fitting,” I smiled sadly. “This was where we met.”
Corvus looked confused for a moment, and then he caught sight of my bag.
“I’m sorry Corvus. I really am. I never meant to upset you… I made a huge mistake… I just thought… well, after a year…” my voice faltered and I shrugged.
“After a year?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What do you mean?”
“You hadn’t kicked me out on my ass so I thought that maybe you felt… I had hoped that you felt…”
There was an awkward silence.
“U’thani temple dancers? When they dance for somehar, that’s for keeps isn’t it?”
“Were you offering me your soul? Or whatever it is they do?”
I nodded again.
Corvus shook his head slowly. “Kess, I don’t understand. Why? Why me?”
I took a deep breath— the truth could not hurt now.
“All my life I felt like I’ve been looking for something. When I found this town, the Café… you… it started to feel like I’d found ‘it’. Corvus, you are the most beautiful har I’ve ever met. You’ve been kind and generous to me… the hara here love you and respect you.” I took a deep breath, “And I love you.”
There, I’d said it.
Corvus closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. I winced; I didn’t think I could have felt any worse than I was already feeling.
“How did this get so screwed up?” Corvus sighed.
“I am so sorry Corvus…” I said in a small voice.
“No. I’m sorry… I’m sorry that I’ve been such a complete idiot. I’m sorry that I’ve screwed this up completely. I’m sorry I didn’t see… I had no idea… Sweet Ag! Believe me, I had no idea.”
We stood beside the pump in silence staring at each other.
“Kess,” Corvus began finally, “when I said that hara like you don’t end up with hara like me… I was talking about jewelry settings; gems and pebbles. My father was a jeweler; No sane jeweler would mount a pebble next to a gem.”
I was confused; I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Have you ever actually seen yourself?” He laughed; a short bitter sound. “And I’m not just talking about in a mirror. Not only are you a gem, Kess but you sparkle. You’re funny, sweet, brilliant, gentle, and hardly a day goes past that somehar doesn’t remind me how stunningly beautiful you are.” He paused for a moment. “You’ve been to places, and done things that the rest of us have only imagined doing. You have so many different skills and talents…
“Me? I grew up not far from here; I was incepted not far from here. I was a soldier stationed not far from here… Nothing remotely heroic. I dug latrine trenches, I pulled night watch duties, and I worked in the mess kitchen. I saw action once.” He indicated the scars on his face. “I’m the pebble.
“I reacted badly… really badly. I am so very sorry. When you danced for me, I was…” He seemed to flounder for words. “Scared? Panicked? Terrified? My ultimate fantasy was suddenly so… real. I never ever dreamed that you’d… settle.” He emphasized the word and gestured towards himself.
He took me by the shoulders; his voice soft and earnest. “Kess, I have been in love with you since… well, you probably wouldn’t remember the day. That first dusting of snow we had, shortly after you arrived. We were out walking, and you…” His voice faltered and he shook his head. “I never said anything because I thought you’d… I don’t know… laugh at me? Or leave?”
My brain hurt. I couldn’t process what I had just heard. I was certain I must have misheard him. All I could do was gape at him.
“Please don’t leave. If you love me, and I love you, there has to be some way for us to get through this… don’t leave… please.. We can try again, start over.”
“Start over?” I repeated slowly.
“Please!” He pleaded softly. “We‘ll try this again, only I’ll try not to screw it up this time.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt at the moment; I felt detached and adrift; hardly how I expected to feel after finding out that Corvus loved me back. He did have a point; if we both loved each other it did seemed silly to leave, but… but… There had to be a ‘but.’ I was too exhausted and emotionally spent to think anymore.
Corvus stepped towards me; he cupped my head in his hands and bent forward tentatively to share breath with me. Sharing breath with him had never been so different; there was no push towards passion, this was a slow reconnect. For the first time the barriers that he used to protect himself were gone. We shared breath slowly, tentatively, exploring our new reality, and trying to reconnect.
I awoke the way I’d fallen asleep; in Corvus’s arms with my clothing more or less still on. I gave him a tentative smile.
As this Harvest Day was a holiday, we had all the time in the world; aruna was slow, sensuous, and steamy; we tormented and teased each other; our climax more complete than it had ever been. The magic of ‘a year and a day’ truly seemed to be at work.
“We can head to the Fair. They’re showing the horses today.” The suggestion sounded uncertain.
“Sure, whatever you want,” I answered automatically. I always said that to suggestions Corvus made.
“What I want is to know what you really want to do.”
I considered for a moment.
“If it was up to me, I’d pack a lunch and a bottle of wine and hike up Abbot’s peak, all the way to the summit. I’ve never been all the way up. No company, just us. I want you all to myself.”
A slow grin spread on Corvus’s face. “Done!”
The summit of Abbot’s Peak, the mountain against which our town was nestled, was not pointy like I thought it would be. It was a large flat plateau covered with an odd assortment of rounded grey rocks of varying sizes. Corvus likened it to a company of giant grey stone turtles submerged in a sea of lichen and moss.
The climb up had been strenuous; we arrived hot and out of breath, but completely exhilarated. The top was brilliant; we were on top of the world, on an island in the sky. From “our” side of the mountain we could see our town and the fair, we could also see towns and villages in the surrounding area, the meadows and hills, forests and the river, all laid out in miniature, far below us. On the other side, we could see other towns and other farms, and in the distance, near the horizon, we could see the dark blue glint of a large lake.
The sun beat down on us out of the cloudless blue, but the biting chill of the winds that buffeted the summit kept us cool. We explored the summit plateau for awhile and ate our lunch sitting on in a sunny spot, sheltered from the wind. Then sitting side by side, all alone, at the top of the world, we did something we’d never done before: we talked. I mean we really talked. I told him about my life; the good, the bad, and the shocking. He told me about his life, his fears, and his scars. We talked about the past. We talked about our existing relationship, and when we began to talk about the future, Corvus reached over and took hold of my hand.
We’d gone up Abbot’s Peak as two hara still somewhat bruised and battered by the tempestuous emotional extremes of the night before; we came down chesnari with plans to bond in blood at the Natalia feast.
Corvus had his arm across my shoulders and I had my arm around his waist as we walked through the gateway in the tall wooden fence separating the courtyard behind the Café from the side lane way. The surge of relief that flowed through the dozen or so hara gathered there was palpable. We were rushed. We were surrounded. We were shaken, clapped on the back, and crushed in tight bear hugs; everyhar talking at once:
“First you took off, Kess, then Corvus… “
“Nohar had seen neither hide nor hair of either of you since last night…”
“Thank the dehar they’re okay!”
“Where have you two been?”
“I told you they’d be okay.”
“You were both such wrecks…”
“Are you two okay?”
“We were worried sick! You both just disappeared!” Demmet’s voice held both relief and gentle reprimand as he shook Corvus softly.
Drake’s hand came to rest heavily on my shoulder. “Kess is everything okay?” As was his way, the words were weighted with more meaning than the mere words.
I nodded. “Yes, everything is perfect.” And I meant exactly that.