In Serein

3-9-4 Lizard Morning

Lucian being hungry in his sleep woke me up. It was quite early, I think, and very quiet indeed but then I realised that it wasn’t so quiet but the effect of a very concise set of shields all around that bore his signature. He was getting good. Very good, indeed, I thought and found myself smiling as I traced what he had made around its perimeters.

I blinked an eye open and raised myself onto my elbow.

Chay was lying flat on his back, not asleep but deeply unconscious and Lucian was turned towards him, knees drawn up and a hand on Chay’s upper arm against which his forehead was leaning. I grinned happily and made sure to lock that picture clearly into my memory for future reference and in case such a thing was ever being denied by certain persons.

Lucian was very hungry, indeed. He was dreaming of being at a banquet but was not allowed to eat, having to stand guard and watching the others tear into roasted fowl and meat with their teeth, laughing and throwing large chunks of it to slathering dogs.

Poor love.

I got up carefully as not to wake him and went to the wash room.

Strangely light and contained within myself this morning, strangely cheerful and feeling more like me, or perhaps how I think I remember me, I used a comb on my hair with deliberation whilst looking at myself in the mirror.

I was wearing the white dress still I had decided on for no good reason yesterday. What a strange fancy that was! I took it off, floated it in the air before me and turned it into a good replica of a Serein robe, but I could not quite recall the correct colour, that special jade. I knew it well enough but its precise composition simply escaped me. I sighed and settled for an approximation instead which was leaning towards green more than towards blue and then slipped myself inside it.

Ah, but that did feel so good. So much better than women’s dresses, so much more comfortable than men’s trousers, so incredibly free and flowing with each movement, regulating temperature, shielding without hindrance. I smiled at myself and sighed happily. I would go downstairs and take a walk in the garden before Lucian would awake.

When I passed them both on my way out, I couldn’t help but had to stop and look at them again.

Lucian’s strength never ceased to amaze me. When called upon, he simply did not falter nor did his concentration ever waver in the slightest. He had powered me through the new layers, shored up Chay, put us both back together enough so we would be alright and not until all was well had he given in to his own exhaustion.

I shook my head and turned towards the door, raised my hands and touched the outside edges of his shielding. It was a work of art. I can’t conceive of anyone or anything that could exist that might enter through this intricate weave and yet I could, my own uniqueness had its own exception and I would swear that Chay and Lucian had their own exceptions too and so would all the combinations of the three or two of three of us.

I slid through the shield, a brushing, loving touch sensation and opened the door quietly.

I went downstairs and towards the so familiar noise of clattering in the kitchen and the less familiar sounds of voices raised at mid pitch, voices that did not design to hide their presence and there was no fear of waking any sleepers.

I turned the corner and had a little twist inside me for there was a part of me that would have gladly seen Marani in the corner by the range, preparing berry tea or slicing bread or such; I send a loving to her and remembrance of her, fondly indeed, to wherever she might be. I would guess I would do this to gentle that me that was sad to not have been there for her when she went, and that was sad to not now be a young one still, no matter what.

In the kitchen, a young woman sat feeding the child – my child, I thought with a sigh – on the stool down opposite the back door I had always occupied by choice, with a mug before her and a plate. The child and she were eating at the same time, what a strange thing that was. She froze at my appearance and the other one, the dark and pretty one, did not notice for she was talking still whilst kneading dough with heavy, rapid movements of her shoulders, up and down.

Vona sat at the table too, and actually smiled at my entrance and bowed her head to me. I remember that little one. She didn’t have much sense and never showed the slightest inclination of respect to me before and I was struck a little by her bearing.

The kneading servant woman laughed and spoke on, unknowing. “Perhaps, you never know, with all of ‘em up and about, we’ll get to Pertineri after all. See the king and queen. Now wouldn’t that be something?” and she turned and saw me and her smile disintegrated like a mirror cracked.

I walked to the table and took a stool two away from the woman with the baby.

“I’ll have some berry tea, I think,” I said and looked at the child that was pulling strongly on a small white breast, holding it with fists clenched, eyes closed in furious concentration.

I tracked him – Sondra, dear sisters, strange the world and strange this life! – with some care and found him to be in such perfect health and functioning, it was quite disconcerting.

Most everyone, and certainly including Lucian and I and even more most certainly everyone in this room has their blemishes. Little places of low functioning, something not quite flowing smoothly here or there, or perhaps a system or two that is depressed or stressed or something of that nature. That is to be expected with such complexity and so many influences, all around, indeed, it is the way of things. It was not, however, the way of things with this my child.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single aspect that was not in perfect balance, harmonious alignment and complete perfection, never mind how I would seek and switch the layer views from here to there.

I shook my head and stopped my wondering of this and glanced into the girl’s frightened eyes. If you want blemishes and systems not aligned, I thought, well there’s no need to look much further. Poor little thing. Never enough nourishment for you, and not just food I’m thinking, but any kind of nourishment that helps a one grow strong and full of courage, full of self and ready to do battle in the hard for what you cherish, what you treasure and what drives you on each day and forward.

I can’t help myself and I’m sure it doesn’t matter much, either way, but I straighten a few things quite automatically, align a few and delete some vortices of draining grey and black that serve no purpose other than to feed themselves with what she has to grow more strongly still in never ending search for conquest. Her blue grey eyes widen and she takes a sharp breath, sits up straighter, nearly dislodging the child if he did not have such a grip upon her with his mouth.

“What is your name?” I ask her to allay her and to have her think of other things and give her time to find her bearings in this change I have created.

The girl brings up a hand and pushes a strand of limp dark blonde hair that appears nearly grey in this light behind her ear. She looks down and says in a whisper, “Shern, my lady.”

I say to her and underlay with gentling, “I am very grateful to you for taking care of ...” I stop and must wonder how to refer to the child, and it isn’t easy to come to a conclusion but in the end I say, “...for taking care of Lord Tremain’s son.”

She bobs her head once, quickly, glances up at me for the briefest time and whispers, “Thank you, Lady.” What she thinks is that she prays to all there is that I will not dismiss her, find a better servant, for this time at Tower Keep has been the best and happiest time this girl has ever known, light work, food and friendliness and not a single beating since she came.

I have to shake my head and sigh. I will say something to her later. She is perfectly aligned to – ah, damn it! I might as well start calling him that name, I’m sure that I’ll get used to it if only I repeat it often enough. She is perfectly aligned to Sondra, as though she was made for him, and then the thought strikes me that he might have done something to achieve this, little as  he was? I track him one more time and yes, indeed. He has connections with her that are subtly shaping what she is to his preferred desires, an automatic process for Sondra has no volition as of yet beyond a need for comfort and for balance and for generous inpourings of energies at every level, but still, it’s right. He has aligned her to his needs. I wonder if this is a special gift he has or if this is a system that pertains to all these young ones but before I go any further with that train of thought, the dark girl, Guenta is her name – how do I know this? – nervously approaches and is quite consumed with the difficulty of how to place the tea within my reach whilst staying far away from me and well outside my reach.

“Just put it here,” I say to her, slightly exasperated, pointing at a place that is halfway between me and the girl Shern. Guenta keeps her feet where they are and stretches as far as she can from the hip and I must fight an impulse to give her just the tiniest of shoves or nudges that will send her flying, face first, to the flagstone floor.

I must smile at myself. Jealousy. What is that, I ask you. There was dear Lucian in the Tower Room, seriously considering going to burn and slash for while just to find some semblance of balance, a sense of familiarity, something to hold on to in this newness that is all around, inside and out. I understand him a little better now, here, looking at Guenta’s smooth arms and remembering ...

I sit up with a start and realise with a degree of horror that what I am remembering right now is not mine, nor is of Lucian, but this is Chay, experiencing this woman who is sliding back into herself and glancing nervously at the door, fear of me and escape in mind.

Does she know? Does she suspect? The sisters help me, I swear I didn’t even know he had a wife! And if I had, what good would it have done? I was in chains, fighting for my life!

“Well,” I say dryly and I cannot help myself, “you were not exactly fighting for your life with Chay, nor were you when you came here and wondered what Lord Tremain would be doing with his wife so sick and quite unable to provide a comfort.”

The dark haired woman swallowed rapidly, her red lips half parted and her eyes big and round in terror. She put her hands over her most ample cleavage and I stopped the game.

“I hold you no disregard,” I said to her gently and re-enforced my words so she would understand and realise my full conviction. “In the contrary. You have done much good here, worked hard. You have taken the place of – of another, who was most trusted and very dear to me, and you have managed this house most capably. I cannot fault you for –“ I had to stop and smile a little before I could continue, “- for admiring my Lord. I admire him, too. If he chooses to be friendly, that is his business and yours. Be calm, do your work and remain loyal to all of us, and I shall see to it that you will be well rewarded.”

Throughout my speech, she had relaxed and calmed, as was my intention. Unfortunately, whilst giving it I remembered a similar promise I had made to Marani at one time, and she had died in misery in our service. It caused me to stop whatever I was doing and take the berry tea, breathe its aroma and I couldn’t help but be reminded most forcefully of her.

It was a dangerous thing to be around us. It was a dangerous thing for mind, for body and for sanity, and I’m not at all sure about the soul or the will of the creator or any of those things. I used to be, at one time. Now, I’m truly not sure anymore. Whether it was Lucian and his influence or whether it simply was that I had held illusions on the topic, my word wasn’t that good and nor were my motives pure or trustworthy. I took what I needed from those like Guenta and Shern, Marani and Conna, Eddario and Carran and I did not seem to experience more than a surface sadness when they broke and disintegrated, more slowly and more painfully by far than poor young Matus who was taken for sustenance by my Lord and swiftly dispatched, from life to death in an instant and with little fear or suffering.

I turned inward, towards the table, rested my elbows on it and looked across the rim of my mug towards the kitchen cupboards that ranged along that wall. I wondered if in the second one along from the door, that grey purple greeny fabric covering would still reside I stuffed in there, all that time ago, my first ever attempt at colour changing, perhaps because I couldn’t stand the black as it reminded me of another of my victims, sweet young Dareon, ah, what fools they are, it truly is a fact that loving me was a most bitter illusion that would lead to suffering, and most likely, to death.

I drank the tea slowly, quite aware of the secret glances and the thoughts of the two women and after a while, the Serein children came in, one by one, silently and most reverently, slid by behind me, and assembled in the bottom corner of the table, passing information constantly through their always resonant web of silver so there was no need for thought or spoken word amongst them. They were a surprising unity this day but I was not really that interested in their desires, plans or aims.

I sat and drank my tea slowly, and after a while, life began to move again in the kitchen, the baby was given the other breast and turned, Guenta went back to kneading her dough and Reyna and Jilean began to prepare a morning meal for the others. Shern’s own child started to cry feebly and I soothed and repaired it with a thought, gave it some energy and general nourishment for that poor mite who was always second best to Sondra in all ways, and not least of all in the estimation of its own mother who would have preferred to not be burdened with it, ever.

Another arrived, the boy, Matus’ brother. He was confused and unhappy because the closer the Serein were, the further away he became and the more unreachable Reyna was to him. He saw me and was afraid but as I gave him no heed and as he was hungry, he soon sidled past as well and joined his lady love in the cutting of bread and cheese for morning meal.

I finished my tea and rose, causing everything to freeze in mid movement, in mid breath.

I took no notice and went out through the kitchen door into a fresh morning, slightly misty, cold, still sunny but winter was very much in the air. The stones were very cold beneath my bare feet and slippery and I walked swiftly and lightly until I was past the kitchen garden and its paths and walls and could step out upon the grass, high, unkempt, fallen under its own weight, wet.

It was very nice.

How long, I wonder, has it been since I just walked like this, in freedom and in peace, blanketing out the house behind me with its various minds, the gardens stretching out before me wide and the pale sky high above, further away than it is in summer or so it seems, a comfort in mind and body, a serenity and a tranquility and nothing to do for now, no-one to wait for or wait on, nothing to escape, nothing to seek, just being here and walking and feeling the hem of my garment gathering the moisture from the grass it brushes against, small twiglets hard against my feet that are soft now and so unused to walking in this way that once was all there was for me.

I passed the first of the ornamental square ponds, choked with weeds and cracked. I considered for a moment to restore them but it didn’t seem worth the effort this day. Tower Keep had been like this as long as I personally had any acquaintance with it, and in truth, I could simply not conceive of this place as all clean and spick and span, with gardeners hastening here and there, and the formal flower beds re-surrected. The very thought made me smile. It just didn’t seem to do this place any justice to do anything other than to treasure it the way it was, in truth, the only place I had ever thought of as a home to me.

I shivered slightly in the long black shadows of the enormous trees and hastened my steps to get beyond their reach and to the point where the gardens widened out and disappeared into wilderness forest either side and to the back, where the fallen pagoda stood.

The trees and weeds had made considerable progress since last I had been here, and the steps were more deeply cracked. The previous winters must have been harsh. I sat on a piece of unbroken stair and looked back upon the house, from here not much bigger than you could not contain it easily in your hands and place it into a small box that would fit under Lucian’s bed with ease.

The sun was quite low as was right for this time of year but still you could feel its power and its warmth. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the marble steps, stretched my legs out and lay like a lizard basking.

I don’t know how long I had been there when a tiny strand of questioning touched me, warm and cautiously.

I felt myself smile in response and sighed deeply.

Good morning, my Lord.

(smile) A good morning to you, my Lady.

We aligned and the small strand of connection became a field that contained us both, exchanging knowing, state and also, relaxation.

Apart from the fact that he was still ravenously hungry.

How would you like to eat this morning? I ask him.

Don’t tempt me, he replies but there is a laugh attached. I would have some food and wine.

I sat up a little and noted that I did not want to move from here.

In response, he smiled and sent, I will bring some food and join you there.

That would be nice. I closed my eyes again and stretched on the marble step, arranged my limbs a little differently and lay drifting, just vaguely aware of his movements around the house and his instructions until bright and clear, the proximity exploded and I knew he had arrived.

He was carrying the large round silver tray with the ornate inlaid borders, piled high with bread, meat and cheese and walked over to me, finding a step that was mostly level still and placed the tray there. He sat down beside it and unwrapped a couple of glasses from two cloths, balancing them carefully on the step above and set to filling them with wine.

He looked wonderful this morning, so very alive, more relaxed and easy than I had seen him for a very long time, and it must have helped that he was just wearing an open shirt instead of the high buttoned black jackets that restrained his movements as soon as he put them on. He looked up from the glass he was filling and our eyes met.

So here we are again, you and I. To all intents and purposes, old lovers, so familiar with each other, not as shy and insecure as once we were no matter how we would try to hide that, comfortable to a degree with each others limitations and still excited about each others presence, states and feel to come.

I draw a deep breath through my nostrils as he holds out the chalice to me, he has brought the old ones from green glass he uses by preference and when there are no visitors about, and there are only three of them. Marani told me once there had been 24 and time had reduced them to these remaining three. She had broken a couple but mostly he had thrown them around the room in a fit of rage. He had brought them from a famous glass maker in Sikoria after the last of the last batch of glasses had suffered a similar fate. I wondered if he had had a time frame for how long two dozen wine glasses would last under ordinary circumstances.

“Three years,” he says softly as I take the chalice. “It used to be three years. Unless there were extraordinary circumstances. These ones here –“ he touched his glass to mine and it made a sweet, fragile sound, “were made more than twenty years ago. My temper has improved with age, it seems.”

I smile at him and we take a drink simultaneously, mixing our approach to the enjoyment of the wine into a full bodied experience that covers the range.

I want to see Sikoria for myself. I want to buy some glasses.

I want to see the villa on the hill, overlooking the bay.

I want to walk amongst the groves of old, the vineyards and the temples there to their strange sea gods.

I want to see the ocean.

You shall see everything. Everything there is.

I sometimes wonder about that. There is the sadness again, from nowhere. I look to him, relaxed on the step, angled at the hip, putting food on a plate from the tray, the sun lighting up his short hair and making a dense halo where it strikes him, and I hold the wine glass to my chest with both hands and start to cry.

As I do I wonder if my tears will fall into the glass and merge with the dark red of the wine, ruby brown in the green glass, nearly transparent to its depth, and what would happen if I drank them back. Lucian is entirely aware of me but does or says nothing, keeping himself focussed on the food on his plate and with discipline, begins to eat.

Earth and dust. My poor darling. On this morning, I shall eat for you.

I place the glass on the step next to me and lean over to take some bread and a slice of meat from his plate, of the same kind as he is trying to chew and swallow.

Here, let me.

I settle back and we synchronise the act of placing the bread close to our mouths. The synchronisation deepens to the point where when I take a bite, my commands move us both and the experience of eating is mine alone. With it comes his sense of gnawing hunger and as this traverses me, I fall into the act of feeding strongly and with volition, to the degree that I forget all beyond the fresh bread, a memorance of warmth still in its very structure, and the resilient meat, salty, satisfying to the extreme.

We remain resolved to the act, eating and washing it down with generous quantities of wine, there on the crumbled marble steps in the sunshine until the need turns to simple delight and then to satiety, satisfaction, slow relaxation and as one, we breathe deeply and sit back.

Such a meal I have never had. Thank you.

I want to cry again. I don’t know what is causing this intense sadness to come over me like this, I don’t understand it.

Don’t fight it. You have your reasons.

I shake my head fractionally but I agree and let the tears flow. They seem to ease the pressure of the feeling and I can look up at him. He is watching me steadily, quietly and there is no judgement, no pre-supposition, just a waiting until I am done, as though the crying was like the eating, something you do and nothing more.

Behind me, a bird cries sharply in the distance.

The wind is light, very light this morning. You wouldn’t notice it until you gave it your full attention; only then you might note the tiny touches across your skin, the tiny movements in your hair. I breathe more deeply and want to talk to him, want to start talking to him, ask him things, ask his help as how we are meant to cope with this, ask him to tell me what I am to do, but it’s too much.

Today, I am more clearly broken in two than I have ever been, and I am so very sad.

“Lucian,” I say, and then spoil it by sniffing like a little kid.

He smiles at me and stops himself from reaching out and patting my hand or patronising me in some other way. Instead, he turns on the step so he, too is facing the house now and leans back on his elbows, stretches out his legs and crosses them at the ankles.

“It will resolve, you know,” he says conversationally, but there is a strand of sadness there for him too, only that he doesn’t allow himself to experience such things with the kind of directness that befalls me.

I know. I know things will resolve. There’s nothing at all, in fact, any of us can do to stop that process from unfolding exactly as it must. But there is still a lot left that is me, here, now, in this particular shape and form and in spite of everything, I would love to see the ocean.

I can hear his voice, “You are such a child.” Today, he didn’t say it and when he thought it, it had a respect about it, a reverence and also a resonance of his own sadness that he couldn’t be like that, had never known how to be like that, not ever.

Those thoughts of mine made him sigh and deflect to the practical.

“What order and sequence?” he wonders, then looks up at the pale blue autumn sky where small wisps are gathering, high, high above.

I sigh too and join him in the sky watching. Chay would be first. Poor Chay.

To my surprise, Lucian is agreement.

It is very hard for him.

I have to smile. It wasn’t easy for us, was it.

A small laugh comes my way, a flash of memories of his utter derangement in the Tower, raving endlessly before I arrived, frozen, still, then explosive insanity, ah ...

Yes. I thought I was you at one point. I actually was you. I just became you. And I was so confused. So confused.

I share with him the time I had awoken, and found myself in my own body and discovered I had breasts. He/I had laughed so helplessly. We both resonate with the stupidity of that situation and here on this lizard morning that is enough to make us both smile and sigh, to ground us somewhat and help us to the now where action can be taken, where thoughts may be placed in order and sequence that would make an attempt at sense, an attempt at least to fill the days and hours whilst in truth, we were waiting for the next – what would it be? Cataclysm? Challenge? – that would surely come our way.

Chay is lucky, I say to him. We didn’t have us to help us, then. We knew nothing.

He smiles and sits up, a quick coiled movement that denotes a desire to be moving, an energy needing to be released.

“It is as well that he does. He would never be able to live, otherwise.”

I am contemplating the practicalities of how to get Chay to be able to live with his memories, and mine. Lucian went completely insane when my thoughts became entangled with his own, spread out as they were all over the system, everywhere, no place to hide.

I was luckier because his memories to me were a dark sea, way below my own awareness and I had to just make sure to stay away from there to keep my own sense of self at most times. Yet, for me too, this was no longer so and I would not now know where my memories began and his ended. They were just memories now, accepted, present, not integrated in the sense that I had learned to tell the difference immediately but there should I need to call upon them.

We shall weigh them down, Lucian send. It should not be too difficult. His system is – light. There was a touch of sarcasm there and I didn’t chide him for he was right. Chay was different to the both of us. He had never been given to thinking too much about anything and took a day at a time, in a way quite completely at the mercy of what surrounded him simply because to him everything was so very real, so very strong, so very all-encompassing. I could reach such a state only with some difficulty and effort and Lucian hadn’t even known it existed before the goldenfruit experiences, or if he ever did, had long forgotten how to get there.

He must be hungry, too, I thought and Lucian gave a small laugh, shook his head and got up. Turning towards the house I watched him remove his shielding with elegance and ease, and Chay lay cleanly defined before us, flaring like a star in that house in spite of his current state of dissolution, a hundred times brighter and clearer than all the other minds there put together.

It took our breath away for a moment and clearly put before us a something we had not moved towards in consciousness.

Not now, my love. There is time for that when he has re-joined us. Not here, not yet.

I sighed with relief and followed his lead as he very deliberately began to move towards Chay and his deranged systems of triple knowing, triple remembrance, totally lop sided with the weight of Lucian’s years and my intensities.

Ah, but it was easy. As I watched him isolate what belonged to him first, so easily creating a mesh that would catch all and everything he had brought to the merging and weighing it heavier still, darkening it deeper still and letting it settle like stones would at the bottom of a still pond, I began to understand quite how he had resented me for the ease of my existence and my knowings. I had struggled so to keep myself alive, afloat, when I had been faced with this, by myself, with no-one to stand by my side, with no-one to do what Lucian was doing this morning. Yet, even as I thought it I knew that it wasn’t true, that Chay had been there for me and had been by my side, the best he could, the best he knew how to, and that in a way today was my chance – our chance – to set something to rights at last.

Lucian send a small query of invite for me to do my own substance but I much preferred to just watch him work and admire the steadiness and cleanliness of his interventions. My balance was not such this morning. It stretched him just a little to have to filter for what was I, for as he had said before, what was I was, indeed, very flighty – tiny sparks that were everywhere and anywhere. He could not catch this no matter how fine a mesh would be constructed so he called it and it streamed to him and followed where he asked it to reside, gracing and interfacing between Chay’s own awarenesses and those that were of Lucian. Even as he created this so beautifully, I saw he tasked it with a softening and a gentle integration that would move at a slow pace, unbeknowing, unnoticeable, gently growing in its own time.


What a beautiful piece of work, Lucian.

(Minor disconcertment, pride, surprise) Thank you. Would you like to finish up?

Indeed, I would. I went to Chay’s tightly coiled central self, unblemished as it was and nudged and stroked it, encouraged it to come forth and find all the alieness having receded and its own environment essentially unchanged, safe to emerge to, brighter even, more resilient and  lush than ever it had been, and with much wider horizons. I supported its unfolding, steadied it to the changes and eased its re-emergence and connection.

Across the gardens, up in Lucian’s room, Chay turned over and slept soundly, deeply, and began to dream of walking in a forest, still in darkest golden green and soaring majestic, moving light and easy, towards home where his loved ones would be waiting.

Lucian sighed.

That, too, is – beautiful.

I aligned to his perspective and he was right. It was. Chay would awake within the hour, rested, restored, and very hungry, too. I looked at the tray of food that Lucian had brought and smiled because it was empty, save for a single slice of bread and a few crumbs.

I looked to him as he turned to face me. Come to me, sit here. I sat up and spread my legs wide, creating a seat for him of my green garment covering the stone step.

He came and turned, sat on the step below me and leaned against me, carefully controlled at first, then allowing his full weight to be supported by me as I wrapped my arms about his broad shoulders and laid my cheek against his ear.

You accused me of being a virgin here, do you remember?

(Smile) I didn’t accuse you. I just stated the obvious.

My thoughts drifted and I sighed. In the house, we have a child.

Lucian remained quite undisturbed. So it would appear.

When I didn’t say or think anything further, he added, It seems a strange thing.

Yes. I don’t know what to do with that. I thought it would be – so very different (flashes of half memories, half imaginings, Sef when he was small and me caring for him, loving him, a family house with Lucian being the father, me being the mother, green gardens ...)

I never made such propositions.

I sighed. No, you didn’t. You were going to kill me.

(Embarrassment, apology, intense shame, inability to understand, or explain)

It is no matter now. I was going to take revenge on you, I swore I would give you such pain as it would make Sepheal turn white in horror.

He bends his head and reaches for my hand, brings it to his lips and kisses it, mouth half open, moist.

I do believe all of this is of the past, now.

I stroke his hair with my free hand, kiss his strong neck. I truly hope so. I truly do.

He turns between my legs, kneels and puts his hands either side of my neck. We are on eye level because he is one step down to me and very close. I can truly not know how I could have ever hated him, nor how he could have ever hurt me as he did. I know he is feeling the same and we end up in a deep embrace, I wrap myself about him as much as he wraps himself about me.

I need your strength. I need you more than I ever have before. I cannot face ...

Not now, darling. Not now. In its rightful time and place.

For a time we are silent together, but eventually he has to say it anyway.

“I am so very sorry.”

I know you are.

I know you know but it still – does not release it, does not alleviate it, does not change it. And do, pray, do not even think to tell me that  what’s done is done. It does no longer hold the slightest touch of absolution.

I have to smile and say, “What you need is an ab-so-Lucian, don’t you know?” and beneath me, he is shaking lightly as he laughs and says, “And where, pray, do I find that precious thing?”

We look at each other, smiling, and I say, “It is not strictly a thing. It is a – a wave, that’s what it is. It is a wave that washes you clean and leaves you quite absolved – clean, sparkling, and new, having taken with it all that needed to be taken.”

“Hmm,” he smiles and rubs his nose very lightly against mine. “It wouldn’t leave me dis-solved by accident?”

“Oh no,” I answer him quite seriously and back away a little so that I can catch his eye. “Just ab-solved.”

“And where do I go to find the wave? Not at the shores of Sikoria, by any chance?”

I smile at him and drop my forehead to his lips. “No, my love. Although, perhaps it would be wise to practice there at first ...”

He laughs out loud and hugs me close and hard. “I will take you there. We can be there for lunch. Do you want to bring Catena?”

I hold his head tight in wide spread fingertips and with a sigh, send him, Take me. Chay can stay here for a while. There are things we need to do that are of us, that need to be aligned before we can be truly clear and ready for the triad. Ah but I promised him that I would not go back to sharing your bed and thinking of you alone! And here I am, doing it, wanting it to be just you and me, just you and me, lovers, nothing more, shopping for glass in old Thalastra beneath the senned trees.

If that is what you want, then have it, love. Just have it. Then you have had it and you seek or hunger no more. I understand ... In me, too, there was a hunger to be nothing but that, a desire to live – not an illusion, but a dream, yes, more like a dream that is given in tales and songs, and never had, and never known. He, too must have these dreams. It doesn’t take so much to make them be here, and to live them, we have everything and all that we can have and be.

I sigh and the sadness comes again, strongly and profoundly. I don’t know if I have a right to live these dreams, not now, for they are nothing but dreams, no longer for us, no longer ...

You are too hard on yourself, he chides me gently. Is that not what you tell me is a flaw of mine? This is the hard, you call it so, and we are here still, all of us. I accuse you often of being a child, but when in truth have you allowed yourself to be? I can name moments, flashes, but there are so few, you could count them on your toes!

I have to laugh at his phrasing and perhaps he is right. Perhaps there are too few times when I allowed myself to be that – ah, I don’t know. I don’t know. Right now I’m holding him tight and he is holding me and everything is alright for a time. There is no need to dream of Thalastra. Further than that, really. To dream of Thalastra and to be sad about not being there is an insult to the reality of here and now with him – where would I ever rather be?

He strokes my hair.

We are all unbalanced still, unsure. It will take a while before we find our bearings, settle down, resolve things. Try and be calm. You are right, we are here, we are together, we are reasonably sane or so it seems, and that is more than either of us had for a very long time. Let us be at ease for now.

I nod to his chest and marvel at his steadiness and clarity. Across the gardens, Chay is beginning to surface. He is not yet awake but nudging towards it, and he will be with us shortly. When he is, we might ....

Yes. Lucian sighs so deeply, the movement rocks me gently, up and down. We will have to talk.

I find myself shaking my head and closing my eyes.

I know that he is right. And yet, and yet I am afraid.

Afraid to go there and to look in truth at what we are.

And what we have to do.