Mother’s nose wrinkled slightly in distaste. She’d never liked corn, something she’d only eaten after she married Father. “I must have concocted wild things to save you.”
Why had he thought otherwise? She would never change.
“This is the last time I’ll see you, Mother.” He was proud of his straight back. He would not let himself scratch the dried mud that caked his body, though it itched like crawling flies.
She ruined the solemn moment by crying. He let her hug him and weep into his chest. He patted her shoulder. He realized he had been looking forward to her quest, to give him purpose in his exile. In his mind, he tore up the idea of finding the Vaedi, and all the other crazy things his mother had urged him, all lies, all spider-silk and parrot feathers.
As he walked away, the mud didn’t itch as badly. Her fierce hug had rubbed away most of the dust cake, leaving behind only a stain.
Rthan surveyed the damage to his water spell. Weeks of fasting, planning, traveling and dancing, ruined. The careful crystalline lines he had built up around the mountain snows had been realigned, diverted. His original configuration would have unleashed a flood of snowmelt several months from now, with spring’s kiss. No longer. The new glowing blue lines of magic would sluice the melt water harmlessly down a dozen smaller arroyos, instead of toward the enemy settlement in the main valley below the mountain. Someone had protected the Rainbow Labyrinth tribehold.
“Who could have done this?” he asked aloud.
The other six men and women with him only mirrored back to him his own bafflement and bemusement. They shivered and wheezed in the snow, not used to either the temperature or the altitude. He knew they were wondering if he would order them to stay the long weeks required to dance the entire spell again.
He wasn’t really speaking to the little girl at his side. Nonetheless, she looked up at him with large, grave eyes.
“Kavio the Rain Dancer,” she said. She had joined him almost unnoticed.
Meira. His daughter, his only child, was only eight, but already she promised to be a classic beauty. Her long, straight black hair was knotted by strings of pearls in twists that reached her ankles. Her tiny face was a perfect moon, her mouth an adorable pink shell, and her eyes deep tide pools reflecting the shades of the ocean and the sky. People said she looked like him, but miniaturized and refined. He was a bulky, tattooed tower of muscle, with his long hair dis- ciplined into a top tail of tiny braids to mark his kills. She was an adorable pixie doll.
Meira. His daughter, his only child, had died six years ago. He knew this, knew the person at his side wasn’t really Meira, and yet, he couldn’t stop the love and pain he felt every time he looked at her…
TO BE CONTINUED