|What If She Had Chosen Different?
Author: vanilfrappe PM
Why don't you stay with us? Argul asked her. That night, Nemian asked her the same, and tolled her he couldn't live without her. We all know how that ended in the book, and it always annoys me. So, a year ago I wrote this. Claidi choses differently. Yeah!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,762 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 02-02-07 - Published: 01-21-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3354206
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I'm an idiot for not doing this earlier (Thanks to Adilic for pointing that out!) The first part of my chapter…first paragraph or so….was from a page of Tanith Lee's book. I felt that there needed to be an intro everyone would remember from the book to understand the plots beginning. So, thanks Tanith Lee, and I'm sorry for…yeah.
When I awoke, Dagger and I were squashed together, the many blankets keeping us warm. The sun was just coming up through the window. As I turned my head to it, I noticed it had an odd glaze or silver in it.
"Snow," I mumbled to myself, sitting up. My skin shivered defiantly as the blankets and their warmth slipped from me.
I had to meet Argul.
I made my way around the sleeping forms of Hulta women, who had returned at various times during the night. I opened the door and stepped into the stuff called snow.
The instant my bare feet touched the mixture, I decided to go in and put some boots on. I borrowed one of the Hulta women's.
The snow crunched under my boots in an odd sound, and left indented sunken foot prints behind me. I could see my breath in front of my face as I breathed friend! How odd is that?
I found our meeting place where we had sat, and had seen the peacock. The bench was covered in the wet snow stuff, so I wisely didn't sit on it. In the peacocks place, some boys were playing.
Friend, I had to frown in curiosity at what they were doing. Honestly, they were picking up the snow with their hands and throwing it at each other. I stepped closer to watch.
The boys would scoop up the snow, pack it in their hands, then throw it into the other person, then run for their lives as others repeated the process.
One boy, about to throw a snow ball, stopped and looked at me. He smiled, and asked "Hey! Would you like to play?" He looked a few years younger then me only, and friendly.
"I-" I began, then shrugged and nodded. Before I could take a step, he launched the snow at me. It hit square in my stomach, and he squealed and ran.
I admit, the idea is silly, but my smile quirked, as did my humoristic ire. I bent and fisted my hands into the snow, forgetting how cold it actually was.
Soon, I found myself on the opposing team of a some 15 kid-snowball fight. My group and I were hiding behind the benches, ducking the snowballs that made it over our line of defense.
"All right," our leader, the older boy, informed us, "We're going to ambush them with this pile." He nodded towards the snowball pile we had packed. The boys and some girls nodded their understanding and grabbed 2 each. I followed their lead. As a group, we emerged and ran in battle formation to the other team.
When they saw we ignored their feigned shots, they took off around the corner wall of the building, with us in pursuit.
"Throw it now!!!" The boy yelled as we cleared the corner.
Utter funny-chaos insured as snowballs and screams of laughter flew at one another. I ducked a shot, and threw my first snowball. The little boy spun at the impact. Laughing, I searched for another target.
Out of the side of my vision, I caught a movement. The laugh still on my lips, I spun and loosed the last snowball.
The figure stopped dead when the snow landed in a splat of wet snow on his chest. The laughter died in my throat as I saw who it was.
Argul, staring at me as if I was crazy!
OH, friend, Uh-oh!
"Argul!-" I started, stepping towards him, "I'm sorry, are you-?" a snowball hit me full in the cheek and I stumbled back.
My team, our artillery used up, ran for cover, leaving me alone. The other children, blood thirsty for revenge, swarmed on me.
I dropped down on my knees, covered my head with my hands as they powdered me good. I'm not sure how long this lasted, before the children were scattering.
I looked up. Argul gently pushed a boy and girl away from me. "Alright, you got her good. Go after the others!" His voice was kind, but final. The children looked from me to his stern gaze, and shrugged. They happily went after the others.
Argul bent and offered me a hand. "Are you alright, Claidi?" He asked, when I placed my hand in his.
I chuckled as he pulled me to my feet, feeling the snow that fell down the back of my shirt. "I'm fine, Argul," I said, "I was having fun playing with the…snow."
He smiled slightly at my word he had taught me last night, and brushed at the loose snow in my hair with one of his hands. "I can see that."
I blushed, remembering my snowball. "Argul, I'm so sorry about hitting you! I didn't know it was you! I thought you were a kid…"
"It's fine, Claidi," he said calmly, his hand still holding mine, "I've been hit with many snowballs in my life. I'm glad your enjoying the weather."
I breathed out in relief.
Then, his countenance became direct and cautious. "What about my question, Claidi-baa? Have you decided?"
I swallowed, feeling the fun from earlier disappear into a pot of nerves in my belly. "Yes, I have…" I said. Then, I felt the need to look away, at anything other then his probing gaze, while I searched for the words.
When he saw me look away, his face, hopeful and expectant, altered, darkened, and closed in. He stepped away from me. His touch left mine, and my heart lurched with the wanting of it back.
"You can't stay. You won't stay," he said stiffly, straightening. "Your staying…with him."
I jerked my gaze back to his, my brows drawing in. "Your going to answer for me? Assuming I prefer Nemian over the Hulta, is that it?"
Friend, perhaps this wasn't the best thing to say, but I said it.
Argul folded his arms, looking at me in the face. "You would have to be stupid to. He's an okk."
At this, my ire cocked, and I folded my own arms. "Are you calling me stupid to provoke me into staying? Or to make me leave?"
He scoffed, and turned to go. "Your leaving anyway. And I don't invite stupid people to travel with the Hulta."
Before he could move another foot, I twisted in front of him, jamming my finger into his chest. "What if I am leaving with Nemian? What's it to you, hmm?"
I needed to know.
His eyes were hard and somewhat menacing on mine. "What's it to me, Claidi?"
I met his glare back, invoked by the looks we were sending each other. "Why do you want me to stay with you, Argul? Why did you come after us when you learned the sheepers sold us? Why did you decide to rescue us? Why did you give me Siree?" I piped at him.
Maybe it was how forward I was, or the fact he was letting me, a girl stop him in his tracks, but the storm built in his eyes. He gripped my wrist and shoved my finger away. "Fine. You want to know 'Why? Why? Why?' Claidi-baa?"
The steel and impatience in his voice made my blood chill, as did the lightning flashing through the whites of his eyes. But it didn't scare me like Nemian's had.
"Why did I come after you and Nemian? I didn't for him, I went for you."
Friend, my breathe caught. "Argul-" I began, but he cut me off first.
"Why did I come back and rescue you, not Nemian when I could have left you to be tossed over the cliff? Because of this!"
He pulled out something from the inside of his shirt and held it out for me to see. It was that charm around his neck I had seen the first day we encountered each other in the desert.
"My mother worked with chemicals. She knew which chemicals could change colors, and tell you things." He tapped the center where a red fog was swirling gin a shiny glass ball. At his touch, the fog did back flips, streaking around. "She gave this to me, and told me that if I ever found someone I felt something for…"
At this he went silent. I realized he was embarrassed, even now. I looked away from his eyes, and to the charm, to give him a chance to say what he needed.
He gathered some control of his nerves, and shuffled on his feet slightly. "When I saw the wary, nervous, but steely look you sent me standing there in the desert with us surrounding you…leaving no doubt that if we were to attack, you'd fight…I was, intimidated for the first time by a woman-stranger."
I blushed at this, I think, friend, because my cheeks got considerably warmer then the temperature outside.
"Claidi, when I took the charm, it reacted. There was an opportunity for me in you. And Damn me to tronking hell if I was going to let that chance get sacrificed! So, I went to rescue you…and it was just my cursed luck I had to rescue Nemian with you!" he finished bitterly, moving to step around me.
Because he seemed to have forgotten, I grabbed his hand and pulled him back, reminding him. "And the last question? Why'd you give me Siree?"
He seemed to have shrunk somewhat, but the storm was still going in his eyes, only the calmly, controlled eye of the storm. "Because I wanted to let you know I felt something. But you acted completely oblivious, even sore, towards my efforts."
I thought back to the incidents. "Your efforts? You were a complete jerk!!!" I accused back.
Argul shot me a glare. "A jerk? How?"
I put my hands on my hips, lifting an eyebrow. "Well, you never acted real friendly. Just cold and all arrogant. The way you looked at me all the time, it was as if, I don't know, I was a valuable. It always made me feel a fool, insulted, small, like you expected pay back in some way for saving my life."
He was staring at me differently now, miffed. "Cold and arrogant? I tried being friendly. You wouldn't even accept Siree unless Blurn gave her to you. Who's the arrogant one now?" he shot back.
Slightly bruised, I carried on with what I had to say. "The first time I saw you, I thought you were blood thirsty bandits intent on eating us. You looked…terrible, evil, dangerous, intimidating. But now…" I gave him a once over for effect. "You still look dangerous, intimidating…but not terrible or evil…or like the bandit I expected all this time."
I sighed, stepping away. We stood that way a moment. He didn't try to walk away this time, despite the clear way I had made.
"So," he said, terminating the silence, "You thought me rude, and that you were being used in some way?" I could feel his eyes searching my face, even though I wasn't looking. "That's the gist of it," I mumbled, pulling some wet hair out from my face. The snow entangled there had began to melt.
Arguls fingers slightly startled me as they traced over mine. He helped me get the clumps out. "Claidi-baa, if I acted the way I did, its because you intimidated me. Haven't I told you before that you scare me?"
At this friend, I had to look at him, my mouth quirked at the tenderness I now saw there. I took a step towards him, and saw the storm flash through them again. He was still wary of my answer.
"Argul," I began, "What if I am staying with Nemian?"
the storm in his eye was flashing with jealousy, I realized. His hand dropped form my hair to his side, in utter surrender of the fates.
"If your going to be stupid enough to leave with Nemian," he stated quietly, "Then…I will let you go, to make you happy…but not before ripping Nemian to little pieces of okk for the desert vultures." He said the last with such easy reserve and pride, that I blinked at him.
"Oh," was all I could say. Friend, it was horribly imaginable, and flattering to my ego. I had a white knight.
When he saw I wasn't going to speak, he assumed again. He shook his head, willing the storm out of his eyes for me to see, and began to stalk away. I turned in the snow, not moving, and called his name in an ordered huffy voice in Hulta language.
He stopped instantly, and swiveled to me. His eyes were wide enough for me to know he hadn't expected me to know any of the language. "What?" he snapped.
I smiled sweetly. "Aren't you going to ask me to stay with the Hulta? Or are you assuming, again?"
His eyes bored into mine, his arms stiff at his sides. I felt oddly powerful. Friend, I like making him frazzled and angry. Its fun.
Finally in a voice that was laced in annoyance, and hope, he asked me, "Claidi, do you want to stay with the Hulta?"
I opened my mouth to say what I so desperately wanted to, but I closed it.
Friend, I admit I was enjoying the game of dangling my answer in front of him, then snatching it away so he could argue for it, for me.
I arched my neck and batted my lashes. Silly, I know, but it had the desired effect on him. "Are you going to tell me what snow is first?"
He strode towards me, again. He looked miraculous, walking across the white street. "Are you toying with me, Claidi-baa?" His tone was impatient as well as impatient.
I tilted my head so I could meet his face. He was so tall, and he was as close as we had been during the dancing. I pouted. "Maybe. Whats snow?"
"Snow is rain that falls from the sky. When it gets cold enough, the rain freezes before hitting the ground. It's frozen water, and will melt in time. Now, are you or aren't you?"
I lifted an eyebrow, to his annoyance. "If I stay, will I get to see this 'ocean' you told me about?"
He looked down his nose at me, and I could see his patience was out.
Smiling weakly in relief, I nodded. "If you still want me, a pain, nuisance, stupid idiot…among other things…I would love to stay with the Hulta."
The look in his eyes seemed to break. The tension and fear. He gripped my chin gently, and look my eyes fully in the opals. "Is that really your answer? If so, I need to stop assuming."
I laughed and batted at his arm with a palm of my hand. "Please, I can't leave Siree now can I?"
His grip tightened on mine a bit and the storm returned. "You're not just saying this now because I said I would kill Nemian, are you? So you can slip away and meet up with him later?"
I blinked in surprise, then shot him a storm of a glare all my own as I yanked my chin away.
"I decided last night, while Nemian proposed his heart out to me, that I wanted to stay with the Hulta. I'm no longer a pawn in his little adventure, or dazzled by his looks. He will not bother me anymore…
…and if you can't believe me, then you'd better not ask me to stay. But know this. I will be alone. I have no home or place in this world, or family or friends. There will be no Nemian, either way."
Argul, his eyes having softened, took my tense hand. That only made the jitters worse in my stomach, I'm afraid.
"Claidi, I believe you. If it helps, some of the men found Nemian with a rather large bruise on his forehead outside. He didn't even recognize me, so we carted him to a hospital. They said he would be incoherent for a while and that they would keep him for a week to watch his progress."
He had expected me to go wide eyed in concern, I realized, as his curious, suspicious stare studied mine.
"Oh-too bad... Poor, little Nemian," I tried to say, but I think I looked too annoyed, and somewhat proud.
I had given that idiot a larger headache!
Plus, we would be long gone before Nemian was even let out.
"Hmm," Argul mused, "You wouldn't happen to know who gave him the boot, now would you Claidi?"
I flushed and looked away. "No idea," I said coolly, stepping away, "Now, if this meetings over, can we go back tour rooms? I'm practically freezing…" I said this, shivering. I was covered in snow, which was melting.
Argul, not backing down it seemed, took his jacket from his shoulders and wrapped it around me. Thankful, I hugged it close. "Well, Argul, thanks, but isn't the meeting over?"
He shook his head and reached into his pocket. "I had another question for, Claidi. You've asked your share. I figured it was my turn to even the score." He brought out something in his fist and opened it. I stared at it in curiosity, the felt my giddy humor fade and my smile plunge cold.
It was a diamond ring.
"Argul-," I began, panic jittering all over in my mind and heart.
"Look Claidi, I've told you how I feel. The chemical showed me that, and it works. It's as if my mother made sure I found happiness after she died. Claidi-baa, I love you and nothing is going to change that. I've felt a lot for you every time I saw you, at the fires, near the wagon. You were so wonderful last night, Claidi. The dress and sapphires in your ears made your coy eyes so tantalizingly blue. Didn't you see the love for you in mine? Did I see it in yours?"
I ran my hand through my hair, hissing out a breath. "Yes, Argul, but…"
"Claidi," he said gently, "You said yourself that you preferred me over Nemian."
At the thought of Nemian, I found the words I needed to say. "Argul, please," I said quickly, putting my hand over his holding with the ring, "Nemian proposed last night…not with the same words or feeling…but he said he loved me. Argul, I'm not saying your sincere, because you are. But he wasn't. For some reason, he was trying to trap and trick me with my feelings. I'd never had a boy or man have feelings for me before. I was enticed at the new feelings…
…I woke up in time to realize that he didn't feel any of those new feelings. He knew nothing about me, Claidi, about what I am."
I closed his fingers over the ring, and could feel his disappointment as I did.
"Argul, the same goes for you. I only have begun to realize you liked me last night. While you may love me because of how I looked the first moment, your still basing your feelings on the smoke in your charm, like I did with Nemian. And I don't know if I love you enough yet to…marry you-
-Please," I finished, searching his eyes, "Can you give me, us, some time to know for sure?"
He angled a look at me that had my heart racing. "I am sure, Claidi, and I'm not generally patient. But, I'll wait for you to be sure." He took my earlier forsaken hand, and stroked it as I wilted in relief.
"Thanks, Argul. So, I'm a Hulta now?"
He chuckled, and steered me towards the Travelers Rest. "Your still a wet contract, but officially, yes."
Smiling, I laced my fingers through his with a firm grip. "Reminds me of last night, holding your hand and running."
He rolled his eyes at me, but I could see his grin. "Claidi-baa-baa, you keep that up and it will start snowing again!" I laughed, and he pulled me into a run for the Rest.
As we neared, I caught Dagger's image in the window. She was looking down at us, and she was smiling.
(Grin) And I have too read the other Claidi Journals, but not for a long time. I should reread them before I get into my long version, I suppose. Thanks, Heera Malhotra. And to PadFootCc.