Ever After…

Ever After…
by niennaainur

Contact: nienna_ainur@hotmail.com

Pairing: liberal and highly suspect use of some canon characters, but no pairing in the “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” sense (Aleeme, Cobweb, Ulaume, Azriel, and Aleeme’s harling, also mentioned Lisia)

Rating: PG- General Audience, or for you gamers Rating – Everyone

Warning: poor grammar and appalling punctuation.

Spoilers for The Shades of Time and Memory

Summary: Aleeme’s harling – My version of events

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, or disrespect, is intended.

Beta by bigunen – all the remaining mistakes are mine!

Ever After…

Part 1

Some images stay etched clearly in your mind even though they were only a fleeting moment in time. It was that way with the dark haired har by the fence. He was there when I looked up, our eyes connected for a split second, and when I looked up again he was gone, but his image was burnt there in my mind’s eye.

Tipene, the farm’s horse healer, and I had been helping a mare deliver a foal when I’d seen my long-haired vision. The delivery had been complicated and I’d not enough time to spare more than those two glances. My vision had been lithe and pale, with a braid of long dark hair that fell over his shoulder. His tunic was a dark forest green and pants were black and spattered with mud, as was his travel cloak. Not that being spattered with mud was unusual at this time of year. Spring brought mud and foals and I had myself been spattered with my fair share by the end of the afternoon.

Later, as I gazed out a cracked and dusty pane of the office window at the leggy foal who trotted somewhat gawkishly behind his mother, I felt Tipene’s arms slide around my waist and his chin come to rest on my shoulder.

“Still seeing visions?”

“Oh just shut up!” I said lightly.

“Nohar saw anyhar matching that description… you are losing your mind… what you had of one.”

“He was there, I saw him.”

He released me and turned me around to face him “My dear young apprentice, as your mentor, I feel it necessary to point out that it is customary to wait until you are shit-faced to start seeing things.” Tipene was grinning broadly enjoying his own joke immensely “Let’s go to the pub, join the others, and get some intoxicating liquid into us, then perhaps we’ll all be able to see your friend.”

He ran his fingers through my dark thick hair, and I pulled away. Although there are definite exceptions to the rule, I hate it when hara touch my hair. I can’t explain why I hate it, other than my hair has always been sensitive. I’m aware of it as if it existed on its own, separate from me.

I grabbed my jacket. “You are buying,” I shot out over my shoulder as I headed out the door.


It was dark, but still fairly early when I headed back to my small flat above the carriage house across from the barn. I staggered slightly, but more from fatigue than the drink; the farm’s mares don’t tend to go into labour during regular clinic hours. Although to be fair, my balance would have been somewhat better had I not had those last few shots.

Inside my flat it was dark; I fumbled around feeling for the lamp. A mumbled string of curses slipped out when I almost knocked it over. I got the lamp lit, set it on the mantle, and turned back to the room. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest, I let out a yelp, and stumbled back a step in surprise. My vision was sitting in the faded, threadbare arm chair, his mud spattered cloak folded neatly over the back, his long dark braid hanging across his chest, his arms rested regally on the arms of the chair, and his legs crossed. He stared at me without expression and I stared back in mute shock.

“You’re about 10 now.” It was a statement not a question. “What’s your name?”

“Lorin,” I answered automatically, and at that point my brain seemed to slide back into action. “Whoa! Wait a minute… this is my home and that’s my chair you’re sitting in…I get to ask the questions.”

His eyebrow arched gracefully although his expression did not change, and I found to my frustration I could not think of any coherent questions. He waited in silence watching me.

“How did you get here?”

“I let myself in. The door was not locked,” he responded smoothly.

“Okay… fair enough.” His calm reserve was making me feel flustered. “Okay, so what do you want? Why are you here? Who are you?”

He regarded me thoughtfully for a moment.

“Which of those do you want answered first?”

“Shit, I dunno… you pick.” I stabbed my fingers through my hair nervously.

He took a deep breath. “What do I want? I want your hate, I want your forgiveness.”

He rose from the chair gracefully.

“Why am I here? I am here to face my guilt and my fear.”

Three steps brought him to stand directly in front of me. He was an inch or so shorter than me, but his bearing and the power I could feel in him made him seem much bigger.

“Who am I? I am Cobweb.”

“Cobweb?” I’m sure my jaw dropped. “The Cobweb?”

He grimaced slightly, and began to pace in the small somewhat cluttered space that made up the main room to my flat.

“I have envisioned this a thousand times, I’ve rehearsed a million speeches, lofty pronouncements, and rationalizations. I’ve faced many fears and threats in my time, and yet this, facing a ten-year-old harling, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

He spoke the words out loud, but it seemed they were more his own personal musings rather than a conversation starter. He stopped pacing; he folded his arms across his chest and looked at me. He said nothing, but his eyes glinted in the dim lamplight.

I cleared my throat awkwardly after a few moments “I’m sorry, I’m a bit confused? Why would the Cobweb be here in the middle of nowhere? Why would you want my hate? Forgive you for what?”

Cobweb waved his hand dismissively. “What do you remember of your early life? Tell me.”

The hint of arrogance in his voice indicated he was used to being obeyed, but this situation was beginning to get too bizarre for me, putting me in no mood to humour him or anyhar else, no matter who they said they were.

I opened my mouth to object but he raised his hand to stop me. “It is important.”

I folded my arms across my chest and stared defiantly at him for a few moments, before shrugging “I was a war orphan. I lived for awhile at Harling Gardens. When I was two, Akamu and Dougan adopted me. That’s it.” I shrugged again.

“Nothing before that? “

“No.” I shook my head. “Although my parents did tell me that it was the Gelaming that found me and cared for me for a time, and that it was one of their healers that named me. But I have no actual memories of that.”

Cobweb blew a heavy sigh through his nose, and began to pace again.

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by Morgana

Story Notes 

Author’s Email: morganalebeau@yahoo.com

Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon

Main pairings: Pansea/Skye, Tarot/Lunar

Mentioned pairings: Azriel/Aleeme, Snake/Cobweb, and Flick/Ulaume.

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Paran takes Aleeme and Ponclast’s harling to Lisia and Tarot starts shaping his own destiny.

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters belong to Storm Constantine.

Warning: AU of course.

Spoiler warning: Set after book 6.

Beta read by DA, thanks sweetie!

All remaining mistakes are mine.


Paran shivered with disgust and tried to increase the distance between him and the harling he was taking care of. Cobweb had ordered him to take the harling to Lisia at the Harling Gardens because Cobweb refused to have a child conceived from pelki at Forever. During the last three days Paran had cared for the harling, but he would never have volunteered to do so. The child’s presence repulsed him.

The harling sat in front of him on the sedu’s back and Paran tried to keep his hold on the child as loose as possible since he loathed touching the abomination.

The harling was the result of Ponclast raping a helpless Aleeme, forcing him to host his pearl. General Aldebaran had told him how Ponclast had viciously abused Aleeme and had even forced Azriel to watch. As a result, Azriel and Aleeme had lost their minds, but Gelaming healers were doing their best to reclaim them. Cal had dropped Aleeme into a guard’s arms more dead than alive and had then left to get Moon and the harling out of Ponclast’s stronghold. As far as Paran was concerned, Cal should have left the harling there to rot.

The first time he had laid eyes on the harling, he had recoiled in disgust and with the knowledge that the child was Ponclast’s as well. The harling was ugly. There was no other way to describe his exterior *and* interior. His head was too big, the body emaciated, and the feline green eyes had seemed to stare right into his soul. His discomfort had grown the moment the harling had been entrusted to him. He had almost asked the General to reconsider, but in the end, he had remained quiet and reminded himself that this was just another order he had to carry out.

Long, raven hair peeked out from beneath the hood which Paran had pulled over the harling’s head so he didn’t have to look at him. He understood why Cobweb didn’t want the harling at Forever since he didn’t want the abomination close to him either. In a way, he pitied Lisia, who didn’t know yet that he was going to be the harling’s new caretaker.


Pansea was about to panic. Paran had arrived unexpectedly and had demanded to speak with Lisia at once. Pansea had shown the officer into a room and had then set out on a search for Lisia. It was noon and usually during that time, Lisia tended to visit with several harlings, but Pansea had no idea where he would find the hostling. He had been stunned to see that Paran wasn’t alone. A harling had accompanied the Gelaming. Pansea had wanted to smile at the harling, but the smile had frozen on his face when he had seen the harling’s pitiful state. He didn’t know the harling’s name or history, but it was obvious that the child had been mistreated. He was also malnourished. While searching for Lisia, Pansea made a stop at the kitchen and asked one of the househara to bring food and refreshments to Paran’s room.

“Lis! Wait for me!” Pansea caught sight of the hostling and started to run. He was short of breath by the time he arrived at Lisia’s side. The hostling gave him a worried look and the blond strand that streaked his brown hair swept into Lisia’s face. The hostling immediately tucked it behind an ear as Pansea grabbed hold of the hostling’s sleeve. “You need to come with me!”

Lisia wanted to calm Pansea, but then realized his aide was stressed for a reason. He fell into step beside the young har and asked, “What has happened?”

“Paran arrived with a harling. Oh Lis, the poor harling looks malnourished! He is emaciated and his eyes… You need to see him now!” Pansea was convinced that Lisia could help the harling. Lisia was his *hero* after all.

Lisia frowned. Why would Paran bring a harling to him? He realized there was a hidden story and probably a hidden agenda and he was determined to find out what it was.

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Of Harlings, Hostlings and Chesnaris

Of Harlings, Hostlings and Chesnaris
by Morgana

Story Notes

Editor\'s PickMain pairing: Chrysm/Lisia and Vaysh/Pansea

Rating: NC-17

Summary: A party from Immanion visits Harling Gardens. Among them are Chrysm and Vaysh. While Chrysm uses the chance to further his friendship with Lisia, Vaysh also finds a new friend.
Warning: Alternate Universe.

Author’s Email: morganalebeau@yahoo.com

Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters belong to Storm Constantine. Spoilers for Breeding Discontent!

Beta read by Patricia and DA, thanks sweeties! All remaining mistakes are mine.

Part 1

Lisia awaited the new arrivals in the main hall. The news that a party representing the Hegemony was arriving that day hadn’t come as a surprise. If he was honest, he had to admit that he had been expecting them to check up on him to make sure he wasn’t breaking any rules. Lisia felt confident he could master any challenges the Hegemony would throw at him.

The former breeding facility had changed into a true home for all the harlings that lived there. Only a handful of very young harlings remained since no new pearls were being created. Only One through Ten were still young enough to be picked up and carried around and that wouldn’t last for much longer at any rate.

Pansea, Lisia’s trusted aid, hurried over to his side. “They’re here, Lis.” Unlike Lisia, he *was* nervous.

Lisia gave Pansea a reassuring smile and patted the harling’s shoulder. Pansea wouldn’t remain a harling much longer. He surmised the harling’s feybraiha would start shortly. “We did nothing wrong, Pansea. There’s nothing here that will displease them.” He had done his best to make his harlings happy. Lisia had overseen the arrival of the new staff and, once he had been certain they measured up to his expectations, they had started to work together. It hadn’t taken Lisia long to realize that they had a common goal, namely making the harlings happy. Once he had realized that, working together had become easy.

Several harlings scooted aside and Lisia drew in a deep breath. He had faced members of the Hegemony before and had stood his ground back then as well. He smiled as he saw at least one familiar face among the hara who made their way toward him. During his short stay in Immanion he had talked to Chrysm and they had gotten along remarkably well.

Chrysm returned the smile Lisia gave him. He had volunteered when the Hegemony had demanded a progress report where Harling Gardens was concerned. He had been ready to head the party when Pellaz had suddenly decided to add another har to the group traveling to Harling Gardens. Chrysm had been stunned to hear that Vaysh, Pellaz’ aid and confidant, was going to accompany them.

Vaysh remained at a distance and watched Lisia greet Chrysm. He had seen Lisia when the hostling had visited Immanion to plead his case, but had stayed in the background, like he was doing at the moment. He had no desire to draw attention to his person.

“Lisia, it’s good to see you again!” Chrysm boldly took Lisia’s hands in his and squeezed them. “You look well!” The last time he had seen Lisia the hostling had been thin, pale, and exhausted looking. But Lisia had gained a healthy color, put on some weight, and the caramel hair had taken on a shine.

Lisia returned the compliment happily. “And so do you.” All Gelaming hara possessed the power to dazzle and Chrysm was no exception with his ocher-colored hair and warm chestnut-brown eyes. Dressed in gold and orange textures, Chrysm looked striking and Lisia fought the blush that was about to color his cheeks. He had liked Chrysm during his stay in Immanion and wondered if there was something more where his feelings were concerned.

Chrysm regretted having to share Lisia, but etiquette demanded he introduced his traveling companion. “Lisia, may I introduce Vaysh to you? Pellaz asked him to report on the progress you have made here.” He hoped Lisia understood how important Vaysh was and that Lisia should try to befriend him.

Lisia turned so he could greet Vaysh. He had heard rumors about the har during his stay in Immanion and realized he had to be cautious. It was said that Vaysh was Pellaz’ spy and couldn’t be trusted. The har had a reputation of being haughty, distant, and arrogant. “Greetings, tiahaar Vaysh.” Lisia inclined his head respectfully and hoped he was making the right impression.

Lisia studied the other har and was surprised at what he saw. Vaysh reminded him of how he had looked once when he had been hosting his last pearl. Vaysh looked drained, too thin, and in general, unhealthy. And yet, the har possessed a phenomenal beauty. The high cheek bones, the pallor of his skin, the lively eyes, and the har’s posture gave him a noble appearance. But then the fiery red hair registered with Lisia and seeing it reminded him of a chance meeting he’d had in Immanion. He hadn’t realized it at the time, but he had been talking to Thiede on that balcony. “I hope everything here will be to your liking. We already readied a room for you and tiahaar Chrysm.”

The Harling Gardens was the last place where Vaysh had wanted to be, but he forced himself to reply. “I’m sure the room will be satisfactory.” The fact that he was surrounded by harlings made him nervous. Even when Loki had been growing up, he had made a point not to spend any time with the harling. It was too dangerous for he had feared he might have grown attached to the child. He would never have a harling of his own. Thiede had burned him from the inside and had made him barren. Hosting a pearl or siring one had become impossible. “I’d like to freshen up now.” The curious looks the smaller harlings were giving him made him uncomfortable. Contrary to Chrysm, who had sunk onto his heels and was talking to them, Vaysh stared straight ahead and pretended the harlings weren’t there.

Unfortunately for Vaysh, there was one harling who was determined to be noticed.

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by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)


After doing Breeding Discontent and then Contentment, I still hadn’t gotten enough of Lisia and Cobweb, so I launched into yet another sequel. While this story is much less of a saga than either of the other two two stories, instead telling only a very short story, I really enjoyed it and felt it capped off the relationship between Lisia and Cobweb quite nicely.

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.”

Cobweb, Lisia (original character from BD), harlings at Forever, Seel, Swift, and Cal.

Containers spoilers for Bewitchments of Love and Hate (Book 2) and Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (Book 3) in the Wraeththu trilogy.

Chapter 1

For Cobweb it was a rude awakening, startled from sleep by a sharp tug to his hair. Instinctively he jerked his head away and flailed for the offending hand. Fortunately he opened his eyes before managing to make any contact.

“Oh, sorry, Lilia,” he apologized. “I didn’t think you’d wake up. Not surprising, though — more energy than your hostling!”

Lilia, nestled in Cobweb’s lap, looked back at his hostling quizzicaly, still holding a lock of black hair in his small fist.

Clucking his tongue, Cobweb disentangled himself. “Dear silly harling, Cobweb’s hair is attached to his head, so no tugging, understand?”

When Lilia started to try getting at the hair with his other hand, Cobweb was not surprised. At only three days hatched, Lilia was unlikely to understand words. Still, because learning language was a matter of practice, Cobweb spoke to his harling almost as he would to anyone else.

“Gah!” Lilia exclaimed, frustrated as he now attempted to pull on Cobweb’s silver necklace, only to have his hand intercepted.

Cobweb took the little hand and kissed it. “No, my pearl, just to look, not to touch. You must learn to be good. Sage did it, so can you.”

“Sage!” Lisia erupted, as if one cue, from somewhere down the hall. “Oh, by the Aghama, what have you DONE?”

Immediately Cobweb caught a wave of surprise and exasperation from his bondmate. Although there was no specific message, Cobweb knew that soon a certain harling would be brought into the bedroom for a scolding. He straightened up, arranging the cushions on the loveseat, where he and Lilia had both fallen asleep in the warm afternoon sun.

Half a minute later, Lisia burst into the room hauling two-year-old Sage behind him. “Come on, Sage, show your father just what you’ve done!”

Arms quickly hugging Lilia, to keep him steady, Cobweb burst out laughing. “Oh… my!” he laughed. “Now that’s a change!”

Sage, quite apparently of his own initiative, had given himself a haircut. While a few clumps of long hair dangled down in front of his ears and over his shoulders, most of it had been lopped off, at about medium length, completely uneven. For the benefit of his hostling, the harling was looking down at the ground, but for his father, Sage was smiling secretly.

“Cobweb!” Lisia admonished. “How can you sit there giggling! Look what he’s done to his beautiful hair!”

Although he would probably never admit it, seeing his bondmate so upset gave Cobweb a certain amount of pleasure. Lisia was normally so taciturn and diplomatic; thrown off guard, his cheeks flushed and even if the matter were of little consequence, he exhibited a certain fire that was eminently attractive.

“Seems he played barber on himself,” Cobweb said finally, stifling his laughter. “See what your older brother has done, Lilia? Maybe he didn’t want little harlings grabbing it, eh?” Flipping the small body around to face away from him, Cobweb bounced Lilia on his knee.

“I did do it for Lilia, though!” Sage blurted out suddenly, scurrying forward. Lisia stayed where he was, shaking his head.

“What do you mean?” Cobweb asked, still bouncing Sage.

Even though Sage’s small face was serious, small harling that he was, his face was still the picture of sweetness as he spoke. “I thought he might be jealous of all my hair, since he only has a little bit, so I cut mine!”

Cobweb couldn’t stifle a laugh. “That’s lovely, dear, but don’t you think you ought to ask your parents before you do something like that?”

“Yes,” Lisia added, “don’t you think so? Scissors are dangerous and your hair was so pretty, Sage. I hate that you cut it.”

Sage twisted around to look up at his hostling, his expression suddenly actually contrite. “Oh… ut oh, you’re really upset.”

Lisia stepped forward, squatted down and tousled the youngster’s butchered hair. “No, not really, really upset, but, Sage, I don’t like that you cut it. Did you really cut it just because of Lilia?”

On his way to an answer, Sage nodded his head but then shook it uncertainly. “Well, not just because of him.”

“Why else?” Cobweb asked, turning Lilia back around and holding him to his chest.

Sage hesitated, looking each of his parents in the eyes in turn. “Well, I also did it because of Uncle Cal.”

“What!” Cobweb and Lisia both burst out. “Uncle Cal?”

“Uh huh,” Sage said, nodding. “I wanted to look more like him.”

Cobweb groaned. “And so you cut your hair.” To Lisia he added, veiled in thought, Thank goodness we don’t have any bleach or he would have dyed it blond too!

Sage smiled hesitantly. “So is my hair nice?”

At that precise moment, Sage’s hair looked like a bird had gone looking for nesting material. “Hmmm,” Cobweb considered, “not totally ruined, but I think it might need a little work, a bit of a beauty treatment. Why don’t you go along with your hostling? He’ll take care of you, I’m sure.”

“Will you?” Sage asked. “Make it all smooth? And could you dye–”

“No, no dying, little one,” Lisia cut him off, “but I can at least cut it all the same length. Come with me?”

Sage gave Lisia his hand. “OK. I thought I was in trouble.”

Lisia sighed, getting to his feet and waving goodbye with his free hand. I’ll have dinner brought up here later, he added.

No, Cobweb replied, that’s all right. We’ll come down.

Lisia shrugged and left the room, Sage tagging behind. Lilia meanwhile had fallen back to sleep.

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by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)


About half-way through writing Breeding Discontent, I got an idea for a sub-plot that could development regarding Lisia and Cobweb and although it was somewhat explored within the story itself, that was just the beginning. This is the story of what happened after.

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.”

Cobweb, Lisia (original character from BD), Swift, Seel, harlings at Forever, harling and hara at Harling Gardens, former breeding facility staff.

Containers spoilers for Bewitchments of Love and Hate (Book 2) and Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (Book 3) in the Wraeththu trilogy.

Sequels & Tie-Ins
After this story, I couldn’t resist doing another sequel, so there’s also Perennials to read! There’s also Not Far From the Tree, which focuses on Pansea and Ivy.

Chapter 1

Morro, the night shift housekeeper, opened the door and immediately Cobweb stepped inside and set the stack of packages down on the entryway table.

For most of the afternoon he’d been out shopping in the Galhea markets. Much of what he’d been looking for he’d found easily, but two or three items had required more vigorous hunting and he’d worried he’d be returning to Forever too late. Not only did he want to have a bit of time to rest before dinner, but given present circumstances, being away from the house for any length of time made him nervous.

Fortunately he’d managed to find the items in question — except for the pearl buttons, which would have to wait — and make it back well before sunset. And since no servants had come running to him upon arrival, he knew that nothing had happened and everything was in order.

“Lisia is still upstairs,” Morro reported. “Would you like me to help you with these packages?”

Cobweb eyed the unwieldy pile of bags and boxes, which he’d brought from town on his horse, filling the saddlebags and straps. “Yes, I’d appreciate some help getting them up the stairs. As for bringing them in the room, I’ll do that myself.”

“Very well,” Morro replied agreeably. They each scooped up an armful and headed up the stairs. Cobweb felt the comforting presence of Forever around him. Although the house was quiet and empty, Swift and family being out of town, lately it had been the scene of so many pleasant days that contentment hung in the air like an invisible vapor.

At the top of the stairs Cobweb thanked Morro and accepted the rest of the delivery, balancing the pile against his body. He crept down the hallway toward the bedroom and poking his head inside, caught a glimpse of Lisia unawares — exactly what he’d been hoping for.

Nestled in the window seat, Lisia was leaning his head against the glass, gazing out into the backyard, his face relaxed, his eyes dreamy. His hands rested in his lap amidst the blanket he’d been knitting for the past week. Lovely soft gray wool, it was something Lisia hoped to finish in time for the harling on the way.

Slipping through the door, Cobweb quietly set the pile of packages down on the bed. Lisia immediately looked over, smiling brightly. “Ah, you’re back!” His hands went back to his knitting, picking up the needles and taking up the yarn.

“Yes, and I found everything you wanted,” Cobweb responded. “All the different types of yarn and thread, the fabric, the hats and socks and the needles. The only thing I couldn’t find was the buttons, but I can find those later, I’m sure.”

“That’s fine,” Lisia said in a voice that showed he was feeling rather dreamy and languid. Cobweb sauntered over and began to rub his lover’s shoulders.

“Thank you, dear.” Still working the wool, Lisia pressed himself against the ministering hands like a cat wanting to be scratched. “Mmmm, that feels good.”

Cobweb stepped back and looked Lisia in the face, which was happy and still serene although, as expected, a bit tired.

“How are you feeling today?” he asked, picking up the completed section of the blanket and admiring Lisia’s work. Like all his other pieces, it was of intricate design, produced as it was by someone who’d spent years honing his craft.

“Oh, fine. I was just knitting and then… I started daydreaming.” Lisia smiled and, dispensing with the needles, reached out to catch Cobweb’s hand. “About our son.”

Cobweb tugged on the hand and Lisia allowed himself to be pulled into a standing position, dropping the blanket onto the cushion. “Really? What exactly were you thinking?” Cobweb asked.

“Just… well, I was wondering what he’ll look like,” Lisia explained as he walked over to the bed and sat down. “You know, just what color eyes, his hair, who he will take after.” He straightened out his blouse, which revealed the thickness of his waist. Phlaar had estimated the birth would come in the next two to three days.

“Maybe dark hair with a blond streak, huh, Stripe?” Cobweb joked. He leaned over to kiss Lisia on the cheek. Stripe had once been Lisia’s teasing nickname among his peers at the breeding facility; now it was an endearment he’d grown fond of, at least when Cobweb used it.

Lisia kicked off his shoes and moved to lie down. Looking up at the ceiling, he returned to his thoughts of daydreaming. “I just don’t know, Cobweb. It’s all so strange. I mean, I’ve never thought of these things before — what the harling will look like.”

Cobweb picked up on his meaning at once. “Because you were never allowed to see them?”

Lisia nodded, his head against the pillow. “Not even the pearls. I used to think about them a lot, especially the first few, but eventually I had to give up imagining. I knew I wouldn’t ever get to see them.” His bittersweet tone was unmistakable and for a moment his thoughts drifted back to those darker times. Then a smile washed back onto his face and he patted his abdomen. “This is so very different.”

“Well, that’s the idea, isn’t it?” Cobweb asked, settling into the space at the end of the bed by Lisia’s feet. “Starting our own little family.”

Lisia reached out and took Cobweb’s hand. Cobweb was strongly aware of his happiness, feeling it through their bond, but any stranger could have seen it. “It’s wonderful,” Lisia sighed contentedly. “I never thought I could have a family. It’s just like I always dreamed, back when I would dream. I’m living in a house, soon I’ll have my own child who I can actually see and care for as my own, and most marvelous of all, I’m consort to–”

“You’re not my consort, Lisia!” Cobweb interrupted, gently taking hold of Lisia’s feet. “You’re my lover.” He squeezed the arch on one foot, then the other. “Equal, remember?”

Pushing back against the pillows, Lisia sat up. “I remember. You know what I mean, though.”

“Yes, Lis.” Cobweb stood. “Now let’s see about going downstairs for dinner. Yarrow should have it ready by now, as it’s nearly dark.”

“Mmmmm, another of his wonderful soups?” Lisia asked, slipping off the bed and stepping into his shoes. “I loved that soup last night. Soup’s really the best thing for me to eat, you know — easiest for me to digest.”

Cobweb took his lover’s hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “Yes, Doctor, you’ve mentioned it a time or two.”

Lisia laughed softly as they walked around the bed towards the door. “Am I that bad? Repeating myself?”

“No, no, it’s just funny. I’m sure you know what you’re talking about,” Cobweb assured. When it came to hosting, there were few hara more expert than Lisia, who had birthed 24 in only six years.

As they passed through the doorway, Lisia paused and put his hand on the door frame.

“What is it?” Cobweb asked, reading the discomfort flickering across the hostling’s face.

Lisia dropped his hand and shrugged. “Oh, nothing, just my back. It’s just a little backache.” He moved down the hallway.

“Swift had that,” Cobweb pointed out. “Remember? I thought it was because the pearl was so large.”

They descended the staircase together, Lisia slightly ahead. “Oh, it’s possible, I suppose, although it’s not always just the size of the pearl. It’s a combination of things. I always found hosting in winter caused it; sitting around so much, catching chill.”

“Hmmmm, that makes sense… but you haven’t been ‘sitting around’ very much, at least up until a few days ago.” Cobweb argued. Before his son and son-in-law had left on a visit to Immanion, Lisia had been up and about playing with their two-year-old harling on a regular basis.

“I suppose it’s all relative,” Lisia reflected. “The first few years I hosted, we never had to work much at all except for helping out with other hostlings’ births, so usually it wasn’t too uncomfortable. Later on when things got desperate I had to do a lot more work. Then I’d get backaches from working in the fields, digging ditches.”

Lisia’s eyes had grown dark as he recalled the painful memories. He had nearly miscarried his last pearl from being forced into strenuous labor half-way through his term.

“Anyway, back to my point, I think this backache comes from sitting all day knitting. That and perhaps the chill by that window.” He sat down at the table. “If it weren’t so cold and growing dark, I’d suggest we go walking.” He paused for a moment, obviously considering the possibilities. “Maybe we could do some dancing tonight,” he suggested.

Cobweb had to laugh. “Dancing? Lisia, you truly are unique. But we can dance if you like.”

“Thanks.” It turned out he was thanking both Cobweb and the servant who set down the bowl of soup before him. “After dinner?”

“After dinner.” Cobweb nodded and gave the servant a few instructions. “And I’ll give you a nice hot bath and then a healing back rub,” he promised.

“Good,” Lisia pronounced, “because I want to get rid of this ache before morning. The birth will be tomorrow.”

Cobweb stopped eating. “Phlaar said two to three days.”

Lisia helped himself to another spoonful of soup before replying. “Well, I know better than Phlaar. It will be tomorrow.” He noted Cobweb’s skeptical expression and added, “I have a feeling.”

Cobweb smiled, conceding Lisia’s intuition was probably worth trusting. “Ah, a feeling. And what else, pray tell, do you have feelings about?”

“Oh, I’m also sure Phlaar won’t make it in time,” he said, his hand unconsciously rubbing his abdomen. “It will probably be very quick.”

“I can imagine, given your experience. I suppose it will be like Seel’s,” Cobweb guessed. “His was only 15 minutes.”

Lisia snorted and shook his head. “15 minutes? No, I mean faster. Probably. Maybe five minutes. My last few almost fell out — be ready.” His look went serious. “And please, until then, don’t leave me alone.”

“I won’t,” Cobweb vowed. “I promise.”

“Good, because I want you to be there. For our son.” He extended his hand across the table, taking Cobweb’s hand. “And for me.”

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