Chapter 1: Established

Ariasha hugged herself to her knees, waiting for Danveer to come back. Her cousin – who she thought of more as a brother – had left to gather more provisions for the tavern one story above. Ariasha would have normally gone along with him. But instinct told her to stay put for today. She always followed that instinct. It was what had kept her alive on more than one occasion. Ariasha knew he'd only be a few minutes more. She could hear his thoughts and "speak" to him. To keep herself occupied, she eavesdropped on the minds of the people on the street, rather not knowing the thinkings of the tavern men.

: – Mama wanted three eggs, four ears of corn –:

: – Did Baidy just leave the bakery with –:

: – Gods, please let me find my little brother! – :

The last Ariasha paid special attention to. Delving into different layers of the girl's mind, she found the face and voice of the boy she was worrying over. Ariasha passed over the mindvoices in all directions, looking for the one she hoped would be frantic in mindscreaming I'm lost! When she did, she mindspoke gently – it was almost whispering – :Gady – Gady, she's in front of the Lantern Light Tavern: She then assured his sister, in the same tone, to wait where she was. She listened to them as soon as she was sure they had been reunited. Both shouted with relief. Ariasha smiled to herself, her heart lightened for however briefly it would last.

She could still remember a time when the voices overwhelmed her to the brink of insanity. It was a swarm of buzzing, but ten-thousand-fold louder than any hornet hive. She still had thin scars on her upper arms form self-inflicted wounds. Through her special form of hearing, Ariasha had learned more than just her own tongue – however crudely it had once been – and still was – spoken.

With this gods-given gift, she had came to somewhat understand people in general, and why they did the things they would. Many thirsted for power, wealth, fame, the lot of it. There were those who begged the gods for more than concrete to sleep on, or rotted food to make a meager meal. The humble, and yet the bitter.

Then there were those. The ones who looked upon all with kindness, compassion, and respect; whose only wish was to be of aid to those who truly needed them. That was why Ariasha secretly admired Heralds. They would even give their lives if it would save another's. She couldn't imagine doing that for anyone she knew. Except Danveer.

:Ari? Can ye hear me?: her cousin asked.

:Jus' fine, Danny.: she reassured him.

:Good! 'M back, an' 'll be there scantly.:

:Savvy, Heart-sib.:

Ari sighed and made her way to her feet, stretching. She waited some feet out of the door's range. Her sensitive ears heard Danny trek through the cellar entrance and down the stone stairway, ragged shoes making a soft scraping noise against the floor.

Danny swung the door open, his and Ari's meals in his left hand. Ari smiled genuinely at her caretaker, and Danny returned it with his own lop-sided grin. He walked in, closing the door and handing Ari the goods from inside his pockets: half a loaf of bread, two flasks of ale, and two red apples, courtesy of Lord Orthallen's pantry (as per usual). Ari's eyes widened in excitement at the prospect of the apples; she would never know why she craved them the way she did, hoarding them greedily whenever she acquired one. Not even Danny dared touch her when she had the crimson fruit – he was rather attached to the idea of keeping his fingers on his hands.

The Heart-sibs ate in silence, savoring every bite of the freshest meal they'd had in weeks, Ari sitting stretched-out on the floor, Danny leaning against the closed door. Ari looked at her coz. Standing, he was easily six-feet to her five-feet-four-inches. Gray-blue eyes sat on firm, sculpted cheek bones. Covering his eyes were slightly curled locks of soft brown that hung loosely about his forehead, ears, and neck. He was wiry, thin in the shoulders, chest and waist, though that didn't mean he wasn't muscled – which he was. But being muscled didn't mean being stone-solid, either. He was someone easy to physically – as well as emotionally – cling to. Which Ari still did. It was what she had been doing since her mother abandoned her.

Finished eating (even the core of the apple), Ari leaned against the wall and sighed in contentment. Danny grinned.

"Done good, 'ave I?"

"Oh, aye. I'd say so." Danny finished as well and situated himself so he was sitting next to Ari. Putting an arm around her he asked: " 'Ow fairs ye, me Wolf Pup?"

She considered it. "I fair right well, I s'pose." He pulled her into a loose embrace.

" 'M happy, then." He looked her in the eye, all seriousness. " 'M always here, Lass. Whenever ye may needs me." Ari tramped down the tightness in her throat. When she'd mastered it, she wrapped her arms around Danny tightly. She gradually lessened her hold as she Listened for the people upstairs, to see if her uncle had closed for the night.

Satisfied, she nodded once to herself. Even if Danny couldn't hear her unless she Spoke to him, he still knew what she was thinking. He knew her too well.

Making their way upstairs, they passed Skerry – Ari's uncle and Danny's father. Danny put a hand on her shoulder protectively. He stared down his father who was glowering at the girl, Danny daring him to even try something. Skerry mumbled to himself angrily, turning away from the two. They continued on upstairs and into a room in the back that overlooked the streets, facing east.

The Heart-sibs shared this room; Ari felt safer for it, and Danny could keep an eye out for her. That and there weren't any other rooms she would willingly go into. The staff and Skerry all assumed another happening was going on in their room, despite the fact that Ari was only twelve-years-old.

In their cramped little room lay two pallets, stuffed with old straw, the room's only furniture. Danny opened the window, the summer heat just now breaking into an autumnal gust.

Already settled, Ari asked: "Would you sing to me?"

Danny raised an eyebrow. "When 'tis ye who should be a Bard?" She widened her eyes in her best impersonation of a starving puppy. Danny rolled his eyes as he wriggled to find some comfort. He cleared his throat.

"Ahem. My Lady's eyes are like the skies, a soft and sunlit blue –" Ari promptly play-slapped him. "You know which song." She meant the song that he'd thought up himself, to get her to sleep when she'd been younger. Sighing, he began quietly, humming at first. He looked off at the wall, focusing on the lyrics.

When Danny finally looked at Ari, she had already fallen asleep.

This night, the same as every other before it, Danny bequeathed the gods.

Please, Danny begged them, please let Ari be Chos'n! She des'rves so much better'n this!


Sapphire eyes gazed into her soul.

:I'm coming, Beloved.:

Ari awoke with a start. Dawn was peeking hesitantly through the grimy window.