Disclaimer: If I was Tad Williams, would I pretend to be from the teeny-weeny little country they call Wales? And would I spell in the Queens English? Unlikely. I know he has an imagination but ... Yep, very unlikely.
Thank-you so much to Zita-01 and Kitty Invictus for reviewing - you are soooooo great and I'm glad you like it!
My daughter, my child!
"Maiara. Maiara, wake up." A calm voice called, a hand on her shoulder. Maiara felt her dream slipping away. She opened her eyes. Jiriki was standing in front of her, looking down at her.
Someone came into her room and gave Jiriki a bowl; steam rose from the liquid within it. He sat on the bed, next to her. "Drink this. It will help clear away the thoughts from the Road of Dreams."
He helped her to sit up against the pillows and Jiriki, ever so gently, lifted the bowl to her lips. It was warm and tasted like lemon and something else ... honey?
"Good." Jiriki put the bowl down on the table next to her bed and sat watching her face. Maiara felt a memory tugging at her mind. She stared at the opposite wall, a scene playing in her minds eye.
A young woman with white hair was lying on the ground in front of her. An arrow, blue fletched with bronze, protruded from her back.
Maiara heard her voice, seeming very young; "Ma? Mama? Mama!"
Maiara found herself looking at Jiriki. "Oh. Oh, mama!" She felt tears coming to her eyes and sadness overwhelmed her. She threw herself at the nearest thing – Jiriki – and wrapped her arms round his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.
Jiriki stiffened as he felt her wrap her arms around him. Aditu opened the door, holding another bowl of something for Maiara, but when she saw Jiriki and her, she immediately set down the bowl and left quietly.
Maiara sobbed and sobbed. It was such pain as she had never experienced before. "Mama," she choked into Jiriki's shirt. He, without thinking, curled his arms round her small waist and held her close, laying his cheek on her head.
She pushed her face into Jiriki's shirt, tightening her grip around his neck. Her tears were falling fast, soaking the front of the green material. "Dead," she choked, "all dead."
Jiriki pulled her closer, wanting to comfort her. "Maiara..." he said softly. She moved her head slightly. He sighed into her hair, finding that her hair smelt of grass and cut hay.
Maiara hugged him, the memory of her sudden flashback fading. "They're all dead, Jiriki," she choked out. "Killed in the stable...and the woods. Blue arrows. Dead." She murmured into his green shirt, now very damp from her tears.
Taking in her words, but resolving to ask her later, he reached for the bowl of hot liquid Aditu had brought in, but it was too far away for him to reach with her clinging to his neck. "Maiara," he said, gently trying to dislodge her arms. She wriggled discontentedly.
"No." she said. Jiriki stared down at her white head in amusement, though the memory of her screams of horror were still fresh in his mind.
Maiara leant her head against the Sitha's shoulder and relaxed a little bit. She felt him loosen his grip on her and lean back a little. "How are you feeling?" he looked at her red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained face.
"I'm -" she tried to suppress a yawn, unsuccessfully. "I'm fine."
"I think you should sleep," he said, "have some of the cara, the soup. It will help you to sleep." She was still leaning against his chest, an arm steadying herself, as she was still light-headed.
She nodded in agreement. "I don't think I will need help to sleep, Jiriki," she said with a small smile.
"Nevertheless, it will give you a dreamless sleep , and keep you off the Dream Road. It seems perilous at the moment ... for you, anyway."
She agreed and he, one arm still round her waist, lifted the bowl gently to her mouth. She drank it, and immediately felt sleepy. It must be very potent, she thought, before her eyes closed and she felt sleep overtake her. Her last conscious remembrance was Jiriki gently lowering her down into the bed and drawing the covers up around her. Even as she slept, she could feel his hand on hers.
Jiriki watched her sleep. Her hair, grey when he had first seen her, was now snow-white and quite short, just to her neck, though it straggled little and was all different lengths. He couldn't understand why she had white hair like that. Surely it was not a normal colour for humans? There were a lot of things Jiriki did not understand about her, and he knew even less, but he enjoyed her company.
Her face was a little like a Sitha's, now he thought about it, thinner and paler, but not unhealthy. Her cheekbones were high, though, and her chin was rounded and strong, while her eyelashes were long. Like the Sithi, and yet – not like the Sithi.
Her hand, still hot from the mild fever she had, clutched at his own cool one. In her sleep, she groaned as the potion stopped her accessing the Road of Dreams. He did not know what had happened down by the pond, but it had terrified her. She had screamed like someone being tortured, then fallen silent, eyes wandering under her lids.
He had carried her in and sent for Aditu. She had prepared the potion, while he sat with Maiara, wetting her brow and doing what he could to make her more comfortable.
He had had to wake her when her breathing started rasping, so he had called her name, and she had miraculously woken. But she had dissolved into despairing and heart-wrenching sobs. He hadn't known what to do with her when she had hugged him, but it just came naturally to hold her close. And it had seemed to comfort her.
Jiriki looked down at her sleeping face. He stroked her hand gently. He would be there when she woke.
The sun was setting over Jao e-Tinukai'i when Maiara awoke again. She yawned, well rested and rolled over. Jiriki was sitting by her bed, and, she noticed for the first time, gently holding her hand, while Aditu stood next to him, talking quietly. Apparently she had finished, because she left the room quietly, leaving Jiriki behind. He stared after her with an unreadable expression on his face.
Maiara turned over fully to look at Jiriki, moving carefully; she felt a bit delicate. "Ugh," she grunted; Jiriki heard.
"Maiara!" She tried to sit up. "No," he placed his hands gently on her shoulders and pressed her back down, "you should lie down."
Maiara obediently lay back down. "Good morning to you as well."
He smiled. "It is sunset; you have slept long."
"That long?" she asked, dismayed. "Did I keep you from your business?"
Jiriki shook his head. "I have had no appointments today. And I would have cancelled them if I had," he said. Surprised by this, Maiara opened her mouth to ask something, but the door opened and Aditu entered, bearing a bowl of hot water and a towel.
"He has not left your side," she said quietly, a smile tugging at her lips. Maiara wanted to ask something about that as well, but Aditu continued. "Here is some water for washing. Go back to sleep when you can." And she disappeared again.
Blinking at her sudden departure, Maiara turned to Jiriki. He saw her look and his eyes sparkled at her again. "Aditu is in a hurry."
"So I saw," she said.
"Yes," Jiriki said more seriously, "she has been very ... busy for these last few moon-spans. I do not understand it, but," he said, as if to be clear on the subject, "I will not pry into my sister's life."
Maiara turned her head back to the centre of her pillow. "Did you – did you really stay with me?" She chanced a glance at him. His gaze was fixed on the vase of purple flowers on her table.
"I did," he said slowly. "But why do you ask?"
Caught, she gave a truthful answer. "I just ... didn't you would ... that anyone would."
Jiriki surveyed her through amber eyes. "Do you feel like telling me what happened?"
Maiara sighed, "I saw ... my mother ... and my grandparents and my father. Some people were attacking us; we were in a place like a stable. They killed my grandmother and grandfather and my mother." Maiara paused, remembering her vision. "She was very beautiful; she had white hair, all soft and warm; and she had tanned skin, not pale like me and father." Maiara was staring at the wall where a creeper was making it's sneaky way up her wall, and did not see Jiriki start at this. "She was called ... Ellen. She didn't want to leave him, but he told her to take me and go. But we didn't ... she was shot and then father found me."
Jiriki now was watching her intently, and it confused her. "What is wrong? Why do you not like me to talk about mother?" she cried. She felt aggressive; he was insulting her mother, her brave, beautiful mother!
He blinked. "I do not dislike you talking about your mother; you have given me much to think of."
"You, Maiara, are the most unusual thing ever to -" he stopped abruptly, then started again. "I must talk with my mother and the other Lords of the Zida'ya. The butterflies have gathered," he finished, as if this explained everything.
"Jiriki! That is not a proper answer!"
He stared at her. "When the butterflies gather, it means that great events are about to happen."
"What great events?" she asked, feeling as if there really was too much to take in.
"I cannot know ... but it could be you." Maiara froze, stunned, unable to comprehend what he meant.
"You're wrong; I can't be great event. Great events are wars or deaths or something, not people – and certainly not me!"
"Why not?" he said calmly.
"Because ... that's just ridiculous!" she exclaimed, annoyed at the way he seemed to be so calm.
"Maiara, why was your mother killed?"
She gaped at him. Was this some kind of cruel Sithi game? But no, Jiriki wasn't like that; he wouldn't, he had been good to her since she had first entered the Yasira. "My father wouldn't say. We lived in Hyrka when she died and then we fled to the Wealdhelm, and started collecting more horses to breed."
"He told you nothing?" His face was calm.
"He just said ... that the Hyrka-men didn't like her because she was foreigner."
"Where was she from?"
"I – I never thought to ask; it was too much of painful subject for him."
Jiriki, watching her closely, might have made a sympathetic face. "But why the people of Wealdhelm drive you out?"
Maiara swallowed, tired from her earlier tears. "A man came; a Rimmersman – Kraken Kaldskryke, he gave his name as; he was the son of a disgraced nobleman. He saw me in the village. He called me a faery demon and a devil's helper; he convinced the villagers that I was evil. One night he led that ambush and ..." Maiara felt a lump in her throat rise, but she fought it down. "And drove us out. Probably stole our horses, took the colts, drowned the young stock ate the sheep." She quivered with anger at the thought of her neatly arranged home that she had kept for her father and herself being despoiled by Kaldskryke.
"What happened to your father?"
She shrugged; "We were running into the forest but they still followed us; I looked behind me and he was gone. Taken a wrong turning, maybe."
"But then, how did you come to be so close to Jao e-Tinukai'i?"
She shook her head. "I've always had a good sense of direction; I just went in one direction, hoping to get out. I thought if I could get to Erchester, I could find work around the Hayholt; they tell me they are more civilised than Hyrka traders and Black Rimmersmen." Maiara clenched her fists; Jiriki was surprised to hear a strong undercurrent of anger in her voice, something he had never heard before.
"Why," Jiriki stopped; he felt terrible interrogating her like this when he already knew some of the answers. "Why did they think you were evil as well, if your mother wasn't there?"
She smiled grimly, and lowered her eyes. "But you already know, Jiriki, don't you?"
"I can make only guesses, Maiara."
This time her smile was bitter. "Tell me, these guesses."
He did not answer, but cupped her chin in his cool hand and lifted her face to meet his eyes. "Your eyes change. They are a deep purple."
She gently took Jiriki's hand away from her chin, but kept her hand lightly on his palm when it fell back to the bedclothes. "All my life I was persecuted for what I look like – who I am. All humans are the same. You are the first person who has not driven me away from their property with a pitchfork and hunting bow." She watched a blue iris sway in the breeze. "In fact, even the bull that the farmers shared round their farms in the spring were kinder than most humans I've known."
Jiriki felt pity deep in his bones, something unusual; Sithi did not feel the way mortals did; it was not something that the wild, brittle natures of the Zida'ya often felt. Her slender fingers were still lying on his open palm; in the only gesture of comfort he could do,he closed his fingers over her hand and gently squeezed. "Your eyes are beautiful."
They turned a light brown, and she met his eyes. "They aren't. I know that."
"Why are you so ... unconfident? There is nothing the matter with you."
She laughed bitterly, which shocked him; of all the emotions that humans were prone to, bitterness was the least he would have expected in her. "I am not unconfident. I know what I can do and what I can't; I can wash clothes, weave cloth, sew and break in horses. I am confident – if I wasn't – well, I would be sitting here with all my body parts intact, most likely."
"They were so cruel?" asked Jiriki, wondering how Seoman managed to rule such subjects as the ones Maiara had known.
"No," she said slowly, eyes fixed on some other thing, "no, the people in the Wealdhelm are not cruel – father decided to live there because of the gentle way they handle their animals – but I think they are easily led. Anyone could have stirred them up, made them hate anything; and we were prime subjects for a Black Rimmersman. But the Hyrka-people ... father wasn't one, you know, but we fitted in for a while and we stayed. They are fierce, but the way they handle their horses is legendary and that is why we settled there."
"Do you miss your family?"
She was startled by the question. "No ... I don't. It feels wrong, that I am safe here and my father may be starving or dead." She was stricken by the thought. "What if he is dead?! I have to find him...!" She tried to get out of bed, but Jiriki pushed her back down.
"No." he said firmly. "I will send out one of the small scouting parties to find him ... it may be bad news, though."
"I realise that, but I would still like to know ... will you really do that?"
"Of course – the Zida'ya do not tell untruths. And I know how it is to lose a relative slowly and painfully."
She stared at him, still holding his hand. "Who?"
"My father, the lord of the House of Year-Dancing; Shima'onari was his name. Nik'ua, the greatest beast ever whelped in the harsh kennels of Sturmspeik killed him. All the Sithi were meeting in the Yasira. She and her master, a Black Rimmersman called Ingen Jegger, came through a powerful Witness and killed both my father and Amerasu Ship-Born."
"Oh Jiriki ..." Bitterness and bad memories forgotten, Maiara crawled out of her covers and over to the Sitha, who, in his turn, was staring out of the window at the Pwll. She sat next to him and curled her arms around his neck and hugged him. He was obviously surprised. "I don't understand half of what you said but ... but if my father was pursued by the villagers when they couldn't find me, then I think he probably met the same fate as your father. I'm so sorry."
And Jiriki could tell that this was not one of the pointless things mortals went through life saying, but a sincere and real sorrow for his loss. He hugged her back, and they sat, his head on her short white hair, facing the open window, watching the fiery sunset over Jao e-Tinukai'i.
And a new chapter!! Please review, even if it's anonymous, I love to know what you think. Hope you enjoyed!