Chapter Twenty-Six

There was really much debate to be had about weeding before or after irrigation. On the plus side, the mud made it easier to pull up the pesky plants. On the down side… well, there was mud. Vexx sat back and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. At least harvest was coming soon. Then weeding would be the least of his worries. He was tempted to just throw the idea out now and let the things do whatever they wanted. It wasn't as if the weeds could get very big before the first frost anyway. Still, after the neglect that his herb garden had suffered while he was recovering, he figured that he needed to put all the effort he could into things to get a decent harvest now. He did want to have a reasonable amount of tea over the winter, so work it was.

The sound of footsteps caught his attention. Vexx sat up, catching sight of a figure moving between the trees. Kiri approached, lifting her skirts as she moved though the tall grasses. Her gaze lifted to lock on him. "Hello," she said, a bit doubtful sounding. "I, uhm, wanted to come check in on you." She ducked under a branch, only to rise up and hit her head on a basket that hung from the tree.

"Oh my goodness," she steadied the withered old basket with both hands. Inside there was an assortment of shiny stones that Vexx had collected. When Kiri noticed the markings and talismans hanging from it, she realized that it was an offering basket for spirits and quickly let go of it. "Uhm, sorry, Vargas," she said to the man it was no doubt dedicated to. She turned around and promptly ran into another, much newer basket. This one held a black stone, a small piece of scrap metal, and an animal horn. "I'm sorry, I'm so clumsy," Kiri said, distancing herself from the tree carefully. She gazed at the second basket for a moment before looking to Vexx. "Is that one… for Halcyon?"

Vexx hesitated a minute before nodding.

Kiri gave the basket a final glance before she moved closer to the warrior. "I've never been out here before." Her gaze moved across the many small gardens that dotted Vexx's sunlit corner of the world, finally falling to his tiny house wedged in the shade between the trees. "It's nice. Very quiet."

Vexx nodded again and came to his feet, trying to dust mud from his knees to no avail. He plucked a few leaves from a plant and started to chew on them. When Kiri gave him a questioning look over this, he offered her one of the sweet smelling leaves. She took it from his hand with no hesitation, but much curiosity. There was a silence between them as they each chewed the sweet herbs.

"Ahden came back," Kiri said suddenly. "He found a place that considered the sundial evil magic. They were more than happy to let him take it away to Dragonreach. They even helped him move it." Vexx gave an airy nod.

"You are… doing well?" Kiri asked. Vexx nodded. Kiri nodded as well. "Your hand?" she asked. He held up his shield hand, showing that it looked flawless as before. He flexed the fingers and then folded his hands together to show her that it didn't hurt at all anymore. Halcyon had succeeded in repairing one thing that had been fractured. Kiri nodded to him. "Good. Very good."

The awkwardness of the whole conversation was too much for the warrior. He made a motion that could possibly be taken as a sign that he wanted her to follow and started walking toward his house. They were only a few steps away from the garden when Kiri suddenly took him by the elbow, stopping him. "Vexx, I have to talk with you." He faced her fully and she held on to his hand while she spoke. "I want you to know that I'm not angry with you. I know why you did what you did. Look, all of my wounds have healed. I doubt if they'll even scar. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Will you please stop avoiding me now?"

The warrior's gaze darted away across the ground and he rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He didn't know that she had noticed such things. It was actually a little scary how well she could read him. He looked back to her sheepishly and nodded.

Kiri breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I'm glad that nonsense is over with." She didn't let go of his hand as she smiled kindly. He returned the smile. To his surprise, she suddenly scooped him up in a tight hug. To her surprise, he returned the hug as well.

"I know it was you," she whispered, "The one who told the shadow creatures that we will live in peace. You said all of that, not him. Didn't you?" The tenseness that shifted in his shoulders was all the answer she needed. He never expected that anyone would know it had been him speaking through the Wraith. He really didn't know what to make of it. She moved back a step, holding both of his hands carefully. "Your words were beautiful. I know you were still wary of such a plan. Thank you for doing it anyway. It means a lot to me."

Vexx gave her a shy smile.

"I expect that you will be at the harvest festival?"

The warrior looked doubtful.

"Oh, please?" Kiri asked him, moving so that he had to look at her pleading eyes. "It would mean a lot to me if you were there. Please?" Fixed with such a look, Vexx found himself giving in and agreeing to go. Kiri smiled broadly. "Good. I'll have to cook something special just for you!"

A sudden call came from not far off. "Vexx!" The warrior looked up sharply, seeing Gly running their direction. Vexx took a step away from Kiri, moving to meet Gly and find out what was happening that had him running through the forest like a madman.

He was caught completely off guard when the man suddenly pounced upon him and Kiri, pulling them with him to the ground upon each arm. Vexx gave a surprised squeak when he tumbled onto the grass. The laughter from his two friends set his mind at ease that he hadn't accidentally injured anyone. Kiri started shoving and lecturing Gly about just jumping on people, a giggle still in her tone all the while. They all three fed off of each other's laughter until their sides ached and faces hurt from smiling. The uproar died down to the few lingering giggles and snorts.

Something occurred to Vexx then. There were many things that the Astani had destroyed, and he had long ago placed his life on that list of things. He realized that this didn't have to be true. There is always some way to repair that which needs mending. He had just given up searching for it. He rolled onto his stomach to face Kiri and Gly. He carefully took each of their hands in his. As they held his hand in return, he realized that he really didn't have to be alone. They would be there for him, and likewise, he for them. They were the most important people in his life now. They were his friends.

A balance had been restored.


A huge thanks to everyone who has read this far. This is the first story I've completed in years and it was a blast to write. Thanks for reading and reviewing! -GiNA