Red Dragon Inn
Dreamweaver's Lair => Whispers in the Night => Arctra => Topic started by: Liayna on June 02, 2015, 12:08:37 PM
Two days after the delights of the Goddess Moon, the True Queen's army was on the march again. This time, they were setting their lines, intending to establish their place on what would be the field of battle - far enough away from Velasca to ensure a peaceful night or two before battle was joined. Ariana marched with them, on foot, safer lost in the crowd of soldiers and rebels than she would ever have been on horseback. And despite strenuous objections, Liayna was on foot, too, weaving her way between the Arctrans who surrounded their queen to fall into step beside Rory. She bit her lip at the slight air of amazement both Ariana and Rory were wearing at present, careful not to laugh at the young lovers. She could remember that feeling herself. Her hand reached out to touch Rory's sleeve, drawing his attention to herself. "Walk with me?"
As might be expected, Rory marched at Ariana's side, hand in hand like the young lovers they were, reluctant to leave her side for even a moment. He was unaware of the air of amazement that surrounded them both, a little lost in thought and even somewhat distracted by the spell that love seemed to have cast over the young lovers. With any luck, he had a few days yet to compose himself before they engaged the enemy; for Ariana's sake, as well as his own, he could not afford to be lazy or distracted, not even by love. Startled by Liayna's sudden appearance at his side, he turned his gaze on her, blinking out of his reverie. "Is this going to be a lecture?" he asked with a frown, knowing he had to focus, even more so now that Ariana was likely with child. He was not only her Consort, after all; he had made himself personally responsible for her safety and well-being.
Equally startled, Ariana blushed as she felt Rory's attention turn to the wild woman now walking with them, a little less intimidated by all things female now that she had embraced that part of herself. She met Liayna's eyes, inclining her head as the wild woman nodded to her.
Liayna's green eyes turned to Rory, her smile making itself known. "No, veran," she promised him. "I have ... news to share. News that belongs to you, that I am uncertain you will be glad to know. But I am persuaded to tell you, for your own sake."
Veran, he thought. Why was she calling him that? The look on his face betrayed his puzzlement. What news could she possibly have for him that he did not not know already? He made no move to leave Ariana's side, only tightening his grip on her hand. "Walk with us, then," he replied, inviting her to walk along with them and share whatever news she had in witness of Ariana, as well. If she wanted to pull him out of line and speak with him privately, she was going to have to say so.
For the first time since they had met her, Rory and Ariana saw Liayna na'Kari hesitate, her head turning to seek out Conall on his horse, not so very far away from them. She didn't know what to say, how to separate the lovers without causing offense, but knew that Rory should hear what she had to tell him without an audience, if it were possible.
Rory's gaze followed Liayna's to find Conall not far away, watching them atop his horse. He seemed to offer a slight nod of his head, as if to assure them both it was all right. Rory exchanged a curious glance with Ariana, getting the feeling that whatever Liayna had to say to him was for his ears alone. He couldn't imagine what it might be, though it seemed important enough, at least to her, but before he could reply, Conall was carefully making his way through the ranks of Arctrans, towering above them all from his perch on his warhorse.
"I will keep watch over Ariana while you two talk. You have my word no harm will come to her while you are gone."
Rory nodded, still frowning, his stomach in knots as he wondered what it was Liayna needed to tell him. "All right," he replied, turning to Ariana at his side. "I won't be long. Promise," he told her gently, touching a kiss to her hand before letting go.
Whatever objection came into Ariana's mind was silenced by the solemn relief on Liayna's face. It seemed that the wild woman had words to share with Rory, words that couldn't be held back any longer. The young queen knew a little of secrets, understanding that when the time came to share them, they had to be spoken. She smiled as Rory kissed her hand, her thumb gently stroking his cheek. "I'll be perfectly safe," she promised him quietly. "I'll ride with Conall until you come back." Almost before the words came out of her mouth, a call went up from a man walking near her to bring the queen's horse, making her laugh warmly with those around them. "See?" Her hand stroked Rory's cheek affectionately. "Go with her. I'll see you soon."
Rory wondered for a moment if he was needed at all. It seemed there were plenty of people ready and willing to step in and see to her protection and care, but there were none whom she loved the way she loved him. With that thought in mind, he touched a kiss to her lips, in full view of anyone who might be watching. He was the Royal Consort, after all, and they might as well know that he loved her. That done, he turned back to Liayna. "Lead on," he told her, curiosity warring with his need to remain with Ariana, trusting Conall and the others to keep her safe while he was gone.
Liayna nodded to him, gently drawing him through the ranks to walk with her on the edge of the mass of bodies, through the unbroken snow that lined their road. Far enough that no one would hear them, close enough to disappear into those ranks if trouble came near. "You love her very much, don't you?"
He followed along behind her through the ranks of Arctrans and Wild Ones massed together on their way to fight a common enemy. He said nothing while they walked, until they reached a place where they could follow and still speak without anyone eavesdropping. Her question surprised me, and he immediately thought this conversation was going to revolve around himself and Ariana, wondering what it was he'd done wrong now. "Yes," he replied without hesitation. "I loved her as a brother once, but not anymore. Is this about Ariana?" he asked, unable to hide the worry from his face and his voice.
Liayna smiled gently at his concern. "No, veran," she promised him in a low tone. "It is about you, and about me, and about something I should have told you a few weeks ago, when I first made certain of it." She sighed softly, not knowing quite how to begin. "Did your father ever tell you about your mother?"
He might have relaxed once he knew this conversation wasn't going to be about Ariana, but then she mentioned his father and he found himself tensing again. "What does this have to do with my parents?" he asked, curiously and perhaps just a little defensively. Discussing his parents only served to remind him how alone he was in the world. Except for Ariana, he had no family and few friends, though a few had tried to befriend him. "My father is dead and my mother ..." He broke off, jaw clenching, unsure whether he should hate a woman he had never met.
Liayna winced a little, but she knew there was no other way to begin this conversation. "Your mother is here, veran," she told him gently. "She is a Doma among the clans, and she is very proud of the man you have become."
The expression of hardened acceptance faded, replaced with that look of confusion again. He looked very young in that moment, more boy than man, though he was quickly growing into the other. "What do you mean, she's here?" He felt dizzy suddenly, light-headed, as if the world was spinning. How could she be here after all these years? How could she know it was him?
Liayna's hand gently gripped his elbow, an anchor to keep him upright as they both slowed to a halt. "I mean that she is here, with her clan, fighting to put your Ariana on the throne with the rest of us," she told him firmly. "I know, because I have seen her, spoken with her. And she told me who you are to her when I asked."
Rory's eyes widened a moment and then quickly narrowed, unsure just how he was supposed to feel about this unexpected turn of events. As much as he wanted to know his mother, he had never understood why she had left him behind, despite his father's explanation. "When you asked? Why would you ask? Why would you even care who I am to her or she to me? She abandoned me years ago, left my father to raise me on his own. Why would she give a fig about me now? Because I'm Ariana's chosen consort? It's a little late to make amends now, don't you think?" he retorted, his face flushing with anger long buried that he didn't even know he possessed until this very moment. Was it really too late though, or was it just the grief and years of loneliness talking?
This was what she had feared; that talking to him, telling him the truth, would cause more harm to an already bleeding heart. But she had begun now, and Liayna would not leave him with only half the facts. "Do you understand, veran, the ways of the clans?" she asked him, cutting across his anger. "Do you understand that a bond such as I share with Conall is the exception, not the rule? My mother gave me up to the care of my father, because when I was born, the Goddess showed her that my path would not be to walk with her. When you were born, she knew, too, that unless she gave you to your father, the line of Arlan would die, and Arctra with it."
He couldn't quite grasp what he was telling her - not right away, anyway. He understood the part about the clans, but he missed the part that seemed to point out that they shared the same mother. He thought she was only comparing her own childhood to his. His eyes awash with tears, he turned his back to her, not wanting her to witness that softening and think him weak. "I know what my father told me," he replied in a strained voice. "He always thought he was lucky to have met her, to have been chosen by her. He never accused or blamed her, only thanked the Goddess and the Nine for me." His heart was aching in his chest as old wounds were opened anew, reminding him not only of the loss of his mother, but his father, too. "He told me when I was ready, I could look for her if I wanted, but he died before he could tell me her name."
Liayna refused to let him turn away, to hide his pain from her, following to catch his face in her hand, forcing him to meet her eyes and let her see his sorrow. "Your father was a good man," she told him fiercely. "And if she had known what would happen to him, one of us would have been there to prevent it. If I had known, I would have been there to protect my veran." Green eyes stared into green, willing him to listen as she told him this last piece. "You were named for her. I know, because Arora of Clan Kirun is my mother, and she told me when I asked."
He shook his head, not believing anyone could have saved his father. He had been there, forced to witness the man's death, and he knew it would have taken a formidable force to have saved him. Maybe if his mother had known, maybe if she had brought enough clansmen with her, maybe things would have been different, or maybe they all would have been killed, and then where would they be? Unable to shake his head again as Liayna forced him to meet her gaze, he arched his brows, blue-green eyes swimming with tears. "I don't understand," he told her in a hushed voice. He had not been raised with the Wild Ones, but he'd learned enough of their language these past weeks and months to know she was calling him brother.
Gently stroking his hair back from his face, Liayna held her little brother's tearful gaze, wishing he could absorb what she was saying more easily. "Listen to me, veran," she told him gently, each word clear in the crisp winter air. "When first we met, I knew you were a child of the Goddess. Even in the dark, without seeing you clearly, I knew you were one of us. Our magic is the magic of earth, and bone, and blood. You and I, we share blood through our mother, who has had to give us both away. Arora sacrificed her only chances to be a mother because the Goddess willed it. We may have felt her absence, but she knew where we were, and who we loved, and not once did she seek to put herself forward and take her natural place with us. She does not want me to tell you this, veran. But Conall believes, and I agree, that you should know you have blood in this world. You have a sister, and I will always come when you call."
"What?" he stammered, looking at her incredulously, the tears forgotten for the moment, the grief replaced by this new and almost unbelievable revelation. "You are my sister?" he asked, eyes wide in astonishment. Half-sister, really, sharing the same mother but different fathers. As difficult as it was to believe, as tempting as it was to dismiss it, it rang true to him. He wasn't sure how or why, but somehow he felt it and knew it to be true. "Arora? I-I met her. She came to me and Ariana a few days ago and told us that we had nothing to fear. That all would be well with us."
"You are my veran, my little brother," Liayna assured him, drawing his hand to her swollen belly. "And this is your niece, the next child to be born of our blood." She smiled, her fingers still gentle in his hair as she let him take that in for a long moment. "Arora watched over you on the Goddess Moon. She would not allow Kari to force you, either of you. She wanted you to feel safe together."
His eyes widened further as she drew his hand to her belly, beneath which he felt something - her daughter, his niece - move within, proof of the life that was growing there. "She watched over us?" he echoed, drawing his gaze back to her, hoping their mother had not witnessed the awkward clumsiness of his first time with Ariana. "But why did she leave us? How could she know that was what the Goddess wanted? How could she know what would become of us? My father loved her, in his own way. He never took another wife or a lover after her."
"Neither did mine," she told him gently. "And since she loved your father, Arora has taken no lover. She is one of the few who sleeps alone when the moon is full. She must have loved him very much." As to his other questions, they were a little more difficult to answer. "Rory ... have you ever looked at a person, and known you would meet them again someday? Or known, equally, that their path would end before the year was done? Arora is a Doma, the leader of her clan. She is gifted with a little foresight by the Goddess. If she had not given us up, would we be standing here now - you with a woman you love, and I with a child in my belly?"
"I don't know. How am I supposed to answer that? I have no way of knowing the answer to that," he pointed out, a little frustrated, though another thought came to mind. "Is-is that why I can ... see things? Do things others can't?" He didn't explain what it was that was different about him, but she had likely heard rumors and such of a wild magic inside him that he couldn't name or control.
"If we had been raised by our mother, veran, we would have grown up in Clan Kirun," she told him gently. "We would have known nothing of Phalion, or the great secret. We would have joined this fight, yes. But there would be no consort for our queen, no friend she could lean on, no love to hold her and keep her safe from her fears. There would be no First Blade marching with us, for Velasca would still be holding the Sword of Arlan. And I fear that Conall would be dead, lost to us in his attempt to steal that very Sword." The pain in her eyes at even the thought of a world without her eniro was painful to look upon; even she knew that, turning her gaze away before her thoughts could overwhelm his senses. Swallowing, she turned her attention to his other questions. "All of us who are born in the light of the Goddess - who bear the wild blood in our veins - we all have gifts. Your affinity with the horses, your sense of what could be, they are your gifts. My skill in battle, my healing sense; they are mine."
He sensed her pain, as she turned from him, hearing it in her voice and seeing a glimpse of it in her face. His gift was that of a healer of sorts, though he had never learned how to use or control that gift, but when he reached out to touch her, she might feel that intent in him - a wild but wonderful gift that had been given him by way of his mother and sister's bloodline. "Who am I to question the Goddess' wisdom, velir?" he asked, naming her sister, acknowledging her claim as he reached out to touch her arm and pull her back around to face him. "We have both been alone long enough," he told her. "If you wish to have a brother, then I would be equally happy to have a sister."
She laughed a little as he drew her back to face him. "I am very proud of my veran, my little brother," she told him fondly. "Not because he is the consort to the crown, or because he is a good fighter, or because of the power he will hold when the war is done. I am proud of the man you are, Rory. And I mean it - if you ever need me, I will always come."
Whether he felt the same about their mother was uncertain, but he would be a fool not to welcome a sister - one who shared his bloodline and not the blame of the one who'd abandoned them both. He flushed at her praise, not feeling particularly deserving of it. All he had done, he had done because it had been the right thing to do, not because he wanted any sort of recognition or reward. "To be honest, I don't really want any power, but I'm not like the others here. I don't understand why I'm here or what my purpose is, other than to love and protect Ariana."
Liayna smiled, looping her arm through his to begin walking once again. "When I was a child, the old queen was still on the throne," she told him, as though they were out for a stroll rather than marching to war. "We heard stories about her, and we heard stories about her First Blade. But do you know who else we heard stories about? Her Consort. When Ariana sits on the throne, veran, you will have your purpose. You will be in charge of the palace, wherever she chooses to make her capital. The Captain of the Queen's Guard will answer to you; it will be you who distributes alms to those who need it in her name. You will be the one the nobles will court, nobles who will wish to influence her decisions. You are the queen's eyes and ears; the arm that controls her swords; the father to her people. The Consort is the most powerful man in the Queen's court, veran, but you will not be alone."
It was a good thing she took hold of his arm as he was feeling dizzy again - not dizzy with power, but with shock, his face turning pale and his legs feeling weak. He had been told as much already, though not in so many words, but he hadn't had much time to think about it or to realize the implications of such a position. "But I don't want to be in power! All I've ever wanted was to be a knight in the service of the True Queen. All I've ever wanted was to fight to restore the true Queen to the throne. I never expected any of this, and I never asked for it. How am I to do it, Liayna? I am just a commoner. I know nothing about ruling a nation, making decisions. Liam is the Commander, Shaye is First Blade, and Ariana is the Queen. I am no one!"
"You are not no one, Rory," she told him firmly. "You are the one man in all of Arctra that Ariana loves and trusts above all others. You are the son of a Doma of the clans. You are the legacy of a good man who raised you to know right from wrong, who taught you to use your mind as well as your hands. You have friends who will teach you, and you will have teachers in the capital. You will not be alone, and you will not be expected to know everything the first moment you step into the court. We will not let you fall."
Everyone seemed to be telling him that, if only he could believe it himself. He was not only the son of a farrier, but that of a Doma, as well. He was more than just a commoner, and Ariana had chosen him to share the throne with her, making him the most powerful man in all of Arctra. The reality of it was staggering. "I will need all the help I can get," he replied in a hushed voice. "What of our mother? She does not know what you've told me?" he asked.
"No, she does not," Liayna assured him softly. "She told me not to tell you, when I asked her for the truth. She thought it would hurt you more than help you, to know that she still lives. Perhaps, when the battle is done, you might be able to speak with her. But that is your choice; she will not seek you out. She believes she gave up all her right to know her children when she set us on our paths."
"If we survive," he muttered to himself. Should he meet her now before the battle took place in case something happened to one of them during battle or wait until afterwards when there would be more time to get acquainted if they both lived and she did not choose to leave before he had a chance. He wasn't sure it was wise to leave such things to fate. "Where is she now?" he asked, having almost made up his mind.
"We will survive," his sister told him, as certain of that as she was of anything. There was no point going into this battle with fear and doubt hanging over them. She glanced up at Rory thoughtfully. "She is with the wagons, I would think," she said, gesturing further back along the ranks, where the supplies and the Wild Ones' wagons were trundling along in the wake of the fighting men and women. "Clan Kirun has less warriors, but more power to field against wizards. They are conserving their strength."
"Do you think she would welcome a long lost son or be angry that her daughter gave away her secret?" he asked, uncertainly. While his initial reaction had been to get angry, that anger had quickly faded, replaced by a sense of longing to know and understand the mother who had birthed him and the woman who had loved his father.
Liayna's smile softened as she hugged her brother's arm gently. "She may be angry with me, but I am a grown woman and my choices are my own," she said thoughtfully. "I think she would be honored to be given the chance to know her son, and touched that he might wish to know her."
"Will you tell Ari, so she doesn't worry?" he asked, knowing Ariana would worry needlessly if he didn't return soon. Touched by the hug she gave his arm, he wanted to return that embrace, but wasn't quite sure how, feeling awkward and shy, despite the fact that she was his sister. It would take time for him to get used to that, though he thought it might be the reason why he felt more comfortable with her than most anyone else.
"I will," she assured him. "Would you like me to bring her to you, or would you prefer this first meeting to be yours alone?" For all that Liayna did apply a certain straightforward charm to the way she dealt with life in general, when it came to family, she could be as discreet as anyone.
"No, I ..." Rory considered a moment before replying. "I think this is something I need to do on my own, but thank you for the offer and ..." He paused, feeling awkward again, wondering if he'd ever feel normal again, but then what was normal? He was a commoner no longer, and it was strange to know that he was about to become the most powerful man in Arctra. "Thank you for telling me, Liayna. I-I hope I will make you proud of me one day, and I hope we will grow to know each other better."
She caught his face between her hands, drawing him down to press a kiss to his forehead. "I am already proud of you, veran," she promised him fondly. "I will protect your Ariana until you return for her. And I promise not to make her blush too much." There was sisterly mischief in her smile as she released him, a warmth in her laughter that was valantis, family.
Touched by the show of affection for a brother she hardly knew yet, he felt compelled to return that affection somehow and to show her that he meant what he said. "Liayna ... velir ..." he said, correcting himself and naming her "sister" in the Old Tongue. "If I were to choose a sister, it would be you. I am proud and pleased to be of your bloodline."
"You may not be if you ever meet my father," she teased him affectionately, offering one last stroke of her fingers through his hair before letting him go. "But Kari will be pleased that you know you and I are of one blood." She glanced to the moving column beside them. "I should go, before your lady is so far ahead Conall will have to tell me off for running."
"Liayna," he said, hoping to stop her before she moved off. He hesitated a moment before wrapping her in a gentle hug, careful of the swell of her stomach between them. "Thank you," he told her again. Though a little unsure what he felt about their mother, he was truly grateful to know her and to know that she was family.
Drawn into an unexpected hug, Liayna smiled, embracing him a little more tightly than he dared to embrace her. "Thank your brother," she told him softly. "Conall is the one who persuaded me to speak. I did not know what to do, until he told me."
Rory arched a brow, a little surprised not only by the news that it had been Conall's idea to tell him, but also that she referred to him as his brother - not by blood, certainly, but as Liayna's chosen mate, he was linked to him through her, just as much family as she was. "I will thank him later," he promised as he drew back from her embrace. "Stay safe, sister, and take care of my niece."
"And you, little brother," she answered him, stepping back through the snow. "Come find us in the vanguard, when you are done." She smiled at him, and turned, breaking into a gentle run to catch up with the column where they had left it, intent on keeping her promise to look after his aera for him.
He nodded. "I will," he promised, though by the time he said it, she was already hurrying away from him to catch up to Conall and Ariana. Would she tell Ariana what she had just told him, or would she leave that for him to share? Whatever she decided, he would find out soon enough. He watched until she disappeared among the ranks of warriors, men and women alike, Actran and clansmen, before turning to find the wagons at the back of the group.
The Wild Ones had, for the most part, integrated themselves among the Arctrans on the long march, spread evenly between the ranks as they headed south. But their wagons were not unprotected. Twenty-eight of the Goddess-sworn, the elite warriors of whom Liayna was a member, guarded those wagons, and those who walked with them. Kari was there, undisputed leader of the nomads who had the power to hold back the false magics of Skarran wizards and their ilk. And Arora was there, too, keeping pace with one of the wagons, spinning tales to keep the children amused as they traveled through the long winter.
The snow crunched under Rory's feet as he made his way through the ranks, a little amazed when both Arctrans and Wild Ones moved to allow him passage, some of them even whispering among themselves or nodding respectfully as he passed. He had never really spent much time with the people without Ariana by his side, and he was surprised to find that most of them seemed to know who he was and deferred to him without question. It wasn't difficult to find the wagons, recognizing both Kari and Arora on sight. He wasn't sure what they might think of this meeting of his, but he wanted no regrets. Whether his mother wanted to know him or not would be up to her now. He drew a breath to gather his courage before pushing on to greet them both. "Lady," he greeted Kari first with a respectful incline of his head before turning to Arora. "Doma, if you would, may I have a word with you, please?"
Kari, perched high on the wagon, cackled in greeting, her ugly face creased into a happy smile as she nodded and waved to Rory in answer to his respectful inclination to her. She glanced to Arora as the young man's attention turned to the mother who thought he did not know about her, and reached down, speaking quickly in the old speech as she gathered the youngest of the children onto her lap to continue the storytelling.
Given little choice in the matter, Arora turned her own eyes onto Rory, pausing to allow the wagon to pass on ahead of her. "As you wish, Lord Consort," she answered him, giving no indication of their relationship as she inclined her own head in reply.
He waited for the wagons to pass to offer them a little bit of privacy, then waved her onward so they could continue walking, so that they didn't fall too far behind. They weren't quite at the end of the group, as a few warriors had fallen back to take up the rear, not only to guard the wagons, but to guard both Arora and Rory, both personages of great import to the group as a whole. Rory winced as she addressed him in such a formal fashion, but then he had done the same. "I have a name," he said, chancing a look at her. "A name much like yours," he added, watching her for a reaction.
The barest flicker of a sad smile touched her lips as he pointed out the similarity in their names, knowing better than he did just why that was the case. "Such is the way of the world," Arora said quietly. "There are many who share a pleasing sound in their names. I imagine there will be a great many Arianas, and Rorys, among the next generation of Arctrans, in honor of the queen."
He thought he noticed a hint of sadness in her smile, and his heart softened, not wanting to cause her any pain. Liayna had tried to explain why his mother had left them both behind, but he needed to hear it from her. "I think there is more to it than that, but perhaps this is not the time to discuss such things," he told her, thinking this conversation might be one better discussed in private, but that meant it would have to wait until they made camp later.
Arora's pale eyes found him as they walked, concern for the son who did not know her in her expression. "Do you wish me to visit yourself and the queen when we make camp tonight?" she asked him gently. "You have questions to put to a Doma of the clans?" She might have asked why he didn't put those questions to Kari, since he knew the old woman better than others, but then, she knew Kari. Straight answers were not her forte.
"Yes, if you don't mind, I think that would be best," he replied, feeling curious eyes on them. Even if it was only his imagination, he thought it would be better to talk in private, where neither the Arctrans or the Wild Ones would overhear. He wasn't sure how many of them knew already or guessed, but he assumed Kari, at least, knew the truth, and he wanted to give Arora a chance, not only to explain, but to tell him on her own. That was hardly going to happen here, even if they were lingering near the rear.
"Then I shall come to you at night fall, Lord Consort," she assured him, inclining her head respectfully. She was very good at pretending, it seemed; how long had she spent watching him from afar, knowing he might never know of her? How long had it been before Liayna had discovered her?
This time it was his turn to frown, debating whether or not to insist again that she call him by his given name - a name she knew very well. "Very well," he replied, going along with her ruse, not wanting to give her secret away, until and unless she agreed. "After the evening meal. I will see you then," he told her, with an air of authority he was going to have to get used to.
"As you wish." She took the authority he drew around him with gentle respect - the respect of an equal, no more or less. As a Doma, she led her own clan; she knew how difficult these first months of power could be for him. "After the evening meal, I will come."
"Thank you," he replied, inclining his head respectfully to her in turn. Outwardly, he might have appeared calm and composed and she might have no idea what it was he wanted to discuss, but on the inside, he was a tangle of confusion and nervousness, realizing he'd have to break the news to Ariana before Arora visited that evening.
There was nothing more for him to say or do until they made camp for the evening, and so he turned and made his way back through the lines of marching men and women to rejoin Ariana.
Arora watched him go, lengthening her stride to catch up to the wagons in his wake, her brow creased with a frown as she considered what had been said. Kari's gnarled hand touched her shoulder as the old woman leaned down from her perch. "Some truths cannot be hidden forever," she told the younger woman gently, her speech clearer in the old tongue. "To know where you are going, you must know from whence you have come."
Arora nodded thoughtfully, patting the old woman's hand. There was wisdom in Kari that she would never argue with. Perhaps it was time for this secret to see the light. Perhaps the Goddess would grant her the chance to know her son, now that he had found his place.