Gift fic for ladycordelia17, whom I promised this quite some time ago. This particular caravan belongs to her. Any errors in her canon are mine, not hers. I would have had her check it over, but I wanted it to be a surprise. The style is based on the Stages of Love challenge on livejournal.
Hope you enjoy!
David first meets Anaїs Nin at the rejuvenation ceremony. Her hair gleams in the crystal's ethereal glow. She is at once alabaster and angel, myrrh and miasma, sensuality and sexuality in one compact, lithe form.
He is nineteen, with untamable blond hair and a face still marked with spots, and not quite finished with his final growth spurt. She, in comparison to his sweaty palms and aching bones, is cool and calm, a woman grown at fourteen.
He dreams about her all the fourth year, heated dreams that leave him gasping into wakefulness, blankets clenched in his fists as he imagines all the things this girl-turned-too-quickly-to-woman could teach him about love and lust. Lydia looks at him all too knowingly for a little sister those first few months, her dark brown eyes soft with pity.
The farther they get from Tipa, the further apart the dreams become, until one day he realizes with a start he hasn't thought of the Selkie beauty for weeks.
At the next ceremony, he scans the crowd for her face, seeing where she stands with her cousin Foo Kloo. Her face is still lovely, her skin still smooth, her eyes as cool as the icy sleet of the Alfitarian highlands, but his heart remains at its regular pace and his palms stay dry.
He dances with each of his siblings, his mother, a few of the village girls--even Anaїs Nin--but he goes to bed thinking of nothing but the caravan's departure the next day.
The innkeeper's daughter at the Fields of Fum has copper colored hair. He notices because he's owned enough weapons made of various metals to accurately describe these things now. She is perhaps twenty to his twenty-two. She is plump and has freckles dotting her cheeks, nose, and what he can see of her shoulders.
"Five rooms, please," he tells her, knowing they must be available, for Fum rarely gets visitors. Counting the gil into her hand, he silently thanks the Lady Mio for gracing them with enough money to survive, and to enjoy some feather beds and privacy every few months.
"Ah, the caravan from Tipa?" she asks him, and when he nods, beams. "Got some mail for ye!" she says, rummaging around beneath the desk. She passes the bundle to him with another smile, and he is taken aback by how kind she looks.
"Thank you," he tells her, and walks away smiling.
When the letter comes to him after their next drop of myrrh, he isn't surprised to discover it's from her.
Your friend, Celia, she signs it, and only then does he blush to realize he never asked her name.
There is nothing better than the cold, smooth metal of a blade. He practices his sword work by day and hones his muscles by night. His parents had not understood his refusal to learn their trade, but the caravan had.
He promised Roland all those years ago that he would live and die by the caravan of Tipa, and that's what he intends to do.
The sun is setting to the west, the sky dyed orange and red, the water turned indigo as they continue to splash and play.
Dimo Nor laughs, his gruff voice ringing heartily out over the stillness of the evening. He uses his helm to send a sheet of water flying at Anaїs Nin, who shrieks in surprise and sends a splash right back.
David laughs from where he sits on the shore with Khetala, watching the other three play. Lydia is giving as good as she's getting, teaming up with her best friend in order to show Dimo Nor exactly who's in charge.
"Not up for a wade?' David asks his companion, gesturing at the shallow stream they'd found early that afternoon. The water is frantic with their splashing and running, each move rippling far beyond their sight.
Khetala shakes her helmed head slowly, and he correctly reads the amusement there. "Nay, far too cold now, I think," she says after a moment. "I am not much a fan of being wet, but I certainly hope that you are."
David is about to turn to see what she means, looking over his shoulder that way, when he is hit with a dash of absolutely frigid water. He can't help the squeak of surprise, or the sudden shivers, or the baleful glare at his little sister, who is smirking. She has Dimo's helm, already filled with more water, and Dimo stands some distance away with Anaїs Nin, both grinning and trying to appear innocent.
"Oh, you'll regret that," he promises them, and throws himself into the stream.
Hours later, the four are still somewhat damp and snuggled together around the warm blaze of a campfire. Khetala sits across from them, perfectly warm and smug, if one believed that Yukes felt such petty emotions.
"C'mon, Davy," Lydia says, prodding him with both elbow and childhood nickname, "Give us a story. Something good."
"Aye, warm the cockles of our hearts, if ye cannot warm the rest of us," Dimo sallies out, and receives a light tap on the head from Anaїs Nin.
"Go on, David," the Selkie urges, eyes flashing like quicksilver with excitement. "Something with style."
"A good fight," Dimo adds.
Lydia leans a little more on him. "And a happily ever after."
Khetala nods. "Don't forget a lesson well learned before that."
David searches his memory for the story that fits all these things, and recalls the perfect one. He takes a deep breath, and with his audience hanging on every word, begins the tale.
"Once upon a time..."
If Anaїs Nin embodied silver, Celia born of copper, and his sister carrying a heart of gold, then Khetala was forged out of pure steel.
"I'll follow you to the very end," he promises her. It is a dark night, the miasma so thick this close to Mount Vellenge that they cannot even see the stars.
She inclines her head to one side, sallet glinting in the firelight as she regards him. "And after?"
Who is he to question? She's had a plan all along, and sometimes it seems he's been following her all his life. "And after."