“This place looks very different in the daylight,” Kaveri chuckled, strolling through the orchard beside Tyrel.
“And without spirit creatures around,” Tyrel said dryly. “And no need to stay out of sight.”
Somehow, it was just the two of them again. Kieran had been deep in a conversation with Dayo that had soon bored them. A century-old amarog was interested in gardening? What sense did that make, anyway? Madoc was back at the inn, drowsing through Sanur’s dark, with a promise from the innkeeper that food would be delivered if they didn’t make it back in time—service paid for with the gold from the stiletto Tyrel had found many many miles from here. He’d sent them off with a growl to leave him in peace and let him sleep. It was easy to feel short-tempered during moondark, so no one bothered to take it too seriously.
“That too,” Kaveri said. “This whole valley is much more beautiful than I expected. I’m glad we helped make certain it’ll stay that way. Maybe someday we’ll come back this way again. After all, we have forever. There are lots of new things to see, but sometimes seeing how things change can be interesting too.”
“Forever. Yeah.” Tyrel sighed.
“Something’s been bothering you. What is it? I know everything is different, but that isn’t a bad thing, is it? We can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything, without anyone else making the rules. Except the moons, but that’s hardly very restrictive. And Kieran, but that’s more like having a protective older brother. Right?”
Tyrel didn’t answer immediately. Kaveri caught his hand in hers and squeezed reassuringly.
“Why don’t you hate me?” he asked abruptly.
She turned wide startled eyes on him. “What?”
“It’s not like I made any real effort to get you out of Dunnval before, even though I kept saying capturing civilians is wrong. You didn’t even belong in that city to begin with. And I haven’t exactly treated you as an equal. Even since we left, half the time.”
“You never beat me or raped me,” she said reasonably. “Or any of the countless other kinds of abuse you saw inflicted on thralls every day and grew up being taught was normal. You kept me safe from everyone else. Looking after the two of you and your gear wasn’t such a bad job. Sex with both of you was never a problem, you both usually made me feel good too and you usually didn’t push if I really didn’t want to right then. You were no more free than I was, really, you could never have gotten me out without someone noticing. You wouldn’t even leave me behind, although I’m fairly sure that you were assuming at the time that it would be riskier and slower with me along. I know what upbringing you were defying to treat me as well as you did, and I know what would have happened to me if you hadn’t. So how could I possibly hate you?” She let go of his hand, but only to slide that arm around his waist in a half-hug. “That was another life. It’s gone. Stop carrying it around and just be here now.”
“I can’t. We did a lot of bad things.”
“You didn’t know they were bad things. You thought they were normal things.”
“Then what would have happened if you had refused? Look what happened when you finally said it out loud. The same thing would have happened before that, and we might not have survived to get away. You might have done it so early that you weren’t there when I needed a protector or two. But that’s over. What matters is what’s next. If you don’t like what you used to do, then do something different from now on. Figure out who you are without having responsibilities and rules thumped into you every day, and be that. If it takes a couple of centuries, so what? There’s no hurry, and there’s lots to learn on the way.”
“It isn’t that easy.”
“It’s the only thing you can do, except taking more crazy risks until something finally kills you. And I’d really rather you didn’t. I’d miss you a lot. And Madoc would be impossible.”
It was hard to think of anything to say to that. Kaveri didn’t seem to mind, just kept pace with him in silence.
“The only thing I know how to do is fight,” he said quietly, at last.
“If there are people who can fight doing bad things, then there has to be someone able to fight who can and will stand up to them. Behind you and Madoc is probably the safest place I know, other than with Lirit.”
“But if you want to learn how to do something other than fight, then learn it. Think of something you’re interested in, and we can try to find a way through the winter when we stop. Maybe a place that will teach you in trade for working. If you don’t make any money, so what? We’ll manage, and it would be worth it. Once we get to Kieran’s home and talk to his earthborn friend, we can settle down somewhere for years if we want to. Haven’t you been listening to how often Kieran’s done that and how much he’s learned? Starting at the beginning might get frustrating, but it’s going to be so fun to try something completely new. I don’t even know where I want to start.”
“I don’t know what I want.”
“Then try things until you do,” she said patiently. “If you try something and don’t like it, then you learned something anyway. ‘Rel, you’re smart enough to figure all this out. And you already do more than fight. There’s a reason Madoc and I keep looking to you for decisions, y’know, even when we don’t have to.”
“There what? Why?”
She smiled at him. “Think about it. Come on. I saw some interesting fruits for sale in the pavilion, and I want to try them, but I’d like to have someone who knows what they are tell me which part I’m supposed to eat. Going to keep me company? Or go look for trouble to get into?”
For a long moment, Tyrel contemplated options.
Then he tightened the arm around her in a quick hug. “Let’s go try some weird fruits. Maybe we can learn what to eat and not eat while we’re travelling.”
“That’s the spirit,” she laughed.
“No more spirits for a while, though!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed Garden! Stay tuned for a 3-part mini-story starting Tuesday, before the next big adventure begins! Comments are always welcome! ~Steph