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|Here we find out a little more about Evaleena, Malora and Danir. But, mostly more about Evaleena.||
When night fell, Danir stopped his small group on the side of the road and then he proceeded to look for a place to spend the night. He wanted to be as far off the road as possible in case the city sent any searchers during the night. Though he didn’t expect any trouble, Danir had found that when trouble is anticipated, it's far easier to overcome.
Not far from where he left the girls he found a spot, surrounded by dense foliage, that would do nicely as a place to sleep. He returned to the girls only to find them practically asleep where they stood. A twinge of guilt at pushing them for so long during the day ran through him but he ruthlessly suppressed it. If they wanted to survive, the three of them were going to have to move quickly over the next few days.
“Malora. Evaleena.” Danir tried to keep his voice low to avoid startling them.
Malora opened sleepy eyes when the horse took a few steps beneath her. “Hm? Are we home yet?” she mumbled.
Danir smiled sadly. What had these poor girls been put through? “Not yet. Come on, my sleeping ladies. We’ve got but a small way to go before you can rest.”
Straightening from her slumped position against Joqui, Evaleena yawned and slowly stretched her arms in front of her. “Almost to camp, you said?” she asked.
“Yes, almost to camp. It’s no more than a hundred yards north and east of us, into the woods.” He gathered up Joqui’s reins. “You might want to grab a hold of Malora’s leg, Evaleena. It’s getting very dark in the woods and it’s easy to get lost.” He watched Malora’s eyes widen a bit and then her throat moved as she swallowed.
“Right, she’ll hold on tight,” Malora promised with a tremulous smile. Danir smiled back and then glanced at Evaleena. Her eyes practically glowed at him through the dark and he saw no fear of the deepening woods in them. The courage in her eyes surprised him; most women, well, most everyone was afraid of the woods in Uthte. They were filled with surprises, not many of them pleasant. Perhaps the only place more frightening would be the woods on the other side of the mountains, the woods in the Otherlands.
A thrill passed through Danir at the thought of the Otherlands and the things, no one knew if they were creatures or people, that resided there. It was to the Otherlands that Danir had really wanted to go to learn and to experience and to bring back knowledge. But, when he had presented the idea to the Chieftain, it had been thoroughly denied. He had been sent to the Southlands instead.
Danir heaved a sigh that caught the attention of Evaleena. She frowned at him and so he flashed her a smile. Heat climbed her cheeks and he enjoyed the moment of watching her blush because of his smile. Only too quickly he had to avert his face from her to hide his grimace at his predicament. Here he was, on the run with two fugitive slaves because the slave customs of the Southland were too horrifying to tolerate. Other than bringing back a few ideas for fashion and food, Danir had nothing of value to tell his chieftain. The Southlanders, at least those in the cities, disgusted him. He wanted his country to have nothing to do with such cruelty.
A small hand touched his back and Danir almost jumped at the sudden contact. He spun around to find Evaleena behind him with a soft smile on her face. Behind her, Malora had fallen asleep on Joqui.
“You seemed stuck inside your mind,” Evaleena whispered. “I thought a rescue might be welcome.”
“Yes, thank you. I was traveling a dangerous path through my thoughts.”
Evaleena stared at him for a moment and Danir shifted self-consciously. Her strangely glowing eyes seemed to look right through him.
“Did you wish to bring someone one the path that you were traveling? Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite so dangerous that way,” she said. Her face had turned rosy as she asked the question.
“Perhaps another time,” Danir replied. He noticed Evaleena’s abrupt embarrassment and immediately regretted declining her offer. “I just don’t think tonight, when we are all so tired, is a good night to take a journey on dark paths. Nor is it a good idea to revisit anger when we have just found ourselves so fortunately free.” He tried to gauge her reaction to his words and when he thought she had taken them well he spoke again, “Maybe you could explain to me how you got all those coins from people’s pocket and purses into my saddlebags.”
Evaleena grinned and gestured towards the small money pouch attached to Danir’s belt. He reached down and was surprised to find that it was bulging with all the fingers and hands that Evaleena had stolen.
“How did you do that?” he exclaimed. He grinned. Magic, though he’d never had any, had always fascinated him.
“Well,” Evaleena’s forehead creased as she thought, “I’m not sure I can really explain how I did it. I just--do, I guess. I’ve had magic since I was a child.”
“But you were taught how to use it, surely. What did your mage masters tell you when you were learning?”
The question unexpectedly made Evaleena flush again though Danir couldn’t understand why.
“I never had a mage master,” she admitted.
Danir blinked, he couldn’t quite think of what to say or ask. He’d never heard of a magic user that wasn’t taught by a mage master during their childhood. Children with magic potential were always sent to mage schools. In this the Northlands and the Southlands were the same. Discovering a child with magic was a wonderful thing for any family. It boosted rank and generated money.
The flush on Evaleena’s face had deepened. “I just, well, my people, we just know magic. There’s no rules, no incantations, no potions. We just need desire. You have to have a strong desire to do what you want to do and then it just--happens.”
As she explained her magic, the small group came upon the spot Danir wanted to use for a camp. Nearly blinded by his surprise, Danir nearly walked straight through the semi-clear space in the woods. Evaleena’s hand came to rest on his back again causing him to stop and just look at her for a minute.
Finally, he roused his brain enough to ask, “So, you are telling me that magic is just natural to you? You have no need for learning, you just ‘know’?”
She shrugged. “Yes.”
The struggle to accept her words must have been plain on his face because she laughed softly and patted his arm as he had been patting theirs during their escape.
“It’s really not as strange as you seem to think it is. I have only known my kind of magic and yours seemed strange when I first came here. But,” she shrugged again, “different lands hold different peoples and different colors of magic. Who can argue that?”
“I can argue that the Northlands and Southlands have the same kind of magic.”
“Yes,” she said. Her eyes had begun to glow softly in the dark again and Danir nearly shivered at their intensity.
“So,” his brain felt incredibly slow with the immensity of what he was about to say, “you--you are from the Otherlands?”
One luminous eye winked impishly at him and with that wink Danir’s entire world shifted and abruptly became far larger than he ever thought it could be.
Her wink seemed to have caused him to fall into a momentary stupor. Evaleena grinned at this first showing of uncertainty. She knew telling him she was Otherlander would cause a reaction, but until she had inadvertently heard his thoughts on wanting to go to the Otherlands, she hadn’t been sure what kind of reaction. After hearing his wishes about the Otherland, Evaleena quickly made the decision to tell him where she was from. Perhaps what and who she was could wait to be discovered.
“Danir?” she reached out a hand to him. His face was lowered so she could not see his expression. “Are you alright?”
When his face looked up at her, he was grinning and his eyes were nearly as bright as hers. “Am I alright? Gods! This is fantastic!”
His outburst woke Malora from her sleep upon Joqui. She looked confusedly around her for a moment and then she caught sight of Danir. Her eyes opened wide to see him with such a smile upon his face and it caused her lips to tug up at their sides.
“Everything alright here?” she asked.
Danir’s exuberance calmed into his usual gentle façade. “Yes, it’s very good.” He grinned one more time and then began to unload Joqui. “Come on girls. If you can help set up camp, it’d be greatly appreciated.”
For the next half-mark they went about setting up camp with Danir giving directions and jobs for each of the girls. Once they had gotten settled, each of their bedrolls laid out upon the ground, Danir gestured for them to sit. Evaleena flopped tiredly down onto her roll while Danir helped lower Malora into a sitting position. Before they could sleep, he passed out a small portion of travel bread and some water for each of the girls.
While they ate, Danir explained a little of what he expected of them during their journey.
“The jobs that I gave you tonight will be your jobs every time we make camp. In the morning I will give you the proper jobs for breaking camp.” He paused to make sure they agreed. Evaleena nodded. She had been expecting this kind of lecture at some point. Danir seemed far too organized and sure of himself in the wilderness to tolerate any argument from either herself or Malora.
“Okay, once we get further away from the city and deeper into the woods, Evaleena and I will start gathering firewood so we can have some cooked food. I will hunt as we travel.”
Evaleena nodded again. She wasn’t much of a hunter, or even a meat eater, but she wasn’t going to complain.
“It shouldn’t take more than a few days, maybe a week to get to a decent village. I don’t want to go to one too close, so we’ll put in the few extra days of travel to make sure we are well away from Kreelar.” Danir cast a sharp glance at Malora. “If you start feeling ill or anxious to get to a village at any point, don’t you dare hesitate to tell me. Your health is our top priority right now. My problems and Evaleena’s can wait until you and your babe are safe.” Malora flushed a pretty pink and Evaleena hid a grin in the dark. This man had some kind of charm if he could make a girl blush through a lecture.
With the pangs of hunger that had tormented her through the past weeks abated, if not completely satisfied, Evaleena reached her arms up and yawned hugely. “I would say that our directions and rules can wait just a bit longer until the morning. Let’s all just get what sleep we can right now.”
“Yes, good thinking. Good night, girls.”
Evaleena could feel Danir’s eyes on her as she pulled her bedroll up to her face. It wasn‘t until her own eyes were closed and sleep was stealing up on her that she heard him say, “I’ll make sure nothing comes in the night. Sleep well.” Evaleena thought to protest as she knew he would need sleep, too, but the darkness captured her before she could do so much as blink an eye.
The next morning, Evaleena opened her eyes to the gray shadows of dawn. Fog was heavy upon the ground and the feeling of its cool, drifting fingers brushing against her skin caused her to groan and roll into a sitting position. For a moment or two, Evaleena could not remember where she was or how she had gotten there. Her head felt full of fluff and she shook it slowly to try to knock some of her sleepy memories back in place. Everything came back to her in a rush and she nearly sagged to the ground with relief and happiness. I am free. Oh, Yua, thank you! Before the tears she felt gathering in her eyes could burst free, Evaleena stood and began packing her bedroll up. She could dimly make out Malora’s sleeping form not far away, but she could not see Danir through the mist.
She placed her bedroll next to Danir’s, he had already rolled his up as well, and took a few steps towards the thick line of the woods. “Danir?” her whisper was muffled into nothing by the fog. “Danir?”
She heard a soft groan behind her and turned to see Malora sitting up, her hands to her stomach. Before Evaleena could move, Malora leaned over and vomited in the brush beside her.
“Oh!” Evaleena dropped to her knees next to the girl and put her arm around her shoulders. Malora’s face was deathly pale and her body trembled. A fine sheen of sweat covered her limbs. “Malora, are you alright? What should I do? Do you need something?”
The girl’s shoulders began to shake and Evaleena feared that she was going into convulsions. She opened her mouth to yell for Danir, but Malora’s hand on her thigh stopped her. It was then that Evaleena realized Malora wasn’t threatened by convulsions but by laughter. Her shoulder’s were practically vibrating with the intensity of her giggles.
“Evaleena, have ye not heard o pregnancy sickness?” she managed to get out between her laughs.
“Oh--” heat infused her cheeks. “I haven’t.”
“Well, near all women get it.” She patted her stomach, a look of love upon her face. “Naught I can do but deal with it.” She smiled radiantly at Evaleena then suddenly grabbed her hand and pressed it to her swollen belly. Evaleena gasped at the movement she felt. “A little sickness ain’t much o a price to pay for such a miracle,” Malora said.
Still awestruck from feeling the baby move, Evaleena murmured, “No, I suppose it isn’t.”
With her hand still feeling the movement of the baby, Evaleena looked up into Malora’s face. The girl’s eyes were closed and a serene smile played about her lips. She was completely content, blissful even. Seeing her like that made Evaleena realize just how beautiful the young mother was. Though her black hair fell in a jumbled, curly mess about a face that was streaked with tears and dirt, Evaleena didn’t think she had seen anyone more beautiful in her life. When she looked at Malora with her othersight, the girl pulsed with life and vibrancy.
Evaleena let a quiet sigh escape her. Compared to the girl next to her, she was nothing but a forest mouse. Her brothers had taunted her with that name since she was a child, but until this moment she’d never really considered herself mousy in looks as well as temperament. Not for the first time, Evaleena silently cursed the soft colors of her people. From the time her people came into existence they had lived as one with the forests and so they were colored as such in browns, greens, and golds. Humans, who existed only with themselves, came in so many colors, like jewels. Evaleena felt like the twisted bit of leather that held the jewel in a necklace when she was around humans: dull and looked over. She was the gold-leafed Jiya tree to Malora’s sapphire and onyx.
A pang of guilt at her self pity hit Evaleena and she turned her thoughts away from her lack of beauty. The child still moved restlessly under her sensitive hand so she instead focused her thoughts upon the beauty of the life within Malora. Seeing how happy the baby made Malora, Evaleena sent a quick prayer to Yua that everything would turn out alright for the young mother and her child. As a last minute thought, she also prayed that everything would turn out alright for herself, as well.
|Liadan, Chapter 9||Liadan, Chapter 5|
|Liadan, Chapter 8||
Liadan, Chapter 1
|Liadan, Chapter 7|