Disclaimer: not my characters or places, just my story; sigh.

A/N: sorry for taking so very long to get to this. I have had pieces of it done for a while, but not enough to post until now. I now have most of it done and I will post it as I Beta it. Thanks for the support,

Mystica

Partings and Plots

"Well, another moot is finally over," Rhapsody said on a sigh as she collapsed in a chair. Meridion, Grunthor, and Achmed were already there in chairs around the fire place. "The last group has finally left. Now we can get things back to normal."

"Oi doubt that anything that 'appens now can be considered normal," Grunthor said almost on a chuckle.

"Yes, I agree with Grunthor. A little too much has changed around here to be settling back into an old routine," said Meridion.

Rhapsody smiled and looked over to Achmed who had a similar smile as he stared into the fire before them. "Yes, we are going to have to build ourselves a new normal to settle into," she replied.

The four sat for a while longer in content silence. After a while of easy thought, Rhapsody finally allowed herself another sigh before speaking again. "I'm afraid that it really might be a little longer before I can 'settle,'" she began. Achmed looked up to her, a little apprehensive about what she was about to announce. Rhapsody returned his look and nodded to him as she continued on. "I have to go to the Lirin again for a short while. I promised Rial that I would meet and discuss various Lirin politics and policies and give him the approval that he is always searching for."

"So soon?" Achmed asked flatly. She could tell that he was disappointed but didn't want to show it.

"I'm afraid so, but I shouldn't be gone long. It won't take much time to agree with everything that he thinks would work and be on my way."

"When will you leave?" Meridion asked.

"Probably the morning after tomorrow. It's beginning to cool off and winter is not very far away. It would be good to get my traveling done before it sets in."

Meridion nodded and asked, "And after that, you'll return here?"

"Yes," she said smiling at Achmed. Then suddenly a thought struck her. "Oh, Meridion, I should return to High Meadow, shouldn't I? I have been just as neglecting of the Cymrians as the Lirin."

"No, your place is here. I will be fine, though I am going to have to do a bit of traveling of my own. I have been invited to make a visit to the Nain kingdom. Apparently Faedryth and Gyrlyth, Faedryth's second in command, have decided that they should become a more active part of the Cymrian alliance."

"How odd, but not a bad thing I suppose." Rhapsody said.

"Depends on their reasoning," Achmed said.

"True."

"Anyway, the alliance should be fine for a while on its own. That is why we have the counsel. Even Lords and Ladies need a break from time to time. I wouldn't worry too much about it, Mother."

"Yes, I suppose your right. Good, then I'll probably be back here in a week's time."

"And I will leave here tomorrow to return to the palace. Probably about the time you leave from Tyrian I'll be heading for the Nain. Maybe I'll stop here on my way; we may meet up then before I leave again."

"Perhaps, but you'll probably be about a day ahead of me, so you'll only see me if you wait around."

"True, I guess we'll just have to see what happens."

That night, Achmed pressed Rhapsody before either of them could go to sleep. "Rhapsody, I know that we both realized before we entered into this relationship how difficult it would be for two monarchs of three different nations to be together. But don't you think that it might be a little too soon to be leaving?"

Rhapsody stared at Achmed across the room where he was sitting in a chair, watching her brush out her long golden hair. She thought for a moment as she lowered he brush to her lap. Finally she sighed as she said, "Achmed, I know that you want to keep me here with you, and I would want nothing more than to remain here, but I have to go to Tyrian. I promised Rial that I would. I am their queen and, like it or not, they need to feel that I really am part of their government."

Achmed nodded slowly. He knew that she was right and that this was what she would tell him, but he hated it all the same. They had barely been joined together in marriage for three days and she was going to be leaving again. Even if he had known that this was going to be the nature of their relationship, he still hated to see it happen.

Rhapsody could see that Achmed had already known her answer and had accepted it, but he was still disappointed. Gracefully she rose from her position on the bed and came to his side, lowering herself to the floor next to him. "I know, it doesn't seem fair to us, does it?"

"No, but I guess that unfairness is something that I should be used to by now."

Rhapsody quietly shook her head to herself. She knew that he still suffered from the low self esteem that had plagued him all of his life, but she wished that he would be able to move past all of that now that they were together. She was beginning to realize though, that she was not the root of his self hatred and there were still demons in his past that he would have to deal with in order for him to ever to care for himself as she cared for him. "Achmed, I am sorry. But I will be returning as soon as I can."

He smiled and nodded once again. He could hear the truthful ring in her voice that only a Namer who was speaking the truth was capable of producing. "I know you will. And I will be thinking of you every moment you are away and waiting for you when you return."
They sat for a while in comfortable silence for a while with Achmed still in his chair and Rhapsody resting her head upon his knee. They sat and enjoyed being in each other's company and took in every breath and unconscious sigh that they made.

Finally, after what felt like hours, Rhapsody rose from the floor and crossed over to a chest of her things that had been brought into Achmed's room once it had been made official that they were to be together. She rifled around inside for a moment before she pulled out a beautiful golden lyre. Once again, she returned to where Achmed sat and now she took a place in front of him on the floor.

Taking a moment, she quickly and deftly tuned her instrument and struck a few experimental chords. When she was satisfied with the instrument, she looked up once again to meet Achmed's questioning glance.

"I was reminded of an old folk song that I want to share with you. It is a song that I want you to know and can find comfort in while I am away. I too will be keeping this song in my thoughts as I journey away from this that has become my one true home."

And with that, she began her song…

In the quiet, misty morning, when the moon has gone to bed;

When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red;

When the summer ceased it's gleaming, and the corn is past its prime;

When adventures lost its meaning, I'll be homeward bound in time

Bind me not to the pasture; chain me not to the plow;

Set me free to find my calling, and I'll return to you somehow.

If you find it's me you're missing, if you're hoping I'll return,

To your thoughts I'll soon be listening, in the road I'll stop and turn.

And the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end,

And my steps I'll be retracing when I'm homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture; chain me not to the plow;

Set me free to find my calling, and I'll return to you somehow.

In the quiet, misty morning, when the moon has gone to bed;

When the sparrows stop their singing,

I'll be homeward bound… again.

And that was all that need to be said. Gently, Achmed bent down and brushed a single tear from Rhapsody's eye before standing and lifting her up from the floor. He carried her to their bed and laid her out, taking the almost forgotten lyre from her hands and returning it to the chest that she had taken it from. Slowly, he went around the room, turning the lights off before he joined her in the bed.

Her song was right, she must be free to come and go as she needed, and there was no way that he would ever be able to chain her to one place. But he knew now that she would always return to his side. They shared a bond and connection now that only death could sever and even that may not be enough to do it.

And these were the thoughts that floated through his mind as they reveled in the blending that they had shared on that first night deep on the Lortorium floor before she ever belonged to him; when she had belonged to another and still chose to be with him rather than her husband.

As Achmed lay drifting to sleep that night, he wondered what ever became of Ashe and if he might still be angry with him for stealing the dragon's treasure away.

At sunrise the next morning, Achmed and Rhapsody stood at the entrance to the Cauldron and waved Meridion goodbye as he rode back to High Meadow. Then, on a whim, the two newlyweds climbed the Teeth together and reached the top just in time to be able to see Meridion disappear over the horizon of the Kravensfield Plain.

They stood there for a while, just looking out to where her son had passed, realizing that come tomorrow, she too would be disappearing over that plain for longer than either wished to be parted. It was a slow and almost sad climb back to the Cauldron where they spent the rest of the day together.

And so, the next morning came and Rhapsody bid Achmed a sad goodbye at the entrance and road off, much like her son the day before. And just like the day before, Achmed climbed to the top of the Teeth and watched her silhouette disappear over the horizon.

"Well Rial, have you asked me all of your questions and had me sign all of your documents for the next six months?" Rhapsody wearily asked her advisor once she had signed what appeared to be the final document that he had to put before her.

"I do believe so, Your Majesty. I thank you very much for putting up with my whims. I just really do wish that you would come to Tyrian more often to go over these things," He answered her.

"I know you do. But honestly Rial, you don't really need me for this stuff. I know that it makes you feel better to have it taken care of by me, but really all that I am doing is agreeing with what you already have put forward. All that I am to the Lirin is a figure head. I don't really make the decisions around here."

"You could if you ever want to, and you know that," he reminded her. "But yes, you choose not to and things are still taken care of. Though I hate to see you go, I supposed that the Lirin will be able to make it without your guidance for some time now."

"Thank you Rial. Now, I think that I will change from this uncomfortable gown to something more suited to riding. I will depart this evening I believe."

A quick look of panic could just be seen being thrust down by the advisor as he quickly asked, "You're leaving tonight?"

"Yes, I have other places that I have promised to be and wish to leave as soon as possible."

"But Your Majesty, wouldn't it be better to wait for first light? It is becoming very cold out at night and the Lirin forest is rather dangerous in the dark. Surely waiting one final night won't make much difference in your timing," He said easily with a barely disguised thread of fear in his voice.

"Rial?" Rhapsody paused, "Why are you so nervous? I have ridden through the night before and in colder weather."

"Well, it was never with my blessing. Please Majesty; indulge me in this one last request before you go, wait till the morning."

Sighing once again, Rhapsody relented, "Alright. But I leave with first light tomorrow and no amount of begging on your part is going to change my mind."

Rial smiled and nodded saying, "Thank you Your Majesty. I promise that I will delay you no further beyond the morrow. Now good night." And he turned and left the room, smiling a disturbing grin once his back was turned to the Queen.

Now the sister is free to leave tonight and make it to her destination ahead of the Queen, he thought to himself. And tomorrow night, while Rhapsody is traveling, the most important part of the plan will be played out. She certainly will be surprised when she reaches the Bolg lands three days from now.

It was very late when Achmed finally went to bed two nights later. He had been tracking Rhapsody's heart beat and had determined that she would be in Ylorc late afternoon the next day. Wearily, he climbed into bed to try and get some rest.

For some reason, he had been on edge all day long. Something didn't feel right. He feared that something was about to happen to Rhapsody which is why he had been up so late, tracking her approach. Finally he decided that there was nothing that was going to happen and it was just him missing her that had gotten him so jumpy.

As he drifted into sleep, he began to have very disturbing dreams. At first, it was just a smell that infiltrated his dreams; a hint of the sea. How he hated that smell. Not only did he hate the sea, but it was a smell that he had always associated with Rhapsody's ex-husband, Ashe.

His dreams began to shift to flashes of feelings that someone was near by, someone that he couldn't see or sense but still knew was there. As the dream became more and more disturbing, a sharp pain shot through his neck as he was rudely awaken. He shot up from bed as he reached a hand to his neck. He felt a small quill like object protruding from his neck as the room began to spin.

He tried to get out of the bed as he searched for the source of this quill that had embedded into his neck but found that he had become too disoriented to rise and fell flat on his face as soon as his feet touched the floor. He could hear someone walking towards him as he struggled against whatever it was that was pulling him from consciousness. The dimly lit room was becoming dimmer and dimmer and the figure of a cloaked man hovered over him. Slowly, the figure drew a glowing blue blade from a hidden sheaf which flooded the room with its flowing light.

No, Achmed thought to himself as he saw the blade. It can't be, Ashe is dead.

The man figure bent over Achmed's numbing body and whispered in his ear as he lost his fight for consciousness. "Got ya," he said and that was all that Achmed knew for some time.