Kaede's Light

         Time passed.
         Rayek was once again Master of both himself and the Palace, but it didn't erase the tightened lips, or the lines etched about his eyes that somehow made him look older than everyone knew him to be. No, he didn't brood anymore... he worried.
         It didn't help.
        Was it only three full moons ago that he had carried the limp body into the Palace and set it at the ragged Healer's feet? Only such that short time since the Healer turned tired jade-green eyes to him and said in an uncertain voice that she had to rest?
        Petalwing had done its job well... but since then, Cutter had been damnably good at side-tracking Leetah.
        Such a wonderfully expressive word.
        ((What fools they were to be afraid of her,)) Rayek thought. She had understood him... and that straw-haired barbarian was getting in the way again. So what if she weren't like Rayek?
        It was enough to seriously annoy the Airwalker.
        He scowled darkly at the Scroll and turned to sweep out of the chamber to enter a side chamber with a silken cocoon in the center. In a well-guarded send, Rayek touched the dark-skinned Healer's mind. ** It is time. **
        A soft and reluctant sigh was his answer, but her soft footstep indicated that she had been close after all. As she neared, he unsheathed his dagger to begin unwrapping the still form.
        Leetah knelt as Rayek gently pulled the last of the wrapstuff from his one-time companion's face. ** Rayek, I... **
        ** Just heal her, ** was his abrupt reply.
        With a soft exhale, Leetah placed her hands on the silent figure's neck lightly and entered the trance known only to Healers.
        Rayek continued to pull the wrapstuff off of the silent form as Leetah's magic knitted bones and injuries. He looked to the dark-skinned figure, trying to fathom what damage had been done, finding it nearly impossible to truly guess.
        As he worked gently around the injured's hands, something tingled strangely at his mind and his first reaction was to look up to Leetah. Nothing seemed unusual, so he looked to the figure he was so bent on having healed.
        A soft shimmering glow had formed about her features, soothing the quiet marks of pain... but in all of her healing, Rayek had never seen the injured one take on the glow of healing. Leetah's hands, yes... but never anyone else...
        The glimmer entranced him, beckoned him... until he had to reach out and touch her cheek lightly, to feel if there were any tangible sensation of the glow.
        The tingle in his mind increased strongly as he reached out, then burst about his mind as his fingers intersected the glow.
        He had a moment to draw a startled breath, then, he saw darkness.

        It was cold. ((Oh, so cold!)) a thought-voice that was his, yet somehow not echoed his sentiment.
        He couldn't feel anything, wasn't aware of anything other than the odd sensations of his thoughts as they rambled quietly. ((Where am I? What happened to the others...?))
        It took a time for him to become aware that he was lying down... and even longer to open his eyes and look around. There were trees above him and bright sky overhead.  After a moment, he found himself sitting up and looking around.  Every motion was was as if someone else were doing it... almost perhaps that he was someone else.
        There were voices nearby... happy-sounding voices. He watched as he moved to the edge of the trees and looked to a field full of small two-legged beings. ((Humans,)) he thought. The other didn't seem to hear him. Into the field he moved, the humans... children! They dragged him into thier game... played it with him... and other games... not noticing that the entire time, he was slightly different.
        An older human came over, speaking in that language Rayek had so recently learned. He understood it all, but knew the other did not. These were students... and the older one was the teacher.
        What came as a complete shock to him was that the form he was in was shifting. His hands altered, became human hands... and his skin darkened in tone. He could feel his ears shrinking as well. It wasn't painful... just eerie.
        Thus changed, he followed along with the children, listening to thier chatter, feeling the other catch on that certain sounds meant certain things.  Fascinated, he waited, watching the interaction until they arrived at the school... and the teacher asked him who he was.
        The other mind was unable to answer, and try as he might, Rayek couldn't say a word. After a bit, the teacher gave up and took him with her to the office. No-one there could get the other mind to make sense of things, but Rayek heard words like 'orphan' and 'abandoned' as well as 'runaway' and 'kidnapped.'
        He knew these people had good intentions, but the awake mind was fretful, uncertain of the people and thier words. It was new to the other... this inability to know the minds around it... and so it closed itself up tightly, beginning to fade away entirely.
        Though the teacher brought him water to sip from a white cup like leaves... it did not help when the box Rayek knew to be a telephone rang. It jolted the other farther into its personal awareness, another sense of awareness beginning to form itself from the necessity of the moment.
        After a quick discussion among teachers and the official, Rayek heard the first teacher say: "So what now?"
        The reply from the official was chilling. "We wait for the police."
        When the police arrived, what last remained of the other panicked and became agitated, uncontrollable, even though Rayek sent to the other mind, trying to offer some sense of calm.
         After a surprisingly strong struggle with both police officers working hard to subdue the form Rayek found himself so embarrassingly caught in, the other became upset and fainted dead away. After a moment of being picked up and carried to a chair, the third awareness began to grow more freely, beginning to take in the world it sensed around itself.
        It perhaps sensed Rayek... or it was simply trying to protect the other self when it blocked sensation and memory behind, effectively closing Rayek's sight and sense.
        More darkness flowed around him, carrying him off into parts unknown.

        He sat for a moment, staring at the dark skin of the face below him for a full breath before realizing that he was free of whatever that had been. Leetah sat looking to him quietly, anxiousness on her face. ** Rayek? **
        He looked up with confused amber eyes, meeting her gaze reluctantly. ** Will she live? **
        The Healer nodded. ** She will wake when she feels like it. **
        Rayek smiled faintly as he nodded and looked down at her fine high cheekbones... so lovely for a human. Why couldn't they see?


        The silence in the residential part of the Palace was deafening to the sensitive ears of the Airwalker. Shaking his head, as if to clear it, he thought grimly that there were too few reasons to truly enjoy the fact that he was home.
        It had been three days since he had unwrapstuffed his companion and had Leetah heal her... but there was no sign of life beyond the body's natural physical reactions to stimuli.
        Leetah felt as if she had healed One-Eye all over again... but there was no way to sense the spirit within the Palace... humans simply weren't a part of the Legacy.
        What happened to a Human's spirit? Rayek wondered. Did it simply fade to nothingness, or did it too have a home like the Palace was home to elves?
        He had no answers, and all the more questions for the thought.
        Silent as a breeze, he flew down the hall, pausing before a curtained doorway. Only then did he make a sound, rapping a small rock on the archway and waiting for an answer.
        As had been the norm for the past few days, there was none. With a sigh of reluctance, he brushed the curtain aside and entered the darkened chamber.
        She lay exactly where he had left her, curled in the softest furs and lightest silks. Nothing looked as if she had moved any, and he worried that she might indeed be an empty yet living shell.
        He kneeled by her side, gently reaching out and brushing her cheek with his fingertips. For the first time in three days, she reacted, frowning slightly and turning her head away, as if the touch had only disturbed her rest.
        His eyes widened, and he reached out again, lightly brushing her other cheek. Again she shifted, this time to turn her face towards him and settle slightly into the furs.
        "Can you hear me?" He whispered softly to her, uncertain that he should try too hard to wake her.
        She didn't react to his voice.
        He took a breath and sent openly but aimed at her. ** Can you sense me? Do you know I'm here? **
        He was unprepared for what happened, caught off-guard by the light that filled his mind, drawing him close, pulling him in. But unlike before, the light didn't fade into darkness. Instead, it flared brighter, almost painful.

        He ducked away from the light as it suddenly faded, and shouts and noise caught his attention, and he looked up to see someone he didn't recognize aiming a small black box at him. Someone tugged at his sleeve, and he found himself looking to them.
        "Happy Birthday!" The youth said, grinningly thrusting a package at him.
        A voice in his (not his!) mind groaned. ((Timmy. It's probably a frog... or worse.))
        But still, Rayek watched his hands reach for the present, felt his lips murmur a thanks and dutifully the package was opened. ((Careful,)) the voice warned. But nothing happened as the box top was lifted, and Rayek found himself peering curiously into the box.
        A silvery sphere was enclosed, and when the hands gently lifted it from the box, silver sparkles were shifted within it. Like scintilian drops of rain, they fell on the small fairy within the globe. Rayek felt a smile on his lips, while the other pondered why the image was so familiar.
        A light voice thanked the face known now as Timmy and Rayek noted that he was hearing the voice that would be his... if it weren't someone's memories. He knew he was walking in memories, knew whose memories he was seeing now... but still could not understand why.
        But the scene-memory didn't hold stable... it shifted quickly to another day, sometime older, Brian looking into his face. He looked upset and Rayek heard that soft voice asking him what had happened.
        "I... dropped your globe... I'm sorry... I saved the fairy... we can put it on a necklace for you..."
        There was a long silence during which the mind near Rayek's was silent, and then her voice whispered softly: "It's okay, Brian. You didn't mean it. I know you're upset... but it's been around a long time, and I knew it wouldn't last forever. We'll go to the store tomorrow and get a necklace and it'll be fine."
        Brian perked up and hugged him. "Really? You're the best sister!"
        The reply was fading as Rayek's perspective was aging again. "Yes, Brian. Everything will be fine."

        He didn't see anything, but he knew beyond certainty that something had happened, and Brian was injured and dying. He could also tell that she knew it, and was angry with herself for an unknown reason. Two words kept running through her mind, though she had no idea why, repeating over and over: ((Wake up.))
        But nothing happened. No-one woke up.
        When Brian died in her arms, Rayek could feel a cool hardness settle over her. Gone was her brightness and kindness... to be replaced with a dull anger towards a kind of people that Rayek has generalized to be all Humans. It truly hadn't occurred to him that not all were like that... until now,
when he belatedly realized.
        She moved on, learned self-defense... and began to teach it, taking a friend from her classes to her side as a partner in teaching. On went life, but it was sadder, quieter.
        All through this lay the two words, repeating in a low chant, fed my anger and pain, but slowly numbed by something new: the arrival of a stranger that taught her how to live again.
        He realized with an uneasy start that the stranger was himself... the dark haired being that haunted her memory and her mind. He had started something within her, something old and long forgotten, his actions and the very touch of his mind half-awakening something deep within her... something that had wished to stay forgotten.
        But now, he felt it was a war. Something was pulling at her to wake, trying to pry the dusty and forgotten part of her out of its self-imposed seclusion, and it wasn't being gentle about it. But so many years of sleep had almost seemed to weaken that which had slept, and it wasn't until Leetah's magic had filtered through the broken body that the sleeping aspect had felt the old touch of magic that deeply.

        Understanding filled Rayek as he opened his eyes to focus on her face. She wasn't human... but she wasn't of his world, either. She was far more than both... and now she needed his aid. It took only a moment, but he knew what he could do to aid her.
        Gently, he picked her up, embracing her closely as he took to the air and moved through the open hallways. Locksending to Ekuar and Leetah, he asked them to meet him in the Scroll Room. Uncertain and startled responses were his replies, but he knew they'd be there.
        Up the stairs he went, magic swirling behind him as he entered the Scroll Room and set his light burden in the old stone chair. As Leetah and Ekuar entered, Rayek turned his magic to the Scrolls, lifting them and filling them with the memories that he had felt from her.
        ** Rayek? Brownskin? What are you up to? ** Ekuar's send curled around him.
 Leetah's send almost echoed Ekuar's. ** Rayek? What are you doing? **
        ** If I'm right... just watch, ** was all he replied, setting his attentions on the now-spinning Scrolls, watching the light begin to travel from Scroll to Scroll, weaving in and about itself, forming that almost endless dance that at once seemed joyful and yet sad. The colours shifted, myriads of dazzling scintilla that echoed the glimmers he had seen in the memory of that globe.
        The Scrolls spun, the light weaving into a shimmer that seemed prepared to show the watchers something... yet it remained a blank, only colours dancing aimlessly, endlessly... without form or purpose. On they danced, as if only for pure enchantment of light and magic. Leetah was stunned, for she had never simply watched the Scrolls without any of the associated magics showing a tale or weaving memories.
        Rayek continued to feed the Scrolls, watching them and the figure in the chair for any change, for any indication of resonance. He saw none, and felt only the soul-caressing touch of the Scrolls. Desperate, he continued, a thin sheen of sweat breaking across his forehead, giving Ekuar cause to worry.
        He couldn't continue, couldn't keep the Scrolls moving without giving a release for the gathered energies. It felt almost as if when he had flown the Palace - that same need for an 'out' for the magic. It tore at him, flowing back through him, and right back out again.
        Then it shifted, the magic going -somewhere- that Leetah and Ekuar couldn't sense, couldn't read. Rayek felt the shift, and felt the weight of the Scrolls lifted from him. He opened his eyes and saw a figure suspended between the spinning Scrolls, a brilliant light surrounding it.


        Rayek watched in numb shock as the figure hovered between the Scrolls. The Scrolls themselves were spinning, thousands of colours dancing between them, illuminating the figure that shimmered in a light display not unlike the one the Scrolls displayed.
        ** Rayek...! Get back! ** was Leetah's concerned send, but Rayek had other thoughts. The curiosity was tugging insatiably at him, he had to know what the figure knew, had to feel the tug of the Palace magics at his flesh...
        He darted up to the figure, gasping when she smiled to him, opening her arms to him as if to welcome him into her embrace. Against the sends of Ekuar and Leetah, he slipped into her embrace, trembling as the magic flowed over and through him. The touch was familiar, achingly so, and it was with a small send that he reached to her mind.
        Her send washed over him, and he nearly swooned into the simple power held within her mind. ** Rayek... you have done so much to help me... how can I ever repay you? **
 He shook his head to clear it, realizing the send-voice was the same as his beloved Terese's. ** Terese...? ** He sent cautiously, trying to reconcile the strange figure before him with the lively Human he had met.
        Her reply was bright and happy, filling his awareness with the brilliant sense of _her_ ** That is how you knew me... but my true name is Kaede. I was given the name Terese by the Humans who cared for me. Back then, it mattered little what they referred to me as. I was so afraid of everything that I pushed it all out of my mind. But you reminded me... taught me to be myself again... and then you brought me here... **
        As she sent, the magic around them began to fade, and he became aware that she was lowering them both towards the floor, the Scrolls settling into thier stands with light ease and grace.
        ** Are you a High One, Kaede? ** He asked with his normal bluntness.
        They landed lightly, her eyes glimmering at him faintly. ** I am what you would call a High One... but I am not of the same. My ship went horribly wrong... more wrong than for your people. Your people were luckier in that they found a place to land with relative ease. My ship fell prey to our own magics, twisting and warping as the magics soured with alarming speed. **
        Rayek shivered, the mental image of watching the ship twist and warp into nothingness all too real. He could almost hear the echoes of the cries as the unfortunate High Ones watched thier world dissolve.
        Beside them, Leetah and Ekuar listened in near-horrified silence.
        ** Three of us managed to break a part of the ship off, to form it into a smaller ship and seek refuge as fast as we could. When we landed, we ate of the fruits we found... not knowing that they would be harmful to us. Annalee died almost instantly, her system unable to handle the food. Derren was next, but his death was slower, longer and more painful. I had only eaten a bit of the fruit, and found myself sick to my stomach and longing to collapse into a dreamless sleep. **
        Rayek embraced her gently, noting with a mild start that her ears were pointed, and very much elfin in shape.
        ** In fact, I did sleep for a time, waking disorientedly to the sound of what I would discover to be children laughing. I joined in with the children... hiding in thier numbers until the Humans found me and took care of me. But you know all this, don't you, Rayek? **
        He blushed faintly. ** I... didn't mean to see. **
        ** But you were supposed to. It's what you used to help me. In the end, you knew who and what I was... and what I needed to come back to myself... ..and to you. ** Her embrace tightened.
        He held her carefully, and she looked to him with curiosity in her large black eyes. ** May I stay with you... here, in the Palace? **
        Leetah couldn't help fighting a stab of jealousy as she watched the two. It was just too wrong! Rayek wasn't supposed to love anyone other than her! But somehow... that had changed. It wasn't the rule anymore. When the female asked Rayek that question, Leetah felt her hands involuntarily tense. Ekuar's patpatting did little to help the flustered healer, and she could only watch in tense jealousy.
        ** Terese... Kaede... I want you to stay with me. I love you. ** Rayek sent anxiously.


        Soft brown hands gently massaged a dark brown back which, for the first time in perhaps his entire life-span, was easily relaxed and at comfortable ease.
        A thin sheen of sweat aided her hands in the minstrations, leftovers of their previously pleasantly strenuous activity.
        ** I don't ever remember feeling this... ** his send trailed dreamily off as she leaned forwards to kiss the back of his neck after brushing the locks of black hair aside.
        ** Good? ** She asked with a soft send-giggle. ** I'll admit you were. **
        To his own surprise, a faint blush began to creep across his cheeks. ** I actually had meant relaxed... and peaceful. **
        It was suddenly her turn to blush slightly, and in reaction, she ran her fingers lightly up his sides.
        With a startled yelp, he jerked upwards, unseating her from her perch. ** Hey! **
        She laughed softly, her voice soon joined by his as he turned to see her tumbled into the furs. ** You look good enough to be dinner, you know... **
        She giggled as he moved to nibble lightly at one of her ears. ** But what about Ekuar and Leetah? Won't they worry about us? **
        ** Leetah has her wolf-chief... and Ekuar will be quite pleased, I'd imagine. Besides... ** He reached out to draw her quite close to him. ** I'm having fun. **

        ** Eh now, pretty healer, I'm certain Brownskin is just fine. There's no need to be alarmed. Indeed, I'd be apt to say he's enjoying himself, ** Ekuar sent brightly, hobbling along the entry hall on his cane.
        Leetah fumed darkly, green eyes flashing as she huffed. ** That's not the point! He's the master of the Palace, and he's supposed to be keeping an eye on everything! **
        Ekuar paused to turn on his cane and eye Leetah with a chuckle. ** Hmmm... Old Ekuar just might think the pretty healer's turned a bit jealous, yes he might. I wonder now... would he be right? ** He turned again, hobbling out of the Palace and towards the outdoor caves that served as cool storage of foodstuffs and supplies.
        Left fuming in the Palace, Leetah stomped a soft leather- clad foot. ** It's not right! **
        ** What's not right? ** Cutter's send drifted towards her as he descended the immense crystaline staircase.
        She turned in a fit of fuming and sent quite before she thought. ** Rayek's off with that... that... elf... doing High Ones knows what, and the Palace just sits! **
        A wry chuckle escaped the wolf-chief as he stepped to the floor and walked over to his firey mate. ** And you're just a tad bit jealous, aren't you? **
        ** I am not! ** She retorted entirely too fast.
        Cutter slipped tan arms around his dark-skinned lifemate and looked at her, blue eyes laughing. ** Yes, you are. You're so jealous that you can't see straight. **
        She squirmed, struggling against him with little effect. ** I am not! Now just... let me go! **
 ** No. In fact... I have half a mind to hide you away somewhere with me for a little while, ** he sent, burying his face in her hair.
        With an annoyed little huff, she conceeded to let him nuzzle her, but she remained cool.
        ** Now look, ** he sent to her, turning her around to look her in the eyes. ** I know he didn't like it very much when you and I Recognized, and I for one will tell you that I don't like it that you're jealous over him. You should be happy for him that he's finally happy! **
        The words stung, as was thier intent. She turned to look away, a half-pout on her lips. ** I got used to his sidelong looks and off-hand comments. **
        ** Well, I never did. So yes, I'm happy. I'm happy that I have you all to myself now and that I don't have to fight him for you anymore. ** Cutter sent, watching Leetah.
        She spun into his embrace, putting her head on his shoulder. ** I am happy for him... after so long... it will take getting used to... **
        Cutter drew her close, whispering into her ear. "Then let us find somewhere where I can take your mind off of it for a while."
        With a smile and downcast eyes, she locksent to him. ** I'd like that... **
        The two drifted off together into a darkened hallway as a small green, orange, and yellow creature fluttered into the area, looking for company.
        ~Aww! No-one come with sweets for Petalwing! No-one here at all! Petalwing all alone. Poor Petalwing.~
        The Preserver darted to and fro, as if searching for someone to bother, then heaved a tiny sigh and headed out the Preserver-sized door at the top of the main doors.

        Mother moon and Daughter moon were hiding when Rayek and Kaede finally emerged from the underground cave that they had chosen.
        Gasping softly, Kaede froze to look up at the stars. ** I wonder... **
        Rayek moved behind her, placing his arms around her waist. ** Wonder what? **
        ** I wonder how many of those stars are the same as those I used to watch? ** She sent quietly.
        ** There is really no way to know... does it make you that sad? ** He asked her softly.
        ** In a strange way, it does. I spent many happy nights watching those stars and wondering what secrets they held. Not so secret after all. **
        Rayek chuckled faintly, pulling her tight against him and taking into the air, gliding to land on the crystaline roof of the Palace. ** See? They pale in honour of you. **
        She swatted at him with a laugh. ** You flirt. I'll bet you say that to all the High Ones you fall in love with. **
        He looked to her in mock anguish. ** You're the only one! I swear it! **
        Down by the Palace doors, Nightfall gritted her teeth, swearing to herself that she wouldn't be ill. She couldn't stomach much more of that, and as it was, she was getting tired of the Palace.
        ** Cutter, I'm going to the SunVillage. I'm going to take Dart news of his father. ** She sent firmly.
        Cutter's reply was almost preoccupied, and only added to her general queasiness. ** Take care, cousin. Make sure to carry enough water. **
 ** Of course. **
        Nightfall didn't bother to look back as she collected waterskins and left the Palace with as much speed as she could coerce out of her bond.


        In the morning, Ekuar was worried. Both Rayek and Kaede had promised that they wouldn't go far - and that they'd not be too long... but it had been almost a day now with no word.
        Hobbling outside, Ekuar raised his thin open send with the morning sun. ** Brownskin? Ho, Brownskin! **
        After a few moments of his sending about, Ekuar was relieved to hear a sleepy send from surprisingly close by. ** Hmm? Ekuar? What is it? **
        ** Eh, there you are. Old Ekuar was beginning to worry about you and pretty Kaede, ** he sent, tracing the origin of the send to the spires of the Palace.
        ** We were... sleeping. ** The Airwalker replied.
        Ekuar bobbed his head in laughter. ** Isn't it one of the wolf-chieftain's companions who calls that sleeping? **
        ** But we were, Ekuar. We were trying to see if any of them were familiar to me, ** came a soft sleep-touched send from  Kaede.
        ** Ah! Well if that is what it was, then it must be so, pretty child. ** Ekuar clucked.

        Above, in the crystalline spires of the Palace, Rayek rolled his eyes as he pulled his tunic over his ears. In a locksend to Kaede, he muttered. ** I still don't see why you let him call you a child. You're older that he is. **
        Kaede fluffed her skirts at him, wrinkling her nose and working her mouth into a tiny smirk. ** It's sweet. Besides, I'm not that old! **
        Rayek reached out, grabbing her skirt and pulling her close to him. ** How old are you, Kaede? **
        As his magic enfolded them, lifting them both from the crystal spires, she pondered the answer. ** I don't know, Rayek. The elf in me slept.. I don't remember much of what happened before I was adopted by Brian's parents. I think the shock of being discovered blocked it all out. **
        The pair landed lightly, Ekuar's overlarge brown eyes brightening as they did so. ** Here you are! Did you eat? Or were you sleeping the entire time? **
        Kaede barely kept from blushing, and Rayek cleared his throat unnecessarily. ** No, no we didn't eat... **
        Ekuar clucked knowingly. ** Yes... the nights of youth. Nothing to fear then. There is food at ready. ** As he turned towards the Palace, he sent with delight, ** Perhaps we'll even have a small brownskin to bring laughter to the halls before old Ekuar is too old to hear. **
        So turned, he missed his pupil and often erstwhile son's cheeks blaze brightly in hot embarrassment.
        ** Rayek... ** Kaede sent softly. ** I can't go about in my shirt... **
        Blinking away his previous embarrassment, Rayek nodded to Kaede. ** Wait here a moment... I'll find something to use temporarily. **
        Ekuar bobbed his head delightedly. ** Eh... a trip to the SunVillage is in turn then! How wonderful to get to see Savah again! **
        Kaede looked to Ekuar. ** SunVillage? Savah? Oh...! Sorrow's End! **
        Rayek gritted his teeth and stepped into the Palace, letting the two of them discuss the village.

        The Palace shimmered around the pair of visitors, dark skin tangled in softly tan skin, blonde hair tousled up with deep mahogany hair.
        The Airwalker certainly wasn't expecting to come across them as he headed towards his rooms to find fresh clothing for the day. In fact, the WolfRider Chief and the estranged SunVillager Healer were the farthest pair of elves from his mind. His thoughts were with Kaede... and how she seemed to have filled the gaps in his life.
        So it was that Rayek almost bounced (if it could be imaginable) into the side hallway, coming to a startled halt as he noted the ... pile of elf and furs ... within the door.
        As he blinked slowly, his mind settling around the image, a blue eye opened from under a dark curl, looking up to the startled amber ones that returned the gaze.
        Cutter's send was slightly annoyed, and somehow slightly bemused. ** BlackHair...? **
        Recovering himself, Rayek nodded to Cutter and turned to his curtained-off room. Without send, he stepped into the quiet room.

        As he rummaged about in his room for something that Kaede might wear until more suitable clothing could be fashioned, he failed to hear the curtain open and someone slip quietly in.
        ** You seem different, BlackHair. **
        Rayek whirled, silks scattering about him as he looked back to see Cutter only half-dressed and leaning against the rock wall.
        ** I... don't know what you mean. ** Rayek sent in reply, eyeing a red length of silk that might be useful as a skirt.
        Cutter's faint chuckle carried to Rayek's ears just as clearly as it had been directly beside him. ** You're not so puffed-up and full of yourself. **
        Setting the red silk aside, Rayek began to ponder what Kaede could use as a top, only half paying attention to Cutter. ** If this is yet another of your casual attempts to begin a fight between us, I am not interested. **
        Cutter watched Rayek seem to flounder among the silks for a moment before finally sending ** What are you doing? **
        ** Kaede has no clothing that she can wear. I told her that I would find her something that would do until some could be aquired, ** Rayek replied as he held up a length of silk thoughtfully.
        The WolfChief hid a smile and nodded. ** I'll send Leetah in. She will be of better help than I. **
        Rayek looked up in time to see Cutter's back vanish behind the falling curtain.


        The Airwalker fumbled through the silks, stewing slightly over the WolfRider Chief's snideness, but he elected not to argue the point. Holding up a length of yellow silk, he shook his head and set it aside.
        Leetah entered, a thin gown caught about her. ** I hear you are picking clothing, Rayek? **
        He looked over, a green silk shirt dangling from his fingers. ** I... have no idea what I am doing, ** he admitted.
        She smothered a smile and rummaged through the collection of silks before selecting a length of bright green silk. ** Here... she'll be able to tie this around to make a suitable wrap. You'll probably want to go to Sorrow's End and get some clothing made for her. **
        His amber eyes glittered at the thought of returning to the Sun Village... but now he wasn't alone. It might not be so bad...
        ** Think about it, Rayek. I'm going to follow my own advice and get dressed. ** She set the silk back on the pile and turned to slip silently out the beaded door, leaving Rayek to the clothing at hand.
        After a few moments of contemplation, he hesitantly sent for Kaede to come to him in his chambers. ** Leetah has found you something to wear... if you want to come in? **
        Her reply was a girlish giggle and a gentle laugh. ** Rayek, you'd ask me to walk through the Palace unclothed? **
        A light blush crept over the tips of Rayek's ears. ** You still have your clothing from yesterday... won't that do? **
        The curtain lifted, Kaede stepping in from the hallway with a fur draped about her lithe frame. ** I think I gave Cutter an attack, ** she grinned.
        Rayek hissed slightly. ** Attack? He saw you like that? Did you draw attention to yourself? Or did he just happen to look over as you went past? **
        ** Rayek! Stop being unreasonable! Do you truly think I would want to parade around for anyone other than you? I may be an elf, and I may be a High One, but give me some credit for brains! ** she sent in annoyance, for once fleetingly glad of her extensive vocabulary, indignation flaming her soft tan cheeks into a bright red.
        Abashed, (and inwardly amazed that he felt such,) Rayek averted his eyes from the bright gaze. ** You're right, of course, Kaede. I... keep forgetting that you... **
        ** Love you very much, and find this petty jealousy of yours simply astonishing? Oh, Rayek, I'm not about to run off with anyone who isn't you. **
        As she sent, she lifted the bright green silk that Leetah had offered to Rayek. ** This has hope... ** Wrapping it about herself intricately, she dropped the fur to reveal the single silk length had been tied ingeniously into a simple yet almost elegant dress.
        ** Kaede! How -- ! ** Rayek sent in total surprise.
        She grinned - it was infectious - and Rayek found himself grinning back as she explained: ** In that other world, there were people known as Polynesians... and they dressed very much like this. **
        Rayek shook his head approvingly. ** You should teach the others that. I've little doubt that would be well-received in the Village. **
        ** What about the Village, Rayek? ** Leetah sent as she slipped into the room to gather the used furs. As her line of sight fell on Kaede, she smiled softly. ** That's quite pretty, Kaede. **
        The Healer was outwardly calm, but inside, she fussed to herself. |What does he see in her that isn't in me? Other than her power?|
        ** Gentle Healer, my powers are of yet unknown here. The most I have done is send... I have done nothing near what Rayek has shown in action and told me can be done, **  came the locksend from Kaede, gentle and yet somehow singularly powerful... vaguely reminiscent of the locksends felt from Savah, yet not nearly as aged.
        Leetah felt her cheeks darken with a deep blush as Kaede turned to look to Rayek. ** Rayek... I want to try something... just keep an eye out, okay? **
        The Airwalker arched a brow, looking to Kaede with mild curiosity, but nodded.
        Kaede closed her eyes, a faint glimmer beginning to form around her. The Palace itself began to resonate in sympathetic tones, an eldritch sensation filling the room.
        From outside, Rayek heard faint shouts, followed by the curious touch of his aged mentor's mind. ** Eh, Brownskin? Has the pretty one Healed you whole? **
        Rayek's reply was curious. ** What do you mean, Ekuar? **
        ** Why Brownskin... can't you feel it? The Palace is glimmering! You aren't the one? Eh... pretty Kaede knows, then. **
        ** Glimmering...? ** Rayek echoed in an open send, looking over to Kaede.
        She opened her eyes, and as she did so, Rayek became distinctly aware of the Palace.
        It filled him with a new feeling of self and reason... and yet he could feel others Within as well.
        Leetah's lips parted in a startled gasp, and she focused on Kaede with wide green eyes. ** You... feel all this? **
        Kaede's answer came from Within as well as Without. ** I am it all. **
        ** You're... part of the Palace? ** Rayek ventured.
        ** And more, Rayek. Your planet... sings with the blood of those who did not wish to return to the Palace. **
        Both pairs of eyes snapped to look to Kaede.
        ** So it's true... we aren't bound to the Palace unless we choose it, ** Rayek send-whispered.


        /So. We aren't bound to the Palace except by choice...? And does that mean that in our own way... we have... become High Ones...?/

        The brownskinned Airwalker stood in silent contemplation of the Scroll of Colours when a soft footfall sounded behind him. A moment or three passed, then he heard a scuffing of foot against floor, as if a gentle request for audience. So it was no surprise when, after a few more moments had past, there was a soft send.
        ** Rayek...? ** Leetah. She hadn't said much to him lately, and what she had was mostly courteous. He knew what was the problem, but he also knew that if she didn't work it out on her own, she wouldn't 'come to terms' with it at all.
        ** Yes...? ** he sent at length, after watching the Scrolls settle into thier stands and turning to face his childhood love.
        An uncertain smile stuck itself on the dark-skinned Healer's face. ** I... owe you an apology, Rayek. **
        His eyes hardened, narrowing slightly. Was he wrong? Had something happened and she was to tell him? Best to ask.. ** What  happened, Leetah? **
        She hadn't cringed in years, but she found herself so very close to cringing now... ** I... was jealous of Kaede... but Cutter showed me that you were happy, and that I should be happy for you. I can't promise that I'll always be nice... but I wil try, Rayek. **
        A wry grin was Rayek's first answer, followed by a two-word send that completely took Leetah by surprise. ** I know. **
        ** You... knew? ** Disbelief etched itself across her delicate features. ** You knew that I was jealous? **
        His chuckle was dry, yet amused. ** Leetah... ** A pause, as he decided how to say it, ** It showed. **
        Had her skin been lighter in hue, her blush would have been more obvious. As it was, Rayek could easily  see her embarrassment.
        ** Can you forgive me, then? ** She managed to send, the toe of her left boot scuffing slightly at the floor.
        He nodded slowly. **  Yes, Leetah. I forgive you. High Ones know I have done far worse myself. **
        A presence arrived in the room, and Rayek's amber eyes crystalised as he looked over Leetah's shoulder to see Kaede's form just within the archway.
        ** Well. That's just so... touching, isn't it, Rayek? I think so. ** The send was slightly sarcastic, decidedly not Kaede's normal tone.
        Leetah whirled, green eyes sparking with a burning humiliated anger. ** If that is how you view it, my apology can be easily retracted! **
        Kaede shrugged effortlessly as she moved closer to Rayek and the Scrolls. ** Do as you wish, Healer. It won't matter for much longer. He has lost the game. **
        Rayek's eyes flashed, narrowing dangerously into a cold golden stare. This wasn't Kaede. She'd never act like this. Something was wrong...
        And then he placed it. With a hiss, he drew back, sending ** Winnowill. I should have known you wouldn't give in. Let Kaede be: your duel is with me, not her. **
        The other tipped her head back and laughed. ** I'm afraid I can't do that, Rayek. You see... there is no Kaede. You never did leave this world and meet a High One on another world... **
        There was a jarring sensation, and Rayek's awareness came to the full realization of the truth: Winnowill held his spirit within whatever world she wanted him to see. She had won when his body slammed against the Scrolls.
        ** No! ** he sent, heat and fire building within him. ** Let me go, Winnowill... you'll profit nothing by this! **
        Her send was maddeningly cool, and devastatingly calm. ** I already have, Rayek. The Palace is Mine... atop Blue Mountain. It won't be long now before the Egg will be prepared. **
        It tore out of him like a blast of desert wind. ** You wouldn't! **
        She was before him, around him, within and without. ** I have, Rayek. And I give you a choice. Your body lies here... broken yet healable. Do you wish it back? Wish to stand by My side as I leave this world and its pathetic half-blooded inhabitants? **
        ** Where is Leetah? ** He asked belligerently. Maybe if he could stall... he'd find a way out of this again.
        ** She was an annoyance, Rayek. That cost her dearly, as you well know it would. Now, about My offer...? ** Winnowill replied.
        His world... his Palace... it was all gone... the truth of his situation fell in upon him like nothing else had. Ekuar... ** Ekuar..! **
        ** I am afraid his heart broke when he saw you by the Scrolls. He... was old, Rayek. It.... happens. ** She sent, enjoying the darker swirl of emotions raging within her captive.
        Deeper it sank and harder he fell. It was over. He had lost. Winnowill had won, and he was to blame. He'd taunted her, knowing full well he did not have the full support of the Palace... and he had lost.
        But she wouldn't have him.
        What if there had been some measure of truth? What if the High Ones had tried to help in the illusory world?
        It was worth a try. Better than being Hers.
        It was a futile effort, truly. He hadn't expected Winnowill's essence to have seeped through the Palace, pulling all her Gliders to her. That was his ultimate downfall. The Gliders. The others didn't care anymore... indeed most of them slept on while her magic pervaded, grew, twisted and reShaped.
        And left alone.
        Without the healing magic, Rayek's body laboured, faltered, and stopped.

        And then, it didn't matter anymore.