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Monthly Writing Prompt
For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6)

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TerishD

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TerishD

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PostSubject: To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6)   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeApril 15th 2019, 6:57 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter One

(Hallith)

I looked to Talmerta and smiled as the high notes of a young lady declared, "I am storm!"

Without hesitation he took off toward the source of the words.  It helped that hisses, grunts, and other sounds of combat continued to let us know where Ayither was located.  She had taken to the life of the Quartermasters without complaint.  We had overthrown kingdoms, eradicated monstrous armies, and now moved through a thick woods looking for a horrible creature that polluted all that it contacted.  Ayither had showed no fatigue, no desire to socialize, or even much of a hunger.  She had taken to the challenges more than eager to prove herself able to handle the life I once had called my own.  I took off toward her words however determined that she would not meet her end.

Physically, Ayither was about fifteen years of age.  She however had more than enough womanly assets to have people impressed with her figure.  Her straw-colored hair was kept long, falling to about the small of her back, as she loved feeling the wind moving through her locks.  Her grayish-blue eyes also supported her connection to air, strong moving air.  While physically she appeared young, she had been active in that form for over a couple of decades and had the mentality to respond to threats in some really experienced manners.

If not for Ayither battling the monster, I might have again missed it.  The body was long and serpentine, so easily flowed through the trees.  Not only was it black, but a strange mist traveled along its scaly skin making it hard to see in the dim light beneath the canopy.  Ayither had said that her connection to air would enable her to find it, and as she fought the monster I had to allow that her boast had been proven true.

Anerth was the one that convinced me to join the Quartermasters centuries ago.  His aspect and mine was water.  Our association with the element had really not helped us with this monster.  Johoyo was also a follower of Zetrullid, and he hung around Anerth as if protecting the priest instead of battling the threat.

Talmerta had an association with death.  He had been one to also boast of being able to find the monster.  Ayither had proven him wrong, but I was pleased to see that he swallowed his pride and took to the fight.

Mikani was the only female in the present Quartermasters, but by tradition there was only one.  She represented Bestolger, the goddess of life.  Her association was even more useless than us who represented water.  I however felt good seeing her support Ayither who showed no fear in directly facing the threat.

I stayed in the combat long enough to get a sense of just what type of monster we were fighting, then moved close to Ayither to ask, "Do you trust me?"

She replied, "Why would I not trust you?"

"Same reason as usual.  I am about to have you do something slightly dangerous."

She laughed.  I had brought her to spend time with the Quartermasters.  Anerth was my friend, and I had been of this group for over four hundred years.  It had been my life, and as someone I hoped would share my life I felt she needed to understand the lifestyle.  She had taken to the challenges without hesitation, and amidst the time of going from danger to danger her spirit had stayed positive.  What I found amazing was she also kept her attitude cheerful with me.  Hearing her laugh, I wondered if she only liked me for bringing her here, or if she had hopes of deeper pleasures in my company.

She said, "Do what you must, Hallith.  Its aura prevents my air from fully operating around it.  While that enables me to find it, I know the need to kill this thing."

"No,” I had to say.  “Sorry, but I am going to be the one to kill it."

"You are going to have me go on top."

Like I said, she was only physically young.  Her mind had decades of living and fighting to draw upon for experience.  I heard the words and smiled accepting that she had studied things about my style of dealing with problems.  I grinned at what she said, then made my reply.

"On top will give you wonderful opportunity, but I will be the one to kill it."

She performed some maneuvers while saying, "Do it now, as it is about to flee."

One of our problems with this threat was that it would use its ease of movement through the terrain and obscuring nature to avoid our attempts to track it.  While I did not doubt that Ayither could find it again, I knew better than to allow this monster to spread its corrupting influence any further.  I thus spun my large sword and set the point into the ground with the blade set at an angle.  I then held out an elbow in a manner of providing a step.  Ayither easily had her light frame move up my blade, step on my arm, then jump calling upon her god to supply the wind to assure her flight up.

While she had proven her understanding of my tactics, I had used my centuries of wisdom to study the actions of the monster.  It had seen Ayither go over its head.  It however was not a vicious predator, but a poisonous corrupting defiler of lands.  I felt certain that it would not seek to fight, but to take advantage of a mistake in order to leave death behind.  The malignant beast did rise up from the attack of Ayither on its back, but then came after me having seen me put my sword in a poor position.  What it failed to realize was that I had other weapons on my person.  With its body lifted, I pulled a lesser blade from my back thigh and made a fatal attack to the underside of the creature.  My tactic proved its success as the threat to the land went into its death throes.

Ayither rushed around to me.  I believe her expression indicated she was as worried about me being beneath the monster as I had been about her being on top of it.  She looked at the filth pouring from the wound I had made, then looked to me to admit something I did not expect.

"All right, Hallith, I will grant you this kill."

I cheerfully replied, "Well, thanks, but your willingness to act gave me the opening."

"Yes, but I honestly felt being on top would give me the killing blow.  It however had just too much protection up there."

I smiled at her while listening to Anerth tell his fellow Quartermasters to take a breather, as another portal would surely be opening soon.  I turned expecting to trade some words with those who now held the positions as multi-world heroes.  I however looked back feeling Ayither's hand grip one of my arms and listened to her softly give me a command.

"Let's not go with them this time."

The words surprised me.  She had taken to this life so well.  For the last number of days I had heard her eagerness to go to each threat, and pleasure at having proven herself able to handle the constant challenges.  I thus had to say some words to assure her decision.

"Are you certain that you are ready to go elsewhere?"

"Yes.  It might sound strange, but I now agree with you that this life is not one of storm.  Oh, I manage easily enough, but I can tell that there is something more.  I have listened as the others spoke of these being easy challenges, and tell their tales of what they consider the difficult ones.  Before a challenge taking thought, diplomacy, and dealing with regular people comes to the Quartermasters, show me more of your life.  If there is calm, let me see it now with you instead of with them."

"Okay."  I turned and said, "Anerth, Ayither and I will be heading elsewhere."

He did not seek to keep us with him.  Anerth had called me to him before, but I recognized that the three that now went with him were learning the life.  They spoke of their pleasure in again having my company, and that of Ayither, then just waved as they climbed on their mounts before taking off through the portal that opened for them.

As I checked my horse, I said, "I cannot say that I have any really calm friends."

"Good."

I smiled as I said, "But Terish can be rather close to it at times.  Still, he is a friend, so I guess you will need to meet him eventually."

She climbed into the saddle on her horse, then again stated, "Good."

It was enough of an agreement for me.  I thus called out for a passage to Terish.  As happened with the Quartermasters, a portal opened.  Unlike my time with Anerth, this one took me where I wanted to go.  The change in my relationship with my god I felt was enough of an improvement to more than earn my continued devotion to him.

There was a nice fire with a pot set over it providing an aroma of food.  Other things were about stating the presence of an active camp.  I dismounted seeing a horse tethered near a tree.  Stepping from behind a bush was a young appearing man.  His light-brown hair and eyes gave him a boyish appearance.  While many would initially think him to have no experience behind him, those that actually knew the man would go to him for advice.  He knew more than most people, was wealthier than most people, although also was deadlier than most people.  I however felt no fear in being near his campfire, as I knew he would be nice to a friend.

Terish spoke loud enough to assure others heard as he said, "Hallith, it is good to see you.  Who do you have with you?"

I introduced my companion.  "Terish, this is Ayither, champion of a deity of strong air, named Typhorsh.  She is with me seeing just how well we can get along."

"Nice to meet you, Ayither.  I am Terish Dozzrine, and have known Hallith for over a century.  I consider him a good friend, and would gladly look forward to having you considered a friend as well.  If you would like, Straekin, my wife, and Menasha, someone you probably want to meet instead of me, are down in the lake."  He extended a hand to indicate a direction as he said, "Not far."

Indeed, I could see the water from where I was.  Of course, I was a big man.  I however guessed that Ayither saw the water as well when she softly spoke to me.

"If you don't mind tending to my horse, I will go join them."

I helped her release the straps holding a saddlebag as I said, "Remember, you said calm."

"I am still storm."

I simply shrugged.  She took the saddlebag with her clothes and personal items, but instead of moving away came forward to kiss me.  She then dashed away to the water.  I simply felt the quick sign of affection wonderful, so stood still for a time.

Terish approached, I believe to help me with the animals, as he asked, "Do you have a problem?"

I answered, "No.  Not at all.  I have a story, but a good one.  Just spent a number of days with the Quartermasters, but I told Ayither that I felt it was time to go meet my friends."

"Will it bother you if I include you in my own activities?"

"Not at all.  In fact, it would be a help.  Part of my story."

Terish went silent for a moment.  I heard some distant conversation between the ladies.  I really could not make it out, but suspected Terish had understood when he made a statement.

"Well, I guess we can trade our stories.  After the ladies get back we might need to straighten out how we said things, but at least between us men we can get our facts straight."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.


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PostSubject: Chapter Two   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeApril 20th 2019, 6:57 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter Two

(Dalinth)

It could only be black. Touching the essence below me sent fabulous shivers through my body. No matter how much I enjoyed the sensations of pulling the power, I could not siphon it off or otherwise pass through it. It was more of a barrier than something white. If it was white, I could attack to overcome and possibly win. The rush of wonderful jolts of pleasure however reduced the energy of my force upon the barrier. I could – not – get – through – DAMN! How could somebody make a barrier of black that would keep me from passing?

This was supposed to be an answer. The oracle told me that I would find my answers in this hole. He also said that I was to get help. No help. No answers. My thoughts now twisted toward thinking that I should go back and kill the man that said this was an answer.

The prayer at the bottom of this shaft said that it was removing white. How could you remove black from white? How could you remove white and get black? We had to purify ourselves. Both black and white went through rites to purify ourselves to gain our color. We did not mix. I went through processes of mind and spirit to remove any taint of white from my essence. If you removed my black, I would just no longer remain.

I looked around the shaft attempting to remember why I was even here. I had not done anything wrong. I had not gone before the elders seeking further challenges. From my review of the conversation, I had been sent to this shaft simply because I was the divine champion of black that showed up.

After going to the altar and dropping my tithe, the elder oracle came up saying, "Dalinth, yes, you're black – good. Come with me."

Of course I followed him. I had no idea what instructions he would have for me. I never did. From speaking to other champions, none of us ever knew what our next mission would be. Usually those from a temple were the better missions, so we all looked forward to them. The people usually only presented us with minor concerns that were not worth the trouble. It was also hard to tithe what the people paid us with. How do you measure out a tenth of a cup of rice? Every time I went into a temple and offered to a deity a handful of rice, a pinch of coffee, and a stale slice of bread I felt like I was unworthy of my status. I thus followed the elder oracle hoping for a mission that would bring myself some respect and not just my god.

He did not lead me into his office, but into a conference room where there was a map. "Dalinth, there is an ancient threat contained in the foothills of Mount Ichalon." He pointed, then walked up to the map to tap on the location to assure that I knew where to go. "You are supposed to find the answer to finally resolve this threat. Frowick says that you should have help coming."

Just so I would not do anything I should not, I asked, "What type of help?"

"Don't know. Frowick said that you would recognize them as help."

"So, they're black?"

I felt such a statement to be a minimum requirement for what I should consider as help. Of course I would accept information or work from the regular people, but I felt a mission from a church official would require a stricter standard. The look from the elder oracle however let me know that I might have to be a little lenient on certain requirements.

"He did not say that, but did say that you would recognize them as help."

Getting worried about this mission, I felt the need to ask, "You're not going to tell me that they're white? I mean, come on, what you said when you saw me said that you needed someone black."

"Listen, Dalinth, this is a matter that was left unresolved long ago. In our proper manner the matter is again brought to our attention. Each time we pray about it. On this matter, no answer is considered an answer. What this should tell you, Dalinth, is that I am speaking from a communication with Frowick on this matter."

Frowick was the god of disease. The people considered him a comforting deity. The fact that a god had taken on disease as an aspect let them know that there was divine recognition of the suffering. There were positive and negative impacts from diseases with the people needing to accept that it had a place in their lives. People would come to me to help them deal with sickness, as being black they knew I would work against the aspect.

To the gods I was a disagreeable figure. My presence helped the deities relate to the people however, as when they turned to me the gods knew that certain divine acts were not welcome. Those suffering from a disease would turn to me, of course, and I would do what I could. When too many sought me out however, the gods knew that a situation had resulted in more than just a small disagreement among the regular people.

Still not certain of this mission, I asked, "Okay, so tell me why you aren't handing this to white?"

"Because they won't solve it."

"Won't? And I will?"

If you asked me, those of us black solved a lot more problems than those white. White usually promoted whatever situation the god had enacted. Their idea of solving a problem was to help the people deal with their circumstances. Those of us black however would go against the influence of the gods, which usually, in my opinion, resulted in a far better solution to the problem.

It was usual for the clergy to support white. They however had family connections and personal opinions about certain influences upon the population. It thus was not unusual for a member of the clergy to approach those of us black with certain special requests.

Since I had been brought alone to a chamber, I expected this request to only be a concern of the elder oracle. Of course, his status did give his thoughts some weight. I also heard him say that he gained authorization and instruction from Frowick. I however waited for the elder oracle to answer my question in a manner stating that it was my disagreeable nature that had him wanting me to take on this problem.

"There has been no solution, Dalinth. This is a chance at a solution. White would not necessarily consider a resolution of this situation as important. You would. Black would. Work to find a solution, Dalinth. One that will remove this problem."

That response actually made sense to me, so I allowed that I was possibly the person for the job even as I asked, "Is this a matter of Frowick?"

"No. I really do not know the history of this place. I had to go see this place for myself early in my service to the god, as I could find no facts other than some vague notes. All three of our male deities: Frowick, Nachash, and Taburl claim responsibility for the sealing away of this problem. Bamander, Persala, and Velliya promise to support any who might attempt a solution, but would chastise any who felt to do so without a clear plan of action. Being black, you might find yourself without the actions you feel you deserve, but let me say again that help should be coming to you. Specifics about such have been vague, although I have been told to give you assurance."

Finding the elder oracle to have responded in a manner that actually intrigued me, I decided to take on this problem. It did not surprise me to have the elder oracle smile and direct me to where I could get supplies. Having someone who would defy the actions of the gods usually gained one a number of benefits. The fact that gratuities from a church did not have to be tithed, I felt free to take small quantities of things to diversify the contents in my possession. As I packed away what I took, the elder oracle gave me a blessing that I hoped Frowick would not look upon as an act of defiance.

I left the church eager to do something different. A life spent defying the gods can be rough on one's soul. While I do not mean them wrong, to start one's eternity with a soul going against the nature of those who controlled everything did make life hard. To actually find myself on a mission that might gain my soul some positive grace I felt was a necessary change of focus for my own benefit. I thus rushed through the town to avoid those who sought my usual defiant self so I could quickly set myself to the mission given by an elder of the local church.

No help came as I was promised. I kept looking for them. For someone of black, I guess that most who met me were surprised at my friendly greeting. Even a couple of white champions heard such words from me. I really did not suspect them to be the ones to supply me with aid, but I did allow that they might direct me to some odd personalities. They listened to my words on being on a mission from a church of Frowick who promised me help, but the champions of white had nothing to offer me.

Reaching the hole had me questioning the elder oracle and the entire mission. No help, and really nothing to indicate the reason I had come. I dropped into the hole hoping for some focus to my purpose.

What I found at the bottom fueled almost every emotion I could imagine myself as having. I thought of my blackness as a separate energy, and its presence was strong giving support for what had only been a belief. The next time I met a white champion, I would not be as silent when they claimed to be working with the divine powers, as I now had evidence that I had a source of energy fueling my own actions.

I climbed out of the hole wondering about everything. I questioned whether this mission actually came from Frowick. I even wondered about the sanity of the elder oracle who sent me on this mission. What I had experienced at the bottom of the hole did not provide any facts. The flood of emotions at the bottom of the hole caused me to remember it as an esoteric experience with no foundation for applying to other parts of my life or purpose.

Without finding my help, or any real mission, I took off. The feeling was strong in me that I had missed something. Having to solve problems on my own without divine support had taught me to depend upon myself. I rushed off seeking my own answers. Finally feeling my own fatigue, I allowed my mount to rest and graze while I drew maps in the dirt. Finally concluding that I had arrived at the right direction, I sat and wondered about my real mission.

It took going back over my experience at the bottom of the hole for me to accept the complexity of the puzzle presented to me. I thought of the male gods, and accepted that their presence had more than revealed itself. The way it pulled white while emanating black was something only Frowick could manage. The range of emotions stated the influence of Nachash, while my ability to deal with the experience let me know that Taburl's grace had gone into whatever the hole presented.

With that knowledge, I then wondered about the other things I had been told. I looked around for signs of the help I had been assured would come. I sought my own experience for possible direction in what more to do. Wondering if the future would prove the accuracy of the things I had been told, I finally decided to gain some rest.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Chapter Three   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeApril 25th 2019, 6:36 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter Three

(Hallith)

Straekin came into camp and asked about Kierle almost immediately after speaking a greeting to me. I had to allow that while I had told Ayither some things, she could not speak with any actual knowledge. Straekin had been present when I gained Kierle, so knew things of the lady and my life with her, so I filled Straekin in on some details that the lady now in my life would not know.

It had been thirty years since I had seen Terish, Straekin, and Menasha. We all felt bad about being gone from each other's lives for so long. Of course, being immortals, nothing had really changed between us. We all looked the same. We all basically had the same type of life. There were some little details, but only after a short period we had covered most of the basics. I however had to check on the one in our group that actually was not immortal, as thirty years could have been as important with her as it had been with Kierle.

Menasha answered, "Oh, don't talk like that, Hallith. I still have at least a decade left in my service to Terish. If you will remember, I was almost as young as Kierle when we last met."

While the centaur did not have immortality, those that served as the mount to Terish were blessed with youth. She thus had not changed just as the rest of us had not. Her cream-colored hair coming from her head and down along her spine was presently a little long, but otherwise the centaur looked the same as when I saw her previously.

Like Ayither and Menasha, Terish had been in his teens when his life became blessed. He had a lean, boyish look to him that often had people not accept him as the grand source of knowledge he truly was. His wife, Straekin, I believe was physically a little older than me, although for a lady a little maturity added some grace to the form. She still was not old enough to place her as an improper companion to her husband. My large size often had people not noticing the youth that still remained on my form, although I faced few enemies who felt they were facing an inexperienced opponent. Like the others with me, I had been the one to survive and continue my life.

Ayither asked, "Did Terish tell you that they were heading to a hole in the ground?"

I answered, "Sounds calm."

"No. It sounds interesting."

Terish said, "I hope it is. I was informed of something –"

His wife interrupted him to inform us, "A minstrel sang a song he could not recognize. I had to listen as Terish paid the man to sing the lay a number of times. It seems that Terish had accumulated some notes about some mysterious presence from some even more mysterious realities, and this song actually spoke to that. We then went from that city, to one infested with really horrid sprites – nasty things, to now this hole in the ground."

Ayither looked to me to comment, "And you said this would be calm."

Terish replied for me, "Oh, my life can get real boring. My wife and I both have concerns with family and lands with me spending my days reading a lot."

Straekin added, "And this is probably just some hole in the ground. We will be poking and prodding hoping to find the reason we even bothered to go to the place. We could well end up bored with us returning home just so Terish can read some more."

Ayither asked me, "Are you going to bed?"

I answered, "No. I need to take a bath. I also know that Terish has probably been up a few nights, so could probably use time sleeping."

Straekin supplied an answer, "Yes, he could."

Ayither said, "You have been active for a number of days as well, Hallith."

I replied, "I am good at sleeping in the saddle. Unlike you, I do not have my animal weave around all the time. Also, time as a Quartermaster does not bother me. After centuries at the life, I can deal with it. My equipment can't however, and now I have good stuff and not simply what I could grab along the way. Thus, I am going to spend time after caring for myself to care for my equipment. Considering how boring that will be, I will let the rest of you go on to sleep."

Terish said, "Well, if it gets too boring for you, wake me up."

Ayither allowed, "Or me. I may be storm, but I stayed active with the Quartermasters more than usual. I'm going to get some sleep. Still, I should not need too much."

As she went to check where I had placed her stuff, Straekin said, "She is quite a lady, Hallith. Ayither said that another had actually been chosen for you, but that she had been the better choice for you."

I replied, "Well, Aslerrida was not certain about where she was sending me, but Kierle forced the goddess to make some concession. It did come out that it was another goddess, Nemerry, that was attempting to find another interested man to give one of her divine champions another choice than the man who was fooling around on her. Slidell was however friends with Ayither. The two were quite different in their attitudes and the gods they worshipped, but really, really good friends. I enjoyed coming to know each of the ladies, and actually focused on the mission they were involved in while they settled matters concerning me between them."

"She keeps saying that she is storm."

"That is the way their religion works. While they fight evil and promote good, their actual focus is either in a more active lifestyle or a more regimented way of handling life. Still, Slidell, the calm one, was very open to other beliefs. Ayither was also willing to adjust to the more methodical nature of others. It was really a pleasant period for me, and I am glad to have come away with both stating their friendship. Having Ayither with me I believe is wonderful, whether we actually end up as a permanent couple or not."

Terish said, "Well, we have stayed in contact with Pesloe and Cornispe, and through them stayed aware of your commitment to Kierle. Pesloe always said that you would make a lady a fine husband."

"I don't have the life for a lady such as Kierle. While it was nice considering a place as home, the fact that I missed visiting you and others only convinces me that I need someone who can do more than make me feel at home. That is what I believe Ayither will offer me. She is someone that can be at home with my lifestyle."

Straekin replied, "And I have to agree that should be important. While my background would not state my pleasure in being out in these wildernesses, the travel has made this life with Terish a wonderful thing. Hopefully you and Ayither can also find peace with each other even in these forsaken places."

I moved and realized something, so said, "Well, take your husband to bed, Straekin. I need to go get a bath. I will then be caring for my equipment. I expect that will take a while, but I promise that I will awaken someone before I doze off."

Terish displayed his usual paranoid self by asking, "How about Ayither?"

"Her? She's storm. I'm actually surprised that she is sleeping now. Of course, I also know just how draining the life as a Quartermaster can be. If anything can pull the energy out of a storm, it is that life." Before another paranoid question could be asked, I said, "She also is not stupid. Ayither can sound rash, but I have not seen it in her actions. She is very aware of things around her, and more than able to see the benefit in having others work with her."

Menasha said, "Well, I'm going to bed. I am not going to say that my life is draining, but I know that I have to carry Terish tomorrow. He might sleep in the saddle, but I have to stay awake."

As the centaur moved to a tree, Terish again revealed his paranoid personality by asking, "Do you have any reservations about Ayither?"

I replied, "As a member of our group? None whatsoever. As for being my wife, I believe that we are both interested in how this little journey will result. She has problems with her style of life and her immortality. To give up one is to give up the other, but she truly does not want to give up either. Storm is a rather active life, and she knows from the experience of others as well as her own experience that maintaining it is almost impossible."

Straekin asked, "What about her god?"

"I have found him to be a rather nice entity. What is worse, Ayither is as devoted to him as I am to Zetrullid. I thus really do not believe Ayither will have a problem, but she understands the history of her service. I believe she is correct about simply needing to find what she feels is a proper balance for her life."

Terish interjected his question, "But if she has been a champion of her god for decades, why hasn't she found it?"

"Because she sees her time as a wife and mother as taking that balance from her. Up to now she has managed to retain her storm, but once a husband, children, and the regular outside concerns of life take over the history says that the storm will leave."

"Why didn't you stay with the Quartermasters?"

I felt that to be a simple question, so probably had some disdain in my voice as I replied, "That's not a life. While she proved herself with Anerth and the others, I felt the desire for an actual life is why she had me come here." Feeling a need to be honest with this couple, I explained, "By the way, she did not ask to come here. She asked me to take her to calm. I hope that I did not impose on you, or dishonor you by claiming you to be calm."

Straekin said, "Neither, Hallith. I doubt either one of us cares why you came to us. Glad to see you, and even glad to meet Ayither. We might not be the answer she needs, or you need, but we are your friends. I know that you said 'calm,' but have you taken her to meet Pesloe and Cornispe?"

"No. I was told to take her to my world last. I was told that to officially present her to Zetrullid should not happen until we are ready to face taking a certain step. I know Chertish would work on us in such a manner, and I agree bringing her to Morlin would be a major introduction."

She looked to her husband to say, "Those are my questions. If you don't have any, I'm taking you to bed."

Terish rose while saying, "Just the obvious question. No act, statement, or direction of a deity had you come to us? I mean, you did specify coming to Straek and me, and not just a request of Zetrullid to someone calm and he opened the portal to us?"

I answered, "Uh, yes. I specified you and Straekin. I really do not have that many friends, Terish. Especially immortal couples, and considering my hopes with Ayither I was thinking of immortal couples."

"Well, this hole in the ground is about something really vaguely referenced in some esoteric texts. I never really expected to find it, but only isolated the references so I could discount them as I sought other mysteries. I was concerned however that Zetrullid, Typhorsh, or some other deity had however taken note of my actions."

"Well, I have nothing to say. Of course, if this journey does get really bizarre, I am not one to back down. Be more than glad to stay with you and see this thing through."

Straekin pushed on her husband to get him moving to their blankets as she said, "Well, let's not get to talking like that. It might happen, but for the moment let us all get some rest."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Four   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeApril 30th 2019, 6:51 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter Four

(Straekin)

I found it strange to find Ayither keeping watch when I woke up the next morning. The surprising fact was that my husband had slept through the night. He was highly paranoid, so would not rest unless assured of his safety. Even in my castle on Davelda, where high science secured everyone's safety, Terish would find odd niches to sleep in instead of a bed in a room. In his own castle the citizens knew the last place to find their king would be in the royal bedroom. We were now planning a new home, and one of my objectives was to erect a place that my husband would feel safe in. I thus woke up amazed to see Ayither as the one watching over things.

As I went to the lake to freshen myself, she said, "I am not one to cook. I will boil eggs and throw some meat over the fire. Problem is that Hallith and I are out of eggs and our meat is all jerky. I believe we have some something to make some porridge."

I replied, "That's okay. We have some fresh meat and bread. No eggs, but Menasha is a vegetarian, so we usually fix something for her and eat a serving with a little meat."

"I just can't cook. It takes too much time."

I paused, then said, "There are some rather active cooking methods. Terish is to cook tonight. I will suggest to him to teach you one of those methods."

"Active cooking methods?"

"Yes. Chop up the food rather fine, then use high heat. Can be fun."

"Okay."

Actually wanting to learn more of this lady, I kept talking. "Of course, you could also do what Terish does most of the time: do two things at once."

"Yes, but people get too damn picky about their food."

Finding it strange to hear her concerned with others, I decided to put some focus to her statement. "How about Hallith?"

"I really have not been with him that long. Of course, he's not a good cook either. If I have a family however..."

Hoping to redirect her thoughts in a more positive direction, I informed her, "Hallith has money, Ayither. Plus, if you settle on his world no one would make him pay anyway. Thus, hire a cook. Hire maids. Don't think Kierle had to do all the housework herself. Hallith had her set up in a nice house associated with a king that owed him favors. For a slave, that lady had a wonderful life."

"You knew her?"

"Yes, Ayither. I was there when Hallith first got Kierle. I really did not visit her, but Pesloe, a lady that was a Quartermaster with Hallith, would, and I got updates from her. Hallith, Pesloe, Anerth, and Chertish, the original Quartermasters, were all friends of Terish before I knew him. They are thus all considered close friends."

"That is where he said that he was taking me: to friends. We first went to the Quartermasters. I know that Hallith and Anerth spoke a lot of Pesloe and Chertish. He then brought me here." I saw a strange expression to her face, then she admitted, "Sorry, but you are just a legendary figure to me. I know of you and Terish, although the name I have of the centaur is Celatia."

"Celatia was a wonderful lady, as was her predecessor, Raedell. I have felt honored being able to have a close friendship not just with those centaurs that serve Terish, but with their tribes."

"Well, compared to your stories I have not done much."

I smiled while saying, "Don't sell yourself short, Ayither. You –"

She suddenly broke into laughter. I considered it strange. Since I did not really know the lady, I waited for her to explain herself.

"You're being nice."

I stammered out, "Well, uh, I – I did mean it."

"No. Slidell, that was what she said she noticed about Hallith. He was nice. She actually felt bad because she did not feel she was nice. I had to agree that he was nice."

Surprised, I asked, "You're not nice on your world?"

"Well, we're not mean. Still, we are divine champions. You have a mission, and set yourself to doing it. Relating to the normal people is not what we do. Hallith will though. He will do things if he can. Slidell would get all flustered with him simply because he would talk during combat. We would be engaged in these terrible fights, and he would strike up a conversation simply to pass the time." I did not have to prod, but she kept talking. "I began to understand some of his actions in the time with the Quartermasters. They are sent into places facing the terrible evils without knowing exactly what they are going to encounter. Dealing with the populace not only assures them of what they are doing, but helps the locals recognize who the heroes are. As a divine champion on my world, everything is already known."

"Well, I will never complain about someone saying I am nice. Let me go freshen up, then I will cook. Hope that you had a good night."

Ayither said that she did. I actually expected her to continue to speak with me, but I instead heard her speak to Terish. I listened as she had him speak of what he might cook tonight. She did have a direct style of speaking, but I could not say that Ayither was not nice. She did not get boastful or force a confrontation. There was an energy in her behavior, but she did not get in the way of others. Terish did not get bothered or upset in the things she said to him.

I found it slightly charming the way she spoke to Hallith. He was a large man, standing a number of inches over six feet. Ayither was only a number of inches over five feet. While the layer of muscles only reinforced the size and power of Hallith, the lack of fat just made Ayither appear that much smaller. She however displayed no fear of speaking around the man, and he did nothing to have her fear him. I found their relationship to be in a good place, and listened to them speak to each other feeling that they would make a good couple.

She did stay active during the day. While Hallith rode along with Terish and me speaking of things, Ayither had her horse basically circle us with her only occasionally joining us for periods of conversation. At one point during the day she however had us focus on her activity.

"Terish, you said that fowl would work for what you were going to cook tonight?"

He had Menasha take him next to her, then said, "That is a big bird."

Of course Hallith and I had to look. It was indeed a rather big bird. Larger than a goose with what appeared to be a tougher head and beak. Could not tell if it could actually fly, but I found myself believing it to be hard to kill.

Ayither asked, "It will work?"

My husband answered, "Yes, it will work."

"Hallith, your bow."

As the man obeyed, Terish said, "It is quite a distance away. You will probably only get one arrow shot."

Ayither said, "Yeah. No fun. Still, should give me plenty of meat to practice whatever cooking style you are going to teach me tonight."

"Yes, it definitely should."

She took the bow with me wondering about things when Hallith grudgingly gave her a single arrow. After only a moment of aiming, she released the projectile while saying the name of her god. The arrow zipped ahead of the string that was supposed to propel it with far more power than the bow provided, struck the bird right behind the eyes, then she handed the bow back to Hallith before rushing off to claim her kill.

Terish asked the man, "Why does she even use the bow?"

He answered, "I haven't figured that one out either. Slidell says that Ayither enjoys just watching the arrows fly, and that if I did not pay attention I would not have any arrows left when I needed one."

"I have to say that she does have a close relationship with her god, and he seems a rather positive spirit."

"It is good to hear you say that, Terish. That was my impression."

"Let's go help her, Hallith. I don't want that lady getting mad at you. You should do all you can to keep her."

Hallith sent his steed galloping toward Ayither. Terish however had Menasha stay still until I rode up to him, then had her match the pace of my horse. As I expected from such a maneuver, he had something to say to me.

"I don't believe that Zetrullid is playing matchmaker with Hallith, but is just overseeing what other gods are offering to the man. Kierle was an amazing lady, although we know that she was a gift from Aslerrida. Ayither seems like an amazing lady as well, even though she is a divine champion of a god from a completely different universe."

I knew my husband enough to understand he was not stating established facts. While I accepted what he said to be true, I also understood that there was a lot of unknowns. What Terish was doing was letting me hear his thoughts, although expecting me to reveal mine as well. Since I had spoken with Ayither, I had some facts to relate. More than willing to share things, I let my husband know my opinion on some matters involving the lady.

"She has a spirit that drives her, but is scared of losing it. What Hallith is doing is attempting to give her confidence that a life with him will enable her to stay as she is."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"What?"

It was unlike my husband to speak of not knowing something. I saw him grin at me as a sign that he understood my exclamation. He then spoke of things that he felt I should know.

"We both have dealt with numerous situations involving gods. The challenges set before people by those divine are often directed at the very underlying problem in their situation with the difficulty being in just facing the task, and not necessarily winning it. I like Ayither, so it might be hard to watch her go through the tests that will be presented to her."

I nodded to show my acceptance of his words, although I spoke to further my husband's concern. "Even worse for Hallith, and it will be hard watching him deal with the situation as well. He is a long dear friend to both of us, and I agree that I like Ayither."

"Tell Munulva those thoughts, as I want those divine to know that I will do what I can to help both."

Honesty, Terish had done a lot to speak of his acceptance of my Goddess. I however knew that he considered his own history to still have importance in his life, so did not feel that he truly had the devotion necessary to be truly honored by the divine influence of my world. I did not challenge him to advance his relationship with Munulva, as I knew the seriousness of things in Terish's past. I thus simply assured him that I would speak to my Goddess about our concern for both Hallith and Ayither.

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Five   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeMay 5th 2019, 6:53 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter Five

(Dalinth)

I heard the hoof beats of the horse. I turned my head from the study of the rock face to see the all white attire of the one riding up to my position, and accepted that my help had yet to arrive. I had actually given up on it. That however did not mean that the problem did not remain, and as someone committed to black I felt the need to correct any divine wrong. What bothered me was that I had yet to identify the true problem. Hoping the champion of white would provide an update and food, I kept my focus expecting to ignore any advice he felt led to give.

Hearing the feet of the animal stop before moving too close, it did not surprise me to hear the champion of white say, "Persala says that it is good that you continue. The food is deserved."

I did not turn, but expected the sound of my voice to be reflected by the rock face. "The food is appreciated. I hate to say it, but the words are as well. I will give Persala her honor."

"I do not personally worship Persala, so do not care."

I could not help but turn, as it was improper not to face the one you were accusing. "What do you mean that you do not care? As the lap dog to the gods, I would hope that you do care. You follow their rules and abide by their scriptures."

"As gods it is not our place to challenge them."

"As men we defy the gods all the time. At least as black I attempt some purpose, some benefit, to my actions."

"You defy the gods."

I really did not see any benefit in arguing with a champion of white. "For a reason. Now, tell me, oh panderer of the gods, what is the reason that no one lives here, or has lived here?"

"I believe King Asheque claims this area."

I recognized the man. It was strange how the blessing of white or black would not wipe away our identities. It actually did not change us. My hair was black, as was my eyes, and my attire would become very dark as I wore it, but those that knew me could identify me. When I met other champions of black, we could easily be told apart. People however would come to one with no recognition other than they were an agent of black. I heard similar stories from those champions of white. I thus did try to pay attention to those I met, and recognized the one before me as Retarund.

I completely lost concern for our topic as I asked, "What are you doing here? I thought you had only come down to deliver a newly scribed holy text."

"That journey had me learn the people of this land. Thus, I now act as a regular courier between our lands. Should you ever have need to journey north, check and see if I am in the area. A companion back to my home would be appreciated."

"Well, I guess that I am sorry to have met you, Retarund, as it sounds to me like you got the duty because you knew who I was."

"You helped me, Dalinth. I thus will not refuse to help you. White and black are not antagonistic. You proved that, and I am proving that. Your disagreement is with the gods, not with me. That brings up a question of mine. Dalinth, is there a god you would not challenge? I told you that I do not serve Persala, although I am here at her command. Should Velliya ask anything of me, I would be eager and cheerful to perform."

Velliya was the goddess of Pleasure. I doubt a person would not smile at anything she asked one to do. I however knew that some people had really bizarre desires for entertainment and joyful activity. I thus had challenged Velliya due to her allowance enabling some to perform cruelties to others. White would however condone even such horrid actions if they had truly been done under divine license. Not wanting to slander Velliya without good cause, I sought some safe words to say to Retarund.

"I find myself most content in the presence of Bamander. I was looking at this rock thinking of her influence, or lack of it. Not only is there no construction in this part of our world, but no quarrying of this good rock has been done either."

"Are you planning to charge into one of her temples claiming that there should be a castle built here? I dare say that King Asheque might have something to say to the goddess about that."

Those white should really know better than to say things like that to us black, so I spoke to hopefully stress the lesson to Retarund. "Pro or con?"

"What?"

"Would you dare say that King Asheque will say something to Bamander about constructing a castle out here, or about not building a castle out here?"

"Oh."

Retarund dismounted before looking around with me staying quiet about him having a better view on the back of the horse. He however did a good job of naming the surrounding towns and villages while pointing in the proper direction of where they were located. I would have thought that performing such a task to enable him to answer the question. I however groaned hearing Retarund fall back upon the usual answer for white.

"I cannot imagine him defying the advice of the goddess on the matter."

"I am not here due to Bamander, Retarund, but Frowick. Does that change your conclusion?"

"What disease is in the rock?"

That response intrigued me. It actually stated that Retarund had noticed what I had been studying, and not simply keeping his focus on his mission. I expected a simple, 'No.' Wondering if I could get a champion of white to think, I worked to present my problem to Retarund.

"There is a hole a few miles from here. It pulls the white from whatever is below. If I pulled the white from you, do you think that you might go back to being normal?"

"I gave up the normal to become white."

I could not help but smile hearing the man say something that I agreed with. "I would also say that I gave up normal to become black. That however drives my confusion. Whatever is below the bottom of this hole must be something different than you or me." Seeing his face contort in a manner that I felt indicated he was actually considering what I said, I gave him a focus for this thoughts. "If a normal person had the white drawn out of him, would he become black?"

"There is more to a regular person than black or white. While I had to remove my black, I also had to take on the qualities to bless me with white. No, it is preached that for a normal person to simply lose their black will make them something less than a person."

I guess that I could claim the response to be simply another mundane response by white. They were usually quick to fall into quoting ancient sayings or scripture. I however would not ridicule Retarund on a comment that surely only reflected his training. I thus considered how I could get him to make a response that revealed a brain actually working in his head.

"What good would it do to remove white? I am not talking about becoming black – but, okay, go there if you must. From your perspective, what good would it do to pull the white from someone?"

"Uh, Dalinth, is that what you did? Did you remove the white?"

A probing question. That was not something white did. I was impressed. So impressed, I answered the question.

"No. I do not mindlessly oppose the gods. There is always a purpose to my challenges. You do not seem to put much thought into your automatic devotion to whatever divine policies get put into force."

"I sometimes wished that my life as white was so simple. Usually, I do understand what you are attempting, Dalinth. While I consider it distasteful to go against the mandates of the gods, I usually have to allow your challenges to have some merit."

I appreciated the comment. From what I knew of Retarund, I felt it was the truth. There were however members of the champions of white that I felt had no compassion for the people. If the gods told them to slaughter entire populations, they would without any concern for those whose lives they were taking. Not wanting the conversation to descend into general comments between us, I worked to keep our focus on the topic.

"So, you do not purge all the black from you."

"Yes, I did, but I did not purge my humanity. Uh, Dalinth, did it really pull the white?"

"Are you now calling me a liar?"

I regretted that statement as soon as I said it. The words came out too easily. The differences in us black and white were too apparent, which resulted in certain insults to come a little quick. I however was pleased that Retarund made a statement that kept a rational conversation going.

"Uh, no, but it is known that black will sometimes lower their standards to get their missions accomplished."

"Challenging the gods is not easy, Retarund. Yes, sometimes I had to get a little underhanded to gain a desired outcome. I still am not known, even by the gods, as a dedicated sinner. I do not go around breaking the divine laws just because I am black. As to your question, yes, as far as I could tell, it was pulling white."

"You could be wrong, Dalinth. Could I see this hole?"

The usual response to that question was 'No.' The last thing I desired was to have the pomposity of white lecturing me while I went about my business. I however had to admit that it usually happened anyway. When the gods were active, white was as well. They usually realized they were wasting their breath, and moved on to allow those of us black to hopefully perform our miracles of helping those who would be hurt by a divine policy. Considering that white was being pulled, I actually wondered what Retarund would think of what was down at the hole, and just to find out if he had a lecture for it I did not give the usual response.

"I am supposed to be supplied with help. I doubt very highly you are it. If my help shows up, don't get in the way."

"Help?"

"Before you get any ideas, let me say that your high-minded lecture about accepting the ways of the gods do not help."

I saw Retarund smile before he replied, "Maybe they would, if you would listen to them. Anyway, Dalinth, if this hole truly pulls white, you should have someone of white to help you evaluate. My perspective could actually help you."

Actually worried that the oracle, if not the gods themselves, had actually meant for someone white to be my help, I said, "My purpose in life is to help people, even should my actions go against the dictates of the gods. Since this hole is doing something improper concerning white, I need to assure that white is not being harmed. Thus, come on, Retarund. I will show you the hole."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Six   To Know Black and White - Part 1 (1 - 6) Icon_minitimeMay 10th 2019, 6:48 am

To Know Black and White
Chapter Six

(Hallith)

I had seen Ayither around Slidell, so was used to how she operated among others of a different nature. She however learned that Terish and Straekin were not actually calm. Some of the things she did surprised her by gaining reactions. I watched as she realized Terish’s lessons to teach her a cooking style actually matched her storm nature. The fact that she enjoyed the dish brought a smile to my face, although it pleased me seeing her grin back at me. Straekin willing to try various combat routines against her forced Ayither to realize that she still had things to learn about fighting. Considering that was one problem Slidell had in accepting my presence, I felt good seeing Ayither so accepting of the alternate methods of delivering a stroke and defending against others. The fact that she was so willing to participate I believe is what had everyone stay calm around her.

She kept looking to me as if to question if I knew about something Terish, Straekin, or even Menasha was speaking about or showing her. If I did, I would say what I could. I however had to admit that I had not visited these people for a few decades, so some things I was having to learn as well. Ayither however seemed to always express a knowledge that I was watching her with amusement. She did not get angry with me, but would simply smile. I expected her to eventually say something to me, but felt comfortable that she was so willing to adjust to these people I considered friends.

It did help me that she began calling to me to check my knowledge against what she had been learning. I had to admit that my fighting style did not allow me the fine control that Terish displayed when chopping up the meat and vegetables for his dishes. He however exchanged a grin with me in hearing Ayither mention practicing the precision techniques used in his cooking method. She then called me over after attempting some maneuvers Straekin showed her.

After I again sent her to the ground, she asked, "Can you work with those tactics?"

"Of course," I answered. "I have spent time with Straekin."

"No. I mean actually use her methods?"

"I'm not her size." Before Ayither could complain, I set my sword against a tree, then came to her while pulling my smaller sword from my back right thigh. "I will see if I can duplicate her moves."

She tried to fuss at me a couple of times for performing a maneuver wrong. Straekin however was not far, and gladly came to my call. Between the two of us we gave Ayither a hard workout of attempting to match Straekin's manner of fighting, then defending against it. While my size would not allow me to perfectly match her routines, Ayither came to accept that she had no reason to fuss about how I performed the maneuvers.

Calling an end to the session, she came to me and said, "This is not the style of calm, and I don't think calm would like it." Before I could comment, she added, "But not storm either."

I had to reply, "Oh, come on, Ayither. It has to be either storm or calm. What else is there? Brisk?"

"Slidell would say it is storm, because it is not calm."

"And that does not settle the issue?"

"I will learn this. I just... well, I have done well up to now. I do not find myself unable to meet the challenges, but Typhorsh says to listen to all of you. The Quartermasters spoke of my time with them being simple, basic threats. They might have been bragging, but I find Straekin speaking of certain opponents she had faced. The message is clear that my routines would not have been successful. I am finding myself wondering if I will have a need to consider these techniques."

I felt honored that she spoke her mind. It was not that she did not, but this case she did so in a manner of actually seeking to discuss the matter. Usually she did listen, but it was only after she spent time considering the subject did she speak of accepting something as having more worth than a momentary change due to a situation. I felt that was an advance in our relationship, but wondering about her thoughts I asked a more reserved question.

"Are you going to go back to the Quartermasters and stay?"

"No. I will at least go with Terish and Straekin and see about this hole in the ground."

I smiled while saying, "I believe that is the best choice."

"You do understand, Hallith, that I will stay storm?"

"You understand that I am trying to show you that I will not try and make you into anything else?"

"I am not going to discuss that right now."

Really wanting to have our conversation go in that direction, I tried another topic. "I did enjoy supper."

"Since I killed it from a distance, it did not expect me, so the muscle tissue was not tensed up. Still, I think Terish's cooking method was what helped the flavor. I might try it with other animals."

"Terish has the spices, Ayither. You might need to shop."

She looked at me. It was not a glare, but I could tell that she was thinking as she watched me. Finally, she made a simple statement.

"I can shop."

"I will leave it at that, Ayither." Before she could say anything else, I added, "Listen, I'm not going to push you. I see you pushing yourself, and know to appreciate what you are doing. I want you to continue to accept that I am here for you."

"That is good, Hallith. I heard your story, so know that you are not yet ready for another relationship. I am however trusting that you heard my story. Others have tried to get me to accept them, but they sought to treat me like other women. I am not, and I will not be for you either. I might end up being your wife, but I will still be storm. That I promise you and Typhorsh."

"I am immortal, Ayither. If you are to stand by me, you will need to be immortal as well. Kierle will not be happy otherwise. While I did love her, and do not want to disappoint her, I also do not want the voice of another woman speaking from the divine realms about desiring a proper lady to share my life. You find that you do not fear losing the storm, then you will find that you will need to deal with my advances."

"All my life I have feared losing my storm."

I felt that was a good revelation from her, but did not want to simply say something soothing. "Home should not be a place of fear, Ayither."

"Typhorsh is staying silent on that, Hallith. I however want to say that I agree with you."

"Then don't you stay silent with Typhorsh." Hearing an agreement, I decided to change the topic. "Are you going on to bed, or do you want me to take watch first?"

"When cooking with Terish, he told me that he would watch tonight."

"Oh, he will stay up enough once things get hectic. Right now, let Straekin have her husband. Trust me, that will keep her happy, and Straekin can be a real friend."

"She was most helpful. Okay. Let me get some sleep again. That will have me again working on breakfast." I felt her come up to pat me on the chest as she said, "I do not mind cooking. I just mind having to be calm while cooking. I never had someone of storm show me methods of cooking."

"I am glad to see you willing to learn, Ayither. Now, get ready for bed. I will tell Straekin to take her husband again. Tomorrow we should be at the hole, so we can decide about things after we have seen what can be seen."

She kissed me. It took me by surprise for a couple of reasons. The first was I just did not expect it. She had pecked my cheek a number of times, and a few times gave me a brief encounter on the lips, but never truly approached to kiss me. The other was that Ayither had to cover some distance to do the feat. I felt her hands come to my shoulders to help support her jump. I had a hand go to her back not to actually hold her in place, although I did hope to counter gravity's immediately pull to remove her lips from mine. There was a lightness in her body that I felt as a sign of approval from Typhorsh, so I allowed her to drop when I felt the weight of her form.

She again patted my chest as she said, "I am also not against that, but I have yet to have someone who agreed to support my storm. Remember that, Hallith. I am storm. If you want me for a wife, I will not be a calm lady."

"If you want to be my wife, do not expect a calm life. Kierle could not follow me as I lived my life. I will expect my wife to be with me just as Straekin is with her husband." Thinking back to what I said about Straekin, I added, "Which includes my wife being in a better mood if she has her husband with her."

Ayither replied, "I'm not giving up on you, Hallith, so don't give up on me. Now, I will be preparing to get some sleep."

As she went to do what she felt needed to be done, I let Straekin know our plans. She spoke of appreciating my decision, and promised me to again get her husband to spend time with Ayither. Straekin did mention getting Terish to be a little active with her, but the way she said it I felt her to be testing my feelings on having them doing things that Ayither and I were not yet at the point of sharing with each other. I reminded her about her husband definitely staying awake once trouble broke out, and with her agreement let her leave to do what was needed to get her man to again rest with her.

There was an incident with a big cat during my watch. I probably should not have played with it, but I felt like trying some of Straekin's maneuvers with an actual opponent. The big cat made some screams, so it did not surprise me to see Terish awake as I began tying up the animal to bleed it before cutting it up for its meat.

"Go on to bed, Hallith. I can do this, and I am awake."

Knowing better than to apologize for waking him, I simply asked, "Where did Straekin's combat style come from? Is it from Davelda?"

"Basically. She learned basic combat moves as her world went through its war over their immortality process. Being a diplomat, she really did not see combat, but she did end up in some serious situations. After the war, she kept up certain drills simply as a form of exercise, although it was also used for propaganda purposes to let her people know that she would stay a threat to the machinations of those in the council. Ferrigote and I did work with her to get her to realize that the sword could actually hurt someone, but we did not consider her training useless. It is actually surprising me to see Ayither find value with the maneuvers, because Straekin is not really considered the dangerous one in our group."

I smiled with the thought that next to Terish and Ferrigote few would be considered to be dangerous. I had been fighting as a Quartermaster for almost three centuries when I first met Terish, but found him able to give us rest by taking on major threats by himself. That is why I felt Ayither needed to spend time with him. Whether or not she considered him calm, she could learn how to become even more dangerous.

I said, "Ayither is looking for some answer to her situation. I however am pleased that she is looking."

"Don't let her lose her focus, Hallith. Whatever your eventual relationship with Ayither, she is someone you will ever be proud to have as a friend. I have seen many people come from the direction of Ayither with the intent to hold their path, only to find doom."

"Any successful?"

"Me. I wasn't angry, and she's not angry. There is a focus there, but also a lack of knowledge. Desiree had me focus on learning all I could. Ferrigote provided the skill set for handling dangerous situations and not getting myself killed. Ayither already has a lot of that, but she needs the foundation on how to learn. I am not scared of learning anything, but she does. I really do not know how to help, but it seems that Straekin is making a connection. You're my friend, Straekin's my wife, and I like what I see in Ayither, so I'm more than willing to do what I can. Now, get some sleep."

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