Ga'briyel sat his horse and stared down into the valley below. Snow covered the ground to a depth of several inches, and it covered the barren branches of the few trees that surrounded him. He sighed heavily as he thought about the decision he had made nearly three sennights before. He closed his eyes and could see the fury and disappointment and anguish on his friends' faces when he told them he was going north alone. Yisu had come to him while he was unconscious and had told him that he needed to travel north from the volcano until he reached the Kandu Mountain range, and when he awakened, he made the announcement that he would be traveling alone from that point on. Dinton had argued almost as vehemently as Tero, but Ga'briyel had held firm. He was not going to risk any more lives when he didn't have to.
"Always alone," he whispered as he guided Kumar down the steep valley slope, "and this time by choice." The valley was the beginning of the only pass into the Kandus, and he slowly made his way to the bottom. The snow was deeper there, and Kumar stepped high to raise his feet out of the drifts. It was odd having only the sounds of the wind and the few animals that could stand this cold around him. There were no sensations, no pictures in his mind, and nothing to distract him. Nothing to keep him from doing what Yisu needed him to do. No friends, no family, no responsibility. The Anmah was lonely, but it was for the best. He could not cope with anyone dying because of him, and so he was alone. "Always alone," he repeated to himself as he turned Kumar into the pass.
That was not entirely true, however. He was still getting visions, but only when he slept. Whatever Telantes had done for him had kept the nightmares away so far, but he still dreamed. Strange dreams that robbed him of any true rest, and what frustrated him more than anything was that he could not remember a single one once he wakened. He just knew he was exhausted even after a full night's sleep. Even after three sennights of full nights' sleep. The cold helped keep him awake, though, and he shivered now as a bitter wind kicked up and blew down the valley toward him. He wrinkled his nose as it reached him, a foul stench accompanying the icy air.
"You feel it, do you not, Ga'briyel?"
The Anmah just grunted at Telantes without looking at him. When nothing more was said, Ga'briyel let out a heavy sigh. "What do you want, Debaduta?"
"What else? I have a message for you."
"And if I do not want to hear it?"
"You must; you know this. After all, why are you here but to do what Yisu asks of you?"
"I am here for that, yes, but I am also here so that no one will die for me." He sighed again. "What is your message?"
Telantes watched the man he had come to regard as a friend carefully. He saw the dark circles underneath Ga'briyel's eyes and the slump to his shoulders that were not usually present. "Are you all right, Ga'briyel? Have you been sleeping?"
"I have, but not well." Ga'briyel glanced at the spirit. "I have dreams, Telantes. Not nightmares, but dreams that refuse to let me rest, and I do not remember them when I wake."
Telantes reached out his hands to the Anmah. "May I?"
"If you wish."
The Debaduta placed his hands on Ga'briyel's temples, closed his eyes, and concentrated. It was much harder for him to read the Sainika than a normal human, but he wanted to help, so he delved deep inside his friend's mind, weaving his consciousness in and around Ga'briyel's until he found what he was looking for. It was buried deeper than Telantes would have expected, but when he saw the problem, he smiled to himself and slowly worked his way out of Ga'briyel's mind. When he removed his hands, the smile was on his face.
"Something good, I assume?" Ga'briyel said with a skeptical look at the spirit.
"Yes, my friend. Something very good. Tonight, when you dream, open your mind to it, and you will see. I think you will be pleased."
"Somehow I doubt that," Ga'briyel growled. "I have not been pleased about any of this in a very long time."
Telantes just smiled and drifted away, leaving Ga'briyel to himself. The Anmah rode on until almost last light, and then he halted Kumar, slid to the ground, and tried to clear a space in the snow so that he did not have to sleep in the cold yet again. He only managed to tamp down the crystals so that they formed an icy barrier between himself and the ground. There were no trees to be found in the valley or the surrounding mountains, so there was to be no fire to cut the bitterness of the wind, but Telantes had frozen his friend on their way to the volcano, so it did not bother him that much. Some, but not much. He settled himself on the ground, wrapped in his oiled, fur-lined cloak, and closed his eyes. He did not think he would be able to fall asleep quickly, but his exhaustion hit him like a mahisa bull, and he was unconscious within moments.
His dream came as it had for the past three sennights, although he did not recognize that fact. Slowly, a light formed in his mind, a red light that was not bright but not dim, either. This light spread until it surrounded him, and somehow, his mind remembered what Telantes had said. He let the light in and looked around him. He had no sense of where he was or what was happening, but as he turned slowly, the crimson flowed into him and through him, warming his body like a summer's breeze or his wife's arms. He waited. For what, he did not know, but he knew he must wait. He closed his eyes, letting the warmth fill him, but they snapped open at the feel of a hand in his. He looked down.
A little boy was clinging to his hand and looking up at him. He couldn't have been more than three years old, and Ga'briyel frowned when he saw the violet eyes of an Anmah gazing at him with adoration. "Who are you, little one?" he asked as he knelt in front of the child. The boy tilted his head without speaking, and Ga'briyel was reminded of himself so strongly that he knew the answer to his own question. "Can you speak, child?"
"I can speak, Baba."
Ga'briyel was not surprised at the title, for he had already decided that this boy was his unborn son, and he smiled.
"Why are you here, little one?"
"To comfort you, Baba. To let you know that Mama is happy and safe and that Nina and Mahi are as well. They do not wish you to worry about them or about me."
The smile slipped from Ga'briyel's face and was replaced with a scowl. "How can I not worry? I am not there! I will not be there when you arrive! I will not be there to see you grow! I will not even be there to name you! Do not tell me not to worry!" Ga'briyel felt guilty as soon as the words left his mouth. He was yelling at a small child who was not even real, but the boy simply raised one tiny hand and laid it on his father's cheek.
"Please, Baba, please do not worry. I will be all right. Mama and the others will be all right. And you may name me now if you wish. Mama will know the name you choose."
"How will she know that?"
"The same way you know she is safe. I will tell her in a dream." The boy smiled. "I would like to know my name, Baba." Ga'briyel sat on the ground, and the boy climbed into his lap and hugged him tightly. "I love you, Baba," he said softly.
"You do not even know me, little one. How can you love me?"
"But I do know you, Baba. Yisu has given me knowledge of you, and I love you already. Even though I am yet unborn, I love you and Mama both." The tiny arms squeezed, and Ga'briyel returned the gesture.
"Adama," he said softly.
"Yes. Adama Mistri el'Ga'briyel el'Adama el'Altyara."
"I like it, Baba. I will be proud to bear the name of your baba, and I will make you proud as well."
"Of that I am sure, my son. Will you tell your Mama something else for me?"
"Of course, Baba."
Ga'briyel's breath caught in his chest, and he held it for a moment, but tears still fell from his eyes. "Tell her that I love her more than life. Tell her that I wish I could be with her now, but I cannot. Yisu has told me I must travel north. He has not told me why yet. Tell her I miss her, my son. Will you do that for your baba?"
"Yes," the little boy whispered, and then the light faded, the boy faded, and Ga'briyel slowly awakened. He sat up, his hands twitching with the desire to keep his son with him, and looked around him. He sighed when his gaze landed on Telantes who was staring at him silently.
"You were right, Telantes," Ga'briyel said, closing his eyes again. "It was good, and I was very pleased."
"I am always right, Ga'briyel Mistri. You should know that by now." The Anmah could hear the levity in the spirit's words, and he smiled as he lay back down on the cold ground.
"Not always, my friend, but this time you were. I thank you for your advice."
"Not my advice, Sainika. Yisu's advice. I am but His messenger, after all."
"That is not true, and you know it," Ga'briyel mumbled as he drifted back to sleep.
"No, my friend, it is not true," Telantes whispered as he placed his hands on Ga'briyel's temples, "but sleep now and waken with a better view of things."