By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 25 - Family Woes

We were hiding in the darkness, north of the alliance, and I turned to Riley, dried blood covered both of us. We looked terrible, as though returning from the battlefield, and I spoke softly.

“I’m so tired. I don’t even know where to begin.”

“You’ll find a way,” he said as he put his arm around me. “You always seem to figure things out. I’m sure you’ll know what to say.”

His words did not help my longing for a powerful speech. Nevertheless, it began when I called upon clouds to mass above the campsite of my friends. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself within the clouds, looking down.

“Don’t be frightened,” I said. My face appeared among the clouds, and my voice was loud yet calm as I spoke to the men and women on the ground. They stared up, believing I was a ghost. Most of them thought I had been killed by the protectors and came back as a guide or was ready to give crucial information.

“It’s not what you think,” I continued. “We survived, the King and I, and we are here to tell you of our meeting with the protectors. We wish to inform you of our negotiations. The protectors have agreed to stop the plague on all humans.” I heard claps and far-off cheers. They died down when I spoke again.

“There are complications with our truce, and it will be difficult for some of you to accept, especially those of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one.” I looked down through the clouds – my eyes were shut while standing next to Riley. I spotted Sir Edward from above and explained our plans.

“We have agreed to teach protectors about humanity, which means we’ll need each of you to help immortals feel what it means to be human. They do not understand us yet, but are willing to listen. In turn, they will no longer harm us and will also provide our leaders with their knowledge of the world.

“It will be a cooperative effort like none other, especially because it involves two races of beings that have never interacted peacefully. Peace rests in your hands. Without everyone’s effort much will be lost and I am here now with over two thousand protectors.” I sensed their uneasiness and heard conversation in the crowd.

“I beseech you, trust your King and Queen, for the good of all humans. If you fire upon us now, your action will signal an unwillingness to comply.”

I took a deep breath before revealing our location. “We are there.” And my hand rose from the clouds, pointing to the north. Clouds faded from the moonlit sky, and Riley and I stepped out from behind the trees followed by thousands of protectors in human form. They walked close behind, a mix of naked males and females.

The throng enveloped the smaller party. They must have been terrified.

Riley and I held hands, hoping we would finally make it home without any hindrance. So many times we ran into difficulty with our major accomplishments, yet to my surprise this worked. I doubted my plans would work, but there they were, protectors and humans face to face. Protectors like Shawn and Tilly spoke first. They had studied humans long enough to know about greetings and they began the interchange.

“Oh, my,” Devin stepped up to me and noticed the blood that covered my clothes. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” said Riley. “We’re fine, just tired.”

Devin took my hand and I saw tears in his eyes.

“I thought we’d never see you again.” He spoke precariously then hugged me tightly. “I wanted so much to tell you that we need you, I need you.” He stepped back, looking at Riley. “Both of you.” Then he hugged Riley, too.

Clearly, Devin had read my letter to Edward and had anticipated our loss to be genuine.

“I’m sorry I could not tell you or the others. I hope they will understand.” I said while noticing the people mingling with protectors. “And what of Edward, do you know where he is?”

“I have not seen him, but I’m sure he would want to see you. He was very worried after finding your letter.”

“I must find him.” I said and kissed Riley on the cheek.

“So, you did it.” We heard a familiar voice behind us and turned around.

“Shrealock!” I shouted and ran to him. “You were here? You saw me speak to them?”

“Do you honestly think I would miss this moment?” He laughed, taking my weak hands and kissing them. “I knew you would find a way. You and your King are quite a pair. Finally, a chance at meeting a real protector and I owe it all to you.”

“We had our doubts, but you were right about Riley. Without him this exchange would never have happened.” I said.

“We did it together,” Riley added.

“As I knew you two would.” Shrealock patted us on the back. “By the way, I’d be happy to represent the Nocteens in our relationship with the protectors. I have so much to ask them and even more to share.” He puffed up his chest.

“I couldn’t think of anyone more qualified,” I told him, then excused myself. I had to find Edward.

I wandered around while my alliance welcomed me back. Where is he? I was tempted to find a place to rest, all I wanted was some sleep, and just when I was about to sit by a campfire I spotted him far from the crowd. He stood with his back to a small fire and I noticed that he was packing his things, preparing for our trip back.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. Do you hate me?” He did not turn around.

“No,” Edward replied. He kept packing and never glanced up or paused from the task at hand. “I feel betrayed, though.”

“I know.” I spoke softly and sighed.

“I feel as though I’ve betrayed her,” he said. I could not reply because he had every right to be angry. “I can’t take part in this. I would leave now if able. However, this is not my land and I’d be lost. I realize I must travel back with the others.”

“But, we…” Tears were already streaming down my face.

“Don’t cry!” he walked away.

“What did that one say?” said someone. It was the protector, Gene. He had followed me and observed my conversation with Sir Edward. “Should I go and ask him?”

“No, No!” I said. “Don’t talk to him. Please tell the others not to speak with him either. That human should not be bothered. His rift with protectors runs too deep.” I wiped my tears.

“What is that water coming from your eyes? I have seen it before on other humans and on you when you were with King Riley on the mountain. What does it mean?”

“Gene,” I said. “You are about to take a long journey. Our eyes shed tears when we are joyful or in pain. More than anything it means we need each other and at this moment I really need the human who has just left. But you’ll have to do.” And I placed Gene’s arms around my waist and held him. I just wanted someone, anyone to tell me that everything would be all right. Mostly, I longed for Edward’s comforting caress, although I knew I had sacrificed my last chance at having a father. My loss ran deeper than I realized.

I woke the next morning with an extreme hunger and Riley came up to me with a full plate of food.

“Let’s rinse off by the river. Devin told me it’s a short walk south. Shawn and Tilly want to join us.” I nodded to him while eating faster than I should have. “Did you find Sir Edward?”

Suddenly, my breakfast did not taste so good. “Yes, I did and he wants to leave us.”

“But he won’t, right?”

“His thoughts were genuine. He told me that he doesn’t hate me, but he feels betrayed. I can’t change his mind. He will stay with us until we reach Noore.”

“Sorry, Crystal.” Riley sat down with me and ate his own food. “I found Edward to be so…”

“I know.” I replied. “Don’t bother finding the words. There are none. I will miss him as much as Grandfather or Christian. He has been such a huge part of our journey.”

After finishing our meal we washed up by the river, joined by our companion protectors Shawn and Tilly. We rested naked in the grass as the sun warmed us and told them our entire story. They were very curious about kissing so we tried to explain. That was too hard, so we showed them. Later that day we noticed them practicing together, which really bothered their counterpart, Gene.

It seemed that our kiss became a fascination with the protectors and we noticed different protectors in human form kissing. We tried to explain that only particular individuals that share a close bond actually feel what we feel from a kiss. It did not matter though. They were too interested and tested it for themselves.

Riley and I slept and ate for two days. We were in no rush to return home and wanted to recover from our trip to the protectors. However, on the third day, the Nocteens that had flown to Sierrow to send word of our truce with the protectors returned with a message from Rhaida.

“How soon?” I heard Devin ask Bahoyia Bahoyia.

“What?” I asked. “Devin, what is it?”

“Rhaida is about to have our baby. I must get back to see her.” Devin was in a panic and I ran to tell Riley the news.

“Ask the protectors,” he said. “I’m sure they can fly us there.”

We went to Shawn and explained the situation. He agreed to help. Riley, Devin, Wolfe, Gullane and I rode the on backs of vultures similar to the ones I took to the protector’s fortress on Noore; it was much better than our most recent flight to meet the protectors. Within half a day we landed along the shore of and Devin rushed to Rhaida’s family’s yurt.

“Rhaida!” Devin shouted when he opened the door, slamming it and almost knocking it off the wall.

“Devin!” Rhaida said between gasping breaths. She was on her bed with women on either side, wiping her forehead with a cloth. They were two of Teshalah’s wives, and then Teshalah walked in.

Devin began talking with him in Sierrowian while the rest of us waited for an answer.

“So what’s happening? What did he say?” Riley asked when there was a pause.

“It’s not time yet.” said Devin. He was an emotional wreck. “We have to wait. Teshalah told me that he will gather everyone here to witness the birth if Rhaida chooses. Teshalah has done this many times, so I have confidence in him.”

“Go to her.” I took his arm. “She needs you.” He nodded and sat on the bed next to her. “Send someone if you need anything. We’ll be right outside.” And I took Rhaida’s hand, kissing it before stepping out.

“So what do we do now?” asked Wolfe.

“We wait.” I said.

Hours passed and we could hear Rhaida’s moans. Everyone was on edge. I had been so good at predicting the future, but I could not grasp this moment. Then Riley came up to me.

“,” he whispered. “Shawn, Tilly, Gene and two other protectors want to witness the birth. They have never seen an actual human birth and are interested. Should I ask Devin?”

It seemed that this event would be greater than I had thought. I never witnessed a birth either, nor had anyone else except for Teshalah and his wives. It would be up to Rhaida, but from my view she would not care. She just wanted the whole painful event to end.

“Go in and ask.” I said.

He came out after a minute and nodded to me. The protectors had Rhaida’s permission. An hour later Teshalah called us in and the protectors were in their true form, hovering above us.

“,” Devin called. “Can you help with the pain?”

“Certainly!” I rushed over and took Rhaida’s other hand.

Wolfe and Gullane stood directly behind Teshalah and could see everything. The wives were tending to Rhaida, propping up her head and wiping her with a damp cloth. Then, Teshalah began speaking to her. She began to breathe carefully. When he spoke again she took a deep breath and held it, clenching. My healing had been working ever since I took hold and I noticed her strength increasing. Rhaida was able to do what Teshalah said without screaming in agony.

“Come on, just a little more.” Devin said. She glanced over to him looking battered, but managed a smile that turned into a yell. Her sound pierced our ears and I squeezed her hand, taking in more pain.

“Rhaida, Secknouse es sad’da. Es saouna!” Teshalah shouted to her. “Ah…es ola. Sad’da, es saouna, saouna.” Rhaida clenched more after several deep breaths.

“What’s happening?” Devin shouted.

“Ha, ha, ha,” Teshalah laughed. “Devin, you es un Sierrow. Meenomay!” We heard a loud thud and the ground shook. Gullane was lying flat on his back and Wolfe attempted to wake him.

“Meenomay?” whispered Rhaida.

“What are you saying?” asked Riley.

“He said that I’m not Sierrow because we have a boy. We have a boy!” Teshalah held up a screaming baby by the ankles for us to view. Devin kissed Rhaida and right away their new baby was in her arms. “My Queen, Rhaida and I would like to name him Christian, after your brother. We discussed this long ago, but want your blessing first.”

“You have my blessing. Christian will be a noble name. Thank you.” I broke my gaze from the feeding infant to address everyone. “Let’s give them some time alone. I believe we could use some fresh air, right Gullane?”

“Yes, you are right, my Queen.” he said and we followed him outside.

We sat outside and talked about what we had seen. The protectors hovered above us, then changed to human form.

“We have never attempted to come so close before. Is all human birth the same?” asked Tilly.

“I don’t know?” I told her. “None of us have ever seen it before. Watching the birth of Christian was new for each of us.”

“Christian?” Gene asked. “So you identify each new being at the onset of life?”

“Yes, we name our children and sometimes we reuse the name of a person who had died long before.”

“Your eyes,” said Gene. “They water again. Explain?”

“Christian was the name of my brother who died years ago. It’s painful to think that he is gone, yet joyful to know that a new life has taken his name.”

Gene walked up to me, taking my hand and lifting me. He put my arms around his waist and hugged me. Everyone was surprised by his action, especially Riley, but they did not know what happened with Sir Edward. Gene did not forget our last embrace and would be ready to hug anyone in need.

The next morning I woke early. Birds were active, flying through trees, so I decided to walk to the lake and view the sunrise. I would miss fighting with Sir Edward and wondered how he was doing.

“Mornin’.” I heard a voice and looked around. “Up here.” Shrealock was standing in the tree above me and gracefully spread his wings, landing gently next to me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I maybe strong, but not as strong as those protectors. I tried to follow yesterday with little luck. I made it here sometime in the middle of the night, so I decided it would be best to rest.”

“Christian was born late last night, probably just before you arrived. Sorry you missed it.”

“That was just one of the reasons I came.” He stretched wings before continuing. “Something is troubling you and what you witnessed last night has sparked your feelings.”

“Really? I’m not sure what you mean.”

“, I hope you realize that what you’ve done by uniting humans with immortals was no simple task. The planet itself should be thanking you for all you have done. You should feel proud.”

“Thank you, but I haven’t considered my feelings. I’ve been too fixed on the present. Something is bothering me though, although I’m not sure what.”

“Think,” he replied sternly. “You have thought of it several times, especially after last night.”

“It’s about Riley and me.” I had been afraid to utter my concern. “We have been together longer than Devin and Rhaida, but have not had any children. I remember when Devin mentioned to me on our wedding day about starting a family. However, it hasn’t happened.”

“That’s why I must speak with you. When I saw you last, you had many obstacles to overcome and so much rested on your shoulders. Now you can embrace a future that was once uncertain.”

“Tell me Shrealock. What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t Riley and I started a family?”

“We might be seers, but most of our life remains a mystery. I suspect that deep down you are still in turmoil, and only until you are calm and the world you are linked to is calm, having a child is not a part of the foreseen future. You also know that having a child with the same magical powers you possess could be disastrous.”

“So I won’t ever have a child of my own?”

“Oh, I didn’t say that. I just cannot see a child in your future at this point in time. We can never be sure what our lives have in store for us and don’t base your future on my visions. Look how you regenerated me and I never suspected a thing!” He wrapped his wing around me and leaned in close. “Take time to heal yourself and happiness will eventually become a part of your life. If anyone deserves happiness it’s you.”

“Thank you, Shrealock,” I said and leaned my head on his shoulder. “I have lost hope so many times and each time I was surprised when something incredible had been waiting for me. Maybe a child is waiting for me somewhere in the future.”

The sun peeked over the horizon and a cry came from Rhaida’s yurt. Our newest alliance member was beginning his first day in a more peaceful world.

Two weeks passed as we waited for the rest of the party to return to Sierrow. Riley, Devin and I made plans to integrate protectors into our human world.

“What if we fly your party here instead of waiting for them to return?” Shawn proposed the day after the birth of Christian.

“No,” I told him. “Not yet. It’s too soon. We must give them time to adjust. You cannot deny that some humans and protectors are reluctant to interact. To push them together too quickly would be unwise.”

Riley agreed. Besides, I knew Sir Edward would rather walk alone than fly on the back of his sworn enemy.

In the time after our truce, my visions began to grow, guiding me once again as they did on my journey as the Bringer of Balance. Then one night I had a vision that woke me.

“Riley,” I shook him. “I just had a vision.”

“What is it?” He yawned and stretched, seeming too sleepy to be interested.

“It was the City of the West. I was watching a procession take place…” He rubbed his eyes. “Loyatees were carrying a body on a stretcher. It was covered and a bird, a canary, chattered in my ear. It was telling me something, but I couldn’t understand it. Riley, do you think Rose is sick?”

“She is old. Maybe she’s just ill.”

“I hope you’re right. If she is sick and needs me, I’m too far away to help.” I lay back down without sleeping. The next morning I tried doing chores to ward off my worries, until a tiny yellow bird landed in the tree above me.

“Please, you must come quickly.” chattered the little bird. “Rose is close to death and wishes to see you before her passing. She has to see you!”

“She’s dying?”

“Yes, come quick. Fly with me across the land. Please, make haste.” The bird fluttered its wings and jumped up and down impatiently.

“But what do I do? How can we get there?” I asked while rushing through town to find Riley. The bird followed me and then landed on my shoulder. It jabbered into my ear, just like in my dream.

“Ask the big birds. Ask the ones that never die.”

“Riley,” I pushed open our door and found him talking with Devin. “It’s Grandmother Rose. My dream, it’s true. She dying and I need to go to her now!”

“Right now?”

“? Is that you?” Devin said and the bird flew over to him and jabbered in his ear. “Rose knows about our new baby, Christian. She wants me to stay with Rhaida and the baby. You must leave, though. Ask Shawn or Tilly. I’m sure one of them will take you.”

“How is it you can talk with animals?” I asked him while packing a small knapsack and tying it to my waist.

“I can’t.” he replied. “This is , a loyatee who had been trapped in the body of a canary by a wizard. He can speak with anyone. You don’t have to read minds.”

“Wait. Stop, .” Riley grabbed my hand. “You can’t go alone.”

“I have to. You have to guide the rest of the alliance back to the Valley of the Giants. They need you to lead them. Devin is too busy being a father. Riley, you’re the model for the protectors union with humans, not me. They will need you to guide them. I’ll be fine.”

“But, ,” Riley spoke softly. “We should be together.”

“We will be.” I assured him. “I’ll have Shawn bring me back to the Giants. I promise. I must leave now. My last living relative has sent for me. Please understand that I have to go.” Riley nodded.

I said my brief good-byes and climbed on top of Shawn’s back. Riding on the back of an eagle for hours would have been exciting long ago; however, considering the circumstances I was not looking forward to my trip across miles of land and ocean.

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