Unexpected gift part 1

It had been hard, leaving Antaris behind. She did not know when she might return, and Lia's hard stares had cut her more and more each day until she was near cloven in two. Part of her yearned to stay where she still felt most at home, to fulfill Marna's wishes, the only mother she had ever known.

The other part felt suffocated by all the attention, and couldn't get away fast enough.

Even with Darrow by her side, tears had come unbidden to her eyes when she crossed the line of bare ground where the Wall once stood. Some of the priestesses had wanted to rebuild it, but she had convinced them otherwise. The healing dances had melted it; that must mean that the Wall should not be. In order for the land to heal, there must be no more barriers.

And yet…

She glanced sideways at the man who walked beside her. Darrow's face shone with strength, his eyes bright and alert after the long struggle with his illness. They had not yet spoken of that time, and there was much that Calwyn would say to him.

As if he knew she was watching, he turned his head and gave her his half-smile, reaching out to clasp her hand with his own as they walked through the snow. He was singing a low chantment deep in his throat, keeping the silver sled behind them light.

There was much she wanted to say, much she wanted to ask. Even though they were now lovers in the truest sense, she still felt that there was something of himself that he shielded from her, withheld, as if she had not yet earned the right to his inmost secrets. She knew that she was nearly ten years his junior, but had she not prove herself time and time again? How much more did he require before he would trust her with his whole heart?

As I have trusted him with mine…

She frowned at the green earth in front of her. It was true she had kept secrets from him in the past, but since his brush with death she had withheld nothing, pouring her soul into her dark eyes for him to see, if he wished. She would sometimes catch him looking at her with an unreadable expression on his face, as if weighing something in his mind. It made her feel young and untried, as she had felt on the day he had fished her from the river after she had impulsively followed him, fleeing Samis' wrath.

She did not like that feeling.

They had chosen to leave before dawn, creeping away on foot, even though Calwyn could easily have loaded them onto the sled and had them home in Ravamey before noon. But the villagers already had enough ammunition about her exploits to turn her into the new Goddess; she had not wished to give them more fuel for their fire.

So instead they would traipse through the forest south of Antaris, following the river until they were a safe enough distance from prying eyes to mount the sled and fly home.

Home.

She looked ahead of them, to where Trout trudged, not wishing anyone to see the tears that still made tracks on his pale cheek. Halasaa followed Trout, lending his silent strength to the young man in his grief. Tonno and Keela followed a short distance behind them, murmuring quietly to each other.

Mica.

Her heart clenched. They had purchased the healing of Tremaris at a heavy cost. It was as Halasaa had said, back at the Black Palace, when she had lain unconscious:

Every chantment of healing has its price…

Darrow's hand tightened in hers, as if he knew what she was thinking. He always seemed to know what was in her mind, and again she was stabbed through by the knowledge that she did not know what he was thinking, had never known…

Perhaps never would know.