Tes could hear his father’s words echo in the Great Hall of Nagara Mosuna. “The Council has it in it’s grasp to break the power of the Guilds over the aynun. Tes, my boy, you hold the Shield, you have the power of negotiation. Har, Gods love him, is all muscle and brawn. I’ve no say in Council save to speak for House Allard as long as my voice can be heard. You head the Council. Break the power of the Guilds and the aynun will be at our mercy. We can scour the lower diza for Regalo at will.”
He sighed, running his hand through his sandy hair, remembering the High Council session that cycle. Jyme Issac spoke the loudest in support of withdrawing Council support of the worker Guilds.
“We have no need of aynun Guilds to support the Highborn. What good has their voice been to the governance of Ritanah? It has been the Highborn that has led since Kanin. Why should we burden ourselves uselessly?”
“Then you would call Law useless Jyme Issac?”
Jyme looked for the source of the comment and groaned when he realized who spoke. The large dark woman looked directly at him, challenging his statement without fear. Her cool grey eyes met his without hesitation or submission. Riya na Kimal was one of two Elders representing the Road and Sword, the oldest of the worker Guilds and the only one written into Law by Kanin. Lehi na Jeroc, who sat next to her, represented not only the House in Nagara but the whole of the Guild here at the High Council meeting, nodded as Jyme prepared his rebuttal. He was interrupted by Marka Ti, “You have no voice here, woman. Keep your place!”
Lehi leaned forward and put a cautioning hand on Riya’s arm. “But I do N’datha Ti. Kanin put the Guilds in place so that all the people of Ritanah would have a voice in the High Council. If this Council acts against them, it acts against the best intentions of the very people it was meant to serve,” her green eyes flashed as she locked gazes with N’datha Issac. Her voice carried the authority of her office and was heard without effort by everyone in the hall.
“The High Council is well prepared to serve the aynun of Ritanah,” Jyme sneered.
“When is the last time you have been to your diza, N’datha Ti?” Riya asked. She knew that Corm was less than a tendays ride in this season. She also knew that Marka had not been in Corm since the last Festival.
Marka looked embarrassed and frustrated. He wanted to support Tes but the interference from these women was maddening. Jyme hung his head in silent frustration.
“Well, that is none of your affair, woman. You are a guest in this Chamber, be silent or you shall be removed!” Tes said pushing the limit of his authority.
“Answer the question N’datha Ti,” Lehi said, daring Tes to threaten her.
“It remains none of your affair,” Marka said flatly. “My presence at Corm is of no consequence. My House Council knows my will and carries it out.”
“This is about restricting the power of the Worker Guilds. They slow the process of governance. The Road and Sword is the only guild written into Law. The other guilds have been tolerated by this Council long enough. The time has come for the High Council to take authority and control of the aynun. With your leave Headwoman, the Council will deliberate upon this and make a decision at the rise. Since the Road and Sword has no voice in this particular decision, I will ask that you not be present. Since I know you will refuse, I will ask you not to interfere,” Tes said, attempting to refocus the session.
Lehi looked directly at Tes. She knew if she pushed her own authority it would make it worse for the other’s. “I will respect N’datha Allard’s request. I will not interfere but I will be present,” she responded. Her heart quailed thinking about what disastrous decisions would be made while she played to her better angels.
When Lehi and Riya returned to the Great Chamber, they were blocked by Mosuna Guard. “What is the meaning of this?”, Lehi asked.
“The Chamber is closed. The Council met before the rise. Were you not notified?” one of them asked.
“I was not. What was decided?” she asked, controlling her rage.
“The Worker Guilds are to attend the Council as requested only. The Road and Sword is the only Guild that will retain full rights to the Council as permitted by Law. The Road and Sword will act according the word of the Council and Law. I am not sure what that means ti’iman, but that is what was said,” he replied.
Lehi nodded to the young man and turned deliberately before walking away. She gripped Riya’s arm as they walked away. “It means that Law is undefended and the people without a voice,” she whispered. “Come Riya, the Road and Sword will be called upon more than ever.”
“Devils an’ haints what be there. Things that freeze your soul an’ do turrble thin’s ta ya befo’ ya knows it.” The farmer looked at Rejan pleading with his eyes for the younger man to change his mind. Rejan took a deep breath as he counted out the coins carefully. He handed them to the older man. He turned his shaggy head to take one last look at the animals that had served him so well. He quickly adjusted his hood so he could see them clearly. The horses and pack animals would find use on this small farm. He knew he had made a good deal. His dark eyes glittered as he smiled and pulled his long cloak around him to walk away. “Ye shoul’ listen betta ta ya elda’s boy. What’s in them woods is betta left alone!” the farmer yelled after him.
Rejan told Yehmir about him when they met up on the trail. He laughed with her and said, “There is nothing like a good legend to hide a people behind,” he said. It was an old saying. It stated a truth about the Dentache better than any other. Father and daughter amused themselves playing the parts of devils and haints. Their foolishness mounted as the day went on and into the night.
They walked for two days, talking and laughing. Yehmir did not struggle to keep up with her father’s long strides. He was tall and brown skinned with an easy smile that lit up his eyes. His hands were large and gentle. He had the light careful touch of a Master Healer. Under the hood of his cloak he wore his long hair tied back with thongs in the colors of his clan, his family and his rank. They communicated using a system of complete contact that was silent and vocal, seen and unseen. They were Dentache, Warriors of the Che, the Life force that comes from the Mother Goddess Nahko`e Herself. On Ritanah, Goddess energy had adapted the children of the planet to survive extreme weather conditions. The Dentache had adapted a unique way of communicating not only with each other but with and through the energy field that they called the Mother. Yehmir grew closer to her father than ever, and more and more she wished she didn’t know what he was planning to do when the warm season came. Her thoughts played across her rounded features. She was short and well muscled. Her hazel eyes sparkled with life, curiosity and sadness. Her hands were quick. Each step was made as if it were planned, placed with care and long practice. She had mastered fighting and hunting skills that most never would. Her cloak flowed loosely behind her as she danced and played with her father. Finally Rejan reached the clearing he had been looking for. Yehmir’s practiced eye told her that people had indeed lived in this spot and had lived here for many cycles. As she helped him with the lean-to she realized why this particular spot had been selected.
“Da, you were born here, weren’t you?” she asked.
“Why are we here now and who are you searching for?”
“Who?” Rejan grinned when he caught her thoughts. “Who indeed,” he continued. He stood and gathered himself up, ready to say a thing of considerable importance. “We are here now because this is the place of your heritage. I came to meet the Mother and to see once again the place of a people who are no more. The one I came to meet….” He was cut off by a gruff chuckle.
“Oh please continue young Master. Such speech has not been heard here since your father was alive. You have his gifts, young Rejan.”
“Who are you?” Rejan asked angrily.
An old man stood out of the shadows to the right of Rejan, face hidden by a branch’s long shadow.
“Ahh, don’t waste a good angry on a foolish old Wizard. You know well who I am. No sense in denying it,” the newcomer said, settling at the edge of the clearing. Yehmir stood in shock as the two men exchanged words. Then she took action. Swift as the wind she unsheathed her weapons and attacked the newcomer. As a wall of solid rock stops the wind cold, so the newcomer did Yehmir. Disarmed and dismayed she stepped back, her surprise so evident that Rejan laughed out loud. “Gaitha, you old bandit. You should have returned to the Mother cycles ago.”
“Hush now your cussin’ me, boy,” Gaitha said. Turning to Yehmir he said, “Here, young warrior. You are good and I see Kia’s work in you, but you still have much to learn.”
Her mouth snapped shut and she executed a respectful salute as she accepted her weapons.
“So boy, you shall have another at your fire this fall. We have much to discuss. There are many cycles of stories to tell,” Gaitha said cheerily after returning the salute to Yehmir. Rejan quickly dispatched Yehmir for more wood before the darkness of the fall enveloped them. They had a happy dinner during which Yehmir and Gaitha were introduced at length. Gaitha was Kias’ father. Gaitha smiled and his light brown eyes lit with pleasure. He was wiry muscular man, a full head shorter than Rejan. He radiated the type of confidence you only achieve with time and experience. When he laughed it came from the center of his being, when he spoke his words carried natural weight. He held the rank of Wizard among the Dentache and had returned to the place where his family and clan should have been to find it empty and long deserted. As he spoke his strong hands moved for emphasis, telling their own story. He had been in the Outland at the time his mate, Donas had separated from the Che. Wizards traveled Ritanah far and wide. Gaitha had lived as a highland logger, hunter and healer in Outland.
“It was as I traveled through Torm that I sensed something drastic had changed within my Clan. The link I have with Donas has faded. I cannot tell if she has returned to the Mother. Her gifts were so strong it would be hard to tell.” Yehmir looked at him closely almost afraid to ask her questions. She couldn’t believe she was in the presence of a Wizard. Her father’s stories did not prepare her for his presence. He fairly glowed with power. She could sense the depth of his connection to the Che.
“I stopped at an inn a day’s ride outside of Musuna Torm. It was near dark and I was dusty from the road. I could feel their fear as soon as I rode up. Legends of Ra-Denta are very strong among those mountain men. I don’t think they could decide if I was mercenary or someone more dangerous….”
“Surely the stories of Shadow Warriors live in those hills. That is where they were born,” Rejan said.
“If ye’ed let me finish my tale I’d get to it. It’s been a long time since I’ve told a tale to my clan. Let me enjoy it, eh! I heard them whisper mercenary but an older man kept saying Ra-Denta. They dismissed him until he mentioned Regalo and that got their attention. Those mountain men have no great love for the Highborn or their Regalo. I laughed, drank my fill and collected my stores and left. One of the younger men had made his way outside. When I called for my horse you should have seen his face. So I said to him, ’I am called Gaitha. Say this to ya friends, ‘Nak a Ra-Denta’. Good day ye, boy.’”
“He has no use for Dentache, Gaitha. He had no idea what you told him to say,” Rejan said around a puff of smoke.
“I told you there was an older man in that inn. If that boy was smart and he went inside I have no doubt that the old man would have known what I said.”
“He was separated?” Rejan asked.
“No, just old enough to remember the last time Shadow Warriors fought in Torm. I’ll bet that they wanted to mount a search party and ride out after me as soon as he figured it out and told them.”
Yehmir was getting frustrated. She knew about the last uprisings in Torm. But she didn’t know enough.
“Before you pass out from holding ya breath young warrior, ask ya questions,” Gaitha said leaning back against a log.
“I know Kia, my mother. Who is Donas? Why would they want to search for you?”
“Donas is my mate. She was Headwoman of Anjinn. Rejan you really have neglected this girl. It is possible that Donas sat at the head of the Mothers Council for all Dentache but I would not have known, for she would not have told me. Such things are not for men. She is Kia’s mother and through her, yours. You are from a line of great Headwomen Yehmir. Donas was asked to become a Wizard but chose instead to lead her Clan. She trained Kia to be a great warrior. As I said you have many of her gifts.”
“Kia taught her in the old way, Gaitha. I have done my best to continue her training. We traveled with a mercenary band for a while….,” Rejan said quietly.
“How did she return, boy?” Gaitha asked, interrupting him.
“Mid-Demon. I think she had the worst kind of lung sickness. It stole her strength. She weakened for nearly a full cycle before that. I could do nothing to stop it. I…” Rejan took a sharp breath. “I tried everything. Everything I knew.”
“It was the Mother’s will, Rejan. There is nothing a man can do against that. Nor should we try. You did what you could. I’ll not question your wisdom in the past, but mercenaries Rejan! A girl among mercenaries! Surely a better way could have been found.”
“Col and his band where honorable men. Mercenaries, yes, but warriors with honor still. Yehmir was well concealed,” Rejan began.
“Within Shadow,” Yehmir said for herself. “I tie my hair back and Da wears his long. I don’t speak and I wear my cloak over my jerkin. Since I fight better than most, Col wondered but never asked about it.”
“You! You are the Shadow! Mother save us!” Gaitha cried laughing.
“What is so funny?” Yehmir asked getting defensive.
“I’ve heard tales about a band of mercenaries that had a shadow warrior the likes of which legends are made. The band hasn’t been seen for a cycle. What happened?” Gaitha asked.
“Col and the others tired of the trail. Near twenty full cycles, they traveled together. Col had a woman waiting for him. Some of the others did as well. We decided as a band that it was time to go our separate ways,” Rejan said after taking a deep breath.
“I miss them,” Yehmir said quietly.
“Yame, Wizards are those who keep the legends of Ra-Denta alive. Gaitha left this place to honor the Mother and his Clan. He….”
“Rejan! Some stories ought not be told until the time is right. Young warrior you have much to learn and I think the rise is soon enough to begin. Let your father and
I speak alone now. Go.”
“But I…” Yehmir started.
“I know young one. Still there are things that are not discussed with the young about. Go now.” Gaitha said gently.
Yehmir looked from Gaitha to her father who nodded. She rose and left the small fire. It was a warmish night. The wind was light and the moons full in the northern sky. She looked up and wished that she had someone to talk to about what she was thinking and feeling. She took a deep breath regretting the thought that her father was not enough. Even as the regret rose her heart still longed for more. More of what, she did not know. Looking up to the familiar stars she tried to silence her longing heart.
“Mercenaries! God’s above and below I know what you were thinking, but Rejan even in that case, there are others. You should have looked for clan,” Gaitha said. There was no recrimination in his voice.
“They were close. Besides there is only one other full clan that I know about and I don’t know enough about the Spine to find them at the head of Winds. We could not stay where we were. Ahh, Gaitha, I have no wisdom. I have just been doing what I thought best. After Donas and the others separated from Anjinn all I could think about was Kia and Yehmir. They were my friends, my family and I knew it had to be done but Gaitha I was all alone. We had heard nothing from the Wizards Council…”
“There are dangers out there you know nothing of Rejan. There are more Wizards alive than dead. Separation does not mean death. The Che does not die. The Mother would not abandon Her children so,” Gaitha said.
“I did the best I could. She is so gifted. I gave her every bit of knowledge I have and I have spent hours in meditation seeking guidance from the ancestors. They have rescued me more than once,” Rejan said hanging his head.
“Tell me her story. I think I know most of it. Don’t waste time, tell me her whole story,” Gaitha said.
Rejan began thinking, speaking and feeling in a way that he had almost forgotten. He blushed as Gaitha chastised him for forgetting the earliest lessons of his family.
“She was born three tendays before Donas separated. The very night Donas took the herbs she gave Kia her name. She walked before I knew it and then I had to leave for a season. That is when I met Col and his wife. When I returned she was running around with a small blade tied to her waist and Kia had already begun teaching her balance. Well she learned so quickly, she was hunting before five cycles had past. She challenged her mother at every turn. They laughed so…I haven’t heard her laugh like that…” Rejan trailed off.
Gaitha looked at the younger man, feeling his pain. He nodded letting the story tell itself.
“Kia got sick and I took over her training. I never did feel like I was doing a good job. She was the warrior not me. After Kia returned to the Mother I pushed her. Maybe too hard but I did not know what else to do. The glade was no longer safe. A landslide caused a trail to be rerouted too close for comfort. I contacted Col to safeguard our passage. It was never the plan to stay with the band as long as we did. Yehmir had to be prepared to meet any challenge. I pushed her to the edge of Mastery, but I could not bring her over myself. I am not strong enough. She was just old enough though still young by my reckoning. I knew the danger but I could not think of other way to protect her. I gave her to the Mother. She held ten cycles when I gave her to the Mother. ”
Gaitha raised his eyes, “The ceremony. She was too young Rejan!”
“Perhaps, but it was done. She was returned to me. I could sense the change in her but I am not a woman Gaitha, what was changed I will not know. After she returned, that very same night I took her through the Master’s ceremony. I showed her how to disguise herself and how to travel as a boy, silent to all others save me. I knew Col and most of the others were nearly head blind. We fought with them for five cycles. She has nearly fifteen cycles now. Almost four cycles ago when we were in Nagara I went to the Road and Sword. I exacted a pledge from two warriors, one with a reputation as a mercenary, to welcome Yehmir when she came to them.”
Rejan played the memory for Gaitha through mindspeak. The fire between them faded and Gaitha found himself in a smoky crowded room.
He cast wary glances about the room and went to the bar. “Eh, barkeep. I’ve a query fa ya”, he spoke in a clipped mountain dialect, just thick enough to draw attention and comprehensible for those within ear shot. “I passed a hous ne fa fro’ he’ wi a clapboard ‘pon th’ door. Kings Blades live he’ ’bouts, eh?”
“Yeah ye passed Center House. They stick to the’ own”, came the answer.
“Me hear that theys mostly females now a’days. Tha ta look em’ inna face is a goo’ as death. Neva seen one mesel’”, he said grinning evilly.
His comments were getting some attention now as he heard affirmative grunts. He lowered his voice insinuatingly and continued. “Me I’d like ta see one jus’ once. He’ tell the’ ain’t really female. Ya know?”
Some turned away, but he got the reaction he wanted. One of the crowd detached and left without a word. He finished the ale that had been placed behind him noisily and dropped a coin on the bar saying, “Ahh, ne’er min’. Pro’ally ne worth the trouble”, as he left.
He caught the trail of the one who left and followed it. He cut the person off and quickly signaled his peaceful intention by extending his hands palms up.
“Please, if you are of the Road I must speak to you”, he said clearly in Common, urgency spilling into his voice. He let his need fill his being as he waited for a response.
“Not here come”, came the muffled reply. As he hurried after the retreating figure, he saw that it would be raining soon. They did not go through the large front gate but around to a smaller gate near the rear of the wall. When they entered they stopped at a small shelter. There he was told to wait amongst the tools about him.
When the figure returned it was not alone. Rejan saw the glint of a drawn weapon and then felt it press against his chest. A low voice said, “It will not be used, unless you wish it.”
He took a deep breath and said, “I am in need, I mean you no harm.”
“You speak differently. Yours is an accent I do not know”, came the voice of the one who was unarmed.
“Where I am from is not important. I am named Rejan and I need your help.”
“Rejan. What is it that you need?” the sword bearer asked, lowering the blade slightly but not out of threat. “I am named Kry.”
Rejan struggled for a moment to see the tall thin figure before him more clearly in the dim light of the room. He wanted to be sure to address this warrior with all the respect he could muster. He bowed his head and began to speak.
“I am honored. I have a daughter. She is named Yehmir, but that is not important either. I am her only kin. We are mercenaries and she plays the part of a boy. She fights as well as any. She will bear twelve cycles in Dawn. I know I am not long for this world. The Mother calls me to Her Breast, and I know I will have to answer before my child is a full grown woman. Even then I would not doom her to spend the rest of her days alone. I ask you in the name of the Goddess that if someday she comes to you, you will make a place for her and teach her the Mysteries of Woman that I cannot.”
Rejan filled his every word with need, spilling emotions before the Warriors, praying that he could make them believe, understand and accept. He raised his eyes while he was speaking trying to focus and failing.
“Where is she now?” the question was shot at him viciously. The second figure reached for Kry to calm her.
“At the inn, asleep”, he replied simply.
“When the time comes a place will be here for her. Come Kry, say no more, do not make him beg. If the Goddess wills it she will come”, the second said quietly. She waved a hand as Kry was about to protest. Kry quieted her protest and removed the sword from threat and said gruffly, “Go.”
The women watched him go wordlessly. When he was out of sight Kry could hold herself no longer.
“What in the name of the Mother was all of that about? Akir, that man has exacted a promise from us that we may not be able to keep. Devil’s spit, woman, have you lost your mind?”
“That man is the same from this afternoon. He has regalo. I could feel it. It isn’t trained properly but I’ll just bet that the daughter he speaks of is the one who won that fight earlier. I’ll put my next wage on that.”
“Don’t bother. He is abusing that poor girl. We should get to her now before she is spoiled”, Kry said.
“He loves her. And as for being spoiled, if his control is being passed to her then I hardly call that being spoiled. A little wild perhaps, but not spoiled. Come now, you weren’t trained to use your gifts until you were well past twenty. She is just twelve.”
“She should be here.”
“They both should. But that is not our decision to make, now is it?”
“Mother help me Akir. I shall never have your logic.”
“The Mother has already blessed you enough, woman. Now let’s go inside before She soaks both of us.”
He heard the last bit of the conversation as he walked away satisfied that Yehmir would have a place to go once he was gone.
Gaitha raised his head, “Ye needn’t ha’ don’ tha’, boy.”
“I am ill Gaitha. I must answer Her soon. The pain in my chest comes and takes my breath away. She knows but says nothing. She keeps it all to herself. I see it in her eyes. It is my fault. She lived as a boy does, learned the lessons a young man does, not the lessons a young woman would have. How could she? She was surrounded by men, doing the things men do. She learned to imitate us. I had pledged we would live as Dentache no others.”
“You are so like your father. He could never find the middle passage to wisdom either. We will teach her what we can. Perhaps the Road and Sword will have a place for her. It may be the Mothers will. That will reveal itself in time.”
“She needs a mother Gaitha…”
“She may yet have one. For now she has her father and an old Wizard to listen to and learn from. Remember as long as we do what is pleasing in Her sight we have nothing to fear. Our honor is preserved for the ages in Che.”
“Then I shall rely upon you for wisdom. It seems mine is faulty. Old man, tell me of your journey’s even though I know that tale will take more than one telling,” Rejan said oddly comforted by the older man.
“We both were raised on tales of the time before Kanin and Law became the way of the lands. It would seem some foolish highborn wish to return us to those times. Highborn blood grows thin in places like Riade and Illrade. Both the Sword and Shield remain with Allard though I believe the Sword to be in better hands. Worse yet, the Lance is held by a N’detha who would rather say nothing than speak. In all diza the people are afraid. The High Council has stripped the Guilds of power and arms each Mosuna Guard, even against each other. When I traveled to Kitran I found a people glad for their isolation, believing the Council bedeviled. In Torm I found the same thing. Bandits run free in the ryins, paid by the Clan because the aynun are just not worth the effort of the Guard. The hills where that child was born are filled with bandits and rogues. The same type that were once sent through Kitran, mind wiped and sent to Outland. I never envied House Kitran the duty they have before the High Council. I never met a member of Kitran that was less than honorable.”
“That is true. We dealt with a member of the Council of House Kitran while riding with Col’s band. He even let us stay at his keep,” Rejan said.
“Well if things continue the way they are going there is going to be another war. Those fools in the High Council are driving it that way. If they keep turning their back on Law, they will face the wrath of the Road and Sword. That Guild is pledged to Law not to the Council.”
“Is that why you don’t trust Yehmir with them?”
“You are perceptive. Dentache are pledged to the Mother first. She is young. To split her loyalties that way is confusing. It’s hard enough to lose the people she loves, but to put her in a situation where she might be forced to betray their memories may prove to be too much for her to bear,” Gaitha said thoughtfully.
“You don’t know my Yame. If it comes to it she will choose loyalty every time.”
“She is just a child, ceremony or no,” Gaitha said.
“She is Ge,” Rejan said quietly.
Gaitha sat back and took a deep breath. “Goddess. Are you certain?”
“She had about eleven cycles the first time we entered Nagara. I sent her to explore and told her not to speak. Some boys were making fun of her and she turned to defend herself. I dared not interfere, it would have spoiled her disguise. She fought them off. There were five of them, she fought them all. I felt her rise, Gaitha. I felt Ge rise. I didn’t know it just then but we were in a fight a cycle later and I felt it again. I spent just enough time with it to recognize Ge. The Che of that great warrior is with my child.”
“Well then we are challenged Rejan. Ge is a mighty warrior, but Yehmir still has to find her center. We must help her to it. Goddess, she is young for such things. Even Kia did not have such training until she was much older. The worst part of this is that neither of us will know the full depth of what she can do. We need a woman Wizard, we might not be able to do it.”
“You ask for the impossible,” Rejan said doubt in his every word.
“Perhaps. I hear the Mother specializes in the impossible.”
Rejan looked at his companion across the firelight. Gaitha had been one of the few Masters of any generation to undertake the vow of Wizard and endure a life where home was any welcoming fire and wisdom was dispensed through tales gathered in cycles of travel and exposure. The fighting skill of Wizards was legendary even among the Dentache. Gaitha was a legend unto himself. He embodied the Shadow Warrior and had plied his skill from Kitran to Issac always leaving behind him a story or two. As much a healer as a Warrior, Kia had learned her way with animals from him. She had passed that skill and knowledge in full to Yehmir. Donas was a formidable woman in her own right. She taught Kia the double sword technique and the bulk of her herbology. Her skill with mindspeak made her a Headwoman to be reckoned with. Rejan did not know she sat at the head of the Woman’s Council. None of that mattered now.
“I am dying, old wizard. The Mother calls and with the rains I will answer,” he said quietly.
“I returned to find the place of my Clan abandoned. I waited because the Mother said I should. She said there is a purpose for me coming here. Yehmir is that purpose. I too have clung to this life for far too long. I was nearly your age when I took to the road. Kia, my beloved child, had begun her advance training. Donas insisted that I take my musings out into the world and stop denying the Goddess wish that I be a Wizard of Her people. I left with her blessing. And now she is among the Lost. It is improper for a father to outlive his generation’s seed. So when the Mother gives over to rebirth you will add your Che to Hers. So be it. I choose not to go until Her coat turns away from warmth. T’was cold here when I was given Life, so shall it be when I return Life to Her. To bed now. The turning is not far off as you may think, and there is much work to do before then.”