:Are the Dreamweavers well?
:They are thriving, especially since the deaths of the gods. I have seen so many already in my travels! How fare the Siyee?
:They are still grieving Huan's death, though I think Speaker Sirri and the other officials understand that it was not my fault.
:In time, they will accept their loss and move on, especially if you show them what Huan did to them in reality during the Age of the Many.
:You know I can't do that!
:Eventually, you'll realize that it's the best course of action. Show them Huan's crimes during the ancient age, and they will shun her and her memory.
Auraya abruptly broke the dream link, not wanting to think about hurting the Siyee even more. If only the other Wilds weren't so against the gods! They were only now, five years after his death, accepting Auraya's choice to take the god Chaia as her lover so long ago.
Drifting in the dream trance, Auraya thought of an age in the distant future and imagined it into being within her mind. A world where she and the other immortals were respected, and the gods were forgotten. With a slight smile, she reminded herself that the Dreamweavers would never forget the Age of the Five, because their link memories would keep the age alive for all eternity, reminding them of the dangers of becoming too reliant on immortals, and especially power-hungry unscrupulous ones.
She then imagined what the other Wilds might be in the future. Emerahl, the immortal once known as the Hag, would, of course, be a teacher of sorcery, in the guild she had already created. Tamun, the shy and female side of the pair of Wilds previously called the Twins, would be the immortal head of The City of Artisans, her already growing empire of learned thinkers and artists. Smiling, she knew that Mirar would continue to guide the Dreamweavers as long as he was able, spreading knowledge of healing and magic throughout Northern and Southern Ithania. Surim, the "male" twin of the pair, and once conjoined with Tamun, a gregarious and active individual, would probably run most of the economy in the future, she realized, with his newfound skill at trading.
And what of the Gull? Auraya considered the little-known immortal who took the form of a young boy. She assumed that he was older than even the Twins, who were well into their third millennium, as he had previously stated that he had lived for a millennium before taking to the ocean, where he had lived for at least another thousand years after that, as he had been a legend before Mirar's birth. He probably wouldn't change at all, she decided, though he might gain an alliance among the Elai in the distant future, as they both wandered the oceans since the fall of the gods, and would eventually clash if they refused to join forces.
Smiling at her created world, Auraya let herself fall into unconsciousness, the dream she had willed into being washing over her as she slept.
Emerahl stepped out of her platten into the heart of the city of Glymma, a former center of the gods' power, along with the great metropolis of Jarime. Straightening nervously, the immortal brushed a hand through her vivid red hair and headed for the former temple, which had been converted into a great palace.
"Emerahl," the ruler of the city said kindly, taking the immortal's hand and leading her into the palace. Emerahl looked her over. Imenja, formerly Second Voice of the Gods, once subordinate to the short-lived First Voices, was dark-skinned and elegant, tall with elaborate black hair and the expression of a true ancient. As one of the oldest non-Wilds, other than perhaps Juran and Dyara, formerly of the White, Emerahl wasn't surprised by the look of age on her face.
"I am glad to be so warmly welcomed, ruler of the South," Emerahl said politely, inclining her head.
Imenja laughed loudly, throwing back her head, "No need for formality," she said firmly, "I have heard from Mirar that you can be quite intimidating when you wish. He also told me why you are visiting me here."
Emerahl nodded, "Mirar believes that you may be a new sorcerer capable of becoming immortal, and the other immortals sent me here to provide a second opinion, and attempt to train you to gain immortality," she said, reviewing her orders. Imenja nodded thoughtfully.
"I believe Mirar referred to my continued mind-reading talent as my "innate gift"," she said, "Though I understand that the young Auraya can also read minds."
Emerahl nodded again, "Auraya firmly believes that she received that ability after learning it during her time as a White, as a residual skill, in addition to her powers of flight," the red-haired, shorter woman turned to regard the ruler of Southern Ithania and regarded her frankly, "Forgive me if I say that I do not believe you to be an immortal. I think that you're situation is similar to Auraya's, in fact. I think you are a former slave of the gods, with some residual power."
"Do not worry," Imenja laughed again, this time with a challenging edge, "I'm sure that I will prove both you and the ruler of the Siyee wrong."
Mairae looked in the mirror sadly. Her youth was finally beginning to fade, after well over 25 years as a young woman. The other former White were beginning to age as well, she told herself, and would all too soon reach old age.
Juran was taking the situation the hardest, the woman mused, plaiting her hair and applying facial cream assured to hide age lines. After a hundred years at a single age, she guessed, he had probably never expected to reach old age. Rian was also grieving, though Mairae believed that his sadness had more to do with the loss of the gods than the onset of age. The other fanatic former White and the youngest of them, Ellareen, commiserated with the older man, and the two of them were beginning to try and convince their fellows to claim that the gods still lived and hunt down the Wilds and any other immortals. The two loyal extremists had also resented the laws passed by the other three officials, especially the repealing of the restrictions against Dreamweavers, along with their use of Gifts, and their choice to allow the Wilds to roam free.
In her mind, Mairae considered the Wilds she had met so far, having nothing better to do as she styled her hair in a way she hoped would hide, or at least draw attention away from, the paling roots of the hairs. Surim, the trader immortal who often visited Jarime, was certainly handsome, she decided, for the umpteenth time, definitely more handsome than many of the princes that she had "enjoyed" over the years. She could also proudly compare him with her best lovers, having enjoyed a few secret nights in her rooms with him. She would have never guessed that he was several times older than Mirar, but Juran had assured her of the truth.
Tamun was nice, she remembered from her visit to The City of Artisans in central Ithania, carved in the mountain pass to Sennon. She was terrified around the other White, however, and had insisted on speaking only with Mairae, whom she said was easiest to read as trustworthy. It was certainly disconcerting to meet someone so experienced in emotion reading so as to be able to sense a person's trustworthiness at a glance.
Emerahl, one of the younger Wilds, was similar to Mairae in many ways, the blond woman realized, as she checked the mirror to assure herself that her age did not show. Beautiful, powerful, lusty, there had been an instant rapport between the former White and the ruler of the Sorcerer's Guild in Somrey. During Mairae's weeks at the Guild, negotiating peace with the cantankerous Wild, they had compared lovers several times, with the older immortal always coming out on top with her trump card, Mirar.
The Gull was the one Wild Mairae had yet to meet. Juran and Mairae both held against the other rulers of Hania that a person of the sea, one who protected moral sailors, was no threat to the peoples of the continents, while Rian, Ellareen and Dyara, the second former White, continued to stubbornly insist that ignoring the ancient could only result in disaster across the world when the child decided that he wanted more territory. Mairae snorted as she dressed in her new, colourful government uniform. Why would a ruler of the oceans need more living space? His realm covered most of the world, a space that even an immortal Wild could never make use of.
Then there were the two younger Wilds. Well, one Wild and one possible immortal. Auraya had assured them that she was no threat, and still stayed in Si, caring for the Siyee and helping them through their grieving for the goddess Huan, their creator. For once, all of the rulers were in agreement about her. Until she showed signs of becoming a threat, they would allow her to live her life in peace, but there was also the Second Voice of the Gods, Imenja, to worry about.
Throughout negotiations with Southern Ithania, Imenja had been helpful and reasonable, suggesting that her superiors had been giving her strict orders to remain in line during their brief reigns. Her quick execution of First Voice Nekaun, her elected superior, was enough proof of that, Mairae supposed, though she realized that the revenge was justified, as the power-mad Voice had raped three Servants of the Gods, including Imenja's own Companion and best friend, Reivan.
And now this strict ruler may be a Wild, Mairae mused, She must know what Rian and Ellareen may decide if she does make herself immortal. They will destroy her, completely and utterly. Reivan too. The former immortal was surprised to feel sympathy for the empress. She can either live out her natural life and leave her kingdom to a young person, who may destroy all her work, she thought, Or she can choose to join the ranks of the immortals and risk being obliterated by Northern Ithania, which will risk anything to destroy such a powerful immortal. She winced as she considered the possible consequences. Not that we would win such a war, especially if the Wilds and their many followers sided with Southern Ithania. It would be better for all involved if Imenja did not become immortal, Mairae decided, or if the Avvenan kept her change quiet until the former White were all dead of old age. As her thoughts turned to her impending mortality, Mairae pushed those depressing ideas to the side, concentrating on a stubbornly sagging section of cloth. Oh please, not a sagging bust already! she prayed in vain.